Anniston election recount, contest stall on lack of money
by Laura Camper
lcamper@annistonstar.com
Sep 13, 2012 | 5207 views |  0 comments | 11 11 recommendations | email to a friend | print
Two efforts to challenge the results of Anniston’s Aug. 28 election may have died because of a lack of money.

A 4 p.m. deadline came and went Thursday without mayoral candidate Ralph Bradford, City Councilman Ben Little or resident Harold Ray providing the $3,850 deposit required for a recount.

Meanwhile, the three held a press conference Thursday to say they were having trouble raising the $5,000 bond required to continue a contest of the election Little had filed in court Monday.

The three spoke in front of City Hall on Thursday morning to a group of about a dozen people, mostly city staff, about the contest and the requested recounts of the mayoral and Ward 3 City Council elections.

Little said although he’s paid the $301 filing fee for the contest, he’s not raised the $5,000 bond required by the circuit clerk for the case.

“The bond was set extremely high, with God being our help, we will meet that bond of $5,000,” Little said.

Little would seem to have missed a deadline for paying the security, but it is unclear how that might affect the lawsuit.

Alabama law requires a person contesting an election to file “a statement in writing, verified by affidavit, of the grounds of the contest as provided in this article and must give good and sufficient security for the costs of the contest, to be approved by the clerk” within five days of the certification of the election results.

According to an Alabama Supreme Court opinion delivered in 1985, the security must be paid within the five-day filing deadline. That deadline for that election was Monday.

The decision on a lawsuit contesting the city’s 1984 election, O. Clayton Dobbins v. the City of Anniston, was dismissed by the Circuit Court in Calhoun County when the security was paid late, and the Supreme Court upheld the dismissal.

“Without some type of security for costs being filed, court has no jurisdiction in election contest and contest must be dismissed,” the 1985 decision states.

Circuit Clerk Ted Hooks said he set the security at $5,000, the same amount he set for an election contest about four years ago. It’s far less than the $15,000 security set in 1983 for the Dobbins case, Hooks said.

Little was aware of the security, Hooks said.

“I told him several days before,” Hooks said. “I told him he needed to get some legal advice.”

Little said Thursday he hadn’t hired an attorney for the lawsuit.

“I’m still torn between a couple of attorneys,” Little said.

Little, a three-term incumbent in the Ward 3 council seat, lost his race to Seyram Selase by a vote of 517-308, or about 63 percent to 37 percent. Bradford, meanwhile, finished 10th in a field of 11 candidates for mayor, with 80 of the 4,959 votes cast. Vaughn Stewart won the mayoral election outright with just more than 55 percent of the vote.

Little said he’s not giving up on the lawsuit, because it’s not just about him.

“The voting area of Ward 3 of South Anniston was infected,” Little said.

Carolyn Henderson, a member of the Calhoun County Board of Registrars, disagreed.

“That’s hard to believe because those poll workers, they’re qualified poll workers,” Henderson said. “They’re very meticulous about what they do.”

Henderson said the board recorded 4,942 people as voting in the election, according to the highlighted names in the record books. She said it is not uncommon for poll workers to inadvertently leave an absentee voter off the list, so there could be a few more. There were 4,959 votes cast in the mayoral election. City Clerk Alan Atkinson said the board has the books with the names of voters highlighted by the poll workers; he has the sheets with the signatures of the voters in his office, but they can only be opened by court order.

Atkinson agreed that the absentee ballots probably caused the 17-vote discrepancy.

"They're supposed to be highlighted before the polls open," Atkinson said.

It could easily have been forgotten, Atkinson said. There were 105 absentee ballots cast in the mayoral election.

Little said people have been telling him of all kinds of violations including people voting more than once, unauthorized people in the voting area and malfunctioning ballot machines. Little handed out written accounts of some of the alleged violations, but the names of the accusers were blacked out.

Because of the alleged violations, Little, Bradford and Ray are calling for the city to pay for a recount of the votes.

“You made the mistake, city,” Bradford said. “You clean it up.”

Star staff writer Laura Camper: 256-235-3545. On Twitter @LCamper_Star.
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