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Alabama

Alabama made good progress in expanding access in 2020, and there are a wide variety of issue areas in which Alabama has opportunities to improve voter access and continue on the progress made in 2020, the most urgent being removing the “excuse” requirement for mail ballots permanently. These improvements will bring Arkansas one step closer to a more safe, efficient, and voter-friendly election process. As always, while policy is important, effective implementation is just as important.

As of 2021....

No Excuse Required

No Excuse Required

No excuse to vote by mail

Online Mail Ballot Application

Online Mail Ballot Application

Apply for mail ballot online

Robust Ballot Return Option

Robust Ballot Return Option

U.S. mail, drop boxes, vote centers, and more

Prepaid Postage

Prepaid Postage

Postage-paid return envelopes provided

Election Day Postmark Acceptance

Election Day Postmark Acceptance

Accepts ballots postmarked by Election Day

Ballot Tracking

Ballot Tracking

Online method to check ballot status

Signature Verification

Signature Verification

Voter signature verified before ballot is counted

Cure Process

Cure Process

Ability to correct issues so ballot can be counted

Preprocessing

Preprocessing

Election official may process ballot before Election Day

Opportunities

Alabama should continue their enormous progress in expanding mail voting. By passing legislation to make no-excuse absentee voting permanent, Alabama can give their citizens the opportunity to vote in whichever manner they find safest and most convenient.
Creating an online portal for voters to register to vote and request an absentee ballot is not only convenient; if it feeds directly into the voter registration system, it can be an important step to help verify addresses, collect contact information and to remove administrative steps to process a large amount of applications. We encourage an integrated process that allows new voters to register, current voters to make changes to their address and make requests for ballots in a seamless manner.
Alabama can increase voter confidence by allowing voters to track their ballot much like an Amazon package by improving its current ballot tracking system. Advanced ballot tracking systems can proactively notify voters when their ballot takes a new step in the path from being sent to them to finally being counted (or rejected). If a ballot is rejected, these ballot tracking tools can be used as another method to contact voters if there is a signature mismatch or deficiency on their return envelope.
Offering secure drop boxes as another method for voters to return ballots is a cost-effective way to reduce strain on the postal system, and are sometimes a preferred method by voters who want an extra bit of reassurance that their ballot makes it to the elections office on time. We highly recommend including provisions to allow for ballots to be received at polling locations, vote centers, and drop boxes, as well as other locations deemed necessary by the clerk.
We highly recommend making in-person absentee voting permanent, as this would reduce lines and increase voter access.A fantastic option for both early (in person absentee) and election day voting is vote centers, or polling locations where any voter in the county can vote. This is a way to streamline the system so over time, as the share of the vote cast by mail increases, counties can have fewer overall polling locations, while individual voters will have more voting location options.
Expanding accepting of ballots with Election Day postmarks received shortly after election day is a best practice to ensure that voters are given all options to vote their ballot in a timely manner, and one that Alabama already follows: Alabama already offers postmark acceptance for military and overseas voters. Accepting Election Day postmarks is estimated in most jurisdictions to decrease ballot rejection rates by half.
Simplifying the return process for a ballot is just as important as simplifying the request process. Prepaying postage on ballot return envelopes can increase return rates by ensuring that voters do not need to make an extra trip to the post office.

In the event that a voter’s ballot is rejected, said voter should have the ability to cure any correctable issues with their ballot quickly and simply to lower rejection rates. As more voters use absentee ballots and, understandably, the number of rejected absentee ballots increases, we recommend implementing a Text2Cure system that allows voters to cure their ballots from their phones.

Signature verification eliminates the need for witness and notary requirements, something the state has had to fight in court to keep. Signature verification procedures ensure the security of the election process while reducing barriers for voters and streamlining ballot processing.

Processing mail ballots to get them ready for counting before election day will help Alabama get faster election results. Preliminary data also suggests that preprocessing helps avoid any blue or red shifts when there are differences in the partisan lean of mail vs. in person ballots, which could increase voter confidence in the results of elections.

Recent Legislation

As of May 27, 2021

In response to the pandemic, the Secretary of State allowed mail voting without an excuse in the municipal, primary, and general elections in 2020. In 2020, the state also temporarily instituted no-excuse in person absentee voting (often called early voting). Courts also heavily influenced the election: a court ruling allowed Alabama voters with medical conditions to vote without a witness or notary to vote by mail if they provided a statement, and another ruled that curbside voting was not allowed.

In 2021, three mail-voting related bills passed. HB538 gave officials five additional hours to process ballots, wisely eliminated the requirement that ballots be postmarked by the day before election, and altered the absentee application deadline, while HB 151 simply altered timelines for when election officials get ballots. Finally, SB 285 banned curbside voting.