Party blasts Hale Democrats

Published 12:00 am Tuesday, January 2, 2007

After hearing cries for help from Hale County party members, the Alabama Democratic Party decided to step up and offer a solution.

Problems ranging from complaints about voting procedures to qualifying processes have flooded the office from Hale County.

State Democratic Party Executive Director Jim Spearman said like any other organization, a political party must have their operations run honestly and in the open.

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“You have to have transparency in any organization,” Spearman said. “You have to be able to show where the money went, the percentage of the members must mirror the population of the county and you have got to have equality in the male to female ratio.”

The state headquarters, Spearman said, wants to see the complaints end and the Hale County party headed in the right direction.

“We just want everyone in Hale County to have a fair and equal chance to qualify and vote,” Spearman said. “There had been some questions and complaints about that.”

Through the state party, candidates have a chance to qualify for political offices without going through the local party. The state party can take their certification and present it to the probate judge just as the local party can.

To enforce their actions in Hale County, the party appointed SDEC vice chair Amy Burks of Decatur as chairperson of a three-person oversight committee.

Hopefully, Burks said, the committee will never have to intervene. But, if they are needed, they will be there.

“Unless we are needed, we won’t do anything,” Burks said. “But, if people have difficulty qualifying, we want them to know we are in place to help them. Hopefully, we won’t have to do anything, but we will be there just in case.”

The Hale County Committee may continue to conduct business and may qualify candidates, but will do so under the direct oversight of the three-person committee.

The purpose of the committee, Burks said, was not to disrupt the party. The committee, she said, just wanted to be sure everyone had a legitimate chance to qualify for office.

“We had substantial reports of difficulties by some individuals who were trying to qualify for county offices,” Burks said. “We wanted to make it fair for all citizens to qualify.”

Turnham agreed, saying they just wanted to be sure the Hale County branch of the Democratic Party was operating under the same principals as the state branch.

“This action is being taken to assure all citizens of Hale County that the Alabama Democratic Party will go to any length to assure an open, transparent, fair, and accountable democratic process,” Turnham said. “We want to work with the committee in Hale County to help them meet the spirit and the letter of our bylaws and standards as set forth by the state party.”

After hearing the complaints, Turnham said, it was the state party’s duty to take action to keep the Hale County branch pointed in the right direction.

“When confidence wanes among the electorate and serious allegations are raised concerning the fairness of a county’s democratic operations, the state party has a moral and legal responsibility to set the course straight for the people of any county in Alabama,” Turnham said. “As Chairman, I am fully committed to that task.”

Anyone party members in good standing, Turnham said, are welcome to qualify with the state party for local offices. To contact the state party, members may call (334) 262-2221 or e-mail Qualifying closes on Friday, April 7 at 5 p.m.