Decision 2008: Alleged Voter Irregularities in Perry County

Concern is building over what may have happened at some polls in Perry county during Tuesday's primary vote. As we reported, a federal observer notified the state that a candidate allegedly violated state law by helping people vote and by being too close to a polling site. Now, an investigation is underway.

There are only about 4,000 people who live in Marion, the county seat, but they're having their share of big city voting problems. Secretary of State Beth Chapman received the complaint from the federal observer. "A specific candidate in Perry county loitered in the polls from early morning to early evening. In other words all day long."

The law is - no campaigning within thirty feet of a polling place. Perry County District Attorney Michael Jackson was asked about other irregularities. "This isn't the first time that I've heard about allegations of voter irregularities in Perry County? Oh no, (people have been) hearing about that for forty or fifty years or more. Why? That's a good question."

That's why Jackson has asked the F.B.I. to investigate the latest allegation. Perry County Probate Judge Eldora Anderson explained how it all started. "The federal observer asked a voter can I watch you and the voter said yes." The situation escalated at this voting place, the Armory, when county commission candidate Albert Turner allegedly told the federal observer to back off. Turner says "The federal observer doesn't have a right to infringe on the rights of the voter. The voter has a right to vote in private."

But, there are also complaints from some citizen observers. They say Turner transported people to and from the polls and even voted for them. Turner says he has done nothing wrong. "That voter asked me to carry them to the polls. Asked me to assist them while they were voting. After I completed their request, I left. I had a right to assist voters. They asked for my assistance. Nothing in the law against that."

However, Perry County voter Annette Goree says there is something wrong with that. "Idon't think a candidate should, if  you're running for a position I don't think you should pick up anybody and bring them to the polls because you have time to persuade them before you get there."

And, there were more allegations from voters like Vinnie Royster about those people Turner  says he assisted. "If you see a person sitting inside his van, these people have probably been paid. Been paid? That's a serious accusation. Well, you have had them get out to tell us we could have voted on your team but ya'll wasn't giving us anything."

Turner denies he's ever paid anyone to vote for him.

In the meantime, Secretary of State Beth Chapman says she's going to ask the federal government to send the maximum number of poll watchers to Perry county for the November general election.

And, there's another voting controversy in Perry county. The town of Marion has been without a mayor for 4 years because the dispute over votes has been in court since the 2004 election. Later this month, there will be a run-off election for mayor and then two months later the regular election will be held.