Poll watchers won’t come to Selma

Published 10:58 pm Saturday, August 23, 2008

Federal poll watchers will not come to Selma on Tuesday.

Selma city attorney Jimmy Nunn said he had spoken to the U.S. Department of Justice, and a representative from the office told him the department would not send poll watchers to observe the municipal election.

“They said they had talked to several people in the city, and there was no indication via those contacts that there were going to be any race-based issues on election day,” Nunn told council members at a recent work session.

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Generally, monitors and observers are sent to states and counties covered by the 1965 Voting Rights Act, which ended racial barriers to voting, and to other places where there have been problems or where there is an ongoing investigation into voting rights violations. Alabama is one of the states covered by the Voting Rights Act.

Ward 1 Councilman Cecil Williamson had requested the poll watchers. He has raised several issues about the security of the voting machines in previous weeks.

Additionally Williamson and Councilman Reid Cain, who is not seeking re-election, have challenged the ability of Lois Williams, the city clerk, to conduct an election objectively. The two councilmen have accused Williams of favoring candidates friendly to incumbent Mayor James Perkins Jr., who also seeks re-election.

Williams has said the accusations are false.

At one point, Williamson asked attorney Nunn to seek an opinion from the Alabama Attorney General’s Office about transferring election responsibilities to the Dallas County probate judge.

That opinion arrived late last week. In it the attorney general’s office opined the city council does not have the authorities to appoint the probate judge to conduct a municipal election.

After Nunn made the opinion public, Councilman Johnnie Leashore of Ward 6 demanded an apology from Williamson and Reid to Williams.

“I told you then the attorney general wasn’t going to entertain the crap we sent over there,” Leashore said.