Governor Kay Ivey on Wednesday announced the Primary Runoff Election would be held on July 14, 2020 due to the concerns surrounding the COVID-19 (Coronavirus) pandemic.
“Exercising my extraordinary powers under the Emergency Management Act, I am setting Alabama’s Primary Runoff Election for July 14, 2020,” said Governor Kay Ivey. “The ability to hold free and fair elections is an inherent right as citizens of the United States and the great state of Alabama, but the safety and wellbeing of Alabama citizens is paramount.
“Our State Health Officer, Dr. Scott Harris, is recommending that we should practice social distancing and refrain from public gatherings of more than 25 individuals. Maintaining a 6-foot distance between one another is paramount. This guidance alone would be making an election day a hotbed for spreading the virus.
“Persons who are 65 years or older as well as those with previous heart and lung diseases are more vulnerable to the Coronavirus. Knowing the average age of our faithful poll workers qualifies them to be most at-risk adds the necessity to extend the election runoff date.
“Delaying the election to July 14 is not a decision I came to lightly, but one of careful consideration. I appreciate the guidance of Attorney General Steve Marshall and Secretary of State John H. Merrill for their collaboration to ensure the continuity of our state government.”
On Tuesday, Attorney General Steve Marshall issued an emergency ruling declaring Governor Ivey had the authority to delay the runoff under the State of Emergency declaration.
“Governor Ivey has the legal authority under the Alabama Emergency Management Act to declare a state of emergency as a result of the current pandemic,” says Attorney General Steve Marshall. “Accordingly, she also has the lawful ability to postpone a primary runoff election to protect public health and safety during the state of emergency.”
Alabama Secretary of State John Merrill released the following statement after the governor announced her decision, “Upon the governor’s issuance of the amended State of Emergency proclamation rescheduling the Primary Runoff Election to be held on July 14, 2020, the Secretary of State shall give notice and provide the amended Administrative Calendar, via certified mail and email, to all applicable election officials. WhenWhen I took office as Alabama’s 53rd Secretary of State, I set out to ensure a free and fair elections process for the people of Alabama. First and foremost, however, the safety and well-being of every single Alabamian is my top priority. The guidelines prescribed by the Centers for Disease Control & Prevention and the Alabama Department of Public Health have made it clear that it is no longer advisable for the people of Alabama to go to the polls to vote on March 31. The opportunity to participate in the electoral process and have one’s voice heard at the polls is one that we will continue to protect and advocate for. In postponing the March 31 Runoff Election to July 14, we are continuing Alabama’s practice of providing free and fair elections that do not compromise the safety and health of our voters, poll workers, and anyone else who may be involved with the elections process. This new date will allow for the electoral process to continue in a normal manner. This delay will allow all local election officials the time to assess and evaluate the changes that must be made to ensure the Runoff Election is administered according to plan. Eligible Alabamians may continue to register to vote in the Runoff Election until Monday, June 29. Absentee ballot applications that have already been successfully submitted will be valid for the July 14, 2020 Runoff Election. To check on the status of your application, please contact your local Absentee Election Manager. All absentee ballot applications must be received by the close of business on Thursday, July 9. If delivered by hand, absentee ballots must be received by the Absentee Election Manager by the close of business Monday, July 13. If returning by mail, the last day to postmark an absentee ballot is Monday, July 13. Voters eligible to vote pursuant to the Uniformed and Overseas Absentee Voting Act will have until Tuesday, July 14 to postmark an absentee ballot. I am grateful to Governor Ivey and General Marshall for their proactive leadership, sincere dedication, and spirit of teamwork that we have seen displayed during these trying times to ensure we are providing a safe and secure environment for all 3,585,209 voters in the State of Alabama to participate in the electoral process.”
Reaction from the campaigns has been coming in all day on Wednesday. Republican candidate for Alabama US House of Representatives District 1 former state senator Bill Hightower released the following statement, “Since President Trump’s declaration of National Emergency, our campaign has prepared for the potential postponement of the Alabama Republican run-off election for the 1st Congressional District. President Trump and his Administration have provided strong leadership in issuing guidance to states about the importance of public health vigilance during the coronavirus outbreak. This announcement is simply one more step in accordance with those recommendations. America has faced daunting challenges in the past, but one of the characteristics that has made our nation uniquely exceptional is our resiliency and ability to overcome what is put in front of us. This includes the coronavirus. We must all be mindful to heed the President’s direction, and take appropriate precautions with all social interactions. Together we will overcome this challenge as well.”
Hightower’s run off opponent, Mobile County commissioner Jerry Carl said, “With the spread of the Coronavirus and the uncertainties this virus brings, I support our state officials’ decision to postpone the runoff election to July 14, 2020. Now is the time for us to focus on keeping our families and communities safe, rather than worrying about a runoff election. There will be a time and place to resume normal political activities, but right now we must focus on giving our neighbors who are struggling a hand, keep them in our prayers, and do all we can to continue making our community strong.”
A candidate in the Democratic runoff for US House of Representatives Alabama District 1, Kiani Gardner release the following statement. “First, I am glad to see that our elected leaders have finally acknowledged the effect that this virus will have on our election systems. I have been the lone candidate calling for changes to the election process to allow for citizens to exercise their constitutional right to vote while also protecting their heath, and I’m glad to see some protections. II am, however, particularly concerned about the decision to allow for absentee ballot voting starting immediately. This decision, to encourage voting over a four month period, means that as a candidate, I must continue to campaign, fundraise, and ask for votes at a time when, like all Alabamians, I am concerned about the physical and economic health of my family and community With the current election date of July 14, I am calling for the continuation of absentee applications, but for ballots to be mailed beginning June 14. Allow campaigns time to suspend activity and protect our staff at this time. And, let’s give Alabamians a break from partisan politics so that we can focus on what’s really important – the health and well-being of each and every citizen in our great state.”
Former State Representative Barry Moore, who is running for the US House of Representatives Alabama District 2 released the following statement. “I think Governor Ivey did the right thing by moving the election. Many of our poll workers are ‘Seasoned Citizens’, and they’re one of the most vulnerable groups. There’s no way we’d be able to limit the polls to 10 people or keep several feet of distance between them. Having the election on March 31st, we would run the risk of hurting voter turnout and that is an affront to our democratic process. The integrity of our election process and the health of our most vulnerable citizens matters more right now than sticking to a calendar date. Governor Ivey is showing great leadership here in Alabama, just like President Trump is showing great leadership in Washington. I fully support what both of them are doing in the face of this crisis. Together, we’re going to get through this. Keep calm, and have faith. Practice prayer, not panic. We are Americans. We are Alabamians. We will come out of this stronger than ever.”
Shortly after the announcement was made, Alabama Republican party chairwoman Terry lathan released the following statement. “This morning Governor Kay Ivey, Attorney General Steve Marshall and Secretary of State John Merrill announced that the Alabama primary runoff elections will be held on Tuesday, July 14, 2020. With the uncertainty surrounding the Coronavirus as it moves across our nation and confirmed cases in Alabama continue to increase, we support the administration’s prudent measures and decisions to protect Alabamians. While these are concerning and unknown times, we appreciate our leaders implementing a safe atmosphere for our probate and election officials, poll workers, campaigns, candidates and voters. The old saying ‘better safe than sorry’ is truly applicable in these unknown circumstances. WeWe ask all to be in deep prayer for our president, state leaders, candidates, their families and our fellow citizens. We also lift up our health care workers, first responders and those who keep our nation and state safe. This opportunity of working together will showcase our great state’s resilience with a focus on our fellow Alabamians’ safety and health. AmericansAmericans are tenacious and tough people who have risen to many trying times and we have no doubt that we will all rise together again in this chapter of our nation’s and state’s history.”
Former US Attorney General and US senator from Alabama Jeff Sessions released the following statement concerning the delay in the runoff election against his opponent former auburnhead football coach Tommy Tuberville. “I know that Governor Ivey has considered the health of Alabamians and that she has focused on their best interests in making her decision. The safety and health of Alabamians must take precedence. I am confident that Secretary of State John Merrill and Circuit Clerks across the state, in consultation with public health officials, will work hard to ensure a safe and orderly runoff election on July 14th. It is important that every voter’s voice has a fair chance to be heard, whether the vote is cast via an absentee ballot, or at the ballot box on election day. We intend to maintain our vigorous campaign up until the last day, even as we are careful to do so in a manner that puts the health and safety of the public first.”
The other candidate in the US Senate runoff from Alabama in the Republican field, Tommy Tuberville also said this, “I understand Gov. Ivey’s decision to postpone the runoff until July 14 and join her in encouraging all Alabamians to stay safe, be kind to their fellow citizens, and follow all guidelines related to the Coronavirus. I pray that the current health crisis will be brought under control and that lives will be saved.”
This post will be updated as more reaction comes in.