Fixing Electoral Problems in Alabama

iraqballotaccess.gifThe Alabama Secretary of State race is starting to become a bit interesting. Beth Chapman, the Republican candidate, has been receiving ink for this recent publicity stunt:

Secretary of State Nancy Worley, a Democrat, has accused Republican Beth Chapman of politicizing the voting process by promising to watch polls in a heavily Democratic county and offering monetary rewards to voter fraud whistleblowers.
Chapman, the state auditor running for secretary of state, announced her plans last week in a made-for-TV news conference, complete with Chapman and a group of Hale County voters raising purple index fingers, a la Iraq, in support of honest elections.

The heat started for the incumbent Democrat Nancy Worley (site down at this moment) shortly after she was elected. One of her first official acts after taking office was screwing the taxpayers:

As the 2003 fiscal year neared an end she learned that there was some unspent money in her budget which if not spent would have to be refunded to the General Fund on Sept. 30. Her choices were two: Spend it or refund it.
Very quickly she found a way to spend it – she bought herself a new “set of wheels”, as we used to say up home. She went to a Ford dealership in Huntsville and drove out with $30,275 V-8 Eddie Bauer Expedition, which included $7,831 in upgrades.
Mind you, only days before she had announced that five employees in her office would be laid off on Sept. 30 due to the financial crisis.
When asked why she couldn’t have been content with a Ford Taurus which she could have bought for about $11,000 she replied that the $19,000 difference wouldn’t have saved anyone’s job.

Worley is now in a pissing match with Chapman over the cash for fraud gimmick:

Worley said offering cash rewards could lead citizens to manufacture fraud that they could then report. “We should encourage all Alabamians to follow the law, not offer them monetary rewards to do what is right,” she said.

On June 6, Worley will face Ed Packard, one of her employees in the state elections division, for the Democratic nomination. Packard has filed a complaint with the state AG because of Worley’s campaign activities:

An employee and political rival of Secretary of State Nancy Worley says she has asked her employees to contribute to her re-election campaign in apparent violation of state law.
Ed Packard, director of the elections division in the secretary of state’s office, filed a complaint Tuesday with Republican Attorney General Troy King alleging Worley sent letters to employees that included pledge cards for her campaign.

As there is no third party or independent candidate in this race, I’ve had to take a look at candidates the two big parties. Obviously, any ethical person will dismiss any consideration of voting for Worley for the reasons outlined above.
Chapman has done a good job as the state auditor (actually spent less to obain better results), so I took a closer look at her other issues. Her bio page shows a picture of her holding hands with George Bush. Strike one!
The lead entry on her endorsements page lists Bill Pryor, the former Alabama Attorney General and controversial Bush buddy and appointee for the Eleventh Circuit U.S. Court of Appeals. Pryor once opined that a statewide ballot initiative was not considered “political”, enabling Republicans to continue to use state resources to promote an unpopular tax plan. Pryor’s support of political party over principal is a key issue that prompted me to send this request to the Department of Justice. If Pryor is Chapman’s proudest endorsement and she’s sporting a picture of Bush on her site, it’s obvious that Chapman likewise supports party over principle. Strike two!
When Chapman was pushing her purple finger gimmick, she could have used it for an issue which affects many more votes than stopping a few fraudulent ones. Alabama election law is intentionally set up to keep third-party and independents off the ballot. They’ve established what is essentially a $100,000 poll tax to disenfranchise minority groups from exercising their civil rights. Chapman’s platform doesn’t even cover this elephant in the living room. Strike three!
This leaves Ed Packard as the one possible person to support in this race. Richard Winger, the nation’s leading expert on ballot access, spoke very highly of Packard in a phone call with me the other day. I’d not be surprised to see a personal endorsement coming from him. The board members of Independent Alabama met last night and it was clear that each member enthusiastically supports Packard’s campaign. Mark Bodenhausen, who ran for SecState as a Libertarian four years ago, is also supporting Packard. To be clear, every Libertarian, Green, progressive, independent and former Nader supporter I know supports Packard in this race. Packard’s platform explains why:

Empowering voters and improving elections in Alabama by working to ensure that:

  • all state and federal election laws are followed so that everyone’s voting rights are protected and all voters and candidates are playing by the same rules.
  • Alabamians should have confidence that elections are conducted in a fair and open manner.
  • Alabama and its counties utilize the best voting technology available so that voters have confidence that when they vote, their votes are counted accurately.
  • Alabamians face no unreasonable or unnecessary barriers to voting. Each and every voting procedure should address real problems, not merely hypothetical concerns, if the procedure imposes a burden on the right to vote.
  • voters who cannot go to the polls are provided convenient and secure ways of voting so that absence does not equal disenfranchisement. Alabamians who are members of the military, reside overseas, are homebound, or who have business or school interests that take them away from home on election day should be able to participate just as readily as those of us who are able to go to the polls.
  • the personal information for Alabama’s voters is secure. Alabamians should not have to worry about who has access to personal information contained on the county voter lists.
  • independent candidates and minor political parties have fair and reasonable access to the ballot.

During his tenure working for Alabama’s elections division, Packard has practiced what he is currently preaching. It’s rare that you will ever see me voting for, much less endorsing, any Democrat or Republican. Ed Packard is clearly a special case and he’s getting my full support in his quest to make Alabama elections fair for all of the citizens of the state.