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Merrill responds to APR Op-Ed on voter ID laws

Jessa Reid Bolling

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Alabama Secretary of State John Merrill issued a statement yesterday responding to a recent op-ed from Alabama Political Reporter investigative reporter and featured columnist Josh Moon titled “Voter ID laws burden minority voters, have zero effect on fraud.”

Moon’s op-ed on Wednesday claimed voter ID laws “disproportionately impose hardships on those minorities being able to cast votes” and cited the Southern Poverty Law Center’s deputy legal director, Nancy Abudu, who issued a statement on Tuesday in response to a tweet by President Donald Trump that called for the passage of voter ID legislation. 

“[The laws] do create barriers for Black, Latinx, low-income, and elderly voters, who are more likely than the general population to lack an acceptable form of photo identification,” Abudu said in the statement “Unfortunately, perpetuating the myth of voter fraud has been so successful that conservative lawmakers use it as a cudgel to undermine the Black vote, particularly in the Deep South. In order to strengthen our sacred right to vote, we must restore the Voting Rights Act to its full strength.”

Moon referred to Alabama’s Photo Voter Identification Law, House Bill 19, that was passed in 2011 that requires in-person and absentee voters to show photo identification to cast a ballot. 

“In the multiple elections since, it has stopped exactly zero attempts to steal a vote through in-person fraud,” Moon said in the op-ed. “I know this to be true because that’s how many in-person voter fraud cases had occurred in Alabama in the 20-plus years prior to the ID law.”

Merrill’s statement dismissed Moon’s claims that photo ID laws do not stop voter fraud and that such laws disenfranchise minority voters as “false,” saying that the Alabama’s voting laws help to ensure “fair, safe and secure elections by preventing voter fraud through identity theft.”

“You see, Mr. Moon is entitled to his own opinion, but he is not entitled to his own facts,” Merrill said in a statement. 

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Merrill’s statement emphasized that, since the voter ID law went into effect, there have been no recorded instances in which someone has been denied the right to vote for not having the proper credentials. 

The Secretary of State’s statement also pointed out that “any citizen can obtain a free voter ID on any day that the courthouse is open by visiting the Board of Registrar’s Office and requesting an ID be provided for free. In the unlikely event that a citizen cannot visit their county courthouse, or one of the festivals we visit, or come to a community event we host in each county every year, we will go to their homes and provide them with a free voter ID.”

Merrill posted a tweet last year with his cell phone number, saying that anyone who cannot travel to collect their photo ID themselves can call his cell phone to have their photo ID brought to them and make sure they are registered to vote. 

“My goal as Alabama’s 53rd Secretary of State is to ensure that each and every eligible U.S. Citizen that is a resident of Alabama is registered to vote and receives a free photo ID,” Merrill said in the statement. “Our only goals when it comes to the administration of elections is to ensure that every Alabamian has access to participate in a fair and secure elections process and we encourage voter participation by ensuring that in each of Alabama’s 67 counties.” 

Merrill announced last week that Alabama broke another state voter registration record with more than 3.5 million registered voters in the state.

Last year, a federal judge dismissed a lawsuit challenging the constitutionality of Alabama’s voter ID law. Greater Birmingham Ministries, the Alabama State Conference of the NAACP and individual plaintiffs filed the lawsuit, arguing that requiring a photo ID to vote is racially discriminatory and is a violation of the Voting Rights Act. The judge, L. Scott Coogler, said that the plaintiffs “failed to provide evidence that members of the protected class have less of an opportunity than others to participate in the political process.” 

Alabama is one of 17 states that require voters to show a photo ID at the polls.

 

Jessa Reid Bolling is a reporter at the Alabama Political Reporter and graduate of The University of Alabama with a B.A. in journalism and political science.

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COVID-19 kills 228 Alabamians in last three weeks as deaths pass 1,000

At least 1,007 Alabamians have died from COVID-19 since the first case was diagnosed in the state in mid-March.

Brandon Moseley

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At least 1,007 Alabamians have died from COVID-19 since the first case was diagnosed in the state in mid-March. (Stock Photo)

The Alabama Department of Public Health reported Tuesday that more than 1,000 Alabamians have now died from COVID-19. At least 228 of those were killed in just the past three weeks.

At least 1,007 Alabamians have died from COVID-19 since the first case was diagnosed in the state in mid-March, according to the Alabama Department of Public Health. Another 26 deaths are listed as probably COVID-19 deaths.

By June 1, 18,246 Alabamians had tested positive. By June 17, 26,914 cases had been diagnosed in the state. In the twenty days that have followed, another 18,349 Alabamians have tested positive. As of Tuesday, 45,263 tested positive, with another 888 positive coronavirus tests announced on Tuesday.

Alabama’s coronavirus epidemic was expected to peak in April while the state was under a shelter in place order. By April 30, the state began lifting restrictions to reopen the economy.

On Tuesday, Dr. Anthony Fauci told reporters that Alabama and other states may have reopened their economies “too soon.” Since the Memorial Day weekend, cases of coronavirus have risen at an alarming pace. On Monday, hospitalizations for COVID-19 set a new record at 1,016.

The combination of a surge of cases, many Alabamians out and about without masks or face coverings, and large holiday gatherings over the Fourth of July weekend make many public health officials concerned that we could be seeing dramatically higher numbers of cases, hospitalizations, and even deaths moving forward into late July and early August.

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Fauci told members of the Alabama press corps that 20 to 40 percent of people who are infected are not showing any symptoms, but they could still be spreading the virus.

Fauci said that wearing a mask or cloth face covering and staying at least six feet away from other people is the best way to avoid becoming infected with the coronavirus — or transmitting the virus to other people if you are already infected, but just don’t know it.

Several cities and counties in Alabama have already implemented a mask requirement.

State officials are urging Alabamians to take personal responsibility for their own health.

Thus far the global pandemic has killed 543,596 and known coronavirus cases are rapidly approaching twelve million.

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Jones says Alabama is “in very dangerous territory” with the coronavirus

“We are still in very dangerous territory,” Jones said. “We are in the middle of this first wave, not in a second wave.”

Brandon Moseley

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Sen. Doug Jones speaks at a press conference on COVID-19. (Sen. Doug Jones/Facebook)

As cases continue to mount and hospitalizations related to COVID-19 rise, U.S. Sen. Doug Jones, D-Alabama, said Tuesday that Alabama remains “in very dangerous territory” when it comes to the coronavirus.

“We are still in very dangerous territory,” Jones said. “We are in the middle of this first wave, not in a second wave.”

As of Tuesday, 45,263 Alabamians have tested positive for the virus. The state has recorded record hospitalizations in the last week.

National Institutes for Allergies and Infectious Diseases director Dr. Anthony Fauci, who joined Jones on a press call Tuesday, said he favored requiring masks, requiring social distancing and closing bars as steps that will work on controlling the virus.

“Any covering is better than no masks,” Fauci said. “The best masks are the N95 masks, but we need to reserve those for healthcare workers.”

Fauci said that we have reopened the economy and sometimes it was opened “a bit soon,” adding that the U.S. has recently been reporting more than 50,000 cases of coronavirus per day — ”almost double what it was during our high baseline,” he said.

Fauci said that we should reopen the economy, but it should be done with precautions.

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“I don’t think it should be all or none — a complete shutdown or throw caution to the wind,” Fauci said.

Fauci said the coronavirus is being spread through the respiratory route.

“Twenty to 40 percent of the people who are infected have no symptoms at all,” he said. “If you are within six feet of someone who is infected, even if they have no symptoms, you can be infected.”

Jones said that the median age for persons being infected has dropped fifteen years in recent weeks, but Fauci noted that the issue of young people getting infected has two issues: It is true that young people typically have less incidence of serious cases, but young people are still getting sick, being hospitalized and dying, just at rates lower than older populations. But Fauci also said that young people getting infected are propagating this epidemic, which could end up affecting more vulnerable populations.

“We should try to get the schools back open,” Fauci said. Closing the schools, he said, “has ripple effects for the family that override the health effects.”

Fauci said that the death rate for COVID-19 has dropped as the median age of persons infected has dropped and also because hospitals are doing a better job of treating COVID-19 patients, adding that there is no conclusive evidence that the virus has mutated into a less dangerous strain.

Fauci said that schools will reopen with different rules based on the level of infection in the community on a county-by-county basis. Masks may be required at all times, while schools should be working to increase the distance between desks modifying their schedules.

“It is not going to be a one size fit all,” he said.

Fauci was asked if a coronavirus vaccine, when it is developed, will be mandatory.

“I don’t think we have ever had a situation where we mandate a vaccine for the general population,” Fauci said. “That has not ever happened at a national level or even a state level.”

Fauci said that individual employers, like hospitals, may mandate the vaccine, but that he doubted there would be a vaccine mandate for the general population because it would be “encroaching on a person’s ability to make their own choices.”

Fauci said that we already have two therapeutics for COVID-19 for patients in advanced stages, including dexamethasone but more treatments are still needed.

“Over a thousand Alabamians have now died from this,” Jones said. “That is not acceptable.”

“30 percent of Alabama’s cases have come in the last two weeks,” Jones explained.

Most have come since Memorial Day and the weeks since Gov. Kay Ivey began loosening state restrictions. Many citizens are ignoring the warnings by not wearing a mask.

Jones said that four of Alabama’s five largest cities already have county-wide ordinances or the largest city has passed ordinances requiring masks in public places, adding that he has talked with Huntsville Mayor Tommy Battle, where the number of cases have tripled and hospitalizations are up 660 percent.

“We talk about how we are doing in the United States,” Jones said. “Only Brazil has done worse than we have, and we just received news that the president of Brazil has tested positive. The United States has not done a good job.”

Jones said that the number of tests in Alabama that come back positive has gone up in recent weeks. “That shows that we are getting community spread,” he said. The Alabama Political Reporter’s tracking of COVID-19 trends shows that the percentage of tests that are positive has gone up to 14 percent in recent weeks.

Jones said that Perry, Dallas, Bulloch, Marshall, Montgomery and Conecuh counties have been especially hard hit and some of those areas already have access to healthcare problems.

“We have seen some movement from Sen. McConnell” on another coronavirus relief bill, Jones said. “He says that he will have a package.”

While the House has passed a third relief package, that bill is not perfect, Jones said, but he said there are a lot of good things in that bill, the HEROES Act.

“He wants to write this bill himself,” Jones said. “We have no early idea what will be in that package. He is going to write this himself behind closed doors.”

Jones said that another red state has opted to expand Medicaid when voters in Oklahoma passed that last week. Alabama is now among just thirteen states that have not expanded Medicaid.

The Senate will be working on the National Defense Authorization Act as well as the coronavirus relief bill when they return this month, Jones said.

“We have got to take care of our military,” Jones said. “Several amendments will be offered, but I expect that it will pass in a bipartisan way.”

Reporters asked Fauci if Alabama would benefit from a statewide mask requirement.

“I do believe that a statewide mask order is important,” Fauci said. “Masks are important. … We should all be wearing masks when we are out in public.”

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Health

Fauci calls on governors in states with surging cases to issue mask orders

As COVID-19 deaths in Alabama passed 1,000 on Tuesday, Dr. Anthony Fauci called on governors to issue face mask orders to slow the spread of the virus.

Eddie Burkhalter

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Dr. Anthony Fauci speaks during a video press conference with Sen. Doug Jones, D-Alabama.

As COVID-19 deaths in Alabama passed 1,000 on Tuesday, a member of the White House’s coronavirus task force called on governors to issue face mask orders to slow the spread of the virus.

Dr. Anthony Fauci, head of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases and a member of the White House’s coronavirus task force, when asked by APR whether he’d like to see governors in states with surging cases institute statewide orders to wear masks, said yes.

“I do believe a statewide mask order is important because there is a variability in people taking seriously or even understanding the benefit of masks,” Fauci said during a press conference, hosted by U.S. Sen. Doug Jones, D-Alabama on Tuesday. “Masks make a difference. It is one of the primary fundamental tools we have.”

Alabama Gov. Kay Ivey on June 30 extended her “safer-at-home” order until July 31, but declined to institute any further mandates despite surging new cases and hospitalizations.

Fauci also said that social distancing and the closure of bars are important to communities looking to slow the spread.

“Fundamental things like masking, distancing, washing hands, closing bars — if you do that, I think it will be a giant step toward interfering with the spread in your community,” Fauci said.

At least 1,007 people have died statewide from COVID-19, according to the Alabama Department of Public Health.

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New daily COVID-19 cases in Alabama dipped below 900 for the first time in six days, but just barely, with 888 new cases on Tuesday. Thirty-one percent of the state’s total confirmed cases have come within the last two weeks.

Alabama’s hospitals on Monday were caring for more COVID-19 patients than at any time since the pandemic began.

UAB Hospital had 86 coronavirus patients on Monday, the highest the hospital had seen. Huntsville Hospital had 72 COVID-19 patients on Monday, and the surge in cases prompted the hospital to cancel elective surgeries and convert three surgical floors to COVID-19 care, according to AL.com.

At East Alabama Medical Center in Opelika there were 41 COVID-19 patients on Monday, which was the highest the hospital has seen in weeks and not far from the hospital’s peak of 54 patients on April 11.

The average age of those becoming infected with coronavirus has dropped by 15 years since the beginning of the pandemic, Fauci said, which has lowered the overall death rate due to the virus, as younger people usually fair better, but not if that young person has an underlying medical condition.

“We are now getting multiple examples of young people who are getting sick, getting hospitalized and some of them even requiring intensive care,” Fauci said, adding that even those young people who have coronavirus but are asymptomatic can spread the virus to others, who may be more compromised.

Fauci warned against pointing to the overall declining death rate and becoming lax about coronavirus, and said that “it’s a false narrative to take comfort in a lower rate of death.”

“There’s so many other things that are very dangerous and bad about this virus. Don’t get yourself into false complacency,” Fauci said.

Dr. Don Williamson, president of the Alabama Hospital Association, told APR on Monday that it may take several weeks to learn whether the increasing number of those hospitalized in Alabama will worsen and require ICUs and ventilators, and possibly lead to a rise in deaths.

“We just don’t know yet. We don’t know which way we’re going to go,” Williamson said Monday. “We just know we got a whole lot more cases than we had a month ago, and we’ve got a lot more hospitalizations than we had a month ago.”

Asked about his thoughts on the state of the virus in Alabama, Fauci said that what’s alarming is the slope of the curve of new daily cases.

“When you see a slope that goes up like that you’ve got to be careful that you don’t get into what’s called an exponential phase, where every day it can even double, or more,” Fauci said. “You’re not there yet, so you have an opportunity, a window to get your arms around this, and to prevent it from getting worse.”

Speaking on what’s become the politicization of the wearing of face masks, Fauci said that politicization of any public health matter has negative consequences. President Donald Trump does not wear face masks in public, prompting concern from many that by doing so he’s suggesting to the public that masks aren’t needed. The issue is divided rather sharply along partisan lines.

In a recent Quinnipiac University poll, two-thirds of voters, 67 percent, said Trump should wear a face mask when he is out in public, but while 90 percent of Democrats and 66 percent of independents say the president should wear a mask in public, just 38 percent of Republicans said the same.

“I mean, obviously today, it’s no secret to anybody who lives in the United States that we have a great deal of polarization in our country, unfortunately,” Fauci said. “We hope that changes, but there’s no place for that when you’re making public health recommendations, analysis of data, or any policies that are made. That will always be a detriment to do that.”

 

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Elections

GOP candidate Tommy Tuberville leads Trump “boat parade” in Orange Beach

Brandon Moseley

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Tommy Tuberville participates in a Trump "boat parade." (Contributed)

Senate candidate Tommy Tuberville rode in the lead boat in a “boat parade” on Sunday in Orange Beach, celebrating Independence Day and the launch of President Donald Trump’s re-election campaign.

Hundreds of boats participated in the Trump parade in the Perdido Pass area. WKRG TV estimates that more than 8,000 people joined. Orange Beach and Gulf Shores boats joined boats from Pensacola and Dauphin Island.

Trump supporter and Alabama Republican Executive Committee member Perry Hooper Jr. was also present.

“It was Awesome having Coach Tommy Tuberville on The TRUMP Boat at Orange Beach Alabama,” Hooper said. “Tommy was a Great Coach and he will be a Great US Senator. It’s Great To Be A TRUMP/ TUBERVILLE AMERICAN. Everybody was so Happy cheering for The President and Tommy on! Fun Day!”

Hooper is a former state representative from Montgomery.

Tuberville is a former Auburn University head football coach. The Arkansas native lives in Auburn.

President Donald Trump spoke at Mount Rushmore in South Dakota on Friday.

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“Today we pay tribute to the exceptional lives and extraordinary legacies of George Washington, Thomas Jefferson, Abraham Lincoln, and Teddy Roosevelt,” Trump said. “I am here as your president to proclaim before the country and before the world, this monument will never be desecrated, these heroes will never be defamed, their legacy will never ever be destroyed, their achievements will never be forgotten, and Mount Rushmore will stand forever as an eternal tribute to our forefathers and to our freedom.”

Trump accused opponents of trying to dismantle America.

“Make no mistake. This left-wing cultural revolution is designed to overthrow the American Revolution,” Trump alleged. “In so doing they would destroy the very civilization that rescued billions from poverty, disease, violence, and hunger, and that lifted humanity to new heights of achievement, discovery, and progress. To make this possible, they are determined to tear down every statue, symbol, and memory of our national heritage.”

“President Trump has given several good Speeches,” Hooper said. “This Speech was by far his best! It was straight up AWESOME! His speech was all about the Greatness of America! President Trump loves our Country and its great History. President Reagan has given some of the best speeches ever. This speech topped Reagan’s best. As for Perry O. Hooper Jr., I would get in a foxhole and fight for him to the end. God Bless President Donald J. Trump and GOD BLESS THE USA!”

Trump faces a stiff challenge from former Vice President Joe Biden, who is leading in the polling.

Tuberville has been endorsed by Trump in the July 14 Republican primary runoff for U.S. Senate. Tuberville faces former Sen. Jeff Sessions.

 

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