Riddle me this, Batman: When is making it easier for people to vote doing a disservice to the civil rights heroes who fought for that very right?
When you're Republican John Merrill, of course!
As Alabama's secretary of state, Merrill is responsible for all the ballots cast by his constituents. And as a dedicated public servant, you'd probably expect him to be in favor of lowering the bar to electoral participation, right? Wrong! According to Merrill, efforts to automatically register Alabamans to vote when they turn 18 aren't just "sorry" and a "lazy way out," they're actively insulting to people like Martin Luther King, Jr and Rosa Parks.
"These people fought — some of them were beaten, some of them were killed — because of their desire to ensure that everybody that wanted to had the right to register to vote and participate in the process,” he explained to filmmaker Brian Jenkins in a just-released clip from Jenkins' documentary Answering the Call. "I’m not going to cheapen the work they did, I’m not going to embarrass them by allowing somebody that’s too sorry to get up off their rear end to go register to vote."
As ThinkProgress noted, Oregon added over 50,000 new voters to its rolls in a matter of months when, in 2015, it became the first state of five states that currently have automatic registration. Besides, Jenkins points out to Merrill at one point in their conversation, simply registering people to vote doesn't mean they won't still have to make the effort to, y'know, actually do it.
Merrill, however, is not convinced.
"I think it’s the sorry, lazy way out," he explained. "And it shows no initiative."
Merrill is currently named in a lawsuit challenging Alabama's Voter ID law, which opponents claim disproportionately disenfranchises minority voters.