By Katie Bohannon, News Editor
Tuesday, May 24 marked the Primary Election for Etowah County, with voters turning out to support local candidates. While the unofficial election results are as follows, a crucial redistricting error has the potential to alter the outcomes.
Voters re-elected current Etowah County Sheriff Jonathon Horton for another term, who earned close to 67 percent of votes to opponent Colonel Leonard Kiser’s nearly 32 percent.
“This campaign, much like the 2018 campaign for sheriff was a long and exhausting race that resulted in a rewarding, great win,” said Horton. “We are so honored and humbled to be able to continue to progress the Etowah County Sheriff’s Office, which is my passion. I am first and foremost thankful to God for the victory. I am thankful to my wife, family, co-workers, friends and the people of Etowah County for the opportunity to serve them as their sheriff.”
The Etowah County Board of Education Place 5 seat went to Doug Sherrod, who earned approximately 53 percent of votes against opponent Lucas Hallmark, who garnered around 47 percent. Incumbent District 4 Etowah County Commissioner Tim Ramsey defeated opponent Jeff Overstreet, while incumbent District 5 Etowah County Commissioner Jeffery Washington defeated former commissioner and opponent Carolyn Parker.
Incumbent Gil Isbell and Mack Butler campaigned for the Alabama House of Representatives District 28 seat, with Tuesday’s results showing Butler winning. District 3 Etowah County Commissioner Jamie Grant and Mark Gidley endured a neck and neck race for the Alabama House of Representatives District 29 seat, with no official winner reported as provisional ballots were still being counted.
But for both District 28 and 29 seats – and the Etowah County Commission seats – these results may not prove certain. Officials are reporting that a redistricting error, which resulted in voters receiving incorrect ballots for their districts, impacted the election. The races for sheriff and Board of Education are unaffected by this issue.
A joint statement from the Etowah County Probate Office and Secretary of State’s Office addresses the situation:
“Following each decennial census, the Alabama Legislature is required to draft new legislative districts. Once the new legislative districts have been drafted and the new legislative maps drawn, the board of registrars in each county is required to assign voters to the correct districts. The Etowah County Board of Registrars was provided the data on the new legislative districts and maps on November 9, 2021.
Toward the end of April 2022, a candidate whose family member had attempted to cast an absentee ballot discovered that the candidate’s race was not on her ballot and contacted both the Etowah County Probate Office and Secretary of State’s Office.
Upon learning of this voter being assigned to the wrong district, the Etowah County Board of Registrars were instructed to begin taking action to correct the problem by assigning voters to their proper district as required by state law. Registrars from other counties and employees of the Secretary of State’s office offered advice and guidance as to how to make the needed corrections. The members of the Etowah County Board of Registrars are the only people authorized by Alabama law to make the changes.”
During the May 24 Primary Election, it was discovered the problem had not been corrected –which negatively impacted both candidates and voters in House Districts 28 and 29. While no voter was denied the opportunity to vote, at this point it is unknown how many voters were directly affected by the error.
The duties of the election officials in Etowah County relating to the May 24 Primary Election will be completed Tuesday, May 31 at noon upon certification of the election results. It is ultimately up to the county and state party executive committees to certify the names of the prevailing candidates. Candidates seeking to file a contest of the election must wait until after results are certified.
Corrective measures are still being taken in anticipation of the Primary Runoff Election and the General Election. According to the statement, the Etowah County Probate Office and Secretary of State’s Office understand the frustration of voters, candidates and parties. Both are actively working to evaluate and assess the situation, making more information public as it becomes available.