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The end of crossover voting in Alabama

By Secretary John H. Merrill

In the State of Alabama, primary elections serve as the preliminary process by which candidates are nominated to represent either the Republican or Democratic Party. Both parties have, throughout the years, periodically required voters to participate with voting consistency to avoid voters crossing from one party primary to another party primary and then engaging in the other parties election and intentionally influencing the vote totals for candidates receiving votes in the nomination process.

I directed our team at the Alabama Secretary of State’s Office to work with State Senator Tom Whatley and State Representative Arnold Mooney to support their efforts and meet their needs to plan a full implementation of their proposed legislation which would avoid any disruption in the electoral process. We have also contacted county election officials in the 67 counties to engage them in planning and research efforts to ensure the law is implemented efficiently.

The actual voting process for Alabama voters will not change during the August 15th primary, however, in the event that voters are required to return for a primary run-off (which if needed will be held September 26th) they would only be able to cast a ballot for the same party they cast a ballot for during the August 15th primary. In the event that a voter does not participate in the primary the voter would make their party selection for the first time during the primary run-off held on September 26th.

Historically, state law has permitted the political parties to determine who may participate in their respective primary elections. The Democratic Party has, since 1983, prohibited crossover voting in its primary runoff election. A voter could not legally vote in the Republican primary election and then vote in the Democratic primary run off. The Republican Party adopted a similar rule in 2016 prohibiting a person from crossing over from the Democratic Party primary election to the Republican Party primary run off election.

This law will go into effect in the August 15th Senate Special Election, for the vacant U.S. Senate seat, if a run off election is necessary. This party designation is only in effect for the current election cycle and may be changed every election cycle if desired.

This process does not effect the General Election scheduled for December 12.

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John Merrill is Alabama's secretary of state.

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