The Alabama Republican Party late Saturday, June 25, declared that the Senate District 27 contest between incumbent Republican state Senator Tom Whatley and Auburn City Councilman Jay Hovey was a tie, even though Hovey had won the election by one vote.
The ALGOP steering committee reached this conclusion after a four-hour hearing at the moot court at the office of Balch-Bingham in Birmingham by counting the vote of a woman whose provisional ballot was rejected because her name was not on the registered voter list. Also two defective absentee ballots were counted toward Whatley’s total. Further evidence during the ALGOP hearing asserts that approximately 90 illegal votes were cast by individuals living outside the district. APR reviewed documents and spoke to a verified source who confirmed the findings.
In a press statement announcing the election was declared a tie, the ALGOP said: “The tie will be broken in the same manner established for general elections set forth in Alabama Code 17-12-23.” That provision calls for the tie to be broken by lot. According to sources inside ALGOP who were granted anonymity to discuss sensitive matters, the election will be decided by a coin flip by ALGOP Chairman John Wahl, with Gov. Kay Ivey as a witness.
The one vote
The one vote that cemented the tied election was cast by Patsy Kenney, who claimed that she had registered to vote on April 28, but was told she was not on the voter list when she went to cast her ballot for Whatley on May 24 in the Republican Primary. She was given a provisional ballot which was later rejected in the primary count. Kenney claimed that she registered to vote while applying for an Alabama driver’s license.
Whatley’s campaign pitched Kenney’s story to at least one news outlet before the June 25 hearing, which painted Kenney as a victim. Yellowhammer News reported Kenney’s story.
“I was extremely upset, from a young age I was always taught that voting is not only a right and privilege but a responsibility,” she said. “More importantly, when I found out there was a one vote difference in the Senate race, I had to reach out to someone because I just knew that my vote should have counted.”
However, when Kenney gave her deposition, which was used in the ALGOP hearing, she admitted that she had not registered to vote and didn’t receive an Alabama driver’s license.
In her testimony, Kenney admitted that “she did not receive her Alabama driver’s license that day [April 28] because the ALEA officer gave her a form which her doctor was required to complete and send back to ALEA after he conducted an eye examination.” She also conceded that, “she did not pay any fee for her Alabama driver license, and although she stated that she told the driver license examiner that she wanted to change her voter registration, she admitted that she did not sign any forms at the DMV office.”
When the voter registration oath was read to Kenney in her deposition, she admitted that she did not take the oath or sign any paper on which the oath was printed.
As further proof, that Kenney didn’t register to vote the Alabama Law Enforcement Agency issued a statement that the agency had investigated Kenney’s claim and found that she never completed the process of acquiring her driver’s license and didn’t register to vote.
Kenney was not a registered Alabama voter when she cast her ballot for Whatley in the Republican primary, yet her vote was accepted creating the tie.
Defective absentee ballots
Two absentee ballots cast in Lee County for Whatley were incomplete. However, they were counted towards Whatley’s total on primary election day.
One of the absentee affidavits had only one witness signature; state law requires it has two signatures. In a second absentee ballot, the voter failed to check the reason for voting absentee, which is also part of validating the ballot and is also a state requirement.
Voting in the wrong district
Evidence present at Saturday’s hearing found that about 90 Russell County voters who do not live in SD27 were allowed to cast ballots in the May 24 Republican Primary.
The error is believed to have occurred because the Russell County Board of Registrars failed to move voters when the district was redrawn when the Legislature changed the district lines.
Evidence was also given that concluded that Whatley benefited from the out-of-district votes in a far greater proportion than Hovey.
The Republican National Committee has been adamant that only legal votes should be counted in elections and has made election integrity a centerpiece of its agenda.
In a Monday morning press release, ALGOP stated, “The Alabama Republican Party has the authority to pick its nominee in the event of a tied primary.” Still, it didn’t publicly prove the authenticity of the provisional ballot that created the tie between Whatley and Hovey.
Kenney thought she had registered to vote, but she hadn’t. Now ALGOP has decided because she believed she legally voted, her vote can be counted for Whatley.
Those voters who elected Hovey should rightly be concerned that their candidate’s future was placed in the hands of party elites who held a hearing out of public view to determine who will represent their District in the state Senate.
ALGOP has concluded that Hovey, who won the Republican Primary by one vote, must trust his fate not to legally cast ballots, but to a coin toss.