Court waives absentee ballot requirements in certain counties

By CAROLINE BECK, Alabama Daily News

MONTGOMERY, Ala. – On Monday, a federal judge lifted a statewide ban on curbside voting and waived certain absentee ballot requirements for voters in at least Jefferson, Mobile and Lee Counties for the July 14 election.

The U.S. District Court for the Northern District of Alabama issued the ruling in response to a motion for preliminary injunction filed by the NAACP Legal Defense & Educational Fund, Inc., SPLC and the Alabama Disabilities Advocacy Program.

The court’s ruling waives the requirement, in those three counties, of having one’s absentee ballot notarized or witnessed by two adults and to mail in copies of their photo IDs for those voters whose age or medical condition makes them more vulnerable to serious illness from COVID-19.

The lawsuit noted that many people do not have their own photocopying machine at home and existing requirements create a particular barrier for older voters, black voters and disabled voters, all of which are the most high-risk groups for COVID-19 complications.

“No one should have to risk their health to vote. We’re happy that the Court removed Alabama’s needless barriers to voting and that many tens of thousands of vulnerable people will now have a safe means of voting in July,” Deuel Ross, senior counsel at LDF, said in a press release.

It’s unclear if the judge’s decision could be carried over to all of Alabama’s counties.

Alabama’s next major election is set for July 14. The deadline to request an absentee ballot for that election is June 29.

A spokeswoman for Secretary of State John Merrill said this morning that office is discussing the ruling and how to proceed with its lawyers from the Attorney General’s Office.

Merrill has waived the excuse requirement for absentee voting for the July primary runoff election, a move he said should allow more people to vote by absentee if they fear going to the polls. Alabamians are normally only allowed to vote absentee if they are sick, out of town or working.

Merrill’s office on Monday also announced the state had set a new record of registered voters in Alabama’s history at 3.6 million. The release says since Merrill took office in 2015, his office has successfully registered 1.5 million new voters.

“These numbers are unprecedented and unparalleled in the history for any state in the republic during the same period of time, and I am proud of our work to promote participation in the democratic process,” Merrill said in a press release. “During these times of uncertainty, our Office will remain accessible and ready to assist the people of Alabama.”

SPLC has previously come out against Merrill’s claim in record breaking numbers saying they are misleading and are based on inaccurate voter rolls and can’t be fact checked because Alabama’s voter list costs one cent per name.