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Last updated 12:27PM ET
March 6, 2021
Perry County DA Wants Federal Voting Probe
(APR - Alabama Public Radio ) - The district attorney for Perry County says he will ask the Justice Department and the FBI to investigate an unusually high turnout and potential absentee ballot problems during the June 3 primary elections.

It's the latest in a line of voting problems that have plagued the small western Alabama county for decades, including a 1985 trial when three black leaders in Perry County were found not guilty of charges they altered absentee ballots.

It was the struggle to register blacks to vote in Perry and Dallas counties that led to the "Bloody Sunday" march over the Edmund Pettus Bridge in Selma in 1965.

In Marion, the county seat, the 2004 mayor's election has still not been settled because of a protracted court challenge over allegations of improper absentee ballots.

District Attorney Michael Jackson said he expects there will be federal and state observers in Perry County for the July 15 primary runoff after a federal observer reported that a candidate hung around a polling place much of the day Tuesday and helped some voters cast ballots.

Secretary of State Beth Chapman has pointed to a number of irregularities in Perry County during Tuesday's Democratic and Republican Party primaries, particularly the extraordinarily high turnout and the huge number of absentee ballots.

Chapman said there are 8,361 registered voters in the rural county, and there were 4,207 votes cast, which means 50.3 percent of eligible voters would have gone to the polls. That gives Perry County a turnout rate that nearly triples the rate in counties like Marengo, where about 17.7 percent of voters cast ballots.

Chapman also said there were 1,114 absentee ballots cast in Perry County, compared with seven in Hale county and 14 in Crenshaw County both of which have larger populations than Perry.

"Perry County is either the poster child for voter fraud or the poster child for voter turnout," Chapman said.

Alabama Attorney General Troy King has seized voting records in Perry County and said he's determined to ensure the voting process in the small county about 70 miles west of Montgomery is fair.

King said he was particularly concerned about an interview he saw on Montgomery television station WSFA Thursday night, where Perry County Commissioner Albert Turner Jr., who was running for re-election, said he spent much of election day picking up people and taking them to a Perry County polling place. He said he helped them vote if they needed help, but in the television interview Turner denied doing anything illegal.

Turner, whose father was one of the three black civil rights activists acquitted of voter fraud in 1985, did not immediately return calls seeking comment.

It's not the first time the younger Turner's name has been mentioned in a voting investigation in Perry County. In 2005, the district attorney's office investigated a high school student's complaint that Turner picked her up at school and took her to vote in a special election where Turner was seeking a vacant Alabama House seat.

The winner of that race, state Rep. Ralph Howard, D-Greensboro, said he knows all about voting problems in Perry and other counties in his western Alabama House district. In that election, Howard said he received disproportionately fewer absentee votes than his opponent.

"If democracy is going to work, it's going to have to be true democracy," Howard said. "When we have people who do things like this that infringe on democracy, it's something we should take seriously."

The attorney general said it's particularly troublesome to him that people would compromise the voting process in a county like Perry, where so many people fought to win the right to vote.

"You would expect citizens would be anxious to help," King said. "They can remember what it's like to be disenfranchised."

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