Voters in Tuscaloosa's City Council District 7 will head to the polls again after a Birmingham judge on Thursday nullified Cassius Lanier's March 2 election victory over incumbent Sonya McKinstry.
At issue is Lanier's criminal history -- the Tuscaloosa entrepreneur has been convicted of four felonies by the state of Alabama and one federal felony.
Although the Alabama Bureau of Pardons and Parole pardoned Lanier for those offenses and restored his eligibility to hold office on April 13th, Circuit Judge Robert Vance said Lanier was not legally able to hold office at the time of the election.
"Based on the undisputed facts of this case, the threshold question is whether Lanier was ineligible to run for office, thereby requiring that the election be declared void, even though he subsequently obtained a pardon for his past offenses," Vance wrote.
Citing Alabama Code §36-2-1 and Reed v. State ex rel. Davis, Vance ruled that "Lanier's subsequent pardon may not abrogate his disability" to seek office back in March.
"Accordingly, and pursuant to Ala. Code §11-46-70, this court holds that defendant Lanier is ineligible to hold the office to which he was ostensibly elected on March 2, 2021, and that the election of that date for District Seven of the Tuscaloosa City Council is declared to be void," Vance wrote. "The vacancy is to be filled in the manner prescribed by law."
Because the four-year term has not even begun yet, city officials must organize a special election and let the final outcome be decided by another round of voting, instead of a council or court appointment.
There is no word yet on when the election will be held, but Lanier said now that he has been pardoned of his past felonies and is officially eligible to hold office, he will run again.
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