The News Courier in Athens, Alabama

October 11, 2012

Familiar Democratic donkey gone from Alabama ballot, GOP elephant stays

Associated Press

. — MONTGOMERY, Ala. (AP) — The Democratic donkey that has traditionally marked the spot for voting a straight Democratic ticket won't appear on Alabama's ballots Nov. 6, though the traditional Republican elephant will appear.

A spokeswoman for the secretary of state said it was the Democratic Party staff that requested the new donkey-free logo that appears on the ballot. The new logo says "Alabama Democrats" in block letters.

"It's very strange, but they chose to change it," spokeswoman Emily Thompson said Wednesday.

Alabama Democratic Party Executive Director Bradley Davidson attributed the change to an internal miscommunication in the party, but some Democrats worry it could hurt the party's vote.

Party Vice Chairman Joe Reed is among those concerned about the impact.

"This is the first time I've ever known it to be left off the ballot. A lot of times you tell people to vote a straight ticket by looking for the donkey," he said.

He said the State Democratic Executive Committee never approved the change.

Thompson said state law requires each political party to give the secretary of state the emblem it wants to use on the ballot at least 60 days before each election. The law says the emblem is supposed to be approved by a party's executive committee. The logo is used at the top of the ballot, and people who want to vote a straight ticket fill in an oval next to the emblem.

She said Elections Systems & Software, which works with the state and county governments to prepare the ballots and the software for counting ballots, contacted the Democratic Party about two months in advance of the March 13 primary election to see what it wanted on this year's ballots.

A Jan. 25 email from Gregg Woodyard of ES&S to Davidson recounts that the two had a conversation on Jan. 19 in which Davidson said the party had a new logo and wanted it used on the ballot.

"We acted in good faith that the logo was approved at all levels, and therefore used the new logo for the statewide Democratic Party ballot layout. Today we received a call stating the new logo was not approved at all levels in the Democratic Party. With that being said, we are at a point in the ballot production that we cannot delay the process any further. Therefore the new logo that you submitted will remain on all the Democratic ballots for this election cycle," Woodyard wrote.

Thompson said there could be no delays because state elections officials were up against the deadline to get ballots to the military and other Alabama citizens living overseas.

Davidson said Thursday he and another party employee talked to ES&S about using the new logo, which was designed originally for the party's website. He said the entire staff at the party headquarters was hired after the 2010 elections and did not realize there was a process they were supposed to follow to get the proper approval.

"It's a screw-up," he said.

The new "Alabama Democrats" emblem appeared on the primary ballot and the runoff ballot, but it was not an issue then because voters can't cast a straight ticket vote in those elections.

Thompson said Republican Secretary of State Beth Chapman had no role in the change, and Democratic Party officials didn't contact her with concerns.

Davidson said the party is contacting candidates, county party leaders, and others active in the party to make sure they tell voters to look for "Alabama Democrats" instead of a donkey.

"We are doing the best to educate everybody we can," he said.

The Alabama Republican Party is using its traditional silhouette of an elephant.