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Tactics during School Board vote may violate State law

University of Wisconsin
Voting rights groups and Alabama officials have reached an agreement to make sure people applying for social services receive voter registration material.

A controversial election for School Board in the city of Tuscaloosa may have violated state law. Published reports state that fraternities and sororities on the campus of the University of Alabama offered free drinks to member students who participated in Tuesday’s election. The incentive was reportedly a wrist band which entitled the bearer to a free drink at a local restaurant. If the offer is proven to be true, that could be in violation of Alabama Code 17-17-39. APR asked the Cumberland School of Law at Samford University to study the issue. The law states, in short, that anyone offering any incentive (such as an alcoholic beverage) to any voter in any election for any vote may have committed a class C misdemeanor. Judge John Carroll is Dean of the Cumberland School of Law. He says state law and university policy may be involved “It may well be a violation of both. But, I think the court system and this statute was enacted to protect the integrity of the voting process,” says Carroll. “You know, I think it’s important that we look at that first.” Reports on the incident quote emails allegedly from fraternities and sororities that offer the drink incentive to their members. The young voters were reportedly encouraged to vote for candidates supported by student groups, but the wording doesn’t appear to imply that the free drinks hinged on voting for a certain person. Judge Carroll says that doesn’t matter. He agrees with the interpretation of 17-17-39 that says it doesn’t matter if the incentive helps a particular candidate. Carroll says if there was a violation, it points to a more serious issue… “What this says to me is that there were some people who didn’t take this voting process as seriously as they should,” he says. “And the people who are really effected are the people in this district where the problems arose.” The student vote allegedly impacted the district four race for School Board in Tuscaloosa. The losing candidate, Kelly Horwitz, says she may challenge the election results

Pat Duggins is news director for Alabama Public Radio.
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