Absentee Application Time Shortened

A bill that would shorten the time allowed to return absentee ballot applications passed the Alabama House on Tuesday.

House Bill 538 from Rep. Alan Baker, R-Brewton, would require that absentee ballot applications be mailed to the election manager’s office 10 days before an election, or hand-delivered five days before an election.

Baker said the bill is meant to help those who want to vote absentee not be hindered by slow postal delivery times, like what was seen during the 2020 election.

“The postal service has recently had multiple problems in their delivery in a timely manner and that is something that is expected to continue in the foreseeable future,” Baker said.

Current state law says no matter whether you are mailing or hand-delivering an absentee application, it must be submitted to the absentee election manager’s office no later than five days before an election. The bill does preserve an exemption allowing people who have had certain types of last-minute emergencies, including being ill and having a death in the family, to apply for a ballot up to 5 p.m. the day before the election.

The bill would also allow the counting of absentee ballots to start at 7 a.m. on election day rather than noon.

The bill does not change when a completed absentee ballot must be returned, which by mail must be received by the absentee election manager no later than noon on election day, and if hand-delivered the ballot must be in the manager’s office by the close of business, or no later than 5 p.m., the day before election day.

Rep. Laura Hall, D-Huntsville, said she did not have any major problems with the bill but wished it included a no-excuse absentee provision.

The final vote on the bill was 79-16 with most voting against the bill being Democratic members. The bill now heads to the Senate.