Photo courtesy of the Alabama Secretary of State Facebook page.
Alabama Secretary of State John Merrill, whose office oversees elections, told TYT Sunday that ballot access in Tuesday’s special Senate election between Roy Moore and Doug Jones should be “fine” and that he has implemented changes to reduce long wait times seen in previous elections.
Merrill has continued to support Moore, a fellow Republican, despite sexual misconduct allegations against Moore that have led many in their party—including Sen. Richard Shelby (R-Ala.)—to withdraw support.
In an interview with TYT, Merrill addressed concerns about Alabamians being able to vote. The state suffers from a number of well-publicized hurdles to voter registration, including voter ID laws and closure of some voter-registration sites disproportionately affecting African American voters.
Alabama was freed to enact such measures, some of which Merrill has overseen, after the Supreme Court struck down certain voting-rights protections in 2013. Merrill took office in 2015, and ballot access was an issue in the 2016 election.
Historically, one issue regarding ballot access has been long lines—which can turn away would-be voters who have to work, tend for children, or are physically infirm. Long lines such as those reported last year in Alabama are not uncommon in presidential-election years and are much more rare in off years, when interest and awareness are lower.
Asked whether he anticipates problems with ballot access in Tuesday’s voting, Merrill said, “No. I think we’re gonna be fine. We always print more ballots than we actually need. And if we have a situation that arises, then typically we’re going to be able to identify that during the day so we can give it attention during the day. We actually have the capability of printing and delivering more ballots throughout the day if necessary.”
Merrill said he wasn’t claiming the state hasn’t had problems with long lines. “I didn’t say that,” he said. “One of the things that we have done that has changed the paradigm for our people when it comes to long lines is we have actually introduced electronic poll books. We have some communities that use the electronic poll book . . . It’s like an iPad, and what you do is you utilize the electronic poll book to check in. Your driver’s license is able to be scanned, and it enables the voter to check in at a faster rate than they normally would because otherwise it would be done manually. . . . It reduces wait time between 60 and 70 percent.”
With a wide range of polling predictions going into the election, political observers in both parties are eyeing the possibility of results close enough to require a recount. Merrill, however, stressed how difficult it can be to trigger a recount.
“A recount cannot just be ordered because somebody felt like there needed to be one. Somebody needs to pay for it [in that case],” Merrill said.
He said the only scenario in which state law triggers an automatic recount is when the vote margin between the top two candidates is “less than one-tenth of one percent if memory serves.” Any recount would be overseen by Merrill’s office.