MONTGOMERY, Ala. — The Republican runoff for a chance to face U.S. Sen. Doug Jones in November was set for March 31, but given the spread of the COVID-19 virus, Gov. Kay Ivey moved the vote to July 14.
Former U.S. Sen. Jeff Sessions and former Auburn University football coach Tommy Tuberville qualified for the runoff, with Tuberville receiving the most votes in the March 3 primary.
But in Alabama, there are still 280 or so positive cases COVID-19 cases a day. So, what’s a concerned voter supposed to do?
Alabama Secretary of State John Merrill is reminding voters about the upcoming primary runoff and says his office has made provisions for a vote during a pandemic.
“We want to make it as easy as possible for everybody to cast a safe and secure and healthy vote the way that they want to,” Merrill said. “If they can’t go to the 1,980 polling sites in the state, they can obviously vote absentee. We want to encourage them to vote absentee.”
Merrill is also addressing the fact that a voter needs a valid excuse to vote absentee in Alabama.
“The law section 17-11-3 gives the Secretary of State the ability to determine which box the voter should check if that question comes up during a declared state of emergency,” he said.
If the other excuses — such as being out of town on election day, an illness or infirmity that prevents them from voting, or being incarcerated – don’t apply, what then?
The pandemic is the excuse.
Merrill advises a voter to check the box that says,“I have a physical illness or infirmity which prevents my attendance at the polls.”
Merrill says, “That is a qualifying excuse for all voters to use, it will be accepted and it will be processed accordingly.”
Residents have until June 29 to register to vote. The deadline to request an absentee ballot is July 9 and the last day to postmark or hand deliver an absentee ballot is July 13 .
Merrill was asked if the same absentee excuse will be allowed to apply in November.
“Well it’s difficult to say at this particular time,” Merrill said. “We want to believe that things will return to some semblance of order. If not we’ll address that when it’s appropriate.”