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Merrill: Turnout Nov. 8 expected to be 45% to 50%

By MARY SELL, Alabama Daily News

Secretary of State John Merrill said he expects voter turnout on Nov. 8 to be 45% to 50% of registered voters — about 1.65 to 1.84 million Alabamians.

“If we hit the high mark, we’ll break the record for turnout in a (gubernatorial) election, which we set the last time at 1.7 million,” Merrill said. That 2018 election broke the previous record by 500,000 and had a turnout of 50%.

“But (in 2018) we had a very active race,” Merrill said about the contest between Republican Gov. Kay Ivey and Democrat Walt Maddox. Ivey won with about 60% of the vote, but Maddox put up one of Democrats’ best organized and funded fights in a long time.

“We don’t have that this time,” Merrill said.

Democrats’ gubernatorial nominee Yolanda Flowers has not had the same traction this year that Maddox had four years ago. She’s raised a bit more than $11,100 in cash contributions this election cycle. Ivey has raised more than $10 million, according to campaign finance reports.

In November 2020, when then-President Donald Trump and Democrat Joe Biden were on the ballot, 2.3 million Alabamians, 63% of registered voters, cast ballots, according to Secretary of State records.

In 2014, when then-Gov. Robert Bentley won a second term, turnout was about 40%.

Merrill expects turnout next month to be based on national issues and influences.

“The Democrats, I think, will be voting on the abortion issue, the Republicans will be voting on choice issues, but not related to abortion, but freedom of expression and personal liberties, things that have been restricted because of COVID-19,” he said.

Alabama does not have early voting, but allows for absentee voting for specific reasons Merrill said applications for absentee ballots have been “moderate.” 

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.  Monday is the deadline to request an absentee ballot.

During the May primary, at least three legislative races were impacted when incorrect ballots were given to voters after the 2021 redrawing of district lines.

“All of those issues have been corrected,” Merrill said.

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