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State is prepared for heavy increase in mail-in absentee ballots, Merrill says

The final tally of absentee ballots returned is expected to be between 150,000 and 175,000, Merrill said.

Voter receiving ballot through mail

Alabama Secretary of State John Merrill said the state is on track to far exceed its record for highest number of absentee ballots in an election, but he’s confident that his office is prepared for it.

“There’s no reason to be worried about it because, see, I don’t wait ‘til the last minute to make sure that we’re prepared,” Merrill said. 

As of Tuesday, there were 101,092 absentee ballots requested. Of those, 35,184 have been successfully returned. The final tally of absentee ballots returned is expected to be between 150,000 and 175,000, Merrill said.

The highest number on record was roughly 89,000 in the 2012 general election, when President Barack Obama was re-elected, but Republican nominee Mitt Romney won Alabama. The second-highest was about 88,000 in 2016, when President Donald Trump was elected, winning Alabama.

Additional election workers have been hired and more are available should they be needed, Merrill said. His office has provided extra ballot tabulators to ensure that the state’s 68 jurisdictions are able to do a full count on Election Day. Merrill said that all ballots in the state’s possession on Nov. 3 will be counted that day.

He didn’t say whether there are indications that slowdowns in the operations of the U.S. Postal Service might affect voters, but he encouraged anyone planning to vote absentee to request their ballot as soon as possible to avoid last-minute problems.

Voters who plan to cast absentee ballots or who have started that process can check the status of their ballot online

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“Through using our online portal, Alabama voters can check when their absentee ballot was sent out by the county, when their absentee ballot was returned to the county, and whether the ballot was accepted or rejected,” Merrill said.

He stressed that his office is the only authoritative source for accurate and current information about the election. His office has identified issues with mailers from both conservative and liberal groups that include information about voting by mail, Merrill said. In the case of one distributed by the national Democratic Party, he said his office reached out to the Alabama Democratic Party to address erroneous information it had on it.

All voters should be cautious about third-party information, he said, and carefully follow instructions issued by his office.

For those voting absentee, it’s especially important that they check the boxes on both the ballot application and the ballot that indicates they are voting by mail because they are “ill or infirmed” and can’t make it to their polling place. That option is available to anyone who wants to vote absentee due to concerns about COVID-19.

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

DIG DEEPER

Opinion

Alabama is one of just 10 states that does not include religion as an acceptable reason for absentee voting in elections.

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

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