After alleged election fraud, questions about the house race

An indictment of voter fraud in Perry County this month has some GOP members questioning the potential impact on a tight Alabama House race that depended on a Black Belt County precinct.

Fred Kelley, last year’s Republican nominee for House District 68, would like to know if the alleged misconduct affected his race. Incumbent Democratic Rep. Thomas Jackson of Thomasville won a general election challenge from Kelley by 550 votes, or 51.4%.

Albert Turner Jr., chairman of the Perry County Commission, was charged with felony and misdemeanor counts of voter fraud. The indictment was announced Jan. 11 by outgoing Secretary of State John Merrill and outgoing District Attorney Michael Jackson. Turner is accused of multiple voting and tabbing multiple completed ballots at a Perry County polling station during the May primary. In the November general election, Turner allegedly submitted several completed mail-in ballots to the US Post Office for mailing.

Turner has denied any wrongdoing.

“It’s important for the Republican Party to ensure the votes were counted correctly in Perry County, especially in this one county that could have affected the outcome of a general election,” ALGOP Chairman John Wahl told the Alabama Daily News. “We’re waiting to see if the alleged ballot stuffing could have affected that district.”

Details about the alleged fraud, including how many ballots are in question or in which counties it took place, have not been released. In announcing the charges, Merrill said it was too early to say whether the results of the May primary or the November general election were affected and that the matter is still under investigation.

“I just have a desire to serve,” Kelley told the Alabama Daily News. “That’s why I ran for my district. The fact that I want the people of Perry County, House District 68, and all of Alabama to have open and fair elections. I don’t think it’s fair for the people of Monroe County, my home county, the only county in that county, to overwhelmingly vote for me and have their votes nullified by alleged voter fraud.”

After the 2021 redistribution, House District 68 absorbed a district in Uniontown in southwest Perry County. The district now includes all of Monroe County, northern and central Conecuh County, western Clarke County, where Jackson lives, southern and eastern Marengo County, western part of Wilcox County, and a sprinkling of Perry County.

Kelley received about 62% of the vote in his home county on election night, and early results were looking good for him until the Perry County box came in. Jackson received about 620 votes there.

Jackson, a lawmaker since 1994, told the Alabama Daily News that his appearance in Perry County was because he campaigned hard in the area, which is new to the district.

“I spent a lot of time there from June through November promoting myself there,” Jackson said. “…We went to churches and met people. We were there every Sunday.”

Jackson said all he knew about the allegations was what he had read in media reports. He said he would like a thorough investigation so people know his win was legitimate.

“As far as I’m concerned, unless they can prove something, it was a fair choice,” Jackson said. “You make accusations, I want to see facts,” he said.

The indictment came too late to contest the November election results.

“One of the most devastating things about voter fraud is that it’s very difficult to correct after an election,” Wahl said. “We will not know exactly how many ballots were affected or which areas were affected. This is why it is so important that our elections are secure and that we ensure that no impropriety happens in the future. Election integrity is one of the Republican Party’s top priorities, and we will make sure we get to the bottom of it.”