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Merrill speaks at March Chamber luncheon

By J.R. TIDWELL / Editor

The Chilton County Chamber of Commerce hosted its first luncheon of 2019 on March 12 at the Jemison Municipal Complex.

The guest speaker for the event was Alabama Secretary of State John Merrill.

“Anytime I have the opportunity to be in this part of the state, it is always good for me,” Merrill said. “Some of the very best people in the entire state of Alabama are in Chilton County. (My wife) Cindy and I are reminded of that each year when we come to the Peach Festival, and we always have a great time.”

Merrill spoke on multiple topics, but his key points were on voter registration, business and trademarking and international adoption.

He said those were his biggest points of focus while he was campaigning in 2014.

“We chose those three areas because those, more than any others, are the ones that directly impact the lives of Alabama families on a daily basis,” Merrill said. “We want to be responsive, respectful and accountable to the people of Alabama as best we can.

“People wanted to know that someone was committed to ensuring that each and every U.S. citizen that is a resident of Alabama would have the opportunity to be a registered voter and have their voices heard. We made a concerted effort to do that.”

Merrill said that there are now less than 300,000 people in Alabama who are eligible to register to vote who have not done so.

His office offers a program where anyone can apply for a free photo voter ID card so long as they can show a birth certificate, marriage certificate, official school record, military record or non-valid photo ID (like an expired driver’s license) identifying themselves.

More than 1.7 million people cast ballots in the 2017 midterm election, which Merrill said was a state record.

As part of his office’s voter registration campaign, Merrill enlisted the help of several well-known figures from Alabama.

We got Coach Nick Saban, Coach Gus Malzahn, Charles Barkley, Deontay Wilder, Jessica Procter, Dr. Mae Jemison, Taylor Hicks and Rick and Bubba to promote voter registration and photo ID,” he said.

Chamber Executive Director Francine Wasden said the group reached out to Merrill to be the guest speaker because she thought it would be a “good opportunity to bring him to Chilton County and let him share with everybody firsthand” what he has worked to accomplish.

“Voter registration is so important to all of us,” Wasden said. “He did an excellent job. We had a great turnout. I want to thank Jemison for hosting us again. It’s such a nice facility.”

The next Chamber luncheon will be held at First United Methodist Church in Clanton on Tuesday, April 16. The guest speaker will be Jeremy Arthur of the Chamber of Commerce Association of Alabama.