What to expect when you cast an absentee ballot at the Jefferson County Courthouse

Nikki Seaborn and daughter Ayala Seaborn voted at the Jefferson County Courthouse.

Like many families during the COVID-19 pandemic, my wife Kathy and I are taking every measure to keep our family safe, especially her parents who are both 80+ years old with numerous ailments.

In the past, all four of us regularly voted at the Highland Park Clubhouse, on Birmingham’s Southside. We know there is a very small elevator on site, and a steep and narrow flight of steps leading to the 2nd floor where we cast our ballots.  

Quite frankly, it is impossible to socially distance and with past declarations by state officials that mask wearing will not be required, we decided as a family to vote absentee at the Jefferson County Courthouse.

I’ve yet to vote, but last week both Kathy and her mom did. 

How to Vote at the Courthouse

To give people an idea what to expect, I asked her to write up a “How I did in person absentee voting in Jefferson County” for Bham Now readers.

Prep Work

  •  I went to the alabama.gov website and printed off a request for an absentee ballot.  I filled it out at home. 
  • I made a color photocopy of my driver’s license.

Most People Fill out Forms at Home

Voters wait to vote on the 5th floor of the Jefferson County Courthouse. Photo courtesy of Shannon Haddock

You don’t have to fill out the request at home or photocopy your own id.  Most people fill out the forms at the courthouse. But it does save a little time!

  • Wearing my mask correctly, I went to the 5th floor of the Jefferson County courthouse. I entered the building on the Linn Park side.  In order to enter the courthouse, you have to go through security.  Only four people are allowed on a single elevator for any ride.
  • I stood in the line on the right with the people who were filling out their requests for absentee ballots.
  • I turned in my completed form along with the copy of my driver’s license.
  • I took a socially distanced seat in the hallway to the left, while the dedicated staff located my voter registration, struck my name from the list for in person voting and assembled a voting packet just for me.
  • When my name was called, along with three others, I was given my voting packet and the following instructions:
  1. fill out the ballot with a BLACK ball point pen.  Pens were provided, but I brought my own
  2. place the completed ballot in the security envelope
  3. place the security envelope inside the outer envelope, which includes an affidavit, containing the same information as the request for the absentee ballot
  4. fill out the affidavit, but DO NOT SIGN IT
  5. your signature MUST BE witnessed by two staff members
  6. bring your completed envelope to a staff member, sign it, and have it witnessed
On the right local attorney George Harris with his son. Photo courtesy of George Harris
  • Once I completed my ballot and my envelope and had my signature witnessed, I requested a glue stick to seal my envelopes.  I did not want to remove my mask, or touch my mouth to anything in the courthouse
  • I placed my ballot in one of the two boxes 
  • I put my ‘I voted’ sticker on my shirt and left

I took myself to vote at 9AM Thursday morning and took my mother at 8AM Monday morning.  Each time, the process was the same and took about an hour.

 On Thursday, I only waited a few minutes to turn in my completed request.  My mother had to wait in a slightly longer line.  We were both processed a little faster than the others who turned in paper work with us.  I think this is because we brought copies of our id’s, that was one less thing the staff had to do for us. 

I observed the staff inform a few people that their voter registrations could not be verified or located.  Those people were directed elsewhere in the courthouse to clarify their voter registration and then immediately return to cast their ballot.

Patient, Friendly and Informative

Voter Katie Dewees. Photo submitted to Bham Now

Every member of the staff was patient, friendly and informative, working as efficiently as possible to make voting easy for as many people as possible.  In addition to every staff member, all of the other voters I saw were wearing masks and wearing them correctly.  There was hand sanitizer available in the room where we received our ballots.  I felt that voting in person absentee was a safe and responsible choice in the time of Covid.

The only thing I would do differently is to bring my own glue stick.

Heavy Absentee Voting 

Since Kathy voted earlier this week, we’ve heard reports that the lines and wait times have gotten longer at the Courthouse.  Plan accordingly.  I’ll be taking my father-in-law next week. So, we intend to arrive early to hopefully beat the lines.

As of October 6th – 130,576 absentee ballots have been requested statewide and 61,934 have been successfully returned for the general election.

Need More Details?

If you have any additional questions, please visit the Secretary of State’s website or call their hotline at  (334) 242-7210.

  • Longtime conservationist. Former Executive Director at the Alabama Environmental Council and Wild South. Publisher of the Bama Environmental News for more than 18 years. Career highlights include playing an active role in the creation of Alabama's Forever Wild program, Little River Canyon National Preserve, Dugger Mountain Wilderness, preservation of special places throughout the East through the Wilderness Society and the strengthening (making more stringent) the state of Alabama's cancer risk and mercury standards.