The News Courier in Athens, Alabama

Local News

June 24, 2010

Is runoff voting same as primary?

Democrats, Republicans have different rules for July 13 election

— Residents who plan to vote in the July 13 runoff election should remember they must vote within either the Democratic or Republican Party, said local Elections Director Bobbi Bailey.

However, rules vary within each party as to whether residents must vote the same ticket on which they voted in the June 1 primary election.

In the primary, voters had to declare in which party they wanted to vote in order to receive the proper ballot when they arrived at the polling place.

In the runoff, voters don’t necessarily need to vote in the same party as they did in the primary.

Republicans in Alabama do not have set rules on switching parties from the primary to the runoff, said local party chairman Jim Burden.

Residents who voted on a Republican ballot in the primary, for instance, could switch to the Democratic ballot for the runoff.

“We don’t have any rigid rules that you vote either way,” Burden said. And if Republicans did have rules, they would have no way to enforce them, he said. “Alabama does not have a registered Republican Party so there’s really no way to count that.”

However, Democrats discourage switching parties for the runoff.

“Democratic rules say if you voted in the Republican primary, you’re not supposed to vote in the Democratic runoff,” said local Democratic Party chairwoman Pam Wallace.

“This country has always had a two-party system. It’s nothing new. People should think of it as choosing their team.”

Wallace added that Alabama’s election system is more open than in many states.

“In most states, voters are required to register by party. If you’re registered as a Democrat, you can’t switch,” Wallace said.

In any case, policing what a voter does on voting day is difficult, Bailey said.

“When the voter goes in to the polling place, the polling clerks ask, ‘Which primary runoff do you choose?’ They don’t ask how you voted in the primary. Who’s going to police it?”

Sample ballots are not available for the runoff election yet because of a delay caused by the recount in the gubernatorial election requested by candidate Tim James.

Races that will appear on the Republican ballot include:

• State House of Representatives District 5: Steve Pepper against Dan Williams. The winner will face Democratic incumbent Henry White and independent Jerry Hill in November’s general election.

• Governor: Bradley Byrne against Robert Bentley. The winner will face Democrat Ron Sparks in November.

• Commissioner of Agriculture and Industries: Dorman Grace against John McMillan. The winner will face Democrat Glen Zorn in November.

• Public Service Commission, Place 1: Twinkle Andress Cavanaugh against Steve Evans. The winner will face Democratic incumbent Jan Cook in November.

• State Board of Education, District 8: Sue Helms against Mary Scott Hunter. The winner will face Democrat Mary Ruth Yates in the general election.

Races that will appear on the Democratic ballot are:

• Limestone County Commission District 3: John Farrar against Bill Latimer. The winner of the runoff will be named commissioner because there is no Republican opposition for the general election.

• State Attorney General: James H. Anderson against Giles Perkins. The winner will face Republican Luther Strange in November.


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