Despite registration push, active voters slightly down so far in 2015

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Amid a voting-rights kerfuffle which has garnered national headlines, figures from the Alabama election chief’s office show active registered voters slightly down as 2016 elections approach.

Secretary of State John Merrill recently penned an op-ed piece stating unequivocally “We do not have a problem with making photo IDs available for voting in Alabama.”

That claim came after Congresswoman Terri Sewell and national Civil Rights leaders raised concerns over recent closures of auxiliary DMV facilities as a result of state budget cuts, which Sewell likened to discriminatory voting practices employed by Southern states during the Jim Crow era.

Merill has made a point to show his commitment to growing the voter rolls, saying last month “registering to vote empowers eligible citizens to exercise their right to vote on Election Day” and that he would “do everything within my power to ensure that each eligible Alabamian is able to exercise his or her right to vote.”

Nonetheless, records from the Merrill’s Department of State show numbers of active registered voters slightly down so far in 2015.

Voting registration figures reflect 2,844,871 Alabamians as actively registered currently, down some 1.3 percent from last year’s four-year high of 2,881,612.

The current number of participating voters is also down compared to 2013 and 2012, when numbers remained flat at around 2.86 million registered.

Terri Sewell called for a Department of Justice probe into Alabama’s voting laws last month, saying the administration of Gov. Robert Bentley and the GOP-led Legislature in Montgomery have created an environment hostile to voting rights for poor and minority citizens.

“Despite a budgetary pretext, the consequence of this decision is to deny the most vulnerable in Alabama an equal opportunity to obtain a means to vote,” Sewell wrote. “These closures will potentially disenfranchise Alabama’s poor, elderly, disabled and black communities.”

2016 presidential primaries are set to be held in just 81 days, on March 1.

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