Republican Alabama Secretary of State candidates Rep. Wes Allen (R-Troy) and State Auditor Jim Zeigler (R) both took part in a debate hosted by Eagle Forum of Alabama, with WYDE FM radio in Birmingham and 1819 News as sponsors. A crowd of about 40 was on hand to hear the debate that was also streamed online by Eagle Forum. (See video below)

Incumbent Secretary of State John H. Merrill (R) is term-limited and cannot run again.

Zeigler had the most voters in the primary, 43% of the vote, but bemoaned the poor turnout in the May 24 Republican primary.

“We had 23% of voters participating in the Republican primary in May,” Zeigler said. “Today I talked to voters that did not know there was a runoff. They did not know the races in the runoff, much less the candidates in the runoff.

“That is not just their fault. It also our fault and the media’s fault.”

Zeigler proposed a plan to get more voters to turn out in Alabama's election, calling it the “Don’t vote, don’t complain plan.”

Allen disagreed.

“That is not the job of the Secretary of State to increase turnout in our elections, but to protect our elections,” Allen said. “It is the job of the candidates to turn their people out. The most important job of the Secretary of State is to defend our election process."

Zeigler said more needs to be done to make the public confident in the process.

“Right now, we have more questions about our elections and our vote count than we have ever had before in my lifetime,” he said.

Both candidates favored abolishing the ERIC program.

Allen cited his nearly 10 years' experience as a probate judge in Pike County and his four years in the legislature as having prepared him to be Secretary of State.

“We need good people in elected office and that is why I am offering myself for service,” Allen said.

Both candidates favored stiffer penalties for persons convicted of voter fraud.

“We need someone who will be ready to protect our elections on day one,” Allen said.

The primary runoff is June 21.

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