Absentee ballot applications now available

Applications for absentee ballots for the August 25 municipal election have arrived at Fort Payne City Hall, according to City Clerk Andy Parker, who is the city’s absentee election manager. He encouraged anyone concerned about voting while COVID-19 case numbers continue to rise to call Personnel Receptionist Sonya Maynard at 256-996-3154 to be sent the packet to apply for approval to vote by absentee ballot.

“As City Clerk, I have stressed the importance of absentee voting during this stressful and worrisome time due to the pandemic the country is facing,” Parker said. “The most asked question is how an individual may vote an absentee ballot.”

Elections will be held in cities and towns throughout DeKalb County to decide the mayors and town council members for the next four years. For information on applying for an absentee ballot in a municipality other than Fort Payne, contact your local town clerk, who serves as the chief election official for your community.

The deadline to register to vote in the election is Monday, August 10, the deadline to submit an absentee ballot application is Thursday, Aug. 20 and the deadline to hand-deliver an absentee ballot is the close of business Monday, Aug. 24. If an absentee ballot is returned by mail, it must be postmarked by August 24 and received by noon on August 25. If necessary, runoff elections will be held on Tuesday, Oct. 6.

Parker strongly encourages citizens to not wait until the last minute to act because the instructions require careful attention. Additionally, according to media reports, the U.S. Postal Service is experiencing days-long backlogs of mail across the country after cost-cutting efforts initiated by Postmaster General Louis DeJoy.

Five states automatically send their registered voters mail-in ballots and 29 others allow voters to apply for a mail-in ballot without requiring an excuse for why they cannot vote in person, but Alabama’s system requires absentee voters to state a specific reason. For example, you can apply for a mail-in ballot if you are away from the state, ill, are working a shift greater than 10 hours on a polling day, are a caregiver or incarcerated.

Alabama Secretary of State John Merrill tweeted in May that the state would not move toward having direct mail-in voting, as others have amid the pandemic.

For the August 25 municipal election, as far as Fort Payne officials are concerned, Parker said no registered voter should be disqualified if they check the box on the application which reads: “I have a physical illness or infirmity which prevents my attendance at the polls.”

Absentee ballot applications can still be rejected if the information is incomplete or not properly filled out, so Parker encourages any registered voters who need assistance or have a question to contact him at 256-996-5102.

Parker reminds citizens that the process for voter identification now requires them to submit a photocopy of their driver’s license or other approved photo identification with their completed application via regular mail. Rules for submitting the actual absentee ballot also require use of a secrecy envelope placed inside of an affidavit envelope, with the signatures of two witnesses (Parker said they can be family members) or a public notary included.

In order to minimize the risk of spreading COVID-19, the Fort Payne City Council decided to consolidate polling places to two locations for this election only. Those places are the VFW Fairgrounds and the Wills Valley Recreation Center.

Starting next week, registered voters will begin receiving a postcard notifying them of their assigned polling place, Parker said. Voting absentee is an option for anyone who has been inconvenienced by the move or doesn’t want to wait in any lines that may be experienced by having fewer places to cast a vote in person.

Ballot applications can be viewed and printed out at https://www.sos.alabama.gov/sites/default/files/voter-pdfs/absentee/MuniAbsenteeAppFillable.pdf and mailed to your respective town hall. Voters can also call the Secretary of State’s office at (334) 242-7210 to request an absentee ballot application.

Seventeen of the 18 candidates who qualified to run for Fort Payne City Council participated in a media forum to answer questions. Their responses are included as text in this issue with videos also available to view on The Times-Journal’s website.

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