Options for absentee voters whose ballots may not be counted due to court ruling

Updated: Oct. 26, 2020 at 9:19 PM CDT
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BIRMINGHAM, Ala. (WBRC) - The number of ballots impacted by the overturned ruling of a federal court judge that allowed mail-in absentee ballots to be cast without witnesses is unknown.

After the Initial ruling on September 30, Jefferson County sent out absentee ballots with a waiver telling voters they didn’t need to have the ballot witnessed.

A statement from the Jefferson County Circuit clerk and absentee elections manager says they stopped sending out waivers on October 13 when an appeals court dismissed the ruling:

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE – From the Circuit Clerk/Absentee Elections Manager Office Birmingham, AL -- On October 13, 2020, the 11th Circuit Court of Appeals stayed the portion of U.S. District Judge Kallon’s Order of Sept. 30, 2020 that eliminated the notary/witness requirement for affidavits in the absentee voting process due to COVID-19.

Returned ballots with a waiver provided by the Jefferson County Absentee office that are postmarked on or before Oct. 13, 2020 ballot will be counted.

Jefferson County published the order on its website immediately upon receiving it on Oct. 13, 2020 and no more waivers were mailed after that date.

Therefore, if you believe that you fall in this category, or if you voted absentee by mail, utilizing a blue waiver and your ballot was postmarked on or after Oct. 14, please call 205-325-5360. Jefferson County Absentee Elections Manager, Jackie Anderson Smith, has a plan in place to address and contact voters that are identified to correct any deficiencies. All of this is being done in consultation with the Alabama Secretary of State’s office.

Jefferson County’s absentee election manager, Jackie Anderson Smith, reports she has a plan to contact voters who may be impacted and fix the problem. The county would not give details on that plan.

State Secretary, John Merrill, said another option is to cast a provisional ballot in-person on Election Day November 3.

County commissioner Sheila Tyson had been pivotal in offering weekend, in-person absentee voting, that drew hundreds of voters.

“You do not change the rule in the middle of the game unless you want to cheat,” said Commissioner Sheila Tyson.

Merrill said this all happened because the state was sued but ultimately won on appeal.

“What we’re gonna do is try to do whatever we can to make sure we clear this up. Do not give up on the process. Do not give up on voting,” Tyson said.

For all other absentee voters, if your mail-in ballot was postmarked between September 30 and October 13, your vote will be counted. If you’ve voted in-person absentee, your vote will be counted.

The last day for absentee voting is this Thursday, October 29.

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