FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
Tuesday, April 28, 2020 – MONTGOMERY – The following statement from Secretary of State John H. Merrill is in direct response to the op-ed published this weekend in the Montgomery Advertiser written by Nancy Abudu from the Southern Poverty Law Center:
This weekend, Nancy Abudu made the false assertion that the Alabama and Virginia legislatures “have consistently passed laws aimed at undercutting or entirely eliminating black political power and citizenship.”
Quite the opposite is true, Ms. Abudu. Since I became the Secretary of State, not only have we shattered every record in the history of the state for voter registration and voter participation, we have increased minority registration and participation substantially. Since 1994, we have increased the number of African American registered voters in the state from 479,415 to 883,976 as of March 31, 2020, which is an increase of 84%. Additionally, 96% of all eligible African Americans in the state are registered to vote.
Furthermore, the number of African American legislators has increased from 8 members in 1974 to 34 members today.
While Abudu is entitled to her own opinions, she is not entitled to her own facts – and it has been proven election after election that our current voting system has allowed for significant increases in minority registration and participation in the elections process.
Related to the state’s photo ID law, there has never been a single instance in which someone was denied the right to vote when he or she presented the proper identification since this law took effect.
The Office of the Secretary of State has worked to see that it is easier than ever to participate in the electoral process. We travel across the state and visit all 67 counties annually to register voters and issue voter photo IDs at no cost at all to the voter.
As far as felony voter re-enfranchisement goes, our office has consistently worked with the sheriffs in all 67 of Alabama’s counties, Commissioner Jeff Dunn of the Department of Corrections, and the Bureau of Pardons and Paroles to educate individuals who have completed their sentence on how to re-enter the voter rolls.
In 2016, our office initiated, conceived and advocated for the passage of landmark, bipartisan legislation in the area of restoration of voting rights after restitution has been paid and time has been served.
Similarly, our office works to remind inmates who have not been convicted of crimes of moral turpitude of their eligibility to vote, and we encourage their participation – as we do for the rest of the state’s voter eligible population. In 2017, we worked with both sides of the legislature to clearly define the crimes of moral turpitude to provide greater transparency and consistency in all 67 counties.
In the case Ms. Abudu has missed the news, which it appears she has, anyone who deems it difficult, undesirable or unsafe to visit the polls on Election Day has the opportunity to cast an absentee ballot.
She also failed to mention that there has never been a time in our state’s history in which the absentee voting period has been extended as long as it has during this pandemic. The initial extension was more than 100 days and there are currently 72 days to apply for an absentee ballot.
We will soon be kicking off our public service campaign, which will begin on May 4 and will run through the application deadline, to educate voters of ways in which they can safely participate in the July 14 Primary Runoff Election.
For an organization that pretends to care about voting rights, it is a shame that the Southern Poverty Law Center has failed to educate voters on ways they can participate in the electoral process – choosing instead to deliberately spread falsehoods intended to mislead Alabamians.
The Office of the Secretary of State is your trusted source for election information, where integrity in the process is our first priority.