PHENIX CITY, Ala. — At least 32 illegal voters may have thrown off the results of the recent Phenix City Council District 2 election, according to a police investigation.
Monday, the city clerk’s office released the official complaint of dozens of voters illegally registered at business addresses instead of their homes.
Phenix City Police Chief Ray Smith says his investigation has already confirmed at least 32 incorrectly registered voters, but his office is already looking into 20 more. He adds the list continues to grow.
City councilors, Mayor Eddie Lowe, and the city manager all shared one thought to the findings presented to them — “disturbing”, to say the least. They say it appears many were incorrectly informed on the legal definition of a “domicile” where you can register to vote.
During Monday’s meeting, several asked about a practice where business owners with a “vested interest” in the community where their business was located could vote in those areas.
The Alabama Secretary of State John Merrill says the law is clear — you can only vote in the place you call home.
“It’s the place where you lay your head. That would be the place that you sleep, that you shower, that you eat a lot of meals, that’s your domicile,” Merrill clarifies. “All we’re committed to doing is making it easy to vote and hard to cheat in Alabama… Anytime you have a case of voter fraud it needs to be met with the serious attention it deserves.”
City Manager Wallace Hunter says the sheer number of improper votes suggests the influence on the District 2 election was no accident. However, police say it is still being investigated whether or not anyone attempted to orchestrate a sway in the results.
Candidate Vickey Carter Johnson says she believes she would have won in a landslide had the illegally registered voters been eliminated from the role sooner.
“Of course it would have made a huge difference,” she says. “We don’t know who they voted for, but hypothetically speaking, they don’t know Vickey Carter Johnson, they had no interest in Vickey Carter Johnson.”
Other candidates say they hope the voters of Alabama will be able to move forward with a fair chance at electing their representative.
“Well there’s only two of us in the race now and somebody’s gonna win. Hopefully it’s gonna be me,” says run-off candidate Baxley Oswalt.
“I’m not blaming anybody for this. This is the folks who own the businesses, they allowed people to use it as their residence, and I think that was wrong,” says Steve Franklin, who was eliminated from the race after the November 14 election.
City councilors say the improper votes cannot be eliminated from the results because of the city’s secret ballot system. They say their only course of action is to notify the registrar’s office to have the names removed before the District 2 run-off election December 19.