MONTGOMERY, Ala. (WRBL) – Alabama’s Republican Party leaders are on the verge of using a game of chance to decide the Senate District 27. This, after declaring the primary election between incumbent Tom Whatley and challenger Jay Hovey was a tie based on one vote counted for Whatley by an individual the Alabama Law Enforcement Agency states is not registered to vote. 

Hovey, Whatley

Before the ALGOP’s tie declaration, challenger Jay Hovey beat incumbent Tom Whatley by one vote after a provisional ballot count. Whatley and Hovey were neck and neck across the three-county district of Russell, Lee, and Tallapoosa for Alabama State Senate District 27, separated by four votes, with Hovey leading on Election Day.

On Saturday, June 25, 2022, a hearing was held by the ALGOP on the election contest filed by Whatley in the race. Following deliberations, the Alabama Republican Party Candidate Committee declared the race a tie, saying an uncounted provisional ballot in favor of Whatley was improperly excluded from the vote totals. When this provisional ballot was included in the vote totals, the race became tied. 

However, The Alabama Law Enforcement Agency released a statement asserting the individual did not compete the proper steps to register to vote while trying to obtain an Alabama driver’s license. 

“ALEA’s Driver License Division conducted a thorough review concerning the recent allegation by an individual claiming to be wrongly excluded from the polls due to a driver license error, which affected the 27 Senate District primary election. The inquiry discovered the individual in question possesses a driver’s 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. 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. Voter registration information is filed nightly by ALEA’s Driver License Division to the Secretary of State’s Office to ensure each citizen’s voter registration is up to date,” said the ALEA statement.

ALEA statement

News 3 has reached out to Whatley for a statement regarding the tie. Hovey has said the Alabama State Republican Party apparently has a different opinion than that of the National Republican Party on whether illegal ballots should be considered. 

“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,” said Hovey. 

The Alabama Republican Party has the authority to pick its nominee in the event of a tied primary. In this case, the ALGOP Candidate Committee voted in favor of having Chairman John Wahl resolve this tie by lot, the method used for such situations in a general election, as outlined in Alabama Code 17-12-23. The ALGOP is currently working with both candidates to determine a date and location for the tie-breaker that will probably consist of a coin toss. Once that has been established, members of the media will be notified.

Tuesday, News 3 reached out to the ALGOP to determine if any changes will be made to the decision to declare the race a tie considering information released by ALEA. News 3 is also trying to reach the individual who cast the ballot. 

Some Republican voters, who did not wish to speak on the record, say if the tie is allowed to stand, they will be disappointed and concerned it could lead to voters withdrawing their support for a Republican candidate. 

The eventual winner faces Democrat Sherri Reese, a veteran, in November’s General Election.