Officials Review Ballot Problem In Etowah Legislative Race

GADSDEN, Ala. (AP) — Alabama Republican Party officials are “incredibly upset” about a mix-up in Etowah County that might have caused some primary voters to get ballots for the wrong legislative district, and are looking at options for how to proceed, the party chairman said Thursday.

The problem affected House of Representatives Districts 28 and 29, Secretary of State John Merrill and Etowah County Probate Judge Scott Hassell said in a joint statement. They said the Etowah County Board of Registrars was responsible for sorting voters into the legislative districts. They said they learned Tuesday that a problem, first identified in late April, of some voters being listed in the wrong district had not been corrected, or corrected entirely.

“At this point, it is unknown how many voters were directly affected,” they wrote in the statement.

“Corrective measures are still being taken in anticipation of the Primary Runoff Election and the General Election. We understand the frustration to voters, candidates, and parties,” they said.

The Republican primary for House District 29 is a tight contest between Mark Gidley and Jamie Grant. Unofficial returns show the two candidates separated by less than 90 votes.

Alabama Republican Party Chairman John Wahl said they are also investigating what happened, how many votes were impacted and “what remedy there is moving forward.”

“Our No. 1 priority is to make sure the will of Republican primary voters is reflected in the outcome of these elections,” Wahl said. He added, "We will do the best we possibly can in order to find a solution to this terrible situation we’re facing.”

Legislative boundaries shifted last year when the Alabama Legislature approved a new district map as required by law. The Etowah County Board of Registrars is responsible for assigning voters to the correct district, Merrill and Hassell said.

A problem was discovered in late April when a candidate’s family member got an absentee ballot with the wrong district, the election officials said, and the Etowah County Board of Registrars was instructed to correct the problem. They said they discovered on Tuesday that the problem “had not been corrected and this negatively impacted both the candidates and voters in House Districts 28 and 29."