Voting leads to long lines and highest ever absentee voting in Lee County

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By Hannah Lester
hlester@opelikaobserver.com

Lee County has already seen over 11,000 absentee votes cast before election day, Probate Judge Bill English said during the Monday night Lee County Commission meeting.

The previous record for absentee votes has been left far in the dust. Lee County had roughly 3,100 absentee votes in the 2016 election.

“We once again held onsite absentee voting on this past Saturday here in the courthouse,” English said. “The first one in Smiths, we had 75 to 80 people. The second one in Auburn we had about 160. This past Saturday we had about 275.”

The last day to apply for an absentee ballot is Thursday, Oct. 29, he said.

“We have about 125,000 registered voters,” English said. “We have appointed 400 poll workers to work this election, that’s the largest number we’ve ever appointed. Training for them will start on Wednesday, go through Thursday. Please go vote.”

Near 10% of voters have voted absentee so far.

“A lot of voters this year are treating it as early voting, not as absentee voting,” English said. “We’re accommodating everybody as best we can, we’ve had some complaints; we understand the lines. We’ve got as many people and as many computers on it as we can. We’ve been getting reorders of ballots frequently. Nobody’s been turned away to my knowledge, nobody’s not gotten a ballot to my knowledge.”

Firearm Ban:

The Lee County Commission voted to grant Probate Judge Bill English and County Administrator Roger Rendlemen permission to ban firearms in county buildings during the Monday night meeting.

Firearms are already banned in county buildings but there have been people asking for permission to bring firearms, however.

“Given recent events, we have had a couple of requests for permission to be granted expressly [to carry firearms inside county buildings],” English said. “I’m going to suggest that rather than bringing each and every one of those to the commission for a vote, if you would grant Mr. Rendleman and myself the authority to issue those, kind of like how we have similar authority on the coronavirus procedures and so forth. Obviously anybody that we deny we would bring before the commission on an appeal of our decision and ya’ll would make the ultimately decision if somebody is not satisfied with our determination.”

Firearms are banned inside police or sheriff buildings, highway patrol stations, prisons, jails, halfway houses, or other detention facilities or athletic events.

They are banned: “inside a courthouse, courthouse annex, a building in which a district attorney’s office is located, or a building in which a county commission or city council is currently having a regularly scheduled or specially called meeting,” according to county documents.

Now English or Rendleman can grant or deny permission to bring a firearm inside the buildings if asked.

Additionally, English said that signs will be posted to remind citizens of the rules as outlined in Section 13A-11-61.2 of the criminal code.

ATRIP-II Program

The county approved an Alabama Transportation Rehabilitation and Improvement Program Application Monday night.

“With the passage of the Rebuild Alabama Act of 2019, the Alabama Transportation Rehabilitation and Improvement Program (ATRIP-II) was created to fund projects of local interest on the state-maintained highway system,” county documents read. “For fiscal year 2021, the overall program is funded at an amount of $30,000,000 with the maximum funding to any project capped at $2,000,000.”

The Highway Department asked the commission to apply for funding under ATRIP-II. Each project will be overseen by ALDOT and the projects must be related to state-maintained highways and roadways.

County roads can not be included in the ATRIP-II funds.

“Lee County is committed to improving the safety of its roadways for the traveling public and with the understanding that the ATRIP-II program is focused on improving the state-maintained highway system with an emphasis on public safety, Lee County seeks funding through the ATRIP-II program to improve safety,” said a letter from Probate Judge Bill English to Chief Engineer for ALDOT, Edward Austin.

Awarded funds would be put toward work on the intersection of County Road 249 and Highway 280 to include acceleration and deceleration lanes.

The county hopes to received almost $750,000 to complete the project.

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