Singleton says racism at heart of allegations

Published 12:00 am Monday, February 28, 2005

Amidst the growing concern in Hale County over the stigma of possible voter fraud, recently-elected Senator Bobby Singleton took the opportunity Friday to strongly reiterate that he and his campaign are 100% clean.

“This is all a witch hunt,” he said. “This is about those who have lost power trying to regain power. That’s what this is all about.”

As in other recent public remarks, Singleton cited racism as the driving motivation behind criticism of his campaign.

“This is a campaign going into ’06 to fuel the intimidation of black voters,” he said. “The last nine years, blacks have gone from being 20% of the elected officials in Hale County to being 80% of the elected officials, in the highest political offices. People just aren’t ready to accept change. The other side is so used to oppressing people, they can’t accept that things have changed.”

“Now not all white folks are racists,” Singleton said. “Some, though, are still trying to fight the Civil War. They never do anything positive for this community. All they want to do is tear it down.”

Singleton also reiterated his view that the Democracy Defense League, the prominent anti-voting crime organization based in Hale County, seeks to oppress Hale County African-Americans. When asked about the involvement of Vanessa Hill in the DDL, Singleton had strong words about the League’s association with the African-American former mayoral candidate.

“I still say it’s racially motivated,” he said of the DDL. “This is the first time the white community has openly supported a black mayoral candidate. We have supported many white candidates through the years, but they have never supported us. They are trying to use her against the black community.”

Singleton added that Hill was a “sore loser” whose campaign failed because of her inexperience in politics.

“Mrs. Hill never understood the political process, how politicians work in Hale County,” he said. “She came to me and asked if I would work with her. I told her I had a commitment to Mr. Washington and I would honor that.”

In previous statements, Singleton had implied that the DDL had gained an audience with state Attorney General Troy King because of League co-chairman Perry Beasley’s former work with the Alabama Bureau of Investigation, and said that a group of black voters who had also requested an audience had not been given the opportunity.

When informed that the AG’s office had no record of such a request, Singleton was incredulous.

“That is absurd,” he said, citing that he himself had passed on the business card of a concerned Hale citizen. “I know there were individuals who have made complaints to his office…There has been no response to the black community.”

One of the concerns of the DDL, and many opponents of voter fraud, are the high number of absentee ballots cast in Black Belt elections. A very high percentage of Hale County’s absentees were cast for Singleton in his election to the Senate, but he said it’s solely due to the knowledge and hard work of his campaign staff.

“We are making sure that people know how absentee laws work,” he said. “In the state of Alabama there are 13 reasons for voting absentee on the affadavit…A high number of people have to leave the county to work. There are no jobs in Hale. There’s high unemployment. When you know your community, you know these people. You know the students who are at school outside the county but are still registered here. You know our elderly, who can’t move around well or have no transportation. When you know know your community and know who are the possible candidates, then you allow them to take part in the process of democracy. It’s a legal process. That’s what we mean by ‘training’…that’s how you run a successful campaign.”

Those successful absentee efforts have led to plenty of raised eyebrows, but Singleton says he’s being singled out for nothing.

“No one points out that my challengers beat me in the absentee box in Marengo. In Greene they beat me. Why is no one investigating them? I won in Hale because this was my base.”

Even with the election in the books, Singleton has run into problems, having been removed from the state Senate recently because his January victory had not yet certified. Singleton expressed disbelief when informed of Hale Probate Judge Leland Avery’s explanation that a “miscommunication” between office clerks and the Sheriff over provisional ballots was mostly to blame.

“That’s hogwash,” he said. “Come on. That’s absolute hogwash. Folks understand that.”

Hale County Circuit Clerk (and Singleton spouse) Gay Nell Tinker also refuted Avery’s version of events, in which Tinker delivered the provisional ballots to the Sheriff’s office and was late in providing information for their certification.

“I got a letter to Faye Cochrane (head of the Hale Board of Registrars) on the 28th of January verifying the provisional ballot. There was only that one ballot. That letter was in her hand o nthe 28th, and that’s all I was supposed to do until we counted them.”

Tinker denied taking the provisional ballot (or any ballots) to the Sheriff’s office.

“I don’t even handle that,” she said. “I don’t touch the provisional ballots. I never have.”

Tinker wondered why anyone would expect her to slack off on her job when her husband’s election was at stake.

“Why would I do anything to jeopardize my own husband?” she asked. “I am not the bad guy here.”