As states have tried different ways to making voter registration easier, Alabama’s Secretary of State said in a recent interview that prospective voters should earn the “privilege” to vote by making an effort to get registered on their own.
Secretary of State John Merrill’s comments were an answer to a film-maker’s questions for a voting rights documentary. Merrill opposes automatic voter registration, which conflicts with the Constitution’s right-to-vote language.
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“If you’re too sorry or lazy to get up off of your rear and to go register to vote, or to register electronically, and then to go vote, then you don’t deserve that privilege,” Merrill said.
In recent years, a number of states have added new legislation that automatically enrolls eligible voters from the Department of Motor Vehicles, an efficient way to increase voter registration, and security.
And why does Merrill oppose such a cost-effective method? He said it offends the ideals of the civil rights movement.
“These people fought—some of them were beaten, some of them were killed—because of their desire to ensure that everybody that wanted to had the right to register to vote and participate in the process,” Merrill said. “I’m not going to cheapen the work that they did. I’m not going to embarrass them by allowing somebody that’s too sorry to get up off of their rear end to go register to vote—or now, because of what we’ve done, turn the computer on and register to vote—because they think they deserve the right because they’ve turned 18.”
“As long as I’m secretary of state of Alabama, you’re going to have to show some initiative to become a registered voter in this state,” he said.
Merrill has been one of the strongest proponents of Alabama’s controversial voter ID law, which has disenfranchised hundreds of otherwise eligible voters who do not have valid identification.