Will absentee ballots without witness signatures be counted?
Updated: Oct 27, 2020
Short answer: check your status Birmingham, Ala. - Absentee ballots submitted Sept. 30-Oct. 13 without two witness signatures or notary will be counted, clarified Alabama Secretary of State John Merrill Sunday evening during a voter outreach call Sunday evening hosted by the Prince Hall Grand Lodge and the Women of Will.
Regarding absentee ballots submitted after Oct. 13 without witness signatures or notary, Merrill stated it is up to the county election managers to reach out to voters to make the ballot valid prior to the election.
In an ongoing lawsuit against state voting requirements, US District Judge Abdul Kallon ruled Sept. 30 that medically vulnerable Alabamians could submit their absentee ballot without witness signatures or notary. The decision was overturned on Oct. 13 by the circuit court.
Merrill stated during the Sunday call election managers were instructed when the state filed their appeal to set aside any ballots received during the two-week window and to count them if the district court ruling was overturned.
The need for clarification comes after Buzzfeed News reported election officials in Jefferson County had not responded to an NAACP Legal Defense Fund letter requesting that absentee ballots be counted. Jefferson County sent out a separate waiver form for absentee ballot applications in an effort to comply with the original Sept. 30 order, Buzzfeed reported.
A similar instance occurred in July when a lower court decision to remove witness signatures for the summer elections was overturned. Election managers clarified at that time that all ballots postmarked when the lower court ruling was in effect would be counted.
Voters can still request absentee ballots for the Nov. 3 election in-person from the county election manger or mail until Oct. 29. Voters applying for a ballot in person may also complete, notarize and submit the ballot during the visit.
Valid absentee ballots will be tallied Nov. 3 at 7 a.m., five hours earlier than usual, using additional staff and ballot machines purchased through CARES ACT funding.
This story will be updated with additional clarification and resources as received.