The last day for absentee voters to apply to vote in the Aug. 15 special election is Thursday, Aug. 10.
Lee County Circuit Clerk Mary Roberson said voters need to apply earlier rather than later.
"Every election I get ballots past the deadline, and it's hard to see a ballot — when someone has been conscientious enough to vote — not count because they put it in the mail one day before the deadline, but it didn't get to me until a day after the deadline," Roberson said.
The special election is a primary election for the U.S. Senate seat vacated by Jeff Sessions when he was appointed to the role as U.S. attorney general. Gov. Kay Ivey set the dates for the special election in April. After the primary election on Aug. 15, a run-off will be held on Sept. 26, if needed, and the general election will take place on Dec. 12.
Nine Republican candidates and eight Democratic candidates have qualified for the race, and those applying to vote absentee must indicate on their application whether they want a Republican or Democratic ballot. Sample ballots can be found on the Alabama Secretary of State website, www.sos.alabama.gov.
Applications for voting absentee can be picked up at 205 S. 10th Street in Opelika or can be requested by calling the Circuit Clerk's Office at 334-737-3490. Applications can also be found at www.alabamavotes.gov.
A completed application must be returned by the voter in person or sent by mail.
If returned by mail, a primary ballot will then be mailed in return to the voter. Voter identification instructions will accompany each absentee ballot — which the voter will receive after submitting the application — and must be followed carefully to ensure the ballot can be cast. Each year, Roberson said problems arise with voters not sending proper ID.
"We've already had four or five forget to submit a copy of their ID with their ballot, and their ballot becomes provisional," Roberson said.
The voter will have a chance to get a copy to the absentee office by a deadline, but Roberson said there are always people who forget.
"It's very critical to your ballot being counted," she said.
Aug. 14 is the last day a voter can return a ballot in person. Ballots returned by mail must be postmarked no later than Aug. 14 and received by the absentee office no later than noon on Aug. 15.
Because there are often delays in the postal system, Roberson recommends people don't wait until Aug. 14 to mail their ballots in.
"If I don't receive (the ballot) by noon on election day, I can't count it," she said. "If you're voting absentee by mail, there will be a delay in me receiving the application as well as you receiving and returning the ballot."
She encourages those who can vote in person to do so.
"In person, it's always best because that's an opportunity to come in, fill the form out and vote right then and be done," she said. "But I know that's not an option for some people that are shut in."
Those who do wish to vote in person can go to the absentee office at 205 S. 10th Street any weekday from 8:30 a.m. to 4:30 p.m. leading up to the deadline.
So far, Roberson said absentee applications have been slow to come in, having only received about 60. She expects that starting this week and continuing through to election day, turn-out will be steady.
"This obviously isn't comparable to the presidential election last year, and we've been very slow, but it's started to pick up this week," she said. "We will be steady from now till the 10th."
For information about the special election and how to vote absentee, visit www.alabamavotes.gov.