BIRMINGHAM, Ala. — Assisted living centers and nursing homes across Alabama have worked to accommodate senior citizens planning to vote in-person on Election Day despite the potential impact of COVID-19.
The first Tuesday in November was often met with smiles for the residents of the Fair Haven retirement community. The staff packed buses of senior citizens to transport them to the their local polling site.
"Many of them see that walk as their American duty and it's very exciting to be able to get together with your friends and go," recalled Fair Haven spokeswoman Sherri Easdon.
The COVID-19 pandemic has had deadly affects on the nursing home community whose older residents are significantly more likely to feel the strongest impact from the virus. Nursing homes and hospitals were permitted in late September to allow residents and patients to begin receiving one designated visitor under Governor Kay Ivey's amended health order. Strict screening procedures remain in place for staff and visitors.
READ: Ivey eases restrictions on nursing home, hospital visits
Easdon said they will still offer their Election Day bus service on November 3rd despite the pandemic. Each bus will be limited to four people.
"We expect it to be an all day affair. The first four that show up we'll make sure that they get on the bus. Get them down to the polling place."
Alabama allows voters concerned about the COVID-19 pandemic to request an absentee ballot. Easdon says she has seen an increase in ballot requests among their roughly 350 residents. The Alabama Secretary of State's Office expects more than 300,000 Alabamians to apply for an absentee ballot and more than 250,000 people to successfully return based on current trends. The deadline to request a ballot is October 29th.
State law also allows polling officials to allow any voter who is disabled or over the age of 70 to move to the front of a voting line. Alabama Secretary of State John Merrill said this policy will be preserved even during the pandemic.
“We’re not going to have anybody that goes to vote that says, ‘I am afraid of the COVID. I’m going to the front of the line,’ because they’re not going to go to the front of the line. Only people who meet the state criteria will be allowed to go to the front of the line."