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John Merrill backs off support of State Rep. Hall election legislation — ‘We’re not for no-excuse absentee voting’

Last week, Secretary of State John Merrill raised a lot of eyebrows when he gave an endorsement to legislation proposed by State Rep. Laura Hall (D-Huntsville), which would allow no-excuse absentee voting.

However, Merrill is distancing himself from the no-excuse absentee voting provision of Hall’s legislation.

During an appearance on Mobile radio FM Talk 106.5’s “Midday Mobile,” Merrill said he was against no-excuse absentee voting, and he supported aspects of the bill because they would improve upon the previous election.

“One of the things we do every time we have an administration of an election is we go back, and we look at the things that happened, and we see where we can improve, or where we need to make sure that we go forward in what we’re doing,” Merrill explained. “This election was no different.”

“We had four things that we wanted to do,” he continued. “In addition to that, we had legislators, as they always do, will bring bills on their own about things that are important to them.  So my legislative liaison brought this bill on for no-excuse absentee voting to me and said, ‘Representative Laura Hall from Huntsville is doing this. Is this something do you think we would be in support of?’ I said no, but it may be something that we can improve. And so, let’s look at it. So, we added the things that we thought are necessary.”

Among the proposed amendments to the legislation that Merrill suggested dealt with when absentee voted could be opened, earlier deadlines for absentee voters to return their ballots, make sure the polls were sufficiently staffed, and add language that would clarify any confusion about postmarking of absentee ballots.

“It became very clear to us that is not a debate the Alabama Legislature wants to have,” Merrill said. “And so my recommendation is to Laura Hall, who is that person who is carrying that bill, and it was laid on the table last week when it was up for a debate, is that she not continue to advance that legislation. That’s not productive for the state. It’s not going to be productive for her. We’re going to get a separate vehicle, a new bill that we’re going to bring, and talk about the things I said we added to that bill so that those things can be put in place with another vehicle if the body thinks that meritorious for consideration.”

To clear up any confusion, Merrill once again stated his opposition to so-called no-excuse absentee voting.

“We’re not for no-excuse absentee voting,” he added. “And we’re not going to let that be the vehicle that is a part of this because that discussion is not going to be productive.”

@Jeff_Poor is a graduate of Auburn University and the University of South Alabama, the editor of Breitbart TV, a columnist for Mobile’s Lagniappe Weekly, and host of Mobile’s “The Jeff Poor Show” from 9 a.m.-12 p.m. on FM Talk 106.5.