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Zeigler concerned about voter turnout as runoff looms

Zeigler said he would create a “comprehensive” program with the expectation to double turnout if elected as secretary of state.

State Auditor Jim Zeigler

With less than a handful of days remaining before the runoff election, secretary of state candidate Jim Zeigler said he is worried about low turnout and its impact on the race.

“Everywhere I go, people are asking me ‘isn’t the runoff in a few weeks?’” Zeigler said. “They don’t know that it is next Tuesday. It’s not necessarily the fault of those people. Our community and political leaders have got to do a better job informing the public.”

Zeigler said he would create a “comprehensive” program with the expectation to double turnout if elected as secretary of state.

“I call it ‘Plan Z,’” Zeigler said. “The Z stands for zero excuses.’ I would involve churches, employers, civic organizations, media personalities, athletes, celebrities — a comprehensive voter turnout campaign.”

Secretary of State John Merrill has already set the template, Zeigler said, except with voter registration instead of turnout.

“Alabama has its highest voter registration percentage in history,” Zeigler said. “Registration is not the problem now.”

Some may call the expectation to double turnout “impractical,” Zeigler said, but he noted that the expectation would still result in only half of voters gong to the polls. And he said he is not aware of any other state implementing a program like he has in mind.

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“I’m not aware of a comprehensive program done in another state,” Zeigler said. “There are piecemeal projects everywhere.”

Zeigler said there is no way of knowing I advance which candidate would be most affected by low turnout, but is still concerned about the ramifications.

In the primary, Zeigler was the top vote-getter with 42.7 percent of the vote. Wes Allen came just behind with 39.7 percent. Christian Horn had 9.8 percent of the vote and Ed Packard had 7.8 percent. Horn has backed Allen in the race.

Zeigler said he has not changed anything about his campaign for the runoff and was continuing to make election stops around the state to spread his message.

Currently the state auditor, Zeigler said he has been a “watchdog” for Alabama and wants to become the “watchdog” for elections.

He touted his experience as an election lawyer chosen to prevent voting irregularities after the Bush-Gore debacle in 2000. 

“It gave me unusual training in preventing fraud,” Zeigler said. 

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Allen has pushed that he is the more experienced candidate, having served as an election official as Pike County probate judge. But Zeigler said his education and experience lends itself to the position.

He also touched on the failure of the Etowah County Board of Registrars to update district mapping and correctly assign voters to new districts, stating that he would audit mapping and voter assignments prior to elections to prevent the situation from occurring again.

“It’s better to straighten it out before the election than try to unmuddy it after,” Zeigler said. “There are some indications that it could have been fixed ahead of time. If someone knew about it ahead of time and did nothing, that’s a serious problem.”

The runoff is set for Tuesday, June 21.

Jacob Holmes is a reporter at the Alabama Political Reporter. You can reach him at [email protected]

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