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A dozen things to know, expect during election day today

Chip Brownlee

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Polls are open across the state, and voters are headed out to cast their ballots. Here are a few questions, answers and things you can expect to happen today.

1. What time do polls close?

Polls close at 7 p.m. in Alabama. If you’re in line by 7 p.m., you can still vote. Stay in line to cast your ballot.

2. Will polling places be closed because of bad weather?

There have been some questions about how weather may impact poll openings. Some polling places are in schools that are set to delay opening because of expected severe weather, but Secretary of State John Merrill said Monday evening that all polling locations — even those in closed schools — will open on time.

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“The delayed opening of certain schools will not affect the polling site in that location,” he said. “All polls will open at 7 AM in all jurisdictions tomorrow morning on election day!”

3. I’m listed as inactive, can I still vote?

Yes, you can still vote! Go vote, and the poll workers will give you a special form to fill out to update your voter information. It may take a tiny bit longer, but you can still cast your normal ballot. About one in 10 voters are listed as inactive. That’s because your address may have changed and you didn’t receive a voter confirmation card from your county board of registrars.

4. I don’t have an ID, but I’m registered. Can I still vote?

Yes, you can still vote. Ask for a provisional ballot, and don’t let up. The poll workers have to give you a provisional ballot. You have until the following Friday to get in touch with your county’s board of registrars to prove your identity. If you follow up and prove your identity, your vote will count.

I answered some more voting questions yesterday. Check out this FAQ if you still need to go vote.

5. I had some issues at my polling place. What do I do?

If you have issues at your polling place or if you want to report something atypical, call the Secretary of State’s Voter Hotline at 1-800-274-8683.

6. I saw on Twitter that turnout is astronomical.

Yeah, that always happens. Ignore it.

General social media rules apply. Be skeptical. Turnout is probably going to be higher nationally today than during a normal midterm election, but turnout will still likely be lower than during presidential elections.

In Alabama, the secretary of state has predicted a 35 to 40 percent turnout, which is about on par with turnout during the 2014 midterm and statewide elections. Turnout that year actually hit a 28-year low. If his estimates are right, turnout here would actually be low, not high. It remains to be seen if Merrill’s estimates are correct.

In 2010 — the last time midterms and a truly competitive statewide election coincided — turnout was about 58 percent. Again, much, much higher than what is anticipated today.

Anecdotal reports on social media about turnout are often, if not always, wrong. Lines are almost always long, and it’s easy to get confused or excited or both.

Just be skeptical. That’s my rule of thumb.

7. What time can I expect results?

Polls close at 7 p.m. Some votes will begin rolling in by 7:30 p.m. But beware, those are usually the absentee ballots, and they can vary wildly from final election results. Don’t be fooled.

It’s best to wait until we have 10-15 percent of precincts reporting in to start making any assumptions. Depending on how close the races are, the Associated Press will probably start calling some of them by 9 p.m., if not earlier for some less-competitive races. Some of the more competitive races could come in a lot later.

8. Where should I look for results?

In the digital era, there are a lot of options. I follow the New York Times, because their results tend to update the quickest. In the state, AL.com and the Montgomery Advertiser have good live-results pages.

Here at APR, we will host a live blog later today breaking down results coming in and offering commentary. Check back on our homepage around 6:30 p.m. for that.

9. What about nationally?

The first polls close nationwide at 6 p.m. ET or 5 p.m. CT in Kentucky. After that, it will be a flood of results and exit polls on national media. It will likely be a long night, especially if races are tighter than expected. Results on the West Coast will come much later and into Wednesday. Because of mail-in voting in California and Washington, we may not have their full results for days.

10. I’m a politics wonk. What areas should I watch on election night?

I’m going to be watching to see if Tuscaloosa, Lee and Madison counties turn blue in statewide and congressional races tonight. Those counties voted pretty decisively — by 15 to 17 percentage points — for Democrat Doug Jones in December even though those counties broke for Donald Trump by a similar margin in 2016. Democrats will need to win those counties if they have any chance tonight.

Other than that, I’ll be watching to see how much Democrats can run up the score in Jefferson and Montgomery counties, which are typically Democratic strongholds. Democrats will need to do better in suburban areas Jefferson and Montgomery counties than they have in the past if they are to have any hope.

It’s also possible turnout will be lower in the 7th Congressional District because U.S. Rep. Terri Sewell is facing no opponent tonight. If that happens, and it’s bad enough, Democrats have no chance of winning statewide. They need voters to turn out in that Democratic district in order to outpace Republican strongholds elsewhere.

11. Who is expected to win?

Alabama is a deeply red state. Common wisdom would say Republicans will keep control of Alabama’s government. They’re likely to win all of the statewide races, and they will almost assuredly keep their majorities in the State House and Senate.

There is little, if any, public polling of the state races in Alabama. The only thing we have to go on is history and fundraising numbers, which can give us a slight idea — albeit definitely not an authoritative answer — about who might win.

Republicans have outraised Democrats in every other statewide race, but Democrats have had more individual contributors in the last month of the election.

Democratic governor candidate Walt Maddox has outpaced Republican Gov. Kay Ivey in the number of individual contributors in recent weeks, but the race is still seen as hers to lose.

Same for the attorney general race between Republican Steve Marshall and Democrat Joe Siegelman, though Marshall has caught some flack from Republicans Roy Moore and Troy King, his former primary opponent, for taking contributions from the Republican Attorneys General Association. He’s facing an ethics complaint for taking that money.

There are some other interesting races to watch, though. Democratic Supreme Court chief justice candidate Bob Vance has significantly outraised Republican candidate Tom Parker both in total contributions and the number of individual contributions. Vance was close to beating former Moore for the same job six years ago, and it’s possible he could do that again with Parker, who has long been a Moore ally on the court, matching him almost perfectly ideologically. That race will likely be one of the closest.

12. What about Congress?

All of Alabama’s congressional seats are considered pretty solid. U.S. Rep. Terri Sewell, Alabama’s sole Democrat, is uncontested in the 7th Congressional District. The other six races are solidly Republican.

Even the two most closely watched races in the 2nd and 3rd Congressional District are almost assuredly to remain Republican. FiveThirtyEight, perhaps the most-cited election forecaster, gives Republican Rep. Mike Rogers in the 3rd Congressional District a 99 percent chance of being re-elected.

The tightest race is in the 2nd Congressional District between Rep. Martha Roby, a Republican, and her Democratic challenger Tabitha Isner. Even there, Isner has less than a one in 40 chance of winning.

Nationally, Democrats are expected to take back the House, and Republicans are expected to maintain control of the Senate. But both are subject to forecasting errors, and it’s possible both could go either way. We’ll be watching to see if Democratic enthusiasm is as high as is expected.

 

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Elections

More than $100,000 campaign finance penalties collected during 2018 election season

Chip Brownlee

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More than $100,000 in campaign finance fines and fees have been collected during the 2018 campaign season in Alabama.

The Alabama Secretary of State’s Office said Friday that $197,657.84 in Fair Campaign Practices Act penalties have been issued, and $102,249.05 of those fees have been paid by political action committees and principal campaign committees.

The Secretary of State is required to issue penalties to PACs and PCCs when they do not file their monthly, weekly or daily campaign finance reports on time or at all.

The office said money that hasn’t been paid of the $197,000 total have either been waived by the Alabama Ethics Commission or the Secretary of State’s Office is still waiting to collect the funds from the committees. There were a total 1,166 penalties or warnings this campaign season.

The requirements are part of act 2015-495, which was passed by the legislature in 2015, and went into effect with the start of the 2018 Election Cycle.

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Committees are required to file their campaign finance report by midnight on the date the report is due. Most reports are due by 12:00 p.m. on the second day of each month. Committees are required to report all contributions and expenditures incurred by their campaign during the previous month.

The first report a candidate files late — if it’s within 48 hours of the date the report is due — leads to a warning, which does not count against them or require a fine be paid. Further, the code specifically states that warnings are not violations of the law.

Penalties amounts increase as the number of late reports increases from the candidate.

Committees also have the ability to appeal their penalty to the Alabama Ethics Commission, which has been lenient in overturning violations for a number of reasons.

Of the 1,166 penalties and warnings, 166 have been overturned.

Fines paid by committees are deposited directly into the state general fund.

 

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Elections

Secretary Merrill orders election workers not to count write-in votes

Brandon Moseley

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The Secretary of State’s office announced Thursday that no county needs to count the write-in ballots for the general election.

In a statement the Secretary of State’s office wrote: “State law requires the Secretary of State’s Office to review county vote totals and compare those totals to the number of write-in votes cast in each statewide race involving a Federal or State office. Following the completion of that review, the Secretary of State’s Office is tasked with determining whether the total number of write in votes is less than the difference in votes between the candidates receiving the greatest number of votes for that office.”

“Secretary Merrill and his team have completed a review of the offices and it has been determined that no county is required by law to count and report write-in votes for any State or Federal office as provided in Alabama Code Section 17-6-28.”

County election officials must still make this determination for any county offices not included in the Secretary of State’s review.

The final vote totals as certified by the County Canvassing Board are due to the Secretary of State’s Office by Friday, November 16, 2018.

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Chad “Chig” Martin and Chris Countryman both ran write-in campaigns for governor.

Allowing write-in votes slows the process of counting the votes down considerably as those ballots would have to be pulled out and counted manually.

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Elections

Ivey launches inaugural committee

Brandon Moseley

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Alabama Gov. Kay Ivey officially launched the Inaugural Committee and announced Cathy Randall and Jimmy Rane as the Co-Chairs who will oversee the festivities surrounding the inauguration along with committee staff.

“I am excited to officially launch the Inaugural Committee, which will be led by Dr. Cathy Randall and Jimmy Rane,” said Governor Ivey. “Cathy and Jimmy have embodied a spirit of service, in both their professional and personal life, and they have played a major role in the fight to keep Alabama working. I am proud to call them both longtime friends, and I am grateful for their willingness to lend their expertise and support as we prepare to usher in a new era for Alabama.”

Cathy Randall is the Chairman of the Board of Tuscaloosa-based Pettus Randall Holdings LLC and the former Chairman of the Board of Randall Publishing Company. Dr. Randall currently serves on the Alabama Power Board of Directors. She is a former director of the University Honors Programs at the University of Alabama, where she earned two Ph.D. degrees. Dr. Randall also served as director of Alabama Girls State, where she first met Governor Ivey.

Jimmy Rane is best known as “the Yella Fella” from his TV commercials. Rane is the Cofounder and CEO of Great Southern Wood Preserving and the wealthiest man in the state of Alabama. Since 1999, Rane has served as a Trustee at Auburn University, where he first met Governor Ivey while earning a Bachelor of Science in Business Administration. Rane also has a law degree from Samford Univesity’s Cumberland School of Law. Rane lives in Abbeville, Alabama and is well known for his charitable efforts to raise money to fund college scholarships through the Jimmy Rane Foundation.

Governor Ivey also announced several of her key campaign staffers will serve on the inaugural committee, including: Mike Lukach, Executive Director; Debbee Hancock, Communications Director; Anne-Allen Welden, Finance Director; Julia McNair, Deputy Finance Director; Julia Pickle, Director of Ticketing; Jonathan Hester, Director of Events and Production; Lenze Morris; Ryan Sanford; and Henry Thornton.

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The Governor added that more information about the inaugural theme and events will be announced in the coming weeks.

Kay Ivey became Governor in April 2017 when then Governor Robert Bentley (R) resigned. Ivey was easily elected as Alabama’s first Republican woman to serve as Governor. Lurleen Wallace (D) in 1966 was the only other female elected Alabama Governor. Ivey received more than a million votes, more than any governor since 1986.

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Elections

New Alabama House Republican Caucus meets to select leadership

Brandon Moseley

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The 77 members of the House Republican Caucus were sworn in by Speaker of the House Mac McCutcheon (R-Monrovia) during the group’s organizational meeting in Montgomery on Tuesday. This is the largest Republican supermajority in Alabama history.

Following the swearing-in ceremony, the Caucus selected McCutcheon as its candidate for House Speaker for the next four years and state Representative Victor Gaston (R – Mobile) as its choice for Speaker Pro Tem. State Rep. Nathaniel Ledbetter (R – Rainsville) was elected as House Majority Leader, State Rep. Connie Rowe (R – Jasper) was chosen as the Caucus Vice Chair, and State Rep. Phillip Pettus (R – Killen) was elected to serve as secretary/treasurer.
The 77 members of the Caucus on Tuesday unanimously affirmed that McCutcheon will once again serve as the group’s nominee for Speaker of the House when lawmakers convene for the Legislature’s organizational session in January. Because Republicans currently hold such a commanding supermajority in the 105-member Alabama House, being selected as the GOP Caucus nominee means there is little likelihood of any other outcome when the full body meets in January.

“Serving as Speaker of the Alabama House has been the greatest professional honor of my life, and I’m humbled that my fellow Republicans have chosen me to continue serving in that role,” McCutcheon said. “If elected during the organizational session in January, I will continue presiding in a manner that gives all members of both parties a voice in the legislative process. Our state faces many challenges, and finding needed solutions will require all of us to work together.”

McCutcheon was first elected as House Speaker during an August 2016 special session after former Speaker Mike Hubbard (R-Auburn) was convicted of twelve counts of violating Alabama’s ethics law.

Prior to retiring after a 25-year career, McCutcheon was a law enforcement officer in the Huntsville Police Department and worked in areas like hostage negotiation, major crimes investigation, probation oversight and others. He has also worked as a farmer and as associate pastor at the College Park Church of God.

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This will be Victor Gaston’s third term as Speaker Pro Tem.

“My thanks go out to both the new and returning members of the House Republican Caucus for re-nominating me as the body’s second-in-command,” Gaston said. “I am excited for the opportunities that Alabama’s future holds and will continue working to make our state an even better place for all of its citizens.

Gaston was elected to the House in 1982 as one of only eight Republicans in the entire Alabama Legislature at the time. He served as Acting Speaker of the House for a period of months in 2016 following the Hubbard conviction.

State Rep. Nathaniel Ledbetter (R – Rainsville) will once again serve as House Majority Leader and State Rep. Connie Rowe (R – Jasper) as its vice chair. The two leaders will hold their positions throughout the 2018 – 2022 quadrennium.

“I am deeply grateful for the trust and confidence that my Republican colleagues have continued to place in me, and I look forward to continuing my service as their leader for the next four years,” Ledbetter said. “Republicans added to our already impressive supermajority in the general election cycle, and I will work to ensure that the bills, measures, and resolutions passed by the House reflect the same conservative beliefs and traditional values that Alabama’s voters share.”

Ledbetter is a former mayor and city council member in Rainsville, who was elected to the Alabama House in 2014. Ledbetter was elected as House Majority Leader in 2017. he was the first freshman member to serve in that post in modern times.

Ledbetter and his wife, Teresa, are the owners of a small business and have two children and four grandchildren.

Prior to her election to the Alabama House in 2014, Rowe served as the police chief in Jasper, Alabama and was previously employed as an investigator for the Walker County District Attorney’s Office for more than 20 years.

“I look forward to being a part of the Republican leadership team as we work to enact the conservative agenda that voters overwhelmingly endorsed at the polls,” Rowe said. “By sticking together and offering a unified front, House Republicans have a tremendous opportunity to move Alabama forward over the next four years.”

State Rep. Phillip Pettus (R – Killen) is a retired state trooper serving his second term in office. He was elected to serve as the secretary/treasurer for the Caucus.

Democrats will only have 28 seats in the Alabama House of Representatives, down from 33. Republicans will also have a 27 to 8 supermajority in the Alabama Senate.

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A dozen things to know, expect during election day today

by Chip Brownlee Read Time: 7 min
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