DOTHAN, Ala. (WTVY) — Alabama Secretary of State John Merrill hopes legislation can be drafted and passed this year that would remove elected municipal officials whose campaigns are associated with voter fraud.
Alabama Secretary of State John Merrill speaks to reporters in Dothan. Photo from January 24, 2017.
Merrill points to the case of Amos Newsome, who remains a Dothan city commissioner though four campaign aides were convicted or pleaded guilty to rigging his re-election.
“We will need legislative action to make changes in the law,” Merrill said Tuesday following an address to the Dothan-Houston Rotary Club.
Mayor Mike Schmitz supports—even encourages---those changes, saying it’s a matter of public trust. “I believe if those in somebody’s campaign are convicted of (illegal campaign activity) it should affect results of the election. We don’t have the power in the city to address that issue so I’m asking Secretary Merrill to work on the matter at the state level.”
Schmitz stressed he was not referring to Newsome’s case specifically but only speaking in generalities.
Merrill visited Dothan a few days after Newsome’s longtime girlfriend was convicted of felony voter fraud in September, 2015 and said he was shocked to discover there is no mechanism in the law to remove Newsome from office.
His four associates, including girlfriend Olivia Reynolds, admitted they rigged absentee ballots that gave Newsome a slim re-election victory in 2013. He was never criminally charged and continues to serve on the commission. His term ends in October though he could seek re-election.
Merrill stressed there are election fraud issues in other Alabama towns and he wants laws to deal with all of them.
He hopes a bill can be drafted and passed during the legislative session that begins next month but admits it’s a long shot for this year.