Alabama Secretary of State John Merrill (R) said “every state in the union,” should eliminate the private donor funding of election administration in an exclusive interview on Sirius XM’s Breitbart News Saturday with host Matt Boyle.
“We had states that sacrificed security, accountability, transparency for accessibility and availability of the ballot. We should never sacrifice security, transparency, and accountability in the elections process for anything,” Merrill, co-chair of the recently established election integrity commission of the Republican State Leadership Committee (RSLC) said.
Boyle noted the 2020 general election was unique in that, for the first time, major private donors — such as Facebook founder and CEO Mark Zuckerberg and his wife Priscilla Chan, who donated $350 million to the Center for Technology and Civic Live (CTCL) and $69 million to the Center for Election Innovation and Research (CEIR) this election cycle — funded the administration of elections in many counties and localities around the country.
“It seems very wrong to me that a private oligarch, a billionaire like Mark Zuckerberg, or any other billionaire, I don’t care what their politics are, they could be the Koch Brothers… I just don’t think that they should be funding election offices. That’s a function of our government of our states… I know that there’s a proposal in Georgia that they’re considering to make it illegal for local election offices to accept such money. It seems like that’s a common sense thing. Elections should be run by our governments at the state level, and local level, not funded by whatever… special interest donors exist out there,” Boyle said.
“You are correct. One of the things that we are doing in our state because we did not have anything on the books, we had no statutory language in Alabama that eliminated that [private funding of the administration of elections at the county and local level] as a practice in electioneering,” Merrill responded.
“We’re going to be having our legislature, our House and Senate, consider legislation just like they’re doing in Georgia. We think every state in the union should do the same thing. That is not an acceptable practice. To have a third party group, regardless of their political philosophy, come in and try to encourage people (a) to participate in the process, but (b), even more than that, demonstrate their bent towards a political philosophy of one party or the other in regard to this. You are correct, and that is one of the things we’re giving attention to,” Merrill said.
Merrill also explained that, during the 2020 general elections, some states made sure every jurisdiction followed state election laws, while other states did not.
“In Alabama we have laws in force, in place, and adhered to in all 67 counties. It’s the same thing in the 67 counties in Florida. Florida learned that the hard way in Bush v. Gore 2000,” Merrill said.
In contrast, Merrill noted, “In the 15 counties in Arizona, the 16 counties in Nevada, the 67 counties in California, the 67 counties in Pennsylvania, the 46 counties in South Carolina, and as everybody knows, the 159 counties in Georgia, they are not following their own laws in their own local jurisdictions.”
“We believe that each state should be responsible for their own elections. We don’t have national elections. We have 50 state elections for a national office when it comes to the presidency. But we know that each state should follow their own laws in each jurisdiction in their state. That’s what we’re promoting. That’s what we’re doing by introducing these best practices across the union,” Merrill said of the work of the RSLC election integrity commission he co-chairs along with Michigan state Sen. Ruth Johnson (R).
“We’ve never seen this before, and I think it clearly had a demonstrable impact on the results of the election,” Boyle said of the private funding of the administration of elections in many counties and local jurisdictions around the country.
“They picked and choosed [sic] where they sent the money… They sent the vast majority to inner cities. It clearly juiced up turnout in a lot of these places. One could argue, if you look at the areas where Zuckerberg sent this money, through the various non-profits that he set up, that altered the outcome of the election,” Boyle noted.
“One could argue that because that’s exactly what happened,” Merrill said.
“They offered the money, as far as I know, to every state in the union,” Merrill said of the Zuckerberg-funded organizations.
“We [at the state level in Alabama] declined receipt of the resources. We told them we did not want the money,” Merrill added, noting that eight counties in Alabama — including Jefferson County, in which the city of Birmingham is located, did accept money from a Zuckerberg-funded organization.
“What you saw across the union, when those states accepted it [the Zuckerberg-funded private donations from CTCL and CEIR], in Pennsylvania, there was a heavy concentration in Pittsburgh; there was a heavy concentration in Philadelphia, but out in Scranton, out in Harrisburg… and other parts of the state where you don’t have a concentration of a majority minority area, you don’t see an investment of those resources there,” the Alabama Secretary of State noted.
“It was designed to get the vote out to more heavily influence the results in that particular state for Democratic candidates at the local, at the federal, and obviously at the presidential level,” Merrill concluded in his response to Boyle’s question.
You can listen to the full interview here: