FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
Thursday, March 5, 2020 – MONTGOMERY – The following statement from Secretary of State John H. Merrill is in direct response to a recent opinion column authored by John Hammontree of AL.com:
Yesterday afternoon, an article was published on AL.com falsely asserting that “Alabama broke the elections in Texas” all because of the ruling in Shelby County v. Holder.
While a courageous Texas man by the name of Hervis Rogers did wait for nearly seven hours outside of Texas Southern University to cast his ballot, Alabama cannot be blamed for the high turnout and lack of voting machines at that particular polling place.
To connect this problem to the ruling of Shelby County v. Holder is inappropriate and a disservice to the people of Alabama who have fought to keep the power of the people at the local level.
In 2013, the U.S. Supreme Court ruled that the requirement for states to be subject to the preclearance regulations outlined in the Voting Rights Act of 1965 was outdated and no longer necessary, giving the power back to local governments and states to administer their own elections without federal oversight.
This ruling allowed local election officials to make adjustments to their own jurisdictions without having to receive permission from the federal government – thus removing an additional layer of bureaucracy.
What sense does it make to have someone who has never even visited Wilcox County determine where in the county a polling location should be? Upon consultation with other community leaders and members, the Probate Judge, who oversees the county election, should be able to establish the location(s) that would be most accommodating and convenient to the voters in that area.
Since 2013, polling places in Alabama have only been moved at the request of the local Probate Judge and County Commission for the purpose of making voting as easy and accessible as possible to voters.
Hammontree claimed “Voting rates for black citizens actually began to decline in 2016, the first presidential election to occur after the Shelby ruling.” is an absolute fallacy. In actuality, we have shattered every record in the history of the state for minority registration and participation. Since 1994, we have increased the number of African American registered voters in the state from 479,415 to 874,406, as of January 31, 2020, which is an increase of 82%. It should also be noted that 96% of all eligible African Americans in the state are registered to vote.
Mr. Hammontree is, indeed, entitled to his own opinions, but he is not entitled to his own facts.