Attorneys representing black students at Alabama A&M University filed a federal lawsuit Friday asking that the students’ votes in this week’s mid-term election be counted. As evidence, the lawsuit includes screen shots of the Alabama Secretary of State’s website showing the four students filing the lawsuit as ineligible the day of the election and eligible two days later. Secretary of State John Merrill is the state’s chief election officer responsible for the balloting, and the lawsuit names him and Madison County Board of Registrars Chairman Linda Hairston as defendants. It was filed in federal court in Huntsville Friday by the NAACP’s Legal Defense Fund. Hairston and Merrill declined comment early Friday afternoon.
After a telephone conference late Friday afternoon, U.S. District Judge Madeline Haikala set a hearing on the lawsuit Tuesday at 9:30 a.m. in Birmingham. Haikala ordered state and county officials not to take any action before then regarding provisional ballots. All ballots and results from the election are set by law to be certified as official Tuesday at noon, leaving the judge time to take action after the hearing or let the certification continue.
The lawsuit asks that the court order “that any voter forced to cast a provisional ballot … have their provisional ballot accepted and counted.” If Haikala Huntsville agrees, that could result in hundreds of ballots being added to the totals reported earlier this week. Hairston said Friday that the county “has never had this many” provisional ballots and is still processing them.
Additional evidence in the suit includes a sworn statement by a volunteer helping register students at Alabama A&M before the election and monitoring the polling place on the day of voting. “The polling place ran out of provisional ballots multiple times throughout Election Day,” Virginia Bailey said. “The result was that there were hour-long wait times to cast provisional ballots, and I believe that at least some students left without voting.”