AG Nessel Joins Coalition Opposing Alabama's Attempt to Ban Curbside Voting

Contact: 517-599-2746 Ryan Jarvi
Agency: Attorney General

October 20, 2020

LANSING – Attorney General Dana Nessel recently joined a group of attorneys general in opposing Alabama’s attempt to ban curbside voting after a federal court permitted local officials the flexibility of allowing it.  

In a friend-of-the-court brief filed in People First of Alabama v. Merrill in the U.S. Supreme Court, the multistate coalition argues that local election officials should be allowed to administer the upcoming election in ways that both ensure voter participation and protect public health, including by allowing curbside voting. The brief also argues that banning curbside voting would disproportionately harm the elderly, voters with disabilities and Black Alabamians.  

"In light of the ongoing public health emergency, curbside voting is a safe and secure option that allows voters who are particularly susceptible to COVID-19 the opportunity to vote without compromising their well-being,” Nessel said. “Local jurisdictions should be allowed the flexibility to offer this commonsense accommodation. My colleagues and I will continue to fight to ensure every voter can safely participate in our country’s most important democratic tradition – our elections.” 

Amid the COVID-19 pandemic, states and local election officials across the country have modified their election procedures to protect the health of voters and election workers. One way localities are making voting in this election safe and accessible is through curbside voting, an option where eligible voters can cast their ballot outside the polling place with the help election workers. There are no known instances of voter fraud associated with curbside voting. 

In May 2020, a group of Alabama voters and voting-rights organizations filed a lawsuit challenging the Alabama Secretary of State’s policy of banning local elections officials from permitting curbside voting. After the district court enjoined the ban, Alabama appealed to the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Eleventh Circuit, where a divided panel denied a stay of the injunction, permitting counties to implement curbside voting. Alabama is seeking an emergency stay from the U.S. Supreme Court to reinstate the ban.   

In the amicus brief, the coalition opposes Alabama’s attempt to reinstate the ban on curbside voting because: 

  • States and localities have a responsibility to protect voter participation and voter safety: The Supreme Court has recognized that states have the power to regulate elections and must do so in ways that preserve the right to vote. However, most administrative duties related to elections are done locally. During the pandemic, states and localities have taken reasonable, commonsense steps to minimize in-person interactions for voters, like implementing curbside voting. Even before the pandemic, at least 30 states offered some form of curbside voting to make voting accessible for the elderly or voters with disabilities. In response to COVID-19, states have expanded curbside voting as an option. 
  • Banning curbside voting would disproportionately harm elderly, disabled and Black voters: Without curbside voting, many vulnerable Alabama voters may be forced to make the impossible choice of whether to risk exposure to COVID-19 or sit this election out. Eight out of 10 COVID-19-related deaths nationwide have been among adults 65 and older, certain disabilities place individuals in a higher risk category for complications from COVID-19, and, among Alabamians, Black residents have the highest death rate from COVID-19. 
  • Voter fraud is rare, and there is no evidence that banning curbside voting prevents it: It is estimated that more than 138 million people voted in the 2016 election, including residents from several states that allowed curbside voting, and officials at the state and federal levels have consistently found no evidence of voter fraud related to curbside voting. Further, states and counties with curbside voting have procedures in place to protect voter privacy. Many localities require poll workers to bring the ballot to the voter with a privacy shield or sleeve so that neither the election worker nor any passengers in the vehicle can view the voter’s selections.  

In filing the brief, Attorney General Nessel is joined by the attorneys general from the District of Columbia, California, Connecticut, Delaware, Hawaii, Illinois, Maryland, Minnesota, Nevada, New Mexico, New York, Oregon, Rhode Island, Vermont, Virginia and Washington. 

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