In an unsurprising twist, the state of Alabama has moved to make it harder to vote in next month’s election by prohibiting curbside voting. On Wednesday, the conservatives on the U.S. Supreme Court unsurprisingly agreed that forcing at-risk voters into the polling booth during a pandemic was how the Founding Fathers would have wanted it—you know, original intent and all. The Supreme Court’s conservatives ruled 5 to 3 on an emergency application to block a lower court decision that said counties in the state could offer curbside voting if they wanted to. The court sided with Alabama’s Republican secretary of state, John Merrill, who barred counties from allowing a form of contactless curbside voting that is being allowed in various forms across the country, including notoriously vote-suppressing states like Texas. “Some level of risk is inherent in life and in voting, pandemic or no,” Merrill argued.
Alabama law does not weigh in on curbside voting, and it’s a practice that some counties in the state have used in the past. When Merrill decided, at the height of the pandemic, to prohibit the practice of essentially dropping off your vote with an election worker, rather than waiting in line and doing the same act inside a fire station or elementary school, several Alabamians sued on the grounds that the prohibition violated the Americans With Disabilities Act by not providing a reasonable accommodation for vulnerable voters. Those voters are primarily elderly residents and those with health conditions that make them high-risk if they contract the coronavirus. Last month, a federal court agreed that a curbside accommodation—that was optional, not required—was reasonable.