Possible record turnout in Alabama

Published 12:13 am Wednesday, November 9, 2016

By Jay Reeves | The Associated Press

Alabama voters turned out in big numbers to pick Republican Donald Trump over Democrat Hillary Clinton for president, and they also decided a host of other offices and issues.

People stood in lines for around an hour in some voting places on Tuesday as predictions of a strong turnout driven by a rough-and-tumble fight for the White House appeared to be on target. Few problems were reported statewide.

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Winning by big margins in traditionally GOP areas, Trump easily carried the state’s nine electoral votes over Clinton, and other races and issues also were being decided. The ballot included four U.S. House seats plus a U.S. Senate race, and voters will decide 14 statewide amendments.


Alabama Secretary of State John Merrill said voting was heavy Tuesday and could set a record for the number of ballots cast.

After adding about 585,000 voters since January 2015, Alabama now has about 3.3 million registered voters. That’s more than ever before, and the increase could have contributed to the long lines and hour-long waits at some polling places Tuesday.

The jump in registration could make it tough for the state to eclipse the all-time record turnout in a presidential election of 76 percent set in 1992. More recently, voter turnout was 73.8 percent in 2008 and 73.2 percent in 2012.


Carter, a Georgia peanut farmer and governor before he was elected president in 1976, was the last Democrat to carry Alabama in a presidential election. No Democrat has come very close since then to winning the state’s nine electoral votes, including Clinton, and the trend is getting worse for the party.

Democratic presidential candidates have been stuck below 40 percent of the total vote in Alabama since 2000, when Tennessean Al Gore took nearly 42 percent of the vote compared to Republican George W. Bush.

It will be interesting to see how Clinton fares compared to Democratic President Barack Obama, who carried 38 percent of the vote and lost Alabama by 22 percentage points to Republican Mitt Romney in 2012.


Democrats said they were worried about possible voter intimidation after Donald Trump encouraged supporters to show up at polling places as observers, but no widespread problems were reported in Alabama.

Rep. Terri Sewell, the lone Democratic member of Alabama’s congressional delegation, is well-connected with Hillary Clinton’s presidential campaign said she had not heard of anything that appeared to be an organized efforts to intimidate voters.

That would be a good thing, since Alabama’s top election agency said it would not tolerate any attempts to scare off voters on Election Day. A statement from the secretary of state’s office said anyone caught trying to dissuade others from voting on Tuesday will be prosecuted.

The secretary of state’s office said poll watchers were not allowed disturb voters, try to influence them, campaign, or display any campaign material inside the polling place.


This year marked the first time Alabama’s Republican-backed law requiring photo identification at the polls comes into play during a presidential election. Democrats complained beforehand that the requirement could diminish turnout among some groups, but it could take a while to determine voter participation patterns.

Signs explaining the new requirement were posted at voting sites. Alabama requires voters to show photo ID such as a driver’s license, a passport, an Alabama non-driver ID, a university student ID or identification issued by the federal government.

Voters without ID could still vote by regular ballot if they were positively identified by at least two election workers as being eligible to vote in a precinct. And voters who didn’t have a valid ID were still able to cast a provisional ballot.


Alabama’s four U.S. House incumbents in contested races jumped out to substantial leads over their opponents, and Sen. Richard Shelby won easily. None of that was a surprise given the name recognition and vast amounts of campaign money available to the Republican incumbents, but one race was particularly worth watching.

In the 2nd District of southeast Alabama, Rep. Martha Roby faced a backlash by Trump supporters after publicly stating she wouldn’t support the GOP nominee because of his recorded comments about grabbing women.

Democrat Nathan Mathis hoped to capitalize on that dynamic, and Tea Party organizer Becky Gerritson was promoted as a write-in candidate. Roby was leading early, but votes remained to be counted.


Early returns didn’t show definitive trends for the 14 statewide proposals to amend the state’s 1901 Constitution. The outcomes will affect everything from state parks to the age of public officeholders to beer.

Four of the amendments apply only to single counties. Here are some of the other measures that got the most attention:

Amendment 2 aims to protect money for state parks and open the door to private companies getting more involved in park operations. The proposal specifies that park money can’t be diverted to other government functions unless revenues exceed $50 million. It would also allow private entities to run facilities at state parks.

Amendment 8 guarantees that everyone has a right to work in the state regardless of whether they’re in a labor union. It mimics a state law already on the books.

Amendment 13 would eliminate maximum-age limits for elected or appointed office with the exception of judicial offices. Trustees at public universities would be most likely to be affected.

Amendment 14 would prevent hundreds of local laws — from sales taxes to draft beer rules — from being tossed out because of a dispute over legislative procedures in Montgomery.