Election’s absentee totals draw suspicion

Published 12:00 am Monday, May 9, 2005

The numbers have come in for the House District 72 special election, and while they didn’t look good for Albert Turner Jr., opponents of voting fraud say they didn’t look good for proponents of fair, clean elections in the Black Belt, either.

In a public statement issued Wednesday afternoon, prominent anti-fraud organization the Democracy Defense League expressed both deep suspicion of the election’s absentee voting totals and exasperation with state leaders who they say have done little to confront them.

“It is worth noting that in Hale County, AL, 59 percent of [Ralph A.] Howard’s opponent’s vote total was cast via absentee ballots,” the statement reads. “There, the absentee vote totals were: Turner-813 and Howard-43.

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This represents the latest of many red flags that Attorney General Troy King and Governor Bob Riley have, to date, either totally ignored or have only paid lip service to.

“These two elected officials have the legal and constitutional OBLIGATION to intervene when residents of their state are disenfranchised due to obvious criminal activities surrounding the voting process,” the statement continues. “Where are they?”

Another outspoken opponent of voting fraud, Black Belt Action Commission member and Friends of Hale County president Law Lamar, says that he is also disappointed to see the gulf between Turner and Howard in the Hale absentee box.

“It makes me sad,” he said in an interview Thursday. “That’s 95 percent for one candidate and 5 percent for the other. That smells of voter fraud.”

Both Lamar, as a representative of the Friends of Hale, and the DDL have personally met with King to express their concerns over the issue. Although both were reasonably encouraged by those meetings, that encouragement seems to have evaporated in the face of the special election figures. Lamar, having previously stated that the special election would be “the perfect place” for King to ensure a fraud-free election, says that King is exerting too much effort on other issues.

“On several occasions I’ve read in the papers about King working on different important things,” he said. “But none of them, in my opinion, approach the importance of voter fraud. I’ve read that Mr. Beasley [the DDL co-chairman] said that voting fraud was on a level with treason. Ever since then I’ve come to think, if it it’s not on a level with treason, then it’s pretty close.”

While in past statements Beasley and the DDL have been somewhat forgiving of King, noting the inherent difficulties Alabama law places on prosecuting voter fraud, they now wonder why King appears to be making little effort to fight those difficulties.

“If Mr. King needs logistical and funding assistance to fight voter fraud,” their statement reads, “why hasn’t he publicly asked for it?”

While Lamar said he prefers to give Riley the benefit of the doubt for now–he has written a letter to the governor he hopes for a response to soon–the DDL’s statement exhibits less patience with Alabama’s head of state.

“As for Governor Riley,” it reads, “a survey conducted [by Lamar] with members of his own Black Belt Action Commission …resulted in a finding that voter fraud was rated as the number ONE problem that needed to be resolved in West Alabama.

This survey led to continued inaction on Mr. Riley’s part.

“The Democracy Defense League can only conclude that neither Troy King nor Bob Riley are adhering to their oaths of office,” the release continues. “Evil can only triumph when good people do nothing!

Doing nothing or next to nothing about voter fraud appears to be within the comfort zone of King and Riley.”

Much of the DDL’s anger can be traced to the fact that the District 72 election represents the third in a matter of months in which one candidate enjoyed an overwhelming advantage in the Hale absentee box. Bobby Singleton’s victory in the state Senate runoff in December and J.B. Washington’s November election to the Greensboro mayor’s office both rested largely on their huge absentee edge.

Absentee totals for Tuesday’s special election were high in Perry County as well, although the divide between the two candidates wasn’t as wide. Still, both Turner (with 743 absentee votes, 39 percent of his Perry total) and Howard (334, 18 percent) received a sizable number of absentees.

Figures like the above are what the DDL’s legislative agenda seeks to eliminate, and the statement says the organization is ready to move forward with Howard’s help.

“The Democracy Defense League congratulates Ralph Howard on his House Representative, District 72 Race against Albert Turner.

We look forward to working with Mr. Howard on legislatively overhauling Alabama’s inept election laws and regulations,” it reads. “The Democracy Defense League will continue fighting for honest elections; dishonest elections affect every person-no matter where you may live in Alabama.”