Alabama Secretary of State John Merrill said that increased voter registration would “Cheapen the work” of civil-rights advocates like Martin Luther King Jr. and Rosa Parks. Automatic voter registration, which has been suggested as a means of combating voter suppression and boosting election turnout, would automatically enroll all eligible citizens once they turn 18. But Merrill said people who do not manually register are too “lazy” for the “privilege” of voting.
“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,” Merrill said of civil-rights leaders during an interview for a documentary on voter suppression. “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… because they think they deserve the right because they’ve turned 18.”
Merrill also defended Alabama’s voter ID laws, which have come under intense scrutiny for disadvantaging potential black and Latino voters.