In Alabama, Secretary of State John Merrill is investigating massive suspected voter fraud in two counties. The announcement of the probe came after Wilcox and Perry counties reported inordinately high numbers of ballots cast in Tuesday’s primary runoff election. Both lean highly in favor of Democrats. In Wilcox County, 4,167 of 9,383 registered voters cast ballots for probate judge. However, of the 4,167 ballots returned in total, less than 100 were Republican ballots in a runoff race. In contrast, the 2016 election in Wilcox County had 64.78% turnout. In that election, 4,329 votes went to Hillary Clinton and 1,737 went to Donald Trump. Observers noted that while the district does favor the Democrat party, it is unlikely that more than 4,000 Democrats and fewer than 100 Republicans voted in the same county.

"This is a situation where people are taking advantage of others," said Merrill. "There is a crime if people are stealing voters and are paying people to vote in a certain way. That is obviously a crime." Merrill said, "It's not something we are tolerating or accepting.”

According to the Alabama Secretary of State, the outsize number of Democrat ballots may evidence an “absentee broker operation.” Such a voter fraud operation can mean the provision of gifts and/or money in exchange for absentee ballots that the buyer then fills out in order to produce a desired electoral outcome. In Wilcox County, 79 percent of the residents are black, while 27 percent are black, according to the U.S. Census.

In Perry County, suspicions had been raised even before the election results rolled in. Intimidation tactics were reported in Perry County. Only 200 Republicans showed up to vote in Perry County on Tuesday, in a race where only state-wide candidates were on the ballot. On Tuesday, 2,763 ballots were cast by Democrats in a contentious Circuit Court race that Mia Jacobs-Turner won by 95 votes and thus besting her opponent. In Perry County, blacks represent 67 percent of the population, while white residents amount to 31 percent.

Perry County absentee ballot manager Mary Moore said that there was a high number of absentee ballots in the race, and added that the results are questionable.

Alabama Secretary of State Merrill said that 200+ ballots did not meet the state’s standards. Some of them were unsealed, thus raising the suspicion of tampering. “I had a county commissioner threaten me and my election observers saying that if they didn’t let the votes count, they would have them arrested in Perry County,” Merrill stated. “I told them that he was not going to have anyone arrested and that we would follow the law and that everyone who participated would be following the law.”

Wilcox and Perry counties are part of what some call the “Black Belt” of the Deep South state. Both are majority black counties and are among the least populated counties in Alabama. Each county has about 10,000 residents.

Similarly anomalous turnouts were registered in other Black Belt counties, including Dallas (34.08 percent, Greene (34.08 percent), Lowndes (25.47 percent), and Macon (21.95 percent). However, Choctaw County in the Black Belt reported but a 0.59 percent turnout; the county had no local races on the ballot. Jefferson County showed a turnout slightly below the state average at 12.6 percent. In Madison and Mobile counties, turnout was below 10 percent.

Alarm over so-called absentee "vote brokers" has been noted in years past. During her tenure as Secretary of State in the late 2000s, Beth Chapman frequently warned against the practice of voter fraud. She said that after the 2008 presidential primary election, her office learned that voters were being compensated with rock cocaine and loads of gravel in return for handing over their blank absentee ballots to "ballot brokers." Chapman subsequently created a Voter Fraud Unit. Fraudulent absentee ballots are a problem that extends back to the 1990s, especially in the Alabama’s Black Belt counties.

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Spero News writer Martin Barillas is a former US diplomat, who also worked as a democracy advocate and election observer in Latin America. His first novel 'Shaken Earth', is available at Amazon.

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