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Merrill touts state’s absentee ballot system, urges interested voters to submit applications

Voter receiving ballot through mail

Secretary of State John Merrill on Tuesday encouraged voters who want to vote by absentee ballot to request one, noting that there are 72 days left to do so.

“Any one of our 3,631,381 voters in the state who want to vote absentee can vote absentee,” Merrill said.

Voters who want to avoid the possibility of contracting or spreading COVID-19 can vote by absentee ballot. Due to the declared states of emergency, any qualified voter who determines it is impossible or unreasonable to vote at their polling place shall be eligible to check the box on the absentee ballot application that is most applicable to that individual.

In the case none of the boxes are appropriate, voters can check the box which reads, “I have a physical illness or infirmity which prevents my attendance at the polls. [ID REQUIRED]”

Mail-in voting has become a subject of national debate, with the U.S. Postal Service as its unlikely focal point. Postal workers have reported uncharacteristic removals of mail sorting machines, President Donald Trump has derided mail-in ballots as fraud-prone and detrimental to his re-election campaign, and Democrats have accused him of seeking to suppress voter turnout. 

At least 21 states have threatened to sue the USPS over service delays due to recent changes in the agency’s operations, which the president’s opponents allege are politically motivated. Postmaster General Louis DeJoy announced on Tuesday that the changes would be delayed until after the Nov. 3 election.

Merrill dismissed any notion that Alabama’s absentee voting system is susceptible to fraud or would create obstacles for any voters. He cited revisions made last year to the laws governing the system, particularly a change that allows ballots to be returned by commercial carriers, as the reason that absentee ballot voting “has a higher degree of credibility than ever before in the history of the state.”

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Anyone who is concerned about the reliability of the USPS can entrust their ballot to a private carrier, which is not true in every state.

Absentee ballot applications can be downloaded online or requested by visiting or calling the local Absentee Election Manager’s office.

Once filled out, ballots can be returned to that office at any time between now and the close of business on Monday, Nov. 2 or postmarked by that date. They remain sealed until noon on Nov. 3, when they are counted. 

Merrill was adamant that his office won’t allow fraud to occur.

“We’re not going to have any absentee voter fraud in Alabama because if we do, I’m going to identify you, I’m going to investigate you, and then we’re going to indict you, and then we’re going to imprison you,” he said.

Anyone with concerns can report them online, by calling Merrill’s office at 334-242-7200 or by calling his cell phone at 334-328-2787, he said.

The deadline to register to vote in the general election is Monday, Oct. 19. The deadline to submit an absentee ballot application is Thursday, Oct. 29.

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Micah Danney is a former reporter at the Alabama Political Reporter.

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