AUBURN, Ala. (WRBl) – The Republican nominee for Alabama Senate District 27 representing Lee, Tallapoosa, and Russell County is still up in the air weeks after the May 24th primary. Challenger Jay Hovey beat incumbent Senator Tom Whatley by one vote after a provisional ballot count. However, Whatley contested the race. Alabama’s GOP Candidate Committee held a hearing and declared the race a tie, stating an uncounted provisional ballot for Whatley was improperly excluded. Then came a statement from the Alabama Law Enforcement Agency confirming the individual did not correctly register to vote.
Now, there’s confusion, controversy, and still, a possible coin-flip tie-breaker as the GOP takes a closer look at a new hearing Friday morning.
“I’m very pleased that the Party granted our request to reconvene. The statement issued by ALEA on Monday confirms our position was correct. The vote used to bring this race to a tie was cast by an unregistered voter and, therefore, an illegal vote. My only wish is that my Party, the Republican Party, stands by their long-standing pledge to fight for voter and election integrity and reverse their decision to accept an illegal vote,” said Hovey.
Hovey’s request is based on the ALEA statement released twenty-four hours after the initial hearing concluded.
“Election security and making sure that every vote is counted properly is of paramount importance to the Alabama Republican Party The ALGOP will release additional information once the committee has reached a decision, said ALGOP in a statement.
Whatley filed an appeal with the GOP over Friday’s second hearing, saying the final decision has been made, ALEA’s statement is not new evidence, and the coin-toss needs to go ahead. WRBL has reached out to Whatley’s campaign spokesperson for further comment.
News 3 was at Tuesday night’s Lee County Republican Executive Committee gathered for their typical 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.
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.
News 3 has learned Ham and Lee County’s Probate Judge tried to attend Saturday’s initial GOP Candidate Committee Hearing so they could listen to both sides of the evidence. However, the Lee County representatives were told the hearing was closed to the public. Ham says she did not have much information on the single vote, the issues regarding the individual registration, and why the vote was counted despite the statement from ALEA.
Republicans are in a tough spot, desiring to support their state party, but at the same time, local voters who say Hovey won fair and square. There’s talk if Whatley wins by a coin toss, voters may cast their ballot for Democrat Sherri Reese, a United States Veteran, in November’s General Election. WRBL has reached out to Reese for a comment.
“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.
The Lee County Republican Executive Committee is waiting to hear more from the State GOP before releasing an official statement to the public regarding the primary.