Clerk denies absentee ballot complaints

Published 2:00 pm Friday, August 24, 2012

Clanton’s city clerk denied any wrongdoing related to the handling of absentee ballots for the city’s municipal election on Aug. 28, following complaints filed with District Attorney Randall Houston’s office.

The city clerk, Debbie Orange, is the designated municipal election official and thus is tasked with approving applications for absentee ballots, and posting an updated list daily of residents who are voting absentee.

A letter to Orange from Houston informs the clerk of complaints filed against her: “namely, some candidates are receiving an unfair advantage in notice of absentee applicants,” the letter reads.

The letter goes over state law related to absentee ballots and threatens legal action if the statutes are not complied with.

No investigation was conducted or is pending.

Orange issued a statement that she was not in violation of the state code.

“I never was given the courtesy of a phone call, much less an investigation of the facts,” she said in the statement. “It is scary to think that someone can go into the district attorney’s office or make a call to the secretary of state’s office and make false claims and that they would take action without checking to see if the allegations were even true. I have a clear conscience.”

Brandon Bates, assistant district attorney for the Clanton office, said the letter was intended simply as a notice that complaints had been filed and a reminder about the proper procedure.

“A candidate could get an unfair advantage if they knew ahead of time when an absentee voter was going to get their ballot–and could influence their vote,” Bates said.

The list of Clanton voters who have been granted absentee ballots is posted at City Hall, outside the clerk’s office.