Alabama state senator appears to lose race by single vote

Elections 2022

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MONTGOMERY, Ala. (AP) — A state legislator appears to have lost to a primary challenger by a single vote after provisional ballots were counted Tuesday, setting up a possible recount in the race.

Another state representative, who is trailing a challenger, said he will file an election contest in his GOP primary race after some voters in his district may have gotten the incorrect ballot.

Republican state Sen. Tom Whatley of Auburn trailed primary challenger Jay Hovey by a single vote after provisional ballots were counted Tuesday, Alabama Republican Party Chairman John Wahl said.

Hovey, a member of the Auburn City Council, had initially led by four votes, according to unofficial returns, but his lead shrank to a single vote after eligible provisional ballots were counted. Provisional ballots are votes where there was initially a question about the voter’s eligibility. The vote is counted once that question is resolved.

Alabama Secretary of State John Merrill said Whatley has 24 hours to request a recount if he chooses. Alabama provides automatic recounts in general elections. In a primary election, a candidate must request and pay for the recount. Wahl said the candidate requesting a recount must put up a bond to pay for the process, but they will get the money back if the recount reverses the result.

Whatley did not immediately respond to a text message seeking comment.

In another race, unofficial returns showed Republican Rep. Gill Isbell of Gadsden losing to Mack Butler, who previously served in the Legislature. But the race is caught in a mix-up where some voters got ballots with the wrong House district. Merrill said the local Board of Registrars failed to accurately sort some voters into the correct legislative district after lawmakers drew new district lines. Merrill said last week they did not know how many voters were affected.

“The 2020 election has election integrity issues. There isn’t fraudulence but mistakes that caused the results to be invalid,” Isbell told The Associated Press. He said a recount would not resolve the situation. He said the “results have been compromised and another election would be the best solution.”

Wahl said the party, “really had no option” but to move forward with certification.

“The certification of the election is to confirm that the vote took place and what the result of that vote was,” Wahl said. “After it’s certified, candidates will have the option of challenging it or asking for a recount.”

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