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Bullock Co. hopefuls claim vote problems   (AL)

Alvin Benn     Montgomery Advertiser    10 June 2008

UNION SPRINGS Two unsuccessful candidates for seats on the Bullock County Commission claim widespread absentee vote irregularities in the June 3 election and want a state investigation.

Clarence "Bubba" Blue and Terry Jackson said Monday that hundreds of absentee ballots were cast for their commission opponents and those votes made the difference in their losing campaigns.

"It's worse here than in Perry County, and we want the attorney general to seize the absentee ballots to see how many were illegal," said Blue, who lost to incumbent Commissioner Johnny Adams Jr.

Blue defeated Adams by 271 total votes in the district's 16 precincts, but was overwhelmed by Adams in the absentee box. Adams received 736 absentee votes to 76 for Blue. It gave Adams a 389 vote victory.

Alonzo Ellis Jr. won the District 4 nomination, defeating Jackson by 77 votes. Jackson held a 311 vote edge at the precinct level, but Ellis far outnumbered him in the absentee box 592 to 204.

Blue said Adams and members of his family "actively solicited" absentee ballots before the June 3 election.

Adams admitted he and relatives "helped" Bullock County residents apply for absentee ballots, but said it was not done to "break any laws."

"I've helped pave many dirt roads in my district and people know me," said Adams, who has served as district commissioner for eight years. "A lot of people work outside Bullock County and are not here during the hours of the election to vote."

Blue and Jackson said during an interview Monday morning that they have "heard" some voters received cash payments to cast absentee votes for their opponents.

Blue said he wrote a letter to the attorney general's office nearly three weeks before the June 3 election, citing applications for hundreds of absentee ballots.

"About 23 percent of the votes cast in this election were by absentee ballots and that's ridiculous, given the size of Bullock County," said Blue, who lost to Adams by a 10-to-1 margin in the absentee box.

Attorney General Troy King, whose office successfully prosecuted some accused of election fraud in Hale County, said Monday afternoon that complaints from voters in other counties "will be examined."

"Election fraud cheapens and lessens the votes cast by people who participate legally," King said. "It's not a crime as much against a candidate or voter as it is a crime against democracy itself."

Absentee votes are permitted in Alabama elections, but complaints have been raised by voters who feel the law often is abused.

Generally, those who expect to be out of town on election day, are too ill to go to the polls or are in nursing homes are allowed to cast absentee votes.

State Sen. Myron Penn, D-Union Springs, met briefly with Blue and Jackson on Monday morning and told them "there should be a lot of attention paid to your complaints."

Penn said when he ran for a county office in 2000, he defeated his opponent on the precinct level, but lost the absentee box and that cost him the election.

"There have been issues surrounding absentee ballots for many years in several of our counties," said Penn. "When there are more absentee ballots cast in counties smaller than Jefferson County, you know it needs to be looked at."

Perry and Bullock aren't the only counties where absentee vote irregularities have been alleged in connection with the June 3 election.

Lowndes County resident Kathy Crowder said Monday afternoon that more than 900 absentee ballots were cast in that election "and something needs to be done about it."

"I think if the attorney general investigates, he's going to find a lot of irregularities here," said Crowder, who said she has informed Lowndes County Sheriff Chip Williams of her concern. "It goes on all the time."

Crowder said Williams has indicated to her that he will take election complaints "straight to the attorney general's office."

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