Absentee affidavit wording can be checked for COVID-19

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Walker County Circuit Clerk Susan Odom noted Friday that similar wording - if slightly different to the absentee applications - can be checked off on the absentee affidavit envelope that allows for one to vote absentee to avoid contracting the COVID-19 virus at the polls during the Nov. 3 General Election. 

The first batch of absentee ballots for the election were mailed out Thursday afternoon in Jasper, numbering more than 400 ballots, said Odom, who is the county's absentee election manager. Ballots started to be received in the mail in Jasper the next morning. 

This year a large number of absentee ballots - possibly thousands in Walker County - could be mailed or turned in as Secretary of State John Merrill has given an emergency allowance for absentees to those who would rather not vote at the polls due to the pandemic. Polls will be open 7 a.m. to 7 p.m. Nov. 3, and in-person absentee voting also started at the Walker County Circuit Clerk's Office Thursday. 

On the affidavit envelope, if one is wanting to vote absentee to avoid COVID-19, Odom said to check off the second listed reason, "I am physically incapacitated and will not be able to vote in person on election day." About nine reasons overall are listed. 

This is slightly different than the wording on the absentee application, which also has several reasons to check off. 

"Due to the declared states of emergency (over the coronavirus), any qualified voter who determines it is impossible or unreasonable to vote at their polling place shall be eligible to check the box on the absentee ballot application that is most applicable to that individual," Merrill's office said in a recent release. "In the case none of the boxes are appropriate, voters can check the box which reads as follows: 'I have a physical illness or infirmity which prevents my attendance at the polls. [ID REQUIRED]'"

Rules have changed so photocopies of photo voter ID, including driver's licenses, must be turned in with the application, not the ballot. The affidavit envelope for the absentee ballot does have to be witnessed and signed by either a notary public or two adult witnesses. 

A marked absentee ballot must be sealed in the white secrecy envelope. The secrecy envelope is then sealed in the larger white affidavit envelope. The back of the affidavit envelope (with an affidavit or oath printed on the outside) must be signed and notarized by a notary public (or be signed by two adult witnesses to the signature). Then the affidavit envelop is placed inside the pre-addressed brown mailing envelope and sealed, and then mailed or hand-delivered. Only the voter can hand deliver it, and even family cannot help. 

Odom also wanted to note Friday that the back of the ballot has eight amendments - two dealing with Walker County, two state amendments dealing with either Franklin or Lauderdale counties and six general state amendments. 

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