Deadline to sign up is 5 p.m. July 21

Qualifying for mayors, council seats starts today

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Qualifying for municipal qualifying will start today at city halls across the county and the state, in anticipation of the Tuesday, Aug. 25, elections for mayors and city councils. 

Candidates will have two weeks to qualify, until 5 p.m. on Tuesday, July 21. 

In addition to the Aug. 25 election date, a runoff is set for Oct. 6, according to the Alabama League of Municipalities' election calendar. Polls will open from 7 a.m. to 7 p.m., and no write-in votes are allowed. The new term will start on Nov. 2. 

Qualifying gets underway even with unusual circumstances created by the COVID-19 virus. Voters still haven't dealt with the Republican primary runoff, which was delayed from late March to July 14. The deadline to apply for an absentee ballot for that race is on Thursday, with an emergency allowance made to get an absentee ballot if one is concerned about getting coronavirus at the polls.

For the municipal elections, the deadline to register to vote will be Aug. 10, and the deadline to apply for an absentee ballot will be Aug. 20.

On Monday, the League's general counsel released a June 25 order signed by Secretary of State John Merrill that extended the rule to the 2020 municipal elections under Alabama's state of emergency, including the municipal runoffs.

Like the July 14 state and county runoffs, municipal voters will be allowed to check off on their absentee application, "I have a physical illness or infirmity which prevents my attendance at the polls (ID REQUIRED)." All municipal clerks and other election officials in the state were directed to follow the order. 

According to the League's election manual, the qualifying fee set by a city or town can be no lower than $10 and no higher than $50. 

Registered voters who have resided within the corporate limits of the municipality for 30 days or more prior to the election date are authorized to participate in the municipal elections. In municipalities of less than 300,000 inhabitants, a nonpartisan ballot will be used.

A 2019 state law amended state code to provide that candidates now have up to five days after filing their qualifying papers to file their statement of economic interests with the State Ethics Commission. If a candidate fails to file a statement of economic interest, the law provides that their name shall not appear on the ballot. The previous law said candidates will file the statement at the same time they qualified. 

The new law has been citied by the League as a possible problem in terms of a tight deadline to get ballots prepared for by July 28.  

According to the manual, state law indicates candidates for municipal elections "shall be a resident and qualified elector of the city or town at the time they qualify to run for office and shall reside within the limits of the city or town during the term of office." The same goes for districts they would represent. To vote, a person must have resided within the municipality for at least 30 days prior to the election. A candidate must live in the municipality and any district for at least 90 days prior to the election. 

"On numerous occasions, the residency requirement set forth herein has been construed to mean actual physical residence and not merely legal residence for voting purposes," the manual said. "The term 'resident' refers to domicile or permanent residence as distinguished from temporary residence. Neither residence in the police jurisdiction nor ownership of property within the corporate limits qualifies a person to vote in a municipal election."

Merely stating a desire to live in a district does not count, as they have to have a physical residence. Failing to pay the fee would also prevent being placed on the ballot. 

The mayor or city clerk can not declare a candidate unqualified to be on the ballot, as a as city officials would have to go through the courts to get an order. 

For this year's municipal election, Parrish has already permanently moved its polling place to the old Parrish High School Gym. That change will be in effect for national and state elections as well, including the General Election in November. 

In Cordova, candidates will qualify to run for one of five open seats in the Aug. 25 election. The council currently has seven members who run according to district. Residents will be able to vote for all council members in addition to the mayor rather than one individual to represent their district. Also, Cordova Mayor Drew Gilbert is not running for a third term. 

Carbon Hill faces a unique situation as it currently has three vacant seats on the council to fill due to resignations or removal due to failure to attend. The council is accepting applications at the same time qualifying is going on, and is set to take applications until Monday, July 13, when it nexts meet, a week before qualifying ends. 

The council also approved April Herron as the new mayor last week. She is planning to qualify to run for a full term. 

Anyone wanting more information about the municipal elections in Alabama may click the Municipal Election Information button on the home page of the Alabama League of Municipalities (www.alalm.org). 

In addition, candidate profiles for upcoming municipal elections are now available to purchase for publication in the Daily Mountain Eagle on a first-come, first-serve basis. Candidate announcements will start to run on Tuesday, July 14. The final day for a profile to be published will be Friday, Aug. 14. Only two profiles may run per day.

The cost for each profile is $150. They may run one time and are limited to 500 words. The profiles will start on the front page of the paper and will include a headshot.

All candidate profile material is to be typed and emailed to james.phillips@mountaineagle.com. Documents on a USB flash drive can also be brought to the paper. Please be sure photographs are in JPEG format. If a photo needs to be taken, a DME photographer will gladly do that.

All political ads must be paid in advance. Advertising packages will also be available for the municipal elections. Contact DME ad director Jake Aaron at 205-221-2840 or jake.aaron@mountaineagle.com for more information.

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For more Election 2020 coverage from the Daily Mountain Eagle, visit www.mountaineagle.com/election2020.