The dramatics have yet to cease in the Senate District 27 GOP primary saga featuring State Sen. Tom Whatley (R-Auburn) and Auburn City Councilman Jay Hovey.
This past weekend, the Alabama Republican Party (ALGOP) candidate committee decided to add one provisional ballot to Whatley’s vote total, which brought the race to a tie with each candidate holding 8,373 votes each.
ALGOP chairman John Wahl determined that the race’s outcome would be decided by the flip of a coin, which would take place at a later date.
Wahl decided that a coin toss was an appropriate option given that state law requires that a game of chance be utilized to determine the outcome of a tied race during general elections.
The vote ALGOP granted to Whatley’s column was an uncounted ballot cast by Tallapoosa County resident Patsy Kenney, who recently moved to Alabama from Georgia.
ALGOP’s decision to grant the incumbent state senator Kenney’s tying vote was a result of the successful argument made by Whatley’s legal team, who contended that she was wrongly excluded from the voter roll due to a registration error made by the Alabama Law Enforcement Agency (ALEA).
Shortly after it was announced that the party would count the excluded ballot, ALEA released a statement detailing that Kenney did not complete the issuance transaction necessary to obtain an Alabama driver’s license.
The department’s statement advised that an individual’s “voter registration information from ALEA’s Driver License Division is only sent after the credential is issued and the customer signs the required voter declaration,” which it said did not take place in Kenney’s situation.
In response to questions relating to Kenney’s ballot, Alabama Secretary of State John Merrill took to social media and stated that the final vote count still reflected that Hovey held “a one-vote advantage.”
“The ballot in question was disqualified through the process of certification during the administration of that election,” Merrill wrote in a tweet. “It did not count and the certified total in the election remains the same as it was on June 1. Hovey has a one-vote advantage.”
In an additional tweet, Merrill advised that Hovey garnered “the most legal votes cast.”
“Jay Hovey received the most legal votes cast in the Republican Primary for State Senate District 27 on May 24 and was certified by the canvassing board as the top vote getter on June 1,” wrote the secretary of state. “All of that information was presented to the Alabama Republican Party as required by law.”
Wednesday, Hovey told Yellowhammer News that he had filed a motion requesting ALGOP to hold a rehearing of the election contest and reverse its decision to grant Whatley the tying vote, citing ALEA’s statement to support his argument.
Hovey’s motion for rehearing as follows:
Earlier on Wednesday morning, Whatley released a statement outlining that he “will agree to a coin flip tomorrow the 29th in an undisclosed location.”
The senator added that neither he nor Hovey “will attend but representatives will be there and represent us with witnesses.” Whatley then laid out the terms that he would like for the two parties to agree upon after the coin flip had determined the race’s outcome.
He detailed what he asserted to be the importance of including Kenney’s ballot.
“Win or lose the coin toss, helping a constituent like Mrs. Kenney have her ballot counted was the correct thing to do and I am glad to have served her as her state senator,” added Whatley.
“I respect the decision and authority of the Steering Committee and do hereby agree to participate through my representative with the terms outlined above that in my opinion offer the best chance for Republican victory in the fall under the current circumstances and decisions,” Whatley’s statement concluded.
Yellowhammer News reached out to Hovey for comment regarding the scheduling of a coin toss.
The councilman responded, “Of course he agreed to a coin toss today, he knows he lost then used an illegal vote to try to tie.”
Hovey said that the date for the coin toss to take place had yet to be determined and emphasized that he would argue for the ALGOP candidate committee to reverse its decision.
Preceding the campaigns’ latest public statements, it was revealed that Hovey had qualified for reelection to the Auburn City Council. Whatley took a jab at Hovey over the news and “endorsed” the city councilman for reelection.
— Jeff Poor (@jeff_poor) June 29, 2022
EDITOR’S NOTE: This story has been updated from its original version.
Dylan Smith is a staff writer for Yellowhammer News. You can follow him on Twitter @DylanSmithAL