Student Voting Guide | Alabama

August 15, 2014

This student voting guide explains the laws for the state of Alabama.  If you wish to vote from your school address, check the student voting guide for the state in which you attend school.  If you are interested in casting an absentee ballot in your home state, check the student voting guide for that state.

The Brennan Center is committed to giving students as much information as possible to help you exercise your constitutional right to vote. More than ever in recent history, changes to voting laws are being implemented in ways that can affect your ability to make your vote count. In addition to the content you will find in this Student Voting Guide, we continue to track passed and pending voting law changes here. While we are working to give you up-to-date information, we urge you to be proactive! In order to ensure you have all the information you need before casting your vote, you should also check with your state and local election officials for information about additional requirements or regulations.

This voting guide was last updated August 15, 2014.

Registration

You may register to vote if you will be 18 by Election Day[1] and are an Alabama resident.[2]

Voter registration is closed for the fourteen days before an election in Alabama. Your registration form must be submitted in person to your county election office or postmarked at least two weeks before Election Day.[3]

Alabama currently does not require any documentation with a voter registration application form. While the state passed a law requiring people to provide documentary proof of citizenship when registering to vote,[4] it is not currently enforcing that requirement.

Residency

At School.  If you attend school in Alabama, you can establish residency in Alabama if you have a present intention to remain at your Alabama school address for the time being and to make it your principal home.[5] Any other interpretation of the residency laws is unconstitutional. 

At Home.  If you leave your Alabama home to attend school, you are expressly allowed to register to vote using your Alabama address.[6] While registering to vote in another state is not automatically considered an abandonment of your Alabama residency, some judges or officials may view it as such.[7] If you have established residency in another state and are moving back to Alabama with the intent to reside there, you will have to submit the registration form to re-register at home (see Registration section above). 

Challenges to Residency.  Students have the right to cast a ballot as a resident of Alabama regardless of whether you pay in-state or out-of-state tuition. If county election officials deny your registration application on the basis of your residency, they must give you a specific reason for their denial within 10 days.[8] You have the right to appeal the denial within 30 days in the local probate court.[9]

Your eligibility to vote can also be challenged at the polls, but only by an inspector (that is, an official poll worker).[10] If an inspector challenges your eligibility, you will have to vote a provisional ballot.[11] The inspector will have to sign a statement under penalty of perjury saying why he or she thinks you are ineligible, and you are entitled to a copy of that statement.[12] You should also get a letter after the election from the county registrars explaining how you can respond to the challenge, which you will have to do within one week of the election.[13] Any challenge made solely on the basis of your student or tuition status is invalid. 

Voting in Alabama may be considered a declaration of residency, potentially making you subject to other laws that govern state residents. 

Identification

Alabama voters are required to show photo ID at the polls.[14] Acceptable forms of ID include an Alabama driver’s license or non-driver identification card; any other photo ID issued by the state of Alabama, any other state government (including public college or university IDs from other states),[15] or the U.S.; a U.S. passport, an employee identification card containing a photograph and issued by Alabama or the U.S.; a student ID or employee identification card from any school within the state (this includes both public and private institutions); a U.S. military identification card containing a photograph; and a tribal identification card containing a photograph.[16]

If you do not possess any of these forms of acceptable photo ID, you may obtain a free photo ID card at the Board of Registrars, the Secretary of State’s Office, or at special mobile locations to be provided by the Secretary of State’s Office.[17] The application for a free photo ID can be found here.

At the polls, if you do not have a required ID, you may vote by provisional ballot, but in order to have your ballot counted, you will have to bring a required ID to your county elections office by 5:00 pm on the Friday after the election.[18]  Alternatively, even if you lack the required ID, you can vote a regular ballot if two election officials vouch for your identity.[19]

If you vote absentee, you must submit a copy of a required photo ID with your absentee ballot (see Absentee Voting section below).[20]

Absentee Voting

You are entitled to vote absentee if you attend school outside of your county or will otherwise be outside your county of residency on Election Day.[21]  To vote absentee, you must submit an absentee ballot application to your county election office at least five days before Election Day.[22]

Once you receive your absentee ballot, you must return it with a signed affidavit that is either notarized or signed by two witnesses over the age of 18, as well as a copy of one of the acceptable forms of photo ID (see Identification section above).[23] If you return your absentee ballot by mail, it must be postmarked no later than the last business day before Election Day and received by your county election office no later than noon on Election Day; if you deliver your ballot by hand, it must be received by your county election office before the close of the last business day before the election.[24]

Last updated August 15, 2014


[2]  See Mitchell v. Kinney, 242 Ala. 196, 203 (1942); Ala. Op. Att’y Gen. No. 2005-051 (2005).

[3]  Ala. Code  § 17-3-50(a); Ala. Admin. Code r. § 820-2-2-.12(2).

[4] Ala. Code  § 31-13-28.

[5]  See Dunn v. Blumstein, 405 U.S. 330, 330 (1972); Williams v. Salerno, 792 F.2d 323, 328 (2d Cir. 1986); Kinney, 242 Ala. at 203 (“Domicile is defined as residence at a particular place accompanied by an intention to remain there permanently, or for an indefinite length of time.”).

[6]  Ala. Code § 17-3-59.

[7]  See Ala. Code § 17-3-32.

[8]  Ala. Code § 17-3-54.

[9]  Ala. Code § 17-3-55.

[10]  Ala. Code § 17-10-2(a)(2).

[11]   Id.

[12]  Ala. Code § 17-10-2(b)(4).

[13]  Ala. Code § 17-10-2(e).

[14] Ala. Code § 17-9-30(a).

[15] Alabama Voter Guide 2014, Alabama Secretary of State at 4, http://www.sos.alabama.gov/downloads/election/2014/2014VoterGuide.pdf

[16]  Ala. Code § 17-9-30(b)(2).

[17] Voter ID Implementation, Alabama Office of the Sec’y of State,  http://www.sos.state.al.us/elections/voterid.aspx (last visited Aug. 8, 2014).

[18]  Ala. Code § 17-10-2(a)(3); § 17-9-30(d).

[19]  Ala. Code § 17-9-30 (e).

[20]  Ala. Code § 17-9-30(c).

[21]  Ala. Code § 17-11-3(a)(4).

[22]  Ala. Code § 17-11-3(a).

[23]  Ala. Code §§ 17-11-9; 17-9-30(b).

[24]  Ala. Code § 17-11-18.