With Alabama’s primary election runoffs now in the books, here are three takeaways from the results.
North Alabama has spoken.
When this election cycle began, it became evident that north Alabama saw a window of opportunity to increase its influence. The results from the Republican primary runoff have shown the electorate in that area of the state was eager to flex its muscle.
Will Ainsworth pulled out an impressive come-from-behind victory in the Lt. Governor’s race. Steve Marshall enjoyed a resounding win in his bid to retain the Attorney General’s office.
Like Lucy van Pelt of Peanuts comic strip fame repeatedly pulling the football away from Charlie Brown as he lines up to kick it, Rep. Martha Roby (R-Montgomery) once again has shown you can’t beat her in a Republican primary.
Tuesday, Congressman Mo Brooks (AL-05) was one of only 31 members of the U.S. House of Representatives awarded the prestigious 2017 FreedomFighter Award by FreedomWorks, a leading conservative organization with more than six million members nationwide. Only members of Congress who score better than 90% on the FreedomWorks scorecard receive the FreedomFighter Award. Congressman Brooks’ FreedomWorks score was in the top 4% of all Congressmen in 2017.
Brooks said, “FreedomWorks is a leading organization in the conservative movement. I thank them for their work keeping members of Congress accountable and scoring key House floor votes which helps the American people better understand the impact of those votes. I was proud to receive the prestigious FreedomWorks 2017 FreedomFighter Award for my voting record in 2017. If America is to maintain its place as the greatest country in world history, more members of Congress must fight for the foundational principles that made America great. I’m fighting in Congress for those principles, and I’m glad to have a partner as effective as FreedomWorks in the fight.”
"Frontier Airlines will begin direct flights from Birmingham-Shuttlesworth International Airport on April 11, the airline announced today. Frontier Airlines will start by offering direct service to Denver, Orlando and Philadelphia from Birmingham. Introductory prices will start at $39."
"At 87, Clint Eastwood is not only trying new things, he’s trying daring new things, and his new film 15:17 to Paris represents one of the most audacious gambits of his career. To dramatize the tale of three Americans who tackled and subdued a heavily armed Islamist terrorist on a train out of Amsterdam in 2015, Eastwood cast the young men, none of whom had professional acting experience, as themselves. It’s a decision with little precedent in the entire history of motion pictures."
Alabama Sec of State John Merrill offers ‘home visit’ for those seeking photo ID to vote — ‘Just call my cell’
On Friday, Alabama Secretary of State John Merrill took to Twitter to reiterate his pledge to ensure eligible voters were able to comply with the state’s voter identification laws by offering home visits for those unable to obtain identification otherwise.
Merrill was responding to a similar pledge from Alabama Republican Party chairwoman Terry Lathan, who made her comments about a Yellowhammer News story noting the five-year anniversary of the Supreme Court’s Shelby County v. Holder decision that gave states the authority to have voter identification laws.
Merrill included his cell phone number with the pledge to ensure any interested party could be in touch.
We do that. And if anyone needs a home visit because they cannot make our remote location visits to the festivals or community centers we will go to their homes and give them a photo ID and make sure they are registered to vote. Just call my cell at 334-328-2787
Five years since Shelby County v. Holder: Alabama’s elected officials reiterate arguments about voting rights
During a Congressional Black Caucus-hosted ‘Panel on the State of Voting Rights’ last week, Rep. Terri Sewell (D-Birmingham) said that “we have gone backwards” when it comes to voter suppression.
Sewell made these remarks two days after the five-year anniversary of Shelby County v. Holder, a Supreme Court ruling which she and other Democrats say has gutted the Voting Rights Act of 1965, resulting in civil rights regress.
“I think we have seen a reversal of many [sic] of the progress that we’ve seen in voting rights,” she said, citing voter roll purgation, long polling lines, and photo ID laws.
Secretary of State John Merrill says that Sewell’s viewpoint is one that is more informed by politics than fact.
“We have not had a single incident occur, since the implementation of the voter ID law, where a person’s been denied access to the polls because they did not have the proper credentials when they went to vote,” Merrill told Yellowhammer News in an interview on Tuesday.
Merrill went on to discuss the more than 1 million new voter registrations since January of 2015.
“We’ve broken every record in the history of the state for voter participation under my watch,” Merrill said.
Despite those numbers, Rep. Sewell still recognizes numerous barriers.
In an op-ed published on AL.com last week, Sewell laid out how those factors mentioned above inhibit the rights of prospective voters.
The op-ed cites a study conducted by three researchers who found that “strict identification laws have a differentially negative impact on the turnout of racial and ethnic minorities in primaries and general elections.”
What divides Sewell and Merrill, and their respective parties, is a clear difference of opinion on the matter of what constitutes a substantive inhibition to voters.
Until the two reach some agreement on that question, the debate will continue.
Alabama Sec. of State John Merrill: Expect 15 to 18 percent turnout in primary runoff
More voters are expected at the polls for July’s primary election runoff than in recent years, Alabama Secretary of State John Merrill told Yellowhammer News on Tuesday.
Merrill expects turnout to be at around 15 to 18 percent.
“I think it will be that high – even though that’s a low number – I think it’ll be that high in the runoff because we have the lieutenant governor’s race, we have the attorney general’s race, and so we’ve got some interest,” he said.
Turnout in 2012’s runoff was a meager four percent statewide, and in 2014, the statewide runoff turnout was 11 percent.
Merrill’s method of projection has brought his guesses within a few percentage points of actual turnout for every race during his tenure, with the exception of last December’s special U.S. Senate election.
That method includes looking at the races and gauging public interest, examining what candidates are doing to get voters to the polls, and factoring in primary turnout.
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?’
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
Alabama politics ‘for dummies’: A primer on the executive department
It’s common for even the most educated of voters to know little about the candidates on their ballots.
It’s perhaps even more common for voters to lack a general understanding of the offices which those candidates want to occupy.
Here’s a quick summary of the duties of each member of Alabama’s executive department.
The governor is the state’s chief executive. He or she has the abilities, defined by Alabama law, to sign and veto legislation, to call the legislature to convene a special session on “extraordinary occasions,” to commute sentences and grant pardons, to control state property, to accept and distribute federal grants, among others.
Gov. Kay Ivey is running for re-election against Republican primary challengers Tommy Battle, Bill Hightower, and Scott Dawson.
The lieutenant governor is the “vice” governor, so to speak, and takes over the office of governor upon its vacation. Then-Lieutenant Governor Ivey fulfilled this duty when Robert Bentley resigned the governorship in April 2017.
There are many similarities between lieutenant governor and vice president of the United States. Like the vice president, the lieutenant governor presides over the Senate body and has the ability to cast tie-breaking votes.
Unlike the president and vice president, the lieutenant governor does not run on the same ticket with the governor in Alabama, though in many other states, they do run together.
The Office of Lieutenant Governor is currently vacant. Running for the Republican nomination are Will Ainsworth, Twinkle Cavanaugh, and Rusty Glover.
The attorney general is the state’s top legal official. He or she defends the state in lawsuits and represents the state in other court proceedings. The attorney general also has the power to sue the federal government in federal court. Another of the attorney general’s primary functions is to review and opine on the constitutionality of enacted laws and proposed laws.
Attorney General Steve Marshall is running for re-election against Republican primary challengers Alice Martin, Chess Bedsole, and Troy King.
Secretary of State
First among the secretary of state’s duties as listed in the Code of Alabama is to “keep the state seal, the original statutes and public records of the state.” The secretary of state functions in much the same way as an office secretary. He or she is to maintain and keep in order official documents, deeds, and other public records.
Most importantly, the secretary is the state’s chief election official. He or she maintains election records and certifies election results.
Secretary of State John Merrill is running for re-election against Republican primary challenger Michael Johnson.
The Code of Alabama lays out the treasurer’s primary duty as “to receive all moneys due the state and deposit them in the proper accounts” He or she is also responsible for paying interest on state debt and managing other financial programs, such as college savings programs.
Treasurer Young Boozer is not running for re-election. Running for the Republican nomination are David Black, Stephen Evans, and John McMillan.
The auditor is required to “make a full and complete report to the governor showing the receipts and disbursement of every character, all claims audited and paid out, and all taxes and revenues collected and paid into the treasury,” as the office’s website summarizes.
The auditor also sits on several key boards, including the State Board of Adjustment and State Board of Appointments for Board of Registrars.
Auditor Jim Zeigler is running for re-election against Republican primary challengers Stan Cooke and Elliott Lipinsky.
Alabama Sec of State John Merrill defends voter ID law — ‘All we’re trying to do is make it easy to vote and hard to cheat’ (AUDIO)
Wednesday on the “Rick & Bubba” radio show, Alabama Secretary of State John Merrill explained how he had to defend Alabama’s voter identification law to groups like the NAACP over the past year, and how he has been successful at it.
Earlier this year, a federal judge dismissed the suit brought by Greater Birmingham Ministries, the Alabama NAACP and other individuals that claimed it violated the Voting Rights Act, and the 14th and 15th Amendments of Constitution.
Merrill spoke about how despite that ruling, he went head-to-head with NAACP Legal Defense Fund head Sherrilyn Ifill, who continued to claim that Alabama’s voter ID law prevented 188,000 people from voting. Merrill said he contended Ifill couldn’t offer a single person the law precluded from voting.
“The thing that made me so proud about that is we testified again – the two of us, Ifill and I did before the U.S. Commission on Civil Rights in Charlotte in March of this year,” he said. “And when she brought it up again, I said, ‘You’re telling a lie. And you just need to acknowledge that because you can’t show me 188,000 people.’ Even though the judge has already ruled on this – you can’t show me 8,000. As a matter of fact, you can’t show me a person in this state that doesn’t have an ID that will allow them to participate. And if you do, give me the name of one person, we will go to their home today, and we will give them a valid ID for free.”
“And we’ve already done that multiple times throughout the state of Alabama,” Merrill continued. “We’ll continue to do it because I want each and every eligible U.S. citizen that is a resident of Alabama to be registered to vote and have a photo ID. That’s why we’ve made the effort that we’ve made. That’s why I was invited to go to Washington on Monday to testify before another group about what we’re doing to improve the elections process in Alabama.”
The ultimate goal Merrill argued was to promoting voting and deter voter fraud.
“I don’t mean to be so passionate, guys,” Merrill added. “I just want to make sure y’all understand that we don’t need people telling lies or misrepresenting what’s actually happening because again, people are entitled to their own opinion, but they’re not entitled to their own facts. All we’re trying to do is make it easy to vote and hard to cheat.” @Jeff_Poor is a graduate of Auburn University and is the editor of Breitbart TV.
Yellowhammer Radio: Secretary of State John Merrill visits The Ford Faction to talk the Senate race
Alabama Secretary of State John Merrill joins The Ford Faction to talk the AL Senate Results and what it all came down to for the Doug Jones victory. He mentions the write-in names that were proposed during the election and even mentions his National Championship prediction between Merrill’s Alma Mater The University of Alabama and The University of Georgia.
Subscribe to the Yellowhammer Radio Presents The Ford Faction podcast on iTunes or Stitcher.
Moore’s motion denied, Doug Jones officially certified as Alabama’s Senate winner
(Doug Jones for Senate/Facebook)
Despite multiple attempts from Republican Roy Moore’s campaign to offer objections to the December special election’s results, Alabama Governor Kay Ivey and Secretary of State John Merrill have officially certified Democrat Doug Jones the winner.
Late Wednesday night, Moore filed a lawsuit in an attempt to delay Alabama officials from declaring Jones’ victory, due to irregularities and requested a fraud investigation.
Montgomery Circuit Judge Johnny Hardwick denied the motion Thursday.
Secretary Merrill and representatives from multiple Alabama Republican Party chapters say they found no evidence of fraud.
Jeannie Negrón Faherty, Executive Director of the Jefferson County Republican Party, says “At no time were there any reports of voter fraud, nor did any of our officials witness anything suspicious in nature.”
Roy Moore campaign claims ‘election fraud’ in his recent defeat
(Judge Roy Moore for U.S. Senate/Facebook)
Late Wednesday evening, the U.S. Senate campaign for former Alabama Supreme Court Chief Justice Roy Moore announced it had filed a complaint on behalf of Moore calling on the certification of the December 12 special election to be delayed until a fraud investigation can take place.
According to a press release, the complaint was filed earlier in the day in the Circuit Court of Montgomery and called on Alabama Secretary of State John Merrill to delay the certification.
“The purpose of the complaint is to preserve evidence of potential election fraud and to postpone the certification of Alabama’s Special Election by Secretary of State John Merrill until a thorough investigation of potential election fraud, that improperly altered the outcome of this election, is conducted,” the statement read.
The campaign cites “three national Election Integrity experts” who have concluded fraud took place in the December 12 election.
“The election experts, who submitted affidavits in the complaint, agree that the irregularities in 20 precincts of Jefferson County alone are enough to reverse the outcome of the election,” the release from the campaign said. “Richard Charnin, who holds three degrees in applied mathematics, and who has written four books on election fraud, calculates the probability of the election results in these precincts happening naturally is ‘less than one in 15 billion.'”
Moore, the Republican Party’s nominee in that U.S. Senate special election, was defeated by former Clinton U.S. Attorney Doug Jones by a nearly 23,000-vote margin.
Moore offered the following remarks, which accompanied the campaign’s release:
“It’s appalling that the Democrat Senate Majority PAC and the Republican Senate Leadership Fund both spent millions to run false and malicious ads against me in this campaign.”
“This is not a Republican or Democrat issue as election integrity should matter to everyone,” said Moore. “We call on Secretary of State Merrill to delay certification until there is a thorough investigation of what three independent election experts agree took place: election fraud sufficient to overturn the outcome of the election.”
Jeff Poor is a graduate of Auburn University and works as the editor of Breitbart TV. Follow Jeff on Twitter @jeff_poor.
Jeremy Beaman: Secretary of State John Merrill offered stability in a turbulent election
Our recent special election was tumultuous and highly partisan. Thankfully, Secretary of State John Merrill who was in charge the whole thing, handled it the with care, maintaining the integrity of the electoral process.
Merrill, a Republican who endorsed Roy Moore, kept his own politics out of it and did an excellent job of reminding people of their right to vote, encouraging them to register and to get involved. He also did well to inform the public of what his office was doing during the campaign, whetherclarifying inaccurate campaign ads or alleged voter fraud.
Perhaps most importantly, Merrill demonstrated a real respect for the electoral process.
“We applaud this young man’s energy, excitement, and enthusiasm for the electoral process and we are always encouraged when we observe Alabamians who are actively engaged in campaigns and elections in our state,” Merrill said in a news release today, responding to an accusation of voter fraud against a Jones supporter.
He determined that the individual in question voted legally. Though Merrill’s politics are different, he showed appreciation for the man for involving himself in determining the state’s future.
Perhaps Merrill was just “doing his job” and doesn’t deserve praise but in Alabama, a state-wide elected official just doing his job is what some consider a luxury.
It’s important to remember that public officials can be politically active and still fulfill their duties in a non-partisan way.
(Take this article over to social media and start a conversation with your family and friends)
Ridiculous: Liberal group names Alabama Secretary of State Merrill to ‘Voter Suppression Hall of Shame’
A liberal group founded by former Missouri Secretary of State Jason Kander has named Alabama Secretary of State John Merrill to its “Voter Suppression Wall of Shame.”
Citing Alabama’s voter identification law and former Gov. Robert Bentley’s decision to close some driver’s license offices, Let America Vote accuses Merrill of trying to block black Alabamians from exercising their right to vote.
“In a state with a long history of voter suppression, Alabama Secretary of State John Merrill has used his time in office to roll back the state’s progress on voting rights,” Kander said in a statement. “Merrill supported the decision to close DMVs in African-American neighborhoods in Alabama after the state implemented an extreme photo ID law — a textbook case of voter suppression. Alabamians deserve a secretary of state who is a champion of voting rights, like the heroes who risked their lives in Selma 50 years ago. Secretary John Merrill deserves a prominent place in the Voter Suppression Hall of Shame.”
Merrill responded by calling the designation “hilarious … especially by somebody without any credibility like Jason Kander.”
Merrill said Alabama has more than 3.3 million registered voters, up 865,107 since he took office.
“I’ve registered more people to vote than he did in his entire tenure as secretary of state in Missouri,” he said.
Kander narrowly lost a race for the U.S. Senate last year and then launched Let America Vote in February. Since then, he’s been busy shaming his former colleagues across the country. Merrill is the fifth secretary of state named to the Wall of Shame. That list includes Kansas Secretary of State Kris Kobach, whose efforts to prosecute voter fraud have made him a lightning rod among liberal activist organizations.
Let America Vote also has called out five state legislators across the country.
Requiring a photo ID at the polls is hugely controversial among progressive activists but much less so among the public. A Gallup poll last year found that 80 percent of Americans support photo ID laws. That included healthy majorities in every region, among all demographic groups and among Republicans, Democrats and independents.
Austin Laufersweiler, a spokesman for Let America Vote, cited a lawsuit filed earlier this year by the NAACP Legal Defense Fund claiming that 118,000 registered voters did not have a valid photo ID. The organization derived that estimate by cross-referencing the registered voter list with databases of Alabamians with passports, driver’s licenses, military IDs and non-driver’s license IDs.
In addition, Laufersweiler pointed to a statement Merrill made last year in an interview with a documentary filmmaker in which he called voting a “privilege.” The comment was in the context of Merrill’s opposition to automatically registering everyone who turns 18. He said there should be no impediment to registering but that people who want to vote should show initiative by signing up.
Laufersweiler cited news reports of voters complaining about difficulties casting ballots in Tuesday’s special election for the U.S. Senate because their IDs did not match their home addresses or because they improperly had been put on the “inactive” voter list.
Despite overlapping tenures as secretaries of state, Merrill said he has not met Kander. He said Kander was not active in the National Association of Secretaries of State.
Merrill noted that the special election won by Democrat Doug Jones featured massive turnout for a single-race contest — about 40 percent. Black voters — the supposed targets of Merrill’s voter-suppression campaign — made up a record share of that total.
“Nobody’s been denied the right to vote in Alabama since the voter ID law took effect,” Merrill said. “That argument is made by people who are uninformed or ill-informed.”
Laufersweiler said via email that, notwithstanding the heavy black turnout, elections officials made it difficult.
“There are reports of numerous complaints of voters being scrutinized over their IDs and many voters were improperly placed on the ‘inactive’ list and were asked for their county of birth,” he wrote. “These are all election administration issues that Secretary Merrill is responsible for. Secretary Merrill belongs on the list until he commits to making sure that all Alabamians have an equal opportunity to register and cast their ballot in elections.”
In addition to a driver’s license, the state accepts nine other forms of ID. If a voter does not have an ID, he or she can receive a photo voter ID card for free from the state. Merrill said the state has issued a relatively small number of those cards, about 10,000, a sign that most voters already have ID.
And if a voter comes to the polls and does not have identification, he or she can cast a provisional ballot. That vote counts if the voter can prove he or she is a valid voter within three days.
Merrill said his office also sends a van around the state to help make sure people can register and have ID. It visits every county at least once a year, he said.
“We want to make it as easy as possible to vote and as hard as possible to cheat,” he said.
Brendan Kirby is senior political reporter at LifeZette.com and a Yellowhammer contributor. He also is the author of“Wicked Mobile.”Follow him onTwitter.
Pro-Jones group warns ‘your vote is public record’ in misleading ad
A political ad being broadcast throughout the state warns Alabama voters that “your community will know” whether you do anything to keep Roy Moore from winning the Senate election next Tuesday.
Why this matters: The ad, paid for by a group called “Highway 31,” states that your vote is public record. The ad’s language is misleading. The candidate you choose to vote for is never kept for public record, and indeed is never known by anybody but you, unless you choose to tell people.
— “If you don’t vote and Roy Moore – a child predator – wins, could you live with that?” the ad asks. “Your vote is public record, and your community will know whether or not you helped stop Roy Moore. On Tuesday, December 12, vote for Doug Jones for Senate.”
— Alabama Secretary of State John Merrill called the ad a “targeted effort to misinform and confuse voters” in a statement Tuesday.
— “No individual voting record is made available to anyone at any time, including the voter who cast the ballot,” Merrill also said.
— The ad distorts this truth: There is a public record of whether or not you vote, but not for whom you cast your ballot.
— The Jones campaign could not be immediately reached for comment regarding the ad.
Alabama Voters Being Pursued for Illegal Crossover Voting
According to a report by the Florence Times Daily, Alabama Secretary of State John Merrill has stated that his office has identified 674 people who voted in the Democrat primary in August and then voted again the Republican runoff in for the U.S. Senate race in September—which is a violation of Alabama law.
This past year, the Alabama Legislature passed a law prohibiting such “crossover voting between primaries and runoffs, and the violation is a felony punishable by more than one year in prison and a $15,000 fine.
“It’s the law. We’re going to enforce the law. We’re not bullying anybody. We’re enforcing the law,” Merrill commented to the Associated Press.
Merrill also expressed concerns that some poll workers may not be enforcing the law, and indicated that they should likewise be held accountable.
Merrill’s office identified the violators to probate judges across the state.
Alabama Among 21 States Targeted by Russian Hackers
According to The Hill, the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) notified 21 states on Friday that Russia attempted to hack their election systems prior to the 2016 election. Alabama is one of those states.
In many of the cases, DHS only saw preparations for hacking, such as scanning for potential modes of attack. Since voting machines are not connected to the internet, the only systems vulnerable to attack would be those that house voter roles. However, there was no evidence discovered that suggests Russia altered votes or vote totals in any way.
Alabama Secretary of State John Merrill released a statement after being notified of the attempted hack.
“Over the course if the election season, the MS-ISAC’s (Multi-State Information Sharing and Analysis Center) Albert network monitoring service identified scanning activity from suspicious IP addresses against 21 states. In Alabama, DHS and MS-ISAC observed suspicious traffic from IP addresses on Alabama state networks, but those IP addresses were thwarted from conducting any successful breach…This information shows Alabama’s system protections and preparations were successful in thwarting attempted hackers from breaching state networks and voting systems during the attacks.”
Other states included in the DHS report are California, Colorado, Florida, and Minnesota. DHS has not released a full list of the states that were affected. However, the intelligence community does not believe that any of these state’s vote totals were altered in any way to impact the outcome of the election.
Intelligence officials do believe that Russian hackers attacked the Democratic National Committee and other political officials in an attempt to influence the election. Documents obtained from these targets may have been leaked to the public to sway voter opinion of several candidates.
While state officials and lawmakers are relieved that the systems put in place to protect our election systems did just that, some question why it took DHS so long to notify the various states. Lawmakers acknowledge that we need to remain aware of the evolving threats to our national security and take appropriate action to thwart any cyberattack in the future.
“While it is encouraging that our efforts to protect Alabamians’ data have proven to be successful, we must remain vigilant and prepared for the constantly evolving threats to our voting systems and the integrity of those processes. We will utilize every resource available to ensure we are protecting the data of all Alabamians,” said Secretary Merrill.
Lawsuit Challenges Racial Makeup of Alabama Courts
Last week, a federal judge rejected motions to dismiss a lawsuit filed against the state of Alabama and Secretary of State John Merrill by the NAACP and the Lawyer’s Committee for Civil Rights Under Law. The suit alleges that the current system used to elect state judges disenfranchises black voters. Instead of holding statewide elections for the state’s 19 appellate judges, the groups want Alabama to create districts in which judges are elected.
Alabama has three appellate courts—the state Supreme Court, Court of Criminal Appeals and Court of Civil Appeals. One-quarter of Alabama’s population is black, and while all 19 of the judges in those courts are white, they were elected by the people of Alabama.
In his assessment of the lawsuit, District Judge W. Keith Watkins claimed that the state’s desire to maintain the current system cannot outweigh its responsibility to ensure that every group has the right to vote.
“Defendants appear to argue that the degree to which Alabama’s electoral system may have diluted the black vote is irrelevant because, no matter how extreme the vote dilution, the interest of minority citizens to participate in the democratic process can never outweigh the state’s interest in maintaining the status quo.”
Alabama is one of only five states that holds statewide elections for appellate courts using partisan elections. Other states use a variety of ways to elect appellate judges, from gubernatorial appointment to nonpartisan elections.
According to the motion filed by Secretary of State John Merrill, the 11th Circuit Court of Appeals has ruled that states are not required to create districts for judicial elections. Merrill’s motion argues that since judges rule on issues across the entire state, they should be elected in statewide elections.
While Merrill could not comment on the lawsuit, he did tell Yellowhammer that his goal is to register as many people to vote in Alabama as possible. As I’ve said before, Merrill stated, “We want to ensure that each and evey eligible U.S. citizen that’s a resident of our state is registered to vote and has a photo I.D.”
Secretary of State John Merrill’s office published a news release on Thursday announcing a new online filing tool for Alabama businesses. It allows businesses to file documentation online to the Secretary of State’s office and the County Probate Judge’s office. Baldwin County Probate Judge Tim Russell collaborated with the Secretary of State’s office on the project.
“Baldwin County is pleased to be the first in another area. We pride ourselves on being an example to the other 66 counties in the state as to how to efficiently and effectively serve the needs of all our residents,” said Judge Russell.
Secretary Merrill has made it a goal of his administration to reduce the bureaucratic red tape that has stood in the way of local businesses. Upon entering office, Merrill learned that state business filings were being delayed more than 30 weeks from the time of receipt. Merrill’s office adopted a significant change, requiring all checks to be deposited on the same date that they are received by the Secretary of State’s office. With this change, Alabamians were able to save $1.7 million.
“Any opportunity we have to provide expedited services keeping Alabamians at work and reducing red tape we want to take advantage of those opportunities,” said Secretary Merrill.
However, Merrill and others sought to make the process even easier.
“We needed to continue to modernize the process if we wanted to truly use all of the resources available to us. The next step was taking the process online; empowering Alabamians to spend more time focusing on the development of their business which in turn will bring more economic growth to our great state. We want the people of Alabama to know that Alabama no longer moves at the speed of government, but now it moves at the speed of business.”
The online tool is currently available for domestic liability filings. Additional services such as domestic business/nonprofit corporations, LP’s, and professional associations are to be included after a trial period.
Alabama has a new law that stops crossover voting in the upcoming elections. The idea behind the law is to prevent voters from crossing from one party to another and deliberately changing the outcome of the other party’s races.
In a statement to Yellowhammer News, Secretary of State John Merrill said the legislation his office is charged implementing was proposed by Senator Tom Whatley and Representative Arnold Mooney. The new law states:
“If an elector votes in a primary election, he or she may vote in a subsequent primary runoff election only if he or she voted in the primary election of the same political party for which the runoff election is being held. For those persons who did not vote in a Primary Election, they may choose either party’s ballot in a Primary Run-Off Election.”
For instance, someone who votes in the Republican party’s primary election cannot turn around and vote in the Democratic party’s run-off. That person would have to vote in the Republican runoff.
In the past, cross party voting has been prohibited, but this is the first time that the state has implemented this particular law. The law went into effect July 1 and will, therefore, be in force during the August 15 special election, if a run off is required. The law will not affect the general election scheduled for December 12.
New Alabama Law Makes It Easier for Past Felons to Vote, but D.C. Activists Says It’s Not Enough
Tuesday afternoon, a Washington D.C. based public interest group will ask a federal judge to force the state of Alabama to reinstate voting rights to some convicted felons immediately. The Campaign Legal Center (CLC) is hoping that Judge Keith Watkins will grant an injunction requiring Secretary of State John Merrill to educate these felons on their newly-gained right to vote.
The case comes after Governor Kay Ivey signed HB 282 in May, listing 46 felonies that will cause an otherwise eligible voter to lose their right to vote. These 46 felonies include murder, drug trafficking, and other violent crimes. Previously, the state restricted the voting rights of anyone who committed “crimes of moral turpitude.” However, until May, the definition of this standard has been hotly disputed.
Alabama Secretary of State John Merrill explained to Yellowhammer that, previously, there was no clear definition for moral turpitude. As a result, different voter registrars interpreted the term’s meaning differently, creating inconsistent rules with who was allowed to vote and who wasn’t—all depending on how individual registrars interpreted the term.
“After I became Secretary of State, I set out to fix this,” Merrill said. To that end, he assembled a study committee with a large cross-section of experts that met for nine months, seeking the most sensible ways to reassimilate those who’d paid for their crimes. The bill Governor Ivey just signed into law was the result of that effort, and Merrill believes it’s created a far more equitable set of rules.
“We’re thrilled because we clearly defined moral turpitude and gave registrars a list of the crimes associated with that designation, so now they know who can register and who can’t. As a result, our new law ensures that no one’s rights are being violated because we have a straightforward process by which past offenders can have their voting privileges restored. My ultimate goal is to ensure that every eligible U.S. citizen that’s a resident of Alabama is registered to vote and has a photo ID, and this law does that.”
Nevertheless, The CLC hopes to force Merrill to do more. They claim that many felons who are now eligible to vote do not even know that the new legislation has been passed. The CLC hopes the court will force Secretary Merrill to include the updated eligibility requirements on voter registration forms, and the AlabamaVotes.gov website.
Feds Drop Request For Voter Info After Push-Back from States
After pushback and inquiries from across the country, the Federal Election Commission is telling states to hold off on fulfilling its request for voter data following a lawsuit from the Electronic Privacy Information Center. EPIC filed its lawsuit on June 28 to stop the collection of voter information, which came as a result of President Donald Trump’s doubts regarding voter integrity in recent elections.
Trump created the new commission on voter data based on his belief that three to five million people voted illegally in the 2016 presidential election. The FEC asked all fifty states to turn over their voting records so possible fraud in the 2016 presidential election can be investigated.
Kansas Secretary of State Kris Kobach, vice chairman of the FEC, wanted every state to turn over voters’ names, birthdays, and the last four digits of their Social Security numbers, as well as their voting history the last ten years. Additionally, he requested reports of any election-related criminal convictions since the year 2000.
After the request, Alabama Secretary of State John Merrill (R) wanted to make sure submitting any information was in the best interest of Alabamians. “We obviously want to be as helpful as possible in cooperating with Secretary Kobach, who’s a personal friend, a great leader, and one of the country’s premier advocates of voter integrity,” he told Yellowhammer. “However, we will not put the citizens of Alabama in a vulnerable position. We will not leave them with any level of concern about their personal information being shared with the federal government, or any other entity for that matter. We simply will not do that!”
Alabama Secretary of State John Merrill Asking Questions Before Giving Feds Voter’s Info
The Federal Election Commission (FEC) has asked all fifty states to turn over their voting records so possible fraud in the 2016 presidential election can be investigated. Before complying, Alabama Secretary of State John Merrill is making sure that doing so is in the best interest of the citizens of the Yellowhammer State.
Kansas Secretary of State Kris Kobach—vice chairman of the FEC—wants every state to turn over voters’ names, birthdays, and the last four digits of their Social Security numbers, as well as their voting history the last ten years. Additionally, he’s requesting reports of any election-related criminal convictions since the year 2000.
When Yellowhammer asked Secretary of State John Merrill how he’s responding to this request, he had this to say:
We obviously want to be as helpful as possibe in cooperating with Secretary Kobach, who’s a personal friend, a great leader, and one of the country’s premier advocates of voter integrity. However, we will not put the citizens of Alabama in a vulnerable position. We will not leave them with any level of concern about their personal information being shared with the federal government, or any other entity for that matter. We simply will not do that!
When asked how he’s responding to the request, Secretary Merrill replied:
We’ve responded to the inquiry with a list of our own questions because we must be assured this process is beneficial to the citizens of Alabama. We will make sure those questions are answered to our satisfaction before we have additional conversations, or before they should hope that we would share any information with them. And, as we know, often time initial questions lead to secondary and tertiary questions that may also arise, so we will patiently conduct our due diligence and be as thorough as we need to be to gain these assurances.
Secretary Merrill concluded, saying:
This is the bottom line: we’re not going to share any information with anyone that’s not already publically available to anyone else that would hope to purchase it from our office.
“Strange for Senate” Explains Campaign Finance Questions
This week in Montgomery, questions emerged regarding the “Strange for Senate” campaign’s compliance with Alabama’s state campaign laws.
The issue in question was one of funds that were moved from Luther Strange’s U.S. Senate campaign account to his Alabama Attorney General campaign account. Specifically, transfers between campaigns can’t exceed $1,000 and the two transactions in question totaled $1,418.27, fueling the questions about whether or not Alabama’s campaign law was broken.
Upon hearing these rumblings, Yellowhammer contacted the Senator’s campaign office. They connected us with Megan Newton and Ben Ginsberg, lawyers from Jones Day that are tasked with ensuring the Senator’s compliance with Federal Elections Commission laws. Mrs. Newton explained that the actions in question were actually steps the Senator took to comply with federal campaign laws.
As she pointed out, Senator Strange’s U.S. Senate campaign purchased two domain names from his state Attorney General’s campaign. Federal law requires that such purchases be recorded, and that’s what occurred. In other words, it wasn’t a transfer of contributions between campaigns, it was an accounting entry for a transaction, which the federal law requires.
Yellowhammer also contacted Alabama’s Secretary of State, John Merrill, who provided us with the following statement:
The Alabama Secretary of State’s Office is the agency tasked with receipt and collection of all campaign finance filings from state, county, and certain local officials. Once these reports are collected, Secretary of State staff review the reports for errors, issues, or concerns. When issues are identified, a request for a formal review is forwarded to the Alabama Ethics Commission or the Alabama Attorney General’s Office.
At the completion of the review performed by our team, potential concerns with Senator Strange’s filing were identified. As is our normal practice, it was reported to the appropriate agency. This referral does not attempt to assign, insinuate, or indicate guilt nor act as an indictment of Senator Strange’s actions regarding the filing of his report.
Senator Strange and his team believe Federal law preempts contributions to his Alabama Principal Campaign Committee for Attorney General. With that said, in the Secretary of State’s Office, we have a responsibility to follow the law and will continue to address issues and forward items of concern as they are identified.
Our office will refer any future questions regarding this issue to the Alabama Ethics Commission as the body tasked by the Alabama Legislature to rule on these matters.
While the response from the Ethics Commission is unknown at this time, Mr. Ginsberg further explained that federal law supersedes state law and the transaction took place to keep the Senate campaign in compliance with federal law.
As he stated: “It is legally incorrect for anyone to suggest that a violation of law has occurred here. Senator Strange’s campaign closely followed federal law by purchasing two web domains at fair market value from his state campaign committee. This was an asset purchase, not a contribution. In fact, not only was this purchase legal, it was required under federal law to avoid his Senate campaign receiving a prohibited contribution from a non-federal source. Federal law preempts state law for all matters involving campaign contributions and expenditures.”
State releases names of 92 candidates and PACs that failed to file annual campaign reports
Alabama Secretary of State John Merrill says that the days of candidates failing to comply with state campaign reporting laws are over. To prove it, he just released the names of 92 violators that have not yet submitted annual campaign finance reports for 2016.
“Our intention in releasing these names to the public is to further encourage candidates and PACs to bring their filings into compliance allowing the citizens of our state to review the extent of their fiscal responsibility,” Merrill said.
Annual reports were due on January 31. All names published by Secretary Merrill have also been turned in to the Attorney General’s Office and Ethics Commission.
Alabama law requires any candidate or political action committee that raises or spends $1,000 in a campaign year to submit a report to the state. Currently, there are no penalties for those who have not followed the rule, though the upcoming election season will soon bring significant changes.
According to the Secretary of State’s office, administrative penalties will be issued in the amounts of $300 (or 10% of contributions or expenditures not reported) for first time offenders, $600 (or 15% of contributions or expenditures not reported) for second time offenders, and $1,200 (or 20% of contributions or expenditures not reported) for third and subsequent offences respectively. Fines will be assessed and issued when candidates or PACs fail to meet the filing deadline.
You can view the names released by Secretary Merrill here.
Some Alabama Democrats reportedly considering a run for Senate
As several Republicans prepare to compete for the U.S. Senate seat vacated by Alabamian Jeff Sessions, rumors of Democrats considering a bid have been quiet. However, with weeks left until candidate qualifying ends, voters are now beginning to learn who might wage a long-shot fight for the office.
The Montgomery Advertiser reported on Sunday that State Reps. Elaine Beech (D-Chatom), Chris England (D-Tuscaloosa), and Craig Ford (D-Gadsden) are all considering a run.
Former House Minority Leader Ford indicated that he would need to run polling before making an announcement, while Rep. Beech said that she is still discussing the matter with her family. Rep. England said he is “seriously considering” a bid.
Running for any statewide office in Alabama is likely to be an uphill battle for any left-leaning candidate where the President won in November with 63 percent of the vote.
Republicans running for the seat so far include appointed Senator Luther Strange, ousted Alabama Chief Justice Roy Moore, State Rep. Ed Henry, and Alabama Christian Coalition leader Randy Brinson.
The special election for the U.S. Senate seat will be held on December 12, 2017, according to an executive order issued by Governor Kay Ivey. The new date for the primary election is August 15, with a possible runoff on September 26.
Alabama Secretary of State John Merrill announced in April that the deadline to qualify with a major political party is Wednesday, May 17 at 5:00 p.m. The deadline for minor party and independent candidates is Tuesday, August 15 by 5:00 p.m.