Monday, the Alabama Secretary of State’s office reject an appeal by the Libertarian Party of Alabama for Doug War to receive ballot access in the Alabama House District 42 special election.
August 20th was the deadline for independent and third party candidates to turn in petition signatures to have their name printed on the ballot for the upcoming special election for the vacant HD42 seat. House District 42 covers portions of Chilton and Autauga counties.
Doug and his team turned in 668 signatures before the August 20 deadline to the Secretary of State’s Election Division. To get ballot access in the special election 458 valid signatures. were needed. The key word is valid. The voter actually has to live and be registered in the district. Many people who sign ballot access petitions are confused about whether they live in the district or not. Others live in the district but are not registered to vote or have forgotten to update their registration when they moved into the district. The Secretary of State’s office does more than just count the number of signatures. They also check the validity of the names on the petitions.
On August 29th, the Secretary of State, John H. Merrill, signed a letter addressed to the Chair of the Libertarian Party certifying that Doug did not have enough valid signatures to be on the ballot. The Elections Division certified 439 signatures – 19 short of what was needed to be on the ballot.
For funding reasons, the candidate did not purchase the voter list for the district before this time; even with the assistance of volunteers gathering petitions, paid petitioners still had to be brought in. There were more than enough signatures; but no way to check to see if the signatures they were gathering were valid or not.
After the denial of Ward’s ballot access the campaign team scoured over the list, and even called, emailed, and contacted through social media some of the people whose signatures were denied.
On Monday, September 16th, the campaign team went to the Elections Division and gave them their lists and proof of names changes, etc. which included marriage and divorce notices.
The Doug Ward team presented 30 names they argued should have been valid and had been rejected. Of the 30, the Elections Division accepted six, making the total valid signature count up to 445; but still thirteen short of qualifying for ballot access. The head of the Elections Division would not make a decision on the other names without consulting the Legal Department and Secretary of State John Merrill.
At 4:30 p.m. that day, they had a conference call with the Elections Division to get the final decision. The other names were denied and the team was told that the information they brought forth should have been turned in by the August 20 deadline. The certification of the ballot has already been completed, and the Secretary of State will not allow Ward on the ballot.
The Libertarian Party of Alabama is currently suing the State of Alabama for discrimination against minor parties over access to the voter registration list. The court recently denied the State’s motion to dismiss.
The Libertarian Party speculated on whether or not Monday’s rejection of Ward’s appeal some sort of retaliation from the Secretary of State for the lawsuit.
Doug Ward will now attempt to run a write in campaign.
“Our team brought forth over the required number of signatures of registered voters,” Ward said in a statement. “Many were dismissed because of names changing through marriage and divorce and what appeared to be slight errors in the database. They allowed us a few that we were able to bring in wedding announcements for but when we got close to reaching our number the criteria seemed to get harder. There were 13 signatures the SoS office could not discount as invalid, but would not allow being counted. We offered to go get sworn affidavits from the voters in question. Our offer was declined and those voters were not counted leaving us just short of the needed number. This is a setback but not unexpected. Moving forward we are running a write-in campaign. We will keep reaching out to the voters to make sure they know this district still has a choice.”
Republican Autauga County Commissioner Van Smith will face Democrat Kennith Allison Sr. on the November 5 special general election ballot.
House district 42 became vacant when State Rep. Jimmy Martin (R-Clanton) passed away in May.