Alabama’s chief elections official reacts to SPLC’s $100M voter education pledge

Published: Dec. 6, 2021 at 6:09 PM CST
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MONTGOMERY, Ala. (WSFA) - The Southern Poverty Law Center is pledging $100 million toward helping to improve voter participation throughout the South with the funds specifically going toward the Vote Your Voice program that allocates money to different organizations.

“Voter turnout work is extremely important. It’s also very time and labor-intensive,” said Seth Levi, the SPCL’s chief strategy officer. “So we really wanted to help sustain these groups for the next decade, provide them plenty of runway and stability that they knew that funding would be there, year after year.”

Alabama Secretary of State John Merrill, however, believes the funding will go toward liberal organizations and thinks the scope of those benefiting from the funds will be too narrow.

“The reason I’m so disappointed is that it’s not an attempt to contact all voters, or to make sure that all voters participate in the process,” said Merrill. “It is a targeted effort to ensure that liberal special interest groups that have been targeted by the SPLC are identified and motivated to go to the polls.”

Levi says compared to other southern states, Alabama is lacking.

“There is no early voting in Alabama, whereas most all of our neighboring states, like Georgia and Florida, have early voting,” Levi explained, “and it’s one of the few states still in the nation that has restrictions on no-excuse absentee voting.”

Alabama does have its own version of early voting, Merrill contends.

“As a matter of fact, we have 55 days for registered voters to participate in an early voting process where they can make application and participate through the absentee process by mail, or they can do so in person at the absentee election manager’s office, which in almost every county is the circuit clerk’s office,” the state’s chief elections official said. “There’s no encumbrance to them to be able to do.”

Merrill also says no-excuse absentee voting would have to be implemented by the state legislature.

Both the SPLC and Merrill say they will continue to improve voter education, in their own way.

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