By Virginia MacDonal
Problems like the ones in the Iowa Democratic caucus cannot happen in Alabama because the state holds elections, not closed meetings of political parties to select candidates, the state’s top elections official said Thursday.
“A caucus is not like any election that we have here,” Alabama Secretary of State John Merrill said. “A caucus is administered and counted by (political) parties in Iowa and not by the secretary of state. It has nothing to do with the election process in that state … People running the election do not do so on a regular basis.”
Returns from the Iowa caucus were not immediately available because of a failure on two levels, according to the Des Moines Register. Some precinct chairmen using the party’s election app had trouble submitting data and completing the entire process, or the app crashed.
Other precinct presiding officers opted not to use the app, citing poor wireless connections in rural areas. They phoned in vote tallies, which led to the second failure.
The Iowa Democratic Party did not have enough people manning the phones to handle an influx of calls, despite that being the standard process in past years — and despite hearing concerns of the app’s functionality days before caucusing started, according to the Register.
In Montgomery, Merrill said his office continues to find new ways to work with public and private entities to introduce new voting securities and expedite the state’s voting process.
The state received a $6.5 million federal grant last year to enhance voting security and improve the voter data base.
“We have placed new election computers in all 67 counties, and we absolved the cost,” Merrill said. The computers help ensure that counties are using security measures, such as antivirus software.
The funds and use the Internet also have helped Alabama to register an unprecedented number of voters as the state readies for the three elections this year.
Since 2015, Merrill said, his office has registered over 1.43 million new voters, giving the state a record-setting 3.56 million registered voters for this year’s March 3 primary, the March 31 runoff and the Nov. 3 general election.
Merrill said the Alabama leads the nation with its percentages of registered voters: 96 percent of eligible African Americans are registered, 91 percent of the white population is registered, and 94 percent of all eligible voters are among the 3.56 million registered, he said.
“We lead the nation with these numbers,” he said.
Since 2016, Merrill said, his office has introduced among other measures e-books to expedite poll workers validating voter registration, a mobile app for voters, and intense security training for his staff.
Alabama voters can update their voting information or check their voting status and where to vote on an app. To download the Vote for Alabama app, users will need to visit their Apple or Google Play store.
Voters can register, obtain sample ballots and scrutinize deadlines on the Secretary of State’s web site at SOS.alabama.gov.
Voter registration deadlines for the March 3 primary are Feb. 15 for mail-in registration;
Feb. 27 is the last day for online voter registration and to apply for an absentee ballot.
The state continues to use paper ballots for backup, and the ballots are kept for two years.
Even though military and civilian workers deployed overseas by their employers can vote online, Merrill said he has no plans to establish on-line voting statewide.
“We will not do that as long as I am Secretary of State,” he said. “There is no need.”