Lines at voting precincts as polls open in Alabama

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Lines stretched across fields and parking lots as polls opened in Alabama on Election Day. Officials are expecting big crowds after a rough-and-tumble presidential race, and those early predictions looked accurate.

Rain won’t be a deterrent to potential voters, as forecasters predicted another dry day Tuesday amid a drought that has parched the state.

Republican Donald Trump is a heavy favorite to carry the state over Democrat Hillary Clinton in the race for the White House, but other races and issues also will be decided. The ballot includes four U.S. House seats plus a U.S. Senate race, and voters will decide 14 statewide amendments.

Here is a glance at some of the issues and questions on Election Day 2016 in Alabama:

HISTORY ON TRUMP’S SIDE

Trump will carry Alabama over Clinton without a struggle if history and past voting patterns are an indication.

Georgia peanut farmer-turned governor Jimmy Carter was the last Democrat to carry Alabama in a presidential election, and that happened in 1976. No Democrat has come very close since then to winning the state’s nine electoral votes, and the trend is getting worse for the party.

Democratic presidential candidates have been stuck below 40 percent of the total vote in Alabama since 2000, when Tennessean Al Gore took nearly 42 percent of the vote compared to Republican George W. Bush.

It will be interesting to see how Clinton fares compared to Democratic President Barack Obama, who carried 38 percent of the vote and lost Alabama by 22 percentage points to Republican Mitt Romney in 2012.

WHERE DO I VOTE?

State election officials are predicting a possible record turnout by Alabama’s 3.3 million registered voters, but what if people are unsure where to vote? A phone call or a few mouse clicks can clear up that confusion.

Voters who aren’t sure where to go on Election Day can call their county registrar’s office — the numbers are in the phone book, and most if not all are available online for Alabama’s 67 counties.

For people with internet access, the website alabamavotes.gov may be a better solution. The site is operated by the secretary of state’s office.

Residents can verify their registration to vote with a simple search at alabamavotes.gov, and another search pulls up information about voting precincts including addresses and polling times. At the same site, search panes also are available to view sample ballots for each county and to check the status of provisional and absentee ballots.

EYE ON VOTER INTIMIDATION

Alabama’s top election agency said it won’t tolerate any attempts to intimidate voters on Election Day.

A statement from the secretary of state’s office says anyone caught trying to dissuade others from voting on Tuesday will be prosecuted.

Both Republican and Democratic campaigns often have volunteers serving as poll watchers. The statement from the secretary of state says poll watchers can’t disturb voters, try to influence them, campaign, or display any campaign material inside the polling place.

Polls were open statewide from 7 a.m. until 7 p.m.

PHOTO ID REQUIRED

This year marks the first time Alabama’s Republican-backed law requiring photo identification at the polls comes into play during a presidential election.

Alabama requires voters to show photo ID such as a driver’s license, a passport, an Alabama non-driver ID, a university student ID or identification issued by the federal government.

Voters without ID can still vote by regular ballot if they are positively identified by at least two election workers as being eligible to vote in a precinct. And voters who don’t have a valid ID will still be able to cast a provisional ballot.

CONSTITUTIONAL AMENDMENTS

There’s a lot of fine print on Alabama ballots, and most of it spells out 14 statewide proposals to amend the state’s 1901 Constitution. The outcome will affect everything from state parks to the age of public officeholders to beer.

Four of the amendments apply only to single counties. Here is a look at some of the other measures that have gotten the most attention:

Amendment 2 aims to protect money for state parks and open the door to private companies getting more involved in park operations. The proposal specifies that park money can’t be diverted to other government functions unless revenues exceed $50 million. It would also allow private entities to run facilities at state parks.

Amendment 8 guarantees that everyone has a right to work in the state regardless of whether they’re in a labor union. It mimics a state law already on the books.

Amendment 13 would eliminate maximum-age limits for elected or appointed office with the exception of judicial offices. Trustees at public universities would be most likely to be affected.

Amendment 14 would prevent hundreds of local laws — from sales taxes to draft beer rules — from being tossed out because of a dispute over legislative procedures in Montgomery.

CONGRESSIONAL RACES

None of Alabama’s four U.S. House races nor the lone Senate race on the ballot is expected to be very close given the name recognition and vast amounts of campaign money available to the Republican incumbents, but there could be an exception.

In the 2nd District of southeast Alabama, Rep. Martha Roby has faced a backlash by Trump supporters since publicly stating she wouldn’t support the GOP nominee because of his recorded comments about grabbing women. Democrat Nathan Mathis is hoping to capitalize on that dynamic, and Tea Party organizer Becky Gerritson is being promoted as a write-in candidate.

On the Senate side, Republican incumbent Richard Shelby isn’t likely to have much problem against Democratic challenger Ron Crumpton, who is best known as an advocate for legalizing medicinal marijuana in the conservative state.

Republished with permission of the Associated Press.
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