Thousands of voters in Alabama district attracted to boosting black political power were given misinformation

Montgomery, Alabama –

More than 6,000 voters in a newly formed congressional district designed to increase the voting power of blacks in Alabama received postcards with incorrect voting information ahead of Tuesday’s primary, alarming advocates concerned about the potential impact on a race considered crucial to boosting black representation and Democrats’ hopes. to flip the US House of Representatives in November.

James Snipes, chairman of the Montgomery County Board of Registrars, said 6,593 voters in the county received postcards listing the wrong congressional district after the county’s election software misidentified some people as living in the 2nd Congressional District. Congress as if they lived in the 7th.

Snipes said voters who made it to the polls were still able to vote for the right candidates. The county had sent out about 2,000 notices to affected voters as of Tuesday night and will send an additional 4,000 on Wednesday, he said.

“Everyone who came to their precinct was able to vote for the correct candidates,” Snipes said, attributing the incorrect information to a “software glitch” that occurred while adjusting to the recent change in state congressional districts. “This was a good faith effort.”

Montgomery County, home to about 159,000 registered voters, now falls into the 2nd Congressional District after a federal court drew new lines in Congress in November. This was in response to a ruling by the United States Supreme Court that the state had diluted the voting power of black residents, violating the Voting Rights Act.

The three-judge panel decided that Alabama, which is 27 percent black, should have a second district where black voters make up a large proportion of the population. The move has led to a congested and competitive primary race as Democrats hope to take back the congressional seat in the fall.

The redrawn map could lead to the election of two black state representatives to Congress for the first time. After the districts are redrawn, black residents will make up nearly 49 percent of the 2nd District’s voting-age population, up from less than a third.

“For many black voters in that district, this is the first election where they have the opportunity to elect a representative who looks like them,” said Camille Wimbish, national director of campaigns and field programs for the Lawyers’ Committee for the Civil Rights Under the Law. . “This could have caused many black Alabamians to simply stay home and not vote at all.”

State Rep. Napoleon Bracy Jr., one of 11 Democratic candidates running in the 2nd District primary, said “it is disappointing to see voters in Montgomery County facing classic disenfranchisement.” He noted that it came days after the state marked an anniversary of key events that led to the passage of the Voting Rights Act.

Election officials spotted an error in cards sent to voters in January and tried to update their systems so voters were listed in the correct precinct, said Snipes of the county board of elections.

“We thought we had it all figured out,” he said, adding that officials didn’t realize more voters had been affected. “We can’t understand how the software did that to us.”

Laney Rawls, executive assistant to the Alabama secretary of state, said the office was not involved in sending the postcards to voters.

It was one of the few problems reported on Super Tuesday, the most important day on the primary calendar. Only sporadic voting problems arose, most of which were quickly resolved. In Travis County in Texas, which includes Austin, some voters had trouble registering when they tried to cast their ballot.

The Travis County Clerk’s Office said about one percent of registered voters were affected. Officials blamed a “data issue” but offered no further details. Affected voters were asked to wait while the issue was resolved or told they could cast a provisional ballot if they couldn’t wait.

“Our team quickly identified the issue and presented a solution,” the clerk’s office said in an email.

Associated Press writer Juan A. Lozano in Houston contributed to this report.

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