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Counting the votes: provisional ballots could determine two House races

By CAROLINE BECK, Alabama Daily News

Last week, the Alabama primary runoffs produced clear cut Republican and Democratic nominees who will move on to the general election in November.

But, not every race has been settled yet. Runoff elections for two Alabama House of Representatives districts, 38 and 102, are so close that provisional ballots will likely decide the winner.

Provisional ballots are given to voters for several reasons, but the most common are because the voter is not on the registration list or doesn’t have photo ID at the polls, which is required by Alabama law.

In House District 38, the two candidates for the Republican nomination were separated by just six votes in the July 17 runoff election. Debbie Wood came out of the primary with 2,165 votes against Todd Rauch, who had 2,159. A total of 48 provisional ballots were cast between Lee and Chambers Counties, both of which are in the district, according to the Opelika-Auburn News.

In House District 102, which is within Mobile County, saw a 25 vote difference between Shane Stringer holding a very slim lead over Willie Gray, reports WKRG. According to Alabama Republican Part Chairman Terry Lathan that district has 58 provisional votes to decide over.

The decision for the 102 district is highly anticipated because whoever wins this primary wins the seat since there is no Democratic challenger for the general election.

Today, probate courts in each county will conduct a final count of the votes, including provisional votes. The court will count provisional votes at the recommendation of the board of registrars, which reviews each provisional ballot for legality. The process ultimately ends in the Secretary of State’s office where they will certify the nominee.

Lathan explained to Alabama Daily News the process these provisional ballots must go through as well as explaining that voters who cast these kinds of ballots also have a duty to help clarify their vote as legal.

“Provisional ballots are decided by a board of registrars, in each county, who go through these ballots and see which ones should be counted and which ones shouldn’t be,” said Lathan. “It’s also incumbent upon the voters to go to their registrars by Friday to help them and provide the proper paper work to verify their vote.”

Jason Houston, Alabama’s Secretary of State’s communication director, explained to Alabama Daily News that once these boards come up with their findings they go to the county executive committee which then goes to the state executive committee and will end in the Secretary’s office where he will certify the winner.

According to Alabama law, Lathan said, counties have until the Tuesday after the primary to announce what the final vote is including all provisional votes that were legal.

After the final number is announced it is then up to the candidates to decide if they want to issue a recount but they will have to pay for it themselves. There has been no announcement yet to which two candidates is likely to come out on top.

It’s also good to keep in mind that these ballots will have votes for all different seats across the state, so while they might not change the results for any of the other races, a vote is still a vote and these races perfectly display why every vote is important and every vote counts.

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