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Secretary Merrill discusses voter registration at Kiwanis

Alabama secretary of state John Merrill served as Rep. Chris Sells’ guest Tuesday at the weekly meeting of the Greenville Kiwanis Club.

Merrill spoke to Kiwanis members about the various duties and responsibilities of the secretary of state’s office, as well as the strides the office has made during his time in office.

Chief among those, Merrill said, were matters pertaining to state elections and voter registration.

“One of the commitments we made is that we want to ensure that each and every eligible U.S. citizen that is a resident of Alabama is registered to vote and has a photo ID so they can participate in the electoral process at the level that they desire,” Merrill said.

To that end, Merrill and his office reached out to all 140 members of the state legislature for three locations that would serve as ideal voting sites.

He also asked for community events to attend—including Chilton County’s Peach Festival, the Peanut Butter Festival in Brundidge, Dothan’s Peanut Festival, the Magic City Classic in Birmingham and the Rattlesnake Rodeo in Opp, to name a few.

“We’re not trying to make people go somewhere,” Merrill said.  “We’re trying to met them where they are.”

Merrill’s most publicized efforts to boost awareness of voter registration date back to 2015, in which he reached out to Alabama head football coach Nick Saban and Auburn football coach Gus Malzahn.  He asked the pair to promote voter registration in a commercial, and their likeness was also used on posters distributed across the state.

In 2016, heavyweight boxing champ and Tuscaloosa native Deontay Wilder and NBA legend Charles Barkley, an Auburn alumnus and Leeds native, to do the same.

This year, Jessica Procter, Miss Alabama 2017, and Mae Jemison, Decatur native and the first African American woman to travel in space, were the faces of the campaign.

The secretary of state’s efforts also include the introduction of a mobile app for Apple and Android devices that redirect to the state’s website for voter registration.

A mobile device and four minutes are all residents need to complete the voter registration process.

“We’re in the 21st century, and we need to start acting like it,” Merill said.

“As long as the credibility and integrity of the process will not be compromised when we’re using these new resources, we need to take advantage of each and every option we can to make sure that our people can benefit from the services we provide.”

Merrill said one of his biggest priorities as secretary of state is combating the notion that the state is seeking to suppress the votes of certain demographics within the state.

“We still have individuals who will say that voter ID laws were designed to be implemented to keep certain groups of people from being able to be registered to vote or being able to participate at the level they want to,” Merrill said.

“What we have done, and what we will continue to do, is we will go to people’s homes and give them IDs.  We’ve done that on multiple occasions.  And I’ve had people say ‘that’s dumb, because if you do it for one you have to do it for everybody.’ I’m going to do everything within my power to ensure that each and every U.S. citizen that is a resident of Alabama is registered to vote and has a photo ID, and I’ll do whatever it takes to make that happen.  Sometimes in Alabama we have to try a little bit harder, because there are people who already think we’re trying to mistreat folks all the time.  And again, they’re entitled to their own opinion, but they’re not entitled to their own facts.”