By Brandon Moseley
Alabama Political Reporter
Thursday, September 17, Alabama Secretary of State John Merrill (R) spoke in Moody to the St. Clair County Republican Party after a catered barbecue dinner.
Merrill said that during the election there were only three counties in the State where he did better than in St. Clair County; and those where Tuscaloosa, where he and his wife live; Cleburne County where he is from and the county where his wife is from. “I want to thank you for the privilege of making me Secretary of State.”
Sec. Merrill said since he has been in the office he has made changes. When he got there in January the office had 49 employees. That is down to 36 and might go lower. Merrill said that the 2015 legislative session was, “The most productive session for the Secretary of State office since 1988.”
Merrill said that has saved you $930,000. “I went to the House budget chair and told them to zero us out in the General Fund.” Merrill said that with all the fees the office collects from corporate filings he can fund the Secretary of State’s office without taking tax dollars from the State General Fund (SGF).
Sec. Merrill said that Alabama has instituted photo id at polling places to minimize fraud in election. Not everyone has a driver’s license so his office is visiting every county in Alabama to make voter ids for the citizens that need them. Merrill said, “We want to make the vote available to everybody who wants to vote. We want to make it real easy to vote and real hard to cheat.”
Merrill said that his department has been running ads on the Jumbotron at Auburn and Alabama games, they have posters, and have placed signs at the board of Registrars offices telling people what they need to do to register to vote.
Sec. Merrill said, “One of the most significant thing we have done it so to change primary date to March 1 so presidential candidates come to the state.”
The SEC Primary was the idea of the Georgia Secretary of State. Merrill said that he talked with former Iowa Secretary of State Matt Schultz who told him that people in Iowa won’t vote for a presidential candidate unless they have talked to that candidate at least 8 times. People in Alabama have met a presidential candidate maybe one time in their lifetime. Merrill said that he talked to the leadership in the House and the leadership in the Senate about moving the Primary up to March 1. That passed both Houses unanimously.
Merrill said that he has talked to presidential candidates about coming to Alabama. In August six of the top ten GOP Presidential candidates came to Alabama in 9 days. Former Arkansas Governor Mike Huckabee will be here on October 1 and three more candidates are coming in October. Donald Trump, John Kasich, Scott Walker, Ben Carson, Jeb Bush, and Ted Cruz visited the State in August.
Merrill said “What an honor and a privilege it is to serve you in this job…You didn’t hire me to sit at 600 Dexter Ave in Montgomery,” so I am out meeting with you across the State.”
Sec. Merrill said, “There are a lot of quality legislators serving in Montgomery; but there is no two better men than the two member serving you in St. Clair County in Senator Jim McClendon (R-Springville) and Representative Jim Hill (R-Odenville).”
After Merrill’s talk Sen. Jim McClendon updated the group about the special session and the recent budget deal.
St. Clair County Republican Party Chairman Lance Bell said that two members of the Alabama Republican Party State Executive Committee were removed because they failed to attend the last two meetings so the party needed to pick replacements. Bell emphasized the importance of actually attending the ALGOP Winter and Summer Meetings.
The Chairwoman of the St. Clair County Board of Registrars Deborah Howard nominated Ashlyn Campbell and St. Clair County Sheriff’s Department Captain Billy Murray nominated St. Clair County District Attorney Richard Minor (R). There were no other nominations. The members of the St. Clair County Executive Committee voted unanimously for Campbell and Minor.