‘We’re being suppressed’: Black Alabamians forced to cast provisional ballots

CREDIT: Kira Lerner/ThinkProgress

DOTHAN, ALABAMA — Dechauna Jiles was excited to cast a ballot on Tuesday for Democratic Senate candidate Doug Jones. She said her parents grew up two blocks from the 16th Street Baptist Church in Birmingham, which was bombed by the KKK during the civil rights movement, and it would be a dishonor to her family to not vote in this election.

But when she arrived at her polling place, the First Assembly of God Church, on Tuesday morning, Jiles was told that she was “inactive” on the rolls and would have to cast a provisional ballot — a ballot that will not be counted unless she is able to verify her voter information.

“That makes no sense,” she told ThinkProgress, explaining that the poll workers told her she’d have to drive to another precinct to update her information, even though she voted here last November.

“It’s not that we’re not showing up to vote — we’re being suppressed,” Jiles said. “[Roy Moore] is going to win, not because our people didn’t speak, but because our vote was suppressed.”

Jiles said she witnessed at least six other voters also being forced to vote provisional, and reports on Twitter indicate the issue is more widespread than just this one polling location.

“I wasn’t the only person that got turned away,” she said.

Dechauna Jiles. CREDIT: Kira Lerner/ThinkProgress

Pulling up a local news article on her phone, Jiles pointed to information about how the secretary of state’s office sent out postcards to inactive voters, giving them a chance to change their status. “God knows what addresses they sent these postcards out to,” she said. When she called the secretary of state’s office, Jiles said the person she spoke with claimed that many of their files were “corrupt.”

“Let me guess, just Alabama right?” she said.

Connie Markendorf, a poll worker at the location, said she has worked other elections and the number of “inactive” voters is not atypical this year.

But Aunna Dennis, a national coordinator with the Lawyers’ Committee for Civil Rights, told ThinkProgress that Jiles should not have been prevented from casting a ballot if her address on her ID matches the address on the rolls. Dennis said she is monitoring polls in Montgomery, Alabama and has heard other reports of people being told to vote provisional.

“People are being filed as inactive and told to vote provisionally, although they voted in 2016 as well,” she said. “It seems like it’s a systemic problem.”

Jiles said in the end, she decided to vote provisional because she still wants to try to have her voice heard.

“I want everyone to know what’s happening in the state of Alabama,” she said.