U.S. Supreme Court Stops Alabama Counties From Using Curbside Voting

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A divided U.S. Supreme Court blocked the use of curbside voting in Alabama, reinstating a ban imposed by the state’s Republican secretary of state.

A federal trial judge had ordered the prohibition lifted so that counties could use curbside voting to protect against the spread of the coronavirus. The judge said the ban, challenged by voters and advocacy groups, violated a federal disabilities law.

The high court gave no explanation, blocking the order on 5-3 vote. The court’s three Democratic-appointed justices -- Sonia Sotomayor, Stephen Breyer and Elena Kagan -- dissented.

Writing for the group, Sotomayor called the order by U.S. District Judge Abdul Kallon a “modest” step that might have led to in-car voting in the counties that include Montgomery and Birmingham.

“It does not require all counties to adopt curbside voting; it simply gives prepared counties the option to do so,” Sotomayor wrote. “This remedy respects both the right of voters with disabilities to vote safely and the state’s interest in orderly elections.”

Alabama Secretary of State John Merrill said allowing curbside voting would “fundamentally alter elections in Alabama.” He said the practice would conflict with state laws that protect ballot secrecy and require the voter to sign a poll list and place the ballot in the tabulation machine.

Kallon’s Sept. 30 order also suspended requirements Alabama imposes on absentee ballots. A federal appeals court blocked that part of Kallon’s order. That issue wasn’t before the Supreme Court.

The case is Merrill v. People First of Alabama, 20A67.

©2020 Bloomberg L.P.

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