Oct. 31, 2017 – Probate Judge Alan King told Jefferson County commissioners that reported crossover voting in the runoff of the special U.S. Senate election didn’t actually happen.
King, the chief election official in Jefferson County, said the matter was largely traced to a single precinct. The chief inspector at that precinct crossed off names of absentee voters, creating the impression they had voted twice.
“Technically, it was a good way to do it,” King said. “But all these people didn’t vote. Their name was just crossed off. When the folks in Montgomery looked at our records, they assumed wrongly that those were votes that were wrongly cast, and they weren’t.”
King credited registrar Barry Stephenson and his staff with reviewing the data to address the matter. It was also determined that there was some human error in how some information was entered.
“I think when the Alabama Legislature passed this act, a special election was not on the radar screen,” the judge said. “They assumed that we would have roughly a year to put everything into place and then we had a special election. All of a sudden, the pace was faster and we had to implement a manual system.”
In the primary, a poll worker was to circle a “D” for Democrat or and “R” for Republican. Some of the poll workers “in the hustle and bustle” circled the wrong party, he said, adding that there were also some scanning errors.
King declined to name the precinct, not wanting to embarrass that chief inspector.
King said electronic poll books will likely improve the process of keeping up with voter data. Some e-poll books will be used as early as the Dec. 12 special general election; all will be used in the June 2018 primary.
Storm Shelters and Sirens
In other matters, Commission President Jimmie Stephens repeated his desire to get the storm shelter in Concord constructed. The contractor who was doing that job was found be doing it improperly and subsequently declared bankruptcy.
Stephens said the residents of Concord are “living on borrowed time” as the area has more than once been hit by tornadoes.
Storm shelters in the McCalla area were also discussed. One will have its ribbon-cutting soon; the other is delayed as Native American artifacts were found on the site.
Commissioner Joe Knight and Emergency Management Agency Director Jim Coker talked about tornado sirens and discussions with area mayors to deal with maintenance on those sirens.
The pair said there are 254 sirens in Jefferson County. The challenge is settling on who will maintain them or, when needed, replace them. Options include increasing the fee of $1.33 per resident cities pay for the sirens, turning the sirens over to each city and making each responsible for them or fazing out the sirens all together.
“We are very much in energetic discussions with all of our mayors and our county commissioners to find the solution,” Coker said. “This is something we’ve got to address. We’re also looking at being able to sound sirens in a polygon. We want to move away from sounding them countywide.
“These are one tool in the warning toolbox,” the EMA director said, “and we want you to have multiple tools.”
Commissioner David Carrington told others on the panel that Jefferson County’s pitch for the second North American Amazon headquarters received 510,696,011 impressions online.
“We did some creative ideas to put our name on the map and we hope that works for us,” Knight said. “Even if Amazon decides not to come to Birmingham, how many other people may have seen something that we’ve done and say, ‘Hey, we might give Birmingham and Jefferson County a second look.”
Speaking to media after the meeting, Stephens said he believes the renovation of the Birmingham-Jefferson Convention Complex and adjacent stadium project are still on track for a 2021 completion.
“The funds are in place for the Legacy Arena renovation,” he said. “We’re so close and I believe the funding will be in place within this next month for the stadium. That would be our goal, BJCC’s goal.
“I believe that (Mayor- elect Randall) Woodfin will have that communication that’s needed and necessary,” Stephens said. “I believe he understands the importance of this project in economic development.”
The commission president said he expects to meet with the mayor-elect this week.