MADISON COUNTY, Ala. – Many voters were concerned about going to the polls amid the coronavirus pandemic. It led to changes to absentee voting restrictions and a legal battle in Alabama. Secretary of State John Merrill says this election was different than any other previous runoff.
Tuesday marked the first time Alabamians have gone to the polls during the COVID-19 pandemic. And many people opted out of voting in person. Secretary Merrill says more people turned in absentee ballots than in any other runoff election.
Some voters donned masks and even gloves as they enter their polling place. Many safety precautions were taken to keep poll workers and voters safe in Madison County.
“There were probably 6 or 8 people working in there. They were all spread apart and wearing a mask and a face shield,” said Amy McKenzie, who voted in Madison County.
Merrill also made changes to the absentee voting requirements, allowing people who were concerned about the pandemic to mail in their ballot.
The State of Alabama was also sued by the NAACP Legal Defense and Education Fund. In June, a judge issued an injunction blocking election personnel in three counties from enforcing the ID requirement for voters who are disabled or 65 or older. It also allowed county election officials the option of curbside voting. But the decision was stayed by the Supreme Court before the election.
“We were very pleased that the Supreme Court ruled on the side of the people of Alabama indicating it is not allowable for a federal judge to legislate from the bench,” said Secretary Merrill.
It does appear people were apprehensive about coming to the polls.
More than 43,000 voters applied for an absentee ballot. A representative from Merrill’s office told WHNT News 19 they received more than 32,000 absentee ballots by Tuesday afternoon, but that was considered an unofficial total. Merrill aknowlegded voters’ concerns when he explained the two reasons he thought there was a record breaking number.
“Some people were anxious about going to the polls. Number two we’ve had a heightened awareness by encouraging people to vote absentee,” Merrill said.