BIRMINGHAM, Ala. (AP) — Alabama’s most populous county decided Friday to open its courthouses for absentee voting on two Saturdays because of the heavy turnout expected on Election Day and the pandemic.
Commissioners in Jefferson County, which supported Democrat Hillary Clinton over Republican President Donald Trump in 2016, voted unanimously during a special meeting to open courthouses in Birmingham and Bessemer this Saturday and again on Oct. 24, news outlets reported.
The decision was driven by concerns over public health precautions during the coronavirus pandemic. Critics also had questioned whether not having the courthouses open during a flood of absentee balloting amounted to voter suppression.
“We expect a large voter turnout for the Nov. 3rd election. As such, the safety of our citizens and personnel working the polls remains paramount,” said Commissioner Joe Knight.
Voters who got to absentee offices can either pick up ballots for completion later or vote in person. The state previously allowed concerns over COVID-19, the illness caused by the coronavirus, as a reason for voting absentee.
Jefferson County, with nearly 660,000 residents, leads the state in the total number of COVID-19 cases with more than 21,000 and about 370 deaths.