Voter registration, absentee deadlines draw near

By ED HOWELL
Posted 4/15/18

Voters have until May 21 to register to vote in the June 5 primary, while May 31 is the last day to apply for a regular absentee ballot and June 4 is the last day to postmark the absentee …

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Voter registration, absentee deadlines draw near

Posted

Voters have until May 21 to register to vote in the June 5 primary, while May 31 is the last day to apply for a regular absentee ballot and June 4 is the last day to postmark the absentee ballot. 

Due to the day before the election being a state holiday, the actual last day to turn in a regular absentee ballot by hand will be Friday, June 1. 

Circuit Clerk Susan Odom, who is over absentee votes, and Terra Tidwell, the chairman of the Walker County Board of Registrars, passed along state information on voter registration and absentees.

They pointed out the state website alabamavotes.gov, where much voting information can be found, including sample ballots for each county and party. Tidwell also pointed to the 2018 Alabama Voter Guide, which can be found online at the site or which can be obtained in booklet form at the Board of Registrars' Office at the Walker County Courthouse.  That booklet answers many questions about the state elections process in the state. 

As for registering to vote, Tidwell said people can come by the office to register as they always have, but she said it is easier to use alabamavotes.gov or the Vote for Alabama phone app if one has the means. 

One may fill out a form and send it electronically, or they may download a form online and mail it in. She said if one does either, the information will show up on the office's computers the next day and officials will mail the applicant a voter registration card. 

A voter ID card is now required for voting, but a valid driver's license is used in most cases. Federal and state issued ID, including a valid U.S. passport, government ID, military ID and college ID, can also be used. If none of the required information is available, one can go to the Board of Registrars or request a mobile unit to come visit you (with two weeks notice needed for the mobile unit). 

Voters are also urged to update their addresses with the registrars if they have moved and not notified them.  

The Board of Registrars is open 8 a.m. to 4 p.m. Monday through Friday, although it will be closed for lunch if only one registrar is working in the office at that time. The office can be reached by calling (205) 384-7279 or emailing to Walker@vote.alabama.gov.

Odom released absentee information, reminding people that to apply for a regular absentee, one has to be out of the county on Election Day, have a physical illness, work a shift which has at least 10 hours that coincides with poll hours, be a student at an out-of-county educational institution, be a military spouse or dependent that takes them out of the county, or serve as a poll watcher or election official. 

As the June 5 election involves party primaries, one must request a Republican or Democratic ballot. 

She said one can call for an absentee, and she will mail back a ballot, which in turn can be mailed back or turned in by the voter in person at Odom's courthouse office before the deadline. One can go to alabamavotes.gov and print out an application for an absentee. 

Past the absentee ballot deadline, two special categories exist that may be applied for.

Anyone who requires emergency medical treatment within five days of the election may apply for an emergency absentee ballot and return the ballot by noon on Election Day, along with a form filled out by a doctor. 

"We will actually allow a third person to step in to bring the ballot to you and take it back — only on a medical (absentee)," Odom said. 

Also, if one has an employer who requires the voter to do unforeseen business outside the county for Election Day, the voter may apply for an emergency absentee ballot. An example of this would be if utility crews are called somewhere to help after a hurricane, she said. 

For either the business or medical absentee ballots, the voter can apply with the Circuit Clerk's Office no later than 5 p.m. the day before the election, according to the Alabama Voter Guide. However, as Monday, June 4, is a state holiday, Jefferson Davis' Birthday, Odom said in reality Friday is the last day to walk in to vote a business emergency ballot or return by hand a regular absentee ballot.  

Even then, Odom said during the holiday, one may send her a Facebook Message to ask questions about an emergency ballot and she will work with that voter. The U.S. Postal Service will not be closed that Monday, meaning ballots can be mailed on the last day allowed. 

Applications for emergency absentee voting, like the regular absentees, are available at Odom's office and at alabamavotes.gov. 

Odom said Thursday if someone is going to get an absentee ballot, they should come as soon as possible. Many people wait until the last minute and start to panic. 

"We have to process them as soon as we get them, and there is a lot to do at the last minute, so if you know you have a trip planned and you are going to be out of town, surgery, doctor's appointment, anything you have going on, please come now. Come early," she said. 

Asked for the biggest mistakes, she said many put a copy of the ID in the wrong envelope. 

The absentee ballot comes with three envelopes -- one plain (the secrecy envelope); one with an affidavit, or oath, printed on the outside; and one plain envelope, pre-addressed (the outer envelope). 

The ballot goes in the secrecy, or plain, envelope. Then the secrecy envelope should be sealed and placed in the affidavit envelope. The affidavit area should be filled out on that envelope (with signatures from two adult witnesses or a notary public), and then placed in the outer, pre-addressed envelope. 

A copy of the ID is then also placed separately in the outer, pre-addressed envelope. Odom emphasized not to send the original. 

"Please don't send me your driver's license. Send me a copy of your driver's license. You know, people have sent me driver's licenses," she said. 

She noted that she is not allowed to open the secrecy envelope with the ballot and that no one can linger to connect documents to see how one voted. 

"The poll workers ... get here at 12 noon on Election Day. I turn it over to them," Odom said. "We have one person who opens that affidavit envelope but you have a secrecy envelop that your ballot is in. They open the affidavit envelope and separate the two. So no one knows how you voted, because another person opens the ballots, the secrecy envelope, over here, away from the affidavit envelopes."

Four of the poll workers watch each other in the process so they make sure it is done honestly. "It's really a neat thing to watch them, to separate and organize it," she said. 

Moreover, the ballots are fed quickly into the vote counting machine in her office, and tabulations are not looked at until that night. 

She also urged that people either get two witnesses or a notary public for the absentee ballots. "When that comes back, you can't make that right. That is something that you cannot correct. It goes into that stack that cannot be counted for that reason," she said. 

She said many people get mad at her when she closes out regular absentee voting on the Thursday before the election, but she has to do that so the probate judge can runs a list and distribute it to poll worker inspectors. The exception is for emergency voters. 

Odom said voters who may be confused by the process are welcome to call her with questions by calling her at work at 205-384-7268. They may also email her at susan.odom@alacourt.gov or contact her by Facebook Messenger. 

Election officials at the Secretary of State's Office, including its fraud hotline, can be called at 1-800-274-8683.