FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
Tuesday, June 1, 2021 – MONTGOMERY – House Bill 538, which passed during the 2021 legislative session and has now been signed into law, provides updates to the absentee voting process.
“In order to accommodate for future delays by the Postal Service, the deadline to return an absentee ballot application by mail has changed from five days before the election to seven days before the election. The deadline for absentee ballot applications returned by hand remains five days before the election,” commented Secretary of State John H. Merrill. “This change, which only affects the application process, will not change any deadline related to actual absentee ballots. This change is to ensure that any Alabama voter who requests an absentee ballot receives it in a timely manner.”
During the 2020 Election Cycle, the Secretary of State’s Office, as well as local absentee offices across the state, heard from voters who had requested absentee ballots but had not yet received them. Eventually, the United States Postal Service issued guidance encouraging ballot requests at least 15 days before Election Day.
“This change to seven days is a good compromise that will ensure absentee ballot applications are processed and absentee ballots are sent out with adequate time for voters to participate in Alabama elections,” continued Merrill. “In addition, this legislation will allow for the opening of absentee ballots, for tabulation, to begin at 7:00 a.m. on Election Day, as opposed to noon, to provide for the timely counting of absentee ballots following the close of polls. With the hard work of Representative Alan Baker (R-Brewton) and Senator Garlan Gudger (R-Cullman), Alabamians will continue to receive unofficial election results on election night.”
As the deadlines to return and receive absentee ballots is very clearly defined under state law, the postmark deadline was removed under this bill as it is unnecessary and potentially confusing to voters.
All updates have been reflected on the website of the Secretary of State.