At the age of 24, Brandon Dean was elected to serve his hometown of Brighton as their chief executive. In doing so, he became the youngest Mayor in Alabama and the youngest elected African-American Mayor in the country.
Despite his age, Brandon Dean is incredibly accomplished. He is a graduate of Howard University in Washington, DC and a former congressional intern. Before his election, he had been working with a Political Action Committee in Alabama supporting Democratic candidates. He is a fifth-generation resident of Brighton and when he speaks about his hometown you hear a passion that only someone who is truly ingrained in a community can convey.
Brandon Dean and the City of Brighton
The City of Brighton is small and problem-ridden. Since 1980 it has lost half of its population, accusations of police corruption ranging from brutality to embezzlement are rampant, garbage collection ceased to operate, debt had made the city almost insolvent, and violence had become an all too regular occurrence. Before Brandon Dean’s election, the City had never had a strategic plan developed by its government to combat these problems. During the vote, an editorial from ‘www.al.com‘ went as far as posing the question ‘Why would anyone want the job of Brighton mayor?’
Several people did, however, and in a close election, Brandon Dean beat his four opponents including incumbent Mayor Barbara Watkins and former Mayor Eddie Cooper. The vote was bitter and raw; Cooper began offering to give away his monthly salary in a lottery system if he was elected, his opponents responded by claiming he was attempting to buy the election. Almost immediately following the vote, Watkins claimed voter fraud and Cooper brought a lawsuit seeking to invalidate the results of the election.
Voter Fraud Allegations
His first suit was based on claims that Brandon Dean was not a resident of Brighton since he had begun to commute to work outside of the city limits, something that was quickly thrown out of court by the presiding judge. Cooper followed it with a second suit claiming voter fraud over ballot irregularities. While the court did not find any instances of voter fraud, it did reveal that 46 voters were found to have not completed their applications properly, enough to cause the judge to order a new election. These errors are likely due to Alabama’s strict voter application laws, laws that many have claimed are thinly-veiled voter suppression efforts.
Voter Suppression efforts have taken root across many states in the US. These efforts are usually sold to the voting public as steps to reduce voter fraud, the statements, however, have been found to have little to no merit. While attempts at voter fraud do occur, studies and records show that they are infrequent and too few to merit any form of action.
Even in Brandon Dean’s case, where his opponents turned this charge against him, there was no merit to claims. The judge who invalidated his election was quoted as saying that his decision had nothing to do with fraud and that the case found no evidence of intentional fraudulent behavior.
Critics claim that these policies are an attempt to rig elections on behalf of Republicans while others claim that they are a racist reminder of the South’s Jim Crow past. These claims at the surface level do not appear to be without merit; Voter Suppression efforts most heavily impact African-American and Latino voters as well as poorer communtities. These groups are historically amongst the least likely to vote for Republican candidates.
In light of the courts ruling, less than a year into holding office, Brandon Dean was forced to remount his campaign and enter a new election. Drained of resources and facing the prospect of communities run-off election, Brandon Dean announced last week that he would drop out of the race and instead pursue efforts to end voter suppression both in Alabama and throughout the United States.