District 67 election should hold lessons

Published 12:00 am Tuesday, September 17, 2002

The Alabama State Democratic party has decided that Yusuf Salaam will represent the party in the November general election for the Alabama House District 67 seat.

That decision came Saturday after months of hearings, testimony and allegations that something was wrong in the election between Salaam and LaTosha Brown. The reality is, there were problems in the election and the hearings surrounding it.

The Democratic Party should take measures to ensure these wrongs do not repeat themselves.

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The biggest problem came from alleged crossover voting. There was strong evidence that crossover voting did affect the outcome of the election. Salaam won the election by 138 votes and it was claimed that more than 100 Republicans voted Democrat in the runoff between Brown and Salaam after voting Republican in the primary. This is against Democratic Party rules.

In the future, Democrats must find a way to keep Republicans out of their elections, if that is what they desire. Simply assuming that all Alabamians are versed on the Democrats’ rulebook is foolish. It is also nave to assume those rules will always be followed. The Democrats need to find an effective way to close their runoffs to Republicans &045;&045; or fully open their elections.

On every primary election ballot, the Democratic Party prints a statement that says voters have pledged their oath to support Democrats in the general election as well. While that statement is all but unenforceable, using that same space to caution against crossover voting may be one solution.

Once the Salaam-Brown election was contested, subpoenas were issued to those suspected of crossover voting. This created an awkward situation in which some people were asked under oath how they voted. Selmians learned that the secrecy of a ballot was anything but secretive.

The Brown camp did not get a full chance to finish the subpoenas and deposition process. We are left to wonder what the results would have been had the process continued and all crossover voters deposed. Perhaps the Democrats did not want the attention and tensions that would come with such.

It is now mid September and neither Brown nor Salaam have been able to mount a campaign. If there are no more appeals, Salaam will face a formidable opponent this fall and he will be playing catch-up as it relates to the campaign calendar.

Surely, this is not what the Democratic Party had in mind. The citizens of Dallas County deserve better and it is hoped much can be learned from the 2002 District 67 primary so that these mistakes are not repeated.