WASHINGTON, D.C. – Attorney General Karl A. Racine today led a group of 17 state Attorneys General opposing Alabama’s attempt to ban curbside voting after a federal court permitted local officials the flexibility of allowing it. In a friend-of-the-court brief filed in People First of Alabama v. Merrill in the U.S. Supreme Court, the multistate coalition argues that local election officials should be allowed to administer the upcoming election in ways that both ensure voter participation and protect public health, including by allowing curbside voting. The brief also argues that banning curbside voting would disproportionately harm the elderly, voters with disabilities, and Black Alabamians. The District of Columbia has been active in protecting voting access nationwide, having recently led multistate coalitions in Florida, Mississippi, North Carolina, South Carolina, and two Texas cases.
“Curbside voting is a longstanding, secure voting option that local jurisdictions have made available to protect the health of vulnerable voters, including elderly, disabled, and voters with underlying health issues,” said AG Racine. “Curbside voting minimizes the risk to persons who are particularly susceptible to COVID-19, and local jurisdictions should be able to offer this common-sense accommodation to voters. State Attorneys General will keep fighting to ensure that voters can safely make their voices heard at the ballot box this November.”
Amid the COVID-19 pandemic, states and local election officials across the country have modified their election procedures to protect the health of voters and election workers. One way localities are making voting in this election safe and accessible is through curbside voting, an option where eligible voters can cast their ballot outside the polling place with the help of election workers. There are no known instances of voter fraud associated with curbside voting.
In May 2020, a group of Alabama voters and voting-rights organizations filed a lawsuit challenging the Alabama Secretary of State’s policy of banning local elections officials from permitting curbside voting. After the district court enjoined the ban, Alabama appealed to the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Eleventh Circuit, where a divided panel denied a stay of the injunction, permitting counties to implement curbside voting. Alabama is seeking an emergency stay from the U.S. Supreme Court to reinstate the ban.
In the amicus brief, the coalition opposes Alabama’s attempt to reinstate the ban on curbside voting because:
- States and localities have a responsibility to protect voter participation and voter safety: The Supreme Court has recognized that states have the power to regulate elections and must do so in ways that preserve the right to vote. The nuts and bolts of most election administration, however, remain local. During the pandemic, states and localities have taken reasonable, common-sense steps to minimize in-person interactions for voters, including by implementing curbside voting. Even before the pandemic, at least 30 states offered some form of curbside voting to make voting accessible for the elderly or voters with disabilities. In response to COVID-19, states have expanded curbside voting as an option.
- Banning curbside voting would disproportionately harm elderly, disabled, and Black voters: Without curbside voting, many vulnerable Alabama voters may be forced to make the impossible choice of whether to risk exposure to COVID-19 or sit this election out. Eight out of ten COVID-19 related deaths nationwide have been among adults 65 and older, certain disabilities place individuals in a higher risk category for complications from COVID-19, and, among Alabamians, Black residents have the highest death rate from COVID-19.
- Voter fraud is rare, and there is no evidence that banning curbside voting prevents it: It is estimated that more than 138 million people voted in the 2016 election, including residents from several states that allowed curbside voting, and officials at the state and federal level have consistently found no evidence of voter fraud related to curbside voting. Further, states and counties with curbside voting have procedures in place to protect voter privacy. Many localities require poll workers to bring the ballot to the voter with a privacy shield or sleeve so that neither the election worker nor any passengers in the vehicle can view the voter’s selections.
The brief is available at: https://oag.dc.gov/sites/default/files/2020-10/Alabama-v-Merrill-Amicus.pdf
AG Racine is leading today’s friend-of-the-court brief and is joined by Attorneys General from California, Connecticut, Delaware, Hawaii, Illinois, Maryland, Michigan, Minnesota, Nevada, New Mexico, New York, Oregon, Rhode Island, Vermont, Virginia, and Washington.
Protecting Voter Participation
Last week, AG Racine led a led a coalition of 19 state Attorneys General in a brief opposing a Texas order that limited the number of absentee ballot drop-off sites in the state to one per county and shuttered sites that were already open. He also recently led coalitions supporting access to mail-in ballots in Mississippi, South Carolina and Texas, and secured a preliminary injunction stopping U.S. Postal Service cuts that threatened the right to vote for millions of Americans planning to vote by mail during the pandemic. This follows efforts over the summer opposing unfair voting restrictions against returning citizens in Florida and North Carolina.
Voting in the District of Columbia
District residents can find information about registering to vote and voting by mail or in person in the November election on the D.C. Board of Elections website: www.dcboe.org. In the District, all active voters will be mailed a ballot and do not need a witness signature to submit their mail-in ballot. Voters can return their mail-in ballot by mail using the enclosed prepaid envelope, but it must be mailed by Election Day and arrive no later than Nov. 13. Voters can also drop off their ballot at one of dozens of drop box locations before 8:00 p.m. on Election Day or at one of the vote centers during early voting or on Election Day. Mail-in ballots started to arrive during the first week of October; if voters do not receive a ballot by October 21, officials recommend planning to vote in person.
If voters do not plan to vote by mail, they can find a list of convenient early vote and Election Day vote centers online. Vote centers will be open from 8:30 a.m. to 7:00 p.m. during early voting and from 7:00 a.m. to 8:00 p.m. on Election Day. Registered voters can vote at any of the vote centers during early voting and on Election Day. Citizens can also register to vote in person at a voting site with proof of residency.
OAG also recently published a Voter Advisory on Poll Monitoring to educate residents about protections against voter intimidation and a D.C. Voter Checklist to encourage residents to make a plan to vote.