Already delayed once due to the onset of the COVID-19 pandemic, next month’s primary runoff election is set to go off as planned, even as election officials work to mitigate the still-present spread of coronavirus in Cullman and throughout Alabama.
Cullman County Sheriff Matt Gentry and Circuit Clerk Lisa McSwain took to Facebook Wednesday, posting a video update assuring voters who plan to cast in-person ballots for the runoff that they, along with Probate Judge Tammy Brown, are taking the pandemic seriously as the runoff date approaches.
Gentry said that face masks, hand sanitizer, and social distancing accommodations all will be in place when election day arrives on July 14. McSwain told The Times on Wednesday that all poll workers who were set to staff polling places on the runoff’s originally-scheduled March 31 date have agreed to be on hand on July 14.
“I just signed off on that today,” said McSwain. “All the poll workers who originally were supposed to work that day have agreed to work on the new date, so the polls are going to be open and people will still be able to vote in person.”
Gentry said securing the assistance of poll workers is a difference maker in successfully keeping polling places open through the pandemic. “We can’t thank our election workers enough for volunteering their time to be with us and keep this process safe and clean on July 14,” he said.
Casting an absentee ballot in order to limit social exposure remains an option for voters, thanks to new guidelines set down by Alabama Secretary of State John Merrill in April. Those measures open an absentee voting provision — one normally reserved for those with a mobility-limiting illness — to any eligible voter who wishes to avoid crowds at their polling place.
In order to start that absentee process, local voters can contact the Cullman County Circuit Clerk’s Office at 256-775-4654 and request an absentee application, which will then be sent to their home address by mail. They can also make the same request via the Alabama Secretary of State’s website, though requesting a ballot from the local circuit clerk’s office eliminates an additional step in the process and assures a faster response.
The July 14 runoff will mark a choice between Jeff Sessions and Tommy Tuberville in the U.S. Republican Senate race, and, locally, between Kenneth Walker and Jeff “Clem” Clemons for the chairman’s seat on the Cullman County Commission.
Once voters have received an absentee application, there’s a two-question section near the top of the page that offers two options for applicants to mark. The one to pick, according to the secretary of state’s office, is the box alongside the text that reads “I have a physical illness or infirmity which prevents my attendance at the polls. [ID REQUIRED]”
Completed absentee applications can be returned by mail ahead of the Thursday, July 9 submission deadline, allowing time for voters to receive their actual ballots by mail. The deadline to return completed absentee ballots postmarked by mail is Monday, July 13.
Voters who are eligible to vote pursuant to the Uniformed and Overseas Absentee Voting Act will have until Tuesday, July 14 to postmark an absentee ballot.
Benjamin Bullard can be reached by phone at 256-734-2131 ext. 234.