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Alabama Democratic Party chair commends Merrill for expanding absentee voting

Alabama Democratic Party chairman, State Rep. Chris England, D-Tuscaloosa, commended Secretary of State John Merrill for expanding absentee voting opportunities ahead of August municipal elections and the Nov. 3 general election.

Merrill used his emergency powers to expand absentee voting opportunities by allowing individuals to use a health excuse based on the COVID-19 pandemic for the upcoming municipal and November elections. England said that Merrill made the responsible decision.

“Secretary Merrill made a responsible decision regarding no-excuse absentee voting based on the likelihood of disruption caused by the COVID-19 pandemic,” England said. “Allowing no-excuse absentee voting is long past due in Alabama, and this is an important first step to protect voters, poll workers, and elections officials. With the aggressive spread of COVID-19 threatening the health of Alabamians, we should use every tool available to protect Alabama voters and strengthen our elections system.”

It is critical to inform voters that this option exists, including making the application clear so voters can mark COVID-19 as their reason for voting absentee, “rather than confusing them,” England said.

“Sec. Merrill should make sure every ballot is accompanied by clear instructions to voters, many of whom are seniors,” England said. “Sec. Merrill also should do everything in his power to waive the onerous notary and witness requirements for absentee voting.”

England said the state should permanently expand no-excuse absentee ballots.

“Most importantly, no-excuse absentee voting is an idea whose time has come,” England claimed. “We shouldn’t have to rely on emergency rules by the Secretary of State. We ask Sec. Merrill to call on his Republican colleagues to make no-excuse absentee voting the law of the land in Alabama. No Alabamian, especially our seniors and the most vulnerable among us, should have to decide between risking their health and exercising their right to vote.”

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Municipal elections will be next month across much of Alabama, while the whole state will be voting in the Nov. 3 general election.

“Amid coronavirus concerns, it is important to remember that Alabamians who are concerned about contracting or spreading an illness have the opportunity to avoid the polls on Election Day by casting an absentee ballot,” Merrill said. “Alabamians can access the application online or by visiting or calling their local Absentee Election Manager’s office.”

July has been the worst month for coronavirus cases in the state to date.

Brandon Moseley is a former reporter at the Alabama Political Reporter.

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