In a 5-3 decision spearheaded by Associate Justice Clarence Thomas, the Supreme Court of the United States on Wednesday evening blocked curbside voting from being allowed in Alabama’s November 3 general election.
Curbside voting is not provided for by state law in Alabama, however U.S. District Judge Abdul Kallon recently had ordered the secretary of state to allow counties to implement the practice due to the COVID-19 pandemic. Kallon is an appointee of former President Barack Obama.
The Supreme Court on Wednesday issued a stay on Kallon’s order, in effect meaning curbside voting will not be allowed in the quickly approaching election. Democrat-appointed Justices Sotomayor, Breyer and Kagan dissented.
The case itself is still pending before the 11th Circuit on appeal. The stay granted by the Supreme Court will be in effect “pending disposition of the appeal [in the 11th Circuit].”
Additionally, should the losing side of that disposition subsequently attempt to take the appeal to the Supreme Court, the stay shall still remain in effect pending “disposition of the petition for a writ of certiorari, if such writ is timely sought.”
“Should the petition for a writ of certiorari be denied, this stay shall terminate automatically. In the event the petition for a writ of certiorari is granted, the stay shall terminate upon the sending down of the judgment of this Court,” the Supreme Court majority concluded.
Reacting to the news on Wednesday night, Alabama Secretary of State John Merrill said, “I am proud to report the U.S. Supreme Court has now blocked a lower court’s order allowing the fraudulent practice of curbside voting in the State of Alabama.”
“During the COVID-19 pandemic, we have worked diligently with local election officials in all 67 counties to offer safe and secure voting methods – including through the in-person and mail-in processes,” he outlined. “I am glad the Supreme Court has recognized our actions to expand absentee voting, while also maintaining the safeguards put into place by the state Legislature.”
“The fact that we have already shattered voter participation records with the election still being 13 days away is proof that our current voting options are easy, efficient, and accessible for all of Alabama’s voters,” the secretary of state concluded. “Tonight’s ruling in favor of election integrity and security is once again a win for the people of Alabama.”
The Supreme Court previously blocked essentially the same Kallon order from taking effect before Alabama’s July 14 primary runoff election.
Attorney General Steve Marshall, who represents the State of Alabama in this case, said at that time, “[T]he (Supreme) Court has cautioned lowered courts against altering election laws on the eve of an election. We made this case to the Court, and we are gratified that the Court agreed to our request for the stay.”
UPDATE 9:15 p.m.
Attorney General Marshall released a statement on Wednesday’s stay.
“We are pleased that the Supreme Court has again acted quickly to grant the State’s emergency stay request to clarify that Alabama’s laws will govern Alabama’s upcoming election,” stated Marshall. “While our election laws are easily complied with, even during this pandemic, they ensure that Alabama voters can have confidence that they are voting in a fair election. The Supreme Court’s decision is a victory for Alabama’s election integrity and thus for Alabama voters.”
“As we argued in our stay request to the Supreme Court, Alabama has taken extraordinary measures to ensure that all voters can vote safely, while also ensuring that this election is conducted fairly, efficiently, and free from fraud. But Alabama law does not and has never provided for curbside voting,” he continued. “The district court’s decision to create it for the State was contrary to state and federal law.”
Marshall concluded, “Just as important, when States decide to authorize curbside voting, they typically do so through legislation and with months or years of careful planning. They don’t throw it together in a matter of weeks in the middle of a pandemic. That is a recipe for chaos that could end up making it harder, not easier, for people to vote. In addition to the specter of voters’ cars backed up further than a Chick-fil-A drive-thru, there was the risk that would come from voters handing over open ballots to poll workers without being able to see whether a poll worker would actually deposit the ballot after taking it inside the polling place. Fortunately, with the Supreme Court’s action tonight, those risks have been averted.”
Sean Ross is the editor of Yellowhammer News. You can follow him on Twitter @sean_yhn