Absentee voting opens

Published 3:00 am Friday, July 22, 2016

Residents of Troy and Brundidge can begin applying for absentee ballots now that municipal election qualifying has ended and the ballots have been finalized.

Troy City Clerk Alton Starling said that absentee ballots should come in some time next week, most likely Wednesday, which he will then send to qualified applicants.

The rules pertaining to absentee balloting are the same for all municipalities.

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In order to qualify for an absentee ballot, a resident must meet one of several requirements:

• Be out of the city on election day;

• Be prevented from traveling to his or her polling place by illness or disability;

• Be a student at an educational institution that is outside of his or her place of residence;

• Be an appointed election officer at a polling place outside of his or her regular polling place;

• Be working at least a 10-hour shift that coincides with polling hours;

• Or be or a member of the armed forces or a spouse or dependent of a member of the armed forces.

The cutoff for absentee voting is five days before the election, making this year’s cutoff date August 18. However, residents can vote absentee in person at the clerk’s office on Thursday, August 18, or Monday, August 22, if an unforeseen business emergency comes up after the deadline has passed. An exception can also be made if a resident has a medical emergency after the deadline has passed, so long as a doctor confirms the emergency.

Jamie Scarborough, Pike County circuit clerk and absentee election manager, shed some more light on how the absentee voting process works. “Anybody can come by and pick up applications,” Scarborough said. “Say John Doe comes in and says ‘I need 10 applications for my family members or friends.’ He can take 10 applications with him, but they have to be brought back individually or mailed in in different envelopes.”

When applying for the ballot, only a signature is required verifying the reason that the ballot is needed. But in order to cast the ballot, residents must sign an affidavit which must be notarized or witnessed by two people.

“Once you cast a ballot, if you’ve signed somebody else’s name and you’re not necessarily assisting them but actually voting for them, that’s where you cross the line,” Scarborough said. “If you present a voted absentee ballot with a signed affidavit that isn’t true, that’s illegal.”

Alabama law requires a copy of photo identification be sent in with the ballot as one measure of preventing fraud. Starling stressed the importance of including the ID in the correct envelope.

“Once the ballot application is approved, I’ll send the ballot and supplies in the mail,” Starling said. “When you send that back, there are three envelopes. There’s one plain envelope for the ballot to go in. That envelope goes inside the affidavit envelope, which is then sealed. That envelope goes in the preaddressed outer envelope to be sent back in the mail or dropped off.

“The photo ID needs to be in the outer envelope, not the affidavit or ballot envelope because I can’t open that. I’ve had people send their actual driver’s licenses sealed in the wrong envelope, and I couldn’t do anything because I can’t open that envelope. That’s for the election official to open on election day.”

Starling said that if for any reason a photo ID was not included with the absentee ballot, that he would contact the sender requesting the ID and that the ballot would be marked as a potential provisional ballot, which means that the voter would have until seven days after the election to have their ID in.

Scarborough said that absentee election managers can’t deny an absentee ballot outright but can bring concerns to the attorney general, district attorney or secretary of state. “Absentee managers don’t have the authority to deny an absentee ballot even if we think something quirky is going on,” Scarborough said. ““I feel it’s my responsibility if I feel that there is something going on to notify the attorney general, district attorney or secretary of state to take a look at it. I’ve had people call and give specific examples of what they think may be going on and I direct them to the D.A. or the secretary of state. I have done that in the past on numerous occasions.”