FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
Thursday, July 23, 2020 – MONTGOMERY – The following is a direct statement from Secretary of State John H. Merrill in response to a recent op-ed published this morning by Joey Kennedy of Alabama Political Reporter:
Joey Kennedy has once again confirmed that I will respond to the fallacies spewed by the liberal mainstream media. It is my duty as the state’s chief election official to keep voters across the state informed and up-to-date with all things related to elections, which is what I intend to continue doing.
The Office of the Secretary of State has, and will continue to, work to see that every eligible U.S. citizen who is a resident of the State of Alabama is registered to vote and has a government-issued photo ID. In doing so, we will continue to shatter records for voter registration and voter participation.
Related to the emergency administrative rule promulgated by our office, Section 17-11-3(e) of the Code of Alabama explicitly states: “If the occurrence of a state of emergency as declared in this or any other state, or by the federal government, renders substantial compliance with this article impossible or unreasonable for a group of qualified voters who respond to the emergency, the Secretary of State, pursuant to Section 41-22-5, may adopt an emergency rule to allow those qualified voters to vote by absentee ballot.”
I am not sure what part of advising Alabamians who are concerned about going to the polls on Election Day because of COVID-19 to vote absentee could be considered a “little white lie”, yet many still refuse to accept this valid guidance because they would prefer to see the complete elimination of this law and all laws related to voter integrity.
Need I remind you, Mr. Kennedy, that changing ballot/application language would require legislative action, and since the Alabama Legislature is not meeting nor is scheduled to meet at any time in the near future, the Office of the Secretary of State has provided both a safe and secure way to participate in the electoral process – whether that is in-person at the polls or by mail through the absentee process.
Kennedy later went on to admit that “most voter fraud occurs with absentee ballots,” which is exactly why we worked with Senator Rodger Smitherman (D-Birmingham) in 2019 to pass historic, reform legislation that established safeguards in our absentee voting process. I am glad that, despite our many political differences, Mr. Kennedy and I can both agree on that.
The photo ID requirement, that we have fought so hard to defend, has served as a major deterrent of voter fraud. Fraudulent voting should not be a partisan issue, but instead, many critics of election security still refuse to accept how effective the photo ID requirement truly is.
The Eleventh Circuit Court of Appeals’ majority stated this week “Secretary Merrill has provided valid neutral justifications (combatting voter fraud, increasing confidence in elections, and modernizing Alabama’s elections procedures) for the law’s passage” proving just how constitutional and non-discriminatory the law is.
Lastly, Kennedy loves to point out hypocrisy in politics. While I am glad he and his wife will have “one fewer issue to stress about during this totally whacky year” and will be able to easily vote in November’s General Election, I would just like to mention he had the same opportunity (and the very same excuse provision) to vote in July’s Runoff Election, but he chose instead to stay home and suppress his own vote.
We will continue to visit every single county annually to register voters and issue free photo ID’s, and in the case a voter is unable to visit one of our many mobile units or their local board of registrars office where they can obtain a free photo ID on any day that the county courthouse is open, our office will personally visit the home of the voter to see that the individual has the proper ID needed to vote, at absolutely no charge whatsoever to the voter.
In Alabama, we will continue to encourage anyone who is interested to participate in the electoral process in a way that is most convenient to them so they can cast their ballot for the candidate of their choice, as we continue to make it easy to vote and hard to cheat!