As the leaves begin to fall, marking the change of a season, local Auburn residents, alongside citizens all over the country, begin to prepare to take part in what may be the United States' most consequential election for the presidency in modern history.
While things may look different at the polls this year, according to Lee County Elections Manager Robert Garris, Auburn and Opelika residents can look forward to casting their ballots in person or remotely for this year’s general election on Nov. 3.
“We are ready for the turnout at our polling locations this year,” Garris said. “We are fully equipped to take on as many voters as possible all while adhering to local and national social distancing guidelines.”
Auburn residents will be able to vote on Election Day at the voting locations assigned to the eight wards spread throughout the city. Voting will be available at Boykin Community Center, Frank Brown Recreation Center, Dean Road Recreation Center and Clarion Inn & Suites University Center. A valid photo ID with proof of an Auburn address will be necessary to cast a vote at any of these locations. For more information about your assigned polling center, residents may check their status at alabamavotes.org or the city of Auburn’s website.
While precautions are being set in place for those who wish to vote in-person, Garris is encouraging residents who cannot make it on Election Day to take advantage of absentee voting for this year’s election.
“We want people to know that absentee voting is still an active part of our civic duty in voting,” Garris said. “Lee County is working hard to ensure that every vote is going to be counted this year and so far, we have had a surge in people interested in voting remotely this year.
“I think Lee County citizens have a very invested interest in voting this year and they want to ensure their voices are heard. My staff and I are working double time to make sure this happens.”
For Auburn residents who are leery of casting their vote in-person during a pandemic, Garris encourages those who are eligible to participate in the remote form of civic duty.
Voters may cast an absentee ballot if they will be absent from the county on Election Day, are ill or have a physical disability that prevents a trip to the polling place, are a registered Alabama voter living outside the county, such as a member of the armed forces, a voter employed outside the United States, a college student or a spouse or child of such a person, are an appointed election officer or poll watcher at a polling place other than their regular polling place or works a required shift, 10 hours or more, that coincides with polling hours.
Alabama Secretary of State John Merrill has also eased the absentee ballot requirements for those who don't want to vote in-person due to the pandemic.
"Due to the declared states of emergency, any qualified voter who determines it is impossible or unreasonable to vote at their polling place shall be eligible to check the box on the absentee ballot application that is most applicable to that individual," stated a press release from Merrill's office in August. "In case none of the boxes are appropriate, voters can check the box which reads as follows:
"I have a physical illness or infirmity which prevents my attendance at the polls. [ID REQUIRED]."
The deadline to request absentee ballots is Oct. 29. All absentee ballots must be postmarked or returned no later than Nov. 2, 2020.
For those who haven’t had the opportunity to register to vote in this year’s election, officials are encouraging all to register online or by mail before this year’s deadline, Oct. 19. All mail postmarked by Oct. 19 will be counted for this year’s election. For citizens who prefer to register in person, they are encouraged to head down to the Lee County Board of Registrars on South 9th Street in Opelika during business hours before Oct. 19.
As for the election, Garris, among others, is excited to see Lee County turn out in numbers to perform their right to be heard.
“We are locked and loaded for this year’s elections,” Garris said. “Hopefully, Lee County turns out in larger numbers than ever.”