The Alabama Republican Party denied two election contests – in Districts 28 and 29 – and punted on a third, declaring the one-vote Alabama Senate race in District 27 a draw.
Incumbent Sen. Tom Whatley and challenger Jay Hovey, who won that Auburn-area race by a single vote, will now likely be decided by a coin toss to determine a winner.
By law, a tie in a state legislative election is determined by drawing lots, which means, according to Alabama code, that Secretary of State John Merrill will draw a “lot” – or determine the outcome by some method of random chance – while in the presence of Gov. Kay Ivey. Tied races in recent Alabama history – most of which were at the city and county levels – have been determined by coin toss, but the law allows for any random method of chance that the parties agree to. It wasn’t immediately clear when the drawing would occur.
Attempts to reach Hovey and Whatley late Saturday night were unsuccessful. The ALGOP candidate committee, which ruled on the election contests, did not provide in the statements to sent to media a reason for its decisions in the three races.
However, the decision in the Hovey-Whatley race is sure to cause controversy for the party. Thousands of Republicans voted for Hovey, who clearly won the race, according to Alabama and ALGOP rules. Whatley, however, contested the results on the basis that a number of Democratic voters, who didn’t have a primary contest in that area, crossed over to vote for Hovey. Such crossover voting is not illegal in Alabama.
Now, ALGOP faces the very real possibility of having a lifelong Republican, in Hovey, have his victory tossed out despite no illegalities, improper voting or ballot errors.
Even more curiously, the party elected not to grant challenges in Districts 28 and 29 – two Etowah County districts where state, local and party officials all acknowledged that some voters had been provided the wrong ballots. Again, the party’s candidate committee offered no explanation for the denials.
The denials leave Mack Butler and Mark Gidley as the primary winners in those districts.