MONTGOMERY, Ala. — There were fewer illegal crossover votes in last month’s Republican Senate runoff than originally estimated, probate judges told the Alabama secretary of state.
Local election officials, responding to a request from Secretary of State John Merrill to review a list of 674 possible crossover voters — who voted in the GOP runoff after voting in the Democratic primary — said many of those names were errors. Jefferson County Probate Judge Alan King said none of the 380 names identified in Jefferson County were crossover votes. King said the party affiliations were marked incorrectly or were incorrectly listed as voting.
“We ended up having zero crossover votes,” King said. “As far as I am concerned in Jefferson County, there is no issue here anymore,” King said.
Montgomery County Probate Judge Steven Reed told the Montgomery Advertiser that at least 14 of the 34 names identified in Montgomery County were scanning errors and were not crossover votes.
“To say this is much ado about nothing would be a dramatic understatement,” Reed told the newspaper.
A new state law – used for the first time in the Senate runoff – prohibits voters from voting in one party’s primary and then crossing over to cast a ballot in the other party’s primary runoff. State lawmakers this spring approved the crossover ban in an attempt to prevent voters of one political party from trying to meddle in another party’s runoff, although there is a dispute about how much that actually happens. The bill approved by lawmakers this spring did not mention a specific penalty for violations, but added crossover voting to the list of felony voting fraud crimes, such as voting twice.
Merrill had asked election officials check the list of 674 names and report errors to him by Monday. Merrill said his office will review the information on Tuesday. He said names of crossover voters will be turned over to local prosecutors, but emphasized it is up to those authorities on whether to pursue charges.
“I don’t prosecute. Those decisions will be made by the local district attorneys or attorney general,” Merrill said.
The decision to send the names to prosecutors prompted criticism from U.S. Rep. Terri Sewell, the lone Democrat in Alabama’s congressional delegation.
Sewell sent a letter to Merrill this week, calling the decision a “modern day voter intimidation tactic.”
Currently, counties are hand checking voting lists to make sure that runoff voters are eligible to vote. Merrill said the implementation of electronic poll records, which he hopes every county will have in place by 2022, should eliminate instances of people being able to cross over to another party’s runoff.
Sen. Cam Ward, one of the co-sponsors of the crossover voting ban, said he doesn’t think anyone could be prosecuted under the law unless there was proof they were knowingly trying to commit fraud.
“It should be about somebody who is trying to game the system,” Ward, R-Alabaster said.