HUNTSVILLE, Ala. - Hundreds of people are accused of crossover voting in the August Republican run-off. People who could now be prosecuted and charged with voter fraud, a class C felony, for simply casting a ballot.
"You know there is going to be some instances that are going to be introduced, but you just hope that when those instances are introduced, they were not done intentionally or with a great deal of thought or planning," says Alabama Secretary of State, John Merrill.
Out the of 674 people accused, 99 of them live in North Alabama.
- 63 in Madison County
- 16 in Morgan County
- 7 in DeKalb County
- 5 in Limestone County
- 4 in Cullman County
- 3 in Lawrence County
- 1 in Marshall County
"The determination about prosecution will be left up to the local district attorney or to the attorney general`s office. Our job is to identify the situation, to introduce that information to the prosecutor and allow the prosecutor to evaluate the merit of the information and the merit of a potential case. And then determine if they want to indict someone and prosecute them," says Merrill.
But some in Madison County do not agree. "This is fake voter fraud. Nothing about this is voter fraud," says Tom Ryan, Madison County Democratic Party Chair. "This is just a cynical effort of Merrill to get people to believe in the myth of widespread voter fraud. It doesn't exist."
"This was not done to inflate the numbers of voter fraud even though each and every instance that was reported is a fraudulent activity and a case of voter fraud. Because if you present yourself as a qualified elector and you are not and you pursue the opportunity to vote, you have committed voter fraud. Period. End of story," says Merrill.
Even if you were unaware of the law you were breaking. "Ignorance of the law is no excuse," says Merrill. "I don`t really know what people want. I know what we want which is fair, safe, secure elections that have credibility and integrity. We want to make it easy to vote and hard to cheat."
But Ryan says there should have been more education. "All they had to do was put up a sign in each voting precincts. If you voted in the Democratic primary you are ineligible to vote in the Republican runoff. And then a lot of people would have read that sign and said 'ok' and gone home," says Ryan.
Ryan claims, instead- little to nothing was done. "It`s a brand new law. It`s the first time we did it and he expects perfection because he didn't tell people how it was going to work. And now this is going to make people fearful to vote in the future- so perhaps secretary Merrill should change his title from 'Secretary of State' to 'Secretary of Voter Suppression.'"
Merrill responded to Ryan's comments, saying they certainly hope this law doesn`t keep people from voting and claims they did try to educate the public, citing numerous interviews through media outlets across the state. "Any time a new law is introduced we will make sure people know what has happened in the legislature, then they have to make an informed decision on what they choose to do," says Merrill.
The names have now been sent to prosecutors across the state for a possible felony offense.
"This is a very serious offense if they prosecute it in that manner, for something that may have been for many people just an innocent mistake," says Ryan.