By Craig Ford
The Republican and Democratic primary runoff elections are still scheduled to take place on July 14, and many voters are understandably concerned about trying to vote while Alabama is seeing record numbers of new coronavirus cases.
Part of Alabama’s recent spike in cases of COVID-19 is the result of Memorial Day events where large crowds gathered together, and it only stands to reason that forcing large crowds together again in just a few weeks for this election could create yet another spike.
No voter should ever have to choose between protecting their health and exercising their right to vote. And thankfully, Gov. Kay Ivey has issued an executive order allowing voters to vote absentee if they are concerned about the coronavirus.
Voting absentee is not a new idea. It has been around for decades but has typically been limited to those who were traveling, those in the military serving overseas or those who work in jobs where their hours do not allow them to vote in person during regular voting hours.
But this year, because of the coronavirus, Ivey has agreed to let voters vote absentee if they are afraid of catching or spreading the coronavirus. I would strongly recommend everyone do exactly that.
For one thing, many of the volunteers who work at the polling places are retirees who are often more vulnerable to this illness. And as we saw in Georgia, many of those volunteers may choose to sit out this election in order to avoid being exposed to those who may have COVID-19 but aren’t showing symptoms yet.
If that happens, then the shortage of poll workers will lead to longer lines and longer waits at the polling place. Those longer lines aren’t just an inconvenience; the more people we have standing around waiting in line to vote, the more likely it will be that some of them will unknowingly spread COVID-19 to the people standing around them.
Choosing to vote absentee won’t just protect you and your family from exposure to COVID-19, but might also protect other people from getting it from you if you have it but don’t know it yet.
For these reasons and more, I strongly recommend everyone consider voting absentee this summer, and possibly in November as well.
Voting absentee only takes a few steps and can be done by mail or by visiting the county election manager’s office.
To vote absentee, first apply for the absentee ballot. You can do this online by going to the Alabama secretary of state’s office at sos.alabama.gov and printing out an application or by calling or visiting the county election manager’s office and requesting an application.
In Etowah County, the election manager’s office is located at 801 Forrest Avenue, next to the County Courthouse. You can also call their office at 256-549-2181 to request your absentee ballot application.
On your application, you will have to check one of the boxes stating why it is impossible or unreasonable for you to vote in person. Unless one of the other boxes applies to you, the Alabama Secretary of State recommends you check the box that says:
“I have a physical illness or infirmity which prevents my attendance at the polls. [ID required].”
Just like when you vote in person, you will be required to show your photo ID when you apply for the absentee ballot. If you are applying through the mail, you will need to print out a copy of your driver’s license and include it with your application for the ballot.
If you can’t make a copy of your driver’s license at home or your job, there are other options such as the public library and other government offices that can assist you.
Once the county election manager has received and approved your application, they will send you your ballot (or hand it to you, if you apply in person), and you can cast your vote.
The deadline for applying for an absentee ballot is July 9, and all absentee ballots must be turned in by the close of business on July 13.
All this may seem like a little bit of a hassle, but it is not as big a hassle as catching COVID-19 or giving it to someone else.
There is nothing more American than casting your vote and letting your voice be heard in our government, but for your safety and the safety of others, I strongly encourage you to vote absentee this summer.