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Alabama Secretary of State sued for blocking constituents on Twitter

Alabama Secretary of State sued for blocking constituents on Twitter
© Twitter: John Merrill

Three Alabama residents have filed a lawsuit against Alabama Secretary of State John Merrill after he blocked them on Twitter.

The American Civil Liberties Union, who filed the lawsuit on behalf of the three individuals, said in the claim that Secretary of State John Merrill violated the First Amendment rights of his own constituents by blocking them from viewing his official Twitter account.

"When a government official intentionally opens up a public conversation, that official can't block individuals from joining the conversation because of the views that are expressed,” Brock Boone, an attorney with the Alabama ACLU, told AL.com

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One of the plaintiffs said that Merrill blocked her after she tweeted a question about crossover voting, while another says her account was blocked after she pointed out a typo on a ballot. The third plaintiff claims in the lawsuit that he "was blocked after asking Merrill about a speaking engagement,” according to the news outlet.

"The First Amendment protects everyone's right to participate in political speech without regard to political viewpoint," said the plaintiffs’ attorney, Steven Gregory, in an ACLU statement. "The Alabama Secretary of State should engage in protecting that right on his Twitter account, not suppressing it by blocking inoffensive content."

Merrill told AL.com that he had not yet heard about the lawsuit, which was filed Wednesday, and called it a “political hack job.”

He also asked the paper to print his cell phone number, which they did.

“Anyone in the state that wants to get in touch with me, can call me on my cell phone,” Merrill said. "This is the bottom line: anyone who wants to get in touch with me in this state can do so, but they don't get to choose how they get in touch with me."

The lawsuit comes several months after a federal judge ruled President Trump cannot block Twitter users over their political views. That ruling came in response to a lawsuit on behalf of seven individuals. 

After the ruling about Trump’s tweets, Merrill told The Montgomery Adviser that he would not unblock anyone who had been blocked on his account, and vowed to continue to block “anyone else that I feel needs to be blocked.”