By Brandon Moseley
Alabama Political Reporter
On Tuesday, December 2, Alabama Secretary of State John Merrill (R) issued a statement in response to the lawsuit that was filed against him, Alabama Governor Robert Bentley (R), Alabama Law Enforcement Agency Secretary Spencer Collier, Alabama Attorney General Luther Strange (R), and the state of Alabama by Greater Birmingham Ministries and the Alabama Conference of the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People (NAACP) claiming that Alabama’s photo ID requirement for voting is discriminatory.
Secretary Merrill said, “The lawsuit filed today claims that the photo ID requirement is an impediment to voting in our state. Empirical data would indicate that the photo ID requirement is in no way a barrier or obstacle to voting. The photo ID requirement was designed to preserve the credibility and the integrity of the electoral process. I voted for and was a co-sponsor of House Bill 19 that became Act Number 2011-673 in 2011, and I will defend the rights and freedoms of all our eligible citizens to register to vote, obtain a qualified photo voter ID, and participate in the electoral process!”
Sec. Merrill continued, “In the office of the Secretary of State, we want to make it real easy to vote and real hard to cheat. As of today, there have been no credible reports of a lack of ability for someone to cast their vote because of this law. We are going to continue to register all eligible Alabamians to vote, we are going to abide by the photo ID law passed by the Alabama Legislature, and we are going to issue qualified government photo IDs to preserve voting integrity as long as I have the privilege to serve our citizens in this capacity!”
After the Republican supermajority was elected to control both Houses of the Alabama legislature in 2010, Republican legislators passed a photo ID requirement for voters to make it harder for people to vote using somebody else’s identity.
Democrats object to the law because they say that minorities are more likely to not possess a photo ID than White non-Latino voters are. Frustrating Democrats further, was the decision by ALEA Secretary Spencer Collier to close 31 rural driver’s license offices. The driver’s license is the most common form of photo ID used to vote. Collier has since agreed to staff the offices one day a month.
The President and Director-Counsel of the NAACP Legal Defense Fund (LDF), Sherrilyn Ifill said, “The State’s deliberate decision to enforce this discriminatory photo ID law, followed by the DMV office closures, has compelled us to take action. It is appalling that, sixty years after Rosa Parks’ courageous protest in Montgomery and fifty years after voting rights activists marched in Selma, the Alabama Legislature continues to pass laws that are designed to deprive people of color of their basic civil rights.” The LDF, the law firm of Covington & Burling, LLP, and Alabama attorney Ed Still are representing the plaintiffs.
The President of the Alabama NAACP, Bernard Simelton said, “If the Alabama photo ID law is not blocked, it will silence the voices of thousands of Alabamians, especially African Americans, the poor and other minorities, in 2016.”
Secretary of State John Merrill has sent mobile voter ID units to every county in Alabama to assist voters who might need the free state issued IDs for voters that do not have a valid ID. You can also obtain a free voter ID from your local Board of Registrar’s office. Merrill told the Alabama Political Reporter that he wants to, “Make it easy to vote; but hard to cheat.”