State reps ask governor to expand Alabama voting options

Published 9:53 am Friday, June 19, 2020

State representatives and civil rights groups in Alabama are calling on the state’s governor to expand voting options ahead of November’s general elections because of the health risk to voters.

State Rep. Kirk Hatcher, a Democrat, made the plea to Gov. Kay Ivey and the secretary of state in front of the Alabama State House on Thursday, calling for an early voting to start Oct. 6, more polling locations, mail-in voting, and no-excuse absentee voting, The Montgomery Advertiser reported.

Hatcher, who was joined at the news conference by State Rep. Tashina Morris and NAACP Metro Montgomery President Rayford Mack, said it was not “a stretch to see and predict how fragile” voting will be in the upcoming election with calls he and Morris are getting from constituents worried about the safety of voting in the pandemic.

Secretary of State John Merrill told the newspaper he does not have authority to execute Hatcher’s proposals, and said it would “take an act of the Alabama Legislature to make that available.”

Gina Maiola, a spokeswoman for Ivey did not comment on Hatcher’s call to expand voting options, but wrote that the governor will “closely monitor” developments, and provide “the people of Alabama with all pertinent information and any updates.”

She added officials are working “from the secretary of state down to the local level to ensure Alabama has a safe and efficient July 14 election,” referring to the Republican primary runoff between the former U.S. Sen. Jeff Sessions and former football coach Tommy Tuberville.

Hatcher said the state is bound to experience the longer voting wait times seen in other states if officials don’t do “something proactively now.”

A federal judge ruled this week Alabama cannot prohibit local officials from offering curbside voting during the pandemic and loosened restrictions on absentee ballots in three Alabama counties because of the health risk to voters. The state’s attorney general has appealed the ruling.

There are 27,796 confirmed coronavirus cases in the state as of Friday morning, according to Alabama’s Health department. Black Alabamians account for nearly 40% of the cases, the newspaper reported.