MONTGOMERY, Ala. (WIAT) — A federal judge has ordered Alabama’s top election official to hand over records related to voters who may have been purged from the state’s voting rolls after the 2020 election.
In an opinion issued last week, U.S. District Court Judge Myron Thompson wrote that Greater Birmingham Ministries, the nonprofit suing the Alabama Secretary of State’s office, is entitled to receive the voting records ahead of the November election.
Alabama Secretary of State John Merrill’s office had refused to provide some documents requested by the organization and offered to provide others for a total of over $1,000.
Danielle Lang, senior director of voting rights at Campaign Legal Center, who filed the suit on GBM’s behalf, applauded the judge’s decision.
“Greater Birmingham Ministries strengthens our democracy by bringing more Alabamians into the democratic process,” Lang said. “This work is impossible to do when the Secretary of State stonewalls access to voter purge records that they are required to disclose under the law.”
The National Voter Registration Act requires that certain voting-related documents be maintained and made available for public inspection “at a reasonable cost,” the judge wrote.
Tari Williams, Organizing Director at Greater Birmingham Ministries, said the decision is a bittersweet victory for the organization.
“GBM has been trying for well over a year to get these records released pursuant to the NVRA,” Williams said. “The time, money, and effort wasted by the Secretary of State giving us the run around is shameful.”
The records requested by the organization included data on three categories of individuals:
- Records concerning people removed from Alabama’s voter rolls due to a disqualifying felony conviction
- Records concerning people whose voter-registration applications were denied due to a felony conviction
- List of all people removed from the voter rolls after the 2020 election
Secretary Merrill’s office had argued that because he would be required to extract the relevant information from a larger database, thereby creating a “new record,” federal law did not require disclosure of the data. His office would have to either disclose the entire database or nothing at all, he argued.
“If Secretary Merrill wishes to disclose the entire database, so be it… But the second of these options — disclosing nothing at all — is off the table,” the judge wrote.
Judge Thompson’s order requires Merrill’s office to turn over the records “in full immediately.” Because of limited time before the upcoming election, the “reasonable cost” for the data will be determined at a later date, the judge ruled.
In a phone conversation Tuesday, Sec. Merrill said that his office does not comment on pending litigation.
You can read the judge’s full decision below.