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Tag: COVID (page 1 of 2)

Who’s Afraid of the MVA? Frivolous Lawsuits and Election Law

By: Zee Huff

How much do you know about election administration? A layperson could be forgiven for having more personal problems to concern themselves with. There are only so many free hours in the day for the average American worker and, in an ideal world, election administration could be left to election administrators. It’s their job.

However, there are times when citizens must get their hands dirty, either because the state is unable to, or more frequently, unwilling to protect their rights as voters. The classic examples? Voter suppression, racial gerrymandering, intimidation at the polls—efforts to make it harder for certain citizens to exercise their right to vote. Our country has a long and difficult history with ensuring the right to vote for all citizens. So, why would any citizen want to object to efforts to make it easierto cast a vote?

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Is It Time for SCOTUS to Revisit the Anderson-Burdick Test?: Insights from the Challenge to West Virginia’s Ballot Order Statute

By: Daniel Bruce

In a previous article on the ongoing challenge to West Virginia’s ballot order statute, I highlighted the growing importance of the Political Question Doctrine to challenges to election administration laws like the one at issue in Nelson v. Warner.

As a refresher, W. Va. Code § 3-6-2(c)(3) requires candidates appearing on statewide ballots to be placed in the order of the party whose candidate received the highest number of statewide votes in the previous presidential election. The state’s Democratic Party is challenging the law based on the “primacy effect” granted to Republican candidates who appear first on the ballot.

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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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Delaware’s Emergency House Bill: Is It Junk Mail?

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By Andrew Jeacoma

In response to COVID-19, House Bill 346 (“HB 346”) was signed into law by Delaware Governor John Carney on July 1, 2020. HB 346 grants all Delaware citizens the ability to vote by mail in the upcoming 2020 general election. The bill was a departure from the constitutional rule of voting-by-mail established by Article V, Section 4A  of Delaware’s Constitution; a rule that requires an individual to first meet one of the preset requirements before voting by mail.

On August 19th, 2020, The Republican State Committee of Delaware (the “RSC”) filed a complaint against the State of Delaware Department of Elections and its Commissioner, Anthony J. Albence. In their complaint, the RSC framed HB 346 as unconstitutional for three principle reasons: first, it goes against the already established constitutional rule governing absentee ballots, second, in passing HB 346 the General Assembly impermissibly sought to amend the constitution, and third, the universal voting by mail envisioned by HB 346 has numerous practical problems that result in voter disenfranchisement.

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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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2020 Forces “SeaChange” in Maryland’s Election Administration

When your state electorate increases its number of mail-in ballots cast by something like 1556% cycle-over-cycle, you might run into some problems. Take it from Maryland, where nearly 1.5 million voters cast their ballots by mail in this year’s presidential primary, compared with just over 80,000 combined votes by absentee/provisional ballot in the 2016 primary. Maryland is not Oregon or Washington, states experienced in administering largely vote-by-mail elections, in which mailed ballots account for some 97% of those cast. Pre-Covid Maryland required no excuse from voters who wished to vote by mail, but the practice was rare. Historically, in-person voting accounts for 90% of Maryland’s ballots cast. The 2016 general election set the previous record for “ballots sent” to requesting voters: Marylanders requested approximately 226,000 ballots and returned roughly 177,000. By contrast, the State mailed nearly 3.6 million ballots for the June 2nd primary, and voters returned almost 1.5 million of them. Continue reading

Learning from Lawsuits: How Kentucky’s top officials adapted to satisfy voter complaints

By Cameron Newton

When the dust settled following the contentious 2019 elections in Kentucky, each of the commonwealth’s major executive offices—save for the governorship—was won by the Republican candidate. While the election of Andy Beshear brought control of the Governor’s Mansion back into Democratic hands, perhaps the night’s most shocking result came as Michael Adams, an election lawyer with a history in Republican politics, upset former Miss America Heather French Henry in the race for Secretary of State. No thinking observer would have anticipated emerging election policy to be anything but crafted and contested along rigid ideological boundaries.

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After a Stormy Primary Season, New York Builds a Levee. But Will it Hold?

By Blake Vaisey

To say that New York’s primary election season this summer didn’t go well would be an understatement. Starting with a failed attempt to cancel the state presidential primary, the state faced a slew of issues regarding a huge influx of absentee ballot requests, an increase of 655% since the 2018 general election.  Thousands of ballots were disqualified due to the state’s requirements for absentee ballots, with issues such as missing a dated postmark or misplaced signatures being the main causes of ballots being disqualified. Even issues outside of the control of the voter, such as damage caused by the post office, could result in the ballot being disqualified. These issues were compounded by the fact that a reported 34,000 absentee ballots were not mailed out to voters until one day before the primary.

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A Perfect Storm: Texas’s Polling Place Closures and COVID-19

By Caitlin Turner-Lafving

On September 7, Judge Jason Pulliam dismissed Mi Familia Vota v. Abbott after determining that the case presented a nonjusticiable political question. The plaintiffs’ complaint argued that Texas’s election laws impose an undue burden on the right to vote in violation of the due process clause of the Fourteenth Amendment as applied to elections held during the COVID-19 pandemic: “Because Defendants have closed hundreds of polling places over the last eight years, voters will have to travel further to vote in person and vote in locations that service a higher number of voters, burdening the exercise of the franchise and the risk of person-to-person transmission of the virus.” Part of the relief sought was that the court order Governor Greg Abbott and Secretary of State Ruth Hughs to open additional polling places for the November election. Continue reading

Return to Sender: Colorado’s Response to Controversial Election Mailer

By: Anna Pesetski

COVID-19 has spurred a whole host of challenges in 2020 and the upcoming presidential election in November is no exception to these challenges. Given the concerns with voters travelling to the polls to cast their ballots in person, many states have opted for voting by mail. In response to the surge in mail-in voting, the United States Postal Service circulated a mailer to all fifty states and the District of Columbia containing information about the process of voting by mail. Top election officials in states across the nation have expressed concerns and frustrations with the mailer because its content conflicts with state election laws, likely causing voter confusion. The mailer has sparked controversy among Democrats, who have communicated growing fears that these mailers have been distributed out of political bias because of President Trump’s aversion to voting by mail. These fears have been exacerbated by the fact that Postmaster General Louis DeJoy has made large donations to the president’s campaign. Continue reading

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