Flowers’ votes could be tossed

Published 12:00 am Thursday, May 2, 2002

BNI Newswire

MONTGOMERY – A top state election official said in many cases where someone contests the qualifications of a candidacy, a protest is made after the election.

Ed Packard, an election administrator at the Secretary of State’s Office, was asked about normal procedures in the wake of the controversy over the state Senate candidacy of Steve Flowers.

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Flowers has won legal battles in circuit court and at the state Supreme Court to stay on the ballot. However, the state Republican Party tried to decertify him as a candidate following a hearing, saying he lives outside the district.

The party has now gone to federal court in Montgomery to bring in the U.S. Justice Department, as the courts have ruled the party waited too late to take Flowers off the ballot.

Packard said the "rule of thumb unofficially" in the Secretary of State’s Office is that candidates should be left on the ballot. If the names are left on the ballot and the candidate is disqualified after the vote, the votes can then be tossed out. However, if the name is left off and it is determined later by challenges the candidate should have been on the ballot, those lost votes cannot be recovered.

However, while it is rare for the court to order a new election, Packard did not rule out that possibility in the case of a challenge. In Section 17-16-71, the Alabama Code provides for a contest after an election, Packard said.

According to the Code, "The contests of nomination by a party for office, other than a county office, may be instituted by any qualified elector of the state, or of the political subdivision, as the case may be, who belongs to that party and who legally participated in such primary election" for several reasons. Among them are "when a person whose nomination is contested was not eligible to the office sought at the time of the declaration of nomination."

In Section 17-16-70, "All nominations made by primary election may be contested within 24 hours after the results of the primary election have been declared, weekends excluded, under the same conditions and on the same grounds as provided in the laws of Alabama for general elections of state and county officers and as provided in this chapter. Such contest shall be heard and tried by the county executive committee as to candidates for county offices and by the state committee as to candidates for all other offices; and wherever there is no county executive committee consisting of enough members to obtain a quorum, then by the state executive committee."

In other words, if John Doe wins but the loser, Joe Smith, says, Doe is not qualified in a contest after the election, Doe can be decertified and Smith would win the election, Packard said.

Section 17-16-73 states on certification of candidates, "When a contest of a nomination is instituted or where a special primary to nominate is held, as provided for in this chapter, the declared nominee for such office shall not be certified until after termination of the contest filed in the time herein prescribed."