The Alabama House on Thursday moved along a bill that would ban curbside voting statewide, something that was already not allowed but was at the center of court battles last year that ended in the country’s highest court.
Alabama law doesn’t currently address curbside voting, but several counties during the COVID-19 pandemic chose to allow ballots to be turned in by voters curbside. Alabama Secretary of State John Merrill intervened, putting a stop to curbside voting, saying that because state law didn’t specifically allow for curbside voting it was thus illegal.
The lawsuit, filed by the NAACP Legal Defense and Educational Fund, Southern Poverty Law Center, American Civil Liberties Union, ACLU of Alabama and Alabama Disabilities Advocacy Program, was brought on behalf of several Alabamians with underlying medical conditions, and argued that curbside voting was needed to give them the ability to vote.
U.S. District Judge Abdul Kallon on Sept. 30 ordered Alabama to allow for curbside voting for the Nov 3 election. The state appealed, and the 11th Circuit Court of Appeals let the Kallon’s ruling on curbside voting stand.
Alabama appealed to the U.S. Supreme Court, which in a 5-3 vote in October ordered sided with the state, allowing reinstatement of the ban on curbside voting.
The sponsor of the bill, Wes Allen, R-Troy, was not in the House on Thursday after earlier testing positive for COVID-19.
Rep. Matt Simpson, R-Daphne, spoke on behalf of Allen, and said the bill aims to ensure ballot custody by keeping ballots in the hands of voters, and would codify the U.S. Supreme Court’s decision.
“We ensure that each vote is counted, accurately, honestly independently from any poll worker or third party,” Simpson said.
Rep. Ralph Howard, D-Greensboro, expressed concern that many rural polling places aren’t compliant with the Americans with Disabilities Act, and that curbside voting could ease voting for the disabled.
“We should be more compassionate when it comes to people with disabilities,” Howard said.
Simpson said that his father is disabled, and unable to get to a polling place.
“So I understand the difficulties,” Simpson said, adding people can vote absentee by mail.
Rep. Adline Clarke, D-Mobile, echoed Howard’s comments about a lack of ADA compliance at polling places, and said “there are these issues, and it’s not just one or two of them.”
Rep. Napoleon Bracy, D-Prichard, said he can’t understand why people are fighting so hard to stop people from being able to vote, and asked why a senior citizen can’t sit in their car and receive help to vote.
“I want to make sure that a poll worker does not have an opportunity, from the time that they receive the ballot, if they received the ballot at the car, have an opportunity to go to the polling machine and either change the ballot, fill in some things that were not there,” Simpson said.
The bill passed on a 74-25 vote, sending the bill to the Senate for consideration.