All registered Alabama voters may vote absentee this year. Here are the details

Secretary of State John Merrill mailing in his absentee ballot for the July 14 Primary Runoff Election. Photo via AL SOS on Facebook

Alabama Secretary of State John Merrill announced this week that any registered Alabama voter will be able to vote absentee this year. This is a big deal for the state—here’s what you need to know.

The Decision at a Glance

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As we remain in the midst of a global pandemic, concern surrounding public health has lead to a broad conversation about absentee voting. Alabama has gained national attention when it comes to this issue.

After several rulings from different court systems, including the U.S. Supreme Court, a decision has been finalized when it comes to absentee voting in Alabama.

On July 20, Alabama Secretary of State John H. Merrill announced in this press release that anyone concerned about COVID-19 can apply for and cast an absentee ballot in 2020.

“Amid coronavirus concerns, it is important to remember that Alabamians who are concerned about contracting or spreading an illness have the opportunity to avoid the polls on Election Day by casting an absentee ballot.”

Secretary Merrill

How does this work?

This is a section of the absentee ballot application. Keep reading to see how it will work this year. Photo via Alabama Secretary of State

Formerly, you needed an “excuse” such as being out of the state, being a student or a member of the armed forces and therefore away from home, physical illness, etc. You can read the different options above.

Now, any qualified voter who “determines it is impossible or unreasonable to vote at their polling place” shall be eligible to select the box most appropriate to them.

State law allows the Secretary of State to issue absentee voting guidance during declared states of emergency (like a pandemic, for example). This law allows Secretary Merrill to encourage voters to check the box which reads as follows:

“I have a physical illness or infirmity which prevents my attendance at the polls. [ID REQUIRED]”

In Summary

Here’s the deal: if you are a registered voter, you can vote absentee regardless of circumstance. If any of the boxes above apply to you, you should select it. If none apply, but you still want to vote absentee, you should select the second box.

How do I get my ballot?

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If you prefer to vote absentee this year, for whatever reason, here are your next steps:

  1. Make sure you’re registered to vote. If you’re not currently registered, the next section can help you out.
  2. Access the absentee ballot application by one of these three methods: Access Online Application | Call your local Absentee Election Manager’s office | Contact the Secretary of State’s Office at (334) 242-7210 to request an absentee ballot application.
  3. Fill out the application and submit it. Note: you must include a copy of your valid photo identification.

Registration and Deadlines

The Alabama State Capitol Building. Photo via AL SOS on Facebook

If you have any questions about getting registered, finding your polling location if you prefer to vote in person, or any other voting-related question, be sure to check out this guide. It has all your answers and resources in one place.

These voter protections will be in place through the November 3, 2020, elections. Here are the voting dates for the rest of the year you need to know:

  • August 25: City elections in Jefferson County (if applicable)
  • October 19: Last day to register for the General Election
  • October 29: Last day to vote absentee for the General Election
  • November 3: General Election Day

If you’re curious to read more details about the decision and events leading up to it, check out this article by ACLU Alabama.

As always, be sure to follow Bham Now on social to keep up with everything buzzy in Birmingham, from the hottest bars to the latest in voter protection.

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