Court dismisses Horwitz contest

Katherine Owen

Tuscaloosa County Circuit Court Judge James Roberts dismissed the District 4 Board of Education election contest between Kelly Horwitz and Cason Kirby, filing a final order Wednesday afternoon.

According to the filing, the court found “insufficient evidence to overturn and nullify the election and that further proceedings are neither mandated nor necessary.”

As the contestant, Horwitz needed to present 87 illegal votes in order to overturn the election results. After reviewing almost 400 affidavits Oct. 31 and Nov. 6, the court found no more than 70 illegal votes, 17 short of the minimum.

The contest came in response to the Aug. 27 District 4 Board of Education elections, where Kirby beat Horwitz by 87 votes. Following the election, Horwitz alleged widespread voter fraud, largely focused on The University of Alabama greek community, including allegations of free drinks for votes and dishonest voter registration.

Horwitz contested 397 votes from the election, at least 392 of which were cast by students. The testimony of each of the 397 voters was evaluated in the form of a 36-question affidavit.

Much of Horwitz’s case claims students did not reside in District 4 for the requisite 30 days prior to the Aug. 27 election. The court found that many of the contested votes were cast by students who moved from one residency to another within District 4 in August.

The court also found that temporarily leaving Tuscaloosa for the summer did not discount students’ residency requirements, as in the case of students who moved residencies or studied abroad.

“This temporary absence under Section 17-3-32 of the Code of Alabama does not deprive them of their domicile, nor does the Court find other characteristics contained in the affidavits and/or other evidence to deprive them of that citizenship or their Constitutional right to vote, especially when it is their intent to reside in the district with no fixed intent to return to their childhood home and no certain post-graduate plans,” the filing stated.

The dismissal also declared the motion to intervene by Tuscaloosa attorney Robert Prince on behalf of Pi Kappa Alpha and Sigma Alpha Epsilon moot. On Oct. 23, Prince filed to intervene in the contest on behalf of three sororities, two fraternities and an individual student. The motion originally denied all illegal misconduct of said parties and delineated the voters’ rights as listed in the Alabama Code. The document stated that all intervenors are properly qualified voters and registered to vote in District 4. The motion was amended Oct. 29 to remove the three sororities – Zeta Tau Alpha, Kappa Delta and Alpha Omicron Pi – after their headquarters intervened.

In a statement released Wednesday, Andy Campbell, Kirby’s attorney, said they were “very pleased” with the court’s decision.

“We are also gratified that the court validated the vote and cleared the name of each of the over 350 students challenged on grounds of corruption. As the court found, there was no valid evidence supporting these allegations, only that these students exercised their first amendment rights to vote. It is now time to move forward,” the statement read. “The Board faces numerous challenges in the future. Cason looks forward to working with every person in this community to reach solutions to those challenges.”

James Anderson, Horwitz’s attorney, said he and his client would have 14 days to appeal, though as of Wednesday evening they had not yet had the chance to meet and decide on further action.

Kirby, sworn in Nov. 4, will serve as the School Board representative of District 4.