MONTGOMERY, Ala. – Today, the NAACP Legal Defense & Educational Fund, Inc. (LDF), the Southern Poverty Law Center (SPLC), Greater Birmingham Ministries, the Alabama State Conference of the NAACP, and the Alabama Disabilities Advocacy Program (ADAP) sent Alabama Secretary of State John Merrill a letter urging him to develop guidance and administrative rules enabling every eligible voter in Alabama to vote in the upcoming primary runoff election – now scheduled for July 14.

The coalition of civil rights and disability rights organizations are calling on the secretary to use the legal authority available to him in a state of emergency and immediately develop protocols and processes to ensure ballot access in the run-off. These recommendations include:

  • permitting every qualified voter in Alabama to vote through mail-in absentee ballots;
  • clarifying that those with highest susceptibility to COVID-19 are exempt from the absentee voting requirement to provide a photocopy of their photo ID;
  • extending the absentee ballot request deadline to 3:00PM on Election Day;
  • allowing absentee ballots to be dropped off at any polling place by any person designated by the voter;
  • permitting curbside voting;
  • recruiting poll workers, especially those of lower susceptibility to the virus; and
  • undertaking an aggressive public education plan on how to exercise these new options.

The coalition calls on the secretary to implement these measures for the benefit of all voters who plan to vote in the July 14 run-off, but especially elderly voters, low-income voters, voters with disabilities, and voters of color who are less likely to have access to the healthcare, social networks, and transportation necessary to feel safe voting in-person.

 “Elections must go on even while we weather this difficult period,” said Sherrilyn Ifill, LDF’s President and Director-Counsel. “It is imperative that Alabama take commonsense steps to ensure that every voter has the safe and secure option of voting by mail. While in-person voting should continue, it must be conducted in a way that promotes access and safety for the elderly, disabled, and other vulnerable populations. LDF calls on Alabama’s Secretary of State to adopt and implement these recommendations now, so that the state will be fully prepared to ensure that all eligible voters can cast their ballots in the July primary runoff election.”

“Alabamians are making great sacrifices as the coronavirus changes so many aspects of our lives,” said Caren Short, senior staff attorney for the SPLC. “But no Alabama voter should have to sacrifice their ability to cast a ballot free from fear and discrimination, and we urge Secretary Merrill to take these recommendations seriously.”

“Because this pandemic presents increased health risks for people with disabilities, we must value their health above all else while providing them a fully accessible opportunity to vote,” said James Tucker, Director of ADAP.

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The Southern Poverty Law Center, based in Alabama with offices in Florida, Georgia, Louisiana, Mississippi, and Washington, D.C., is a nonprofit civil rights organization dedicated to fighting hate and bigotry, and to seeking justice for the most vulnerable members of society. For more information, visit www.splcenter.org.

Founded in 1940, the NAACP Legal Defense and Educational Fund, Inc. (LDF) is the nation’s first civil and human rights law organization. LDF has been completely separate from the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People (NAACP) since 1957—although LDF was originally founded by the NAACP and shares its commitment to equal rights. LDF’s Thurgood Marshall Institute is a multi-disciplinary and collaborative hub within LDF that launches targeted campaigns and undertakes innovative research to shape the civil rights narrative. In media attributions, please refer to us as the NAACP Legal Defense Fund or LDF.

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