New law changes how Alabama Independents can vote this fall


Election Day 2016 at Oakwood College.

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HUNTSVILLE, Ala. - We're officially less than 80 days until the Republican and Democratic Primary for the special election that will fill Jeff Sessions' old U.S. Senate Seat.

A bill, signed into law by Governor Kay Ivey, may impact how voters choose which party's primary to vote in.

The law bans so-called crossover voting in state primaries, meaning voters will have to pick a party, and stay voting with the same party if a runoff election is necessary.

Rep. Mike Ball said this was a long time coming.

In 2010, then State Rep. Robert Bentley narrowly edged out Tim James to make a Republican runoff for Governor, with Bradley Byrne.

Ball said he thinks enough crossover voters ended up supporting Bentley in the primary.

“Then that gave enough for Bentley to win in the runoff," said Ball.

Rep. Mike Ball believes that's a high-profile example of crossover voting.

"So then the people from the other party vote in the other primary. Your tactical voters don't necessarily vote who they like best, but vote who they think they can beat," he said.

With the stroke of Governor Ivey's pen, voters will now be required to pick which party primary they want to vote in. If there's a runoff, they must continue to vote within that party.

"It protects the integrity of the primary to a large degree," said Rep. Ball.

The biggest detractors of the law say it severely handicaps independent voters, who may not stay loyal to one party over the other, but Ball doesn't see it that way.

"Independents can still vote in a primary, but they just have to decide at the first race," he said.

The first big test of the measure will come quickly - August 15th - when 11 Republicans and 8 Democrats vie to take over Alabama's U.S. Senate seat.

Ball said that wasn't a factor in passing the law this legislative session.

"We were planning on doing this anyway, but now with this Senate race coming up, this added a sense of urgency to it," said Rep. Ball.

It may not have been a factor, but having the new law in place could impact history as we know it.

"This seems like the right solution to the crossover voting problem," he said.

It's important to note, this will not affect voters during the Senate seat's general election, scheduled for December 12th.

No matter which primary you voted in, you can still vote for anybody you want to during the general election.

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