HUNTSVILLE, Ala. - On June 5, Alabamians will hit the polls to vote in the Republican or Democratic Primary Elections. We want to make sure you're prepared for how this election may differ from a general election, which typically sees a higher turnout.
First, it's time to get informed. Here are a list of sample ballots for your county.
Second, be aware that the primary election in Alabama requires you to choose whether you want to vote with a Republican, or a Democratic, ballot.
"When you go to vote, you'll have to declare if you want a Republican or Democratic ballot," said John Merrill, Alabama Secretary of State. "You'll only be able to vote for the candidates on your ballot at that particular time."
That's an important choice because of a requirement that if you want to vote in any runoff election that may happen in July, you'll have to use that same party ballot.
"The difference between the previous law, and the law today, is that now it has been codified that once you vote in the Republican primary or the Democrat primary, you have to vote in that party's runoff in that particular election cycle," said Merrill. "Of course, in November on the general election day, you can vote for the candidate of your choice, whether that be a Republican or Democrat it does not matter."
There was much trouble with possible crossover voting last year, after the Republican runoff in the Senate Special Election between candidates Roy Moore and Luther Strange. 674 people were identified by the state Secretary of State's office as potential crossover voters, and it was possible they could be prosecuted. However, Merrill later explained they would not be. This was the first test of the new law Merrill described above.
What may make it better this election, Merrill said, is new technology in 25 counties that can make voting more efficient and help prevent crossovers: electronic poll books.
"When you go to check in, they will take your driver license and they will scan it. When they scan it, you can get checked in immediately instead of them having to look your name up in all the pages that were there," said Merrill. "So there will be no more highlighting your name. It will just pop up quickly. Now, if you use a different type of identification, they will key in a few characters of your last name they can figure out who you are and figure it out more quickly."
He added, that during any runoffs that may occur, the poll books will remember which ballot you chose for the primary.
"When you go back to vote in the runoff, the system will automatically have you recorded as a Democratic or Republican voter. The poll worker won't even have to check on your name, they'll just have to confirm you are who you say you are."
Morgan County, Madison County, and Jackson County are three areas that will see these new electronic poll books, Merrill said. The state piloted the program previously.
Greg Cain, Morgan County probate judge, said that this system has other advantages too, that can make it easier and more efficient to vote.
"You walk in, there's five poll books, you can go to the shortest line, get in line, swipe, you`ll be processed to vote in less than thirty seconds," he stated.
He added that your information is safe.
"A lot of people wonder, 'It can be hacked, it's connected to the internet!' It's not. It's not connected to the voting machines. You're not voting on the tablet, you're still using your paper ballot you've always used," he explained.
The secretary of state's office plans to make electronic poll books mandatory statewide by 2022.
As for the turnout in the upcoming election, Merrill predicts that statewide it will be between 25 and 30%. 30% would translate to approximately 1.1 million people, he explained.
Merrill said turnout could be higher than usual in North Alabama and Huntsville, particularly.
"In your area, it could be high because Mayor Battle is on the ballot. You also have some folks from North Alabama on the ballot. You have a race for US Congress where Congressman Brooks is being challenged. That could all draw attention and increase the numbers," said Merrill.
Monday was the deadline to register to vote. May 31 is the absentee ballot application deadline and the last day to cast an absentee ballot in person. June 4, the day before the election, is the last day to postmark an absentee ballot.