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Reverend Sues, Wins Right to Register Alabama Prisoners to Vote

by David M. Reutter

The Alabama Dept. of Corrections (ADOC) has agreed to let Reverend Kenneth Glasgow enter state prisons to register prisoners to vote. The settlement agreement came after the NAACP Legal Defense Fund (LDF) filed suit on Glasgow’s behalf, alleging that previous permission he had received from the ADOC to register prisoners was revoked following objections from the Alabama Republican Party.

After Glasgow had a meeting with ADOC commissioners on July 30, 2008 concerning Alabama voting law, a memorandum was issued on September 5 that allowed him to contact prison wardens to schedule visits so he could educate prisoners about their voting rights and register them to vote by absentee ballot.

Upon Glasgow’s arrival at the prison, the warden was to provide him with a list of prisoners eligible to vote under Alabama law and let him meet with them. He was also to be allowed into segregation areas. From September 10 to 17, 2008, Glasgow registered 80 prisoners at three prisons.

Since Alabama law prohibits only felons convicted of crimes involving “moral turpitude” – an undefined term – from voting, Glasgow restricted his voter registration ministry to prisoners convicted of drug offenses, a crime the Attorney General had opined did not involve moral turpitude. [See: PLN, Aug. 2008, p.30].

A September 17, 2008 Associated Press article about Glasgow’s voter registration efforts caused a furor among Alabama Republicans. Shortly after reading the article, titled State Inmates Register to Vote in Prison, Mike Hubbard, chair of the Alabama Republican Party, sent an e-mail to ADOC Commissioner Richard Allen.

Hubbard affirmed the Republican Party’s “full support of increasing the amount of registered voters in the state,” but also asserted that “we do not support the registering of individuals who have committed crimes and are currently incarcerated in the penal system.” Hubbard raised the possibility of voter fraud.

Glasgow was advised on September 18 that his access to ADOC prisons had been withdrawn by Commissioner Allen “until things cool off.” With an October 24 deadline to register voters for the November elections, the NAACP LDF sued on Glasgow’s behalf for injunctive relief in the U.S. District Court for the Middle District of Alabama.

“The GOP and the Alabama Department of Corrections cannot decide on their own which constituencies are going to have access to the vote, and which will be barred from it. We live in a democracy, after all,” Glasgow stated.

ADOC settled the suit on October 21, 2008, allowing Rev. Glasgow to continue his voter registration efforts. “Now I can continue the ministry God gave me: helping to give a voice to the voiceless by reaching out to people in Alabama’s correctional facilities who are eligible to vote,” said Glasgow, who served time himself for robbery and drug convictions.

“This significant development strengthens the integrity of Alabama’s democratic processes by guaranteeing that eligible voters who seek to vote will have their voices heard,” noted Ryan P. Haygood, Co-Director of the LDF’s Political Participation Group.

More than 6,000 ADOC prisoners were eligible to vote in the past election, though many were unaware they could do so. See: Glasgow v. Allen, U.S.D.C. (M.D. Ala.), Case No. 2:08-cv-00801-WKW-SRW.

Additional sources: LDF press release,, Alternet

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Related legal case

Glasgow v. Allen