By John Mullen
Baldwin County saw a huge voter turnout — 43 percent — for the Dec. 12 special election for Jeff Sessions’ former United States Senate seat.
“It is very high for a special election,” Probate Judge Tim Russell said. “When you think that the primary started out at 18.7 percent [turnout] and then we more than doubled it for the general election, it’s a great accomplishment. I’m very happy about that.”
But in the end voters stayed true to their Republican red, with nearly 62 percent of the votes cast for Roy Moore and just under 36 percent cast for Democrat and statewide winner Doug Jones. Jones won in only four of the county’s 48 precincts, the largest being the Daphne Civic Center.
As of press time only 47 of the 48 precincts’ results were counted, or almost 98 percent. According to county election officials, the 48th box is provisional ballots, which were to be counted Dec. 19 at noon.
Of the 62,686 votes counted so far, 60,576 voted for either Jones or Moore and 1,699 voted for a write-in candidate. Moore received 38,445 votes in Baldwin County to Jones’ 22,131.
On the school tax renewal, 37,649 voted to continue the tax for 30 years and 22,957 voted against.
“We had the special vote on there for the renewal of the 1 mill and I think that brought a good number of folks,” Russell said. “We did have those who voted just for the millage question and didn’t vote for either candidate. It shows those folks came out just to vote on the school question.”
And while the county stayed solidly Republican, Democratic organizers in Baldwin County were happy with the enthusiasm of their campaign and feel inroads are being made.
“We did increase that blue number up from who voted for [Hillary] Clinton in the presidential election,” Baldwin County Democratic Vice Chairman Heather Brown said. “I think she got 20 percent of the vote and [Jones] got 37 [percent], so we went up. I think people were motivated to come out and vote more so than any other time that I can remember in recent history.”
Longtime county Republican Kevin Spriggs noticed a surge in activities by Democrats.
“This is the first election I’ve seen where the Democrats had actual campsites,” Spriggs said. “I have not seen that in the last 20 years. In Baldwin County, you presume whoever wins the Republican primary is going to be the elected official. I kind of wonder this time if we’re going to have some viable Democrat nominees to run against the primary winners.
Democrat organizer Denise D’Oliveira said the controversy surrounding allegations against Moore involving teenage girls in the 1970s and his religious extremism helped invigorate voters.
“Roy Moore’s candidacy was a tipping point that I think brought people out of the woodwork who were really desperate to find like-minded friends or new friends and neighbors to stand up and say ‘this has gone far enough,’” D’Oliveira said.
It helped, as Alabama elected the first Democrat to the U.S. Senate since 1992. It just so happens that Democrat was Richard Shelby, who later switched to the Republican side of the aisle. Spriggs said Shelby is not popular among Alabama Republicans for not supporting Moore and appearing in an ad for Jones.
“I’ve put on my Facebook page that we need to kick Richard Shelby out of the Republican Party for actually helping a Democrat,” Spriggs said. “Party rules say if you donate money to a Democrat then you’re not allowed to run in the next election. I don’t think they have any rules that let you kick somebody out that [took part in] an active campaign for the Democrat.”
Russell says the good turnout and smooth process of the special election have the county primed for the upcoming midterm elections, including statewide races including the race for governor.
“We’re just real pleased with the way everything went,” Russell said. “It was a real good time for us. It was good weather and people seemed to enjoy getting out and we didn’t have any problems at the polls. We’re ready for the next elections in June.”