Alabama is reopening from the extended COVID-19 shutdown but voters are still concerned about exposing themselves to the virus if they vote in the July 14 runoff election.

"We think it might be a record," Secretary of State John Merrill told Townsquare Media Tuscaloosa News this morning about potential absentee runoff voting. "We have run a multimedia campaign promoting it (absentee voting) through social media as well as through paid media all across the state for the last 70-plus days."

The deadline for obtaining an absentee ballot is one month from today on Thursday, July 9. The deadline to return an absentee ballot to the Absentee Election Manager is the close of business Monday, July 13, and the last day to postmark an absentee ballot is Monday, July 13. Election day is Tuesday, July 14.

Merrill, a Tuscaloosan, describes the absentee process as being as simple as it possibly can be. "If you are a registered voter you can request an absentee ballot application by going (online) to Alabama Votes. You can then download your application or contact your local circuit clerk." In Tuscaloosa County that's Magaria Bobo (714 Greensboro Avenue Rm 214 of the Tuscaloosa County Courthouse or call 205-464-8259). Circuits clerks in any county are ready, willing and able to help according to Merrill.

If you request an absentee ballot application from a circuit clerk all you need to do is complete it and return it with a copy of a valid photo identification. You will be sent a ballot, you will cast your vote and return the ballot by mail.

"We want all our voters to know - all 3,597,060 of them - that voting has never been easier in Alabama than it is today," Merrill proudly proclaims. "We want them to know they can vote in a safe and secure environment at each one of our 1,980 polling sites that will be open." Merrill says proper health safety precautions will be taken at polling sites including hand sanitizer for all people who appear the polls. Polling officials will all be required to wear masks and latex gloves. The officials will also have disinfectant wipes and will be sanitizing the polling place throughout the day. Professional cleaning services will also disinfect each polling site after balloting is concluded.

But Merrill adds if you would rather vote in the privacy of your own home through the absentee process all you need to do is get the absentee ballot application then simply mark  the box that says I am Ill or Infirm and will be unable to appear at my polling site on election day. Then vote for the candidate of your choice, return the absentee ballot to their circuit clerk and then, "It will be just like they are at the polls."

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