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Merrill rebuts SPLC claim that voter fraud is ‘non-existent’ — Cites six recent Alabama convictions

After the Montgomery-based Southern Poverty Law Center (SPLC) on Tuesday sent out a press release claiming “voter fraud” has “consistently proven to be non-existent,” Alabama Secretary of State John Merrill in an interview with Yellowhammer News pointed to specific, confirmed cases of recent voter fraud in the state, rebutting the SPLC’s assertion.

The SPLC release was in reference to a tweet by President Donald Trump earlier that day supporting voter identification requirements.

Nancy Abudu, deputy legal director of the SPLC, attempted to tie in the voter ID tweet with Trump’s recent comments about Baltimore, strongly implying that it amounted to racism.

“Just days after referring to a majority-Black city as ‘infested,’ the President now calls for Voter ID — a device that disproportionately keeps Black voters from the polls,” Abudu asserted.

The SPLC spokesperson then brazenly claimed that voter fraud is “non-existent.”

“Voter ID laws do not address ‘voter fraud’ — which is consistently proven to be non-existent,” Abudu said. “But they do create barriers for Black, Latino, low-income, and elderly voters, who are more likely than the general population to lack an acceptable form of photo identification.”

Her statement ended with an attack on the South, alleging that “voter fraud” is a “myth” meant to “undermine the Black vote.”

“Unfortunately, perpetuating the myth of voter fraud has been so successful that conservative lawmakers use it as a cudgel to undermine the Black vote, particularly in the Deep South. In order to strengthen our sacred right to vote, we must restore the Voting Rights Act to its full strength,” Abudu concluded.

Speaking with Yellowhammer News, Merrill directly addressed the SPLC’s full statement.

“Well, again my friend, they’re entitled to their own opinions, but they’re not entitled to their own facts,” he emphasized.

Merrill explained that from 2015 through today, the state of Alabama has had a total of 928 instances of “alleged voter fraud or election impropriety that have been introduced to [the secretary of state’s office].” He advised that 925 of these cases have been fully investigated and closed, with three still pending.

Of the 925 closed cases, Merrill said there have been six resulting convictions for voter fraud specifically. Five of these convictions occurred in Houston County, while one occurred in Henry County.

Additionally, two elections have been completely overturned in Jefferson County during Merrill’s tenure, including the 2017 Brighton mayoral race.

“So, if the Southern Poverty Law Center really believes what they’re saying about voter fraud [being] non-existent, they need to get those people out of the penitentiary — because they’re in the penitentiary right now,” Merrill quipped. “That’s because they’ve been convicted for voter fraud. That’s why they went.”

These six cases, Merrill noted, were just the confirmed counts of voter fraud that made it all the way through the legal system. He has said previously that the secretary of state’s office has recommended many more prosecutions related to the 919 other closed cases, but local district attorneys in certain jurisdictions “frequently” balk at prosecuting election-related cases.

He also pushed back on the implication by the SPLC that voter ID laws, like Alabama’s, are racist.

Merrill outlined that the state has experienced record voter participation “since the voter ID law went into effect.”

This is in addition to breaking all previous records for voter registration.

Merrill’s office has advised that 96% of all eligible black people in Alabama are registered to vote, 91% of all eligible white Alabamians are registered to vote and 94% of all eligible Alabamians are registered to vote in total.

“Nobody’s having a hard time voting — and they’re voting in record numbers,” Merrill stressed.

Related: Merrill provides update on record voter registration numbers: ‘Easy to vote and hard to cheat’

Sean Ross is a staff writer for Yellowhammer News. You can follow him on Twitter @sean_yhn

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