Taking aim at what he considered to be liberal mandates trampling on states rights, Secretary of State John Merrill said Thursday a number of election reforms being pushed now in Congress, such as early voting and same-day registration, are not needed in Alabama.
Merrill spoke Thursday to the Walker County Republican Party at Bevill State Community College in Jasper.
He said his office was continuing effort to promote voter registration and registration for photo ID cards.
"Our efforts continue to break records at the state and national level," he said. Since he took office in 2015, a total of 1,225,755 new voters have been registered.
"We now have a record 3,469,610 registered voters in Alabama. No state in the union has done what we've done per capita since I've been your secretary of state," he said, adding more than 750,000 people have been removed from the voter rolls.
He said a bill pushed by Democrats in Congress in Congress, HR 1, says if one has been registered to vote, "you need to stay on there until the Lord comes back." Merrill recently testified a homeland security committee in Congress about the bill.
U.S. Sen. Doug Jones of Alabama said in a release Wednesday that a companion bill had passed the House. Among other things, he said the bill, also known as the For the People Act, "expands access to the ballot box by taking aim at institutional barriers to voting, such as cumbersome registration systems, limited voting hours and many other roadblocks. The bill creates automatic voter registration across the country, ensures that individuals who have completed felony sentences have their full rights restored, expands voting by mail, promotes early voting and online voter registration and modernizes the U.S. voting system."
"We're not going to be doing it in Alabama," Merrill said. "We want our voter rolls to be at the highest level of integrity and credibility they can possibly possess. The only way we can have safe, secure and fair elections is to insure we update our voter rolls and make sure they are as current as they can possibly be." He said the state has had six convictions on voter fraud, and three elections have been overturned.
He said during the congressional hearing, he heard that the bill's supporters would like to have automatic voter registration, and registration the day of an election, or same day registration. He said they want mail-in voting and early voting.
Merrill said things done spelled out in the Constitution come under the 10th Amendment in the Bill of Rights, meaning "those are left to the states - commonly referred to as states rights." He added, "Our states right is to say no to things we don't want to be a part of, and we're going to continue to have that position." He said it is important to have "local control of local elections. What we don't need is people telling us what we need to do."
He referred to Jones' release pushing the bill, saying, "I guess he's just trying to find some press. But don't tell us what we need to do when it comes to registering people to vote." He said 96 percent of all eligible African-Americans in the state are registered to vote, while 91 percent of white Alabamians are registered; 94 percent of all Alabamians are registered.
States with early voting have shown no significant increase in voting on the day of the election, compared to what they add from early voting - just having some vote before the election. Also, election costs have increased in those states, he said, saying it was a waste of money - and that his office had saved $2,619,021 as of March 22 in his office since taking office.
He said early efforts at early voting in Alabama years ago also had similar problems.
"And I'm not saying early voting isn't beneficial for some states and some places. But it is that state's decision. It shouldn't be something dictated from Washington," he said.
He said Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell told him in February the bill would be "DOA" if it arrived in the Senate.
As for same-day voter registration, officials would possibly have to spend weeks in disputed elections on whether the people who voted on Election Day were actually legally registered and living in that area.
He also look aim at liberals.
"We have got to make sure that we are standing up to these liberals, whether they are Democrats or they are just so enlightened that they know more than we do. And we have to tell them why we are on certain issues, like early voting," he said.
He said people can register to vote on the office's mobile app. He also advocated more use of electronic means whan possible, such as electronic poll books, electronic registration for business services and electronic voter registration. He said liberal proposals that are claimed will improve voter registration won't work as records are being set. He projected the General Election for president in November 2020 will amount to 2.5 million voters, topping a 2016 record of 2.1 million.