Tie election declared in Alabama GOP primary; winner to be decided ‘by lot’

In a stark reminder that every vote matters, an Alabama GOP state Senate primary race was declared a tie and will be decided “by lot.”

Unofficial results for the GOP primary in Senate District 27 had Auburn City Councilman Jay Hovey leading incumbent state Sen. Tom Whatley by a single vote. But on Saturday, the Alabama Republican Party Candidate Committee declared the race officially a tie and said the outcome would be determined by lot or by another game of chance, in accordance with state law.

Hovey accused the party of counting an unregistered voter to bring the race to a tie in a statement to the Montgomery Advertiser.

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“Certainly every vote is important and it’s unfortunate if anyone is mistaken that they are registered to vote,” Hovey wrote. “But if the proper, legal process isn’t followed to register, a person shouldn’t be allowed to cast a ballot to be considered.”

The party did not give a reason for its decision.

The relevant state law that will decide the primary election is Alabama Code 17-12-23.

It states: “In all elections where there is a tie between the two highest candidates for the same office, for all county or precinct offices, it shall be decided by lot by the sheriff of the county in the presence of the candidates; and in the case of the office of circuit judge, senator, representative, or any state officer not otherwise provided for, the Secretary of State shall, in the presence of the Governor, and such other electors as may choose to be present, decide the tie by lot.”

According to Alabama Secretary of State John Merrill, the race could be decided by any game of chance that both candidates agree to play.

“It could be a roll of a dice, high card, or rock-paper-scissors,” Merrill told AL.com in March. Historically, ties in Alabama elections have been resolved by coin toss. “The sheriff is the one responsible for flipping the coin,” Merrill said.

Unofficially, the challenger Hovey earned 8,373 votes compared to the incumbent Whatley’s 8,372.

Whatley had vastly outspent his opponent, dropping nearly $1.3 million for his re-election bid, while Hovey only spent $103,000.

A press release from the state GOP did not indicate when or how the tie will be broken.

Whichever candidate wins the game of chance will face Democratic nominee Sherri Reese in the election for Senate District 27 this November. Reese was unopposed for the Democratic nomination. District 27 includes parts of Lee, Russell, and Tallapoosa counties.

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