The Wire

  • New tunnel, premium RV section at Talladega Superspeedway on schedule despite weather


    Construction of a new oversized vehicle tunnel and premium RV infield parking section at Talladega Superspeedway is still on schedule to be completed in time for the April NASCAR race, despite large amounts of rainfall and unusual groundwater conditions underneath the track.

    Track Chairman Grant Lynch, during a news conference Wednesday at the track, said he’s amazed the general contractor, Taylor Corporation of Oxford, has been able to keep the project on schedule.

    “The amount of water they have pumped out of that and the extra engineering they did from the original design, basically to keep that tunnel from floating up out of the earth, was remarkable,” Lynch said.

  • Alabama workers built 1.6M engines in 2018 to add auto horsepower


    Alabama’s auto workers built nearly 1.6 million engines last year, as the state industry continues to carve out a place in global markets with innovative, high-performance parts, systems and finished vehicles.

    Last year also saw major new developments in engine manufacturing among the state’s key players, and more advanced infrastructure is on the way in the coming year.

    Hyundai expects to complete a key addition to its engine operations in Montgomery during the first half of 2019, while Honda continues to reap the benefits of a cutting-edge Alabama engine line installed several years ago.

  • Groundbreaking on Alabama’s newest aerospace plant made possible through key partnerships


    Political and business leaders gathered for a groundbreaking at Alabama’s newest aerospace plant gave credit to the formation of the many key partnerships that made it possible.

    Governor Kay Ivey and several other federal, state and local officials attended the event which celebrated the construction of rocket engine builder Blue Origin’s facility in Huntsville.

10 months ago

Sierra Club, GASP ‘threatening the economic livelihood of Alabama’s own businesses’

(John Merrill/Facebook, YHN)

During these times of unrest and uncertainty, Alabamians understand the importance of protecting jobs firsthand and maintaining the resources that fuel our economy.

It is disheartening to see activist groups take advantage of a global pandemic to promote their shortsighted political agenda through threatening the economic livelihood of Alabama’s own businesses.

Recently, we witnessed lawsuits filed by the Sierra Club and the Greater-Birmingham Alliance to Stop Pollution (GASP) against the state over air and water permits for Plant Barry, an electric generating plant north of Mobile. Plant Barry is one of the state’s largest power plants and a significant source of electricity for families and businesses across the area. The plant provides power to major industrial operations in south Alabama, as well as to national defense contractors such as Austal.


Today, Plant Barry is complying with all air and water rules set forth by state regulators. Despite this, the Sierra Club and GASP are still fighting to see that south Alabama lose its largest source of electricity and the more than the 300 jobs provided by Plant Barry.

According to Alabama Power’s spokesperson Michael Sznajderman, “Plant Barry is an important part of Alabama Power’s generating fleet, providing the state with safe, reliable and affordable energy, with capacity to serve as many as 590,000 homes. Plant Barry also supplies energy to key industries that are vital to Alabama’s workforce and economy, and it does so in compliance with all applicable environmental rules and regulations.”

The Sierra Club, which is based out of San Francisco, California, does not represent Alabama thinking or values. It is troubling to see out-of-state activists groups working to influence our state’s power supply and its workers.

The Sierra Club has advocated for years to shut down coal-fired power completely, and it has become apparent that GASP agrees. Further, the groups have rebuked the burning of natural gas as well, arguing earlier this year to the Alabama Public Service Commission that Alabama Power should not be allowed to expand its power portfolio to meet customer demand in the winter.

This is a time to work together to address issues and solve problems, not to promote extreme political issues.

John H. Merrill is currently serving as Alabama’s 53rd secretary of state

2 years ago

Merrill: We don’t have a gun control problem — We have a spiritual deficit problem

(J. Merrill/Twitter)

The Democrats and the liberal media love to point fingers and assign blame. They attacked me when I pointed out the trash they put on television that our young children are watching. From wife swapping shows to the sexualization of the primetime network hour or promoting certain philosophies and ideologies out of touch with the mainstream, or creating an issue out of something that isn’t there, Hollywood is ruining the family unit 30 minutes at a time.

The attacks in El Paso and Dayton last week, and the senseless acts of gun violence that preceded these horrific events, have no place in America. They are carried out by cowards who have no regard for our culture of life. They represent the worst elements of society – from white supremacists to leftist radicals – and they deserve the harshest penalties for their acts.


But, for the radical Democrats and the liberal media to blame Donald Trump for these massacres is wrong. Unfortunately, that has become all too common for the media elite – they place blame on our conservative institutions, our churches, and our culture.

In the days following the tragic Charleston church shooting, the families who lost loved ones surrendered to their faith and actually welcomed the Charleston shooter to their Wednesday night bible study with open arms. As victims of a senseless and horrific crime, they prayed, and they trusted their faith in the Lord. I can’t imagine the anguish and hurt they felt and oftentimes wonder if I could have invited this murderer back to my place of worship, but they did.

While prayer did not bring back their loved ones, it was a marked change from the wedge the liberal media is trying to drive just a few years after that event.

The media mocks us for our faith. They ridicule us for placing an emphasis on a culture that values life. They want to tell us thoughts and prayers don’t matter, but if we can get back to the power of prayer and make faith in the Lord more central to the family unit, nothing else will really matter.

The blame for what happened in Texas and Ohio this past week is not at Donald Trump’s feet but at the feet of those who create the news – they are looking for an easy scapegoat instead of confronting the real problem.

In Alabama, we are mocked for allowing prayer in school, but the prayers we offer allow a discussion on life and respect for everyone.
We are mocked for standing for the pledge, but to stand shows respect for a culture that gives us life and liberty.

Hollywood and the film industry are forcing a liberal agenda on us that markets violence to our children, puts more money behind the marketing of video games with a purpose of killing, and they have changed family-friendly prime-time viewing into several jam-packed hours of violence and out of control socialist agendas that tear apart the family unit.

What we need is more prayer that teaches what Matthew 7:12 speaks of when he said, “Therefore, however you want people to treat you, so treat them.” We need more thoughts that teach our children to respect life and call out bullying, violence, and aggression. And we need to renew our faith because more gun laws will not solve a moral problem.

Is this an end-all-be-all solution? No, and there are many areas that deserve our attention like mental health and sinister ideologies that promote racism, bigotry, and white supremacy that we must defeat. But what we have on our hands right now is what some have described as this problem of evil, and the liberal media would rather politicize these tragic shootings and assign blame to our president.

We do not have a gun control problem, we have a spiritual deficit problem, and by making this a matter of faith, we can confront evil head-on.

John Merrill is Alabama’s secretary of state and is a Republican candidate for U.S. Senate in Alabama

2 years ago

John Merrill: ‘The people of Alabama need an Ethics Commission that will enforce the laws’

(John Merrill/Facebook)

I am disappointed to find myself, once again, in a position to ask what purpose the Alabama Ethics Commission serves to the people of this state. To whom are the elected officials or those seeking public office to look to for ethical political leadership? The people of Alabama need an Ethics Commission that will enforce the laws and regulations it is charged with enforcing, with consistency.

When campaigns file their fundraising disclosures with the Secretary of State’s office, they are required to file on a given date no later than 11:59 p.m. When candidates and political action committees (PACs) fail to file these reports in a timely manner, the law requires the Secretary of State’s Office to issue a civil penalty based on the amount of contributions and expenditures from that reporting period. In the event that a candidate or PAC wishes to appeal the penalty, the Secretary of State’s office is required to send those requests to the Alabama Ethics Commission, allowing members of the Commission to determine whether the penalty should be upheld or not.

At three previous Ethics Commission meetings, in February, April and June of 2018, the commission waived fines on 12 appeals that were filed outside the 14-day window allowed by law.


However, during the Commission’s meeting on September 5, they declined to hear cases filed outside the 14-day window, saying they didn’t have jurisdiction and declining to rule on whether that penalty would stand — despite having previously done so previously 12 times in 2018.

It’s the position of the Secretary of State’s Office that these specific matters were improperly set aside and should be reinstated by the Commission. And, in spite of a request from counsel for the Ethics Commission, the Secretary of State’s Office will continue to adhere to the requirements of state law which clearly establishes the Commission as the sole body with authority to overturn a penalty issued for a campaign or political action committee filing a financial disclosure form after the due date.

Previously, Ethics Commission Executive Director Tom Albritton stated, “the commissioners reviewed those files and discussed them in detail before our meeting. So they reviewed every one of them as they have for every meeting.” If that is true, then why have they just now become aware of these appeal date issues? Each appeal delivered to the Alabama Ethics Commission is delivered as a file which includes each file that was not timely filed and a copy of the date the appeal was filed.

The Code of Alabama directs the Secretary of State’s Office to work in conjunction with the Alabama Ethics Commission to administer the Fair Campaign Practices Act. Therefore, without communication and cooperation between our agencies, as well as the commission’s consistent application of the laws and rules established by the legislature, the FCPA does not work.

John Merrill is a Republican and the Secretary of State of Alabama

3 years ago

Alabama Sec. of State: ‘Why do we pass ethics laws and employ an ethics commission if we do not intend to enforce the rule of law?’

(John Merrill/Facebook)

In the 2015 Alabama Legislative Session, the Legislature passed legislation that required all county candidates and political action committees running for public office to file campaign finance reports with the Alabama Secretary of State’s Office.

The 2015 legislation did not change the requirement for all state candidates to file with the Alabama Secretary of State’s Office. This 2015 filing process was to be accomplished through the electronic filing portal made available by the Secretary of State at this link.

This legislation gave candidates until the 2018 election cycle to become familiar with the law. Beginning with the 2018 election cycle, the Secretary of State’s Office was required to issue civil penalties to candidates who did not meet the campaign finance filing requirements. Those who received a civil penalty can either pay a civil fine or appeal to the Alabama Ethics Commission.


The review and appeal process was put in place to allow for expungement in specific instances in which the Commission felt the candidate had extenuating circumstances which prevented them from meeting the standard deadline applied to all candidates for public office.

All committees, regardless if it is a candidate or Political Action Committee, are required to file yearly, monthly, weekly, daily, and major contribution reports to show Alabamians the source of all contributions, expenditures, and loans. The 2015 law required the Secretary of State to issue civil fines as listed below:

–1st Offense 10% of contributions or expenditures or $300 (whichever is less)
–2nd Offense 15% of contributions or expenditures or $600 (whichever is less)
–3rd Offense 20% of contributions or expenditures or $1,200 (whichever is less)
–4th Offense and all proceeding penalties are the same as the third offense but this activates our requirement to report the Candidate (PCC) or Political Action Committee (PAC) to the Attorney General and the District Attorney in the judicial circuit in which they reside.

When a committee files a report late, a comprehensive review process takes place to ensure that each penalty is legitimate and that the report in question is a required report for that candidate.

Step one involves one staff member of the Elections Division reviewing the late reports and preparing a file documenting the required reports and the violation number for the candidate or committee. That employee then delivers the penalty files to Clay Helms, the Assistant Elections Director and Supervisor of Voter Registration. Mr. Helms then reviews the files and corrects any errors before delivering the penalty files to John Bennett, Deputy Chief of Staff, who then reviews each penalty and checks the math on the amount of the civil fine. Once Mr. Bennett completes his review, he then delivers the penalty files to David Brewer, Chief of Staff, who then completes a final review. After Mr. Brewer’s review, he then delivers the penalty files to Brent Beal, Deputy Attorney General. Once signed, the letters are scanned and emailed to the email address on file for the PCC or PAC, and the original is mailed to the candidate via certified letter to ensure delivery.

This intensive review process ensures there is a system of checks and balances to protect candidates from unwarranted claims of impropriety.

As previously noted, a campaign committee can request an appeal if the committee believes extenuating circumstances caused them to not meet the deadline for filing their report. The appeal is reviewed by the Alabama Ethics Commission at their quarterly meetings.

The Ethics Commission held its first quarterly review of the fines against committees who had requested an appeal in December, and has held subsequent reviews in April and June. During each of those meetings the five member Ethics Commission voted to overturn all of the 54 requests for appeal that were submitted to the Commission for review for a total of 113 civil penalties. The fines were overturned based on concerns from the Commission that this law was a new law which campaigns could not be held responsible for accountability at this time.

The appeal process is in place for a candidate or committees first offense for which someone does not meet the standard as prescribed in state law. If they are a repeat offender, the law requires a monetary penalty be issued by the Secretary of State’s Office.

My question to members of the Ethics Commission, members of the media, and the people of Alabama is why do we pass ethics laws and employ an ethics commission if we do not intend to enforce the rule of law?

Further, the law was not established to function as an expensive, tax-payer funded, reminder to candidates who fail to timely file, but it was created to provide transparency on campaign contributions and expenses for all Alabamians to see and serve as a deterrent to candidates who wish to deceive voters by not providing evidence regarding the source of their campaign donations or expenditures.

Simply put, the Alabama Ethics Commission, like all other state agencies should follow the law, or ask the legislature to change it!

John Merrill is a Republican and the Secretary of State of Alabama

4 years 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.

4 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

6 years ago

Merrill: A move to make Presidential candidates pay attention to Alabama

Voting Booths

The most important and fundamental right that we have as Americans is the right to vote. But many people today believe our nation is experiencing extreme voter disillusionment, firmly rooted in a perceived lack of power in the hands of the voters.

For many years, Alabama’s voice in determining the major party Presidential nominees has been marked irrelevant by political strategists, media, and even the candidates themselves. This is a consequence of the timing of our primaries. In 2000 and 2004, our Presidential primaries took place in June, long after the nominating process had mostly run its course. In an attempt to address this dilemma, the Alabama Legislature moved our primary elections to February (2008), which did increase our relevance; however, the change was rather small, only slightly increasing state visits by legitimate presidential hopefuls in 2012 (March Primary).

The way the system functions today, Presidential candidates justifiably allocate 80 percent of their time and resources to the key swing states and regions. But that leaves many Southern voters struggling to maintain faith in the idea that candidates from either major party truly represent their interests and ideals.

Recently, Alabama joined several other Southern states in a discussion that stemmed from this feeling that our voters are disconnected from the Presidential candidates with whom they are rarely able to engage. An idea was proposed to hold a single united primary election on March 8, 2016, which would greatly increase the attention necessary to win this region of the country because we would all be voting at one time.

A Southern Super Tuesday, or “SEC Primary” as some are calling it, would greatly increase the importance of the southeastern states to Presidential hopefuls. This consolidated election day would separate the South for the same reason that Iowa, New Hampshire, South Carolina and other states receive national attention.

The main goal of this effort is to create an environment that forces candidates to appeal to the an even larger and more complete constituency than they currently do. Southerners, and more specifically Alabamians, represent a largely conservative, working class group of voters, but because of the timing of our primary elections, our calls for more conservative candidates have gone unheard.

Different regions of our nation have different needs and different views, and if a candidate for the Presidency is compelled to spend more time getting to know our people, our issues, our problems, and our concerns, then I am confident that he or she will give more attention to our voices when they are raised after the election.

In 2016 our voice can be much louder by joining with other Southern states that are so often forgotten.

However, a new election day alone will not affect the necessary change, it will take an active and engaged electorate that, on March 8, 2016, resolutely expresses ownership of our most valued right as Americans: the right to select political leaders and put in office those who hold true to our values and our ideals.

As your Secretary of State and Chief Elections Official, I will do all that I can to help position the South — and more specifically Alabama — as a place that all Presidential candidates will make an effort to visit and meet our remarkable people.

John Merrill is Alabama Secretary of State – elect

RELATED: Republicans hatch plan that could make Alabama a player in Presidential elections