Merrill in Capitol Hill testimony: Alabama absentee voting fraud happens ‘frequently,’ prosecutors letting it slide
Alabama Secretary of State John Merrill testified in front of the U.S. House Homeland Security Committee Wednesday, warning against “federal overreach” and advising that absentee voting fraud occurs in the state “frequently” but is seldom prosecuted in local jurisdictions.
Merrill was invited by committee Ranking Member Mike Rogers (AL-3) to lend his expertise on an election security panel and advise on the merits of H.R 1. This legislation championed by the leftwing of the national Democratic Party, entitled the “For the People Act,” proposes a massive overhaul of the federal election and campaign finance systems. H.R. 1 has the support of Rep. Terri Sewell (AL-7) in the Yellowhammer State.
We are glad to have you here today to testify! https://t.co/RhMoxrH4JU
— Mike Rogers (@RepMikeRogersAL) February 13, 2019
In his opening statement, Merrill warned that the Democrat-backed legislation is an attempt at “federal overreach” on the rights of states and localities to administer their own elections.
“[T]here are some serious concerns and issues with H.R. 1 in our opinion,” he cautioned.
Merrill outlined, “Number one: significant federal overreach has been indicated through the introduction of this legislation. And it appears to provide certain things that need to be done but the lack of resources in order to be able to do those effectively. There’s strictly underfunded or unfunded mandates. Number two: there are many prescriptive requirements that have been indicated that states that would accept these funds would face significant difficulty in enacting those new programs without the resources necessary to do that… Number three: the amount of time that the states have to meet the requirements is not something that is going to be able to be met…”
He added that H.R. 1, if it was to pass against all odds, would not be able to be adhered to on the timeline mandated by the legislation because the federal government and most state agencies across the nation “move at the speed of government.”
In his first question during this panel hearing, Rogers asked Merrill if there is anything in H.R. 1 that he would find helpful to securing elections in Alabama.
“No, congressman,” Merrill answered.
The Alabama secretary of state recommended that Congress alter the bill to allocate election security funding to the states that included guidelines but not mandates so states and localities could decide how to best utilize their resources in their unique situations.
Responding to a later question by a Democrat on the committee, Merrill warned that election laws can only help so much when local prosecutors are not willing to charge violators.
Merrill said that since he became secretary of state four years and 25 days ago, 874 unique instances of alleged voter fraud have been reported to his office.
Out of the 870 of these cases that have been investigated fully already, six have resulted in convictions, with three elections being overturned, according to Merrill. However, this does not mean that only six of 870 cases were found to have violated the law.
“I think it’s important to know that we have a number of prosecutors in our state that are not really interested in advancing investigations into voter fraud because they think the penalties are too stiff,” he advised.
In a follow-up, Rep. Emanuel Cleaver (D-MO) asked Merrill if he was suggesting that there has been “much more voter fraud” in Alabama than has been prosecuted.
“Yes, sir,” the secretary of state responded. “We have some – I actually have two instances that I can share with you just briefly: one, 119 absentee ballot applications were mailed to one location and nobody lives in that home. In another jurisdiction, 109 absentee ballot applications were mailed to the mayoral candidate’s mother’s home. And neither one of those have been prosecuted yet.”
Cleaver asked, “Were there many more such cases?”
“Oh, yes, sir. Yes, sir, we have them frequently,” Merrill emphasized. “And they’re not just related to certain parts of our state, either.”
He added, “The main instances we see are in the area of absentee balloting, not in walk-up, in-person voting.”
It was my privilege to testify before the House committee on Homeland Security today! The title of the hearing was Defending our Democracy: Building Partnerships to Protect America’s Elections! I am thankful for the opportunity to represent our state and protect local elections! pic.twitter.com/2y9NgFesf8
— John Merrill (@JohnHMerrill) February 13, 2019
Sean Ross is a staff writer for Yellowhammer News. You can follow him on Twitter @sean_yhn