By Brandon Moseley
Alabama Political Reporter
Friday, October 20, 2017, Alabama Secretary of State John Merrill (R) announced that he was handing over the names of 674 voters who broke the state’s new law banning crossover voting to prosecutors.
Under the new law, it is a felony to vote in the runoff of the party other than the one that you voted for in the primary. According to the Secretary of State’s office, 674 people voted in the August 15 Democratic Party primary for U.S. Senate and then voted in the September 26 Republican Party primary runoff.
Merrill said that he is turning in the people because it is “the right thing to do.” Merrill told the Associated Press, “It’s the law. We’re going to enforce the law. We’re not bullying anybody. We’re enforcing the law.”
Alabama Democratic Party Chairwoman Nancy Worley said that she believed there should be more education about the new ban before possibly prosecuting voters.
The 674 crossover voters had no effect on the election because Roy Moore (R) defeated U.S. Sen. Luther Strange (R) by over 43,000 votes.
Attorney General Steve Marshall’s (R) office has declined to say whether they plan to prosecute or not. Other reporting suggested that it is the local district attorneys who will make the decision on whether or not to prosecute.
Of the 674 illegal votes cast, 380 were in Jefferson County, 63 were in Madison County, and 38 were in Montgomery County.
Democrats banned crossover voting decades ago, but Alabama Republicans tolerated the practice and had no prohibition against it. The 2014 Senate election in Mississippi changed all of that. There state Sen. Chris McDaniel narrowly missed defeating longtime incumbent U.S. Sen. Thad Cochran in the Republican Primary 49.5 percent to 49 percent. It appeared that McDaniel would easily best the aged incumbent. Sen. Cochran, boosted by support from Senate Majority leader Mitch McConnell, R-Ky., and the powerful Washington establishment began campaigning from votes from Democrats (who did not have a runoff).
Cochran ultimately prevailed in the Republican runoff 51 percent to 49 percent. 63,000 more voters participated all of that. Most observers of the Mississippi election think that McDaniel lost because of Democrats crossing over in the runoff.
There is also some speculation among politicos that Democratic crossover voters (then legal in Alabama) may have allowed U.S. Rep. Bradley Byrne, R-Ala., to edge out Dean Young in the 2013 Republican Primary runoff special election in Alabama’s First Congressional District. There is also some speculation that crossover voting by Democrats may have cost Byrne the 2010 gubernatorial Republican primary runoff against Robert Bentley.
The possibility that the Republican primary runoffs could be influence by crossover voters led the Legislature to outlaw the practice during the 2017 Legislative Session. Persons found guilty of attempting to crossover vote illegally could be facing up to ten years in prison and thousands of dollars in fines.
(Original reporting by the Associated Press, the Decatur Daily, WHNT TV, and WAAY TV contributed to this report)