By MARY SELL, Alabama Daily News
Turnout in next week’s primary runoff election is expected to be lower than the March 3 primary, but more Alabamians have already submitted absentee ballots for the Tuesday contests than did in March.
As of Wednesday, 19,386 Alabamians had returned absentee ballots and a total of 38,285 people have applied for the ballots, according to Alabama Secretary of State John Merrill’s office.
In the March 3 primary, a total of 18,729 absentee ballots were cast. By comparison, in the 2017 special GOP primary runoff for U.S. Senate, 5,601 people voted absentee, according to Merrill’s office.
Merrill expects 17-22 percent of eligible voters to participate in next week’s runoff. Thirty-three percent participated in March.
Originally scheduled for March 31, Gov. Kay Ivey delayed the runoff election until July 14 as a safety precaution as the state was beginning to deal with the coronavirus outbreak. Four months later, Alabama continues to see a rise in infections and hospitalizations, and Merrill has encouraged those with concerns about going to the polls amid the virus outbreak to vote absentee.
Today is the deadline to submit an absentee ballot application. An absentee ballot returned by mail must be postmarked no later than the day prior to the election and received by the absentee election manager no later than noon on election day.
In order to vote absentee, Alabamians must have an allowable excuse, including expecting to be out of the country, having a job that requires working a 10-hour shift that coincides with polling hours or the having a homebound family member. Voters must check a box next to the reason that applies to them. Falsifying the application is a Class C felony, according to state law.
The U.S. Supreme Court last week blocked a lower court ruling allowing curbside voting in Alabama and waiving some absentee ballot requirements during the COVID-19 pandemic.
State law requires voters to submit photocopies of their photo identification as well as sign the absentee ballot before a notary or two witnesses. The lawsuit asks a federal judge to waive those mandates and force the state to offer curbside voting.
U.S. District Judge Abdul K. Kallon last month issued a preliminary injunction after finding that Alabama’s election rules will cause sick or elderly voters to “likely face a painful and difficult choice between exercising their fundamental right to vote and safeguarding their health, which could prevent them from casting a vote in upcoming elections.”
Democrat state legislators’ push for no-excuse absentee voting failed earlier this year.