Absentee voting hits record level in Alabama

Alabamians are voting by absentee ballot in record numbers this year after pandemic rules made it easier to do so, even lining up on Saturdays to cast votes.

Posted: Oct 24, 2020 10:53 PM

MONTGOMERY, Ala. (AP) —Alabamians are voting by absentee ballot in record numbers this year after pandemic rules made it easier to do so, even lining up on Saturdays to cast votes.

And as early voting opportunities prove popular, some are asking the question why the state does not allow this every year.

As of this week, more than 145,000 absentee votes have already been cast either by mail or in-person voting, according to Alabama Secretary of State John Merrill. He said that number is expected to rise.

The state’s previous record for absentee ballot voting was about 89,000. Merrill said there were about another 70,000 absentee ballots that have been requested but have not yet been mailed back.

“This is direct evidence that people want to vote early,” said Tuscaloosa Rep. Chris England, who is the chairman of the Alabama Democratic Party.

England said he believes the issue cuts across party lines, and that people of all political leanings appreciate the opportunity to vote outside of 12 hours on Election Day.

Alabama does not technically have early voting, but people can cast absentee ballots by mail or in-person at local elections offices. Normally, to vote absentee, people must swear that they are out-of-town or ill or working during polling hours. Merrill has said this year people can vote by absentee ballot if they are concerned about the risk of COVID-19 at the polls.

Election officials in more than a dozen of Alabama’s 67 counties have offered Saturday in-person absentee voting to handle the flood of people.

On a rainy Saturday in Montgomery, people waited in line for more than three hours for an opportunity to vote early in the November election. News outlets showed similar lines in Birmingham and Mobile.

Aviance Turboll, 40, stood with an umbrella in hand to cast her vote for Joe Biden.

Turnboll is an advanced placement science teacher at a Montgomery magnet school and mother of three teenagers. Her work and home schedule sometimes makes it difficult to get to the polls on Election Day, so Saturday voting is much more convenient, she said.

"I say make this the norm. Make it where that we are not making it so difficult with all these obstacles in the way for voting," she said.

Wearing a black t-shirt with the word VOTE on it, Jacqueline Smiley, 36, was turned away from voting Saturday because local election officials closed the line at noon. Although people already in the long line, which snaked around the block, were allowed to vote. Smiley said she planned to come back Monday, but she would also like to see the state allow early voting every year.

“It would be beneficial to anyone who has to work or just can't get away,” she said.

Democrats have made a push to get people to the polls early. “Every day is Election Day,” the state Democratic Party wrote on social media in posts encouraging people to make a plan for voting.

England said he expects legislation to be introduced in the next session to allow early voting every year or at least allow people to vote absentee without an excuse.

Such a change would have to be approved by the GOP-dominated Alabama Legislature. A bill to allow people to vote absentee vote without an excuse or explanation passed the state Senate in 2017 but did not get a vote in the House of Representatives. Merrill said he expects the issue to be considered in the 2021 legislation session.

Asked if Republican Gov. Kay Ivey would support a change to allow early voting or no-excuse absentee voting, spokeswoman Gina Maiola replied that the governor, “is confident in the current process in place and believes that every person has ample opportunity to cast their vote in Alabama, even as we are amidst a pandemic.”

Merrill said the decision to offer Saturday voting is up to local election officials.

“I don’t know why it hasn’t happened before,” Merrill said.

Mississippi Coronavirus Cases

Data is updated nightly.

Cases: 148387

Reported Deaths: 3769
CountyCasesDeaths
DeSoto9953104
Hinds9892198
Harrison7045110
Jackson6270119
Rankin5462102
Lee501095
Madison4734106
Forrest380586
Jones354888
Lauderdale3425145
Lafayette321549
Washington3161107
Lamar289250
Oktibbeha244362
Bolivar240984
Lowndes234164
Panola219850
Neshoba2196118
Marshall213850
Leflore204790
Pontotoc199228
Monroe197377
Sunflower191655
Lincoln188765
Warren175357
Tate168051
Union166025
Copiah163040
Pike161658
Yazoo154239
Scott152129
Itawamba151534
Pearl River150867
Coahoma150143
Alcorn149628
Simpson146753
Prentiss144230
Adams141150
Grenada140645
Leake133543
Holmes129961
George124524
Tippah124530
Covington122238
Winston121624
Hancock120239
Wayne117223
Marion115846
Attala112234
Tishomingo108942
Chickasaw107132
Newton104229
Tallahatchie96827
Clay90327
Clarke89353
Jasper82022
Walthall76328
Stone76114
Calhoun73913
Montgomery73625
Carroll72115
Lawrence70814
Noxubee70617
Yalobusha70627
Smith70516
Perry66126
Tunica60619
Greene60022
Claiborne58316
Jefferson Davis56517
Amite53114
Humphreys53119
Benton49117
Quitman4897
Webster43414
Kemper42518
Wilkinson39422
Jefferson34811
Franklin3365
Choctaw3237
Sharkey30917
Issaquena1144
Unassigned00

Alabama Coronavirus Cases

Cases: 242874

Reported Deaths: 3572
CountyCasesDeaths
Jefferson31944500
Mobile19687361
Madison13065148
Tuscaloosa12983154
Montgomery12286236
Shelby1020377
Baldwin860398
Lee773566
Morgan653850
Calhoun6240119
Marshall621355
Etowah621066
Houston523038
DeKalb481336
Cullman435442
Limestone420645
St. Clair415855
Elmore404564
Lauderdale400454
Walker3634111
Talladega349054
Jackson313423
Colbert309342
Blount288840
Autauga271642
Franklin251033
Coffee242615
Dale231854
Dallas225932
Chilton221938
Russell22143
Covington218534
Escambia197931
Chambers176550
Tallapoosa175791
Pike158314
Clarke158019
Marion137936
Winston132323
Lawrence127336
Pickens122318
Geneva12138
Marengo121024
Bibb117317
Barbour117110
Butler115341
Randolph102021
Cherokee101524
Hale96131
Clay91124
Washington90919
Fayette89816
Henry8526
Lowndes79529
Monroe78711
Cleburne77114
Macon73122
Crenshaw71130
Bullock69419
Conecuh68414
Perry6846
Lamar6718
Wilcox63218
Sumter57722
Greene42418
Choctaw42113
Coosa3414
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