MONTGOMERY, Ala. - Last we checked, Alabama was still one of the 50 states of the Union, and it's likely that the average citizen in that state cares as much about which political leaders govern him/her as does a citizen in any other state. And come election day, most of those citizens will get to express that concern by casting ballots.
Most, but not all.
On July 21, the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) filed suit against Alabama's Secretary of State and other election officials, charging that the defendants have systematically been refusing voter registrations from people convicted of nonviolent offenses such as tax evasion and forgery.
But although Alabama, like many states, restricts the voting rights of some convicted felons, the state is unique as to some of the ones it won't allow to reregister: Those convicted of crimes involving "moral turpitude" - a phrase most people have only heard on old "Perry Mason" episodes.
Article VIII, Sec. 182 of Alabama's Constitution says, "The following persons shall be disqualified both from registering, and from voting, namely: All idiots and insane persons; those who shall by reason of conviction of crime be disqualified from voting at the time of the ratification of this Constitution; those who shall be convicted of treason, murder, arson, embezzlement, malfeasance in office, larceny, receiving stolen property, obtaining property or money under false pretenses, perjury, subornation of perjury, robbery, assault with intent to rob, burglary, forgery, bribery, assault and battery on the wife, bigamy, living in adultery, sodomy, incest, rape, miscegenation, crime against nature, or any crime punishable by imprisonment in the penitentiary, or of any infamous crime or crime involving moral turpitude; also, any person who shall be convicted as a vagrant or tramp, or of selling or offering to sell his vote or the vote of another, or of buying or offering to buy the vote of another, or of making or offering to make a false return in any election by the people or in any primary election to procure the nomination or election of any person to any office, or of suborning any witness or registrar to secure the registration of any person as an elector." [Emphasis added]
Yes, it's been legal for whites and non-whites to marry ("miscegenation") since 1967, and for people to enjoy consensual sodomy since 2003 - sodomy is sometimes referred to as a "crime against nature," but we're guessing that here, the phrase refers to bestiality - and statistics show that a good 8% of the population cohabits, unmarried, in "adultery" - but if you've ever been convicted of any of those crimes, you lose your right to vote in Alabama ... for life! (Wonder how that will affect Alabama's Attorney General Troy King , who was reportedly kicked out of his home by his wife after she discovered him in bed with one of his aides?)
Moreover, we've got to question why having been convicted of marrying two women or of having sex with one's sister or brother makes one unfit to vote, considering that several U.S. presidents including FDR, Eisenhower, Kennedy and Clinton have had mistresses while in office - as have plenty of congressmen and senators!
But that's not all. According to the state's Bureau of Probation and Parole, Alabama also prohibits voting by persons convicted of "sexual abuse ... sexual torture, enticing a child to enter a vehicle for immoral purposes, soliciting a child by computer, production of obscene matter involving a minor, production or possession of obscene matter, parents or guardians permitting children to engage in obscene matter, or possession with intent to distribute child pornography."
Apparently, Alabama hasn't heard that, thanks to the Supreme Court's 1969 decision in Stanley v. Georgia, it's completely legal for adults to own obscene materials in their own homes - but "heaven" help them if they've produced that material for themselves or others!
And as for "moral turpitude," a 1915 Alabama Appeals Court decision defines that as "anything done contrary to justice, honesty, principle, or good morals; an act of baseness, vileness, or depravity in the private and social duties which a man owes to his fellow man, or to society in general, contrary to the accepted and customary rule of right and duty between man and man."
Wow! Couple that with the bar against voting by "idiots and insane persons," and maybe we were a little premature in saying that "most" citizens in Alabama will get to cast a ballot in November!