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Zeigler and Peterson Debate in Hoover

Brandon Moseley

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By Brandon Moseley
Alabama Political Reporter

On Thursday, July 10, businessman Dale Peterson and attorney Jim Zeigler were at Hoover Tactical Firearms to make a last case to Republican voters who go to the polls on Tuesday, July to decide which of the two men will be the Republican Party nominee for state auditor.  The Hoover event was sponsored by the Rainy Day Plus and the 60 Plus Association and was moderated by 60 Plus Association Director Apryl Marie Fogel.

Peterson complained that the job does nothing and has little responsibility.

Zeigler said to Peterson, “If the job does nothing you will be a great auditor.”

Zeigler said that the auditor’s office serve as a watchdog to identify waste in state government.  Zeigler said that he has, “Been doing this for the last 30 years,” as a private citizen.  Zeigler said that he once exposed a scandal where illegal paychecks were going to 400 state officials.  Stopping that practice saved taxpayers a couple $$millions.  “As auditor I will be able to do this on a full time basis.”

Zeigler said that he has been involved in six or seven such cases over the years

Peterson said that the Auditor’s office does not have that much power since the Public Examiner’s Office was taken out from under the auditor by the Alabama legislature in 1939.

Peterson said, “He (Zeigler) can huff and puff for votes all night long and he can’t do it.”  Peterson said that Zeigler ran as a Democrat ran 6 or 7 times then switched to the Republican Party where he has continued to run for office.

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Peterson said that Auditor does nothing because it has no power.  The power left in 1939.  Now it counts chairs and computers.  The auditor’s office did recently find $4 million in lost chairs, and computers.  The first thing to do would be to work with Rep. Ed Henry (R) from Decatur to pass his bill to get the Public Examiner’s office back under the auditor’s office back where it belongs.  Peterson also promised to give the board of Registrars a raise, “Because the security of our vote depends on those guys.”

Zeigler said that Peterson must be supporting a tax increase to pay for the raises for the registrars.

Zeigler said that he has been involved in Alabama politics for over 28 years and has been much happier as a Republican.  To the charge that he used to be a Democrat, Zeigler said he is like Ronald Reagan, Richard Shelby, and George Wallace.  Zeigler said that he has been on the frontline against bone headed spending for years as an, “Activist against government waste.”  Zeigler led the Republican Primary vote in a four way field with 47 percent of the vote.

Peterson said that he did not support a tax increase but would pay for the raise for the registrars with all the money he saved the state by moving the Public Examiner’s office back over like it is in all the other fifty states so it has teeth.

Peterson said he wanted to, “Take the office and make it real again not just a stepping stone for somebody to get a check and then leave.”

Zeigler said, “No one else in this race has ever filed an ethics race except Jim Zeigler.”  Zeigler listed all the investigation he has been involved in and said that he contributed to the investigation of Don Seigelman.

Don Seigelman is Alabama’s last Democrat Governor and went to federal prison for public corruption.

Zeigler told the audience of tea party activists, “I am one of you.”  “I am a member of 60 plus and the Patriots in Mobile.”

Zeigler said that he spent a month in Wisconsin helping Gov. Scott Walker defeat the recall effort that was lodged against him.  He also spent a month in Washington State helping the Republican Party win control of the Washington State Senate.  Zeigler said that he is the constitutional Alabama values candidate for Auditor.

Peterson said, “I have not been in politics as long as Jim has, I don’t know that anyone here has.”

Dale Peterson also announced, “I am voting for Gary Palmer (in the Sixth Congressional District Race).”  Peterson said, “Gary is taking hits on the radio like I have been by the Democrat media.”  “I am not really good at beating around the bush.  It is time to go through the bush.”  Peterson said at the reason the press has honed in on him instead of Zeigler is because they think they think the opponent (Zeigler) can be beaten by the Democrat.

The Republican Primary Runoff is on Tuesday, July 15.

The Republican Primary Runoff winner will face Democrat Miranda K. Joseph in November.

 

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Crime

Three more prison workers test positive for COVID-19, testing of inmates remains low

Eddie Burkhalter

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Two workers at the Bullock Correctional Facility and one employee at the Kilby Correctional Facility have tested positive for COVID-19, the Alabama Department of Corrections said Thursday evening.

The latest confirmed cases among staff bring the total of COVID-19 cases among prison workers to 58. Twelve of those workers have since recovered, the Alabama Department of Corrections said in a press release Thursday. 

ADOC is investigating to determine whether inmates or staff had “direct, prolonged exposure to these staff members,” according to the release. Anyone exposed to the infected staff members will be advised to contact their health care providers and self-quarantine for two weeks, according to the release. 

The latest case at Bullock prison makes 5 workers there who’ve tested positive for coronavirus, and the worker at Kilby prison also became the fifth employee at that facility with a confirmed case of the virus.

There have been confirmed COVID-19 cases in 18 of the state’s 27 facilities, with the Ventress Correctional Facility in Barbour County with the most infected workers, with 12 confirmed cases among staff.

As of noon Thursday, there were no additional confirmed COVID-19 cases among inmates, according to ADOC. Of the 11 confirmed cases among inmates, two remain active, according to the department. 

The extent of the spread of the virus among inmates is less clear, however, due to a lack of testing. Just 155 inmates of approximately 22,000 had been tested as of Tuesday, according to the department. Test results for six inmates were still pending. 

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An ADOC spokeswoman was working to respond to APR’s questions sent Wednesday asking whether the department had plans to broaden testing among inmates to include asymptomatic people, but APR had not received responses as of Thursday evening. 

ADOC this week completed installation of infrared camera systems at major facilities that can detect if a person attempting to enter or exit the facility is running a temperature greater than 100 degrees, according to the release Thursday. 

“This added layer of screening increases accuracy of readings while reducing the frequency with which individuals must be in close proximity at points of entry/exit,” the release states.

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Elections

League of Women Voters of Alabama sue over voting amid COVID-19 pandemic

Eddie Burkhalter

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The League of Women Voters of Alabama on Thursday filed a lawsuit against Gov. Kay Ivey, Secretary of State John Merrill and several Montgomery County election officials asking the court to expand Alabama’s absentee voting and relax other voting measures amid the COVID-19 outbreak. 

The nonprofit is joined in the suit by 10 plaintiffs who range in age from 60 to 75, many of whom have medical conditions that put them at greater risk for serious complications or death from COVID-19. 

“Voting is a right, not a privilege, and elections must be safe, accessible, and fairly administered,” the League of Women Voters of Alabama said in a press release Thursday. “Alabama’s Constitution specifically requires that the right to vote be protected in times of ‘tumult,’ clearly including the current pandemic.” 

Currently, to vote absentee in Alabama, a person must send a copy of their photo ID and have their ballot signed by a notary or two adults. The lawsuit asks the court to require state officials to use emergency powers to waive the notary or witness requirement, the requirement to supply a copy of a photo ID and to extend no-excuse absentee voting into the fall. 

Among the plaintiffs is Ardis Albany, 73, of Jefferson County who has an artificial aortic valve, according to the lawsuit. 

“Because she fears exposing herself to COVID-19 infection, Ms. Albany has already applied for an absentee ballot for the November 3, 2020, general election,” the complaint states. “Her application checked the box for being out of county on election day, and she is prepared to leave Jefferson County on election day if necessary to vote an absentee ballot.” 

Another plaintiff, 63-year-old Lucinda Livingston of Montgomery County suffers from heart and lung problems and has been sequestered at home since March 17, where she lives with her grandson, who’s under the age of five, according to the complaint. 

“She fears acquiring COVID-19, given her physiological pre-morbidity, and she fears spreading the virus to her grandson at home,” the complaint states. “She has never voted an absentee ballot, but she wishes to do so in the elections held in 2020. She does not have a scanner in her home, cannot make a copy of her photo ID, and has no way safely to get her absentee ballot notarized or signed by two witnesses.” 

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In response to the COVID-19 outbreak, Gov. Ivey pushed the Republican runoff election back until July 14. Although Merrill has allowed those who may be concerned about voting in person in the runoff to vote absentee by checking a box on the ballot that reads “I have a physical illness or infirmity which prevents my attendance at the polls.”

Merril has not extended that offer for voters in the municipal and presidential elections in November, however. 

Meanwhile, the number of confirmed COVID-19 cases in Alabama continue to rise, while testing for the virus has remained relatively flat in recent weeks. 

“We’re extraordinarily concerned about the numbers that we have been seeing,” said Alabama State Health Officer Dr. Scott Harris, speaking during a press briefing Thursday. 

Harris said the department continues to see community spread of the virus and have identified several hotspots. He’s concerned that the public isn’t taking the virus seriously or following recommendations to wear masks in public and maintain social distancing, he said Thursday. 

“One hundred years ago the nonpartisan League of Women Voters was founded to protect and preserve the right to vote and the integrity of the electoral process,” said Barbara Caddell, President of the League of Women Voters of Alabama, in a statement. “The unexpected risks posed by the novel coronavirus SARS-CoV-2 (COVID19) challenge our election system to the utmost.  Today, we ask that Alabama’s courts use Alabama’s laws to make it safe and possible for all citizens to vote.”

The League of Woman Voters of Alabama’s lawsuit is similar to a suit by the Southern Poverty Law Center, the NAACP Legal Defense Fund and Alabama Disabilities Advocacy Program which asks the court to require state officials to implement curbside voting for at-risk citizens during the coronavirus pandemic and to remove requirements for certain voter IDs and witnesses requirements.

The U.S. Department of Justice on Tuesday filed a brief in that suit that states the department doesn’t believe Alabama’s law that requires witnesses for absentee ballots violates the Voting Rights Act.

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Health

Two patients at Mary Starke Harper Geriatric Psychiatric Center die from COVID-19

Eddie Burkhalter

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Two patients at the state’s Mary Starke Harper Geriatric Psychiatric Center have died from COVID-19, the Alabama Department of Mental Health confirmed to APR on Thursday. 

There remained 17 active coronavirus cases among patients at the state-run facility, said ADMH spokeswoman Malissa Valdes-Hubert in a message Thursday. 

One patient at the facility has recovered from the virus, Valdes-Hubert said. Two nurses at the facility have also tested positive for the virus, Valdes-Hubert said on May 15. 

There were no confirmed cases at ADMH’s two other facilities in Tuscaloosa, Bryce Hospital and the Taylor Hardin Secure Medical Facility as of Thursday, Valdes-Hubert said.

Among the preventative measures being taken at the Mary Starke Harper facility are staff temperature checks and screening for other symptoms, and workers are required to wear FDA approved masks, Valdes-Hubert previously said.

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News

Inmate at Elmore prison dies after attack from another inmate

Eddie Burkhalter

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A man serving at the Elmore Correctional Facility died Wednesday after being assaulted by another inmate, the Alabama Department of Corrections confirmed Thursday. 

Jamaal King, 33, died Tuesday from injuries he received after an attack from another inmate, ADOC spokeswoman Samantha Banks wrote in a message to APR.  

“The ADOC condemns all violence in its facilities, and the fatal actions taken against King by another inmate are being thoroughly investigated,” Banks said in the message. 

King was serving a 22-year sentence after being convicted of murder, according to ADOC. His exact cause of death is pending an autopsy.

 

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