The Supreme Court granted a request Wednesday from the state of Alabama to prohibit voters from casting their ballots curbside, an accommodation sought by Covid-vulnerable voters in the state.
The 5-3 order was unsigned, but Justice Sonia Sotomayor, joined by the other liberal justices on the bench, Elena Kagan and Stephen Breyer, dissented.
A federal district court had concluded that curbside voting should be allowed.
“The severity of the COVID–19 pandemic should, by now, need no elaboration,” Sotomayor wrote. “We should not substitute the District Court’s reasonable, record-based findings of fact with our own intuitions about the risks of traditional in-person voting during this pandemic or the ability of willing local officials to implement adequate curbside voting procedures.”
Five elderly and disabled voters and the Alabama state conference of the NAACP had argued that the state should allow curbside voting to those counties that are “able and willing” to provide for it.
Alabama Attorney General Steve Marshall, a Republican, argued that the state had already taken “extraordinary measures” to adapt election procedures to account for the pandemic and said that offering curbside voting would not comport with state law and that it would conflict with other laws meant to protect ballot secrecy.
“Some level of risk is inherent in life and in voting,” he said.
Alabama Secretary of State John Merrill, also a Republican, told AL.com last month that allowing voters to submit their vote curbside would create security concerns because the individual voter wouldn’t be able to physically put their ballot into the machines that read the ballot since they’re held indoors.
“The machines in Alabama will never be exposed to the elements,” Merrill said.