The American Civil Liberties Union and ACLU of Alabama have joined a lawsuit seeking to ensure that no eligible Alabama voter is denied the right to vote in the 2020 elections due to the COVID-19 pandemic.
The NAACP Legal Defense and Educational Fund, the Southern Poverty Law Center, and Alabama Disabilities Advocacy Program originally filed the lawsuit in May on behalf of several Alabama voters who require a safe alternative to voting in-person at a polling place. The voters claim their health conditions make them higher risk for severe illness and death from COVID-19.
Most states allow any eligible voter to cast an absentee ballot, but Alabama requires that voters provide an excuse to do so. Although Secretary of State John Merrill expanded absentee ballot access to any voter for the July 14 runoff elections, he has failed to make any changes for the November general election.
The lawsuit claims this means that the vast majority of voters would be forced to vote in-person, or avoid voting at all for fear of becoming ill, effectively disenfranchising thousands.
“Alabama is in the middle of a deadly and ongoing pandemic but is refusing to take common-sense steps to protect the public’s health and their right to vote for all elections in 2020. That’s why we are taking legal action,” said ACLU attorney Alora Thomas-Lundborg in statement.
The plaintiffs also argue those qualifying to vote absentee might be disenfranchised by what they describe as onerous notary, witness, and photo ID requirements. Alabamians who are voting by mail must secure two witnesses or a notary to sign their ballot and envelope and require voters to mail-in copies of their photo IDs in order to vote absentee.