Late in the afternoon on Tuesday, March 17th, Alabama Attorney General Steve Marshall and his office ruled that Governor Kay Ivey does have the authority by the powers given to her to declare a state of emergency due to the COVID-19 virus. The attorney general gave the opinion that the powers given to the governor by the emergency declaration allowed for her to suspend any normal rules, orders, and procedures necessary to handle the emergency. He said that these rules, orders, and procedures also included the elections scheduled to be held during the emergency declaration.
COVID-19, the virus that is causing a worldwide pandemic, originated in a market in Wuhan, China. By necessity, American society has ground to a halt to try to help slow the spread of the virus. Slowing the virus will keep America’s healthcare system from being overwhelmed, which is the situation we’ve seen in Italy. There are currently almost 40 confirmed cases of the virus in Alabama, and certainly more which are yet to be confirmed.
Governors across the country are canceling primary elections or runoffs due to the spread of the virus. Late last week and early this week, there was some confusion about whether the governor has the authority to postpone the primary runoff or not. This prompted the secretary of state to request an attorney general’s opinion as to the authority whereby an election that was postponed by the governor under a state of emergency is certified. Attorney general’s opinions have the force of law when there is no court precedent or ruling from another court about the matter for which the opinion is being requested.
Governor Ivey’s office released a statement on Twitter late Tuesday evening in which she said, “The governor appreciates the attention to this matter by both the attorney general and the secretary of state. She is in the process of thoroughly reviewing all factors surrounding moving Alabama’s upcoming runoff election.” It has been reported that the governor plans on holding a press conference with the attorney general and the secretary of state on Wednesday to announce her decision as to whether she is going to postpone the election or not.
All the campaigns that were reached out to for comment have declined further comments until after the governor has made her decision about postponing or moving forward.