By Sec. of State
Special to the
The following statement from Secretary of State John H. Merrill is in direct response to the recent op-ed published in the Montgomery Advertiser written by Nancy Abudu from the Southern Poverty Law Center:
“An article published Monday morning by Nancy Abudu presented readers with an inaccurate representation of Alabama’s voter laws and the ways in which the Alabama Secretary of State’s Office has changed the paradigm for voting in the state.
Ms. Abudu is entitled to her own opinion, but she is not entitled to her own facts.
During my time as Alabama’s Secretary of State, my team and I have registered 1,269,488 new voters, which brings our total number of registered voters to 3,487,579. 96 percent of all eligible African Americans in the State of Alabama are registered to vote, 91 percent of all eligible Caucasian Alabamians are registered to vote, and 94 percent of all eligible Alabamians are registered to vote.
My goal as Alabama’s 53rd Secretary of State is to ensure that each and every eligible U.S. citizen that is a resident of Alabama is registered to vote and receives a free Alabama photo ID.
In the last four major elections, please note the following:
On March 1, 2016, more than 1.25 million Alabamians voted, breaking every record in the history of the state for participation in a presidential primary.
On Nov. 8, 2016, more than 2.1 million Alabamians voted, breaking every record in the history of the state for participation in a Presidential General Election.
On Dec. 12, 2017, more than 1.3 million Alabamians voted and participated in the special U.S. Senate election, and on Nov. 6, 2018, more than 1.7 million Alabamians voted, again breaking every record in the history of the state for a midterm general election.
Let it be noted that there has never been recorded any instance in which someone has been denied the right to vote without the proper credentials.
Ms. Abudu implies that the 2013 Shelby County v. Holder decision was causative to Alabama passing a voter ID law. This implication is incorrect.
Alabama Act 2011-673, commonly referred to as the Alabama Photo Voter Identification Law, was passed prior to the Shelby County v. Holder decision, not in response to the decision.
Importantly, the United States District Court for the Northern District of Alabama upheld Alabama’s Photo Identification Law in 2018. In fact, the judge ruled in this case that if every state handled photo ID like Alabama, then every state could have photo ID.
In response to Ms. Abudu’s comments on difficulties for disabled voters, our office recently worked with the Alabama legislature to pass a bill which allows voters who have a permanent disability that prevents them from attending the polls to apply for an absentee ballot on an annual basis.
We have created Alabama’s first braille Alabama Voter’s Guide and all counties provide voting machines for disabled voters. In 2016, we created a bipartisan committee to draft and advocate for the successful passage of legislation which states that once an incarcerated individual has served all their time and has paid all fees and all fines associated with their original sentence, their voting rights are restored.
We have worked with Alabama State Senator Rodger Smitherman (D-Birmingham) to pass legislation to make it easier, safer, and more secure to cast an absentee ballot.
In each of Alabama’s 67 counties, any citizen can obtain a free Alabama voter ID every day that the courthouse is open by visiting the Board of Registrars’ Office and requesting an ID be provided for free. In the unlikely event that a citizen cannot visit their county courthouse or an event where a mobile unit is temporarily stationed, we will go to their home and provide them one. This is not required by state or federal law but is a service provided by our office.
It is a disservice to your audience to present falsehoods, and I am glad to respond to the inaccuracies provided by Ms. Abudu. I am proud to ensure that in Alabama, we make it easy to vote and hard to cheat.”
John H. Merrill
Alabama Secretary of State