When Mike Matthews, an incumbent Republican candidate for the Jackson County Board of Education, was removed from the ballot due to a technical error, he cried foul.
“The Ethics Commission needs to give equal treatment under the law, and the Secretary of State, as the chief election officer, needs to take responsibility and ensure this is addressed,” Matthews said in a release shortly after learning of his disqualification.
Tom Albritton, Director of the Alabama Ethics Commission, said there was never any unfair treatment, and noted that the commission doesn’t actually disqualify anybody.
“We certify whether somebody has filed the correct form,” Albritton said. “Whether the candidate is on the ballot is really somebody else’s call.”
Under Alabama law, candidates are required to file a Statement of Economic Interest (SEI) form within five days of qualifying. The form allows public access to information about candidates’ sources of income, ensuring their economic interests remain transparent.
While failure to properly file such a form in time is technically disqualifying, election officials have disregarded this technicality in the past.
In 2016, Troy Clerk Alton Starling disregarded mistakes made by numerous candidates in filing SEI forms, and two candidates were ultimately voted onto the council despite the technical disqualifier.
Since Matthews initially made his complaint, numerous candidates from both political parties have been disqualified for making the same error.
AL.com reports that 13 Democratic candidates have been disqualified in Jefferson County alone for the same reason, creating a crisis for the party.
“My focus over the next few days will be to assist them in any way possible in their quest to get back on the ballot,” Wayne Rogers, chair of the Jefferson County Democratic Party, told AL.com. “We will do everything in our power to make sure that happens.”
According to the Daily Mountain Eagle, at least nine candidates have been disqualified from the ballots in Walker County due to the technicality. The Alexander City Outlook reports that two candidates, one Republican and one Democrat, will be removed from the ballot for failing to submit the form on time.
In Montgomery, Irva Reed—sister of Mayor Steven Reed—will be ineligible to appear on the ballot for Montgomery County Commission due to the same error, as reported by the Montgomery Independent.
ALGOP Chairman John Wahl told APR Tuesday that it is due to the efforts of the Alabama Republican Party that these Democrat candidates have been disqualified.
“Before we got involved, the vast majority were Republicans,” Wahl said.
Wahl mentioned that the party contacted local election officials, including the election manager in Jefferson County, to notify them of the failure of Democrat candidates to submit the forms in a timely fashion.