Officials question registrar

Published 10:56 am Monday, December 10, 2012

For members of a county board of registrars in Alabama, politics has to stop at the office door.

But off the clock, registrars have the right to campaign for political candidates, officials with the secretary of state’s office said.

The issue was raised last week when two newly elected Democratic officials complained to the Escambia County Commission that they were concerned about the actions of registrar Jackie Gay, who is also an official with the Escambia County Republican Party.

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John Robert Fountain, who was elected circuit clerk and will take over the office in January, said he wanted to know the rules of the registrar’s office and thought the commission would be a good place to start. He was accompanied to the commission’s workshop by Probate Judge-elect Doug Agerton, who voiced similar concerns.

Gay said she did not campaign for candidates during office hours. She works part-time as a registrar.

“I take my duties as registrar very seriously,” she said. “As a registrar I have the duty of registering voters and keeping voters updated. I believe Escambia County has one of the most efficient registrar’s offices in Alabama. My goal has always been to serve the people of Alabama and to do so in an efficient and courteous manner.”

Ed Packard, supervisor of voter registration for the Alabama Secretary of State’s office, said there is “nothing illegal” about a registrar — or any other county or state employee, for that matter — campaigning for political candidates, as long as they do not use their office hours or their office equipment (such as a computer or telephone) to do so.

Also, the state’s Elections Handbook states that registrars can serve as elected officers in political parties.

Packard said complaints about registrars are made to the Secretary of State’s office.

“They are sort of quasi-state employees, quasi-county employees,” Packard said of registrars. “They are self-governing. They don’t have a supervisor.”

Gay said that Gov. Robert Bentley, who appointed her, was aware of her political beliefs and activities when he named her as a registrar.

Fountain said Friday he is waiting to hear more about the rules governing the board of registrars before deciding whether to file a complaint.