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Opinion | Secretary of state responds to Joey Kennedy column


The following statement from Secretary of State John H. Merrill is in direct response to an opinion piece published Thursday by Joey Kennedy of Alabama Political Reporter:

This morning, Joey Kennedy alleged that his vote had been suppressed merely because he did not feel as if the Democratic race for Jefferson County Treasurer was important enough for Kennedy to participate. Fortunately for the two candidates, 21,507 people found it important enough to them to cast their vote in this race for this very significant office.

Later claiming “In November, I won’t have the luxury of not really having something to vote for,” Kennedy fails to recognize the importance of the right to vote and the sacrifices that have been made by so many before us.

After admitting that he could have cast an absentee ballot to avoid going to the polling place, Kennedy still chose to stay home and not vote, which means he is either lazy or did not care.

For someone who writes an awful lot about voting and personal responsibility, I was interested to see if Kennedy ever acknowledged the fact that we extended the opportunity for anyone concerned about COVID-19 to cast an absentee ballot in addition to increasing the amount of time for a voter to apply for an absentee ballot to more than 110 days, which he has not.

Nor did he mention that participation during Tuesday’s election broke a record for voter turnout during a Primary Runoff Election, the sixth election in a row that we have broken a record for voter participation! To claim “turnouts have been worse during times free of pandemic” is a supreme understatement considering turnout in the 2016 Primary Runoff Election was at 8% and turnout in the 2012 Primary Runoff Election was at 4%.

For someone who claims to be so concerned about the right to vote, it is a disservice to his readers to not share the facts about voting in our state, which is that it has never been easier to cast an absentee ballot. You see, we have continued to make it easy to vote and hard to cheat – even during the coronavirus pandemic.

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I also found it amusing that Kennedy stated, “Without a pandemic, I would have just run into my polling place and out, taking less than five minutes.” I was not made aware of a single polling place in the entire State of Alabama in which irregular or unsafe lines formed. Rather, voters expressed how quickly and easily they were in and out of the polling place.

In collaborating with local election officials, we worked extensively to see that all possible precautions were taken to protect voters, poll workers, and others involved in the elections process.

We will continue to ensure that voting is safe in November, without risking the security and integrity of the elections process through allowing direct mail-in voting. My only hope is that Mr. Kennedy will not choose to personally suppress his own vote in November like he did Tuesday.

John Merrill is Alabama's secretary of state.

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