The following statement from Secretary of State John H. Merrill is in response to the inaccurate report shared by the Southern Poverty Law Center and Alabama Political Reporter columnist Josh Moon:
“A report published Monday morning by the Southern Poverty Law Center presented readers with the grossly inaccurate claim that voter suppression is ‘alive and well’ in Alabama. This assertion, however, could not be any farther from the truth.
You see, one of the many things we have done since taking office is work to make it easier than ever to vote in the State of Alabama.
We have worked with the Legislature on numerous occasions to meet the needs of Alabamians in a bipartisan fashion. Most notably, in 2019, I worked with Senator Rodger Smitherman, D-Birmingham, to identify two new ways in which voters may vote by absentee ballot. Last year, we also worked with Representative Victor Gaston, R-Mobile, to establish a way for permanently disabled voters to participate in the electoral process through casting an absentee ballot. These two pieces of legislation have streamlined the absentee voting process and made it easier and more accommodating for the voter.
To be very clear, absentee voting allows for a form of early voting for eligible Alabamians, and we are proud to offer this service to the people in our state who meet the requirements.
We would also like to point out that in the states that do permit early voting, election costs have increased in every state and yet there have been no significant increases in voter participation. Considering we continue to break every record in the history of the state for voter registration and voter participation is proof that our current election laws are not a problem to voters in this state.
Please note the following of the last four major elections:
On March 1, 2016, more than 1.25 million Alabamians voted, breaking every record in the history of the state for participation in a Presidential Primary. On November 8, 2016, more than 2.1 million Alabamians voted, breaking every record in the history of the state for participation in a Presidential General Election. On December 12, 2017, more than 1.3 million Alabamians voted and participated in the Special U.S. Senate Election, and on November 6, 2018, more than 1.7 million Alabamians voted, again breaking every record in the history of the state for a Midterm General Election.
And since taking office in January of 2015, we have registered 1,440,682 voters bringing the state’s total number of registered voters to 3,564,263, as of Friday, February 7, 2020. For each of these voters, we have a name, address, birthday, a social security number, and an email address, if provided, proving their identity.
These numbers are unprecedented and unparalleled by any state in the union.
While the Southern Poverty Law Center may not understand simple math, I am glad to see that my friend Josh Moon agrees that while these people are entitled to their own opinions, they are not entitled to their own facts – and the fact of the matter is that the current voting system has allowed for significant increases in registration and participation.
And to Mr. Moon’s point ‘It doesn’t matter the percentage of people that Merrill’s office has registered to vote, or how many registrations he’s managed from his caravan,’ I would strongly disagree. Each of these people represent a different perspective or background and their stories and their participation are equally as important. Theirs is the story of Alabama, the greatest state in the union.
Additionally, in 2017, we worked with Senator Cam Ward, R-Alabaster, and Representative Mike Jones, R-Andalusia, to identify the crimes of moral turpitude, which disqualify a voter from participating in the electoral process. In 2016, I worked with Representative Chris England, D-Tuscaloosa, to restore the voting rights of those who have been previously disqualified.
Through working with members from both sides of the aisle, we have streamlined the voting process to ensure everyone who is eligible and interested has the opportunity to participate.
It is unfortunate to see people take advantage of their platforms to push an agenda that is intentionally designed to mislead voters and decrease the public’s trust in elections.
Alabamians and Americans know that the most effective method of political activism is to participate in the electoral process to ensure that our elected officials hold the same values that are held by the electors that put them into office, and I encourage all who are eligible to vote in the March 3, 2020 Primary Elections.”