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Tag: 2020 Election (page 1 of 3)

Lawsuit Filed Over New York State Ballot Postmark Requirements

By: Blake Vaisey

New York is once again facing issues with its mail-in ballot system. A lawsuit filed on September 11 by, among others, Emily Gallagher, a candidate running for the New York State Assembly’s 50th District, claims that potentially thousands of ballots are going to be thrown out in future elections do to New York State’s postmark requirements, a problem that is compounded by the slowdown that the United States Postal Service has been facing in recent months. 

The lawsuit is related to NY Elec. L. §8-412, which requires absentee ballots to have a postmark from the postal service showing the date on which the ballot was sent, and rejects ballots postmarked any time after the day of the election. 

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Squaring State Legal Challenges with Purcell

By Fiona Carroll

Following the near-disastrous administration of Georgia’s June primary, there are a number of suits pending that will determine how, when, and whether some voters may engage in the general election next month.

Just in the last week, courts have been sorting out how ballots will be counted. One of the most contentious of these issues involves Georgia’s absentee ballot reception deadline. With the current public health situation, demand for mail-in voting has skyrocketed. Voting rights advocates urged state election officials to extend the period for which county election offices would count ballots postmarked by Election Day to the three days following the general election. When officials refused, voting rights advocates sought an injunction to force the State to extend the deadline.

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A Bumpy Road to Voting in Wisconsin: Absentee Ballot Issues

By: Brianna Mashel

This election cycle has been turned on its head by safety concerns related to the COVID-19 pandemic. According to recent reporting by the Pew Research Center, about four-in-ten registered voters (39%) say they plan to cast their vote by absentee or mail-in ballot this year (or already have done so), compared with 33% who say they plan to vote in person on November 3, and 21% who have voted in person or plan to vote in person at an early voting location before Election Day. In fact, even before the onset of the pandemic, voters casting mail-in ballots increased nearly threefold between 1996 and 2016 – from 7.8% to nearly 21% – and the Census Bureau’s voter supplement data found seven-in-ten adults favor allowing any voter to vote by mail. Nonetheless, there is significant variation from one state to another on the handling of absentee and mail-in voting.  A case in point is Wisconsin, which has opted to rely on its existing absentee voting system even though it is currently one of the nation’s hot spots for COVID-19, with hospitals treating a record high number of patients with the disease.

In Wisconsin, absentee voting is relatively easy. Any registered voter is eligible to request an absentee ballot and voters do not need a reason or excuse to vote absentee. A ballot request and a copy of an acceptable photo ID with the applicant’s request must be received by the clerk no later than 5:00 p.m. on the Thursday before Election Day. The completed absentee ballot must be delivered no later than 8:00 p.m. on Election Day. This year, as many as two-thirds of all ballots, or roughly 2 million, are projected to be cast absentee. Although this process seems simple, Wisconsin voters have already experienced bumps in the road – literally.

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Everything is Bigger: High Voter Turnout in Texas Leads to Long Lines and Concerns About COVID-19 Spread Without Mandatory Masks

By: Caitlin Turner-Lafving

Early voting in Texas began on Tuesday, October 13, and turnout rates have been “bonkers.” As of this writing, Texas leads the nation with more than 7 million people have already voted. On the first day of early voting, Harris, El Paso, and Travis counties broke records for single-day early voting turnout. Unsurprisingly, long lines in the state’s major urban areas have accompanied the high turnout. More than an hour after the lines were cut off on October 13, seven polling locations in Travis County, which includes Austin, reported wait times of more than 51 minutes.

Back in September, I wrote about Texas’s polling place closures and the dismissal of Mi Familia Vota v. Abbott. The plaintiffs filed suit in July, alleging that the state’s proposed election policies during the pandemic violate voters’ rights under the First Amendment, Fourteenth Amendment, Fifteenth Amendment, and Section 2 of the Voting Rights Act. 

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Question 4: Constitutionally Codifying Nevada’s Voters’ Bill of Rights

By Elizabeth DePatie

This year, Nevadans will have to answer “yes” or “no” to Question 4—a ballot initiative that seeks to enshrine specific voter protections in Nevada’s state constitution. Collectively, these rights are referred to as the Voters’ Bill of Rights, and they were added to Nevada state law in 2002. The amendment would add these rights to Nevada’s state constitution, thus preventing future legislatures from easily overturning or modifying Nevadans right to vote in the future.

Arguments against the amendment largely rest on the idea that the amendment is unnecessary and could be burdensome as voting technology improves. There are concerns that by codifying these rights in the state constitution, it will be harder to adapt laws going further as voting conditions continue to change. The right to vote in Nevada is protected by statute and by amendments to the United States Constitution; opponents argue this is “a solution in search of a problem.”

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Opinion: North Carolina Voter Suppression, the Trump Campaign and the North Carolina Republican Party

By Maxwell Weiss

We are two weeks away from a presidential election with once-in-a-century, massive turnout, and the North Carolina Republican Party is continuing their decades-long effort to suppress votes. In past years, the GOP has used voter ID laws, racial gerrymandering, and in 2018, the first recorded instance of a federal election being called off over voter fraud in United States history. This year, the GOP weaponizes strict absentee voting laws as they try to suppress enough votes for President Trump to win the state.

President Trump himself is attempting to sow discord, specifically suggesting that North Carolina voters try to vote twice to “test” the system. In a September campaign rally, the President told voters to send in an absentee ballot and then go to the polls and vote again on election day. This is part of a larger pattern for Trump, who routinely spreads false information about widespread fraud despite clear evidence that there is absolutely no basis for conspiracy theories that absentee voting leads to election fraud.

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Part II: Pre-filled absentee ballot applications cause pre-election headaches for Iowa voters

By Clara Ilkka

This is part II on coverage of Iowa’s absentee ballot application dispute; see part 1 here

When it comes to attention during presidential elections, Iowa is no stranger to hosting members of the press—usually in February, during its caucus. With all that has happened in 2020, the Iowa caucus may feel like it occurred eons ago, but the state is garnering attention later on, for more reasons than one. Along with having the potential to be a swing-state this year, Iowa has been at the center of a legal battle between Republicans and Democrats over absentee ballot applications. Despite the ongoing pandemic causing an increase in absentee ballot requests, the Iowa legislature passed into law an appropriations bill (HF 2643) that included new rules for how county auditors handle absentee ballot applications, which cannot be requested online through the Secretary of State’s website. This bill created its own set of challenges.

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The Prepopulated Paper Chase: Joel Miller’s Battle Over Absentee Ballot Request Forms

By Zee Huff

This is part I on coverage of Iowa’s absentee ballot application dispute; see part 2 here.

Imagine: You’re the auditor for Linn County, Iowa. It’s a warm summer morning. After a June primary which saw record turnout— and a surge in absentee voting — you’re trying to figure out how best to serve the citizens of your county. Drop boxes outside your office and the Public Services Building were a hit, with citizens voting up until 9 p.m. on Election Day. There are ways to help your constituents, and you’ll find them.

Your name is Joel Miller, and you’re about to have a hell of a summer.

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Retweet: Colorado Secretary of State Urges Careful Election Night Reporting

By Anna Pesetski

In a Twitter thread on October 1, Colorado Secretary of State Jena Griswold encouraged news outlets to abstain from reporting the results of the presidential election on the night of the election. In her tweets, Griswold stated that this is an “unprecedented election” and “call[ed] on national media networks to pledge to #PressPause for democracy” by refraining from making projections or reporting results on election night. She quickly received backlash for these statements from both sides of the political spectrum. Fox News host Laura Ingraham, a conservative, stated that “[i]t’s not up to her to say what the media or anyone else says on election night.” Colorado state senator Steve Fenberg, the Democratic majority leader, tweeted “[t]his will only cause mass confusion and creates an opening for reckless behavior from the President. Demanding journalists to withhold verifiable facts or rational projections is counter to how a free democracy works.” 

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U.S. District Court Changes South Carolina Absentee Ballot Witness Requirement

September was an eventful month for South Carolina’s absentee voting laws. On September 16, 2020, the Governor of South Carolina signed into law the state legislature’s bill H5305, which, in effect, permits all registered voters in South Carolina to vote by absentee ballot for the November 3, 2020 General Election. On September 18, 2020, the United States District Court for the District of South Carolina, Columbia Division, issued a preliminary injunction against the South Carolina State Election Commission (“SCEC”) in Middleton v. Andino, No. 3:20-CV-01730-JMC (D.S.C. Sept. 18, 2020). The court enjoined the SCEC from enforcing South Carolina law requiring another person to witness an absentee voter’s signature on the absentee ballot envelope for the November 2020 general election. South Carolina law requires absentee voters to sign an oath on their absentee ballot envelope in the presence of a witness, who must also sign and provide their address on the ballot envelope. Additionally, Section 7-15-420 of the South Carolina Code provides that an absentee ballot “may not be counted unless the oath is properly signed and witnessed.” Section 6(a) of the recently passed H5305 bill provides that the absentee ballot envelopes will be examined “in accordance with the requirements of Section 7-15-420.”

There are three reasons that the district court in Middleton reached the right result in issuing the preliminary injunction.

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