County recount to happen early next week

Published 11:53 am Thursday, June 10, 2010

A complete recount of the nearly 27,000 Shelby County Republican primary ballots will be held off until early next week, instead of being completed by June 11 as originally planned.

However, Secretary of State Beth Chapman said the state Republican Party will still be required on June 11 to certify the two gubernatorial candidates for the July 13 runoff. June 11 is 10 days after the primary election, which is when results must be declared.

Chapman then has until June 17 to certify the candidates for the runoff.

“What has to happen between June 11-17 is a legal absolute, and this office will be there following the letter of the law,” she said.

Chapman declined to answer questions concerning what would happen if James were to be declared to have the second-highest vote total after the runoff.

“We can’t answer that. We can’t deal in hypotheticals,” she said.

Shelby County Republican Party Chairman Freddy Ard said party officials are waiting to hear an opinion from state Attorney General Troy King on exactly when counties should perform a recount. Chapman requested King’s opinion, Ard said.

Late June 9, Republican gubernatorial candidate Tim James decided to request a recount in all 67 counties. James currently has the third-most votes behind Robert Bentley and Bradley Byrne, the two candidates slated to appear in a Republican primary runoff election July 13.

However, 167 votes currently separate Bentley and James for the second-place spot.

“There were some concerns about the various counties conducting the recount at different times,” Ard said. “We know there’s a possibility that the attorney general’s opinion could come back, and if we’ve already done the Shelby County recount, then we’re putting the Shelby County results at risk.”

If the Shelby County recount was completed in a different time frame than recommended by the attorney general, it could lead to another recount or a legal challenge to the validity of the results, Ard said.

The original plan was for the recount to be done Friday, June 11. County officials, including Probate Judge Jim Fuhrmeister, were ready to proceed with the recount until the state Republican Party requested they wait, Ard said.

“(County officials) have done a fantastic job. They were way ahead of this thing, way ahead of anybody else in the state,” he said. “It’s almost like we’re penalizing the folks who are the best at their jobs.”

Chapman echoed the sentiment, saying Shelby County election officials are some of the best in the state.

Ard said he expects the Shelby County recount to be scheduled for early next week, possibly Tuesday, June 15.

“It’s strictly a judgment call. We’re taking every precaution to make sure there’s no question as the integrity of the process,” Ard said.