When Conecuh County Republican executive committee chairman Terrie Ryan approached Agriculture Commissioner Rick Pate and State Auditor Andrew Sorrell about their appointments to the county's Board of Registrars, she thought she got her message across. But after the appointments in late August, she said there was one glaring, concerning issue.
Ryan asked the two on behalf of the GOP to appoint Republicans to the Board of Registrars because that's how they felt the voting process could be protected in a Democrat-run county.
"We're trying to get, as well as we can, the integrity back into our election system," Ryan told 1819 News. "And it appears, from what we've seen, is that it's just being run by Democrats. Heavily run by Democrats."
However, Pate, who also serves as the Lowndes County GOP chair, reappointed a Democrat, Patsy Chapman.
Chapman has been with the Board of Registrars for years, where revealing party affiliation is not part of the application process. However, Ryan claims Chapman has been with the county through controversial voting issues, such as the recent sheriff's race, which is now being contested.
"It wasn't that we were saying she wasn't qualified; we were saying we were working hard to get election integrity there, and one of the places that we need that is in the registrar," Ryan continued. "And obviously, with the sheriff's race, we don't have election integrity right now."
Ryan said potential voter fraud has been identified from the sheriff's race.
"One of the candidates went to the registrars and said they saw an issue that some constituents were not placed in the correct precinct," Ryan said. "During that process, they found out there were some that were truly not put in the correct precinct. Registrars have to determine whether a voter is qualified to be a voter or even alive in some cases.
"Once you step into that office, you are no longer a Republican or Democrat, per se; you are a registrar. But we didn't feel we had those people in there. We have to have checks. We have been working hard to get integrity back, so this appointment was important. Commissioner Pate decided he was just going to keep the woman that's been in there for years and years."
Sorrell did appoint a Republican registrar, and the third registrar, whom Gov. Kay Ivey appointed, is also a Republican.
Pate told 1819 News that he never asked Chapman what her party affiliation was because that wasn't important.
"Well, I don't ask them whether they're Republicans or Democrats," Pate told 1819 News. "I didn't know that was part of it. I don't ask them if they're black, white, Republican, Democrat."
Pate said he believed Chapman had done an excellent job, and not appointing her would be like firing her because she has been with the Board of Registrars so long. He said she is well-loved and respected in Conecuh County, including with the probate judge. Ryan said she has noticed that as well.
"She is well known in the community and works very closely with the probate judge," Ryan said. "That's the person we're trying to put a check on. And the commissioners. The commissioners are the ones who pay $10 a day and supply the office and the office supplies.
"We have some commissioners who don't have the county's best interest in mind. They're pretty strong in putting forth their opinions and making their opinions the ones that count. We just don't understand it.
"The Democrats are really good at appointing Democrats and backing the Democrats, and we made it clear that we needed someone with the Republican values in there and supporting the platform because our platform is honesty and integrity," Ryan continued.
"That's what we stand for, Christian, conservative values. And so, we just needed someone in there with good, Christian, conservative values. Someone we know we can trust."
Ryan said the GOP wants fairness, not favor.
"Commissioner Pate is just demonstrating that we have our own little swamp to drain, and we know that because we have a sheriff race that is being contested," Ryan added. "This little, insignificant thing may seem small, but we need those kinds of pebbles in the water. Those are the kind of things that are going to help us in this county."
While he can't make everyone happy with every appointment, Pate said he made the best decision for the county.
"You can't find someone who is more Republican than me," he said. "My mother ran as a Republican in 1966, and my brother went to Nixon's convention in '72. But you can't satisfy everyone."
To connect with the story's author or comment, email [email protected].
Don't miss out! Subscribe to our newsletter and get our top stories every weekday morning.