Alabama SoS Removes Russell County Registrar for Improper Registration Advice

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Alabama Secretary of State John Merrill announced yesterday that he had removed a Russell County registrar after findings that he had given improper advice about voter registration in municipal elections. AL.com has more:

Secretary of State John Merrill has removed an east Alabama election official from office on the recommendation of an administrative judge who found that the official improperly told prospective voters they can register to cast ballots at their business addresses.

Merrill’s office announced Monday that he removed Jimmy Adams from the Russell County Board of Registrars after the judge found a preponderance of the evidence showed Adams told two witnesses who did not live in Russell County during a 2017 municipal election in Phenix City that it was legal for them to vote using their business address or the address where they were employed in the county. A third witness, Russell County Registrar Judith Evans, testified she heard Adams tell people they could register to vote at business addresses.

Adams “failed to competently and conscientiously advise potentially qualified electors that the law required them to register where they lived or were domiciled,” the hearing examiner, James Jerry Wood, wrote in his recommendation to Merrill last week.

Merrill elaborated on the removal in a statement yesterday:

According to Alabama Law, the Secretary of State has the authority to remove county registrars for cause. In February of 2019, a formal, written complaint against the registrar was filed for failing to competently and conscientiously advise potentially qualified electors that the law required them to register where they lived or were domiciled.

It is a violation of duty as a registrar to advise voters to register at places where they do not live. Code of Ala., section 17-9-10 clearly states where a person is allowed to register.

Secretary Merrill stated, “We make it easy to vote and hard to cheat in Alabama. A crucial part of maintaining that is by appointing Board of Registrar members that meet the highest standards. By giving due process and by holding voter registrars accountable for their actions, we preserve the public trust and ensure that elections are fair and equitable to everyone.”

Disciplinary actions like this are relatively rare nationwide, but they do occur – and this case was supported by testimony and a finding by an administrative law judge. Issues of residence and domicile can be confusing for voters, but election officials should know the law and give proper guidance on what is and isn’t a valid voting address; if not, they are in danger of losing their jobs. Stay tuned …

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