Former Auburn University head football coach Tommy Tuberville is favored to beat Democratic Alabama Sen. Doug Jones this fall and join one of the world’s most exclusive clubs. Which makes his recent answer to a question about whether or not he supports the Voting Right Acts all the more worrisome.
In audio obtained by HuffPost from a September 1 call at the Birmingham, Alabama, Sunrise Rotary Club, Tuberville delivers up a heaping portion of word salad when asked about the VRA. Read it for yourself:
“You know, the thing about the Voting Rights Act it’s, you know ― there’s a lot of different things you can look at it as, you know, who’s it going to help? What direction do we need to go with it? I think it’s important that everything we do we keep secure. We keep an eye on it. It’s run by our government. And it’s run to the, to the point that we, it’s got structure to it. It’s like education. I mean, it’s got to have structure. Now for some reason, we look at things to change, to think we’re gonna make it better, but we better do a lot of work on it before we make a change.”
I think my favorite part of Tuberville’s answer is this bit: “It’s run by our government. And it’s run to the, to the point that we, it’s got structure to it. It’s like education. I mean, it’s got to have structure.”
So, there’s a structure to it? And structure is important? Yeah, that all checks out.
More on voting
That Tuberville seems clueless about the VRA isn’t a minor thing. Mostly because the impetus for the passage of the VRA was the assault of peaceful protesters – including the late Georgia Rep. John Lewis – by police officers on the Edmund Pettus Bridge in Selma, Alabama, in March 1965. Yes, Alabama. The state that Tuberville is running to represent in the Senate
What the VRA did was broadly prohibit any sort of denial of the vote – via literacy tests and the like – to Black Americans. (It was effectively a reiteration of the rights outlined in the 15th Amendment.) It also had a provision – Section 5 – directed at areas where federal officials believed discrimination at the ballot box was most likely. In those places, which were primarily in the South and, yes, included Alabama, any attempted changes to voting procedures at the state level had to be approved by the US attorney general before being implemented. The whole point of Section 5 was to ensure that state officials didn’t reinstitute discriminatory voting rules.
In a 2013 ruling, the Supreme Court invalidated Section 5 – allowing states previously covered by it to pass state laws on voting without federal approval. A number of states – including Alabama – quickly passed “Voter ID” laws, which requires a potential voter to produce a valid photo ID to cast a ballot.
All of which, if you are aiming to be a senator from Alabama, is probably stuff with which you should be at least familiar in passing. Which Tuberville is clearly, well, not.
To be clear: Tuberville’s rambling non-answer and clear unfamiliarity with the VRA and its implications for his state won’t likely change the trajectory of his race against Jones. Which, again, he is likely to win.
But, that’s solely because of the incredible polarization in the country. For lots of Alabama voters, it doesn’t matter how little Tuberville knows about the Voting Rights Act. Or any policy. All that matters is he is a Republican and an avowed supporter of President Donald Trump.
Should it matter, though? Absolutely, yes.