The Wire

  • VIDEO: Bill Hightower for Governor airs its first TV ad

    State Sen. Bill Hightower (R-Mobile) will air his first TV ad in his campaign for governor next week. An advance look at the commercial, which focuses on term limits, a flat tax and cutting spending, can be seen here:

  • President Trump threatens to veto federal budget because it doesn’t fully fund border wall

  • Alabama Rep. Roby’s re-election campaign nabs endorsements from pro-business groups

    Excerpt from a campaign news release:

    “Martha Roby continues to do an outstanding job for the hardworking people of Alabama. Her steadfast support has allowed job creation and an environment where people can do better for themselves and their families.”
    Alex Whaley, II, Alabama Associated General Contractors PAC

    “As the voice of small business, NFIB knows good small business policy starts with electing good small business candidates. Therefore, Martha Roby’s reelection is critical to the small businesses in Alabama’s Second District, and we look forward to working with you on the issues most important to them.”
    Sharon Sussin, National Political Director, National Federation of Independent Business Fed PAC

3 months ago

Yellowhammer Radio: Secretary of State John Merrill visits The Ford Faction to talk the Senate race

Alabama Secretary of State John Merrill joins The Ford Faction to talk the AL Senate Results and what it all came down to for the Doug Jones victory.  He mentions the write-in names that were proposed during the election and even mentions his National Championship prediction between Merrill’s Alma Mater The University of Alabama and The University of Georgia.

Subscribe to the Yellowhammer Radio Presents The Ford Faction podcast on iTunes or Stitcher.

Click here to listen in a new window.

3 months ago

Moore’s motion denied, Doug Jones officially certified as Alabama’s Senate winner

(Doug Jones for Senate/Facebook)
(Doug Jones for Senate/Facebook)



Despite multiple attempts from Republican Roy Moore’s campaign to offer objections to the December special election’s results, Alabama Governor Kay Ivey and Secretary of State John Merrill have officially certified Democrat Doug Jones the winner.

Late Wednesday night, Moore filed a lawsuit in an attempt to delay Alabama officials from declaring Jones’ victory, due to irregularities and requested a fraud investigation.

Montgomery Circuit Judge Johnny Hardwick denied the motion Thursday.

Secretary Merrill and representatives from multiple Alabama Republican Party chapters say they found no evidence of fraud.

Jeannie Negrón Faherty, Executive Director of the Jefferson County Republican Party, says “At no time were there any reports of voter fraud, nor did any of our officials witness anything suspicious in nature.”

3 months ago

Roy Moore campaign claims ‘election fraud’ in his recent defeat

(Judge Roy Moore for U.S. Senate/Facebook)
(Judge Roy Moore for U.S. Senate/Facebook)


Late Wednesday evening, the U.S. Senate campaign for former Alabama Supreme Court Chief Justice Roy Moore announced it had filed a complaint on behalf of Moore calling on the certification of the December 12 special election to be delayed until a fraud investigation can take place.

According to a press release, the complaint was filed earlier in the day in the Circuit Court of Montgomery and called on Alabama Secretary of State John Merrill to delay the certification.

“The purpose of the complaint is to preserve evidence of potential election fraud and to postpone the certification of Alabama’s Special Election by Secretary of State John Merrill until a thorough investigation of potential election fraud, that improperly altered the outcome of this election, is conducted,” the statement read.

The campaign cites “three national Election Integrity experts” who have concluded fraud took place in the December 12 election.

“The election experts, who submitted affidavits in the complaint, agree that the irregularities in 20 precincts of Jefferson County alone are enough to reverse the outcome of the election,” the release from the campaign said. “Richard Charnin, who holds three degrees in applied mathematics, and who has written four books on election fraud, calculates the probability of the election results in these precincts happening naturally is ‘less than one in 15 billion.'”

Moore, the Republican Party’s nominee in that U.S. Senate special election, was defeated by former Clinton U.S. Attorney Doug Jones by a nearly 23,000-vote margin.

Moore offered the following remarks, which accompanied the campaign’s release:

“It’s appalling that the Democrat Senate Majority PAC and the Republican Senate Leadership Fund both spent millions to run false and malicious ads against me in this campaign.”

“This is not a Republican or Democrat issue as election integrity should matter to everyone,” said Moore. “We call on Secretary of State Merrill to delay certification until there is a thorough investigation of what three independent election experts agree took place: election fraud sufficient to overturn the outcome of the election.”

Jeff Poor is a graduate of Auburn University and works as the editor of Breitbart TV. Follow Jeff on Twitter @jeff_poor.

3 months ago

Jeremy Beaman: Secretary of State John Merrill offered stability in a turbulent election

(John Merrill/Facebook)
(John Merrill/Facebook)

Our recent special election was tumultuous and highly partisan. Thankfully, Secretary of State John Merrill who was in charge the whole thing, handled it the with care, maintaining the integrity of the electoral process.

Merrill, a Republican who endorsed Roy Moore, kept his own politics out of it and did an excellent job of reminding people of their right to vote, encouraging them to register and to get involved. He also did well to inform the public of what his office was doing during the campaign, whether clarifying inaccurate campaign ads or alleged voter fraud.

Perhaps most importantly, Merrill demonstrated a real respect for the electoral process.

“We applaud this young man’s energy, excitement, and enthusiasm for the electoral process and we are always encouraged when we observe Alabamians who are actively engaged in campaigns and elections in our state,” Merrill said in a news release today, responding to an accusation of voter fraud against a Jones supporter.

He determined that the individual in question voted legally. Though Merrill’s politics are different, he showed appreciation for the man for involving himself in determining the state’s future.

Perhaps Merrill was just “doing his job” and doesn’t deserve praise but in Alabama, a state-wide elected official just doing his job is what some consider a luxury.

It’s important to remember that public officials can be politically active and still fulfill their duties in a non-partisan way.

(Take this article over to social media and start a conversation with your family and friends)

3 months ago

Ridiculous: Liberal group names Alabama Secretary of State Merrill to ‘Voter Suppression Hall of Shame’

Alabama Secretary of State John Merrill (left), former Missouri Secretary of State Jason Kander (right)


A liberal group founded by former Missouri Secretary of State Jason Kander has named Alabama Secretary of State John Merrill to its “Voter Suppression Wall of Shame.”

Citing Alabama’s voter identification law and former Gov. Robert Bentley’s decision to close some driver’s license offices, Let America Vote accuses Merrill of trying to block black Alabamians from exercising their right to vote.

“In a state with a long history of voter suppression, Alabama Secretary of State John Merrill has used his time in office to roll back the state’s progress on voting rights,” Kander said in a statement. “Merrill supported the decision to close DMVs in African-American neighborhoods in Alabama after the state implemented an extreme photo ID law — a textbook case of voter suppression. Alabamians deserve a secretary of state who is a champion of voting rights, like the heroes who risked their lives in Selma 50 years ago. Secretary John Merrill deserves a prominent place in the Voter Suppression Hall of Shame.”

Merrill responded by calling the designation “hilarious … especially by somebody without any credibility like Jason Kander.”

Merrill said Alabama has more than 3.3 million registered voters, up 865,107 since he took office.

“I’ve registered more people to vote than he did in his entire tenure as secretary of state in Missouri,” he said.

Kander narrowly lost a race for the U.S. Senate last year and then launched Let America Vote in February. Since then, he’s been busy shaming his former colleagues across the country. Merrill is the fifth secretary of state named to the Wall of Shame. That list includes Kansas Secretary of State Kris Kobach, whose efforts to prosecute voter fraud have made him a lightning rod among liberal activist organizations.

Let America Vote also has called out five state legislators across the country.

Requiring a photo ID at the polls is hugely controversial among progressive activists but much less so among the public. A Gallup poll last year found that 80 percent of Americans support photo ID laws. That included healthy majorities in every region, among all demographic groups and among Republicans, Democrats and independents.

Austin Laufersweiler, a spokesman for Let America Vote, cited a lawsuit filed earlier this year by the NAACP Legal Defense Fund claiming that 118,000 registered voters did not have a valid photo ID. The organization derived that estimate by cross-referencing the registered voter list with databases of Alabamians with passports, driver’s licenses, military IDs and non-driver’s license IDs.

In addition, Laufersweiler pointed to a statement Merrill made last year in an interview with a documentary filmmaker in which he called voting a “privilege.” The comment was in the context of Merrill’s opposition to automatically registering everyone who turns 18. He said there should be no impediment to registering but that people who want to vote should show initiative by signing up.

Laufersweiler cited news reports of voters complaining about difficulties casting ballots in Tuesday’s special election for the U.S. Senate because their IDs did not match their home addresses or because they improperly had been put on the “inactive” voter list.

Despite overlapping tenures as secretaries of state, Merrill said he has not met Kander. He said Kander was not active in the National Association of Secretaries of State.

Merrill noted that the special election won by Democrat Doug Jones featured massive turnout for a single-race contest — about 40 percent. Black voters — the supposed targets of Merrill’s voter-suppression campaign — made up a record share of that total.

“Nobody’s been denied the right to vote in Alabama since the voter ID law took effect,” Merrill said. “That argument is made by people who are uninformed or ill-informed.”

Laufersweiler said via email that, notwithstanding the heavy black turnout, elections officials made it difficult.

“There are reports of numerous complaints of voters being scrutinized over their IDs and many voters were improperly placed on the ‘inactive’ list and were asked for their county of birth,” he wrote. “These are all election administration issues that Secretary Merrill is responsible for. Secretary Merrill belongs on the list until he commits to making sure that all Alabamians have an equal opportunity to register and cast their ballot in elections.”

In addition to a driver’s license, the state accepts nine other forms of ID. If a voter does not have an ID, he or she can receive a photo voter ID card for free from the state. Merrill said the state has issued a relatively small number of those cards, about 10,000, a sign that most voters already have ID.

And if a voter comes to the polls and does not have identification, he or she can cast a provisional ballot. That vote counts if the voter can prove he or she is a valid voter within three days.

Merrill said his office also sends a van around the state to help make sure people can register and have ID. It visits every county at least once a year, he said.

“We want to make it as easy as possible to vote and as hard as possible to cheat,” he said.

Brendan Kirby is senior political reporter at and a Yellowhammer contributor. He also is the author of “Wicked Mobile.” Follow him on Twitter.

4 months ago

Pro-Jones group warns ‘your vote is public record’ in misleading ad




A political ad being broadcast throughout the state warns Alabama voters that “your community will know” whether you do anything to keep Roy Moore from winning the Senate election next Tuesday.

Why this matters: The ad, paid for by a group called “Highway 31,” states that your vote is public record. The ad’s language is misleading. The candidate you choose to vote for is never kept for public record, and indeed is never known by anybody but you, unless you choose to tell people.   

The details:

— “If you don’t vote and Roy Moore – a child predator – wins, could you live with that?” the ad asks. “Your vote is public record, and your community will know whether or not you helped stop Roy Moore. On Tuesday, December 12, vote for Doug Jones for Senate.”

— Alabama Secretary of State John Merrill called the ad a “targeted effort to misinform and confuse voters” in a statement Tuesday.

— “No individual voting record is made available to anyone at any time, including the voter who cast the ballot,” Merrill also said.

The ad distorts this truth: There is a public record of whether or not you vote, but not for whom you cast your ballot. 

— The Jones campaign could not be immediately reached for comment regarding the ad.

According to the Federal Election Commission, Highway 31 is an unauthorized political committee, which means that it has not been authorized or endorsed by Doug Jones.

5 months ago

Alabama Voters Being Pursued for Illegal Crossover Voting

Alabama Secretary of State John Merrill
Alabama Secretary of State John Merrill

According to a report by the Florence Times Daily, Alabama Secretary of State John Merrill has stated that his office has identified 674 people who voted in the Democrat primary in August and then voted again the Republican runoff in for the U.S. Senate race in September—which is a violation of Alabama law.

This past year, the Alabama Legislature passed a law prohibiting such “crossover voting between primaries and runoffs, and the violation is a felony punishable by more than one year in prison and a $15,000 fine.

“It’s the law. We’re going to enforce the law. We’re not bullying anybody. We’re enforcing the law,” Merrill commented to the Associated Press.

Merrill also expressed concerns that some poll workers may not be enforcing the law, and indicated that they should likewise be held accountable.

Merrill’s office identified the violators to probate judges across the state.

6 months ago

Alabama Among 21 States Targeted by Russian Hackers

According to The Hill, the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) notified 21 states on Friday that Russia attempted to hack their election systems prior to the 2016 election. Alabama is one of those states.

In many of the cases, DHS only saw preparations for hacking, such as scanning for potential modes of attack. Since voting machines are not connected to the internet, the only systems vulnerable to attack would be those that house voter roles. However, there was no evidence discovered that suggests Russia altered votes or vote totals in any way.

Alabama Secretary of State John Merrill released a statement after being notified of the attempted hack.

“Over the course if the election season, the MS-ISAC’s (Multi-State Information Sharing and Analysis Center) Albert network monitoring service identified scanning activity from suspicious IP addresses against 21 states. In Alabama, DHS and MS-ISAC observed suspicious traffic from IP addresses on Alabama state networks, but those IP addresses were thwarted from conducting any successful breach…This information shows Alabama’s system protections  and preparations were successful in thwarting attempted hackers from breaching state networks and voting systems during the attacks.”

Other states included in the DHS report are California, Colorado, Florida, and Minnesota. DHS has not released a full list of the states that were affected. However, the intelligence community does not believe that any of these state’s vote totals were altered in any way to impact the outcome of the election.

Intelligence officials do believe that Russian hackers attacked the Democratic National Committee and other political officials in an attempt to influence the election. Documents obtained from these targets may have been leaked to the public to sway voter opinion of several candidates.

While state officials and lawmakers are relieved that the systems put in place to protect our election systems did just that, some question why it took DHS so long to notify the various states. Lawmakers acknowledge that we need to remain aware of the evolving threats to our national security and take appropriate action to thwart any cyberattack in the future.

“While it is encouraging that our efforts to protect Alabamians’ data have proven to be successful, we must remain vigilant and prepared for the constantly evolving threats to our voting systems and the integrity of those processes. We will utilize every resource available to ensure we are protecting the data of all Alabamians,” said Secretary Merrill.

7 months ago

Lawsuit Challenges Racial Makeup of Alabama Courts

Alabama Supreme Court building, Montgomery, Ala.

Last week, a federal judge rejected motions to dismiss a lawsuit filed against the state of Alabama and Secretary of State John Merrill by the NAACP and the Lawyer’s Committee for Civil Rights Under Law. The suit alleges that the current system used to elect state judges disenfranchises black voters. Instead of holding statewide elections for the state’s 19 appellate judges, the groups want Alabama to create districts in which judges are elected.

Alabama has three appellate courts—the state Supreme Court, Court of Criminal Appeals and Court of Civil Appeals. One-quarter of Alabama’s population is black, and while all 19 of the judges in those courts are white, they were elected by the people of Alabama.

In his assessment of the lawsuit, District Judge W. Keith Watkins claimed that the state’s desire to maintain the current system cannot outweigh its responsibility to ensure that every group has the right to vote.

“Defendants appear to argue that the degree to which Alabama’s electoral system may have diluted the black vote is irrelevant because, no matter how extreme the vote dilution, the interest of minority citizens to participate in the democratic process can never outweigh the state’s interest in maintaining the status quo.”

Alabama is one of only five states that holds statewide elections for appellate courts using partisan elections. Other states use a variety of ways to elect appellate judges, from gubernatorial appointment to nonpartisan elections.

According to the motion filed by Secretary of State John Merrill, the 11th Circuit Court of Appeals has ruled that states are not required to create districts for judicial elections. Merrill’s motion argues that since judges rule on issues across the entire state, they should be elected in statewide elections.

While Merrill could not comment on the lawsuit, he did tell Yellowhammer that his goal is to register as many people to vote in Alabama as possible. As I’ve said before, Merrill stated, “We want to ensure that each and evey eligible U.S. citizen that’s a resident of our state is registered to vote and has a photo I.D.”

7 months ago

Online Business Filings Now Available in Alabama

Secretary of State John Merrill’s office published a news release on Thursday announcing a new online filing tool for Alabama businesses. It allows businesses to file documentation online to the Secretary of State’s office and the County Probate Judge’s office. Baldwin County Probate Judge Tim Russell collaborated with the Secretary of State’s office on the project.

“Baldwin County is pleased to be the first in another area. We pride ourselves on being an example to the other 66 counties in the state as to how to efficiently and effectively serve the needs of all our residents,” said Judge Russell.

Secretary Merrill has made it a goal of his administration to reduce the bureaucratic red tape that has stood in the way of local businesses. Upon entering office, Merrill learned that state business filings were being delayed more than 30 weeks from the time of receipt. Merrill’s office adopted a significant change, requiring all checks to be deposited on the same date that they are received by the Secretary of State’s office. With this change, Alabamians were able to save $1.7 million.

“Any opportunity we have to provide expedited services keeping Alabamians at work and reducing red tape we want to take advantage of those opportunities,” said Secretary Merrill.

However, Merrill and others sought to make the process even easier.

“We needed to continue to modernize the process if we wanted to truly use all of the resources available to us. The next step was taking the process online; empowering Alabamians to spend more time focusing on the development of their business which in turn will bring more economic growth to our great state. We want the people of Alabama to know that Alabama no longer moves at the speed of government, but now it moves at the speed of business.”

The online tool is currently available for domestic liability filings. Additional services such as domestic business/nonprofit corporations, LP’s, and professional associations are to be included after a trial period.

8 months ago

Alabama Limits Crossover Voting

Alabama has a new law that stops crossover voting in the upcoming elections. The idea behind the law is to prevent voters from crossing from one party to another and deliberately changing the outcome of the other party’s races.

In a statement to Yellowhammer News, Secretary of State John Merrill said the legislation his office is charged implementing was proposed by Senator Tom Whatley and Representative Arnold Mooney. The new law states:

“If an elector votes in a primary election, he or she may vote in a subsequent primary runoff election only if he or she voted in the primary election of the same political party for which the runoff election is being held. For those persons who did not vote in a Primary Election, they may choose either party’s ballot in a Primary Run-Off Election.”

For instance, someone who votes in the Republican party’s primary election cannot turn around and vote in the Democratic party’s run-off. That person would have to vote in the Republican runoff.

In the past, cross party voting has been prohibited, but this is the first time that the state has implemented this particular law. The law went into effect July 1 and will, therefore, be in force during the August 15 special election, if a run off is required. The law will not affect the general election scheduled for December 12.

8 months ago

New Alabama Law Makes It Easier for Past Felons to Vote, but D.C. Activists Says It’s Not Enough

Voting booths (Photo: Flickr)

Tuesday afternoon, a Washington D.C. based public interest group will ask a federal judge to force the state of Alabama to reinstate voting rights to some convicted felons immediately. The Campaign Legal Center (CLC) is hoping that Judge Keith Watkins will grant an injunction requiring Secretary of State John Merrill to educate these felons on their newly-gained right to vote.

The case comes after Governor Kay Ivey signed HB 282 in May, listing 46 felonies that will cause an otherwise eligible voter to lose their right to vote. These 46 felonies include murder, drug trafficking, and other violent crimes. Previously, the state restricted the voting rights of anyone who committed “crimes of moral turpitude.” However, until May, the definition of this standard has been hotly disputed.

Alabama Secretary of State John Merrill explained to Yellowhammer that, previously, there was no clear definition for moral turpitude. As a result, different voter registrars interpreted the term’s meaning differently, creating inconsistent rules with who was allowed to vote and who wasn’t—all depending on how individual registrars interpreted the term.

“After I became Secretary of State, I set out to fix this,” Merrill said. To that end, he assembled a study committee with a large cross-section of experts that met for nine months, seeking the most sensible ways to reassimilate those who’d paid for their crimes. The bill Governor Ivey just signed into law was the result of that effort, and Merrill believes it’s created a far more equitable set of rules.

“We’re thrilled because we clearly defined moral turpitude and gave registrars a list of the crimes associated with that designation, so now they know who can register and who can’t. As a result, our new law ensures that no one’s rights are being violated because we have a straightforward process by which past offenders can have their voting privileges restored.  My ultimate goal is to ensure that every eligible U.S. citizen that’s a resident of Alabama is registered to vote and has a photo ID, and this law does that.”

Nevertheless, The CLC hopes to force Merrill to do more. They claim that many felons who are now eligible to vote do not even know that the new legislation has been passed. The CLC hopes the court will force Secretary Merrill to include the updated eligibility requirements on voter registration forms, and the website.

9 months ago

Feds Drop Request For Voter Info After Push-Back from States

(Photo: Flickr)

After pushback and inquiries from across the country, the Federal Election Commission is telling states to hold off on fulfilling its request for voter data following a lawsuit from the Electronic Privacy Information Center. EPIC filed its lawsuit on June 28 to stop the collection of voter information, which came as a result of President Donald Trump’s doubts regarding voter integrity in recent elections.

Trump created the new commission on voter data based on his belief that three to five million people voted illegally in the 2016 presidential election. The FEC asked all fifty states to turn over their voting records so possible fraud in the 2016 presidential election can be investigated.

Kansas Secretary of State Kris Kobach, vice chairman of the FEC, wanted every state to turn over voters’ names, birthdays, and the last four digits of their Social Security numbers, as well as their voting history the last ten years. Additionally, he requested reports of any election-related criminal convictions since the year 2000.

RELATED: Alabama Secretary of State John Merrill Asking Questions Before Giving Feds Voter’s Info

After the request, Alabama Secretary of State John Merrill (R) wanted to make sure submitting any information was in the best interest of Alabamians. “We obviously want to be as helpful as possible in cooperating with Secretary Kobach, who’s a personal friend, a great leader, and one of the country’s premier advocates of voter integrity,” he told Yellowhammer. “However, we will not put the citizens of Alabama in a vulnerable position. We will not leave them with any level of concern about their personal information being shared with the federal government, or any other entity for that matter. We simply will not do that!”

9 months ago

Alabama Secretary of State John Merrill Asking Questions Before Giving Feds Voter’s Info

The Federal Election Commission (FEC) has asked all fifty states to turn over their voting records so possible fraud in the 2016 presidential election can be investigated. Before complying, Alabama Secretary of State John Merrill is making sure that doing so is in the best interest of the citizens of the Yellowhammer State.

Kansas Secretary of State Kris Kobach—vice chairman of the FEC—wants every state to turn over voters’ names, birthdays, and the last four digits of their Social Security numbers, as well as their voting history the last ten years. Additionally, he’s requesting reports of any election-related criminal convictions since the year 2000.

When Yellowhammer asked Secretary of State John Merrill how he’s responding to this request, he had this to say:

We obviously want to be as helpful as possibe in cooperating with Secretary Kobach, who’s a personal friend, a great leader, and one of the country’s premier advocates of voter integrity. However, we will not put the citizens of Alabama in a vulnerable position. We will not leave them with any level of concern about their personal information being shared with the federal government, or any other entity for that matter. We simply will not do that!

When asked how he’s responding to the request, Secretary Merrill replied:

We’ve responded to the inquiry with a list of our own questions because we must be assured this process is beneficial to the citizens of Alabama. We will make sure those questions are answered to our satisfaction before we have additional conversations, or before they should hope that we would share any information with them. And, as we know, often time initial questions lead to secondary and tertiary questions that may also arise, so we will patiently conduct our due diligence and be as thorough as we need to be to gain these assurances.

Secretary Merrill concluded, saying:

This is the bottom line: we’re not going to share any information with anyone that’s not already publically available to anyone else that would hope to purchase it from our office.




11 months ago

“Strange for Senate” Explains Campaign Finance Questions

Alabama Attorney General Luther Strange (Photo: Facebook)

This week in Montgomery, questions emerged regarding the “Strange for Senate” campaign’s compliance with Alabama’s state campaign laws.

The issue in question was one of funds that were moved from Luther Strange’s U.S. Senate campaign account to his Alabama Attorney General campaign account. Specifically, transfers between campaigns can’t exceed $1,000 and the two transactions in question totaled $1,418.27, fueling the questions about whether or not Alabama’s campaign law was broken.

Upon hearing these rumblings, Yellowhammer contacted the Senator’s campaign office. They connected us with Megan Newton and Ben Ginsberg, lawyers from Jones Day that are tasked with ensuring the Senator’s compliance with Federal Elections Commission laws. Mrs. Newton explained that the actions in question were actually steps the Senator took to comply with federal campaign laws.

As she pointed out, Senator Strange’s U.S. Senate campaign purchased two domain names from his state Attorney General’s campaign. Federal law requires that such purchases be recorded, and that’s what occurred. In other words, it wasn’t a transfer of contributions between campaigns, it was an accounting entry for a transaction, which the federal law requires.

Yellowhammer also contacted Alabama’s Secretary of State, John Merrill, who provided us with the following statement:

The Alabama Secretary of State’s Office is the agency tasked with receipt and collection of all campaign finance filings from state, county, and certain local officials. Once these reports are collected, Secretary of State staff review the reports for errors, issues, or concerns. When issues are identified, a request for a formal review is forwarded to the Alabama Ethics Commission or the Alabama Attorney General’s Office.

At the completion of the review performed by our team, potential concerns with Senator Strange’s filing were identified. As is our normal practice, it was reported to the appropriate agency. This referral does not attempt to assign, insinuate, or indicate guilt nor act as an indictment of Senator Strange’s actions regarding the filing of his report.

Senator Strange and his team believe Federal law preempts contributions to his Alabama Principal Campaign Committee for Attorney General. With that said, in the Secretary of State’s Office, we have a responsibility to follow the law and will continue to address issues and forward items of concern as they are identified.

Our office will refer any future questions regarding this issue to the Alabama Ethics Commission as the body tasked by the Alabama Legislature to rule on these matters.

While the response from the Ethics Commission is unknown at this time, Mr. Ginsberg further explained that federal law supersedes state law and the transaction took place to keep the Senate campaign in compliance with federal law.

As he stated: “It is legally incorrect for anyone to suggest that a violation of law has occurred here. Senator Strange’s campaign closely followed federal law by purchasing two web domains at fair market value from his state campaign committee.  This was an asset purchase, not a contribution.  In fact, not only was this purchase legal, it was required under federal law to avoid his Senate campaign receiving a prohibited contribution from a non-federal source.  Federal law preempts state law for all matters involving campaign contributions and expenditures.” 

11 months ago

State releases names of 92 candidates and PACs that failed to file annual campaign reports

Alabama Secretary of State John Merrill says that the days of candidates failing to comply with state campaign reporting laws are over. To prove it, he just released the names of 92 violators that have not yet submitted annual campaign finance reports for 2016.

“Our intention in releasing these names to the public is to further encourage candidates and PACs to bring their filings into compliance allowing the citizens of our state to review the extent of their fiscal responsibility,” Merrill said.

Annual reports were due on January 31. All names published by Secretary Merrill have also been turned in to the Attorney General’s Office and Ethics Commission.

Alabama law requires any candidate or political action committee that raises or spends $1,000 in a campaign year to submit a report to the state. Currently, there are no penalties for those who have not followed the rule, though the upcoming election season will soon bring significant changes.

According to the Secretary of State’s office, administrative penalties will be issued in the amounts of $300 (or 10% of contributions or expenditures not reported) for first time offenders, $600 (or 15% of contributions or expenditures not reported) for second time offenders, and $1,200 (or 20% of contributions or expenditures not reported) for third and subsequent offences respectively. Fines will be assessed and issued when candidates or PACs fail to meet the filing deadline.

You can view the names released by Secretary Merrill here.

11 months ago

Some Alabama Democrats reportedly considering a run for Senate

As several Republicans prepare to compete for the U.S. Senate seat vacated by Alabamian Jeff Sessions, rumors of Democrats considering a bid have been quiet. However, with weeks left until candidate qualifying ends, voters are now beginning to learn who might wage a long-shot fight for the office.

The Montgomery Advertiser reported on Sunday that State Reps. Elaine Beech (D-Chatom), Chris England (D-Tuscaloosa), and Craig Ford (D-Gadsden) are all considering a run.

Former House Minority Leader Ford indicated that he would need to run polling before making an announcement, while Rep. Beech said that she is still discussing the matter with her family. Rep. England said he is “seriously considering” a bid.

Running for any statewide office in Alabama is likely to be an uphill battle for any left-leaning candidate where the President won in November with 63 percent of the vote.

Republicans running for the seat so far include appointed Senator Luther Strange, ousted Alabama Chief Justice Roy Moore, State Rep. Ed Henry, and Alabama Christian Coalition leader Randy Brinson.

The special election for the U.S. Senate seat will be held on December 12, 2017, according to an executive order issued by Governor Kay Ivey. The new date for the primary election is August 15, with a possible runoff on September 26.

Alabama Secretary of State John Merrill announced in April that the deadline to qualify with a major political party is Wednesday, May 17 at 5:00 p.m. The deadline for minor party and independent candidates is Tuesday, August 15 by 5:00 p.m.

11 months ago

Alabama Secretary of State puts 200 years of legislation and history on the web

Alabama Secretary of State John Merrill
Alabama Secretary of State John Merrill

MONTGOMERY, Ala. — In 2017, Alabamians finally have access to their entire legislative history thanks to the work of Secretary of State John Merrill (R-Ala.) and the Alabama Department of Archives and History. Their combined efforts put almost 200 years of legislation online for a cost of less than $23,000.

Prior to the latest project, Alabamians could only find two periods of state legislation on the web. The first was from the founding of the state in 1819 to 1901, when the current state constitution was adopted. The second was from the year 2000 to the present. Now, the 99 year gap in the middle has been completely closed.

The gap that people previously lacked online access to includes several crucial periods in the state’s history, such as populist reform movements in the early 1900s, the Great Depression, the gubernatorial administrations of George Wallace, and the Civil Rights Movement.

Merrill noted that this history was a strong motivating factor for getting the job done. “It is important for the people of Alabama to have access to their history and to know what occurred throughout our history,” he said. “Digitizing the Acts and making them publicly available for everyone is important to ensure that all Alabamians have access to this information. By providing this information online, citizens will have access at their fingertips of all Alabama’s Legislative Acts since statehood.”

Those interested in examining the state’s records can do so on the Secretary of State’s website linked here.

12 months ago

Former Auburn coach files paperwork to run for Alabama Governor

Former Auburn coach Tommy Tuberville is continuing to fuel rumors that he will soon announce a run for governor.

According to reports, Tuberville has filed paperwork with the Secretary of State’s office, indicating that he has loaned himself $100,000 ahead of a run and would declare as a Republican.

Tuberville is the second GOP candidate to file with the state, including Public Service Commission President Twinkle Cavanaugh.

Though he is certainly drawing closer to making an announcement, Tuberville still says that he has not made a decision. However, last week he said that he has spent the past few weeks on a “listening tour” across the state.

“I’m going around the state talking to people, visiting with police chiefs, sheriffs. I’ve done a lot of research,” Tuberville told the station. “I’m going to take a couple of weeks and talk to people and see what needs they have, what questions they have about the state, and what I would do if I happened to be the governor.”

“It’s been fun,” he added. “It’s still about competition. It’s about leading. It’s about doing things to make peoples’ lives better.”

Tuberville coached Auburn’s football team from 1999 to 2008.

Last week, Huntsville Mayor Tommy Battle also suggested that he is considering a run for governor.

There will likely be many candidates for the state’s top executive position in 2018. Others who are said to be mulling a run include ousted Chief Justice Roy Moore, State Auditor Jim Zeigler, Jefferson County Commissioner David Carrington, and Secretary of State John Merrill.

1 year ago

Alabama Secretary of State to launch “refresh” of voter rolls

Alabama Secretary of State John Merrill
Alabama Secretary of State John Merrill

If you’re a registered voter in Alabama, you will soon hear from Secretary of State John Merrill.

Merrill announced last week that he would begin a “voter record refresh” effort to ensure accurate voting information for the state’s 3.3 million registered voters.

“During my time as Alabama’s 53rd Secretary of State, our office has registered more than 600,000 new voters. As we work to ensure every Alabamian is afforded the opportunity to register to vote, it is also important to account for address changes and deaths that could artificially inflated the State’s voter rolls. That is why this process is so important and must be completed every four years,” said Secretary Merrill.

The Secretary of State’s office says that the clean-up will ensure compliance with the National Voter Registration Act, which requires periodic contact with voters to ensure the most accurate information is on file to allow each voter to have the biggest impact on the elected officials that represent them at the local, county, state, and federal level.”

While the measure is routine, action to ensure integrity in the voter rolls comes amid President Trump’s promise that a “major investigation” is coming to crack down on illegal votes.

Since the election, the President has said that “millions” voted in 2016 unlawfully. It’s a claim that Alabama Congressman Mo Brooks says has some validity.

“I pledge to support you in any way I can,” he told Vice President Mike Pence during a meeting last week.

“I perceive that the president may be spot on, as he is identifying this voter fraud problem, although he can’t really itemize the magnitude,” Brooks said.

The Vice President responded by saying that the Administration is readying actions to ensure the integrity of U.S. elections.

“We have an obligation to preserve democratic institutions and the democratic process, Pence responded. “What I can tell you is that I would anticipate that the Administration is going to initiate a full evaluation of voting rolls in the country, the overall integrity of our voting system in the wake of this past election.”

1 year ago

Everything you need to know about how to absentee vote in Alabama

Voting booths (Photo: Flickr)
Voting booths (Photo: Flickr)

Absentee Ballot Application

To obtain an absentee ballot, write or visit the local Absentee Election Manager (usually the Circuit Clerk), request an absentee ballot, and provide the following:

• Name and residential address
• Election for which the ballot is requested
• Reason for absence from polls on election day
• Party choice, if the election is a party primary*
• Address to which the ballot should be mailed and

• Voter signature (if a mark is made in place of a signature, it must be witnessed)

*It is not necessary to give a party choice for a general election.

The absentee ballot application must be returned to the Absentee Election Manager by the voter in person (or by the voter’s designee in the case of medical emergency voting) or by U.S. Mail.

Upon receiving the absentee ballot application, the Absentee Election Manager may request additional evidence on the reason for voting absentee if the voter has a history of continuous absentee voting.

APPLICATIONS FOR MILITARY PERSONNEL AND OVERSEAS CITIZENS — Applications submitted by military personnel, their spouses or dependents, and U.S. citizens residing overseas are valid for all federal, state, and county elections in the current calendar year. However, these voters should ensure that they keep their mailing addresses updated with their counties’ Board of Registrars and with their Absentee Election Manager.

Ballot Receipt/Return – Non-UOCAVA Voters

If the absentee ballot application is approved, the Absentee Election Manager:

• Forwards the absentee ballot by U.S. Mail; or
• Personally hands the absentee ballot to the voter (or to a designee in the case of medical emergency voting).

BALLOT PROCEDURE — The absentee ballot comes with three envelopes — one plain (the secrecy envelope), one with an affidavit, or oath, printed on the outside, and one plain, pre-addressed envelope (the outer envelope). Once the voter casts the ballot, the procedure is as follows:

• Seal the ballot in the plain envelope (the secrecy envelope).
• Place the plain envelope inside the accompanying affidavit envelope.
• Seal the affidavit envelope and complete the affidavit that is on the outside of the envelope.
• Sign the affidavit and have the signature witnessed by either a notary public or two witnesses 18 years of age or older.
• Place the affidavit envelope and a COPY of the voter’s photo voter identification inside the outer envelope, unless exempt as an elderly voter or voter with disability whose polling place is inaccessible (see page 6).
• Remember to place a copy of your ID (NOT THE ORIGINAL) inside the outer envelope.

WITNESSES OR NOTARIZATION — An absentee ballot cannot be counted unless the affidavit is notarized or has the signatures of two witnesses.

SUBMITTING THE VOTED BALLOT — The voter is required to use one of the following methods for returning his or her absentee ballot:

• Send the ballot to the Absentee Election Manager by U.S. Mail; or
• Personally deliver the ballot to the Absentee Election Manager (or by a designee in the case of medical emergency voting).

VOTING DEADLINE — An absentee ballot returned by mail must be postmarked no later than the day prior to the election. If hand-delivered by the voter, the ballot must be in the Absentee Election Manager’s office by the close of business (but no later than 5 PM) on the day prior to the election. The absentee ballot must be received by the Absentee Election Manager by noon on election day if, the ballot is mailed.

2 years ago

Ahead of pres. election, Alabama first to implement electronic voting for deployed military

An instructor approaches a Black Hawk helicopter on Fort Rucker (Photo: Fort Rucker Flickr photostream)
An instructor approaches a Black Hawk helicopter on Fort Rucker (Photo: Fort Rucker Flickr photostream)
An instructor approaches a Black Hawk helicopter on Fort Rucker (Photo: Fort Rucker Flickr photostream)

MONTGOMERY, Ala. — Alabama is the first state in the country to implement fully electronic voting for service members stationed overseas, a system that will be used for the first time in a Presidential election this year after being previously rolled out in limited use in late 2015.

Alabama National Guard Maj. Chris Theilacker told WSFA he and other Alabamians deployed around the globe are excited about the more streamlined process to vote.

“It doesn’t seem like a lot of trouble, but taking the time out to request that ballot, wait for it to get there, mail may or may not ever get to you when you are in an overseas environment,” Theilacker said. “I go out everyday to make sure our citizens have the right to vote, so by the state and the city providing access to voting no matter where in the world we are, that says a lot about their commitment.”

Alabama Rep. Barry Moore (R-Enterprise), a military veteran who was instrumental in passing a bill setting up the new system, told Yellowhammer he hopes it will make life easier for Alabamians who are deployed serving their country.

“As chairman of the House Committee on Military and Veterans, I am proud Alabama is leading the way on this important issue,” he said. “Americans’ voting rights are sacred. Nothing could be more important than ensuring that the men and women who are protecting our freedoms abroad have a voice in our political process. That is what this law does.”

Secretary of State John Merrill concurred.

“Every military serviceman or woman who is interested in voting now has the opportunity to receive their ballot electronically, to vote electronically, and have their ballot returned electronically,” he concluded. “They’ll have their vote cast and counted the same way they would if they were at their home with their family.”

So who will they be voting for?

A recent NBC/Survey Monkey poll shows Republican Donald J. Trump leading Democrat Hillary Clinton by double-digits among active military and veterans. Fifty-five percent say they favor Trump, while 36 percent back Clinton.

The election is set to take place Tuesday, November 8, 2016.

2 years ago

NAACP sues Alabama because voters elected all white judges to the state’s top courts

United States District Court for the Middle District of Alabama (Photo: Court)
United States District Court for the Middle District of Alabama (Photo: Court)
United States District Court for the Middle District of Alabama (Photo: Court)

The Alabama State Conference of the NAACP is representing four black voters in a lawsuit against the State of Alabama, claiming that Alabama voters’ decision to elect white judges to each of the state’s top courts violates their constitutional rights.

Liberal political blog ThinkProgress explains:

On Wednesday, Tuscaloosa reverend Curtis Travis and three other African American voters sued the state for conducting its judicial elections in a way they say prevents voters of color from electing the candidates of their choice. They argue that at-large elections, in which the entire state votes on all of the state’s top judges, has prevented them from electing anyone who truly represents them.

The lawsuit was filed in the United States District Court for the Middle District of Alabama.

Alabama’s Supreme Court, Court of Civil Appeals and Court of Criminal Appeals are each elected on the statewide ballot, resulting in the 19 slots currently being filled by 14 men and 5 women, all of them white.

“There have been years of minorities making strides, but the white men continue to hold disproportionate power our state,” Reverend Travis told reporters. “Alabama is more diverse now than ever, but our judges are not.”

Jim Blacksher, an attorney for the plaintiffs, blamed the Republican Party for the election results and said the statewide elections are part of a nefarious plot to ensure “black Alabamians remain subordinate to whites in state government.”

“The Republican Party has really mobilized the majority-white electorate of Alabama,” he bemoaned. “So the only way African Americans will have a chance to elect candidates of their choice is if the method of elections is changed.”

What the plaintiffs are pushing for is a change to the way Alabama elects its judges.

They want the state to be divided into districts that each elect a member of the Supreme Court, Court of Civil Appeals and Court of Criminal Appeals, similar to how members of the U.S. Congress are currently chosen.

“The at-large method of electing judges to the three high courts submerges African-American voters so that they are rendered ineffective electoral minorities in every election,” their lawsuit reads.

Secretary of State John Merrill, Alabama’s top elections official, said it would be “inappropriate” to comment on the suit at this time, but added that his office works daily to ensure “every eligible Alabamian is registered to vote and has a valid form of ID allowing them to participate on Election Day.”

The lawsuit comes at a time when voting rights issues are the focus of intense political and legal battles.

Last week, a federal appeals court ruled that would-be voters in Alabama will not be required to show proof of U.S. citizenship when using a federal voter registration form.

The Washington Post called the decision a “victory for civil rights groups, Democratic lawyers and the Obama administration” in “their ongoing battle with conservative lawyers and Republican lawmakers over who will be eligible to vote in this year’s presidential contest.”

Alabama State Rep. Jim Patterson accused opponents of the proof-of-citizenship and voter ID requirements of trying to “steal elections.”

“The two judges that overruled the states should be arrested for treason!” he exclaimed in a Facebook post. “They have no clue about the Constitution! This is not about voter rights, it’s about people voting that are not qualified!”

RELATED: Scalia’s successor on Supreme Court could decide whether Alabama’s voter ID law survives

In spite of the proof-of-citizenship ruling, Alabama’s photo voter ID law remains in effect, although Democrats across the country continue decrying it as “racist” and “hateful”.

In an October 2015 visit to Hoover, Hillary Clinton slammed Alabama Republicans for requiring proof of citizenship to vote and for shuttering driver’s license offices in the wake of state budget cuts. The Democratic presidential nominee insisted that both issues were examples of Republicans trying to return Alabama to its Jim Crow past.

RELATED: Bentley and Clinton spar over whether Alabama Republicans are racists

“We have to defend the most fundamental right in our democracy, the right to vote,” she said. “No one in this state, no one, should ever forget the history that enabled generations of people left out and left behind to finally be able to vote.”

Before that, Vice President Joe Biden chided supporters of voter ID laws in light of liberal defeat in the Supreme Court case of Shelby County v. Holder which stemmed from a legal challenge in Alabama. “These guys never go away,” Biden said. “Hatred never, never goes away. The zealotry of those who wish to limit the franchise cannot be smothered by reason.”

RELATED: Biden: There’s ‘hatred’ behind Alabama’s photo voter ID law

Since 2008, Republican-controlled legislatures in 17 states have adopted new voting-related laws. Among those are Alabama, Georgia, Indiana, Kansas, North Carolina, South Carolina, Tennessee, Texas, Virginia and Wisconsin, which passed laws requiring a photo ID to vote. (h/t The Daily Beast)

Conservatives have long argued it is reasonable to require photo voter ID in order to protect the sanctity of elections, particularly because photo ID is also required for any number of other activities, from buying alcohol and opening a bank account, to getting on an airplane and renting a car.

But several lower courts have in recent months agreed with Democrats’ assertion that such laws are discriminatory.

There are currently at least 10 different types of ID that are acceptable to use at the polls (including a driver’s license) and the Secretary of State’s office also offers free Alabama photo voter ID cards and free non-driver IDs for purposes of voting.

2 years ago

Secretary of State: Foreign election observers are not allowed in Alabama. Period.

Alabama law prohibits foreign election observers from being present on election day.
Alabama law prohibits foreign election observers from being present on election day.

On November 8, 2016, the citizens of The United States will elect a new president. As the Secretary of State and the chief election official of our state, I am charged to lead our team members and designated county elections officials for the state of Alabama as we prepare to hold an election with what we expect to be the highest general election turnout in state history, while making every effort to secure the future of our nation through this election.

On Wednesday, an opinion piece titled “The UN is sending foreign ‘election observers’ into Alabama. They must be stopped.” was posted on Yellowhammer. The author of the piece expressed concern regarding potential visits to our state in an official capacity from election observers from the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe (OSCE). This group has worked for years to democratize nations across Europe and Asia from their former socialist and communist eras.

Based on my reading of the editorial opinion, there appears to be a misunderstanding related to Alabama state law, which prevents election observations from external entities. Specifically, in section 17-8-7 in the Code of Alabama, which reads, “Each watcher shall be a resident and qualified elector of the State of Alabama.”

At this point it would be appropriate to note that since the law has not been changed, neither this group or any other group that is from outside the state of Alabama will be granted permission nor has the authority to observe our elections or participate in our elections in any capacity whatsoever.

In July, I attended the National Association of Secretaries of State conference in Nashville. Following a presentation from U.S. Ambassador Daniel Baer, I visited with and was subsequently invited by a team from the OSCE to deploy in September on a mission to observe elections in the Russian Federation and to have Alabama participate in the observation process as well. My team and I reviewed what observation would consist of and quickly determined that this was not something that would be permissible in our state. That is to say the OSCE will not be allowed in the state of Alabama. We communicated that information with them.

I will, however be deploying with my Deputy Chief of Staff and Communications Director, John Bennett, to the Russian Federation to observe and work to help provide for safe and credible elections in the Russian Federation.

Make no mistake that foreign election observers are not allowed and will not be permitted in our state under current Alabama law.

Further, the intent of these observation initiatives, like the one that John Bennett and I will be participating in, is to provide understanding and learning experiences for election officials to take back to their home countries.

It is clear to me from this opinion piece that whatever is being suggested is not only misguided but lacks any basis in fact. The OSCE is an international institution that has worked for over 40 years to promulgate democracy, of which protecting the very integrity of the elections process is our most important job as elected officials.

As Alabamians and Americans you are not and will not be asked to, “surrender our sovereignty and our God-given constitutional rights,” by anyone.

Thank you for giving me the privilege to serve as your secretary of state.

John Merrill serves as Alabama’s Secretary of State