An Alabama voting advocacy group is offering to pay churches a $6 contribution for each voter they help cast an early ballot, the Associated Press reported.
The “New South Souls to the Polls Initiative” is paying churches a $6 contribution “for each documented early vote.”
The group’s payment is meant to cover the costs of voter outreach, including transportation and is not tied to how a person will vote, according to a letter mailed by former Democratic state Senator Hank Sanders to pastors.
“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.
A national Republican group backing Tommy Tuberville in his bid to unseat incumbent Sen. Doug Jones criticized the $6 as a “cash for votes” scheme. However, 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.”
Sanders said the group is not tied to Jones.
According to Tulsa World, The New South Coalition is a predominately Black political group that is dedicated to the “progressive ideals of freedom, justice and democracy.” Sanders said the effort is being run by the New South Alliance LLC, an entity dedicated to get-out-the-vote efforts.