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Merrill To File Bill Regulating Partisan Voter Drives

Brandon Moseley

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By Brandon Moseley
Alabama Political Reporter

There are two ways to win an election:

One, identify your target voters, reach out to them with a narrative that resonates with them and that motivates them to come to the polls to vote for you and the message that you are delivering.

Two, identify the voters that are unlikely to vote for you and then act to neutralize those voters.  That second strategy is much harder actually to implement and follow, though Alabama made those sorts of tactics famous during decades of segregation where voter suppression, using both the power of the State as well as sometimes criminal brute force, disenfranchised Blacks and many poor Whites.

Recently there have been accusations made that certain campaigns have adopted a dishonest strategy of holding voter registration drives and then identifying their likely voters and registering them, while at the same time identifying voters that are less likely to support their cause and then not registering those voters.  A new bill being introduced by Alabama State Representative John Merrill (R) would make it a crime for organizers of voter drives to accept registrations and then not turn them in.

Trey Edwards (the owner of Victory Political Social Media) announced on Facebook, “I am excited to announce that after two months of discussion, debate, and work, Representative and Secretary of State Candidate John Merrill (R from Tuscaloosa) and I are filing a bill in the Alabama Legislature to protect against and prosecute voter fraud in this state. The goal of the bill is to protect voters against deception. More specifically, to address the issue of people who hold voter registration drives and only turn in the forms of people that they believe will vote a certain way.”

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Edwards said that he was a victim of one such unscrupulous voter drive, “On election day, 2012, I was unable to vote in the town I lived in because of this problem, which is rampant and well-documented in this state, especially in the Shoals area. I updated my registration information at a voter registration drive on campus, only to discover on election day that I was not registered to vote. I had not expected a voter ID card because I already knew that the individual on campus turned in all of her forms on the last possible day, 10 days before the election. When I went to the Registrar’s office, I discovered that I was far from the only person suffering from this problem. Apparently the individual running the voter drive had been well known for years at both the county board of registrars and the secretary of state’s office for filtering out the forms of anyone they thought would vote Republican. However, there was absolutely nothing that either department could do about it, because there is no state law on the books that allows them to prosecute this behavior. I posted my frustrations on Facebook and my story ended up on the 10:00 news that night on WHNT Channel 19.”

Edwards said, “Because of what happened, I approached (state Representative) John Merrill on Nov 1st about trying to solve this problem. He was very excited at my ideas and had me write everything up and send it to him. Together, we devised a two-part solution to this problem.”

Under the proposed law, not turning in forms collected at a voter registration drive would be a Class C Misdemeanor offense.  The proposed law would prohibit anyone convicted of voter fraud from working at a voter registration drive for a year after their conviction. Anyone holding a voter registration drive would be required to turn in the forms no later than 72 business hours after the forms have been completed.

Rep. Merrill is also proposing as an administrative rule change: a requirement that voter registration forms given to a voter registration drive be identified by a unique number for the person who is requesting the forms for a voter drive. Any board of registrar or secretary of state employee could put that number into their database and see the contact information for the person who requested the forms.

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According to Edwards, at the bottom of the form, there will be a tear-off tab with this same identifier which the person hosting the drive will be required to tear off and hand to the person registering as a receipt. This essentially gives the person receiving the forms the legal ability to act as a proxy and submit these forms on behalf of the person filling them out, and provides proof of that transaction so that if the forms never reach their destination, that receipt can be used as evidence that the form was filled out, and the individual could be potentially prosecuted for voter fraud under the statute.

Rep. Merrill is running for Alabama Secretary of State.  If elected, he is promising to make the necessary administrative change to implement the second part of his plan.

The Alabama Secretary of State’s office has no returning incumbent.  Beth Chapman (R), who was term limited from running again, left the post early to accept a position with ALFA.  Alabama Governor Robert Bentley (R) appointed former Secretary of State Jim Bennett (R) to finish her term. Three Republicans are pursing the position in the June Republican Primary: Rep. John Merrill (R), Reese McKinney (R) and Jim Perdue (R).  The winner will likely face a Democrat in November, though ‘The Alabama Political Reporter’ is not aware of an announced Democratic candidate for Secretary of State at this time.

Brandon Moseley is a senior reporter with eight and a half years at Alabama Political Reporter. You can email him at [email protected] or follow him on Facebook. Brandon is a native of Moody, Alabama, a graduate of Auburn University, and a seventh generation Alabamian.

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Governor

Governor meets with VIP

Brandon Moseley

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Gov. Kay Ivey and fourth grade student Cate McGriff. Photo Credit: Governor's office.

Alabama Governor Kay Ivey invited a special guest to meet with her in the Governor’s office on Friday.

Fourth grade student Cate McGriff met with Governor Ivey Friday afternoon. The discussion was described as wide-ranging and productive. The governor and McGriff covered everything from school to their love of dogs.

Gov. Ivey asked Miss. McGriff what her favorite subject in school is.

McGriff replied that it was math. She also told the governor that she wanted to attend Auburn University just like Gov. Ivey did.

Ivey asked Cate what she wanted to be when she grows up, after she attends Auburn.

McGriff said that she wanted to be an engineer.

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Ivey advised her to keep working hard on her math.

Ivey shared that when she was a young intern for Governor Lurleen Wallace, the only other woman to serve as Governor in Alabama history, she had the opportunity to sit behind the governor’s desk. Ivey then asked Cate if she wanted to sit behind the desk, and they recreated the governor’s own photo behind Governor Wallace’s desk.

Cate and Governor Ivey both were wearing their red power suits and Auburn masks.

McGriff was joined by her parents and two siblings, Claire and Sam.

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The McGriff family frequently tune in to the governor’s regular COVID press conferences. Cate also was given the chance to stand behind the lectern in the Old House Chamber.

Governors frequently meet with very important people including: Presidents, CEOs, congressmen, Senators, scientists, University presidents, state legislators, county commissioners, economic developers, and fourth graders.

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Health

CDC issues Halloween guidance

Brandon Moseley

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Today is Halloween. Many people are celebrating this year’s holiday at home as a nuclear family due to the coronavirus global pandemic. If you are going to still trick or treat this year, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention have issued guidance on trick or treating.

“Traditional Halloween activities are fun, but some can increase the risk of getting or spreading COVID-19 or influenza,” the CDC warned. “Plan alternate ways to participate in Halloween.”

To make trick-or-treating safer: avoid direct contact with trick-or-treaters, give out treats outdoors, if possible, set up a station with individually bagged treats for kids to take, wash your hands before handling treats, wear a mask or cloth face covering.

The CDC has also issued guidance on proper mask wearing. Make your cloth mask part of your costume. A costume mask is not a substitute for a cloth mask. Do NOT wear a costume mask over a cloth mask. It can make breathing more difficult. Masks should NOT be worn by children under the age of two or anyone who has trouble breathing.

Remember to always stay at least six feet away from others who do not live with you. Indoors and outdoors, you are more likely to get or spread COVID-19 when you are in close contact with others for a long time.

Don’t let excitement about the holiday distract you from proper COVID-19 procedures. Wash your hands. Bring hand sanitizer with you and use it after touching objects or other people. Use hand sanitizer with at least 60 percent alcohol. Parents should supervise young children using hand sanitizer. Wash hands with soap and water for at least 20 seconds when you get home and before you eat any treats.

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Other suggestions for enjoying Halloween activities during the global COVID-19 pandemic include: decorating and carving pumpkins, decorate your home for Halloween, and you can walk from house to house, admiring Halloween decorations at a distance. You could also visit an orchard, forest, or corn maze. You can also go on an outdoor Halloween-themed scavenger hunt. Visit a pumpkin patch or orchard. Whatever you do or wherever you go be sure to remember to wash your hands or use hand sanitizer frequently, especially after touching frequently touched surfaces, pumpkins, or apples.

The CDC also suggested that you can hide Halloween treats in and around your house and hold a Halloween treat hunt with household members. The CDC suggested that you can hold an outdoor costume parade or contest so everyone can show off their costumes. Another suggestion is that you host an outdoor Halloween movie night with friends or neighbors or an indoor movie night with just your household members.

 

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Elections

Etowah County Republicans rally for Trump

Brandon Moseley

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The Etowah County Republican Party and the Trump campaign will be holding a Celebrate America rally and prayer meeting on Sunday in anticipation of Tuesday’s general election.

“We the People plan to peacefully assemble at our town square Tomorrow, November 1st at 2:00 PM to rally around President Trump and pray for our nation, our first responders, and for our President,” organizers said.

Remarks will be made by special guest Congressman Robert Aderholt, R-Haleyville.

Singer songwriters Camille and Haley will perform.

Pastors Mark Gidley, Joey Jones and Bruce Word will be speaking.

“Bring your friends and family as we pray, celebrate and rally for America!” organizers said. “Our outdoor program and rally will be an amazing hour that you will not want to miss! Please mark your calendars and please share.”

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Patriotic attire, American flags, and Trump flags are welcome. The event will be in the Rainbow City Town hall parking lot.

Robert Aderholt is in his twelfth term representing Alabama’s Fourth Congressional District. Alabama’s Fourth Congressional District is where Trump had his greatest margin of victory in the entire country in 2016.

President Trump and Congressman Aderholt both face Democratic challengers in Tuesday’s general election.

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News

Jones says Senate race a choice between “substance and leadership, and nothing”

“One of the great disappointments in this campaign is that Alabama is not really getting choices between substance and substance,” Jones said.

Eddie Burkhalter

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Incumbent Sen. Doug Jones speaks at a rally in Anniston. (EDDIE BURKHALTER/APR)

Speaking outside the Calhoun County Democratic Party headquarters in Anniston on Friday, Sen. Doug Jones, D-Alabama, told a group of supporters that Alabamians haven’t gotten a look at what his Republican opponent might do if he wins the Nov. 3 election. 

“One of the great disappointments in this campaign is that Alabama is not really getting choices between substance and substance,” Jones said. “They’re getting a choice between substance and leadership, and nothing — nothing. We have not heard anything from Tommy Tuberville about what he really wants to do.” 

While Jones has held numerous interviews with the media, and regular web briefings over the summer and in recent weeks, Tuberville’s campaign seems to prefer the safety of keeping Tuberville from making possible gaffs or damaging statements in interviews. 

Tuberville hasn’t agreed to interviews with traditional media outlets, or to debate Jones, and instead has focused on conservative talk radio spots, speaking to smaller Republican groups and at private parties.

Tuberville’s campaign has ignored or denied our numerous attempts to interview Tuberville, including another request on Friday. He also declined to attend a student forum held at Auburn University on Wednesday, which Jones attended. The forum was sponsored by the Auburn College Republicans and College Democrats.

“If you ever hear something Tommy Tuberville says, it is just simply this: ‘Build a wall. No amnesty. Drain the swamp.’ That ain’t him. That’s Donald Trump,” Jones said. “He cannot think for himself. He doesn’t think for himself.” 

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Jones spoke of his record of working to help veterans through legislation. And he referred to Tuberville’s nonprofit for veterans and reporting that indicates, through tax records, that less than a third of the money raised for Tuberville’s charity went to help veterans. 

“I don’t just create charities and send only pennies on the dollar. I do things for the veterans of this state and this country,” Jones said. 

Jones also made a case for Alabamians to remember the contributions past Democrats made in the state. Jones said it was Democratic Sen. John Sparkman who helped build Alabama’s Redstone Arsenal. 

“It was a Democrat, Lester Hill, who built the rural hospitals around here that Donald Trump and Mitch McConnell and Tommy Tuberville are trying to destroy,” Jones said. “It was Howell Heflin who built up agriculture in this state. Those are the Democrats. It was Franklin Rosevelt that put electricity in this state. We’re going to do the same thing for broadband. People forget those things. They forget those things because we’ve let other people define us with lies.”

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Jones plans to visit Jefferson County on Saturday, then on to the Black Belt and Mobile on Sunday with another stop in Birmingham on Monday afternoon. 

“The goal is to get everybody out. That’s the thing if we want to continue to ensure Alabama moves forward — moves forward and not backwards, to continue to have somebody, if I do say so myself, somebody that’s just not going to damn embarrass us,” Jones said.

Supporters of Democratic Sen. Doug Jones rally in Anniston on Oct. 30, 2020. (EDDIE BURKHALTER/APR)

“We’ve had too much of that in Alabama,” Jones said, “and I bet you it won’t be a year that Tommy Tuberville would be an embarrassment to this state because he doesn’t know the issues. He doesn’t know what to do, and he’s dang sure not going to know what to do when Donald Trump is not president of the United States.” 

Jones encouraged supporters to be skeptical of recent polling. One such recent poll, by Auburn University at Montgomery, puts Tuberville ahead of Jones by 12 percentage points, 54 to 42.1. An internal poll by Tuberville’s campaign puts Tuberville ahead by 15 percentage points, while an internal poll from the Jones camp put Jones ahead by one percentage point. 

“Don’t listen to these polling folks that come in, and they don’t know Alabama, and they don’t know what they’re doing. We’re tracking this race, and I can tell you, everything has been moving in our direction the last two months,” Jones said. 

People standing along roadsides holding his signs and showing support, Jones said, is “the energy we’ve got out there. That’s what you can’t poll.”

Ellen Bass of Anniston, standing outside the Calhoun County Democratic Party headquarters just after Jones spoke, told APR that she has numerous Republican friends who are voting for Jones.

“My hat’s off to them because they’re coming out,” Bass said. “They recognize that he is a better candidate.”

Ciara Smith, 21, newly elected to the Anniston City Council, told APR outside the headquarters building that Jones is the better candidate.

“I think that he’s educated. I think that he speaks with passion and heart,” Smith said. “And he knows what he’s talking about, which is important, and which is more than we can say about the other candidate.”

Speaking to APR after his speech to supporters, Jones said that he feels very good about the state of his campaign.

“Everything we’re seeing is moving in our direction,” Jones said. “And the more he stays hidden, the better it is for us.”

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