FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
Friday, March 20, 2020 - MONTGOMERY - The following statement from Secretary of State John H. Merrill is in direct response to this morning’s opinion column written by Kyle Whitmire of AL.com:
In an opinion column published this morning on AL.com, Kyle Whitmire stated “To preserve our right to vote and to protect public health, we must secure our elections from the coronavirus. Right now that isn’t happening.”
In actuality, that is exactly what is happening. No other state in the union allows a voter to cast an absentee ballot earlier than Alabamians are able to for the July 14 Primary Runoff Election. As we issued in a release on Friday, “Any person in our state is able to apply for an absentee ballot through contacting their local Absentee Election Manager. Absentee applications can be downloaded on our website AlabamaVotes.gov… Voters who are concerned about contracting or spreading an illness or have an infirmity may vote by absentee.”
To be absolutely clear, it has never been easier for a voter in the State of Alabama to request an absentee ballot. Rather than focusing on informing voters across the state, Whitmire would once again prefer to incite fear into the lives of Alabamians.
Additionally, and as I reminded Whitmire last week, we are bound by what is written in law. If an individual is interested in having the law changed to allow no-excuse absentee voting, that person should be encouraged to contact their State Senator or Representative.
Our current election laws have proven to be no issue to voters considering we have broken every record in the history of the state for voter registration and voter participation. They have also proven to significantly reduce voter fraud, which would be easy to accomplish if the Legislature gave in to Whitmire’s requests.
I am glad to see, however, that Whitmire agrees that “Alabama has made it so hard to cast an illegal ballot…” We have worked hard to ensure that it is easy to vote and hard to cheat in the State of Alabama, and I am very proud of that.
Whitmire goes on to mention how Alabama should “begin recruiting new, much younger poll workers…”, but he must have forgotten about the legislation we helped to pass in 2019, along with the help of Senator Donnie Chesteen, that allows for high school and college students to work as unpaid student poll worker interns on Election Day. In fact, in Etowah County during the March 3, 2020 Primary Election, more than 60 students participated as poll workers. Various counties across the state have similar stories, but yet again, Whitmire would rather ignore the positive changes happening across the state, and instead attempts to pick apart every single thing leaders across this state are doing to move us forward.
Lastly, Whitmire loves to compare Alabama to other states like Ohio for example. He claimed last week that Ohio was so prepared for the election, but really state officials in Ohio were on separate pages until the very day before the election when state leaders finally decided to postpone the election. Here, on the contrary, I had been communicating with the necessary officials to ensure the postponement of the runoff election would be possible with adequate time to notify the public, which is exactly what we witnessed here.
Other states that allow voting by mail have had issues with ballots being sent to incorrect and old addresses increasing the likelihood that a voter does not receive his or her ballot or the wrong person receives a ballot. The lack of security with voting by mail should be of concern to anyone who cares about protecting the integrity of the election - something that is obviously not important to Kyle Whitmire.
As I mentioned to Whitmire numerous times, we had a plan in place in the case the coronavirus did become a concern in the State of Alabama. When that time became evident and appropriate, we began taking proactive measures to ensure Alabamians would be able to cast their vote in a safe environment.
If you want to be an activist and actually help Alabamians, start by educating people about the ways in which they can legally participate in the electoral process.