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After alleged voter fraud, questions about House race

A voter fraud indictment in Perry County this month has some GOP members questioning the possible impact on a close Alabama House race that hinged on one precinct in the Black Belt county. 

Fred Kelley, Republican candidate last year for House District 68, would like to know if the alleged wrongdoing impacted his race. Incumbent Democrat Rep. Thomas Jackson of Thomasville won a general election challenge from Kelley by 550 votes, or 51.4%.

Albert Turner Jr., chairman of the Perry County Commission, was indicted on felony and misdemeanor counts of voter fraud. The indictment was announced Jan. 11 by outgoing Secretary of State John Merrill and outgoing district attorney Michael Jackson. Turner is accused of voting multiple times and inserting multiple completed ballots into the tabulator at a polling location in Perry County during the May primary. In the November general election, Turner allegedly presented multiple completed absentee ballots for mailing from the U.S. Post Office. 

Turner has denied any wrongdoing.

“It’s important for the Republican Party to ensure votes were counted properly in Perry County, especially in this one precinct that could have swung the outcome of a state house election,” ALGOP Chairman John Wahl told Alabama Daily News. “We are waiting to see if the alleged ballot stuffing could have affected this precinct.”

Details about the alleged fraud, including how many ballots are in question or in what precincts it occurred have not been made public. Merrill, when announcing the indictment, said it was too soon to say whether any May primary or November general election results were impacted and the matter was still under investigation.

“I just have a desire to serve,” Kelley told Alabama Daily News. “That’s why I entered the race for my district. The fact that I want the people of Perry County, House District 68 and all of Alabama to have open and fair elections. I do not believe it is fair of the people of Monroe County, my home county, the only county entirely in this district, to overwhelming vote for me and have their votes nulled by alleged voted fraud.” 

After redistricting in 2021, House District 68 picked up one precinct in Uniontown in southwest Perry County. The district now includes all of Monroe County, north and central Conecuh County, western Clarke County, where Jackson lives, south and east Marengo County, a western slice of Wilcox County and that pinch of Perry County.

Kelley got about 62% of the vote in his home county on election night and early results were looking good for him, until that Perry County box came in. Jackson picked up about 620 votes there.

Jackson, a lawmaker since 1994, told Alabama Daily News that his performance in Perry County was because he campaigned hard in the area new to the district.

“I spent a lot of time from June up until November getting myself known there,” Jackson said. “…We got into the churches and met folks. Every Sunday, we were there.” 

Jackson said all he knows about the allegations is what he’s read in media reports. He said he’d like a thorough investigation so that people know his win was legitimate.

“It was a fair election, as far as I’m concerned, unless they can prove something,” Jackson said. “They’re making allegations, I want to look at facts,” he said.

The indictment came too late to challenge the November election results.

“One of the things that is so devastating about voter fraud is that it is very difficult to correct it after an election,” Wahl said. “We won’t know exactly how many ballots were affected or what areas were impacted. This is why it is so important that our elections are secure, and we make sure any impropriety doesn’t happen in the future. Election integrity is one of the Republican Party’s top priorities, and we will make sure we get to the bottom of this.”

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