Merrill: State election systems never hacked

Posted 9/19/18

Secretary of State John Merrill gave assurances Monday that state election systems have not been hacked and that the presidential 2016 vote was not compromised. Merrill talked to supporters, …

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Merrill: State election systems never hacked


Secretary of State John Merrill gave assurances Monday that state election systems have not been hacked and that the presidential 2016 vote was not compromised. 

Merrill talked to supporters, including U.S. Rep. Robert Aderholt and state Reps. Tim Wadsworth and Connie Rowe, at a meet-and-greet held for Merrill in a private Jasper home in Jasper on Monday night. 

Merrill, a former legislator now serving his first term, is running for re-election as the Republican nominee in the Nov. 6 General Election against Democratic nominee Heather Milam. 

He said his campaign is arranging the meet-and-greet meetings throughout the state to meet people more intimately, expand the base and raise resources. The Jasper event was the seventh so far.

"The farther away you get from Montgomery or Birmingham or Huntsville, you find more of what really makes Alabama Alabama. That's where we are tonight when we're in Walker County," he said, noting the history and leadership that has emerged over the years from the county. 

"You have the finest congressman in the state of Alabama representing you in the 4th District," Merrill said, pointing out Aderholt to applause. Aderholt is running for re-election as a Republican against Democrat Lee Auman. 

Merrill also introduced his wife, Cindy, while speaking to supporters, which included a number of elected office holders in the county. 

In touching on concerns for hacking the election system, Merrill said as of Jan. 1, he has had two private meetings with U.S. Secretary of Homeland Security Kirstjen Michele Nielsen, once in her office in February and another in July in Philadelphia. He also had a Homeland Security briefing from the CIA, the FBI, the Department of Counter Intelligence and Homeland Security. 

"We had no incidents of occurrence in any of the 50 states in the Union where a tabulation change occurred in the 2016 election," Merrill said. 

That meant votes cast for Hillary Clinton counted for her and those voting for President Trump had their vote counted for him, no matter where they voted, he said. 

A total of 21 states had scans that were attempts to breach their files, he said.

"We have had people who have attempted to break into our system, but our system has never been compromised, at all. We don't expect that it would be, because of the relationship that we've had with our private partners and where we are. We are excited to report to you that we have mechanisms in place that will protect and insure the credibility and the integrity of the process of voting in the state of Alabama." 

He said officials continue to introduce new elements to make it easier and more secure.

"But you don't need to be concerned about hacking that might take place," Merrill said.

He said the threat has not just been from the Russians, as discussed in national news reports and investigations, but also "domestic actors as well as other international actors."

Merrill, the state's 53rd secretary of state, said the position is assigned 1,000 duties by the Code of Alabama and the Alabama Constitution. He said he has visited 49 of the 67 counties since starting this term, in 371 unique visits.

He noted his office has registered 1,064,616 voters since the term started, resulting in an overall total of 3,418,839 registered voters. Both of those numbers is unprecedented in the history of the state, he said. 

"We've broken every record for voter participation in the history of the state, with more than 1.2 million people voting when we voted for president in the primary back in 2016. In the General Election that year, 2.1 million Alabamians went to the polls. When Doug Jones was elected to the U.S. Senate, we had 1.3 million Alabamians that went to the polls and broke every record in the history of the state for voter participation." 

He said liberals charge the voter identification process was set up to prevent people from participating in elections. "They are entitled to their opinion but they are not entitled to their own facts," he said.

If anyone in the state can't get to the mobile unit which visits every county once a year, "we will go to their homes and give them an ID at their home," he said. 

Merrill noted the introduction of the state's mobile election app to make changes and the electronic polling books. 

"Everything we've tried to do is to make it easy to use and hard to cheat. Period," he said. 

He said in business services division, officials were seven to nine months behind to confirming paperwork and cashing checks for new business filings. Now the process is has completed on the same day it is started for 116 consecutive weeks. 

Merrill noted a number of people have left the office. 

"I was told when I started, 'Don't worry about trying to change the culture of that office. The people who don't like what you are doing will outlast you.' We made it clear what our expectations were. And don't get me wrong, we have some outstanding state employees. But we have had some who need to find something to do outside of state government. We have helped some of those people and we have a few more we need to help." 

His office has saved the taxpayers $2,619,021.21, he said.