Politics OK after hoursPublished 2:00am Saturday, December 8, 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.
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 has said any campaigning she did was not during her office hours as a registrar.
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.
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.”
Escambia County has three registrars, who are appointed by the governor. Each of the county’s registrars has been appointed by a Republican governor.
“Their job is to register people to vote,” Packard said.
Fountain said Friday he is waiting to hear more about the rules governing the board of registrars before deciding whether to file a complaint.