Absentee ballot deadline nears for Huntsville, Madison council runoffs, voters urged to check their registration

HUNTSVILLE, Ala. -- The deadline to submit an absentee ballot application for next week’s city council runoff elections in Huntsville and Madison is 5 p.m., Thursday, Sept. 29.

In Huntsville, 28-year incumbent Richard Showers squares off in the District 1 City Council race against newcomer Devyn Keith. Keith was the top vote-getter in the first round of voting in August.

In Madison City Council’s District 1 runoff James Ross takes on Maura Wroblewski. The District 7 runoff pits John Seifert against Lena Sledge.

Absentee ballots must be postmarked or hand-delivered by Monday and mailed ballots will need to be received by the clerk’s offices in Huntsville and Madison by noon Tuesday to count.

Huntsville City Clerk-Treasurer Ken Benion said the majority of absentee ballots are requested by voters – citing health reasons. Other reasons can include out-of-town travel, handicapped access, and work schedule conflicts with the polling location.

Benion said he hasn’t heard of any problems with the integrity of absentee ballots – someone impersonating another person to cast a vote, or casting the vote in the name of someone who is decased.

He said that Huntsville has a “solid” process to verify the identity of voters seeking an absentee ballot.

He described the absentee filing process to WHNT News 19.

Benion said it starts with either a call to his office and the application is mailed out or voters can print an application off the Huntsville City Clerk’s web page.

“You send that back in to us, once we verify everything on here by checking the precinct and that you’re a registered voter and so forth, we will send you a ballot and we will send you what we call an affidavit envelope,” Benion said. “There’s a secrecy envelope that you put the ballot in, the secrecy envelope goes into this affidavit envelope.

“And both have to be sealed. Once you seal it, the affidavit envelope has to be filled out, and either notarized or witnessed by two individuals.

“Then that’s mailed back to us, and put in this envelope with a copy of a government issued photo ID. And that’s how we verify, that you’re a correct voter.”

The Madison County Board of Registrar’s maintains the voter registration list and provides it to the City of Huntsville. As part of maintaining the list the registrar’s office gets notifications when a person dies in Alabama.

“We get a list from the health department’s list once a week and we go through our list, and if we have a registered voter, they gives us their name, address, last four digits of their Social Security, we remove those people immediately, right then,” said Lynda Hairston, chairman of the Madison County Board of Registrars.

“Then about once a month we get a list from the Secretary of State’s office. If they have any additional ones, maybe people that have died out of the state of Alabama, that they know of, then we go through those and we take those off.”

Hairston said the voter registration deadline for the Nov. 8 presidential election is Oct. 24. Voters who’ve moved in the past four years are advised to go to Alabama Votes.gov to find out if they’ve been placed on the “inactive voter” list.

“If we mail them a (voter) card today, and it comes back tomorrow from the postal department, we will put them on the inactive list,” she said. “If they don’t update to the correct address by the time the election is here, they will have to vote a provisional ballot. And they will be asked where they are currently residing, they will have to go to that polling location and cast a provisional ballot.

“Then the registrars will determine if that’s going to count or not. You need to actually fill out another application to give us your change of address.”

Hairston said if a person is listed as inactive, they can re-register to vote between now and Oct. 24 on the Alabamavotes.gov website or visit the registrar’s office.

Hairston said it’s not uncommon for would-be voters to wait until the last-minute to register, but she advises taking care of it now, as her office gets busier in the run-up to Nov. 8.

“I think it’s going to be another big election,” Hairston said.