By Bill Britt
Alabama Political Reporter
It would not be a stretch to say that under the direction of Secretary of State John Merrill, the once sleepy office is now a bustling hub of information, innovation, and efficiency.
Beginning this month, State law will require all office holders, principal campaign committees, and political action committees that file with the Probate Judge’s Office, other than candidates for municipal office, to file campaign disclosure reports electronically with the Secretary of State.
Rather than leaving public officials and campaign committees guessing at how to comply with the new law, Secretary Merrill and his team designed an easy-to-follow instructional video with a step-by-step guide to the required filings.
The video guides are now available on YouTube.
Making these videos available to the people of Alabama is just the latest innovation coming from Merrill and his staff. Under his watch as the 53rd Secretary of State, Merrill has revamped the entire website. It is now more user-friendly and compatible with a variety of devices used to access the internet.
His office recently digitized nearly 200 years of Legislative Acts. “This was accomplished through a collaboration between the Office of the Secretary of State and the Alabama Department of Archives and History (State Archives) that has made nearly 200 years of Legislative acts available online,” said Merrill’s office. “Previously, the State Archives digitized all of the Acts of Alabama from 1819 to 1901, and the Secretary of State covered everything from 2000 to the present. This new partnership will fill the existing 100-year gap in the twentieth century. This entire project was completed for less than $23,000.”
Merrill is doing what other Republicans have only promised, and that is to streamline his office making it more efficient while doing more with less. Merrill’s staff has decreased while its offerings to the public have increased.
Merrill’s continuing efforts have also vastly improved business services. The Secretary of State’s website offers online business services, including the ability to complete domestic business registration pre-filings and name reservations (if not previously applied for) in a single transaction. Through the pre-filing service, the Secretary of State’s office can access the company’s stored pre-file data, thereby reducing errors and accelerating the filing process that previously took between five and seven months. This process is now complete within 24 hours of receipt from the probate office, and an expedite fee is no longer necessary.
The Secretary’s office offers a smartphone voting app and other innovations to give the citizens of the State tools to exercise their constitutional rights, as well as keep an eye on public officeholders.
The Secretary of State’s instructional video offering is a shining example of how good leadership is the key ingredient to better government. Merrill’s commitment to service through innovative, coherent, and dynamic management is evident by what he has produced.