Citing COVID-19, Court Blocks Some Alabama Election Rules

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A federal court in Alabama has blocked enforcement of some voting rules, agreeing with plaintiffs that they hinder the voting rights of individuals concerned about casting a ballot during the COVID-19 pandemic. AL.com has more:

A federal judge ruled today in favor of voters and organizations who claimed several Alabama voting restrictions violate their voting rights because of hardships and risks created by the coronavirus pandemic.

U.S. District Judge Abdul Kallon of the Northern District of Alabama granted in part a preliminary injunction sought by the plaintiffs, who include four individual voters, the Alabama State Conference of the NAACP, Greater Birmingham Ministries, and People First of Alabama.

The NAACP Legal Defense & Educational Fund, the Southern Poverty Law Center, and the Alabama Disabilities Advocacy Program represent the plaintiffs in the lawsuit, filed on May 1.

Kallon’s ruling applies to the July 14 runoff and limits enforcement of certain voting restrictions on certain voters, including those at risk of serious illness from COVID-19 because of age or medical condition and those with disabilities.

The ruling specifically blocks the state’s notary and photo ID requirements for absentee ballots, and lifts a ban on curbside voting at the polls:

The judge limited enforcement of the requirement that two witnesses or a notary sign absentee ballots and the requirement that voters provide a copy of their photo ID with their absentee ballot.

Kallon’s ruling also blocks enforcement of a prohibition on curbside voting at polling places.

Deuel Ross, senior counsel at the Legal Defense Fund, said in a press release, “No one should have to risk their health to vote. We’re happy that the Court removed Alabama’s needless barriers to voting and that many tens of thousands of vulnerable people will now have a safe means of voting in July.”

It isn’t clear, however, if the injunction affects all voters or just those in specific counties named in the case – plus, there is the chance of an appeal by the state:

It was not clear if Kallon’s ruling applies statewide. The press release from the Legal Defense Fund and the Southern Poverty Law Center said it applies to at least three counties — Jefferson, Mobile, and Lee. Voting officials in those three counties were named as defendants.

Alabama Secretary of State John Merrill, who is also a defendant in the case, said he and his staff and lawyers from the attorney general’s office will discuss the ruling and decide how to proceed.

Gov. Kay Ivey postponed the runoff from March 31 to July 14 because of the pandemic.

This case is just the latest skirmish over the details of vote-by-mail during the primaries; it will be interesting to see if the injunction holds and if the rule changes stick for the general election in the Yellowhammer State this fall. Stay tuned …

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