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Merrill announces successful closure of voter fraud complaints

Brandon Moseley

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Tuesday, Alabama Secretary of State John Merrill (R) announced that his office has now successfully resolved or closed all election complaints from the 2016 regular election cycle and the 2017 special Senate election.

Sec. Merrill’s team has now closed more than 92 percent of all of thw election issue reports that have been submitted by citizens since the time he took office.

“Our goal since taking office has been to make it easy to vote and hard to cheat,” Secretary Merrill said. “When I first sought this office, there was no process for documenting voter fraud reports. We established a website dedicated to this issue – stopvoterfraudnow.com – to make sure each report is given the attention it deserves. It is unfortunate complaints like this have to be made at all, but I am proud of the way we have worked to follow through and get them closed or reported to the appropriate authorities.”

From April 2015 to August 2018, the Secretary of State’s office received 764 total complaints about voting issues or election irregularity. Complaints range from second-hand reports of unauthorized campaigning at the polls to personally observed voting fraud. These complaints were either submitted in writing to the Secretary of State’s office or were submitted through an online form.

The Secretary of State’s office staff members then tracked those complaints and recorded their eventual closure or resolution. Of the 764 total complaints, there are now only 58 that remain pending or under investigation.

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The Secretary of State’s office said that it will not pursue complaints that are not attributed to a source or that are submitted anonymously, but the names of individuals who submit issues will be held in confidence. Complaints are reviewed and evaluated for legitimacy, and a staff team then makes a determination about where the report needs to be directed.

In March 2015, the Secretary of State’s office, the Attorney General and the Alabama Law Enforcement Agency (ALEA) established the Alabama Elections Fairness Project to foster cooperation among state agencies in pursuing voter fraud issues.

If the issue is one that requires investigation of potential criminal charges, it is reported to local or state law enforcement or the attorney general’s office. Issues dealing with campaign finance or reporting are referred to the Alabama Ethics Commission. In some cases, a team from the Secretary of State’s office has been deployed and issues are resolved on site. Other complaints are closed either due to a lack of sufficient information or a withdrawal of the complaint.

The Secretary of State’s office has closed 706 reports. Of those seven were handled by a team from the Secretary of State’s office. Twenty-four were forwarded to the Alabama Ethics Commission. 37 were reported to Attorney General Steve Marshall’s office. 151 were closed due to lack of sufficient information. 446 cases were closed generally. 39 were reported to local or state law enforcement. Two cases were withdrawn. Most of the issues were handled by a team from the Secretary’s office were usually requests made by candidates who wanted to make sure the electoral process was done fairly and legally.

The complaints that were sent to the Ethics Commission usually involve campaign material disclaimers or campaign finance issues. Issues that were referred to the Attorney General were improper procedures in the administration of the election process, absentee balloting issues or misuse of campaign materials.

Reports that were referred to ALEA are made when there is direct evidence of absentee ballot fraud. Local sheriffs or district attorneys are involved when there is an issue that requires immediate local attention, such as a poll worker attempting to influence a voter.

Issues can be closed quickly when there isn’t credible evidence, like the 27 complaints from people outside the state who indicated they directly observed voter fraud on election day.

“Our office is committed to serving the citizens of Alabama and to doing our part to uphold the rule of law,” Sec. Merrill said. “We work closely with our law enforcement agencies at the local, state and federal levels to ensure these issues are properly investigated and vigorously prosecuted. We currently have several cases under investigation that could lead to criminal charges, and we hope that serves as a deterrent for people who would seek to harm our electoral process in the future.”

Any citizen who wishes to report any issue with elections or voting can do so by contacting the Secretary of State’s office at 334-242-7200 or www.stopvoterfraudnow.com.

Secretary of State John Merrill is seeking a second term and faces Heather Milam (D) in the general election on November 6.

 

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Opinion | A breakdown of Ivey’s ever-changing story on her Colorado illness, trooper demotion

Josh Moon

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It’s tough to keep a good lie going.

The problem isn’t so much the original lie, even if it’s a doozy. The trouble comes on the back side, when you have to start piling lies on top of lies to make that original lie hold up. And then you have to keep it all straight.

The Kay Ivey administration knows what I’m talking about.

Unless a whole bunch of other people are lying, Ivey and her staff have been lying all over the place to try and cover up a 2015 incident in which Ivey, then the state’s lieutenant governor, suffered a series of mini-strokes. Or at least something that appeared to be mini-strokes, or TIAs.

They’ve been scrambling ever since.

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And over such a dumb lie, too. Who cares if a 70-year-old woman had a mini-stroke, or something that appeared to be a mini-stroke? Hell, 30-year-old men and women who are in decent shape have those things. They’re not necessarily indicative of poor overall health, although they do indicate a higher risk for future strokes.

But still, why lie? I’m guessing a lot more people would vote for a gubernatorial candidate who admitted to having a mini-stroke than for one who everyone knows is lying about a mini-stroke and who wrongly punished a state trooper for simply following the protocols of his job.

It seems Ivey now finds herself in the latter category. And I think it’s important to understand how we got here.

In this world of abundant news, it’s easy to forget facts and leave entries off the timeline. So, let’s paint this full picture.

Ivey’s “health issue” occurred in 2015 when she was in Colorado Springs for a meeting of the Aerospace States Association. According to her own comments about the incident, she felt lightheaded during the meeting’s opening day, a Friday, and was admitted to the hospital that day. She was released on Sunday.

For the better part of two years, the coverup of the incident was successful, because, let’s be honest, who really cares what’s happening in the personal life of the lieutenant governor. But shortly after Ivey ascended to the big chair following Robert Bentley’s embarrassing demise, whispers about her poor health began.

In May 2017, citing multiple sources close to the governor, APR’s Bill Britt published the first account of the health scare and the coverup, including details of Ivey having a state trooper working her security detail, Drew Brooks, demoted and shipped off to work in a drivers license office in Houston County.

Ivey and her top officials screamed it was fake news.

In multiple settings, including a sitdown interview with al.com’s Mike Cason, Ivey and her chief of staff, Steve Pelham, flatly denied almost all of it.

Ivey said she had actually suffered from “altitude sickness,” which apparently requires a three-day hospital stay now. She told al.com’s Leada Gore that the trooper, Brooks, was “promoted,” because working drivers licenses in Dothan at a 25-percent pay reduction is every cop’s dream assignment.

Pelham told Cason that there was no directive and no punishment.

And for a while, it all died down.

But on Tuesday, the bad lie came back to life, as they have a tendency to do. This time, Britt had a bigger story: Collier, the head of ALEA, was on the record backing up every word of what Britt and APR reported back in 2017.

And we got the receipts too.

Collier, the guy who actually signed Brooks’ transfer order, confirmed that Ivey’s head of security reported to him in 2015 that Ivey was suffering from “stroke-like symptoms” and was being rushed to the hospital in Colorado. Collier reported that information to Bentley and remained in contact with the security detail.

Sometime after Ivey returned from that trip, she summoned Collier to the law offices of Balch & Bingham, because those offices are the Alabama equivalent to the Bada Bing, apparently, where all the bad plans in the state are concocted. At that meeting, she informed Collier that she wanted Brooks demoted and transferred, and claimed Brooks had attempted to hack her email.

Documents obtained by APR show that Brooks — who Ivey and Pelham claimed was promoted — was actually forced off the lieutenant governor’s security detail — a highly sought after position with top pay — and moved to Dothan to give license exams for about $300 less per month in salary.

Does that sound like a promotion?

But you know what’s coming now, right? More lies to cover up the faltering lies.

Later on Tuesday, Ivey’s office released another letter from her doctor to prove that she is in great health and absolutely, 100-percent has never had a stroke. Small problem: in discussing the Colorado incident, Ivey’s doctor stated that she was hospitalized in Denver, which is a little more than an hour from Colorado Springs, where Ivey was when she became ill.

It’s tough to imagine a three-day hospitalization at a large hospital an hour away for altitude sickness. But then, this isn’t my (fictional) story.

So far, the Ivey camp hasn’t addressed Collier’s allegations about Brooks. Instead, Ivey tried to blame the whole thing on Walt Maddox, which, if true, really confirms that we should all be voting for Maddox because that dude’s a wizard.

It’s a sad state of affairs. But that’s usually the case when lies start to unravel.   

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Democrats outraise Republicans in several key statewide races

Chip Brownlee

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The first weekly campaign finance filings ahead of November’s election show Democrats raising more money with more individual donors in at least three key statewide races.

While Republicans are maintaining fundraising leads in the race for governor, secretary of state and lieutenant governor, Democrats raised more money than their Republican opponents in the races for attorney general, chief justice of the Alabama Supreme Court and state auditor.

Even in the gubernatorial race between Republican Gov. Kay Ivey and her Democratic challenger, Tuscaloosa Mayor Walt Maddox, Maddox had more individual donors — 399 to Ivey’s 138. In fact, Democrats had more individual donors in the six major statewide races except in the campaigns for lieutenant governor. Republicans do have more cash on hand, in most of the statewide races, providing them more of a war chest as the election nears.

The most notable development in the key statewide races is in the race for attorney general. Democratic candidate Joe Siegelman, the son of Alabama’s last Democratic governor, Don Siegelman, outraised Republican Attorney General Steve Marshall.

Siegelman reported raising $101,609 between Oct. 1 and Oct. 12, beating Marshall’s reported cash contributions amounting to $81,125. Siegelman reported at least 200 itemized contributions, though a few were from the same donor, while Marshall had far fewer donors. Marshall reported only 26 itemized contributions, eight of which were from PACs. Those PAC contributions made up the majority of his fundraising at $49,500.

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Marshall’s largest contribution came from ALA Forestry PAC, which gave his campaign a $25,000 contribution. He also accepted two $10,000 contributions from ABC Merit PAC and Qualico Steel Company, a private business.

Nine of Siegelman’s 200 contributions came from PACs, amounting to $47,500 of his $101,609 in contributions.

Siegelman’s largest single contribution came in the form of two different contributions totaling $20,000 from the North Alabama PAC, which purports to support economic development, and $25,000 in total from four different chain PACs — CASH PAC, ET PAC, Leadership PAC and T-Town PAC II — associated with Tuscaloosa’s Michael Echols, a longtime player in local Tuscaloosa and state politics. Echols’ PACs also donated to Ivey, Maddox and the Democratic candidate for chief justice, Bob Vance, in addition to several localized races.

Echols’ PACs earlier this year donated to Marshall’s Republican primary challenger, former Alabama Attorney General Troy King, whom Marshall defeated in the June Republican primary.

Siegelman ended the last filing period with $287,249 in his account, compared to Marshall’s $211,298, largely because Marshall heavily outspent Siegelman more than four-to-one.

In the race for chief justice, Jefferson County Probate Judge Bob Vance, the Democrat, raised $153,401 through Oct. 12, compared to Parker, who raised only $1,050, which was largely from one $1,000 donation. Vance is also far outspending not only Parker, but most of the other statewide candidates. He spent nearly $571,000 in the first of the month, finishing with $132,920 in his account. Parker spent $63,589, ending the period with $119,425 in cash on hand.

Vance reported 765 different donations during the period to Parker’s three itemized donations.

$15,000 of Vance’s contributions also came from Echols’ PACs.

Republican nominee Will Ainsworth continues to outspend and far outraise his Democratic challenger Will Boyd. Ainsworth, currently a state representative, reported $171,500 in contributions from 68 donors to Boyd’s $2,880 from eight donors. Ainsworth finished the period with $353,100, while Boyd has only $5,336 in his account.

In the race for secretary of state, Republican Secretary of State John Merrill raised $16,950 from 40 separate donations, while Democratic challenger Heather Milam raised $6,427 from 49 separate donations. Merill finished the period with a large war chest of $192,522 to Milam’s $4,342 balance.

Democratic state auditor candidate Miranda Joseph ($3,035) outraised incumbent Republican State Auditor Jim Zeigler, who reported no contributions, though Zeigler outspent Joseph. Zeigler spent $2,567 to Joseph’s $1,846 in expenditures. She reported 12 separate donations while Zielger posted no donations during the period. He finished the period with $11,303 on hand, while Joseph ended with $4,781.

The election is on Nov. 6, and candidates will be required to file weekly finance reports and major campaign finance reports immediately if they accept individual itemized donations of more than $10,000. Candidates that receive or spend more than $5,000 a day during the eight days leading up to the election will also be required to file daily reports.

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Incumbents hold fundraising leads in Alabama congressional races

Brandon Moseley

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Alabama’s congressional incumbents continue to outraise and outspend their challengers. New Federal Election Commission (FEC) reports are in for the second quarter. Campaign finance reports for the second quarter which ended on September 30 were due on Monday, October 15. State government candidates have to report to the Alabama Secretary of State’s office, which requires much more frequent reporting.

In Alabama’s First Congressional District Republican incumbent Bradley Byrne, of Montrose, reported raising $1,235,766.41 having $645,973.06 in disbursements and cash on hand at the end of September of $1,036,111.68. Byrne is a former State Senator, former member of the state school board, former head of the state two year college system and an attorney. He ran unsuccessfully for governor in 2010.

Democratic challenger Robert Kennedy of Mobile reported raising $151,091.03, spending $106,564.26, and cash on hand on September 30 of just $44,526.77. Kennedy is a former U.S. Navy officer who previously ran for U.S. Senate in 2017.

In Alabama’s Second Congressional District, Republican incumbent Martha Roby reported raising $2,486,656.21, disbursements of $2,072,197.18 and cash on hand coming in to the months of just $459,909.75. Rep. Roby faced stiff competition in the Republican primary that forced her to spend a large amount of resources just to get the Republican nomination for the office she has held since 2010. Roby is an attorney and former Montgomery city council woman.

Democratic challenger Tabitha Kay Isner has total receipts of $407,525.03 total disbursements of $269,981.02 and a September 30 cash balance of $137,544.01. Isner is a pastor’s wife who is active in her community.

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In the Third Congressional District, Republican incumbent Mike Roger of Saks raised $1,185,305.10, reported disbursements of $610,575.77 and a September 30 cash balance of $1,100,276.29. Rogers is an attorney, a former Senator, and a former Calhoun County Commissioner. Rogers is seeking his ninth term in the United States Congress.

Democratic challenger Mallory Hagan reports receipts of $178,348.86, expenditures of $154,280.16, and a September 30 cash balance of $24,068.72. Hagan is a former Miss America, former Miss New York, and a former television news reporter in Columbus. She is 29 years old.

In the Fourth Congressional District, Republican incumbent Robert Aderholt of Haleyville reported receipts of $1,258,842.08, disbursements of $725,461.54, and a September 30 cash balance of $998,892.80. Aderholt is a subcommittee chair on the powerful House Appropriations committee. Aderholt is second only to U.S. Senator Richard Shelby among the Alabama delegation in tenure. He is seeking his twelfth consecutive term in the House of Representatives.

Democratic challenger James Lee Auman has raised only $55,673. Auman has expenditures of $45,634 and a September 30 cash balance of just $10,238. Lee Auman left his job as a camp manager to run for Congress.

In the Fifth Congressional District, Republican incumbent Mo Brooks of Huntsville reports receipts of $1,436,814.81, disbursements of $1,839,847.63, and a September 30 cash balance of $767,904.50. Brooks ran unsuccessfully for Senate in 2017. Rogers is a former state representative, county commissioner, and prosecutor. Brooks, like Roby, faced a fierce primary opponent.

Democratic challenger Peter Joffrion reported receipts of $315,758.65, disbursements of $213,843.16, and a September 30 cash balance of $101,915.49. Joffrion is a retired Huntsville City Attorney.

In the Sixth Congressional District, Republican incumbent Gary Palmer of Hoover reports receipts of $1,117,014.12, expenditures of $791,187.02, and a September 30 cash balance of $978,007.43. Gary Palmer formerly headed the influential Alabama Policy Institute, a thinktank focused on conservative free market solutions to Alabama and America’s problems.

Democratic challenger Danner Kline reports receipts of $256,383.23, expenditures of $161,621.12, and a September 30 cash balance of $94,762.11. Kline has worked managing business telephone systems and most recently managing the craft beer portfolio for a beverage distributor. He is best known as an advocate for beer deregulation.

In the Seventh Congressional District, Democratic incumbent Terry Sewell of Selma reports total receipts of $1,593,438.47, total disbursements of $869,786.01, and a September 30 cash balance of $1,688,178.22. Sewell is an attorney who grew up in Selma, She is seeking her fifth term in the U.S. Congress. Sewell has no opponent.

Most congressional incumbents carry over a balance from previous election cycles that they can use if necessary or roll over to the next election cycle.

Democrats are hopeful that dissatisfaction with the administration of President Donald J. Trump (R) will result in a “blue wave” that will sweep out Republicans and give Democrats control of the U.S. Congress again. If they pick up seats in the Alabama delegation, it will be despite being outspent. The six GOP incumbents have a combined $5,601,051. Their Democratic challengers only have $318,293 in cash for the remaining 37 campaigning days from October 1 to November 6: over a 17 to 1 advantage.

The general election will be on November 6.

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October 22 registration deadline nears

Brandon Moseley

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Alabama Secretary of State John Merrill (R) reminded Alabamians of the upcoming deadline to register to vote in advance of the Nov. 6, 2018 General Election. The last day you can register to vote is Monday, Oct. 22.

The general election will be on Nov. 6, 2018. Voters will elect the officials who will represent them at the federal, state, county, and local levels for the next two to four years.

Monday, Oct. 22, 2018, is the deadline to register to vote in person by the close of business at your county board of registrars’ office (typically 5:00 p.m.). If you miss that deadline you can still register online that day by 11:59 p.m. or get it in the mail and postmarked by Oct. 22, 2018.

The Secretary of State’s office reminds voters that the new crossover voting law does not apply to a General Election. In the General Election on Nov. 6, all registered voters in Alabama may vote for the candidate of their choice even if they voted in the other party’s primary in June.

Voters should also be aware that the deadline to apply for an absentee ballot is Thursday, Nov. 1, 2018. The deadline to return an absentee ballot is Monday, Nov. 5, 2018.

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To participate in any Alabama election you must have a valid photo ID. While a valid Alabama driver’s license is the most commonly used ID it is not the only one.

Forms of photo ID accepted at the polls include any of the following documents: driver’s license; Alabama photo voter ID card; State issued ID (any state); federal issued ID; US passport; employee ID from Federal Government, State of Alabama, County, Municipality, Board, or other entity of this state; student or employee ID from a public or private college or university in the State of Alabama (including postgraduate technical or professional schools); Military ID; or Tribal ID.

Persons without a valid photo ID can get an Alabama photo voter ID card for free from their Board of Registrars.

To apply for the free Alabama photo voter ID, a voter must show: a photo ID document or a non-photo identity document that contains full legal name and date of birth; documentation showing the voter’s date of birth; documentation showing the person is a registered voter; and documentation showing the voter’s name and address as reflected in the voter registration record. A citizen’s name, address, and voter registration status can be verified by the Secretary of State’s Staff, using the statewide voter registration system.

Examples of non-photo ID documents that can be used in applying for a free Alabama photo voter ID card include a birth certificate, marriage record, Social Security Administration document, hospital or nursing home record, Medicare or Medicaid document, or an official school record or transcript.

Remember to keep your photo-ID current. An expired driver’s license for example might not be accepted at the polls.

The State of Alabama does not have same day voter registration so to participate in this election you must register by the October 22 deadline. This is also the deadline to change your registration If you have moved within the state of Alabama.

Alabama does not have any online voting. You have to physically go to the polling place where you are assigned in order to participate in the election. That is the only place where you will be allowed to vote.
The polls will be open from 7:00 a.m. to 7:00 p.m. on Tuesday, Nov. 6.

The Secretary of State’s website is a very useful tool to prepare for the election.

To register to vote online, click here.

To check to see if you are still are registered to vote and have not been purged from the rolls for a failure to participate, click here.

To locate the polling place where you are currently assigned, click here.

To view a sample ballot, click here.

Remember that Alabama allows straight-ticket party voting. You may check the Alabama Republican Party or the Alabama Democratic Party and that will allow you to vote in every race on the general election ballot for your preferred party without have to circle each and every candidate up and down on the ballot. Remember however that there are several constitutional amendments on the ballot this year so even if you straight ticket don’t forget to flip the ballot over and vote for each of the amendments. You can view them on the sample ballot in advance so you will be better prepared on election day.

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Merrill announces successful closure of voter fraud complaints

by Brandon Moseley Read Time: 4 min
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