March 18 (UPI) -- Alabama has postponed its March 31 primary election runoff for the U.S. Senate to avoid large gatherings amid the coronavirus pandemic, the Secretary of State said Wednesday.
Alabama Secretary of State John Merrill rescheduled the Republican primary for July 14.
"In postponing the March 31 runoff election to July 14, we are continuing Alabama's practice of providing free and fair elections that do not compromise the safety and health of our voters, poll workers, and anyone else who may be involved with the elections process," Merrill said.
"This new date will allow for the electoral process to continue in a normal manner. This delay will allow all local election officials the time to assess and evaluate the changes that must be made to ensure the runoff election is administered according to plan."
Former Attorney General Jeff Sessions is facing former Auburn Tigers head football coach Tommy Tuberville for his former Senate seat in the race. Whoever wins the runoff will face incumbent Sen. Doug Jones, a Democrat.
Merrill said eligible residents may register to vote in the runoff race until June 29. Previously submitted absentee ballots will be valid for the new July 14 date.
"I strongly encourage local election officials to take advantage of these waivers and postpone their elections until November," he said. "Right now, the state's focus is responding to COVID-19 -- including social distancing and avoiding large gatherings. By delaying this election, our local election officials can assist in that effort."
Other than Alabama's runoff race, federal primaries and caucuses have largely been held as normal since the outbreak of the disease. Ohio, though, postponed its primary, which was supposed to be held Tuesday, until June 2.