Supreme Court reinstates ban on curbside voting during pandemic
WASHINGTON – In a 5-3 decision Wednesday evening, the US Supreme Court stayed a lower court’s decision allowing for curbside voting in Alabama for the Nov. 3 election. The stay, which keeps the lower court’s order from going into effect while appeals continue, likely means that there will be no curbside voting in Alabama with the election less than two weeks away.
The ruling fell along ideological lines with the conservative-leaning justices voting to overturn the decision while the three liberal-leaning justices voted to allow for curbside voting for the counties that wanted to offer the service.
The majority did not write their reasoning in an order, but Justice Sotomayor penned a dissent referring to curbside voting as a reasonable accommodation for "vulnerable voters” who would otherwise “wait inside, for as long as it takes, in a crowd of fellow voters whom Alabama does not require to wear face coverings.”
Alabama Secretary of State John Merrill tweeted out that he was “so excited that the Supreme Court has elected to interpret the law instead of allowing a liberal judge to legislate from the bench!” Alabama Attorney General Steve Marshall also issued a statement that said in part that “[w]e are pleased that the Supreme Court has again acted quickly to grant the State’s emergency stay request to clarify that Alabama’s laws will govern Alabama’s upcoming election. The Supreme Court’s decision is a victory for Alabama’s election integrity and thus for Alabama voters.”
Alabama election law does not explicitly state whether or not curbside voting is allowed. The state has taken the position it is not, while advocates suing the state believe it should be allowed for high-risk individuals due to the COVID-19 pandemic.
Marshall said that the correct way to implement curbside voting is through the Legislative process and with years of careful planning, “they don’t throw it together in a matter of weeks in the middle of a pandemic.”
Deuel Ross, senior counsel for the NAACP who brought the lawsuit on behalf of elderly disable Alabamians, told the Associated Press that he was disappointed in the ruling and nothing in state or federal law prohibited this “very common means of people being able to vote.”
According to the US Election Assistance Commission, curbside voting is already offered by some states such as North Carolina and Wisconsin for disabled citizens and voters who cannot easily leave their cars. Two Alabama counties, Jefferson and Madison, had announced plans to offer curbside absentee ballot assistance prior to the Supreme Court ruling.