The Alabama Secretary of State’s probe into absentee voting irregularities during the July 17 primary runoff could be expanded to include more Black Belt counties.
Secretary of State John Merrill said that Wilcox and Perry counties, initially named last week in a state investigation into potential absentee voter fraud, may be joined by other counties.
“We started with those two but we’re not ending with those two,” said Merrill on Thursday.
His comments come after an election that saw some of the state’s smallest, and poorest counties experience a surge in voter turnout that nearly doubled or – in the case of tiny Wilcox County — tripled the state’s approximately 14 percent turnout rate….
Richard Fording, a political science professor at the University of Alabama, said he’s heard directly from Perry County community leaders who complain about political corruption. Fording said he’s involved in a university program that does service work in Perry County.
“The spike in absentee ballots is certainly unusual,” Fording said. “I think Secretary Merrill is doing the right thing to look into this, but I think he must be careful to conduct this investigation in a way that does not serve to intimidate people from voting in the future.”
Said Fording: “And I think he must also be sure that he is enforcing the law equally across the state and not focusing on counties that are largely African American. It seems doubtful that it is only the African-American majority counties that have suspicious voting practices.”