By Jonathan Hardison
BIRMINGHAM, AL (WBRC) It could be more than a week before we find out who will face Bradley Byrne in the runoff for the Republican gubernatorial nomination. Alabama Secretary of State Beth Chapman said Wednesday provisional ballots will be counted and the vote certified next Tuesday or Wednesday, and only after that could Tim James or Robert Bentley ask for a recount.
Right now Bentley leads James by 208 votes.
The state GOP is gearing up for what could be a big logistical nightmare and is thinking about changing its rules on who is allowed to vote in that runoff because of all of this. Republican party officials say they are concerned that Democrats and possibly even the AEA might try to influence the outcome of the runoff election because of the AEA's dislike for Bradley Byrne. Byrne has campaigned on his pledge to fight the AEA's influence on state government.
Right now, Alabama Republicans allow what's called "crossover voting," meaning anyone can vote in their runoff elections, even if they voted in the Democratic primary on June 1st. Democrats put a rule in place several years ago that prohibits that, and Republican party chair Mike Hubbard today said he thinks the Republicans should do the same before the July 13th runoff.
"I think that's something we ought to consider," Hubbard said Wednesday. "And I think it makes sense, I don't know anybody who would have a problem with that. It just stands to reason if you voted in Democrat primary, then you shouldn't be able to come over and have an influence in who the Republican nominee is."
The state party could put that rule in place anytime in the next couple of weeks.
Once the primary vote is certified next Tuesday, this really becomes the Alabama Republican Party's show. If James remains in third place by just a few hundred votes, he could ask for a recount, but the Hubbard says he has to ask for it by next Friday, and be willing to pay for the whole process.
That's just the start of what promises to be a very busy next few days at party headquarters in Homewood.
"We don't know if a recount is going to be requested," Hubbard said. "The earliest it could would be next Tuesday after the provisional ballots have been counted. So we'll just have to see if there is a request, and if there is we'll be prepared to execute it if that's what need's to be done."
If James or Bentley requested a recount after Tuesday's certification, it would be up to the state party to run the process, with the candidate picking up the tab that could run between $300,000 and $600,000.
It will be a logistical challenge, there's no doubt," Hubbard said. "We would have to hire workers and hire overseers to comply and do it in a short amount of time."
The recount would involve having representatives from the state party as well as from each campaign in every county to watch the votes being counted. Hubbard says his party would like to finish all that by the end of next week.
So what do Bentley, James, and Byrne do now during this uncertainty with the clock ticking on their 6 week spring to the runoff?
"I think this is just a natural time for there to be a quiet time, if you will," Hubbard said. "You always need to be working behind the scenes, working on your campaign and making sure you have your operations together. But it's not a time when you're actually out doing a whole lot of campaigning with the media."