Secretary of State considering postponing runoff election amid COVID-19 outbreak

News

(AP)

MONTGOMERY, Ala. (WIAT) — Due to the outbreak of COVID-19, the Secretary of State John Merrill is seeking an emergency opinion from the Attorney General’s Office to postpone the Alabama U.S. Senate runoff election.

The full release states:

Following the outbreak of the Coronavirus (COVID-19) in the State of Alabama and the declaration of a National Emergency by President Donald Trump and the declaration of a State of Emergency by Governor Kay Ivey, Secretary of State John H. Merrill has requested an emergency opinion from the Attorney General’s Office related to the possible postponement of the March 31 Runoff Election.

In the nature of keeping Alabamians safe from the potential spread of the virus, Merrill has asked if, under the emergency powers granted to the Governor under Section 31-9-1 et seq. Ala. Code, the Governor has the authority to postpone the election.

Currently, neither the Code of Alabama nor the Constitution of the State of Alabama allow for the suspension, delay, or postponement of an election once the date has been set. This is why, in 2019, our office asked the Legislature to give the Governor the explicit power to be able to take prescribed action through means that would be codified. Our attempt was unsuccessful but in the 2020 Legislative Session, we have asked Senator Donnie Chesteen and Representative David Standridge to introduce this legislation once again for consideration by the membership of their respective bodies.

The health and well-being of the people of this state are of paramount importance. In order to effectively practice social distancing, as recommended by the President of the United States, the Centers for Disease Control & Prevention (CDC), the Alabama Department of Public Health, etc., the March 31 Runoff Election must be postponed.

In postponing the election until the threat of the Coronavirus is eliminated, Alabamians will be able to participate in the electoral process in a safe and healthy environment, as they have done in the past.

The Secretary of State’s Office will continue to monitor the situation and will provide additional updates as they become available.

Because absentee ballots have not yet gone out, votes in the Runoff Election would not be affected.

In the meantime, Secretary Merrill has recommended others to follow the guidelines set out by the CDC:

  • Stock up on supplies
  • Keep space between yourself and others
  • Avoid crowds
  • Wash hands often
  • Avoid touching nose, mouth, and eyes

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