Jefferson County (AL) Votes 4-0 to Open Courthouses On Sat. For Absentee Voting

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Jefferson County has opted for a postal vote on Saturday at the Jefferson County Courthouse. (File photo)

By Barnett Wright
The Birmingham Times

A non-partisan group of Jefferson County (AL) commissioners voted 4-0 on Friday to open the courthouses in downtown Birmingham and Bessemer County to personal postal voting ahead of the November 3rd general election.

Republicans Jimmie Stephens, President of the Commission, and Republicans Joe Knight, and Democrats Lashunda Scales and Sheila Tyson, voted to open the courthouses on Saturday, October 17 and Saturday, October 24, from 9 a.m. to 1 p.m. Person absent voting.

Republican Commissioner Steve Ammons was absent for family reasons.

The decision to open was driven by voter public health and safety concerns over the COVID-19 pandemic, commissioners said.

“The right to vote safely, especially during this pandemic, is not being denied to any Jefferson County citizen,” Stephens said during the meeting. “We will comply with the law to ensure that the integrity, security and trust of the electoral process are accessible to those who choose to vote in person.”

After the meeting, Scales said, “We didn’t want the public to see that this is a Republican or Democratic struggle. We believe in the democratic process and that is why it was important for all of us to speak of a sheet of music because we believe that voter participation is very important. “

Knight, chairman of the county Judiciary Committee, said, “We expect a large turnout for the November 3rd election. Therefore, the safety of our citizens and of the staff who take part in the surveys remains of the utmost importance. “

In Mobile County, Alabama, Republicans Don Davis, probate judge, and court clerk Jo Jo Schwarzauer, announced a postal vote, also on Saturdays, earlier this month.

Davis, who is also the chief election officer, and Schwarzauer, the postal voting manager, said Schwarzauer’s Mobile County office will be open on the second, third, and fourth Saturdays in October to give citizens “additional opportunities to submit and vote by absenteeism / or Receive absentee voting material before the 2020 general election. “

“Additionally,” they wrote in a press release distributed by both Democrats and Republicans in the Mobile County’s Legislative Delegation, “the office of the departmental returning officer will be open.” [the fifth] Saturday, October 31, 9 am to 1 pm to allow voters to deliver postal ballot papers to the office. “

The Jefferson County decision came after a week of uncertainty about whether the courthouses would be open.

A press conference was held on Monday to announce that the courthouse in downtown Birmingham is to be opened to absentee voting. On Wednesday, The Jefferson County Probate Court judge said the courthouse will be closed. Later that day, State Representative Merika Coleman contacted the Secretary of State to inform officials of her concerns that the buildings could not be opened for postal voting.

“The personal postal vote on the weekend extended working hours. . . It’s for everyone to choose, ”said Coleman. “This is a choice that people on both sides of the aisle are very interested in. . . People are very excited about this choice. “

She added that the postal vote is impartial and open to all and that some are concerned about voting on November 3rd because of the COVID-19 pandemic. “This is why personal postal voting on the weekend is so important to give an opportunity to people who may not want to leave [on Nov. 3] for fear of exposure to COVID or being around crowds. “

Over the past two weeks, Jefferson County’s personal postal vote has led to complaints and lines stretching from the outdoor courthouse to nearby Linn Park, with some officials pressing for extra days.

“We didn’t expect this upturn. . . We didn’t see COVID-19, we didn’t foresee that people would come here instead of going to the 170 polling stations, ”Circuit Clerk Jacqueline Anderson-Smith said in an interview last week.

In addition to the increased number of out-of-home voters, there is also a backlog of postal ballot papers sent in, which aroused concern ahead of the November 3rd parliamentary elections.

Almost 21 million Americans have already cast ballots across the country the 2020 election, a record-breaking avalanche of early votes fueled by both democratic enthusiasm and a pandemic that has changed the way the nation votes.

In Alabama, October 19th will be the last day you register to vote in the November 3rd general election, according to the Alabama Secretary of State. Thursday, October 29th, is the last day that a postal vote will be requested for the general election. Monday, November 2nd, is the last day on which a postal vote sent by post to the postal voting officer can be postmarked. Postal ballot papers must be received by the postal voting manager at 12 noon on election day, November 3rd.

To register to vote online, visit alabamavotes.gov.

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