The enfranchisement of thousands of felons in Alabama could swing the state’s crucial Senate election Dec. 12 in favor of Democrat Doug Jones—and accused sexual assaulter of underage girls, and Republican Senate nominee, Roy Moore does not like this turn of events.
On Wednesday, Moore tweeted:
Unsurprisingly, his tweet expresses a negative perspective toward voter registration and especially the enfranchisement of African Americans. Moore, like countless Alabamans, actually views democracy as a threat to his way of life and future successes.
Since its founding, Alabama has existed under the facade of democracy while systematically oppressing African Americans via slavery, Jim Crow, the prison-industrial complex and more. In Alabama, “democracy” can exist only if white Americans are the ones who are participating. And Moore, who vigorously campaigned to keep segregationist language in the state constitution, vehemently opposes the prospect of black voters keeping him out of the Senate.
Alabama’s constitution was created in 1901 for the explicit purpose of disenfranchising African Americans, and black voter participation dropped by 96 percent after its passage. Over the last 100 years or so, various provisions of the constitution have been declared unconstitutional, and ironically, the erosion of the state’s “moral turpitude” clause could seriously dent Moore’s chances.
Article VIII, Section 182, of Alabama’s constitution states that Alabama residents can be barred from voting if they have committed a “crime involving moral turpitude,” but the constitution never defined what constituted “moral turpitude.” Therefore, moral turpitude has always been defined by whoever was in power and has always been used to suppress black voters. Moral turpitude can vary from county to county, and African Americans have been barred from voting because of misdemeanors as mild as cashing a bad check.
You’d think that moral turpitude would be used to prevent those who prey on underage girls from voting or becoming chief justice of Alabama’s Supreme Court, but Moore’s numerous alleged improprieties never met these subjective criteria.
In 1985 the Supreme Court, in Hunter v. Underwood, found the “moral turpitude” standard to be unconstitutional. In response, Alabama adjusted moral turpitude to pertain only to felonies, but the state never defined which felonies. In 2016, over 250,000 Alabama residents—including 15 percent of the black voting population—were barred from voting because of moral turpitude.
Yet this May, new Alabama Gov. Kay Ivey—a Republican, by the way—signed H.B. 282 into law, which defines “moral turpitude” as 50 specific felonious acts. This shift could enfranchise tens of thousands of Alabamans, and that brings us back to Moore’s tweet.
Following the passage of H.B. 282, Alabama implemented zero programs to help register or inform the newly enfranchized. A lawsuit was even filed against Alabama Secretary of State John Merrill imploring him to inform Alabama residents of their new voting status. He fought it, saying that he had no legal obligation to do so.
To fill the void, several organizations and groups, including the American Civil Liberties Union of Alabama, the Campaign Legal Center and numerous black churches, have taken it upon themselves to inform and register new voters. Moore calls these groups “Democrat operatives.”
“In the last month, I think we registered at least 5[,ooo] to 10,000 people all over the state,” Pastor Kenneth Glasgow, president of the Ordinary People Society, told Al.com.
Glasgow has even gone into Alabama’s jails to register voters, and in an increasingly tight race, these voters could make a significant difference.
Polls this week show that Moore is leading Jones by anywhere between 1 and 5 percent. Although it may appear that he has weathered the storm from his sexual assault allegations, however, the race remains close.
According to the Office of the Alabama Secretary of State—the same office that refused to inform and help register voters—there are over 765,000 African Americans registered to vote in the state. That number has certainly increased over the last month or so, and the office only expects about 1 million voters to participate in the Dec. 12 Senate election.
Roughly 80 percent of nonwhite voters support Jones, and the only concern is that he doesn’t have even greater support. Jones prosecuted two Klansmen for their roles in the 1963 bombing of the 16th Street Baptist Church in Birmingham, Ala., that killed four African-American girls. Moore supports keeping segregationist language in the state constitution. The choice between the two could not be more clear for African-American voters.
It is obvious that black voters could decide this election, and an additional 5,000-10,000 votes for Jones could make all the difference. Moore does not want this to happen. He would prefer a return to the Alabama of old where powerful white men could abuse their power to harm young girls, prevent African Americans from voting and easily sail to victory on a campaign platform exalting their impeccable morals. Moore’s “moral turpitude” and the growing enfranchisement of Alabama voters should result in his defeat Dec. 12.