Changes coming to absentee voting before next election

Significant changes in the process for requesting an absentee ballot and what information you must provide to get one are coming before the next voting cycle that begins with the presidential primary and statewide primary election on March 3, 2020.

Some of the changes come about as the result of Alabama’s new absentee voting law which became effective Aug. 1. Other changes are local.

First, the local changes. Responsibility for administering absentee voting will shift in Blount County from circuit clerk and former absentee election manger Cindy Massey to emergency management director and new absentee election manager Don Roybal. For anyone needing to do absentee voting business in person, the function has shifted from Massey’s office on the second floor of the courthouse to Roybal’s office in the courthouse basement. This information, plus the detailed sequence of steps, dates, and deadlines involved will be presented, perhaps more than once, nearer to the time of the March 3, 2020, election.

Now, the changes in state law. Secretary of State John Merrill announced last week initial changes resulting from the new voting law. Here’s the main one: A copy of the voter’s photo identification must now be submitted along with the absentee ballot application. This will insure that only eligible voters receive ballots. Prior to Aug. 1, photo identification was not required with the ballot application.

Another change: Absentee voting managers are no longer required to publish the list of absentee voters with their addresses and polling places in the county courthouse. That protects voter privacy and prevents the information from being used by those trying to influence elections.

Other changes include two new categories of voters who may apply for an absentee ballot (1) caregivers for an immediate family member, or (2) voters who have been incarcerated, but not convicted of a disqualifying felony.

Further, a voter may apply for an emergency absentee ballot while serving as caregiver to someone who requires medical treatment, or if an immediate family member has passed away within five days of an election.

“Absentee election managers will get detailed training in late September on the absentee ballot application process and on any other changes that may be announced,” Roybal said. “We’ll come back and provide further information on details, dates, and deadlines after that and then refresh it again before the March primary,” he said.