Story talks post-election audit bill

Published 10:05 am Saturday, April 13, 2024

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The Alabama House has passed the post-election audit bill 83-7 with nine abstentions, sponsored by Valley representative Debbie Wood.

The bill, called HB259, if passed will require, “the judge of probate of each county to conduct a post-election audit after every county and statewide general election to determine the accuracy of the originally reported results of the election.”

The canvassing board for the county would choose a precinct and race to audit at random, and all votes cast for the race at the precinct would be confirmed. 

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The bill will move to the Senate next. If passed in the Senate the bill would then have to be signed by Governor Kay Ivey. The estimated cost of a post-election county is $35,000 per day, per county for hand-counting ballots, according to the bill’s fiscal note. 

Paul Story, the Chambers County Probate Judge, said the costs and logistics of what a post-election audit would mean for his office are still up in the air. However, the probate judges were given some speculative costs.

“You can either do a manual tally manual count, and that would require us to employ a poll inspector and some poll workers preferably from the precinct that is selected by the canvassing board,” Story said. “If we were to do the manual tally, a poll inspector for Election Day is $150 [per day]. A poll worker is $125 [per day]. So depending on the amount of individuals we have to employ based on the precinct we select will determine those costs.”

Story supports the spirit of the bill saying, “Anytime you can bring further accountability and trust to any process, especially when it comes to elections, it’s a good thing.”

The other way to perform the audit would be to rent a new voting tabular specifically programmed for the audited race. Story said the rough estimate for the machine could be anywhere from $1500 to $2000. For the tabulator choice, the probate office would conduct the audit rather than poll workers. The cost of an audit would be reimbursed by the state. 

The Republican representatives unanimously voted for the bill, with some of the House’s Democratic representatives doubting the need for the bill. 

Representative Mary Moore (D-Birmingham) argued that the audits would spend money on an “unnecessary” process when funds could go to things like Medicaid expansion. 

When she asked Wood why the bill is necessary, Wood responded, “I have had people that have called me and said that they feel like there are people, and they’ve seen things that they feel uncomfortable with.”

Moore argued that the bill lacked the data to support it.

“But see that’s the problem, just because ‘I feel like’, but [they] can’t give you any data. I don’t think we should come and regulate something because somebody… I think this is coming from a national narrative that elections are stolen, and I think we ought to be smarter in the state of Alabama,” Moore said. 

The representative from Birmingham agreed there is a voting issue, but the bill does not tackle the issue. 

“The voter irregularities I’d like corrected…people who rent their properties in Jefferson county and live in Shelby and St Clair county,” Moore said. “When we have a national election they vote in the county they live in and they also vote in the county they have rental property. Come November and you come to Birmingham you will see more white voters than you have in a mighty long time.”

Moore adds, “No one wants to go county to county and look at social security numbers to make sure they are registered in multiple counties.”

After Moore, Representative Kenneth Paschal (R-Pelham) spoke. He agreed Alabama’s elections are secure, but said, “We should always try to enhance our elections’ integrity.”