Late Wednesday night, the Alabama Republican Party announced that it has granted a request for a rehearing in the Republican primary for the Senate District 27 race between Jay Hovey and incumbent Sen. Tom Whatley.
The rehearing will take place Friday morning, according to Hovey.
“Election security and making sure that every vote is counted properly is of paramount importance to the Alabama Republican Party,” said an ALGOP press release.
Hovey’s campaign filed an official motion on Tuesday requesting a rehearing by the Alabama Republican Party Steering Committee to consider new evidence after the Alabama Law Enforcement Agency released a statement on Sunday indicating that a Tallapoosa County resident who cast the tying vote in the Republican Primary for State Senate District 27 did not complete the voting registration process.
“We have filed an official motion requesting a rehearing by the State Candidate Steering Committee to hear new evidence, which is ALEA’s press release and confirmation of our stance that the provisional ballot that the committee used to bring the vote tally to a tie was indeed cast by an unregistered voter, making it an illegal vote,” said Hovey, who added that the information from ALEA’s internal inquiry was not presented during last Saturday’s closed hearing, although the Hovey campaign made the same assertions. “We are waiting on a response to that motion, and that’s where we are. We are certainly not anticipating a scheduling of a coin toss until I hear at least a reply on that motion.”
Hovey also refuted some reports that say he has agreed to a coin flip or that a date has been set to do so.
“I’ve had zero correspondence since Sunday with the state party, and so obviously have not agreed to or even heard a forced date on when a coin toss would happen,” he said. “I understand that there’s been a … date put out by someone else and then a list of required conditions of the results of that coin toss — I have been given none of that.”
Hovey added that his last correspondence with the state party on Sunday was a “pleasant conversation” with Chairman John Wahl, where he shared his schedule and that he would be unavailable until after the July 4 holiday. Hovey also said he was not ready to make a decision “just yet” on what the next step would be or whether he would consider taking legal action if a motion is denied.
The Alabama Republican Party Candidate Steering Committee awarded Whatley another vote following a closed, four-hour hearing held at the office of the law firm Balch & Bingham last Saturday in Birmingham, which brought the race to a tie and set the stage for a coin flip to decide the Republican nominee.
Hovey and Whatley entered the hearing last Saturday separated by one vote, with Hovey holding the lead with 8,373 votes to Whatley’s 8,372.
After the election on May 24, Hovey held a four-vote lead, which then dwindled to one after provisional ballots were counted. Whatley declined to pursue a recount in either Lee, Russell or Tallapoosa counties, but filed a challenge to the District 27 primary results with the Alabama Republican Party.
ALGOP issued a statement on Monday morning explaining its decision to award Whatley the tying vote.
“The Alabama Republican Party Candidate Committee determined during Saturday’s election contest hearing that an uncounted provisional ballot in favor of Senator Tom Whatley was improperly excluded from the vote totals,” said a press release from ALGOP.
The extra vote awarded to Whatley last Saturday, which resulted in the tied race, came from Tallapoosa County resident Patsy Kenney, who moved from Georgia to Dadeville with her husband in March. In late April, Kenney and her husband went to get their driver’s licenses in Opelika, at which point Kenney believed she also registered to vote.
The Alabama Law Enforcement Agency released a statement on Sunday that relays the results of a review of Kenney’s allegation “claiming to be wrongly excluded from the polls due to a driver license error.”
“The enquiry discovered the individual in question possesses a driver license issued by the State of Georgia. It also revealed the individual visited the ALEA Driver License Office in Opelika, to obtain an Alabama Driver’s License. However, did not complete an issuance transaction and was never issued an Alabama Driver License. The individual still holds a current Georgia Driver License,” said the ALEA press release. “Voter registration information from ALEA’s Driver License Division is only sent after the credential is issued and the customer signs the required voter declaration, which did not occur in this specific incident.”
If ALEA’s review is accurate, the tying provisional vote the Alabama Republican Party awarded to Whatley on Saturday came from voter who did not complete the voting registration process in Alabama. According to a report in the Alex City Outlook, Kenney’s husband was registered that day in April and was able to vote in the primary election, and that Kenney didn’t finish the process of obtaining her driver license because of an issue with her vision.
After the ALGOP committee’s decision was announced on Saturday, Hovey expressed his disappointment in a statement to The Villager.
“The Alabama State Republican Party apparently has a different opinion than that of the National Republican Party on whether illegal ballots should be considered,” said Hovey. “Certainly, every vote is important and it’s unfortunate if anyone is mistaken that they are registered to vote. But if the proper, legal process isn’t followed to register, a person shouldn’t be allowed to cast a ballot to be considered.
“I’m sure there are countless constituents of Senate District 27 who missed the registration deadline that would love to have their ballots counted after the fact. But that’s simply not allowed.”
A message left with Whatley for comment on the committee’s decision was not returned.
(Editor’s Note: This article was updated to include new information from an ALGOP press release on Wednesday night)