Absentee ballots

A sign in the Cullman County Courthouse indicates a voting location. 

Voting absentee? You’re not alone. With relaxed absentee voting rules this year in Alabama, more voters than ever before are taking advantage of the opportunity to cast their ballots ahead of time in Cullman County.

As of last week, The Cullman County Circuit Clerk’s office had processed 1,325 absentee ballots for the upcoming General Election, already surpassing the overall number of absentee votes cast locally in the 2016 presidential-year race. Cullman County Circuit Clerk Lisa McSwain estimates that between 75 and100 absentee ballots are being cast each day, including both walk-ins and those who submit their ballots by mail.

In order to vote absentee, voters can either download the form requesting a ballot from the Cullman County Circuit Clerk’s website at cullmancourts.org/circuitclerk.html or from the Alabama Secretary of State’s website at sos.alabama.gov/alabama-votes. Absentee ballots also can be requested in person at the absentee election manager’s office, located in Room 303 on the third floor of the Cullman County Courthouse. Voters may also contact the Secretary of State’s Office at 334-242-7210 to request an absentee ballot application by phone.

The Alabama Secretary of State’s office has widened the extenuating provisions for absentee voting to include a much larger swath of the voting public this year, due to ongoing public health concerns over COVID-19. Because of the declared state of emergency, any qualified voter who determines that 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 that none of the boxes is appropriate, voters can check the box which reads as follows:

“I have a physical illness or infirmity which prevents my attendance at the polls. [ID REQUIRED]”

Once voters receive their ballots, they can either mail them in or return them in person to the Cullman County Circuit Clerk’s Office. The mailing address is listed on the ballot. Inquiries about absentee voting can be made to Lisa McSwain, Absentee Election Manager, at 256-775-4654 in person at the Circuit Clerk’s office.

The clerk’s office stresses that it is important to thoroughly read the instructions accompanying your ballot before filling it out, as well as to mail each individual ballot in its own separate envelope. Elections officials cannot accept multiple ballots that are returned in the same envelope.

For the Nov. 3 General Election, the deadline to register to vote is Monday, Oct. 19, and the deadline to submit an absentee ballot application is Thursday, Oct. 29. The deadline for returning an absentee ballot to the Absentee Election Manager comes at the close of business on Monday, Nov. 2, while the last day to postmark an absentee ballot also is Monday, Nov. 2.

According to Alabama Secretary of State John Merrill, 162,040 absentee ballots have been requested statewide so far, with 91,786 already returned for the General Election on Nov. 3.

In order to protect the safety and well-being of voters, Merrill encourages those who are concerned about contracting or spreading the coronavirus to apply for and cast an absentee ballot.

People looking for information on the constitutional amendments can also find plain-language explanations on the Secretary of State’s website.

There are six proposed amendments on the ballot; two of which apply only to specific counties.

The other amendments would allow for a rewrite of the state constitution to remove potentially racist language and repetitive or outdated language. That rewrite would later have to be ratified by voters. Another amendment proposes to change the initial term of office for a judge who is appointed to a seat due to a vacancy; while another adds members to the Judicial Inquiry Commission. Another amendment changes how the administrative director of the courts and a member of the Court of the Judiciary are appointed, and changes how judges are removed from office; and, finally, another proposes to change the Alabama constitution to say that “only a citizen of the United States has a right to vote.”

Times editor Amy Henderson contributed to this report.

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