The COVID-19 pandemic coincided with an election in which more Americans voted than ever before.
The pandemic changed the way many people cast their ballot, and now some of those changes may be here to stay.
Earlier this week, the Alabama House Constitution, Campaigns, and Elections Committee held a public hearing on a bill that would get rid of the requirement that people give an excuse to cast an absentee ballot.
AL.com reports that Alabama Secretary of State John Merill’s Communications Director Grace Newcombe spoke in favor of the bill.
She said the current excuse requirement is next to useless because there is almost no effort to verify that the person’s excuse is legitimate.
During the 2020 election, Merill issued an emergency rule due to the pandemic that effectively waived the excuse requirement by allowing voters to check a box on their absentee ballot stating they have a physical illness or infirmity that prevents them from going to the polls.
More than 300,000 Alabamians voted absentee during the general election – the previous high was 88,000 in 2012.
The new bill would allow anyone to vote absentee for any reason, with or without an excuse. A photo ID and a witness signature would be required for the absentee ballot application and either a witness or notary signature would be required for the ballot itself.
Alabama is one of 16 states that currently requires a valid excuse to vote absentee; the other 34 states and Washington, D.C. currently have no-excuse absentee voting.
Two county circuit court clerks and a probate judge spoke in opposition to the bill.
Committee chair Bob Fincher said the committee will vote on the bill next week.