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.
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.