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Google removes misleading Highway 31 ads

By Brandon Moseley
Alabama Political Reporter

Alabama Secretary of State John Merrill  announced that he has been working with Google to remove recent ads from the internet that are seen as misleading to voters about the election process.

“Recent reports to the Alabama Secretary of State’s Office indicated the existence of an ad that was targeting Alabamians with incorrect or inaccurate information intent on confusing voters,”Secretary of State spokesman John Bennett wrote in a statement from the office.”The ad made claims that the candidate a voter casts their ballot for would be made public and would be shared with members of their community.”

“This ad was reported to be on YouTube among other digital platforms,” Bennett wrote. “Once the ad was reported Secretary Merrill instructed his team to work quickly to ensure Alabamians were not confused or dissuaded from participating in our democratic process due to misinformation or fear of retribution for how they chose to cast their ballot.”

Secretary Merrill’s team has contacted the Media and Advertising team at Google (YouTube’s parent company) and through several intense discussions and many references to Alabama State Law the team at Google felt the ad should be “disapproved” and that it was in violation of the AdWords advertising policies.

The ad has been removed by Google and was done so at the request of the Alabama Secretary of State’s Office.

Merrill expressed his appreciation that the company was willing to listen and understood the gravity of the voting process and how delicate it can be.

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“In the Alabama Secretary of State Office’s continued efforts to empower and encourage all Alabama residents to participate in the electoral process, one issue our office must work toward is the reconciliation of any instance whereby voter confusion is presented,” Bennett wrote.

In the Alabama Primary and Primary Run-off Elections a record is made which would indicate whether a voter had voted in either the Democrat or Republican party race but the name of the candidate for whom the voter cast their ballot is never recorded.  Additionally, in Alabama, voters do not provide political party affiliation when they register to vote because the state does not track that information.

Highway 31 is a Political Action Committee that is working to elect Doug Jones and produce attack ads against Moore.

Also on Wednesday, the Moore campaign announced that they are going to sue Highway 31 for another ad that said Moore solicited teenage girls at the Gadsden Mall, which the Moore campaign says is blatantly false.

A complaint with the Federal Elections Commission has also been filed against Highway 31 claiming that the group has violated federal election law by not disclosing who its donors are.  The groups linked to two former President Barack Obama campaign officials who have done over a $1 million worth of work for the group; but has not reported receiving any compensation for their firms’ efforts.

Because it is a Super PAC that operates independently from the Doug Jones campaign, coordination between Jones and anyone at Highway 31 is strictly illegal.  The candidate is not supposed to be approving their fundraising, their commercials, or their financial reporting.

Doug Jones legally has plausible deniability for anything that Highway 31 might do on his behalf.  Similarly, it would be forbidden for Highway 31 to contact the Jones campaign and ask what sort of advertising and commercials he would like to see.

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Moore has been outspent over ten to one by Jones and his allies.

Moore is running against Jones in the special election on Tuesday.  Polls open at 7:00 am and close at 7:00 pm.

Brandon Moseley is a former reporter at the Alabama Political Reporter.

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