The yard signs are out, and you’ll start to see more political ads and mailers soon. The General Election is November 3 – make sure it’s on your calendar, as there are several important races on your ballot. These include:
There’s very high interest in absentee voting this year, due to the COVID-19 pandemic. If you have concerns about voting in person, you can mark a box citing a physical illness or infirmity preventing you from going to the polls, according to Alabama Secretary of State John Merrill.
Madison County’s Absentee Voting Office has been extremely busy since it opened September 9. It is located in our courthouse, at 100 Northside Square. Prior to the office opening, thousands of people had requested absentee ballots be mailed to them. Employees got right to work on the task, in addition to helping people who visited the office in person. As Circuit Clerk, Debra Kizer oversees absentee voting.
“Since the onset of COVID-19, we have seen greater interest in absentee voting,” said Kizer. “In the 2016 Presidential election, 10,336 Madison County voters chose absentee as their method of voting. As of September 9, over 7,800 voters had opted to vote by absentee rather than at the polls at the November 3rd General Election. With continued COVID-19 concerns, I expect we will have at least 20,000 absentee ballot requests.”
Whatever you have heard in the past few months about mail delays, the clear message is to act now. If you don’t feel comfortable voting in person on election day, visit madisoncountyvotes.com to request your absentee ballot today. You can also visit the courthouse to vote absentee in person. You will need your photo ID.
“In-person absentee voting is a one-stop shop,” Kizer added. “The voter requests the ballot, we give them the ballot, they vote on the ballot right then and there, return the ballot to us, we notarize the ballot and they have voted. One and done.”
The Absentee Voting Office is staffed Monday through Friday from 8:30 a.m. to 4:30 p.m. October 29 is the last day to apply for an absentee ballot and November 2 is the last day to hand-deliver it, but it’s recommended you go much earlier to avoid any delays.
There’s a lot that goes into preparing for Election Day. Madison County Probate Judge Frank Barger is the county’s chief election official and has a full plate between now and November 3.
“Although some might consider it a fraction of our work, it dominates the Court’s list of priorities at this time,” said Barger. “We have a checklist of 500+ items that must be accomplished to prepare for the Election Cycle. This includes overseeing all personnel, training, equipment, technology, and logistics related to the process. Madison County has 72 physical voting locations open on Election Day and will use 800 or more election workers. It is no small task.”
If you want to vote in person on Election Day, keep in mind that presidential elections bring high turnout. Polls will be open from 7 a.m. to 7 p.m. Don’t let past primaries or low-turnout elections give you the sense you’ll be in and out in a few minutes. You need to be prepared to wait, possibly more than an hour, to get your ballot.
“In addition to the high turnout expected in a Presidential Election, we are dealing with the impact of COVID-19. Social distancing, protective equipment, and guidelines that are necessary to protect our election workers and all voters will increase existing wait times. No matter the wait, no matter the length of a line, all voters in line at 7 p.m. will be able to cast their ballot. Don’t forget that Absentee Voting is a viable option available right now but should be handled as early as possible.”
We suggest you get in line early and dress for the elements – you may want to bring a folding chair, coat, or umbrella, depending on the forecast.
The state of Alabama does not require masks at the polls, but these are strongly recommended as we work to keep healthy during the pandemic. Please also bring your own black pen.
It’s important that we know about the candidates and issues as we decide who will represent Alabama in the coming years. Please encourage your co-workers to be active and vote, too. If they aren’t registered to vote here, the deadline is October 19. Study up on who’s running ahead of time by viewing a sample ballot on madisoncountyvotes.com, then seek out more information on the candidates. We’ll also share information about the election on hsvchamber.org and in our weekly newsletters.
by Claire Aiello
VP, Marketing & Communications
Huntsville/Madison County Chamber