State and local officials are encouraging anyone concerned about COVID-19 to apply for and cast an absentee ballot.

For the Aug. 25 municipal elections, city and town clerks are the absentee election managers. For the Nov. 3 General Election, DeKalb County Circuit Clerk Todd Greeson manages the absentees.

Municipal absentee ballot applications can be downloaded from the Alabama Secretary of State’s website: https://www.sos.alabama.gov/ or, after July 28, qualified Fort Payne voters can pick up applications at Fort Payne City Hall or call 256-996-5102 from 8:00 a.m. until 4:00 p.m. Monday through Friday and an application will be mailed to them after July 28th.

Fort Payne City Clerk Andy Parker said Alabama Act 2019-507 amended the process for voter identification for absentee voting. Under the new law, a voter is required to submit a photocopy of their driver’s license or other approved photo identification with their completed application before a ballot can be sent.

“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,” said Parker. “The most asked question is how an individual may vote an absentee ballot.”

Under normal circumstances, any qualified voter who determines it is impossible or unreasonable to vote in person at their assigned polling place on Election Day must provide a specific explanation as to why he or she can’t physically show up at the polls. They must check the box on the absentee ballot application that is most applicable to the situation. For example, serving as a poll watcher, working a required shift, being a caregiver, being in jail or having a physical disability.

During the GOP Runoff Election, however, Merrill simply advised checking the box on the application which reads: “I have a physical illness or infirmity which prevents my attendance at the polls.”

For the Aug. 25 elections, the deadline to register to vote is Monday, Aug. 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.

For the November election, the deadline to register to vote is Monday, Oct. 19, the deadline to submit an absentee ballot application is Thursday, Oct. 29, the deadline to return an absentee ballot to the Absentee Election Manager is the close of business Monday, Nov. 2, and the last day to postmark an absentee ballot is Monday, Nov. 2.

The county is fresh off the July 14 GOP runoffs – the first under the declared State of Emergency due to the ongoing pandemic. Locally, a majority of voters still showed up to vote in person last week with 182 absentee ballots counted from among 8,120 votes cast. The heaviest turnout was in Rainsville, where 834 voters participated in two precincts.

At polling places, poll workers wore masks and social distancing was encouraged through signage and floor markings indicating six-foot gaps.

Parker said that while the city encourages absentee voting, precautions are being taken to minimize the risks of contagion from COVID-19 for those who choose to vote in person. These changes will be detailed in Saturday’s edition.

For more information on applying for an absentee ballot for the Aug. 25 Municipal Elections, contact your local city clerk. 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 (334) 242-7210 to request an absentee ballot application.

Any Fort Payne voters having questions about voting by absentee ballot in Fort Payne’s election may contact Parker at 256-996-5102.

For more information on applying for an absentee ballot for the Nov. 3 election, contact Greeson at 256-845-8525. Ballot applications can be viewed and printed out at https://www.sos.alabama.gov/alabama-votes/voter/absentee-voting and mailed to P.O. Box 681149, Fort Payne, AL 35968. Absentee ballot applications must be received in Greeson’s office in the DeKalb County Courthouse no later than five days before the election.

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