To be eligible to vote absentee in Alabama's March 5 primary, here are the qualifications:

A voter may cast an absentee ballot if he or she


  • IS ILL OR HAS A PHYSICAL DISABILITY that prevents a trip to the polling place

  • IS PHYSICALLY INCAPACITATED AND WILL NOT BE ABLE TO VOTE IN PERSON BECAUSE THEY CANNOT ACCESS THEIR ASSIGNED POLLING PLACE DUE TO ONE OF THE FOLLOWING DISABILITIES (neurological, musculoskeletal, respiratory (including speech organs), cardiovascular, or other life-altering disorder that affects his or her ability to perform manual tasks, stand for any length of time, walk unassisted, see, hear or speak) AND: A) HE OR SHE IS AN ELDERLY VOTER AGED 65 OR OLDER; OR B) HE OR SHE IS A VOTER WITH A DISABILITY

  • IS A REGISTERED ALABAMA VOTER LIVING OUTSIDE THE COUNTY, such as a member of the armed forces, a voter employed outside the United States, a college student, or a spouse or child of such a person

  • IS AN APPOINTED ELECTION OFFICER OR POLL WATCHER at a polling place other than his or her regular polling place

  • EXPECTS TO WORK A REQUIRED SHIFT, 10 HOURS OR MORE, that coincides with polling hours

  • IS A CAREGIVER for a family member to the second degree of kinship by affinity or consanguinity and the family member is confined to his or her home

  • IS CURRENTLY INCARCERATED in prison or jail and has not been convicted of a felony involving moral turpitude

If you met one of those requirements and want to vote absentee, the next point seems like it would be a simple question – when is the deadline to cast an absentee ballot in Alabama's March 5 primary?

The legal reality is that there are different deadlines for different steps in order to vote absentee.

You have to first apply for an absentee ballot. Then, fill out the application. Then mail it in or drop it by. 

Every year, someone will ask me a few days before the election, "Where do I go to pick up an absentee ballot?" That is not how it works. You apply for it, and they mail it to you or hand it to you. By the deadline (s).

Or, in many counties, you can walk through the entire absentee voting process at your county courthouse in one trip. Alabama essentially has early voting, though it is not called that. Voting absentee in person uses the same rules, deadlines and procedures as any other absentee voting. You just do it all at once at the courthouse with the procedural assistance of the personnel there.

Here are the deadlines for each step.


If you are going to mail in your application to get an absentee ballot, your application must be received by your county absentee election manager by Tuesday, February 27, 2024. Better get going.

The office of the absentee election manager is usually in your county circuit clerk's office, which is usually in your county courthouse. Check yours.

If you are going to return your completed application in person, the deadline is Thursday, February 29, 2024. Leap day. You return your application to the county absentee election manager.

Absentee Application Request Form | Alabama Secretary of State

After you get your application in, your ballot will be gotten to you.

You then vote, completing your ballot. 

You then have to get your ballot in. Here are the steps and the deadlines:

Dropping your absentee ballot in person: Absentee ballots being returned in person must be received by the county absentee election manager by close of business on the day before the election, March 4, 2024.

Mailing your absentee ballot: Absentee ballots returned by mail must be received no later than noon on election day, March 5, 2024. (This deadline makes me nervous.)

Voters must present a valid photo identification form before voting at their polling place or by absentee ballot.

For more information on absentee voting in Alabama or to request an absentee ballot application, visit Absentee Voting Information | Alabama Secretary of State

The process for voting by absentee has so many moving parts that I am not going to further scramble the eggs by explaining the process by which absentee ballots are secured and counted.

"We do not have government by the majority. We have government by the majority who participate."
- Thomas Jefferson

Jim Zeigler is a former Alabama Public Service Commissioner and State Auditor. You can reach him for comments at

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