A recent indictment of Perry County Commission chairman Albert Turner, Jr. for voter fraud is "bogus," according to a statement released on social media by Turner on Wednesday night.
Turner has been indicted for felony and misdemeanor counts of voter fraud, according to a press release by Alabama Secretary of State John Merrill and Alabama's Fourth Judicial Circuit District Attorney Michael Jackson released on Wednesday.
According to the press release, Turner has been indicted for allegedly voting multiple times and inserting multiple completed ballots into the tabulator at a polling location in Perry County in the May primary. Turner has also been indicted for allegedly ballot harvesting during the November general election. The indictment alleges that Turner presented multiple completed absentee ballots for mailing from the U.S. Post Office.
In a statement, Turner said he is not concerned about "Jackson and his bogus charge of ballot stuffing and mailing too many absentee ballots."
Robert Turner, Jr. defeated Jackson with 54% of the vote in the May primary. According to the Selma Times-Journal, Turner had 9,178 votes compared to 7,770 for Jackson. Jackson had served as Alabama's Fourth Judicial Circuit District Attorney since 2004, according to the outlet. Robert Turner, Jr. is a cousin of Albert Turner, Jr.
"If I am guilty of anything it was making sure Robert Jr. beat the hell out of Jackson and he did that," Turner said.
Turner said he "agrees with Jackson's claim that the ballot box was stuffed, not by him, but by the people of Perry County and the 4th Judicial District."
"The people were tired of politically motivated prosecutions by an incompetent district attorney," Turner added.
Jackson stated at a press conference Wednesday that he has "heard the cry from the citizens and the people running for office to clean up the elections in the Black Belt."
Turner said the charges are "political theater at its finest" and that Merrill was at his courthouse office "two weeks ago asking that the Chairman (Turner) throw him some business at his new government relations job with a Mississippi-based engineering firm."
Merrill told 1819 News in a phone interview on Thursday that he "didn't want to make any kind of comments except to say that election integrity is something that we hold very dear."
"Voter fraud is something that must be punished if it has been committed," Merrill said. "I also think it should be known that the accused is always innocent until proven guilty. The District Attorney took the evidence that had been provided from our office at other locations to the grand jury in Perry County which is made up of a grand jury of his peers and they brought back the indictment and that case has been turned over to the Attorney General's Office."
Merrill announced in a press release Thursday he'd be joining Waggoner Engineering as the director of public policy and strategic markets for Alabama. Waggoner has its headquarters in Jackson, Miss., and more than 10 office locations across six states and Washington, D.C. Karen Guthrie, Merrill's executive assistant and scheduler, will also be joining the team at Waggoner as the administrator of Alabama and Florida.
Merrill told 1819 News his meeting with Turner happened because he had meetings with the Probate Judge and the Board of Registrars, adding, "[A]s I do everywhere I go, I went by to see Commissioner Turner and talked to him."
"He asked me what was going on," Merrill said. "I told him. He asked me what my next steps were, and I told him. I said, 'I'd love to have an opportunity to come visit with you and talk to you about that after my term expires.' He said, 'I'll look forward to that.' That was it. That's a conversation that's happened with a number of different people all across the state since I've accepted my position."
According to Perry County's website, Turner was first appointed to serve in 2000 as a commissioner to serve the remainder of his father's fourth term of office after the death of Albert Turner, Sr. The elder Turner was a civil rights activist and advisor to Martin Luther King, Jr. According to a New York Times article after Albert Turner, Sr.'s death, Turner, Sr. and his wife, Evelyn, were prosecuted unsuccessfully for "altering absentee ballots collected from rural blacks" in the 1980s.
The Alabama Department of Examiners of Public Accounts faulted the Perry County Commission for a variety of financial and accounting errors in a report filed in October 2022. According to the report, the "Commission's failure to have traditional financial statement audits for (2018 and 2019 fiscal years) may impact the Commission's credit rating and/or ability to borrow money in the future."
Turner said he will "go on with his schedule on January 13th in Atlanta, January 14th in Savannah, Ga., and January 15th back in Atlanta ending the King Holiday with friends at Governor Kay Ivey's inauguration on January 16th."
"The Chairman wishes Mike and John a happy King's Day and a peaceful retirement," Turner said in a statement.
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