2 months ago

Merrill derides Southern Poverty Law Center report on voter suppression — ‘They have nothing’

Alabama Secretary of State John Merrill is strongly contesting the assertions made Monday in a report by the Southern Poverty Law Center.

The report from the SPLC alleges that since the landmark U.S. Supreme Court decision Shelby County v. Holder was handed down in 2013, Alabama has engaged in a number of practices that disadvantage its black and brown citizens’ ability to vote.

As Secretary of State, John Merrill is Alabama’s chief elections official. As such, he was the public figure most directly implicated in the reports’ findings.

Merrill told Yellowhammer News that the report was “not done for any other reason than to help them raise financial resources to promote their liberal agenda.”

“It was not done to try to build up the democratic republic that we know as the United States of America. It was not done to promote voting rights and voting integrity,” he added.

A press release from the SPLC maintained that Alabama’s improper tactics included “implementing a photo voter ID law, maintaining a burdensome and discriminatory restoration scheme for those with felony convictions, closing polling places in predominantly Black counties, and purging hundreds of thousands of voters from the voter rolls.”

Merrill pushed back against each of those claims.

“We’ve broken every record in the state for voter registration and voter participation, and they don’t like that. I don’t know why!” Merrill exclaimed.

Merrill first referred the public to the process for closing local polling precincts. He outlined that the procedure for closing a precinct is taken on by a county’s probate judge, sheriff and circuit clerk before being approved by the county commission. As such, any allegation of prejudiced behavior as it relates to the precinct closings is not properly aimed at the state, but rather local officials.

The SPLC described Alabama’s law forcing felons to pay off their court fees before voting as conditioning “the right to vote on a person’s wealth.” In their eyes, that is too laborious a task to put in front of a convict who seeks to be re-enfranchised.

Yellowhammer News asked Merrill about the SPLC’s claims that Alabama’s process for a convicted person to have their voting rights restored was an undue burden.

Merrill first cited legislation he had collaborated on with Rep. Chris England (D-Tuscaloosa) that Merrill says clarified and streamlined the process for felons paying off fees.

“Once you’ve paid all your fees and all your fines, and done all your time … you will be successfully readmitted to the voter rolls without any delay,” he explained.

“We have that communication occurring at the Department of Corrections and at Pardons and Paroles,” Merrill added.

When asked if he thought Alabama’s system requiring the settling of fees was just, Merrill responded, “Absolutely. They did harm to society. … They committed a crime, so they have to serve their time. They have to pay their fees, and they have to pay their fines. No doubt about that.”

Merrill quickly dismissed the claim that the state fees for the voter rolls were too high.

He maintained, “It’s one penny per name.”

The assertion by the SPLC that the voting rolls had incorrect data drew the polite ire of Alabama’s chief elections official. Merrill says his office “has a name, an address, a birthday, a social security number, a driver’s license number, and an email address if provided.”

He emphasized of the SPLC, “They have nothing. They have nothing.”

“They’re entitled to their own opinion, but not their own facts,” Merrill added.

One of the positions the SPLC most heavily emphasizes in the report is the need for Alabama to create an early voting system; a method that would allow voters to cast their votes before Election Day if they wanted to. Such systems are common across the United States.

“Every state in the Union that has early voting has two things in common. Number one,” Merrill argued, is not a single state with early voting “has voter participation had a marked increase.”

Also, the Secretary of State went on to say, “One thing has increased every time. The cost of the election. Why should we have early voting to benefit a few people and have everybody pay for it? That does not seem fair to me.”

Merrill wrapped up his remarks to Yellowhammer saying, “Voting is a right for our people to exercise. We want to make sure that everybody that is eligible to participate in the electoral process is given the opportunity to become a registered voter. And then they can exercise their right through the privilege of living in the democratic republic that we call the United States of America.”

Henry Thornton is a staff writer for Yellowhammer News. You can contact him by email: henry@yellowhammernews.com or on Twitter @HenryThornton95.

16 mins ago

Sessions calls for China to be investigated over handling of coronavirus outbreak

Former U.S. Attorney General Jeff Sessions is calling for the creation of a select congressional committee that will lead an international investigation into China’s role in the coronavirus pandemic.

Sessions, who is in the midst of a campaign for the U.S. Senate seat he once held, has made his vociferous opposition to the communist government of China a central focus of his remarks in recent days.

The longtime Alabama elected official said in a statement that he wants a “United States-led, international investigation into what China has done and what it continues to do, starting with the Chinese Communist Party’s handling of the Wuhan Virus.”

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“I am calling today for Congress to immediately establish a Select Committee on China to lead the investigation,” Sessions added.

U.S. Senator Josh Hawley (R-MO) and U.S. Rep. Elise Stefanik (R-NY) have previously introduced legislation calling for an investigation into China’s handling of the initial outbreak.

Sessions’ proposed investigation seeks to go further than any that has been previously proposed.

In commenting about the Chinese regime’s relationship to COVID-19, the former U.S. Senator from Alabama said, “They caused it by silencing those who tried to warn the world, by blocking American and international scientists from coming in to stop the outbreak early, and by faking infection and death rates to downplay the seriousness of the spread. And they are continuing to use their propaganda machine to obscure the record today.”

“They cannot be allowed to succeed this time,” he remarked.

Sessions wants each of those aspects to be within the scope of his proposed investigation, and he wants “responsible members of the international community” to join with the United States to make it happen.

“We have used these types of committees before at critical moments in our nation’s history, including after the attack on Pearl Harbor, after the Watergate scandal, after the Iran-Contra Affair, and others,” said Sessions about his proposed select committee that would lead the international investigation.

Sessions also mentioned that his anger was directed at the government of China — not the citizens.

He advised the public, “We know that the Chinese people themselves are not the enemy— they are the biggest victims of the Chinese government, and exposing the truth will benefit them most of all.”

Sessions promised more aspects of his “Betting on America” plan to address the threat he feels China poses to the United States will be coming soon.

Henry Thornton is a staff writer for Yellowhammer News. You can contact him by email: henry@yellowhammernews.com or on Twitter @HenryThornton95.

3 hours ago

7 Things: Up to 240,000 could die in coronavirus pandemic, WH task force explains China’s role in spreading the virus, Alabama legislature looks forward and more …

7. Seattle to investigate racial slurs

  • In response to increased racism toward Asian-Americans since the start of the coronavirus, Seattle Police Chief Carmen Best has told people to call 911 to “Report hate, including racist name-calling” and police “will respond to investigate.”
  • Best said that they “will document and investigate every reported hate crime,” adding that even if people are unsure “if a hate crime occurred, call 911.”

6. SEC has canceled spring meetings

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  • The spring meetings for the SEC that were planned for the end of May have been canceled. The meetings have commonly been used for rule changes for the upcoming seasons, and coaches and administrators regularly attend.
  • The SEC said in a release that they will continue to “determine alternate methods for holding meetings important to conference operations and explore opportunities to recognize award winners who [were to be] honored at the event.”

5. Abortions allowed during a pandemic, but nothing else is

  • Despite the State Health Order to ban all elective or unnecessary medical procedures, a U.S. District judge has ruled that abortions still need to be provided during the coronavirus pandemic.
  • This ruling came after the American Civil Liberties Union challenged Alabama Attorney General Steve Marshall’s suggestion that all clinics should close and medical staff and supplies should go elsewhere.

4. This is the worst quarter for the market ever

  • The coronavirus outbreak has significantly impacted the stock market, and now the Dow Jones Industrial Average has seen its worst first quarter in 124 years, dropping 23.2% in the first quarter of this year.
  • This was also the worst overall quarter for the Dow since the market crash of 1987, and the S&P 500 has seen its worst overall quarter since 2008.

3. Alabama legislature meets, then adjourns

  • Both the Alabama State House and State Senate met Tuesday and then agreed to meet at a later date when it is safer to do so. Some members wore masks and other protective gear on the floor and kept their distance while huddled into groups discussing state business.
  • When the legislature returns they will have two areas of focus, according to State Senate Pro Tem Del Marsh (R-Anniston) and Speaker of the House Mac McCutcheon (R-Monrovia): economic stimulus and “bare-bones” budgets.

2. WH task force attempts to help the media understand China 

  • During questioning from reporters to the White House Coronavirus Task Force, Dr. Deborah Birx highlighted how China’s disinformation hindered the United States’ response because they “were missing a significant amount of the data” from China. Birx added that the data from Spain and Italy tell a more accurate picture.
  • Former U.S. Attorney General Jeff Session called for a total reset of our relationship with China, saying, “America must now fundamentally reset our relationship with China. This is no time for half-measures or a slap on the wrist. This Chinese-made global health crisis should be a wake-up call. China is lying and people are dying. Enough is enough.”

1. “Painful two weeks”

  • In a rather grim press conference, President Donald Trump’s coronavirus task force said the nation is on track to see between 100,000 and up to 240,000 deaths.
  • Trump appeared to be attempting to set expectations and show the nation the worst-case scenario, saying, “I want every American to be prepared for the hard days that lie ahead. We’re going to go through a very tough two weeks.”

5 hours ago

Alabama Ag Commissioner Rick Pate: ‘We’ve got a safe, abundant, sustainable food supply here in Alabama’

On Tuesday, Alabama Department of Agriculture and Industries (ADAI) Commissioner Rick Pate reiterated his sentiment about the stability of Alabama’s food supply not being a cause for concern during an interview with Huntsville radio’s WVNN.

Pate told “The Jeff Poor Show” that despite a run of grocery stores and other retailers in the throes of the coronavirus pandemic, the in-state food supply remains safe and abundant.

However, during the wide-ranging interview, he said the coronavirus spread had not come without some challenges for Alabama’s farmers, including labor difficulties as legal migrant workers are no longer able to come to Alabama with the closure of borders.

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Nonetheless, he assured listeners there was no threat to the food supply.

“People go in the grocery stores, and they see shortages – but I want to promise you we can sustain that, and we’ll refill that two days from now, two weeks from now, two months from now, two years from now,” Pate said. “Our food supply in this country is secure. It’s abundant. It’s safe. And the thing is – our government officials, at least around food, haven’t given me any indication that they don’t understand that – the federal USDA people, the Homeland Security people, our own state governor’s office, our own public health.”

“I mean, anything is possible,” he continued. “But we’ve got a safe, abundant, sustainable food supply here in Alabama, and I would assume across most of the country.”

Pate urged those to be in touch with the Alabama Department of Agriculture and Industries (ADAI), either through the website or by phone (334) 240-7100, for further information about farming issues or to verify something is misinformation or rumor.

“[Y]ou might hear some rumors,” he said. “I’d like to know what they are because you might hear some rumors.”

Pate recounted a smaller stockyard that was under the impression the state government wanted it to shut down because to prevent the coronavirus spread.

“I don’t want you to close down,” he said. “I don’t even want the rumor that the smallest one in the state closed down. It will get said all the stockyards in the state are closing down. That’s just not the case. Every stockyard is still up and running, cattle being sold.”

Pate added that while demand is up at the consumer for some agriculture products, prices are low. He also warned of continued falling prices for beef given it is a staple of many upper-end restaurants that are unable to serve dine-in customers due to the pandemic.

@Jeff_Poor is a graduate of Auburn University, the editor of Breitbart TV, a columnist for Mobile’s Lagniappe Weekly and host of Huntsville’s “The Jeff Poor Show” from 2-5 p.m. on WVNN.

18 hours ago

Website seeks to connect still-operating local restaurants with Alabama customers

The Alabama Restaurant and Hospitality Association (ARHA) has created a website to try and connect local restaurants with Alabama consumers.

The precautions being taken to slow the spread of the coronavirus have devastated the restaurant industry. A website that tracks the industry estimates that 3% of America’s restaurants have permanently gone out of business since the virus began spreading in the United States.

The website created by ARHA — carryoutal.com — is seeking to prevent that fate for restaurants in Alabama. Visitors are asked to select Carryout, Curbside or Delivery and the site then provides them with the options in their area.

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The site currently has around 300 restaurants in its database.

There is an option for any locally-owned business to list their establishment for free.

“Most restaurants in Alabama remain open and they need your support more than ever,” says the website’s description.

The site assures any skeptical customers, “While recent governmental orders and recommendations to limit social gatherings have forced restaurants to change the way they operate, the commitment to food safety and sanitation has not changed.”

The ARHA has also created a fund to provide relief for hospitality workers across the state. As of 2:45 p.m on Tuesday, it has raised $1,810 of its $100,000 goal.

Contributions to the fund are tax-deductible.

The description of the fund reads, “On March 19, 2020, restaurants and bars across the state were ordered to close dining area service to the public in an effort to slow the spread of coronavirus. The shutdowns have catastrophically impacted the restaurant and hotel industry.”

Those interested in donating can click here.

Henry Thornton is a staff writer for Yellowhammer News. You can contact him by email: henry@yellowhammernews.com or on Twitter @HenryThornton95.

19 hours ago

Treasury Department issues guidance for small businesses seeking relief funds

The U.S. Treasury Department released new information on Tuesday afternoon for small businesses affected by the COVID-19 crisis. The resources distributed by the agency provide guidance on how to tap into the $340 billion pool of relief funds set aside for the small business sector.

Under the Small Business Administration’s (SBA) Paycheck Protection Program, businesses with fewer than 500 employees are eligible to receive the lesser of $10 million or 2.5 times its payroll over the period of several months.

Banks will distribute the funds in the form of loans granted under criteria contained in the law. Loans may become available as soon as Friday, April 3.

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Call your banker

That is the advice the Treasury Department is giving to small businesses.

The chairman of the Alabama Bankers Association has stated that banks in his state are ready, willing and able to immediately assist with the small business sector’s recovery.

“Banks in our state are already very familiar with helping customers access SBA funding,” said David Nast, president and CEO of Progress Bank and Trust. “Nearly 94% of banks headquartered in Alabama are SBA-approved lenders, and that number could easily grow higher over the next few weeks.”

RELATED: Alabama banks preparing to assist small businesses with recovery — ‘Call your banker’

Nast echoed the Treasury Department’s advice that interested small businesses should promptly contact their bank.

“Regardless of how banks are interacting with their customers, our advice for individuals and small businesses has been to put ‘Call Your Banker’ near the top of the to-do list,” Nast emphasized.

Info for small businesses

The Treasury Department is maintaining a comprehensive website for those seeking information about the economic stimulus programs it is administering.

Within the site are documents for small businesses to better understand the programs designed for them and how to apply for funds:

Overview of the Paycheck Protection Program

Paycheck Protection Program Information for Borrowers

Application for Borrowers

Paycheck Protection Program Information for Lenders

Tim Howe is an owner of Yellowhammer Multimedia