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Alabama anti-immigration law's voter-registration provisions

In a few days, U.S. District Judge Sharon Blackburn will grant or deny a preliminary injunction against numerous provisions of the "Beason-Hammon Alabama Taxpayer and Citizen Protection Act." Three suits by a coalition of organizations and individuals, the federal government, and Bishops of the Episcopal, United Methodist, and Catholic Churches challenged numerous provisions of the Act. But I did not find a challenge to Section 29 (see page 61 of the Scribd copy of the Act) which deals with voter registration.

I only want to look at the sloppy drafting of the Act. Well, actually, Section 29 is drafted in a way superior to most Alabama legislation. Most bills seems to be drafted with extremely long sections with a variety of topics in each section. Section 29 actually has a structure that aids -- rather than impedes -- reading it. There are three provisions I want to point out as indicating the author(s) of the bill either did not understand Alabama governmental structure or did not understand federal law.

First, subsections (b) and (c) refer to "the county election officer." I have only been handling election-related work for 35+ years, but I have never seen such a term used in Alabama before. Does this actually mean the county board of registrars? Clearly, this was drafted outside of Alabama for some other state.

Second, subsection (k)(1) refers to the "driver's license or nondriver's identification card issued by the division of motor vehicles." Alabama has a DMV in the Department of Revenue, but it issues automobile tags. To get a driver's license, Alabamians go to the Department of Public Safety. Again, this is a sign of non-Alabama origin of the Act.

Third, the Act creates a "State Election Board" composed of the Attorney General, Lieutenant Governor, and Secretary of State to hear applications from those who do not possess the documentation the Act requires to prove American citizenship. If the Board rules against the applicant, the applicant may "institut[e] an action under 8 U.S.C. 1503." That federal code section allows actions to be filed in certain cases "against the head of such department or independent agency for a judgment declaring him to be a national of the United States."

I believe that provision should be read in conjunction with 8 U.S.C. 1104, which authorizes the Secretary of State "to confer or impose upon any employee of the United States, with the consent of the head of the department or independent establishment under whose jurisdiction the employee is serving, any of the powers, functions, or duties conferred or imposed by this chapter" -- and "this chapter" is Chapter 12, where 1503 is also located. One would have to tie the Code in knots to decide that the State Election Board is a "department or independent agency" within the meaning of 1503.

If some person has to bring suit to determine that he or she is an American citizen, should the State of Alabama be allowed to object on the grounds that 1503 does not allow for such suits, or should the Act be taken as a waiver of the State's objection?


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