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Local political leaders weigh in on write-in votes

As the special election to elect a new U.S. Senator from Alabama approaches, some Alabamians are weighing voting for write-in candidates instead of either party’s nominee.

After allegations of sexual misconduct were leveled at Republican candidate Roy Moore, some people within the Republican party suggested the possibility of a write-in campaign; GOP leader Mitch McConnell suggested a potential campaign to write in appointed Senator and runoff candidate Luther Strange for the seat or perhaps former Senator Jeff Sessions, who vacated the seat to serve as U.S. Attorney General. Strange said he would not be campaigning to be a write-in candidate. Former Marine Col. Lee Busby though has begun campaigning as a write-in option for the seat.

Donna Horn, president of the Pike County Republican Party, said she’s concerned that a write-in campaign would lead to a victory for Democratic candidate Doug Jones.

“I am very worried about the write-in campaign,” Horn said. “Every write-in vote is basically a vote for the Democrat. You’re not going to get enough people through a write-in campaign to beat Roy Moore.”

Horn said about 75 percent of people she has talked to are still solidly behind Moore, while the other 25 percent, including some Democrats, are considering not voting at all.

“If you don’t go vote, that’s one less vote Doug Jones has to have,” Horn said. “If you’re not voting, you’re basically saying ‘I’d rather have Doug Jones.’ I think it probably is a close race… In an election like this with a low turnout, if those 25 percent of people don’t vote I think Doug Jones is going to take it; and if they go out to the polls, Roy Moore is going to take it.”

Jerry Williams, president of the local Democratic Party, said he thinks writing in a candidate is a way for Republican voters to support their party without having to vote for a person they may disagree with.

“Historically, everybody in Pike County has voted for the person, not the party,” Williams said. “I was talking about politics around the dinner table Sunday and several people said they’d be voting for Moore because they were voting for the Republican Party. There was a criticism in the past that Democrats were ‘yellow-dog’ Democrats – that the Democratic Party could put up a yellow dog and Democrats would vote for it. That seems to have shifted.”

Williams said he did not expect Doug Jones to have any chance at winning the election until the allegations against Moore came out. Williams said the race has put the local party in new territory.

“The Pike County party has never gotten deeply involved with state or national races,” Williams said. “We’ve ben committed to finding best candidates for the people at home. But our U.S. Senator certainly represents us here.”

Some Alabamians are still trying to understand just exactly how to write in a candidate. Alabama Secretary of State John Merrill sent out instructions to probate judges last week to help clarify the process.

To write in a candidate, Merrill said, voters will write in the full name or first initial and last name on the write-in line of the ballot and fill in the bubble next to the name.

Write-in votes will only be counted if the number of write-in votes is greater than the difference between the two candidates, and in that case would be counted on the seventh day after the election.