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AP Decision Notes: What to expect in Alabama’s congressional primary runoffs

WASHINGTON (AP) — Voters in a new Alabama congressional district at the center of an ongoing legal and political dispute will return to the polls Tuesday to select the nominees in a U.S. House contest that could help decide control of the narrowly divided chamber this November.

Shomari Figures, a former top aide to Attorney General Merrick Garland, and Anthony Daniels, the state House Minority Leader, will compete for the Democratic nomination in Alabama’s 2nd Congressional District after neither candidate received the vote majority needed in the March 5 primary to avoid Tuesday’s runoff. Former state Sen. Dick Brewbaker and attorney Caroleene Dobson will compete in the Republican runoff. The winners will face off in the November general election.

A federal court adopted new boundaries for the 2nd District last year following a lawsuit that alleged the state’s congressional districts were “racially gerrymandered” to limit the influence of the state’s Black voters. Alabama has a Black population of about 27%, but the lawsuit claimed the old map illegally concentrated them in one congressional district to limit their political power, a practice known as “packing.” The case went to the Supreme Court, which affirmed the lower court’s ruling requiring the state legislature to create a second district with a sizable share of Black voters.

The court-ordered map will be in place for the 2024 election, although Republican state Attorney General Steve Marshall said his office will go back to court to restore the original boundaries for future elections. Under the old plan, Republicans enjoyed lopsided electoral advantages in six of the state’s seven U.S. House districts.

The new 2nd District stretches from the Georgia border in southeast Alabama to the Mississippi border in the southwest. It includes Montgomery and parts of Mobile. The district has a Black population of about 49%, up from about a third of the population under the old lines. Voters in the new 2nd District favored Democrats in the last two presidential elections, giving President Joe Biden about 56% of the vote in 2020 and Hillary Clinton about 54% of the vote in 2016.

Here’s a look at what to expect on Tuesday:

PRIMARY RUNOFF DAY

Runoff primaries in Alabama’s 2nd Congressional District will be held Tuesday. Polls close at 8 p.m. ET.

WHAT’S ON THE BALLOT

The Associated Press will provide coverage for both the Democratic and Republican runoff primaries. Daniels and Figures are the only candidates on the Democratic ballot; Brewbaker and Dobson are the only candidates on the Republican ballot.

WHO GETS TO VOTE

Voters who participated in either the Democratic or Republican primary for Alabama’s 2nd Congressional District on March 5 may only vote in the same party’s primary runoff on Tuesday. In other words, Democratic primary voters may not vote in the Republican runoff and vice versa. Voters registered in the 2nd District who did not participate in any party’s primary may vote in either runoff.

DECISION NOTES

Figures was the top vote-getter in the Democratic primary on March 5 with 43% of the vote, almost double the vote share for Daniels. His first-place finish was powered in part by his strong performance in Mobile County, where he received 60% of the vote and Daniels placed fifth with only 2% of the vote. Figures also won in vote-rich Montgomery County with about 40% of the vote, compared to 27% for Daniels. Daniels, who lives almost 200 miles north of the district in Huntsville, will have to significantly improve upon his showing in these key counties if he hopes to overtake Figures in the runoff.

On the Republican side, Brewbaker placed first on March 5 with 37% of the vote, compared to 25% for Dobson. His showing in the primary was largely due to his overwhelming win in Montgomery, where he had 66% of the vote to Dobson’s 22%. Neither candidate carried Mobile in the primary, although Dobson edged Brewbaker there for second place, 27.0% to 26.5%. To overtake Brewbaker, Dobson likely will have to win over the bulk of the 35% of Mobile voters who cast their primary ballots for state Sen. Greg Albritton. She’ll also need to significantly reduce Brewbaker’s lead in Montgomery.

The AP does not make projections and will declare a winner only when it’s determined there is no scenario that would allow the trailing candidates to close the gap. If a race has not been called, the AP will continue to cover any newsworthy developments, such as candidate concessions or declarations of victory. In doing so, the AP will make clear that it has not yet declared a winner and explain why.

Elections in Alabama are subject to an automatic recount if the margin of victory is 0.5% of the total vote or less. The AP may declare a winner in a race that is eligible for a recount if it can determine the lead is too large for a recount or legal challenge to change the outcome.

WHAT DO TURNOUT AND ADVANCE VOTE LOOK LIKE?

Turnout on Super Tuesday in the 2nd District was 11% of registered voters in the Democratic primary and 12% in the Republican primary.

In the 2022 primaries, pre-Election Day voting made up about 4% of the total vote in the Democratic statewide primaries and about 2% in the Republican contests.

HOW LONG DOES VOTE COUNTING USUALLY TAKE?

In the Democratic primary on March 5, the AP first reported results at 8:05 p.m. ET, five minutes after polls closed. The election night tabulation ended at 11:24 p.m. ET with about 99% of total votes counted. In the Republican primary, the first votes were reported at 8:11 p.m. ET and the final election night update at 11:25 p.m. ET with about 93% of total votes counted.

Robert Yoon, The Associated Press







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