2009 Birmingham municipal election
The 2009 Birmingham municipal election was held on August 25, 2009, with a runoff on October 6. The ballot included Birmingham City Council and Birmingham Board of Education elections.
Council incumbents Valerie Abbott, Maxine Parker, Johnathan Austin, Carole Smitherman, Steven Hoyt and Roderick Royal kept their seats, while newcomers Lashunda Scales and Kim Rafferty successfully ousted Joel Montgomery and Carol Duncan, respectively. Jay Roberson won the seat vacated by the death of Miriam Witherspoon.
In the Board of Education races, Virginia Volker, Willie Maye Jr, April Williams and Phyllis Wyne held onto their seats while Edward Maddox, Emanuel Ford, and Alana Edwards successfully challenged Carolyn Cobb, Dannetta K. Thornton Owens and Odessa Ashley, respectively. Tyrone Belcher and Brian Giattina won open seats to complete the 9-member board.
The council voted on March to change the election date to August from October 13 after being advised by city attorney Lawrence Cooper that more than the usual three weeks would be needed between the election and any runoffs in order to meet the requirements of the federal "Help America to Vote" act. Cooper's office waited until May 7 before applying to the U. S. Department of Justice for approval of the new schedule. A decision was returned on June 20, just days before it would have been too late to make the change. In order to appear on the ballot, candidates had to file qualification papers at the Jefferson County Probate Court by 5:00 PM on August 4.
Polling locations were changed for this election after the passage of Act No. 2008-416, sponsored by Mary Moore in the Alabama Legislature. Under the new law voters report to the same locations as for statewide elections, necessitating that some precincts distribute more than one ballot depending on the individual voter's council district.
Due to its debt crisis, Jefferson County informed the city that it would be unable to deliver and test voting machines to the city's 78 voting precincts. The city used its own workers to deliver and set up the machines. In addition the city reimbursed the county $118,000 for other election-related expenses. It was reported that the city relied solely on data cards from voting machines to tally vote totals rather than comparing data transmitted by cell-modem with the cards, as was the county's practice.
In the August 25 election (on a mostly sunny day with a high of 89°F), 27,233 votes were cast from a pool of 135,156 registered voters (20.1% turnout). With runoff races in seven of the city's nine districts, 15,275 votes were cast on October 6, or 14.5% of 105,345 registered voters in those districts.
Campaigning and endorsements
A forum for all candidates, split into three sessions, was held August 11-13 at the Linn-Henley Research Library, sponsored by the NAACP Birmingham-Metro Chapter and the League of Women Voters of Greater Birmingham. During the runoff campaign the NAACP sponsored another round of debates at various locations, rebroadcast on a Bright House Networks local-access channel.
Mayor Larry Langford planned to endorse a slate of candidates, but later reversed himself, asking voters to make up their own minds. Former mayor Richard Arrington Jr, through the New Jefferson County Citizens Coalition, endorsed Joel Montgomery, Rolanda Hollis, Maxine Parker, Charlie Williams Jr, Sheila Tyson, James Roberson, Gerri Robinson and James Williams for the Council and Keith Rice, Virginia Volker, Edward Maddox, Emanuel Ford, Ervin Hill, Alana Edwards, Patricia Humes and David Merrida for Board of Education. The group did not make endorsements for District 3. Former mayoral candidate Patrick Cooper has advised some challengers, but has not publicly supported a slate of candidates.
The Jefferson County Progressive Democratic Council endorsed Chris Cummings, Lawrence Conaway, Valerie Abbott, Maxine Parker, Elias Hendricks, Carole Smitherman, Ernestine Williams, Steven Hoyt and Roderick Royal for Council and Tyrone Belcher, Virginia Volker, Bob Friedman, Carolyn Cobb, Dannetta K. Thornton Owens, Willie Maye, Odessa Ashley, Patricia Humes and Phyllis Wyne for the Board of Education.
The Central Alabama Labor Federation endorsed Lashunda Scales, Carol Duncan, Valerie Abbott, Maxine Parker, Charlie Williams Jr, Carole Smitherman, Percy McGowan, Gerri Robinson and James Williams for City Council and Tyrone Belcher, Virginia Volker, Bob Friedman, Carolyn Cobb, Dannetta K. Thornton Owens, and April Williams for Board of Education.
The Birmingham News endorsed Chris Cummings, Lawrence Conaway, Valerie Abbott, Maxine Parker, Elias Hendricks, Carole Smitherman, Jay Roberson, Steven Hoyt and Roderick Royal for City Council and Keith Rice, Virginia Volker, Brian Giattina, Edward Maddox, Dannetta K. Thornton Owens, Gwendolyn Bell, Charles Benjamin, Patricia Humes and Phyllis Wyne for Board of Education.
Board of Education
State Representative John Rogers announced on October 12 that he would initiate legal action alleging that fraud occurred in the counting of provisional ballots during the runoff election. He believed that over a thousand provisional ballots were left uncounted, possibly swinging tight races such as the one in District 6 between Carole Smitherman and Rogers' cousin Sheila Tyson. He withdrew his challenge after learning that only 73 provisional ballots were cast, of which 32 were counted.
Nevertheless, Rogers does plan to sponsor legislation requiring automatic recounts in tight races and doing away with "split boxes", where voters from more than one district vote in the same polling place.
In November 2009, just as the new council was being sworn in, losing District 9 candidates LeRoy Bandy and David Russell filed a suit in Jefferson County Circuit Court claiming that the rescheduling of the election to August was illegal under the Mayor-Council Act of 1955.
Judge Robert Vance dismissed the lawsuit on June 9, 2010, expressing in his opinion that high standard needed to overturn a vote of the people after it has occurred.
- Natta, André (November 18, 2008) "Let the 2009 city council races begin." The Terminal
- Lewis, Jessie (March 11, 2009) "One Man's Opinion"
- Kennedy, Joey (March 19, 2009) "Will there be new faces on the Birmingham City Council?" Birmingham News
- Bryant, Joseph D. (March 23, 2009) "Incumbents, challengers gear up for August City Council elections in Birmingham." Birmingham News
- Bryant, Joseph D. (June 16, 2009) "Birmingham city election date still unsettled, week remains until early date possibility dies." Birmingham News
- Williams, Roy L. (June 21, 2009) "Justice Department approves Birmingham officials' request to move election to Aug. 25." Birmingham News
- Ruisi, Anne (July 6, 2009) "Birmingham, Alabama city council, school board have candidates qualifying." Birmingham News
- Bryant, Joseph D. (July 12, 2009) "Birmingham City Council race rivals Carole Smitherman, Sheila Tyson skirmish in radio ads." Birmingham News
- Ruisi, Anne (July 25, 2009) "Number of Birmingham, Alabama council, school board election qualifiers swells to 52." Birmingham News
- Wright, Barnett & Joseph Bryant (July 27, 2009) "Jefferson County tells Birmingham it will limit support for Aug. 25 council, school board elections." Birmingham News
- Bryant, Joseph D. (August 4, 2009) "New polling places in store for upcoming Birmingham elections." Birmingham News
- Bryant, Joseph D. (August 10, 2009) "Langford, Arrington, Cooper play role in upcoming Birmingham city elections." Birmingham News
- Bryant, Joseph D. (August 18, 2009) "Former mayor's citizens group announces picks in Birmingham election." Birmingham News
- "Tumultuous time likely ahead as voters go to polls to elect Birmingham City Council." editorial (August 23, 2009) Birmingham News
- "In this crucial time for city schools, voters must choose school board members dedicated to transparency and community." editorial (August 23, 2009) Birmingham News
- Spencer, Thomas (August 26, 2009) "Low voter turnout for city elections." Birmingham News
- Bryant, Joseph D. (August 27, 2009) "Birmingham candidates seek bigger turnout for Oct. 6 runoff vote." Birmingham News
- Bryant, Joseph D. (October 2, 2009) "Birmingham City Council District 6 race is most expensive to date." Birmingham News
- Bryant, Joseph D. and Anne Ruisi (October 7) "Birmingham City Council President Carole Smitherman defeats challenger Sheila Tyson." Birmingham News
- Archibald, John (October 7, 2009) "Archibald: New council big on personality, if short on diplomacy." Birmingham News
- Bryant, Joseph D. (October 13, 2009) "State Rep. John Rogers to protest Birmingham, Alabama city election, claiming fraud." Birmingham News
- Bryant, Joseph D. (October 14, 2009) "Rogers eases off allegations." Birmingham News
- Stock, Erin (November 24, 2009) "Former city council candidate says he filed suit over election because 'I just want it done right'." Birmingham News
- Bryant, Joseph D. (June 9, 2010) "Judge rules 2009 Birmingham City Council elections valid." Birmingham News