Officials address primary, runoff confusion

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(Editor's note: The following is Part 3 of 3 in a series on voting changes taking place this year.)

Seven months ahead of the March 3 primaries in Walker County, Probate Judge A. Lee Tucker and Circuit Clerk Susan Odom wants to clear up in advance of the 2020 elections one of the most confusing aspect for voters each cycle -  voting for the parties during the primary and the runoff.

"People still don't understand the difference between a primary and and runoff, and the political parties and you crossover vote," Odom said. "Whatever party you choose in the primary is the same way you have to vote in a runoff." 

To put it simply, one has to pick a party in the primary and any subsequent runoff. (There is an exception: If you have an amendment on the ballot, you can ignore the party elections and just vote for the amendment.) 

The primary is designed to pick the nominees of that party for the fall General Election, so you have to pick a party, Odom said.  

"You cannot switch parties from the primary to the runoff," she said, noting the runoff is still part of the process to pick that nominee from the first election. 

"But Walker County has been better adjusting than a lot of other counties," she said. 

Tucker noted that if one skipped the primary, one can come in for the runoff and pick whichever party one chooses. (Alabama does not have party registration.) 

Odom noted that anyone who doesn't want to be Republican or Democrat can run as an independent. Tucker noted petitions to be listed as an independent on the ballot must be turned in the day of the primary, which will be March 3. If you missed the deadline, you could always mount a write-in campaign for the General Election. 

Write-ins are only allowed during that November election; it is in that General Election that you are not tied to any party and you will not be asked which party you want. All parties will be on one ballot, and you can go back and forth as you wish, crossing over as much as you like between the parties. 

On the write-ins, Tucker noted they are "only counted in the event there is enough write-ins to make a difference in the election. There has to be a large enough number of them to be able to change the election results. If there is not a large enough number, they are not counted" in that race.

The write-in must be a real person. (Sorry, no Mickey Mouse and Bart Simpson.) For local races, they must also be a resident of the county, so Alabama coach Nick Saban is not going to be counted in the Walker County Commission race. 

While the county generally will not oversee the municipal elections that are also set to take place on Aug. 25, 2020, Tucker said municipal candidates still have to file their campaign finance reports with the Probate Judge's Office. "Everyone else, all the county and state offices, (those candidates) file with the Secretary of State's Office," he said.

The officials noted that the reports can then be seen on the Secretary of State's Office website. They noted officials strongly encourage that the reports now be done online, as it no longer seem feasible to do it by paper. "I recommend electronic," Odom said. "It's not that hard." Both said it is actually much easier online.