Alabama Voting: Federal Judge Waives Restrictions For July Runoff Election Amid Coronavirus Concerns

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A federal judge ruled Tuesday to block Alabama from enforcing voter restrictions ahead of the state’s runoff election on July 14 due to ongoing coronavirus concerns.

Three voting rights organization in the state, along with a handful of voters, challenged three specific restrictions in place they said, “ran afoul of their right to vote.” While names of the voters and organizations were not released, the voters were said to be older individuals “at the greatest risk” from the coronavirus pandemic.

The restrictions in question required absentee ballots be signed by a notary or two witnesses, required absentee voters to submit a copy of their photo ID, and an effective ban on curbside voting.

Challengers argued the restrictions were forcing them to choose between exercising their right to vote and risking their health or not vote and remain home to avoid possible coronavirus exposure. State officials pushed back, saying the restrictions were in place to protect the election’s “integrity.”

U.S. District Judge Abdul Kallon sided with the plaintiffs in the case, ordering officials in Alabama’s Lee, Mobile, and Jefferson counties to waive the absentee ballot requirements and allow curbside voting for July’s runoff. He said in the ruling that “burdens imposed by the challenged election laws on voters at high risk of severe complications or death from COVID-19 are not justified by the state’s interests in enforcing the laws.”

The situation in Alabama is reflective of greater overall concerns about the potential risk in-person voting presents for the 2020 elections amid the coronavirus pandemic. July’s runoff was originally scheduled to take place in March but was delayed by Gov. Kay Ivey because of the pandemic.

As of Tuesday, Alabama has over 26,000 confirmed cases and 774 deaths from coronavirus.

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