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Opinion | Alabama Secretary of State issues response to Coronavirus preparation

Last week, Alabama witnessed what may yet be another record voter turnout during a Presidential Preference Primary Election, as our state has seen over the last four major elections.

With the severe weather and looming threat of the Coronavirus (COVID-19), more than 33 percent of all eligible Alabamians still participated in the Super Tuesday election.

Despite all of this, reporter, Kyle Whitmire, insists on creating hysteria when there is no need.

State Health Officer Dr. Scott Harris issued a statement on Monday, March 2, the day before the election, confirming what Alabamians already knew: there are no known cases of the Coronavirus in the State of Alabama. As of the writing of this editorial, this remains the case today.

Even after one of his own colleagues at reiterated this fact (read here), Whitmire repeatedly attempted to sensationalize issues that are not applicable or relevant to the people of Alabama. Rather, Whitmire should be focused on informing Alabamians of useful ways they can participate in the electoral process. For example, voters in Alabama can apply for an emergency absentee ballot under certain circumstances we helped to outline in 2019, which made the opportunity available to even more Alabamians.

Whitmire goes on to mention the ways in which other states, who have confirmed cases of the Coronavirus, have reacted to the spread of the virus. It is important to remember that Alabama’s elections laws, contrary to Whitmire’s assumptions, vary from those in other states because the authority to govern lies with the respective state.

The Office of the Alabama Secretary of State will continue to operate under the parameters of the law, despite what other states across the country are doing or what Kyle Whitmire wants.

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In Alabama, our Legislature has already provided a mechanism to confront situations of detriment to the state. Our Governor has broad and expanse emergency powers. Understanding Governor Ivey’s concern and care for the people of Alabama, I am confident that, if deemed necessary, the Governor would consult with our office to ensure the March 31 Runoff Election runs smoothly and without issue.

I would also like to add, because Whitmire has seemingly forgotten, several members of the Legislature have attempted year after year to pass legislation allowing for no-excuse absentee voting and early voting – both of which have failed every time. No elected official or journalist should use a potential health concern to advance his or her own political agenda.

Lastly, I would like Mr. Whitmire to know that I am an Eagle Scout and the Boy Scout motto is “Be Prepared,” and Alabamians can rest assured knowing that our state is taking all precautions to ensure we are well-prepared ahead of any potential virus.

Our plan for changes in the elections process, if necessary, will be revealed at the appropriate time, and not because a reporter believes he or she should prompt that response. Our intentions are to ensure a safe and secure election and provide accountable results in a manner that is transparent to the people of our state. We will continue to do so as we have consistently done in the past.

In case you missed it, the Governor recently announced the initiation of a task force set to keep Alabamians safe and protected from the Coronavirus, and we greatly appreciate Governor Ivey’s leadership on this issue.

Until we are made aware of an issue in the State of Alabama, elections will continue to operate without interference from the mainstream liberal media.


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John Merrill is Alabama's secretary of state.

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