By Brandon Moseley
Alabama Political Reporter
On August 28th voters all over Alabama went to the polls to vote in their local municipal elections. Late on August 26th however Alabama Governor Robert Bentley ordered that Mobile and Baldwin County residents south of Interstate Ten and in other low lying areas evacuate and flee from the path of approaching Hurricane Isaac. Would be voters spent the day before their election loading their cars with children, pets, and possessions to flee the storm.
Fortunately, Isaac moved westward and most of Alabama was spared the worst of Hurricane Isaac, however the storm did expose a potential flaw in Alabama election law. It was too late for residents to get absentee ballots, thus many evacuated residents in some Mobile County towns missed their opportunity to participate in the electoral process due to circumstances beyond their control. Many more would have been affected if Isaac did not turn and Governor Bentley withdrew his evacuation orders allowing most voters time to return for the election. Senator Greg Reed (R) from Jasper has introduced a bill that would create an emergency absentee ballot process for these circumstances.
Senator Reed said in a written statement, “We all know in Alabama that you can’t predict the weather. Hurricane Isaac created a situation where people had to choose between protecting property and family in preparation of the storm or going to vote in their municipal election. Allowing people to vote and participate in the electoral process is a core American right, and one that we should protect at all cost, which is why we need this added provision.”
Under the existing law a voter must request an absentee ballot at least five days before the election. Senator Greg Reed’s bill creates a process where voters can still participate in an election through an emergency absentee ballot.
An emergency absentee ballot can be requested after that under two circumstances: if a doctor provides certification of necessity or an employer provides proof of unforeseen work circumstances. Sen. Greg Reed’s proposed bill would allow for emergency ballot application when the Governor declares a State of Emergency.
Sen. Reed’s emergency absentee ballot legislation requires the same sworn affidavit upon application as the current absentee and emergency absentee ballots in order to protect the voting process from voter fraud.