Runoff elections for all primary races at the local, state, and national levels all have been postponed from March 31 until July 14, following an emergency declaration from Alabama Gov. Kay Ivey on Wednesday.
The shift to July 14 follows Ivey’s decision to bump the primary runoff date out of public health concerns stemming from the COVIS-19 coronavirus pandemic, the governor’s office said Wednesday in a statement. The move comes one day after Alabama Attorney General Steve Marshall issued an emergency ruling declaring that the governor has the authority to delay the runoff, under the State of Emergency declaration.
The change affects all elections for which Cullman County voters are eligible to cast ballots, including the Republican runoff race for the Cullman County Commission chair, which features incumbent Kenneth Walker and challenger Jeff Clemons.
The postponement also affects the U.S. Senate Republican runoff race between former Senator / U.S. Attorney General Jeff Sessions and former Auburn University football coach Tommy Tuberville. The winner of the runoff will face U.S. Sen. Doug Jones, the Democratic incumbent, in November.
Five other states also have postponed their primaries because of the coronavirus pandemic: Georgia, Kentucky, Louisiana, Maryland and Ohio.
“Exercising my extraordinary powers under the Emergency Management Act, I am setting Alabama’s Primary Runoff Election for July 14, 2020,” Ivey said in the statement. “The ability to hold free and fair elections is an inherent right as citizens of the United States and the great state of Alabama, but the safety and wellbeing of Alabama citizens is paramount.
“Our State Health Officer, Dr. Scott Harris, is recommending that we should practice social distancing and refrain from public gatherings of more than 25 individuals. Maintaining a 6-foot distance between one another is paramount. This guidance alone would be making an election day a hotbed for spreading the virus.
“Persons who are 65 years or older as well as those with previous heart and lung diseases are more vulnerable to the coronavirus. Knowing the average age of our faithful poll workers qualifies them to be most at-risk adds the necessity to extend the election runoff date.
“Delaying the election to July 14 is not a decision I came to lightly, but one of careful consideration. I appreciate the guidance of Attorney General Steve Marshall and Secretary of State John H. Merrill for their collaboration to ensure the continuity of our state government.”
Benjamin Bullard can be reached by phone at 256-734-2131 ext. 234.
The Associated Press contributed to this report.