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ALGOP to re-hear Hovey, Whatley arguments in SD27 contest

By TODD STACY and MARY SELL, Alabama Daily News

MONTGOMERY, Ala. – The Alabama Republican Party will re-hear arguments from Senate District 27 candidate Jay Hovey on why he should be the party’s nominee on the November ballot, it said late Wednesday.

Hovey on Wednesday asked the ALGOP Candidate Committee to reconsider its June 25 decision to declare the race a tie after counting a previously invalidated provisional ballot.

Without that ballot, Hovey won the May 24 primary against three-term incumbent Sen. Tom Whatley by 1 vote.

“Election security and making sure that every vote is counted properly is of paramount importance to the Alabama Republican Party,” it said in a statement late Wednesday. “The ALGOP will release additional information once the committee has reached a decision.”

It did not say when the new hearing will take place.

At the June 25 hearing to consider a contest to the primary election results, the committee decided to count the provisional ballot of Patsy Kenney, who says she was denied the opportunity to register to vote at a state driver license office. A day after the party’s decision, the Alabama Law Enforcement Agency issued a statement clarifying that Kenney did not sign the appropriate form to obtain a driver license and therefore was not registered to vote.

Alabama Secretary of State John Merrill confirmed to Alabama Daily News Tuesday that Kenney was not a registered voter for the May 24 primary election but became one after registering at her polling place.

Attorneys for Hovey argued Wednesday this “new evidence” calls for the party to reconsider the vote to count Kenney’s ballot and declare the race a tie. 

Declaring a tie led the party to say the race would be settled “by lots.” A day for the coin flip had not yet been set.

Joel Blankenship, an attorney for Whatley, said early Wednesday, in response to Hovey’s request, the party should continue with the plan announced Saturday.

“We stand by the decision of the Alabama Republican Party,” Blankenship said. “Let’s flip a coin.”

Chairman John Wahl told ADN on Tuesday that the committee listened to arguments from both sides when considering its decision.

“The ruling we made reflects the best decision we could have made with the information provided to us,” Wahl said.

He would not say whether that information included the fact that the ballot in question was from someone not registered to vote until after the election.

Bryan Taylor, an attorney for Kenney, argued that her registration status is irrelevant to whether her ballot should be counted because the state made a mistake in processing her registration.

“The issue is not that Ms. Kenney did not complete her driver’s license application,” Taylor said. “The issue is that ALEA personnel at the driver’s license office asked her if she wanted to register, she said yes, and subsequently that sent her away without her driver’s license because she needed a vision exam, and they failed to tell her that her voter registration would not be processed.”

ALEA has disputed that characterization of the agency’s actions.

“… Case law across the country is almost universal on this point:  If a voter is asked at the DMV if they want to register to vote, and they say yes, and they leave the DMV believing they have been registered because personnel did not inform them otherwise, their vote should count,” Taylor said.

Sherri Reese is the Democrat running in Senate District 27, which includes Lee County and parts of Russell and Tallapoosa counties.

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