“Federal Court Rules in Favor of Alabama Voters during COVID-19 Pandemic”


 Today, in a decision that will protect the health and right to vote of medically vulnerable Alabamians, a federal court waived onerous absentee ballot requirements in at least Jefferson, Mobile, and Lee Counties – including the requirement that voters have their absentee ballot notarized or witnessed by two adults and the requirement that absentee voters who are 65 and older or disabled mail-in copies of their photo IDs – and lifted the statewide prohibition on curbside voting at in-person polling locations for the July 14, 2020, election.

The U.S. District Court for the Northern District of Alabama issued the ruling providing immediate relief in response to a motion for preliminary injunction filed by the NAACP Legal Defense & Educational Fund, Inc. (LDF), Southern Poverty Law Center (SPLC), and the Alabama Disabilities Advocacy Program (ADAP) on behalf of the plaintiffs, People First of Alabama, Greater Birmingham Ministries, and the Alabama NAACP, in the case. The ruling comes prior to any trial proceedings that may take place in People First of Alabama v. Merrill.

The next major election in Alabama will take place on Tuesday, July 14. The deadline to request an absentee ballot for the July election is Monday, June 29.

Since Thursday of last week, Alabama has broken the single-day coronavirus records four days in a row, demonstrating the state does not have community transmission under control. COVID-19 continues to endanger older voters, Black voters, and voters with disabilities whose pre-existing health conditions make them particularly at-risk for complications and death from the illness. The Court’s ruling waives the witness and photo ID requirement for those voters whose age or medical condition makes them more vulnerable to serious illness from COVID-19.

Some Alabama voters, like plaintiffs Robert Clopton, Annie Carolyn Thompson and Eric Peebles, meet multiple characteristics, therefore increasing their risk.

Finding that the plaintiffs demonstrated irreparable harm, the court held that “if the challenged election laws are not enjoined, the individual plaintiffs and similarly-situated voters could likely face a painful and difficult choice between exercising their fundamental right to vote and safeguarding their health, which could prevent them from casting a vote in upcoming elections.”

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