Runoff voting rules vary

Published 3:10 pm Friday, March 16, 2012

More than 600 county voters who launched a Republican ballot Tuesday could next month potentially find themselves locked out of a Democratic runoff that will decide the county’s probate judge and circuit clerk and will determine the county commissioner destined to meet Republican Dan England in the General Election.

The State Democratic Party has a crossover voting rule which prohibits anyone who voted in the Republican Party primary from voting in the Democratic Party’s primary runoff. That would mean the 621 Marengo County Republican ballot casters should be standing on the sidelines come the April 24 runoff.

“I have never been instructed to ask,” county probate judge Cindy Neilson said of determining which party lines primary voters voted on, “and the poll workers don’t have the authority to ask.”

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With no authority on the local level to enforce the state rule, Neilson said there was little way county poll workers could police crossover voting.

“Historically, we’ve never had a crossover issue,” Neilson said of the relatively small number of Republicans who regularly vote in local elections.

In 2010, a ballot which contained the governor, three county commission seats and the district attorney and sheriff’s race, 388 voters cast Republican ballots.

That election saw a Republican runoff with more than 475 votes than were originally cast.

“We really have no way of knowing how many, if any, were Democrats coming over to vote Republican,” Neilson said.

Bradley Davidson, Executive Director of the Alabama Democratic Party, said the party and the state lacks any way of enforcing the rule.

“It is impossible to know who voted in the Republication primary,” he said. “The parties don’t even get a list from the Secretary of State that says ‘these people took one of your ballots.'”

Interestingly enough, the state Republican Party does not have a crossover voting rule. It is OK for voters who participated in the Democratic primary to vote in the Republican runoff.

The scenario described above creates muddy waters for poll workers next month who, unless otherwise instructed, will hand a ballot to anyone who is legally eligible to receive it.

“It’s basically the honor system on the part of the voters,” Neilson said. “This is a party election and the state party rule is that you can’t (crossover vote).”

“There’s just no practical way to enforce it,” Davidson added.