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Opinion | The voter fraud case no one wants to prosecute

Josh Moon

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Voting fraud is a serious matter for Republicans in Alabama.

They’ve forced through strict ID laws and limited access to polling places and done all sorts of things — short of addressing the one area (absentee ballots) where the overwhelming majority of fraud occurs — to prove just how serious they are about eliminating voting fraud.

Unless that fraud is committed by white, political donors, apparently.

Over in Russell County this week, a strange thing happened. As reported by the Columbus Ledger-Enquirer, Russell County Circuit Court Judge Michael Bellamy, the chief judge in the county, declared in open court that he was personally sending allegations of voter fraud to a grand jury.

Why would a judge make such an odd presentation to a grand jury — a presentation that would normally be handled by a prosecutor?

Because Bellamy can’t seem to get Alabama Attorney General Steve Marshall on the phone.

An exasperated Bellamy told the audience in his courtroom that he had made “repeated calls” to Marshall’s office. “I don’t know what else to do,” Bellamy said, according to the Ledger -Enquirer.

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After 10 months, who would?

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The allegations were first reported to Bellamy in his courtroom last December, a few weeks after the Nov. 14 municipal elections were held in Phenix City. They were familiar allegations.

A number of people had reported that several local realtors who lived outside of the Phenix City town limits had used their business addresses to register to vote in municipal elections. An investigation by Phenix City police found that 82 people had used business addresses to register to vote.

Russell County District Attorney Ken Davis was forced to recuse from the case, which sent the matter to the AG’s office for prosecution. Davis also indicated in the courtroom this week that he had been unable to reach anyone in the AG’s office, despite the fact he sent his investigative file on the case to Marshall’s office in May.

Davis did say he had corresponded with the AG’s office by email.

Mike Lewis, a spokesman for Marshall’s office, said, “We disagree with the characterization (of how the case has been handled).” Past that, Lewis said the office could not comment on a specific case it is working.

Secretary of State John Merrill said his office was contacted about the matter and has since followed up with Davis, several local officials and most of the registrar board.

“We are aware of a number of issues related to municipal contests in that county,” Merrill said. “We’ve had communications with municipal officials, and we continue to be diligent in our efforts with them. We’re confident that the people responsible will be dealt with.”

Why he’s sure isn’t clear. Prosecution is left up to the AG’s office, and sources familiar with the matter told APR that this isn’t the first time the Alabama AG’s office has slow walked voter fraud investigations.

Some of that could be the shrinking staff of the AG’s special prosecutions unit, which would be tasked with handling election fraud matters.

But such a delay — especially a delay in which a judge is personally reaching out to the AG’s office and doing so while other cases of voter fraud (in poor, mostly minority counties) are going full speed ahead — raises other questions. Questions about good intentions and political bias and favors for a group of realtors that isn’t shy about spreading around campaign donations (although none to Marshall’s campaign).

Something doesn’t seem right here.

Or maybe the GOP only cares about voter fraud when it can be used to limit Democratic voters.

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