Alabama’s Secretary of State promises to prosecute crossover voters

MADISON COUNTY, Ala. -- Tuesday night was the first statewide test of a new law passed by the Alabama Legislature that bans crossover voting.

Essentially, the law makes it illegal for Democrats who voted in the August primary to cast their ballot in the Republican Senate Runoff.

Secretary of State John Merrill couldn't tell us the specific number of crossover voting incidents, but he did say there were a number of instances across the state.

He says they won't be giving a grace period to those who violated the law.

“Where it’s warranted, those individuals will be investigated, indicted, and prosecuted to the fullest extent of the law," says Merrill.

The fullest extent means being charged with voter fraud - a Class C felony in Alabama.

“They may very well serve a minimum sentence of one year and one day, up to 10 years of incarceration and could be fined up to $15,000  per incident," says Merrill.

The Secretary of State says they'll only prosecute if they can determine a voter or poll worker acted deliberately.

“You have to make sure you know what the intent was, and what the purpose was, and that they were intentionally involved," he says.

Many state Democrats have criticized the new law saying there could be instances of entrapment, where poll workers allow the vote to happen, just so they could be prosecuted later.

"That could be possible of course, but that just depends on what actually occurred and that’s the reason you have to do a thorough investigation," says Merrill.

Madison County was one of several in the state that had crossover voting issues starting with the August primary, dealing with documenting who took which ballot.

"Some people and certain precincts didn’t write that down so that had to be a lot of work by the Board of Registrars and the probate judge’s office to get that lined up for this next race," says Sam Givhan, Chairman of the Madison County Republican Party.

Merrill says Madison County wanted to use an electronic voter log, but the Governor rescheduling the special election made that impossible.

"A number of counties that hoped to use it were not able to have their bids processed and have the awarding occur, and then have the installation and the usage of those electronic poll books," says Merrill.

He says that while this election was certainly a big deal, he was glad to have a smaller election first, before 2018, where several statewide primaries, including the race for Governor, will be on the ballot.