Warning signs in your polling place?

Posted by: Eileen Jones - bio | email

MONTGOMERY, AL (WSFA) - One of the candidates for a seat on the Alabama Supreme Court may be disqualified. The question of the candidate's eligibility is being questioned in a Montgomery court room 18 days before the voting, with hundreds of thousands of ballots already printed. Two of the three Republican candidates want that third man out.

It won't be long now before lines are forming at polling places again to vote in the June first primary. What maybe different this year, unlike any year in the past, are maybe signs that Al Agricola, the attorney for incumbent Associate Supreme Court Justice Tom Parker wants. He was asked about that. "On election day, you don't have warnings in polling places telling people that a candidate has been disqualified? Well, you do if a judge says so."

Agricola also wants one of Parker's opponents disqualified because Eric Johnston turned in his ethics, Statement of Economic Interest, form one day late.  Johnston isn't taking this very well. "I regret that an issue was made of something very minor in an effort to derail my campaign." However, Agricola disagrees about the motive. "It's Mr. Johnston's conduct that has created this problem. If he had filed his statement on time we wouldn't have to put signs up in polling places."

Johnston's attorney, Robert Huffaker, argued in court that Johnston mailed the form by overnight carrier the day before the deadline but the plane went to Alaska instead.  Agricola was not sympathetic. "His plane was late with his documents when it took off. I don't care where it went."

Agricola says the law requires those ethics papers should be filed on the same day Johnston qualified which was April 1st. However, Johnston says he mailed the papers on the April 5th because he understood the deadline was April 6th, but the Ethics Commission didn't receive the papers until April 7th. Huffaker sees the law differently. "If Eric had not filed the report at all then sure he ought to suffer disqualification, but even under the most charitable of the arguments, he was one day late and the courts have said that doesn't disqualify you."

The attorneys for Eric Johnston say this type of challenge should come after the election and not before and obviously attorneys for Tom Parker disagree. The decision is now in the hands of Circuit Judge William Shashy. No word on when he will rule. The balloting is June 1st.

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