State of Alabama appeals Obama appointee’s ruling striking down safeguards against voter fraud
Alabama Secretary of State John H. Merrill on Wednesday confirmed to Yellowhammer News that a controversial federal court opinion issued Monday evening regarding Alabama’s absentee voting process has been appealed to a higher court.
United States District Judge for the Northern District of Alabama Abdul K. Kallon issued a memorandum opinion striking down certain absentee balloting requirements for the state’s upcoming July 14 runoff election.
The order affected “at least” Jefferson, Mobile and Lee Counties, whose local election officials were named as defendants along with Merrill as the state’s chief election official.
Kallon, an appointee of then-President Barack H. Obama, ordered defendants not to enforce the state’s absentee voting requirement of each absentee ballot being notarized or signed by two witnesses for any voters “who determine it is impossible or unreasonable to safely satisfy” this requirement.
Next, the judge decreed that defendants not enforce the absentee voting requirement of each absentee ballot being accompanied by a copy of the respective voter’s valid form of photo ID. This portion of the order, however, only applies to voters aged 65 or older, or disabled, “who determine it is impossible or unreasonable to safely satisfy that requirement in light of the COVID-19 pandemic.”
Signed statements “under penalty of perjury” are required to be submitted by absentee voters taking advantage of either one of these two portions of the order.
The Kallon ruling would also allow for statewide “curbside voting” at in-person polling locations.
Merrill in a statement to Yellowhammer News said that the Kallon ruling has been appealed to the U.S. Court of Appeals for the 11th Circuit. The Alabama Attorney General’s Office is representing the defendants in the case, as the State itself is also technically a defendant.
“We have appealed the judge’s ruling to the Eleventh Circuit. We will continue to prepare for the administration of the election,” stated Merrill.
In a phone interview with Yellowhammer News following up on this announcement, Merrill emphasized he could not discuss some specifics he would otherwise like to share due to the nature of ongoing litigation.
However, Merrill was able to point out a head-scratching portion of Kallon’s ruling.
While the Code of Alabama states, “Voters voting an absentee ballot shall submit with the ballot a copy of one of the forms of [valid photo] identification,” Merrill advised that voters either disabled or aged 65+ are already provided an exemption to this requirement under the same section of state law.
This exemption states that eligible Alabama voters covered under the federal Voting Accessibility for the Elderly and Handicapped Act “shall not be required to produce identification prior to voting.” This federal law explicitly covers anyone aged 65+, as well as anyone “having a temporary or permanent physical disability.”
Speaking to this aspect of Kallon’s ruling, Merrill added, “I don’t have to tell anybody that. That’s clearly written in the law. And it’s on the [absentee ballot] application itself when you’re checking which box (excuse) you’re going to use and why. I think that’s important to note.”
Regarding the Kallon ruling allowing “curbside voting,” Merrill commented, “There is no provision in the law, no statutory authority, that grants the permissive use of curbside voting in Alabama.”
“We were disappointed in the initial ruling from the judge, but we have made a formal appeal,” the secretary of state outlined. “Our chief legal counsel continues to work with the office of the attorney general. They’re very able attorneys who are leading this effort as we take it to the panel for the 11th Circuit. We don’t know who will be on that panel yet. That has not been introduced to us nor do we know when the 11th Circuit will take it up for debate.”
He continued, “But this is what we do know: we will continue with the administration of the election as scheduled. And we will ensure that we have a safe, secure and fair election with integrity and credibility.”
In a statement on Wednesday afternoon, former U.S. Attorney General Jeff Sessions backed Merrill on the issue.
Sessions’ full statement as follows:
This lawsuit has been funded and driven by hard-left advocacy groups like the SPLC. This is another part of an agenda driven by the extreme left that weakens voter integrity, and seeks to remove Alabama’s strong photo voter ID law and eventually do away with polling places altogether. I have fought against this agenda my entire career. The integrity of the ballot is essential. Alabama’s procedures are well-established and have been upheld as constitutional.
Now, while the Court strikes down the legitimate security provisions in Alabama’s election law, liberal Democrats continue to push this absurd idea that we stop having polling places and that all ballots just be mailed out, indiscriminately, to every voter at their last known address. Such a policy cannot be secure.
We need an honest and fair election. Alabama’s current law is perfectly reasonable, and Secretary of State John Merrill has done an outstanding job in overseeing this election during extraordinarily unusual circumstances.
This last-minute decision results in less security in the ballot process and creates confusion and uncertainty in the last weeks of the campaign. Attorney General Steve Marshall is right to quickly file a notice of appeal seeking an immediate reversal of Judge Abdul Kallon’s decision.
Sean Ross is the editor of Yellowhammer News. You can follow him on Twitter @sean_yhn