By MADDISON BOOTH, Alabama Daily News
OPELIKA, Ala. — One vote.
That’s what separated challenger Jay Hovey and incumbent Sen. Tom Whatley, R-Auburn, after final results were tallied in the GOP primary for east Alabama’s Senate District 27.
On election night last week, unofficial results showed Hovey, an Auburn city councilman, leading by only four total votes, but provisional ballots counted today sliced that lead to one.
“It just goes to show you, every vote counts,” Alabama Secretary of State John Merrill told Alabama Daily News.
Senate District 27 includes portions of Lee, Tallapoosa and Russell counties.
Hovey was present Tuesday at the Lee County canvassing meeting to witness the ballots being counted. Tuesday is the deadline for counties to certify election results. The final vote tally is 8,373 for Hovey, 8,372 for Whatley.
“It’s obviously a little surreal,” Hovey said. “We certainly have highlighted the need for everyone to show up on voting day….that one extra makes all the difference.”
Hovey said he expected a fight from the start, with Whatley being a well-recognized three-term incumbent who chairs the Senate Judiciary Committee, and was very pleased to see he won some name recognition of his own. While Whatley took the lead in both Tallapoosa and Russell counties, Hovey pulled out a big win in fast-growing Lee County.
“My whole team is very proud of the results of our home county,” Hovey said.
Whatley did not immediately return calls for comment Tuesday. He has the option of asking for a recount, but will have to pay for it. Recounts are only automatic in general elections when results are within .5 percent.
Whatley spent about $1.2 million on the race, compared to Hovey’s $94,674, according to campaign finance records.
Hovey will face Democratic candidate Sherri Reese in November.
Judge Bill English, chairman of the Lee County Commission, said citizens may use a provisional ballot for a variety of reasons, including having not received an absentee ballot that they have applied for, not having a government issued photo ID, not being on the poll list in Lee County, and others.
Before provisional ballots are counted, the Registrar’s Office will go through and determine which voters are actually eligible to vote, and therefore which ballots should be counted. Out of the 41 provisional Republican ballots cast in Lee County, only 28 of them were counted.
English said voters often insist on voting at the wrong precinct or vote via provisional ballot even though they aren’t registered to vote. These ballots are tossed.
Out of the 28 Republican provisional ballots that were counted on Tuesday at a canvassing meeting in Lee County, there were four votes for Hovey and six for Whatley.
In Tallapoosa County, three provisional ballot votes went to Whatley and two to Hovey. No provisional ballots were deemed eligible in Russell County for this race.