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Tag: COVID (page 1 of 2)

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?

Mailbox

 

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

Are long lines to vote in Georgia unconstitutional? We may soon find out

By Alex Lipow

In recent years, Georgia has become a posterchild for election controversies and administrative snafus. Election disputes have ranged from claims of unconstitutional racial gerrymandering to allegations of a conflict of interest in administering the 2018 gubernatorial election. With these issues in the background, a federal court is wrestling with a more fundamental question: do long voting lines in Georgia—which were the longest in the country in 2018 and 29 percent longer in black neighborhoods than in white neighborhoods—violate the U.S. Constitution? 

On August 6, 2020, three Georgia voters, the Democratic Senatorial Campaign Committee, and the Democratic Party of Georgia (the “Plaintiffs”) filed suit against Georgia’s secretary of state, members of nine county boards of election from counties with some of the longest lines in the most recent election, and members of Georgia’s State Election Board (the “Defendants”). In their complaint, the Plaintiffs contend that the long voting lines, which have become longer and longer in each of the most recent elections, stem from the Defendants’ “persistent closure and consolidation of polling locations and failure to provide adequate election equipment, elections officials and volunteers with sufficient training, available technicians to address technical problems that arise, sufficient time to set up polling locations, and emergency paper ballots for backup when equipment breaks down or malfunctions.” 

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HB 1169, North Carolina’s COVID-19 Election Remedy: A Sufficient Compromise or Too Far and Not Enough?

By: Forrest Via

It’s no news to anyone that the COVID-19 pandemic has significantly changed how Americans go about their daily lives, affecting many activities that we once took for granted as safe. Voting has not been spared from this list. With the November 2020 election quickly approaching, states across the country have adopted measures aimed at ensuring the safety of those casting ballots and supervising the polls on November 3.

North Carolina is one such state. This summer, the North Carolina General Assembly passed HB 1169 (now Session Law (NCSL) 2020-17 after Governor Roy Cooper’s signature in June), a bipartisan piece of legislation that, among its many provisions, lowers the state’s absentee ballot witness requirement to one person; allows individuals to request absentee ballots via email or fax; and provides funding for election officials to carry out their duties in the face of challenges presented by the pandemic.

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