In an interview with a documentary filmmaker, Alabama Secretary of State John Merrill attacked automatic voter registration as the “sorry and lazy way out” and cited the sacrifices made by civil rights leaders like Rosa Parks, Martin Luther King Jr., and Rep. John Lewis (D-Ga.) as a reason not to make voting more accessible to more Americans.
The following statement is from Southern Poverty Law Center president Richard Cohen:
“Secretary Merrill’s statements are as cynical as they are ignorant. Merrill claims that ‘just because you turned 18 doesn’t give you the right to do anything.’ But he apparently hasn’t read the 26th Amendment to the U.S. Constitution because it says precisely that every citizen in our great country who turns 18 has the right to vote.
“Merrill also bizarrely claims that automatic registration would 'cheapen' the sacrifices that American heroes like John Lewis made for voting rights by making voting too easy. But he apparently doesn’t realize that Congressman Lewis is in favor of automatic registration.
“Meanwhile, Alabama, according to the nonpartisan Pew Charitable Trusts, ranks dead last in election performance.
“Invoking the memory of Congressman Lewis’ sacrifices in order to justify the opposite position that Lewis holds is grotesque but in line with Merrill’s record of supporting voter suppression measures.”