Election observers are warning it could be days before we know the results of November’s election because of high numbers of mail-in and absentee ballots due to the coronavirus pandemic. But Alabama’s top election official said that won’t be an issue.
“In Alabama, it’s not going to be two or three days later, a week later, two weeks later,” Secretary of State John Merrill said. “There’s not going to be any of that in our state, period.”
Merrill made the comment Tuesday on NPR and WAMU’s 1A. His appearance was part of WBHM’s Across America partnership with the show.
Merrill expanded the list of excuses voters could claim to vote absentee in the July 14 runoff to include concerns about the coronavirus. He extended that excuse to include the November election. Merrill said voters returned about 33,000 absentee ballots in the runoff election. He estimated the state could see more than 100,000 absentee ballots requested in the general election.
When host Jenn White asked about the need for additional staffing to process more absentee ballots, Merrill replied that would be a decision for local election officials. When pressed further on how he could ensure results would be reported on Election Day given that those decisions are made at the local level, Merrill said under state law, local offices are required to submit results by a deadline.
“Nobody wants to be held in contempt because they didn’t provide the information that is required for us to receive,” Merrill said.
Merrill said local election offices have enough resources to meet that requirement. He added that voters should not have to wait in long lines in November as all of Alabama’s 67 counties will use electronic poll books, which he expects will reduce wait times up to 75%.
1A Across America is funded through a grant from The Corporation for Public Broadcasting. CPB is a private, nonprofit corporation created by Congress in 1967 that is the steward of the federal government’s investment in public broadcasting.