MONTGOMERY, Ala. – The Alabama runoff election is set to take place on March 31. Though that date is three weeks away concerns surrounding COVID-19 and its contagiousness continue to grow.
Some worry a polling place is the wrong place to be in what the World Health Organization is now calling a pandemic.
Alabama Secretary of State John Merrill said Alabama has a plan for voters concerned about germs at the polls, specifically COVID-19, but full details won’t be disclosed until state health officials deem it necessary.
“I think it’s important for everybody to know that we want to be prepared, and we are prepared but we do not want to be scared and we do not want people to be afraid,” he explained.
Merrill said he understands that voter turnout may be affected by the heightened concern about COVID-19. He said exceptions will be made for voters who choose to self-quarantine.
“People that are afraid to go to the polls, people that are ill, or people that are concerned because of their general health concerns need to vote absentee prior to election day,” he said.
Normally to be eligible to cast an absentee ballot a person has to be unable to vote because they are out of town or have a physical illness preventing them from traveling to their polling place. Merrill said as long as people who have opted to self-quarantine submit their absentee applications as soon as possible. Ballots must be postmarked by March 30.
“We’re going to make sure that the 3.5 million people in the state of Alabama that are registered to vote know that when they go to vote on March 31, they are protected and that their interest is going to be recognized as a heightened for all throughout the state,” said Merrill.
Merrill said he met with the state health director and several probate judges around Alabama about health concerns surrounding the upcoming runoff election. As of now, Merrill said he prefers not to discuss full details of the plan of action for fear of fueling panic
“When it’s appropriate we will introduce that and it will be done statewide at the same time to all media, throughout the state of Alabama,” he concluded.