The nationwide wave of early and absentee voting has swept up Lee County this year, with long lines of people waiting to apply for absentee ballots and cast them.
The county’s Auburn satellite office opened Saturday morning to accommodate people who fear long lines or have to work on Nov. 3 – the second of three Saturdays election staff will work this month.
The office processed over 70 voters in the first three hours Saturday, with over 50 more people still waiting outside.
It took Kent and Karen Levihn three hours in line just to make it to the front door.
“The mail-in looks too complicated. You have to get a notary and all that. We were hoping this would be faster,” Kent said, as Karen chuckled about their long wait.
Brittany Darden has to work on Election Day, so the Saturday hours were worth the wait to her.
“I work 12 shifts and I go to school, so I wanted to make sure my vote got counted,” Darden said.
Jim Kaminsky is recovering from a June cancer surgery. He and wife Julie are mindful of COVID-19 risks for that reason, and they thought it would be better to vote early, rather than risk being stuck inside a polling place on Election Day.
“We thought there’d be a smaller crowd today, and it’s outside,” Julie said.
Monica Foster works in the county’s election office. She said the staff has been really busy, and voters have been really patient while waiting their turns.
“It’s been good, everybody been turning out to use their voice and vote … we’ve have a few people upset about the long waits, but most everybody understands,” Foster said.
Mail-in works, too
County officials are encouraging people to choose the mail-in option to avoid long lines on Election Day. The envelopes are bar-coded and can be tracked online. Going this route will also prevent long waits for voters who go to the county courthouse to vote absentee in person, as the election staff is short on space and free hands to help walk-ins.
Lee County Probate Judge Bill English is in charge of county, state and federal election voting in Lee County. He told county commissioners last week that the crush of absentee voting this year has already more than doubled the county’s all-time high of just over 3,000 ballots cast ahead of Election Day.
The judge declined to speculate about poll turnout, but he sounded reasonably certain that there would be lines at the polls Nov. 3.
“Honestly, people should expect up to an hour wait at polling sites on Election Day,” English told the Opelika-Auburn News earlier this month.
Absentee ballot applications are available online at sos.alabama.gov/alabama-votes/voter/absentee-voting or at AlabamaVotes.gov. Paper copies are available in the Lee County Courthouse or county satellite offices in Auburn and Smiths Station.
Voters can also call the Absentee Election Office at (334) 737-3490 to request an application and one will be mailed to them. The deadline to apply for an absentee ballot is close of business Thursday, Oct. 29. The deadline to postmark or return a ballot in person is close of business Monday, Nov. 2.
Completed applications may be delivered in person to the Absentee Election Manager James Majors or sent through the US Mail to PO Box 1616, Opelika, AL 36803.
The Absentee Election Manager’s Office in the Lee County Courthouse is open Monday through Friday, 8:30 a.m.-4:30 p.m. In addition, it will remain open until 6 p.m. every Tuesday and Thursday throughout October.
The last Saturday session available to people who want to vote absentee will be Saturday, 9 a.m.-1 p.m., at the Lee County Absentee Election Office, Lee County Courthouse, 215 S Ninth St. in Opelika.
In addition, the League of Women Voters of East Alabama have been out getting people registered to vote, including a session at the Boykin Recreation Center in Auburn last week that drew several people. Go to lwv-eastalabama.org to see their schedule for the rest of the month.