Tuscaloosa Board of Education trial set to proceed

Tuscaloosa Board of Education trial set to proceed

Camille Studebaker

Following the controversial 2013 Tuscaloosa City Board of Education election, a trial is set to begin in Tuscaloosa Circuit Court on Sept. 27. The voters who cast illegal ballots during the 2013 election have been called to testify at the trial.

Cason Kirby’s election to the board in 2013 as the District 4 seat was called into question by his opponent, incumbent Kelly Horwitz after she lost 416-329. Horwitz claimed voter fraud as she insisted many of the voters were University of Alabama Greek students that were not eligible to vote in the district or were bribed to vote for Kirby through illegal benefits such as concert tickets and free drinks.

Horwitz, former board member from 2009 to 2013, contested the results. In Sept. 2013, Horwitz filed an election contest in circuit court. In Nov. 2013, Tuscaloosa County Circuit Court Judge Jim Roberts dismissed her election contest, concluding the 87-vote margin was only comprised of 70 illegal votes, therefore unable to overturn the result. Horwitz eventually appealed to the Alabama Supreme Court, where it ruled 7-2 in favor of Horwitz, determining 159 votes were illegal.

Josh Shumate, a graduate student studying public administration and vice president of The United Alabama Project, said this case, despite being off-campus, is the work of The Machine.

“This case is of extra interest to those of us at the university because the overwhelming majority of the illegal votes that were cast were from UA students,” he said. “Additionally, the gentleman who won the election, Cason Kirby, was a Machine backed SGA President at UA in the late 2000’s.”

The students, some of whom are now alumni, have been subpoenaed to testify stating who they voted for in the election. Shumate said this trial is essentially to determine if at least 87 of those 159 voters in fact voted for Kirby, and if so, the election results will get overturned.

“We have the obligation to leave this community better off than it was when we arrived, and I don’t see how that is accomplished by offering limousine rides and free drinks to students who plan to illegally cast a vote for a former SGA President for school board,” Shumate said.

“By returning this case to the trial court to address those votes that were illegally cast by non-residents, the Supreme Court has rightly returned this choice where it belongs: to the residents of District 4 –– parents, students, and others –– who cast legal votes on election day. It is not the person, but a fair process, that matters,” Horwitz said to AL.com

Cason Kirby, along with two other board members, will not run for re-election in the spring, but Kirby told Tuscaloosa News that the upcoming trial was not a factor in his decision not to run. Horwitz has not announced if she will run again or not.