By CAROLINE BECK, Alabama Daily News
MONTGOMERY, Ala. – Alabama Secretary of State John Merrill said Alabamians will know the state’s election results on Nov. 3, despite an expected large number of absentee ballots being counted on Election Day.
“You’ll know who carried every county, all boxes will be reporting on Election Day, absentee votes and every one of the 1,980 polling sites will have their boxes reported to their county and you’ll see that on our website, Alabamavotes.gov on Election Day,” Merrill said.
Merrill clarified during a virtual town hall hosted by the Alabama Democratic Party that official election returns won’t be confirmed until a few days or possibly a week after election day, as is typical with all elections.
Concerns about voting in person because of COVID-19 has made absentee voting more appealing to many voters in the state. Merrill said he expects the state to break previous records with more than 150,000 absentee ballots.
As of Tuesday, Merrill said more than 132,000 absentee applications had been received and more than 63,000 absentee ballots had been returned.
Absentee ballots have traditionally only been counted once polls closed at 7 p.m. on Election Day, but with Gov. Kay Ivey’s revised emergency order announced last week, absentee ballots can be opened starting 7 a.m. on Nov. 3.
Another way the Election Day process will be expedited is with the use of electronic poll books in all but four counties.
“We’re using resources available to us, not CARES money, but other resources we have to make sure every county in the state has electronic poll books which will expedite the check-in process, will make it safer, more convenient for people to come in and check-in,” Merrill said.
Electronic poll books began to be used in 2016 in the state and Merrill says he expects all counties to have them by 2022.
State Representative and chairman of the Alabama Democratic Party Chris England, D-Tuscaloosa, said during the virtual town hall that he and Merrill, a Republican, have worked together well on many issues surrounding voting rights.
“We’ve worked together very well in this process,” England said. “There is nothing partisan on making sure your vote counts and also there’s nothing partisan on making sure it’s easy to get an ID, it’s easy to get to the polls and it’s easy to vote.”
Merrill is encouraging those who do not feel comfortable voting in person to apply for an absentee ballot as soon as possible. The deadline to register to vote is Oct. 19 and the deadline to apply for an absentee application is Oct. 29.
If mailed, absentee ballots must be postmarked by Nov. 2. They can be hand delivered to county absentee election managers no later than 5 p.m. on the day prior to election day, Nov. 2.
Merrill also explained on Wednesday that if a person tests positive for COVID-19 after Oct. 29, then they can still vote in person and protective measures have been put in place for such scenarios.
“Anybody that goes to vote for any purpose on Election Day is going to be able to vote,” Merrill told ADN during a phone interview. “Some people who may have a high temperature when their temperature is checked or if they appear to be sick or ill will be taken to a place to vote that will not be potentially dangerous to other people who are voting.”
Even though the state is still under a mandatory mask order when in public spaces, voters do not have to wear a mask to the polls.
Merrill said polling stations will be providing masks to anyone who wants one and his office has supplied face masks, hand sanitizer, gloves and other personal protective equipment to all poll workers and voting sites.
England also emphasized that if anyone had questions or concerns about the voting process, they should reach out to their local probate judge, absentee election manager, local party official or the secretary of state’s office.
“Do not lose your right to vote because you did not ask a basic question about how to do the process,” England said. “There are plenty of people around here to answer your questions.”
Visit alabamavotes.org for all information on how to get an absentee ballot and how to submit your ballot.