• 82°
Alabama Secretary of State John H. Merrill

Secretary of State Merrill addresses redistricting controversies

By Alabama Secretary of State John H. Merrill

Recently, the implementation of the newly drawn state legislative district lines has become a point of conversation in large part due to a lack of required performance by a very small number of county registrars in four Alabama counties.

I want every Alabamian to know that while these mistakes were human errors, and everyone makes mistakes, I do not, have not, and will not ever accept human error as a sufficient excuse for poor performance and the lack of accomplishment of an assigned task.

It is appropriate to let the people in our state know that in 2017, I formed a task force that studied the position and requirements of serving as a registrar in Alabama.  This task force consisted of all stakeholders who work with the registrars, including, but not limited to, registrars, probate judges, circuit clerks, legislators, and sheriffs, as well as community interest groups from around the state. Over a period of six months, this task force developed comprehensive legislation to evaluate, assess, and implement changes to the responsibility of the position of registrar in Alabama.

I asked State Senator Jimmy Holley and State Representative Alan Baker to sponsor this legislation, which would have dramatically changed the registrar appointment process and increased transparency and accountability from the people who hold the position throughout the state. Senate Bill 137 would have allowed the Secretary of State to provide an updated job description with more stringent minimum qualifications, demographic and county population considerations, required registrar trainings and assessments on an annual basis, clarified that the registrars serve at the pleasure of their appointing authority, and prevented registrars from reappointment if removed for cause, as well as several other significant measures.

Unfortunately, there were several people, including members of the task force, as well as individuals who were opposed to the changes, who voiced their personal concerns to the members of the legislature. This resulted in the failure of this comprehensive piece of legislation.

To be clear, the Secretary of State’s Office has no direct involvement in legislative reapportionment. According to the Constitutions of the United States and Alabama, that responsibility lies with the members of the Alabama Legislature.  Our office facilitates the process by ensuring that the registrars receive the new district maps, which are prepared by the Alabama Legislature and provided to us by the Office of Legislative Reapportionment, in a timely manner. In November of 2021, we distributed maps to the county Boards of Registrars to ensure they had this important information as soon as possible to begin their important work.

Currently, many counties are using paper maps to redraw district lines, which can often lead to human error when redrawing district boundaries. We anticipated that some counties might have difficulty assigning the new district lines, so beginning in late 2021, the Secretary of State’s Office made Geographic Information System (GIS) technology available to each county not currently using such mapping technology to reassign individuals who had been relocated based on legislative and congressional reapportionment. The use of GIS technology enables registrars to more accurately implement the new district maps approved by the Alabama Legislature. The Secretary of State’s Office offered to cover the licensing costs for the counties to use GIS. Unfortunately, no county accepted our offer to provide GIS, with many counties citing recurring financial obligations and initial workload concerns.

It is our recommendation that the Alabama Legislature reexamine the current Board of Registrar system, as well as consider providing funding to ensure that boundary lines are drawn appropriately, even if that means engaging outside vendors. This would not be an unduly, burdensome expense because reapportionment occurs only once a decade.

With that being said, those registrars who have proven themselves unable to adequately perform their duties must face consequences. In the county where the most egregious dereliction of duties occurred, I sought and received the resignation of all three registrars involved.

We have the power to correct this and future issues but only with the collaboration of the Alabama Legislature, county officials, and the Secretary of State’ Office.

 

Madison

Chandrakasem, Koswoski excel in DAR essay contests

Harvest

American Legion, VFW to retire flags on Flag Day, June 15

Madison

Stundtner proves skills as Midtown’s ‘Staff Member of the Year’

James Clemens High School

Guo, Mysore, Saha dominate awards at regional, state science fairs

Harvest

Madison Hospital names Brandon Jones ‘Employee of the Year’

Bob Jones High School

MCS to present ‘Youth Mental Health First Aid’ sessions

Digital Version

Digital version of The Madison Record – June 12, 2024

Events

Annual Juneteenth Festival returns to Big Spring Park Saturday

Bob Jones High School

Braden Booth Named Mr. Baseball, Super All-State, Class 7A All-State

Harvest

Low-key races (on foot and couch) pivotal for Rotary’s ‘Parrots 0.5K’

Bob Jones High School

Mill Creek names Deberry as outstanding staff employee

Bob Jones High School

Madison Public Library readies for Summer Reading experience

James Clemens High School

Moore honored as ‘Staff Member of the Year’ at James Clemens

Harvest

Madison City Community Orchestra to honor D-Day’s 80th anniversary

Digital Version

Digital version of The Madison Record – June 5, 2024

Madison

Rotary Club awards city employees Hall, Overman and Watson

FRONT PAGE FEATURED

Carlos Mathews Named Athlete Of The Year

FRONT PAGE FEATURED

Cotton Row Run’s 44th Running A Huge Success With Madison Runners

Madison

Zoological Society proposes 3% electric tax on Limestone to start building zoo

Madison

Hayley Davidson earns ‘Teacher of the Year’ at Mill Creek

Events

Van Gogh: The Immersive Experience opens today in Huntsville

Madison

‘Sounds of Summer’ concerts return to Home Place Park tonight

Madison

Madison school board approves construction contract for new elementary school

Madison

UAH researcher demonstrates for the first time a subluminal warp drive is possible

x