The Republican nominee for Alabama secretary of state will be decided on Tuesday during the state’s long-awaited primary runoff election.
The Republican candidates running to succeed incumbent Alabama Secretary of State John Merrill, who has reached his term limit and may not run again, are incumbent Alabama State Auditor Jim Zeigler and State Rep. Wes Allen, R-Troy, who spoke with APR on Friday via email ahead of the runoff election.
Across the country this year, statewide elections like secretary of state have garnered more than the usual level of attention due to the high number of Republican candidates running as election deniers while spreading misinformation on disproven claims of election fraud and misconduct during the 2020 U.S Presidential Election.
Alabama has been relatively spared from candidates expressly running as election deniers in election administration races, with candidates instead embracing further increases to state election integrity and promises to uphold the state’s election record after Merrill leaves office.
“Alabamians saw the chaos and confusion that happened around the nation in 2020 and they don’t want that to happen here,” Allen said via email on Friday. “We want our elections to be secure, and because the secretary of state is the chief elections official in the state, it is imperative that we have someone in that office who has experience in elections administration. I am the only candidate who has that experience.”
In December of last year, Alabama Secretary of State John Merrill met with former U.S President Donald Trump at Mar-a-Lago to discuss election integrity, with Merrill stating that the former president “could not quit bragging on Alabama” concerning the state’s election security.
After the primary in late May, certain voters in the state House districts for Etowah County discovered they were incorrectly assigned to the wrong voting district, affecting the House and commissioners races in those districts. The redistricting error extended an unknown amount of voters during the primary, with challenges to the election results at the party level to be heard on June. 25.
“If I am elected Secretary of State, I will make it a priority to ensure that the district lines, especially during redistricting years, are examined prior to the distribution of ballots,” Allen said, in reference to the situation in Etowah County. “I will work closely with the members of the Boards of Registrars in each county to ensure they have all of the resources they need and to ensure that the data that are provided by the office of the secretary of state is 100% accurate and that they are fully trained on how to utilize that data prior to the printing and distribution of ballots for an election.”
When asked what increases he would propose to further the state’s election security, Allen mentioned bills he had helped pass in the state legislature related to election security, including the so-called “Zuckerbucks” bill, which was enacted in April, and the permanent ban on curbside voting which passed in 2021.
“Those bills made our elections more secure,” Allen said. “Keeping our elections secure is not a one-time event. It required constant attention. We must continue to ensure that we do not have drop boxes, mass-mailed ballots, or online voting. We must increase our voter roll protections to ensure that only citizens are voting in our elections, and we must guard against ballot harvesting.”
The “Zuckerbucks” bill, named in reference to the $350 million funneled from Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg to election offices via the nonprofit organization Center for Tech and Civic Life in 2020, has prompted criticism from both Zeigler and presumptive Democratic nominee Pamela J. Laffitte, with Zeigler indicating that the legislation restricted “the Secretary of State’s Office from promoting voter registration.” In a recent Q&A with APR, Laffitte expressed similar contempt for the bill, quoting from a separate source in a recent Q&A with her that the bill “is an attempt in opening additional doors to ‘Voter Suppression.'”
“It is unfortunate that my opponents are echoing the liberal talking points of the SPLC and the ACLU even though those talking points have been proven to be false over and over again,” Allen said. “It does not interfere with promoting voter registration in any way. It does prohibit the secretary of state from being able to be paid by these liberal groups. Elected officials should not be taking payments from any outside groups or individuals, and this bill made that the law.”
The runoff election is scheduled for June 21.