Alabama Secretary of State John Merrill has gotten into some intense partisan Twitter battles recently. Merrill is a Republican and he is running for re-election this Tuesday. Partisanship is to be expected among political candidates. But is it a problem when you are also the state’s top elections official?
In a recent campaign advertisement, Merrill stands outside in front of a red trolley car and urges the people of Alabama to get out and vote. Later in the video, he tells them how they should vote. “Go in the ballot booth and pull the red elephant’s tail,” he says, “voting for all the Republicans … We need your help and your support in making sure there’s a red tidal wave.”
Like many candidates running in Tuesday’s midterms, Merrill is campaigning for himself and his party. The thing is, as secretary of state, Merrill is Alabama’s chief elections official, so he oversees the election he is a part of. That has led to questions about whether that crosses an ethical line.
“I think it’s an unavoidable conflict of interest,” David Kimball, political science professor at the University of Missouri-St. Louis says. Read more.