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Alabama's Main Parties Wrote Law to Snag Free Voter File for Themselves Only

Posted by Shawn Harmon on 12/4/2014 to News
Three free copies of the $29,000 Alabama state registered voter file are given to the Democrat and Republican state parties in compliance with a law passed revised in 2010*: 

§17-4-33 (10) "...Following each state and county election, the Secretary of State shall provide one electronic copy of the computerized voter list free of charge to each political party that satisfied the ballot access requirements...the Secretary of State shall furnish up to two additional electronic copies...each calendar year..." 

Alabama charges everyone else $29,000 for the statewide voter file and the Democratic Party has actually turned around and resold their free copy for a profit. 

The $29,000 fee for the voter file is supposedly to provide funding to the Secretary of State but the statewide voter file is rarely sold by the Secretary's office. Instead, the Democratic party has resold the list for a profit and given it to their allies for free. The Democrats are essentially diverting up to $87,000 of Alabaman's tax dollars each year to promote their own partisan agenda. 

Third parties, independent candidates and their respective consultants have to jump over a non-justifiable hurdle for a free voter file. Why should these groups be expected to get 34,000+ signatures or attain a 20% turnout rate at all statewide elections just to ensure they get equal treatment under the law? Successful petition drives necessarily require a list of registered voters for initial outreach as well as to validate the petition signatures. How can a candidate or third party to manage a ballot access petition drive without equal access to the voter file? 

The two parties have shut down an important avenue of free speech by charging everyone but themselves the highest price in the entire United States for a statewide voter file:

  • Mississippi charges everyone $2,500 for the registered voter list with one *free* update. 
  • Georgia charges everyone $500 for their state voter data.
  • California with 18 million registered voters---as opposed to 3+ million Alabama voters---charges everyone ~ $200 for their statewide registered voter list. 
Alabama §17-4-33 de-legitimizes candidates who may be challenging the "party-anointed" incumbents in a primary, third parties such as the Libertarians, Constitution and Greens as well as non-partisan vendors like us here at The law is an illegal 'speaker-based' access restriction (think: poll tax). 

Without any defensible justification, the Alabama voter list law gives an unfair advantage to the two oldest parties while placing an unconstitutional burden on the rest of us which diminishes the effectiveness of third parties and independents to broadcast their free speech protected messages. Their self-serving law violates the First Amendment free speech protections and the 14th Amendment's equal protection clause. 

*previous version in 2006 provided one free copy to the defined state parties.