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Hale Co. clerk is silent on ballots

GREENSBORO – A day after the news that Hale County absentee voter ballots were being sent to a Sawyerville address rather than the typical county seat courthouse address, Circuit Clerk and absentee manager Gay Nell Tinker still has not responded to The Demopolis Times.

Questions arose Tuesday after residents receiving absentee ballots noticed the address was not one they had seen before, but a post office box in the clerk’s hometown of Sawyerville. Tinker, who would not respond to questions on the phone, said she would send a statement to The Times. No such statement ever arrived, and Tinker could not be reached at home Wednesday.

The clerk did, however, speak to the Tuscaloosa News, noting that the address was solely for business purposes because of a high volume of mail coming to the courthouse mailbox.

“It’s only an absentee manager’s box. It’s for nothing else,” she told the Tuscaloosa News.

Singleton’s opponents seem to think there could be more to it than that.

“I was shocked and surprised about the absentee ballots going to an address that is not the county seat courthouse,” Rep. Bryant Melton, D-Tuscaloosa, and senate district 24 candidate, said. “I’ve been used to areas where the circuit clerk or whoever was the absentee manager having those ballots come to the courthouse, not anywhere else.”

“I’m concerned and find it a little peculiar,” he said. “It may not be setting a precedent, but it’s just uncommon.”

Thomas Moore, a Demopolis City Councilman and Senate District 24 candidate, said he believes nothing illegal has been done.

“I would think (Tinker and Singleton) checked it out with the appropriate with the appropriate authorities, other than that I have no comment,” he said.

Raising still more eyebrows is the fact that the same clerk who has strayed from the norm when it comes to ballot return addresses is married to one of the candidates in the special election set for Oct. 26. The same election that votes for are being sent to a personal post office box.

“If I was in her case I would want those ballots going to the courthouse so they could be viewed in the light where everyone could see,” Melton said. “Putting them in a post office box where there is only one key and no one else has access to them, it just sheds more light of suspicion on her.”

Melton said recent issues regarding absentee voting in Hale County only add fuel to the fire.

“The percentage of absentee votes in Hale County and in Perry County indicate there is a problem with absentee voting,” he said. He said he would like to see something done about voting in general, but absentee voting particularly in the next regular session.

“We need to do something to try and give everyone the opportunity to vote, but close some of the loopholes on absentee voting,” he said. He said he would like to see the voting window extended for more than one day so that voters who are not going to be in town on election day would be able to vote early and still be counted.

“At the very least we need to put more restrictions on absentee ballots,” he said.