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Secretary of State Celebrates Record Runoff Turnout Despite Concerns of COVID-19


Wednesday, July 15, 2020 – MONTGOMERY – Despite growing concerns over COVID-19, Alabama witnessed record voter turnout during yesterday’s Primary Runoff Election as more than 626,551 Alabamians participated in the election, equating to 17.36% of the state’s voter eligible population, as initially predicted.

Secretary of State John H. Merrill, in his commitment to providing safe, secure, and fair elections, worked with local election officials to see that all 1,980 polling places were safe and sanitary on Election Day.

“We witnessed a record number of absentee ballots cast in a Runoff Election as Alabamians had more than 110 days to apply due to the declared states of emergency. Even with the high number of absentee ballots returned, Alabamians still showed up to vote in-person on Election Day, proving that the ability to vote in-person is valued and necessary in our state. We will continue to fight for this right, despite efforts to move to all-mail elections,” declared Secretary Merrill.

With voters, poll workers, and election officials exercising extreme caution during yesterday’s election, we witnessed those participating wearing masks and gloves, practicing social distancing, wiping down machines and voting stations, as well as polling places offering hand sanitizer to maintain the health of the public.

Immediately upon passage of the CARES Act, the Office of the Secretary of State began notifying the local election officials in all 67 of Alabama’s counties of the opportunity to apply for various election expenses including, but not limited to, masks, gloves, disinfectant spray, cleaning supplies, hand-sanitizer, alcohol wipes, and professional cleaning services to return polling places back to their safe and sanitary pre-election condition.

“In maintaining constant, close communication with local Probate Judges, County Commissions, Sheriffs, Circuit Clerks, and Absentee Election Managers, we have provided guidance and assistance in the administration of the election,” stated Merrill. “I am proud of the extensive work we have done to see that yesterday’s election ran smoothly and successfully.”

Beginning March 13, 2020, our office began advising local election officials of the necessary steps to take in order to provide a safe and sanitary Primary Runoff Election. This guidance encouraged the following:

  • Recruit backup or substitute poll workers, including the use of student poll worker interns
  • Provide latex-free gloves and masks for poll workers

  • Provide hand-sanitizer at entrance and exit of polling place, while being sure to replenish regularly

  • Wipe down voting machines and any other equipment available to the public with alcohol wipes frequently throughout the day

  • Clean voting and registration tables with disinfectant spray regularly

  • Consider alternate polling place(s), in the case an area becomes of concern to citizens of the county

After following up several times with these steps, we encouraged probate judges to contact our office immediately should they have any trouble recruiting the adequate number of poll workers, as well as additional poll workers. In doing so, we have worked to provide all possible assistance to Alabama counties.

Additionally, we created and shared multiple polling official training videos to assist in the education of poll workers ahead of the July 14 Primary Runoff Election as well as to help probate judges in their legal requirement to train poll workers. The videos were provided to all 67 counties on June 16th, at no cost at all to the state or county as the cost was paid for by the Office of the Secretary of State.

Our Office went to the extent of contacting every single county individually to find out how many new poll workers would be working on Election Day to ensure each official received the proper training and/or assistance.

“All of the aforementioned efforts have been made in addition to our standard Election Day preparation to ensure the efficiency and accuracy of elections in Alabama. While we understand elections are conducted at the county level, we are all in this together to protect the opportunity for every eligible Alabamian to cast his or her vote in confidence and assurance in the electoral process,” Merrill concluded.

Please note that the numbers in this article are from the unofficial election night results and do not include provisional or UOCAVA ballots.