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Elections

Merrill says there were irregularities in Montgomery elections

Brandon Moseley

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Alabama Secretary of State John Merrill met Thursday with the Alabama Political Reporter and the rest of the capitol press corps about the August 27 Montgomery municipal election.

Merrill said that the Secretary of State’s office has received twelve credible complaints of alleged irregularities in the August elections for Mayor and City Council.

Reporters asked if fraud occurred. Merrill said that he is not ready to say that, but there were serious “errors” made. Merrill said that the investigation was continuing.

One reporter asked if the charges were being brought by anonymous complaints.

“They are not anonymous to us,” Merrill said.

Merrill said that his office would not even address complaints from anonymous sources. The Secretary of State’s office knows who the people are bringing the twelve complaints; but that the office will not release their identities to the media at this time. Merrill said that those people’s identities would only be released if the office moved forward charges of fraud.

Merrill said that he has talked with both mayoral candidates, Steven Reed and David Woods, and they have both agreed that the Secretary of State’s Office will observe the mayoral primary runoff on October 8.

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Two teams of five observers from the Secretary of State’s office will monitor how the election is conducted and will visit all 46 polling places in the city.

One reporter asked why the Secretary of State does not oversee every municipal election.

Merrill said that there are over four hundred municipal elections in the state and that the office does not have that capability.

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A reporter asked if the reported vote totals from the August election are correct.

Merrill said that at this time, he is comfortable that they are.

Merrill said that since he has been Secretary of State, six people have been convicted of election fraud and two elections were overturned. All of those were in municipal elections.

Merrill said that in most municipalities the city conducts the elections and the city clerk’s office is responsible for directing the election, usually with voting machines leased from the County. In the case of Montgomery County, the Montgomery Election Center, run by the county, was contracted to run the election for the city.

Merrill said that in most elections the voting machines are tested before the election. Montgomery election officials did not do the recommended pre-election testing.

Merrill said that he has talked with Montgomery Mayor Todd Strange about what happened and Strange has made a formal request that the Secretary of State observes the runoff election.

In most elections, the polls close at 7:00 p.m. and vote totals start coming in by 8:00 p.m. with most boxes reporting in just after 9:00 p.m. For some reason, results were very slow coming in. This strange delay, as well as reports of irregularities that surfaced on Montgomery talk radio, has fed voter discontent with how the process was handled in August,

Merrill said that most campaigns have a volunteer who waits at the polling place for the election workers to tape the paper tape of the totals on the door or wall of the polling place. The worker then phones in those results to the campaign; so most campaigns know the results minutes after the polls closed and well before any numbers are released to the public. In this case, at least two polling places did not post the machine tapes even though it is standard practice.

Woods owns Montgomery’s Fox TV station. Steven Reed is the Montgomery County Probate Judge.

Incumbent Mayor Todd Strange did not run for reelection.

Merrill is a 2020 candidate for U.S. Senate for the seat currently held by Sen. Doug Jones.

Brandon Moseley is a senior reporter with eight and a half years at Alabama Political Reporter. You can email him at [email protected] or follow him on Facebook. Brandon is a native of Moody, Alabama, a graduate of Auburn University, and a seventh generation Alabamian.

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Congress

AFL-CIO endorses Adia Winfrey for Congress

Brandon Moseley

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Congressional candidate Adia Winfrey. (VIA WINFREY CAMPAIGN)

Democratic congressional candidate Adia Winfrey’s campaign announced Monday that she has received the endorsement of the Alabama AFL-CIO in Alabama’s 3rd Congressional District.

At their annual convention last week, union leaders from across the state recognized Winfrey’s “passion, ability to lead and attentiveness to the issues affecting working men and women” as reasons to endorse the Democratic challenger against incumbent Congressman Mike Rogers, R-Alabama.

“Labor unions have long been a leading force in our nation’s economy,” Winfrey wrote. “Workplace safety standards, employee benefits, equal pay for women, non-discrimination policies and so much more can be attributed directly to union members who were willing to speak up for what is right. I look forward to being a voice for Alabama’s hard-working men and women in Congress.”

Winfrey is challenging Rogers, a nine-term incumbent, in the Nov. 3 general election. During his 18 years in Congress, Rogers has earned only a 16 percent lifetime rating by the AFL-CIO for his votes.

“For seven generations, my family has called Talladega, Alabama, home,” Winfrey said. “I am the mother of four amazing children, a doctor of psychology, author, founder of the H.Y.P.E. (Healing Young People thru Empowerment) Movement, and … I am running for Congress in Alabama’s 3rd Congressional District! I believe in the future of our beautiful state and nation. It is time for leadership with a new vision which is #FocusedOnAlabama.”

Winfrey has a bachelor’s degree in psychology from Wilberforce University and a doctorate of clinical psychology degree from the Wright State University School of Professional Psychology.

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Plaintiffs ask for panel of judges to reconsider ruling on Alabama voter ID law

Eddie Burkhalter

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(STOCK PHOTO)

Plaintiffs suing Alabama Secretary of State John Merrill alleging the state’s voter ID law discriminates against minorities on Monday asked a panel of judges to reconsider an appeals court decision that affirmed the law. 

The NAACP Legal Defense and Educational Fund on Monday filed a petition Monday asking that all of the judges on the Eleventh Circuit Court of Appeals reconsider the July 21 decision by a panel of three judges that fell 2-1 in favor of the state’s voter ID law. 

The 2011 law requires voters in Alabama to show a valid, government-issued photo ID to vote. The NAACP, Greater Birmingham Ministries and several minority voters sued, arguing that lawmakers knowingly crafted the law to prevent Black people and other minorities, who are less likely to have such photo IDs, from voting. 

The three-judge panel of the 11th Circuit Court of Appeals in its July 21 opinion found that the burden of Alabama’s voter ID law is minimal, and does not“violate the Fourteenth and Fifteenth Amendments of the Constitution, nor does it violate the Voting Rights Act.”

Merrill has argued that the state’s voter ID law is meant to deter in-person voting fraud and that the state makes available mobile photo ID units able to provide voters with the necessary IDs.

District Judge Darrin Gayles in his dissenting opinion wrote that voter fraud in Alabama is rare, and that “while there have been some limited cases of absentee voter fraud, in-person voter fraud is virtually non-existent.”

Gayles wrote that Merrill presented evidence of just two instances of in-person voter fraud in Alabama’s history.

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“Despite the lack of in-person voter fraud, Secretary Merrill claims Alabama enacted the Photo ID Law to combat voter fraud and to restore confidence in elections — a dubious position in light of the facts,” Gayles wrote.

Gayles noted that former State Sen. Larry Dixon, R-Montgomery, before his retirement in 2010, sponsored similar voter ID bills.

“During this time, Senator Dixon made repeated comments linking photo identification legislation to race, including ‘the fact you don’t have to show an ID is very beneficial to the Black power structure and the rest of the Democrats’ and that voting without photo identification ‘benefits Black elected leaders, and that’s why they’re opposed to it,'” Gayles wrote in his dissenting opinion.

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“It is clear from the statements of the legislators who enacted Alabama’s photo ID law that they passed it for the unconstitutional purpose of discriminating against voters of color,” said LDF senior counsel Natasha Merle in a statement Monday. “As long as this law is intact, Black and Latinx Alabamians will continue to be disproportionately excluded from the state’s electoral process.”

Attorneys in the filing Monday told the court that “roughly 118,000 Alabamians lack qualifying photo ID, and Black and Latinx voters are twice as likely to lack qualifying ID as compared to white voters. Given this evidence, a trial was required to determine whether HB19 violates the Fourteenth and Fifteenth Amendments.”

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Congress

Voting rights activist calls for federal Department of Democracy

LaTosha Brown, a Selma native who co-founded Black Voters Matter, issued a statement saying that it is time to reimagine American democracy.

Micah Danney

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(VIA BLACK VOTERS MATTER)

The co-founder of an organization that is working to mobilize Black voters in Alabama and elsewhere used the 55th anniversary of the Voting Rights Act on Thursday to call for a new federal agency to protect voting rights nationwide.

LaTosha Brown, a Selma native who co-founded Black Voters Matter, issued a statement saying that it is time to reimagine American democracy.

“The Voting Rights Act should be reinstated, but only as a temporary measure. I want and deserve better, as do more than 300 million of my fellow Americans,” Brown said.

The U.S. Supreme Court invalidated a key provision of the law in a 5-4 ruling in 2013, eliminating federal oversight that required jurisdictions with a history of discrimination to get approval before they changed voting rules.

“To ensure that the Voter’s Bill of Rights is enforced, we need a federal agency at the cabinet level, just like the Department of Defense,” Brown said. “A Department of Democracy would actively look at the patchwork of election systems across the 50 states and territories. With federal oversight, our nation can finally fix the lack of state accountability that currently prevails for failure to ensure our democratic right to vote.”

She cited excessively long lines, poll site closings and voter ID laws in the recent primaries in Wisconsin, Georgia, Kentucky and Texas as voter suppression techniques that disproportionately affect Black and other communities of color.

Brown said that the July 17 passing of Rep. John Lewis, who was nearly killed marching for voting rights in Selma in 1965, has amplified calls for the Voting Rights Act to be strengthened. That’s the right direction, she said, but it isn’t enough.

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“History happens in cycles, and we are in a particularly intense one. We have been fighting for the soul of democracy, kicking and screaming and marching and protesting its erosion for decades,” Brown said.

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Elections

Alabama Forestry Association endorses Jerry Carl

Brandon Moseley

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Congressional candidate Jerry Carl.

The Alabama Forestry Association on Thursday announced its endorsement of Republican 1st Congressional District candidate Jerry Carl.

“Jerry Carl has experience working closely with the forest products industry in his role as County Commissioner and will carry that knowledge to Washington,” said AFA Executive Vice President Chris Isaacson. “Throughout his career, he has been a strong advocate for limited government and free markets and will continue to promote those same values in Congress. We are proud to endorse him.”

Carl is a small businessman who has started more than 10 small businesses in South Alabama, creating hundreds of jobs. He is currently serving on the Mobile County Commission.

“I am thrilled to earn the endorsement of ForestPAC,” Carl said. “Alabama has a thriving network of hard-working men and women in all aspects of the forestry community, and I look forward to being a strong, pro-business voice for them in Congress. As a lifelong businessman and an owner of timberland, I understand firsthand the needs and concerns of the forestry community, and I will be a tireless advocate in Washington for Alabama’s forest industry.”

Carl said that he was inspired to run for the Mobile County Commission when he became frustrated with the local government.

He and his wife, Tina, have been married for 39 years. They have three children and two grandchildren.

Carl faces Democratic nominee James Averhart in the Nov. 3 general election. Incumbent U.S. Rep. Bradley Byrne, who currently represents the 1st Congressional District, did not run for another term and has endorsed Carl.

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