State watchful for voter fraud

Published 12:00 am Sunday, November 5, 2000

Staff Writer

Nov. 4, 2000 10 PM

The Offices of the Attorney General and Secretary of State will answer questions, examine any allegations of election fraud and actively investigate any documented instances of wrongdoing in the Nov. 7 general election.

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In an effort to do so, toll-free hotlines have been established to assist citizens and election officials with any problems or inquiries.

The Office of Attorney General will assign an attorney specializing in election law to a hotline to meet the increased need during election week ­ Tuesday through Thursday.

Citizens may call the Attorney General’s office at 1-800-831-8814 or the Secretary of State’s Office at 1-800-274-VOTE (8683).

Both offices are preparing to respond to any public confusion or anxiety about voting practices in Alabama at this time, providing a base of information and reassuring citizens that serious well-founded reports of election fraud will not be ignored.

"We want to ensure that this election is conducted in an honest manner that is fair to all voters," Attorney General Bill Pryor said. "If someone brings us concerns about improprieties they believe are occurring, I promise that we will review them and take any appropriate action without regard to party, race or any other classification. I commit this office to investigate and prosecute any fraudulent acts that would interfere with the integrity of a ballot box."

The Attorney General has worked with the U.S. Attorney for the Northern District of Alabama and the Federal Bureau of Investigation in join prosecutions to clean up massive voter fraud in west Alabama, convicting public officials and candidates for improper voting practices in the 1994 general election in Greene County.

Currently, cases of conspiracy to commit voter fraud by using money and liquor to buy votes in the June 2000 Winston County Republican Primary are being prosecuted. Two defendants, including a circuit clerk, have pleaded guilty to federal voter fraud charges and, last week, a district judge pleaded guilty to violating state election law disclosure requirements. The seven remaining defendants, including the sheriff and candidates for the board of education and county commission, are scheduled for trial in federal court next week.

Pryor said the prosecutions "have helped remove the stain of abusive voting practices and voter fraud that Alabama has borne for too long," and vowed to remain vigilant in his enforcement of state election laws.

"There is no greater responsibility of elected officials than to ensure that our elections are honest and fair," Secretary of State Jim Bennett said.

He said the hotlines will provide citizens of Alabama "with an open communication to their elected officials."

Both Pryor and Bennett emphasized continuing efforts to enforce absentee ballot statutes. The law requires absentee ballots be witnessed by two adults or be notarized in order to be counted as a legal ballot.