2020 election

Jefferson County Clerk’s Office Redesigns to Handle Throngs of Voters

Signs direct absentee voters in the Jefferson County Courthouse. (Source: Solomon Crenshaw Jr.)

The circuit clerk’s office at the Jefferson County Courthouse was closed Monday for Columbus Day, but staffers in the office weren’t taking a holiday.

“The absentee staff is working on the mail today, getting out ballots, the ballots that have been returned,” said James P. Naftel II, the presiding probate judge of Jefferson County. “(Columbus Day is) a state holiday and the circuit clerk’s office is closed for in-person voting today but it will reopen tomorrow.”

It’s been a working weekend of those in the clerk’s office as they have set the stage for what they hope is a more efficient processing of in-person absentee voters. Another 24 workers also have been added to the staff to help handle the lines of in-person absentee voters.

“Last week we were running into a bottleneck because people were having to go in and out of this one door,” the probate judge said. “We’ve been working real hard over the weekend to reconfigure everything so we have a lot more people in and out in a lot faster time.”

Tables with plexiglass line the hallway to the right of the clerk’s absentee voting office on the fifth floor of the courthouse.

“Up and down the hall here, we’ve expanded to be able to accommodate very many more in-person voters than we were able to last week,” Naftel said.

People will fill out their ballots in the jury assembly room that is across the street in the parking deck building. Once they have filled out their ballots and had a copy made of their identification there, voters go to the clerk’s office on the fifth floor.

“We’ll have people on computers along these tables that will then enter that application into what’s called Power Profile with the state to verify that they’re a registered voter and to identify what ballot of the 60-some-odd different ballot styles we have in Birmingham,” Naftel said. “They’ll bring that ballot out (and) they’ll enter the serial number, so to speak, for that ballot for that voter to match them up.”

Several voting stations are in the fifth-floor hallway to the left of the clerk’s absentee voting office.

“Then they’ll bring their completed ballot to one of these tables where they can fill out their affidavit and have it witnessed and put in the envelope,” the judge said, “and then they will drop their ballot into the ballot security boxes that will be out here.”

Naftel credits Circuit Clerk Jacqueline Anderson-Smith with leading the effort to redesign to space.

“We’ve all been working real hard over the last few days to get this to expand the capacity of this thing,” he said. “Up until last week, we were doing fine and then we were kind of overwhelmed with hundreds of people coming in. In response, we’re really trying to expand what we can do and how fast we can do it so you don’t have to wait so long.”