DOTHAN, ALABAMA — Thousands of previously disenfranchised Americans are casting their ballot for the first time across Alabama today.
In May of this year, Gov. Kay Ivey (R) signed the Definition of Moral Turpitude Act into law, effectively enfranchising former felons previously barred by the Alabama constitution from voting. A similar effort was made by Democrats in Virginia this year, granting tens of thousands of Virginians the right to vote for the first time in November.
The Alabama special election has been mired scandal involving the number sexual misconduct allegations against the Republican candidate, Judge Roy Moore. This, however, is a bright light in what was often a disturbing campaign.
Nuris Bigelow, a 33-year-old Alabama resident, voted for the first time on Tuesday. She registered to vote with the help of Pastor Kenneth Glasgow, Al Sharpton’s half-brother and a voting advocate who has helped tens of thousands of people with criminal records regain their rights and register to vote.
Anna Reynolds, a 61-year-old volunteer who helps others regain their rights after losing them herself, voted for President Obama in 2008 and 2012, but in 2016, was told her criminal record would have prevented her from casting a ballot. Last week, she got a letter stating that the state had pardoned her two criminal convictions, meaning she would not have to pay off her fines and court costs in order to vote. On Tuesday she cast her ballot for the Democratic nominee for Senate, Doug Jones.
Throughout the day Tuesday, Glasgow helped people with criminal convictions get to the polls and work through problems with their ballots. In 2008, he won a lawsuit allowing him to register people inside prisons, but most people inside were still disenfranchised — until this year.
Two former felons Glasgow helped register to vote, Chazarius Harden and Kameron McGlown, didn’t have their drivers licenses to use as a form of valid photo identification. Harden said a cop took his license away after he was caught walking on the wrong side of the street, while McGlown said he lost his in a house fire. Glasgow suggested they use their mugshots.
This tactic was rejected initially by poll workers, who said the two would have to vote on a provisional ballot — ballots that do not immediately get counted.
After some back and forth between Glasgow, the county clerk, and the Secretary of State, the two young men were able to vote using their mugshots as ID.
Glasgow called it a “game changer.”
UPDATE 8:40 PM
Alabama voter Nuris Bigelow never lost her rights due to a criminal conviction, as previously reported by ThinkProgress. Bigelow clarified to ThinkProgress over the phone that she had been confused by what rights restoration meant. She did vote for the first time today, however, citing too much on the line not to.