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Supreme Court rejects COVID-19-related curbside voting in Alabama

By Don Jacobson
Supreme Court rejects COVID-19-related curbside voting in Alabama
A voter waits in line to cast an early ballot at the Fairfax County Government Center in Fairfax, Va., on Monday. Photo by Mike Theiler/UPI | License Photo

Oct. 22 (UPI) -- The Supreme Court has upheld an effort by Alabama state officials to ban curbside voting, which would allow voters with impaired mobility or those vulnerable to COVID-19 to cast ballots from their vehicles.

In an order late Wednesday, the court's five-member conservative majority permanently stayed a lower court ruling that permitted the curbside voting, which allows impaired voters to hand off their ballots to an election worker outside polling places.

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The majority issued no comment or explanation with the order.

Justices Sonia Sotomayor, Stephen Breyer and Elena Kagan, the court's only remaining liberal members, voted against the stay.

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Jefferson and Montgomery counties in Alabama had planned to allow curbside voting as a safety precaution for voters vulnerable to COVID-19 -- as the state does not require face masks at polling places.

Alabama Secretary of State John Merrill barred the practice in May, leading to a lawsuit from several at-risk voters.

A federal court ruled that Merrill's move violated the Americans with Disabilities Act, and said a state policy allowing, but not requiring, counties to permit curbside voting was reasonable.

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The state appealed to the Supreme Court, which in July temporarily blocked the appellate ruling.

Sotomayor wrote in dissent that Merrill "does not meaningfully dispute that the plaintiffs have disabilities, that COVID-19 is disproportionately likely to be fatal to these plaintiffs, and that traditional-in-person voting will meaningfully increase their risk of exposure."

She also said the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention has endorsed curbside voting as an appropriate pandemic-related measure.

Republicans nationwide, including President Donald Trump, have been criticized in recent months and accused of trying to suppress voting.

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