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After COVID-impacted high, absentee voting dips

By MARY SELL, Alabama Daily News

Fewer Alabamians are casting absentee ballots in Tuesday’s election than compared to previous elections.

As of Friday 51,582 absentee ballots had been requested and 40,371 had been returned, according to Secretary of State John Merrill. 

In 2020, when absentee voting rules were loosened so that people could avoid crowded polling places amid COVID-19 concerns, about 318,000 absentee ballots were cast.

Prior to that, the record was 89,000.

“We just have less enthusiasm about this election,” Merrill told Alabama Daily News.

Alabama does not have early voting and Merrill said usually 96% to 97% of votes are cast in person on election day. In filing absentee applications, voters must swear that they can’t vote at the polls on election day. Allowable reasons include being away for work or higher education, illness and physical disability.

Merrill said he expects about 45% to 50% of voters to turnout on Tuesday.

“That may be a little high, but I don’t see any way it’s any greater than that,” Merrill said.

In the 2018 midterm, when Gov. Kay Ivey faced well-organized Democrat Walt Maddox, turnout was 50%. In the May primary, where there were high-profile GOP contests for U.S. Senate and governor, turnout was 23%.

Today is the deadline for voters to hand-deliver their absentee ballots. 

Polls are open for in-person voting from 7 a.m. to 7 p.m. Tuesday.

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