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Tag: absentee voting (page 1 of 3)

North Carolina’s HB 1169, Part 2: The Witness Requirement Saga Reduces to “Chaos”

By: Forrest Via

As discussed previously, the North Carolina General Assembly passed HB 1169 this summer to, in part, loosen absentee-ballot requirements in response to COVID-19: The legislation lowered the state’s absentee-ballot witness-signature requirement to one person. For some, this change was not enough—the North Carolina Alliance for Retired Americans filed suit against the State Board of Elections, arguing the presence of any witness requirement violated the state constitution due to the circumstances presented by the pandemic.

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Indiana’s Noon Absentee Deadline: Election Officials Report Slow Counting, but No Major Problems

By Emma Merrill

Many Indiana voters were alarmed by Indiana’s voting procedures during the state’s June 2, 2020 primary election—Indiana’s first attempt at a statewide election during the COVID-19 pandemic. “I just got completely disenfranchised,” one voter reported after confronting a polling place that lacked the resources to deal with unprecedent mail-in voter turnout. Another Hoosier described Indiana’s election system as “completely overwhelmed.”

Indiana state law mandates that mail-in ballots must be received by noon on Election Day to be counted. Ind. Code § 3-11.5-4-3. In the run-up to Indiana’s primary, Indiana Democrats lobbied the Republican state administration to extend Indiana’s noon deadline for absentee ballots—to no avail. While Republican Governor Eric Holcomb did issue an Executive Order that shifted the primary date from May 3 to June 2, state Republicans refused to change the absentee ballot deadline’s noon requirement. Ultimately, over ten times as many Indiana voters used mail-in absentee ballots compared to the 2016 presidential primary. The surge in absentee voting resulted in processing and delivery delays for approximately 1800 voters’ mail-in ballots in Marion County, home to a significant community of minority voters. The state election system failed to cope with the pandemic, and voters were disenfranchised as a result.

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The Drop Box Dilemma Part II

By Nicholas Matuszewski

On October 8, U.S District Judge Aaron Polster overruled the one drop box per county limit imposed by Frank LaRose, Ohio’s Republican Secretary of State.

Judge Polster focused his ruling on the fact that 15% of Cincinnati and Cleveland’s population would have to travel over 90 minutes to vote. Of those 15%, most are poor minorities; many of whom may not even have the means to travel that far and would potentially be forced to utilize crowded public transportation and risk endangering their health during the pandemic.

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In Maryland, Still Waters Run Deep

The year 2020, in its abundant mercy and generosity, will soon deliver to the American people a welcome respite of stability in this chaotic year of elections: Election Day. The “Time of chusing” remains “the Tuesday next after the first Monday in November” (for Congress as well as for the Presidential electors), and so, as is tradition, Americans eagerly wait for an early November day and the first bite of election results.

But below the surface of the stillness that precedes Election Day, canvassing operations around the country are churning through mail-in ballots. With still two weeks to go, many states have already begun counting votes-by-mail. Maryland’s local canvassing operations got the green light on October 1st, the earliest of any state, in order to handle the mail-in ballots from the 48% of its electorate that planned on using them in light of the pandemic. As of October 20th, the deadline for ballot requests, Marylanders had asked for 1.63 million mail-in ballots and voters had “cast” roughly 696,000 of those, returning them to local boards of elections by hand, mail, or through one of the state’s 283 drop boxes.

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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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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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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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No No-Excuse Absentee Voting in the Magnolia State

By Catrina Curtis

While the entire country will vote in an important presidential election in November, Mississippians will also vote on significant state ballot measures, such as legalizing medical marijuana, approving a newly designed state flag, and repealing a Jim Crow-era election law. However, because Mississippi has not fully relaxed its mail-in voting requirements, despite the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic, there is fear that not enough has been done to protect Mississippians’ ability to vote in such a crucial election. 

One driving force behind the fear of strict absentee voting in Mississippi is the state’s large black population. Mississippi has the highest black population in the country, at 37.8%, and COVID-19 disproportionately affects minorities. Some believe the state is particularly failing to protect both its minorities’ health and voice in this year’s critical election. Late this summer, the Lawyers’ Committee for Civil Rights Under Law along with the Southern Poverty Law Center and the American Civil Liberties Union of Mississippi, along with the Mississippi Center for Justice, filed separate lawsuits on behalf of Mississippi plaintiffs. Both suits, one at the state level and one at the federal level, allege that the state is failing to adequately protect Mississippians’ constitutional right to vote during the current pandemic. 

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It’s Time for the Wild West to Join the 21st Century: An Argument for Implementing Online Voter Registration in Wyoming

By: Timmer McCroskey

In 2016, I was a young 20-year-old attending Arizona State University. When election season arrived, I decided to register in Wyoming as I still considered Wyoming my primary domicile. As all my Arizona friends around me registered to vote online or by filling out one of the many clipboards passed through campus, I was surprised to learn the only way to register outside of Wyoming was by printing out a form and then taking all my proper identification to a notary for authorization. Finding a notary, especially one that would do it for free (hello poor college student), was surprisingly difficult and took time and energy away from school. After taking the papers to the notary I then sent them to my local county clerk’s office, only for them not to be processed by the deadline. I could have flown back to Wyoming the day of the election and registered at my polling place, but that was unreasonable, expensive and time-consuming. Being my first primary election, I was shocked that I was being turned away from voting for such arbitrary and archaic requirements.

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“Give me an absentee ballot, or give me death!”

By Parker Klingenberg

Oklahoma is just one of three states, joining Mississippi and Missouri, requiring absentee ballots to be officially notarized. This is a problem for many people in 2020 where it is difficult to do, well, almost anything without putting your health at risk. Before a major vote in Oklahoma on June 30 for the party primaries and a state question regarding expanding Medicare, the Oklahoma Supreme Court struck down this requirement in lieu of the pandemic. In response, the Oklahoma legislature immediately passed Senate Bill 210, which waived the notary requirement if a state of emergency had been declared or existed within forty-five days of an election. However, they did not eliminate the barrier completely; instead of notarization, an absentee voter must now include a photocopy of a valid photo ID. When the issue turned to the Federal District Court, Judge John Dowdell of the Northern District of Oklahoma denied a request for temporary injunction requesting a curtailing of absentee voting requirements, specifically pointing to Senate Bill 210 allowing exceptions in a state of emergency, writing that “the state has put in place alternatives that do not necessarily require that voters have direct contact with others in order to cast an absentee ballot,” and that the absentee voting requirements in Oklahoma are “reasonable, nondiscriminatory and legitimate.”

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