In 2016, Alabama passed a law stating that write in ballots are not to be counted unless the total number of write-in votes is greater than the difference between the two leading candidates, and not until the week after the election is over.

This seems like a fairly reasonable law for saving time and effort to me - if it's not going to matter, why bother? But the seven-day waiting period is odd, and in the current political climate of hyper-partisanship, major gerrymandering court cases, and voter suppression and fraud claims/investigations, I find myself wondering whether there was actually more to the decision.

How does the 2016 law differ from what was in place before? Was there any official or authoritative explanation for it given at the time (either from the Legislature floor or from lawmakers talking to reporters)? Was there opposition from any groups who felt it would somehow disenfranchise voters, the way there is for Voter ID laws? Or is it as simple as it seems - just a time saving measure?

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    FYI, 7 days is also when provisional ballots are counted. It might have to do with that.
    – cpast
    Dec 13, 2017 at 5:13
  • @cpast That makes sense, but just raises the same questions. Were they both changed at once? Or was this a change to match?
    – Bobson
    Dec 13, 2017 at 5:56
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    It may take some time to count all the conventional ballots and find out how close the result was. In the 2016 Presidential election, final results for California were not certified until almost a month after voting day. Dec 13, 2017 at 9:50
  • @Royal Canadian Bandit Counting of "conventional" ballots has concluded. According to AL SoS, the only ballots uncounted as of midnight 11/13 were military and validation of provisional ballots.
    – BobE
    Dec 13, 2017 at 16:58
  • @cpast - also, non-provisional mail-in ballots that would be most likely to meet a postmark deadline but not be there day-of would be military members serving overseas, or overseas + active combat. It would be especially unpopular to not give a little extra time for their votes to arrive and count. Dec 13, 2017 at 19:10

1 Answer 1


Can't find any quotes from AL legislators to provide "motivation" , however it may be tied to the fact that military ballots are not counted until seven days after the election. The reason for this is that under the Uniformed and Overseas Citizens Absentee Voting Act (UOCAVA) ballots must be received by the state by noon on the seventh day FOLLOWING the election. SoS Alabama on Military Votes.. see first question

According to the Secretary of State of Alabama, the current law regarding counting write-in ballots is that the state has to determine if a write-in is qualified as a candidate. That suggests that each ballot cast for a write-in has to be evaluated. A ballot cast for Donald Duck, is not counted, therefore it alters the total number of ballots cast.

  • That's reasonable, but it doesn't explain the waiting period before even looking at them, nor does it explain what changed in 2016 or what justifications were provided for it. So this doesn't really answer the question I'm asking. Sorry.
    – Bobson
    Dec 13, 2017 at 17:43
  • this is interesting. I suppose it raises another question in that it appears "none of the above" is not a valid vote. Which makes sense...but less so in the context of allowing write-ins.
    – user1530
    Dec 13, 2017 at 18:04
  • @Bobson, Added to my answer, Do you have some citation that says that write-ins "won't be looked at " until seven days after?
    – BobE
    Dec 13, 2017 at 18:59
  • @BobE - That's what the article I linked to says. It may be a poor summary of the law, though. Finding the actual text would help.
    – Bobson
    Dec 13, 2017 at 19:55

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