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Defense of voting, race and gender equity holds firm in Alabama Legislature

Though typically only observed in venues like Jordan-Hare or Bryant-Denny, this spring at the State House, a strong defense paved the way for some last-minute victories as the Alabama legislative session came to an end. Despite the truly “offensive” legislative trends of overincarceration, voter suppression, attacks on sexual orientation and gender identity, and another attempted erasure of an accurate accounting of our state’s history, we were able to defeat or blunt the impact of most of these bills.

 A great deal of that success can be attributed to the growing coalition of community partners, activists, and everyday citizens who hope for a fairer and more inclusive Alabama – and while this session was challenging, there is much to be proud of.

Here is our assessment of the 2023 Regular Session:

We fought against voter suppression:

  • We defeated a voter suppression bill (HB 209) that would have made it a serious felony to assist your friends or neighbors in obtaining or submitting an absentee ballot application. 

We weakened or killed several bills that would have significantly worsened Alabama’s over-incarceration:

  • We successfully stripped the most harmful provisions from the bill seeking to expand Alabama’s habitual offender statute (SB198) — preventing thousands of Alabamians each year from facing prison sentences for the most minor offenses. 
  • A bill creating new crimes and sentencing enhancements for individuals perceived to be in a “gang” (SB143) was amended to only target organized criminal enterprises – removing opportunities for law enforcement to engage in rampant racial discrimination or targeting of Black and Brown communities.
  • We killed the anti-protest (SB 199), which would have paved the way for charging protesters with a misdemeanor and chilled free speech.

And we continued to fight for racial and gender equity for students and LGBTQ+ folks:

  • For the second year in a row, we defeated the anti-critical race theory (CRT) efforts to prevent the teaching of a fair and accurate accounting of our nation’s history in the classroom. 
  • We prevented an inequitable education bill that would have siphoned money away even more money from public schools to fund private school vouchers. 
  • Although our school due process bill did not pass, we were able to secure bipartisan support, achieve passage out of the House Education Policy committee for the first time and overcome much of the special interest opposition that has fought against these reforms for so many years. 
  • We fought alongside our coalition partners to defeat several bills to protect the rights of LGBTQ+ Alabamians. 

Despite these successes, it is anticipated that many of these issues will return, front-and-center, next session. In the off-season, we will continue to work towards gaining ground on expanding access to the polls, reducing Alabama’s prison population, and stand firm against those who seek to score political points by targeting our state’s most vulnerable populations.