An Alabama voting advocacy group is offering churches $6 for each voter they help cast an early ballot, the Associated Press reported.
The “New South Souls to the Polls Initiative” is paying the fee “for each documented early vote,” according to the AP. The group’s payment is meant to cover the costs of voter outreach, including transportation, according to a letter mailed by former Democratic state Senator Hank Sanders to pastors, per the AP. But the payment is not connected to the candidate checked on the ballot.
“It says specifically no person can be paid to vote. This is not about paying anybody to vote. It’s about trying to encourage people,” Sanders said in a phone interview, per the AP.
A Republican group backing Democratic Senator Doug Jones’ opponent Tommy Tuberville called the group’s effort to pay “cash for votes,” the AP reported. But Alabama Secretary of State John Merrill looked into the initiative and said there’s nothing illegal if the payment is not tied to votes, the report added.
“It’s not illegal. It’s certainly not a best practice,” Merrill said in a telephone interview, per the AP. “It does not say you are going to give it to someone to vote a particular way or vote for a particular party or to vote for, or against, a particular initiative, and so there is nothing there that is illegal.” (RELATED: Trump Rages About Mail Ballot ‘Mayhem’ — Claims That 2020 Results ‘May Never Be Accurately Determined’)
By mail or in-person? How much more time left before officials need to receive your ballot? When does ballot counting begin? Get the facts about early voting in your state. https://t.co/PEAHhaxy5s
— The Associated Press (@AP) October 19, 2020
The National Republican Senatorial Committee called it a “desperate and shady cash-for-votes scheme,” according to the report. New South Alliance LLC, which backs the get-out-the-vote effort, has endorsed Jones.
“Jones knows his radical message doesn’t resonate with Alabamians and has turned to dishonest campaign tactics to pay for votes,” National Committee spokesperson Paige Lindgren said in a news release, per the AP.
Sanders said the group is not tied to Jones.
“It’s a shame that so many people don’t want other folks to vote,” Sanders said, the AP reported.
There are 3,695,730 registered voters in Alabama, according to the Alabama secretary of state.