BIRMINGHAM, Ala. (WBRC) - Earlier this week, it was announced that absentee voting would take place at the courthouse and the Bessemer cutoff on Saturday Oct. 17 and Oct. 24-- an idea meant to reduce wait times.
But Wednesday, interim elections coordinator Vickie Townes sent an email saying the courthouse doors would be closed this weekend and would not have in-person absentee voting. A day later, that’s now to be decided.
“The law is that I cannot order the courthouse to stay open, I don’t have the standing for that,” said Jacqueline Anderson-Smith, absentee election manager and Jefferson County circuit clerk.
Instead, that’s up to the Jefferson County Commission, which has now scheduled a meeting on Friday at noon to vote on opening the courthouse and the Bessemer cutoff, and allowing in-person absentee voting on Saturday Oct 17, and then Oct. 24.
So why the back-and-forth? It’s never been done before.
“This is something new, this is something I have encouraged and something I have supported if the local absentee election manager had the wherewithal to offer that as an option,” said Alabama Secretary of State John Merrill.
Anderson-Smith says they may not have the wherewithal – they are struggling to keep up with increased absentee voting.
“We have an avalanche. Every day, we get more and more,” said Anderson-Smith.
For instance, 600 people showed up Monday, as well as 900 mailed-in ballots.
“It is getting to be overwhelming, because if we do 1,000 tonight, 2,000 show up the next day,” explained Anderson-Smith.
An additional 24 staff members have been hired, but have to be extensively trained, and it’s less than three weeks until election day.
Anderson-Smith says they will make due with what they have, telling FOX 6 on the phone Thursday afternoon that she was just about to go get more supplies, because they keep running out.
If the county commissioners say to open, I will be open," she said.
Secretary Merrill says the county commission also has to make sure Anderson-Smith has everything she needs to accommodate Saturday voting.