John Merrill (politician)

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John Merrill
53rd Secretary of State of Alabama
Assumed office
January 19, 2015
Governor Robert Bentley
Kay Ivey
Preceded by James Bennett
Member of the Alabama House of Representatives
from the 62nd district
In office
2010–2014
Preceded by Gerald Allen
Succeeded by Rich Wingo
Personal details
Born (1963-11-12) November 12, 1963 (age 54)
Wedowee, Alabama, U.S.
Political party Republican
Democratic (formerly)
Spouse(s) Cindy
Children 2
Education University of Alabama (B.A.)

John Harold Merrill (born November 12, 1963) is an American politician serving as the 53rd and current Secretary of State of Alabama since 2015. He is a member of the Republican Party.

Early life[edit]

Merrill was born in Wedowee, Alabama, and raised in Heflin, Alabama. His father served as the Cleburn County Circuit Clerk and a probate judge. He graduated from Cleburne County High School and the University of Alabama. Merrill interned for the United States Congress from May to July 1983, where he met U.S. Representative William Flynt Nichols, who became his mentor. Merrill interned for U.S. Senator Howell Heflin in 1984. He served as the president of the University of Alabama's Student Government Association from 1986 to 1987.[1]

Career[edit]

Merrill served as the spokesperson for the Tuscaloosa County School District, and as a Business Development Officer for the First Federal Bank in Tuscaloosa.[1] He was elected to represent the 62nd district in the Alabama House of Representatives in the 2010 elections having previously ran and lost for the same seat in 2002 as a Democrat.[2] He served in the Alabama House for a single term from 2010 through 2014.

Merrill has admitted to an inappropriate sexual relationship with a woman in 2010 and claims to have been the subject of a political smear because of his actions.[3]

Merrill announced in January 2013 that he would run for Secretary of State of Alabama in the 2014 elections.[2] In the Republican Party primary election in June 2014, Merrill finished in first, advancing to a runoff election in July,[4] which he won.[5] In the general election on November 3, 2014, he defeated Lula Albert-Kaigler, the Democratic Party nominee with more than 60% of the vote.[6] He succeeded James R. Bennett who had been appointed to the office to fill out the remainder of the term of the previous incumbent Beth Chapman.

Election oversight[edit]

(See also: Elections in Alabama)

Voter access[edit]

A 2016 study of the content and quality of Alabama's county voting and election websites found statewide problems with information they provide voters. Their evaluation of the relationship between voting systems and "demographic, socioeconomic, partisan, and participatory composition" of counties showed "limited voting and election information and are not in full compliance with accessibility, usability, and mobile readiness standards. Further, the extent to which voting and elections information is provided, is related to county composition."[7]

Voter ID[edit]

Merrill defended Alabama's 2011 law requiring Voter ID. But in a 2016 U.S. Court of Appeals decision the law was determined to be unconstitutional in response to a lawsuit by The League of Women Voters, and, blocked the law, which Alabama passed without federal approval. The law had required voters to furnish proof of citizenship when registering at the polls in an effort to prevent voter fraud, though some research finds the incidence of voter fraud is nearly non-existent.[8][9][10] The decision effectively struck down a rule that required voters in Alabama to provide proof they are United States citizens. Elsewhere, voters only need swear that they are citizens in order to cast a ballot.

Merrill applauded the 2013 Shelby County v. Holder[11] decision by the U.S. Supreme Court limiting federal poll monitors at state polling locations. However civil rights groups have protested them. The Greater Birmingham Ministries and the NAACP Legal Defense Fund filed a lawsuit in December 2015 saying the voter ID law is an "unfair barrier for voters who lack a valid photo ID and the resources or transportation necessary to get one." The law, they said, effectively obstructs many black and Hispanic citizens from voting.[citation needed] The Lawyers' Committee for Civil Rights Under Law said the "rolls back legislation that courageous Americans fought so hard for, even giving their lives in many cases, to ensure that all citizens can participate in our democracy. Today's decision threatens the promise of equal access to the ballot – especially when the majority of voters of color who voted last year, 65.8 percent, live in states covered by the Section 4 formula." According to the Advancement Project: "Threatens the promise of equal access to the ballot – especially when the majority of voters of color who voted last year, (2012) 65.8 percent, live in states (including Alabama) covered by (the law's provisions)." And, that "We have essentially lost an effective tool today to stave off voter suppression this year."[12]

Poll monitoring[edit]

Merrill was one of a coalition of U.S. leaders who traveled with Operation for Security and Cooperation in Europe, to Russia to monitor parliamentary polls there in September 2016.[13] While Merrill observed Russia's apparent "free and fair" voting procedures, the report to which he and others contributed found "serious irregularities during voting" and worse problems in ballot counting.[13]

Personal life[edit]

Merrill is a descendant of Hugh Davis Merrill, the former Lieutenant Governor of Alabama and Speaker of the Alabama House, Hugh Davis Merrill, Jr., who also served in the Alabama House, and Pelham Jones Merrill, who served in the Alabama House and fought in World War II.

Secretary Merrill has been married to the former Cindy Benford since 1987 & they have 2 children.[14]

Electoral history[edit]

Alabama House of Representatives 62nd District Republican Primary Election, 2010
Party Candidate Votes %
Republican John Merrill 3,262 56.12
Republican Jerry Tingle 2,551 43.88
Alabama House of Representatives 62nd District Election, 2010
Party Candidate Votes %
Republican John Merrill 11,658 86.66
Constitution Steven Kneussle 1,694 12.59
Write-ins Write-ins 100 0.74
Alabama Secretary of State Republican Primary Election, 2014
Party Candidate Votes %
Republican John Merrill 143,960 39.57
Republican Reese McKinney 139,763 38.42
Republican Jim Perdue 80,050 22.01
Alabama Secretary of State Republican Primary Runoff Election, 2014
Party Candidate Votes %
Republican John Merrill 108,740 53.14
Republican Reese McKinney 95,877 46.86
Alabama Secretary of State Election, 2014
Party Candidate Votes %
Republican John Merrill 733,298 64.27
Democratic Lula Albert-Kaigler 406,373 35.62
Write-ins Write-ins 1,271 0.11

References[edit]

  1. ^ a b "Doing what he has always wanted to do... Secretary of State - elect, John Merrill". AL.com. Retrieved January 22, 2015.
  2. ^ a b "State Rep. John Merrill announces he will run for Alabama secretary of state". AL.com. Retrieved January 21, 2015.
  3. ^ Madison, Underwood (February 5, 2015). "Alabama Secretary of State Denies Sexual Act Described in Documents Circulating on Web". Al.com.
  4. ^ "Alabama secretary of state, auditor's races headed to runoffs". AL.com. Retrieved January 22, 2015.
  5. ^ "Rep. John Merrill defeats Reese McKinney for Republican nomination for secretary of state". AL.com. Retrieved January 22, 2015.
  6. ^ "Alabama Local News - al.com". al.com. Retrieved January 21, 2015.
  7. ^ King, Bridget A.; Youngblood, Norman E. "E-government in Alabama: An analysis of county voting and election website content, usability, accessibility, and mobile readiness", Government Information Quarterly, May 29, 2016
  8. ^ "Debunking the Voter Fraud Myth". Brennan Center for Justice. Retrieved October 16, 2017.
  9. ^ Levitt, Justin. "A Comprehensive Investigation of Voter Impersonation Finds 31 Credible Incidents out of One Billion Ballots", The Washington Post, August 6, 2014
  10. ^ "Court Blocks Proof-Of-Citizenship Requirement For Voters In 3 States". NPR. September 10, 2016. Retrieved October 16, 2017.
  11. ^ "SHELBY COUNTY, ALABAMA v. HOLDER, ATTORNEY GENERAL, ET AL." (PDF). Supreme Court of the United States. June 25, 2013. Retrieved October 16, 2017.
  12. ^ "SCOTUS Removes Critical Protection For Voters Of Color". Advancement Project. Retrieved October 16, 2017.
  13. ^ a b "What did Alabama's top election official learn from monitoring Russian election?". WHNT.com. September 29, 2016. Retrieved October 16, 2017.
  14. ^ "Bio of John Merrill at Alabama SOS".

External links[edit]

Alabama House of Representatives
Preceded by
Gerald Allen
Member of the Alabama House of Representatives
from the 62nd district

2010–2014
Succeeded by
Rich Wingo
Political offices
Preceded by
James R. Bennett
Secretary of State of Alabama
2015–present
Incumbent