Appeals Court Reinstates Alabama Election Laws Blocked by District Judge Appointed by Pres. Obama

AP Photo/Manuel Balce Ceneta

I covered this case out of Alabama last week in this story, where I wrote:

U.S. District Judge Abdul K. Kallon issued the ruling today in favor of people and organizations who sued … election officials over …. a ban on curbside voting, the requirement that absentee ballots be signed by a notary or two witnesses, and the requirement for a photo ID with absentee ballot applications.  Judge Kallon ruled that the ban on curbside voting, the witness requirement, and the photo ID requirement, as applied during the COVID-19 pandemic, violated federal law and voting rights for people at serious risk of illness because of medical condition, disability, or being over 65.

“As applied during the COVID-19 pandemic, the Challenged Provisions unduly burden the fundamental Constitutional rights of Alabama’s most vulnerable voters and violate federal laws designed to protect America’s most marginalized citizens,” Kallon wrote in his 197-page opinion.

Alabama is in the 11th Circuit Court of Appeals. In a very short Order today, the Eleventh Circuit granted the request for a stay from Alabama with regard to Judge Kallon’s Order.  The Court issued the stay as to his Order blocking the notarization requirement, and the photo ID requirement.  The stay was denied as to his Order lifting the state’s ban on “curbside voting” so that practice will be allowed where a county wishes to engage in that practice.

The Order from the Court offered no insight into the thinking of the three judges who issued the stay.

The imposition of a stay simply means that the lower court’s Order will not be enforced during the time while the Order is on appeal to the Eleventh Circuit. The practical implication in the context of a dwindling number of days before the election is that Judge Kallon’s “remedies” for what he found to be deficient state election laws in the time of a pandemic will not themselves become the de facto election laws of Alabama.

The interesting juxtaposition here is in comparing the 197-page opinion issued by Judge Kallon, which followed a 10-day proceeding in which he created an extensive record justifying his decision to rewrite Alabama election law.  The opinion is so dense it would take me hours to try and synthesize down his ruling to something that could be comprehended here.

Now, compare that against the two-page Order issued from the Eleventh Circuit Court of Appeals which makes all that effort by Judge Kallon practically worthless since the justification for his remedy was the COVID 19 pandemic, and those remedies were put in place in time to take effect for the election in three weeks.  The pandemic will pass eventually, and the remedies Judge Kallon crafted for use in the upcoming election are now meaningless unless they are later vindicated by an Appeals Court decision.

All of that wiped out with a two-page Order from the Appeals Court.