Voting the wrong way might lead to a five-year prison term in Alabama.
Secretary of State John Merrill, a Republican, wants the 674 people who crossed parties to vote in a recent runoff election prosecuted.
“If these people knowingly and willfully voted because they didn’t like the law, they thought the law was wrong, they thought the law was stupid, they didn’t think the law should be enforced, our intentions are to identify those people, fully investigate them, if it’s warranted to have them indicted, to have them prosecuted to the fullest extent of the law,” said Merrill, according to Think Progress. “I want every one of them that meets that criteria to be sentenced to five years in the penitentiary and to pay a $15,000 fine for restitution. That’s what I want.”
A new law prohibits crossover voting – that is, voting in a Republican primary when someone is registered as a Democrat, and vice versa. Upwards of 674 voted in both the August Democratic primary and then a September GOP runoff. Although that previously was legal, the legislature passed a vote in the previous session banning it. Crossover voting still is allowed in a handful of other states.
Roy Moore defeated U.S. Sen. Luther Strange in the September GOP runoff.
Randall Marshall of the ACLU of Alabama said he was “stunned” by Merrill’s threat.
“This is a brand new law,” he told Think Progress. “People have been allowed in Alabama to crossover vote prior to this special election.”
Further, Marshall said, anyone who tried to vote in both primaries – accident or no accidentally — should have been stopped from doing so by poll officials.
“Crossover voting should not have been permitted to even occur,” Marshall told the website. “Instead of putting it on the backs of voters and effectively chilling the right to vote going forward for fear of doing something that gets you put in prison for five years, this is a strong message from the state that we don’t care about your right to vote.”
The state asserted that there were signs notifying people of the new law.
Said Marshall, “When I got to the polls, I don’t read the stuff that’s on the wall. The notion that, there is signage here and that takes care of the state’s obligation I think is pretty small-minded.”
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