OPELIKA, Ala. (WRBL) – The Alabama Republican Party is on the verge of flipping a coin to decide their nominee in the Senate District 27 election. The decision is causing controversy for some voters in the Lee, Russell, and Tallapoosa County districts. The game of chance is needed to decide the primary after the state’s GOP Candidate Committee declared incumbent Tom Whatley and challenger Jay Hovey tied in the primary based on a ballot for Whatley by an individual the Alabama Law Enforcement Agency confirmed is not registered to vote.

News 3 attended Tuesday night’s Lee County Republican Executive Committee gathering for their regularly scheduled meeting, and the Senate District 27 debacle was discussed at length.

“This is not about the candidate; please understand that this is about the Republican Party, and what we stand for is supposed to be election integrity and transparency,” Elizabeth Ham, Chairmen of the Lee County Republican Executive Committee, told the group.

The Republican Executive Committee is waiting to hear more from the Alabama GOP before releasing an official statement to the public regarding the primary and the ballot that tied the election. However, Ham granted News 3 an interview after the meeting.

“It’s a big mess, and we just want to say that we care very much about our voters, and we care about each and every vote in Lee County and adjacent counties. We want those votes counted properly,” said Ham.

Challenger Jay Hovey beat incumbent Tom Whatley by one vote after a provisional ballot count. Whatley contested, and this weekend the Alabama GOP Candidate Committee held a hearing, afterward declaring a tie, saying an uncounted provisional ballot for Whatley was improperly excluded. Then came the statement from The Alabama Law Enforcement Agency, asserting the individual did not complete the proper steps to register to vote.

“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.

News 3 has learned Ham and Lee County’s Probate Judge tried to attend the weekend GOP Candidate Committee Hearing to listen to both sides of the evidence. However, they were told the hearing was closed to the public. Ham says she does not have much information on the single vote, the issues regarding the individual’s registration, and why the vote was counted despite the statement from ALEA saying the individual had not properly registered.

News 3 is waiting to hear a statement from Whatley regarding the tie. We have also reached out to the Alabama GOP for more information. Meanwhile, Hovey considers the ballot illegal.

“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.

Republicans are in a tough spot, desiring to support their state party, but at the same time, listen to local voters who say Hovey won fair and square. There’s also talk if Whatley wins by a coin toss, upset Republicans could vote for Democrat Sherri Reese, a United States Veteran, in November’s General Election.

Sherri Reese
Sherri Reese

“Yes, we have heard that, and yes, we are concerned because that has happened before. As we brought up tonight, a big portion of that district is democrat, so it could very easily go the other way,” said Ham.

For now, The ALGOP is still determining a date for the coin-toss tie-breaker. We will keep you updated.