The state of Alabama filed a response Wednesday to a temporary restraining order issued over absentee ballots that were sent late to military and overseas voters. The response filed Wednesday lists some of the precautions the secretary of state’s office took and the special circumstances that led to the delays. County and state election officials, meanwhile, sparred over where to place the blame for the delays. The U.S. Justice Department filed a suit late Friday against Alabama and Secretary of State Beth Chapman alleging that the state failed to send absentee ballots to military and overseas voters by the required deadline for the March 13 primaries. U.S. District Judge Myron Thompson issued a temporary restraining order against Chapman and the state Tuesday that requires them to work with the Justice Department to decide on a remedy for the late ballots.
A 2009 amendment to the Uniformed and Overseas Citizens Act requires that absentee ballots be sent no later than 45 days before a federal election. The state also struggled to send ballots in time when the provision first took effect in November 2010. The state took steps to correct mistakes that had been made, but there were special circumstances in 2012, the state’s response argues. For instance, there was a need for redistricting, and the state Democratic and Republican parties each amending their ballot certifications twice.
Montgomery County’s Election Director Justin Aday also mentioned the late certification changes, saying that his office received the changes four days before the Jan. 28 deadline. That made it a “near impossibility” to lay out all the ballots, have them printed — by the same company that prints ballots for almost every county in the state — and ship them out in time, Aday said.