Alabama’s law enforcement agency on Sunday challenged a voter’s account that could have swung an Auburn-area GOP Senate primary into a tie.
A Republican Party committee in Alabama declared a tie in the race on Saturday, won by Auburn Councilman Jay Hovey over Sen. Tom Whatley by a single vote. The party said in a statement on Sunday that an “uncounted provisional ballot in favor of Senator Tom Whatley was wrongly excluded from the vote total.”
According to the conservative website Yellowhammer News, Whatley alleged that a Dadeville voter who believed she registered to vote at an Alabama Law Enforcement Agency (ALEA) office in Opelika on April 28. According to the website, the Whatley campaign says the voter was told she was not registered on May 24 and should vote tentatively.
ALEA said in a statement late Sunday that it had investigated the allegation and that the individual “did not enter into an issue transaction and never received an Alabama driver’s license.” .
“ALEA Driver’s License Division voter registration information is only sent after credentials are issued and the customer signs the required voter declaration, which was not not occurred in this specific incident,” the statement read.
Messages seeking comment were left in Whatley and Hovey on Sunday.
The Alabama Republican Party declared a tie in the GOP primary for Senate District 27 on Saturday, following a challenge. The party said in a statement Saturday that it would decide the outcome under a portion of Alabama’s code that calls for a coin toss with Secretary of State John Merrill and Governor Kay Ivey in attendance.
“The Alabama Republican Party has the power to choose its nominee in the event of a tie primary,” the party said in a statement late Sunday. “In this case, the ALGOP Nominating Committee voted in favor of Chairman John Wahl’s decision to resolve this tie by lot, the method used for such situations in general elections, as set forth in the code of l ‘Alabama 17-12-23.’
The statement said the party is working to establish a day for the decision. Merrill said Sunday afternoon that Wahl told him Whatley and Hovey had scheduling conflicts that could delay the draw until later this week or early next week.
“President Wahl indicated to me that they wanted to do this as soon as possible,” Merrill said. “It looks like the schedules for both candidates won’t materialize until the end of this week or the first of next week.”
After:Alabama GOP declares Auburn State Senate primary tied; winner to be determined by lottery
Hovey denounced the party’s decision in a statement to the announcer on Saturday.
“Certainly every vote matters and it is unfortunate that anyone is mistaken that they are registered to vote,” the statement said. But if the proper legal procedure is not followed to register, a person should be allowed to vote to be considered.”
Hovey won the district – comprising Lee, Russell and Tallapoosa counties – by a single vote out of 16,745 votes. The result showed a sharp divide between the counties. Whatley got 81% of the vote in Russell County and 69% in Tallapoosa County. Hovey, however, won 63% of the vote in fast-growing Lee County, the most populous part of the district, and won by a single vote out of nearly 17,000 votes.
Whatley spent $1.3 million in the hunt for Hovey’s $103,000, according to the secretary of state’s office.
The party cited Alabama Code Section 17-12-23 in calling for the race to be decided by coin toss. A separate section, 17-13-21, specifically refers to ties in primary elections and states that “such tie shall be decided by the chairman of the state executive committee, if the office is an office other than an office of county”. County presidents decide primaries for county offices.
Merrill said Sunday he believes the primary election code gives the president discretion to decide how to resolve the dispute. He pointed to a Republican primary for a 2020 Houston County School Board race, in which the county GOP chairman decided to resolve a tie between incumbent Ricky Moore and challenger Scott Long with a roll of the dice. Long won.
Contact Montgomery Advertiser reporter Brian Lyman at 334-240-0185 or email@example.com. Updated at 10:37 p.m. with a statement from the Alabama Law Enforcement Agency.