Behind the Voter Guide
By Cody Owens, Weld for Birmingham
Next Tuesday, Alabamians will take to the polls, not just to vote in the contentious presidential primary, but also to appoint officials to positions of the U.S. Senate, Alabama Board of Education, circuit court judgeships and many other offices in the state.
The goal of this special election issue of Weld is to inform voters about the candidates running for office March 1, and to provide other useful information about exercising the right to vote.
Journalists at Weld, working in conjunction with media partners at BirminghamWatch and Public Radio WBHM 90.3, along with Starnes Publishing, B-Metro, and UAB’s student newspaper, the Kaleidoscope, have compiled information on 68 candidates running for office in Alabama. The following guide outlines the candidates’ largest campaign contributors, educational background, political experience and other qualifications for office as well as useful information about amendments and other aspects of the election.
Historically, Alabama and Jefferson County have seen sluggish voter turnout, especially when it comes to statewide elections. During the 2012 statewide and presidential primary elections, only 24 percent of eligible voters in Alabama cast a ballot. In 2014, 41 percent of Jefferson County residents voted in the midterm elections.
Presidential elections typically yield a better turnout in Alabama, with 73.2 turnout in 2012. Some have speculated Alabama’s new voter ID requirements will perpetuate the low number of people at the polls this year.
This year’s Voter Guide originates with BirminghamWatch, led by founder Carol Nunnelley, who has logged over three decades of investigative reporting in Alabama and served as the managing editor of the Birmingham News from 1992 to 2000. Nunnelley explained what she believes is a crucial responsibility that journalists have in the election process.
“Oftentimes the elections that have the most impact close to home are the elections that get pushed into the back of people’s minds,” Nunnelley said. “People may go to the polls and not recognize a name for the judgeship or the state board of education, which is so important.
“This is an effort to help people learn about those races. I also think it’s important how many local journalism partners have pitched in on this. This is not the sexy stuff that is short-strive clicks. Somebody needs to be doing this,” she said.
In order to gather some of this information, candidates were asked to fill out questionnaires. Journalists with the various organizations then vetted that information in an effort to ensure accuracy. The result is intended to provide substantial guidance for voters, and allow them to make more informed decisions at the polls.
Note for Weld readers: You will find all Jefferson County and Statewide races in the newspaper’s print edition. Information about Shelby County races and more about the races can be found online at weldbham.com. In addition, you can also find useful information with our media partners at birminghamwatch.org and wbhm.org.
Voter Guide editors were Virginia Martin (BirminghamWatch) and Nick Patterson (Weld for Birmingham). Profiles and other stories were reported by Cody Owens, Luke Richey and Destiny Hosmer (Weld for Birmingham); Victoria Coman, Keysha Drexel, David Knox, Lori C. Pruitt and Paul South (BirminghamWatch); and Andrew Yeager (WBHM). Maggie Andrews (BirminghamWatch) designed the web presentation for the guide. Rick Frennea contributed the sample ballots.
Delegates and What They Do
By Keysha Drexel, BirminghamWatch
When voters see their ballot for the presidential primary March 1, they’ll also see a long list of delegates to choose from.
These people are vying for spots to go to the parties’ national conventions and cast Alabama’s official votes to nominate their candidate. The presidential candidate receiving at least 15 percent of the vote in Alabama will get a proportional number of delegates representing them at the national convention.
Voters at the polls March 1 can pick the delegates who will attend the convention, but you must choose delegates who support the candidate you voted for at the top of the ballot. Votes for delegates who support someone other than the presidential candidate you chose will not be counted.
For those voting Democrat, delegates for each congressional district will be divided by gender and by which presidential candidate they support. Voters can choose up to four male and four female delegates.
For those voting Republican, the delegates are voted on by place. Voters select one delegate supporting their chosen presidential candidate to each place.
Find Your Polling Place
At the Secretary of State Office’s Alabama Votes website, you can look up your assigned polling place and see a list of the districts in which you are eligible to vote.
Verify Your Registration
If you haven’t voted in a while or you’re new to voting, it’s best to check your voter registration status and make sure you are listed as an “active” voter.
Report a Problem at the Polls
If you suspect you have encountered irregularities in state and local elections, you can report the incidents through the Secretary of State Office’s Stop Voter Fraud Now website. All reports of alleged violations filed through the web site will be kept confidential.
Research Election Financing
Want to know more about the contributions received and expenditures made by a state candidate? You can look at their financial disclosure forms on the Secretary of State Office’s Alabama Votes website. You also can search by contributor to find out which candidates people, companies and political action committees are supporting through their wallets.
ID You’ll Need at the Polls
By Kesha Drexel, BirminghamWatch
To vote in Alabama’s March 1 primary, voters must present photo identification or a free Alabama Photo Voter ID card.
Forms of identification accepted include a valid Alabama driver’s license or non-driver ID card, a valid state or federal-issued ID, a valid U.S. passport, a valid employee ID from the federal, state, county or municipal government, a valid student or employee photo ID from a college or university, a valid U.S. military photo ID card and a valid tribal photo ID card.
A voter without a valid form of photo identification can vote on a regular ballot if he or she is positively identified as an eligible voter in the precinct by two election officials. If the voter cannot be identified by two election officials, he or she can vote on a provisional ballot.
For more information, visit www.alabamavoterid.com or call the Secretary of State Elections Division at 800-274-8683 or 334-242-7210.
League of Women Voters’ Vote411 Guide
At the League of Women Voters’ Vote411.org site, you can put in your address and get a list of the state and national candidates who will be on your ballot. You also can read answers to a series of issues-based questions the League asked each state and national candidate and compare their answers side by side. If you mark your favorite candidates, the League will email or text you a copy of your personalized ballot.
To read the full profiles of each candidate, go to the Voter Guide at BirminghamWatch.