State changes qualifying deadline for 2014 election

Published 3:35 pm Friday, January 3, 2014

Alabama’s Secretary of State Jim Bennett announced that the close of qualifying for the 2014 election cycle will move up to Feb. 7.

This deadline is earlier than the originally scheduled deadline of April 4 as the Secretary of State’s office is working to comply with federal laws concerning military and overseas voters. The change comes from ongoing litigation with the U.S. Department of Justice over military and overseas voting deadlines.

Originally, the date for the end of qualifying for major party candidates was April 4 but that date would not allow enough time to get finalized ballots to some military voters overseas.

“Though we do not have yet an order from the court, we have agreed with the Department of Justice to move our deadlines up considerably to get ballots to the absentee election managers in each county,” Bennett said in a release. “This will allow ballots enough time to be sent to military and overseas voters well before the federal deadline, which is 45 days before the date of the election.”

Chilton County Absentee Election Manager Glenn McGriff said he supports the decision to make sure the overseas ballots have enough time to get finalized.

“The hardest part of absentee voting is when you are overseas,” McGriff said. “That is when time really becomes a factor. I think this is a good move so that we can get these military ballots counted. We should do everything in our power to make sure our military has the right to vote.”

Although the number of individuals requiring a military ballot in Chilton County is small, McGriff estimates there are roughly 20 people who will require one.

“We don’t have that many,” McGriff said. “Usually counties with a military base have a lot more.”

The Secretary of State’s office said in a statement that they have been in contact with heads of the Alabama Democratic and Republican parties in an effort to prepare them for the change.

Bennett said he has urged the parties to adapt and open qualifying for candidates early.

“We are doing everything in our power to make sure that our soldiers have their ballots in hand and can mail them back in time for their vote to be counted,” Bennett said in a release.

Chilton County Republican Party Chairwoman Carol Harrison said she would be receiving forms for candidates who would like to qualify for the election by Jan. 6.

“Anyone wanting to qualify could start on Jan. 6,” Harrison said. “I don’t think the deadline moving up is really going to bother anyone. They will just have to qualify earlier.”

Harrison said she didn’t think the close of qualifying would be a deterrent to politicians wanting to run but would cause them to complete the process earlier.

“The only issue we are facing is trying to rush around and get everything ready,” Harrison said. “I don’t think anyone thinking about running will have any issues. I would think the majority of people have already decided if they are going to run or not and moving up the deadline wouldn’t make a difference.”

Primary elections will be held June 3, and primary runoffs would be held July 15, if necessary.

The General Election will be Nov. 4.