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Tag: mail-in ballots (page 1 of 2)

Big Changes to Indiana Election Law: Curing Ballots & Private Funds

By all accounts and in unique ways, the 2020 election in Indiana was unprecedented. Like other states, Indiana faced impressive challenges and unexpected changes as a result of the ongoing pandemic, from the first postponement of a previously scheduled primary in Indiana’s two-hundred year history to staggering increases in absentee voting. Indiana legislators relied on both the lessons and the disputes of 2020 to make big changes to Indiana election law.

In 2021, Indiana State Senator Greg Walker introduced Senate Bill 398 and, following approval from the state legislature, Governor Holcomb signed the bill into law in April of this year. This post will focus on two interesting changes to Indiana election law brought about by this bill: new procedures for notifying and curing absentee ballots rejected due to signature mismatching, and private grants to fund local elections.

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Don’t Get Caught Naked: The Pennsylvania Supreme Court Rules That Mail-In Ballots Without A Secrecy Envelope (“Naked Ballots”) Won’t Be Counted

By Jessica Washington

Ever heard of a naked ballot? It’s when a completed mail-in ballot is put into the paid postage envelope without first being put into a “secrecy envelope.” And the Pennsylvania Supreme Court has recently ruled that naked ballots are to be thrown out regardless of the validity of the ballot.

There is a provision in the Pennsylvania Election Code that requires mail-in ballots to first be put into a secrecy envelope and then that secrecy envelope containing the ballot will be put into a regular mailing envelope which has identifying information for the voter to fill out. It’s not uncommon for a voter—especially a voter voting by mail for the first time—to forget to put their ballot inside the secrecy envelope before putting it into the mailing envelope. But this common mistake could potentially disenfranchise 100,000 eligible voters whose ballot is correct save the secrecy envelope issue.

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What’s in a Name?: Pennsylvania Requires Signatures For Mail-In Ballots To Be Counted And Decides Not To Throw Out Ballots For Signature Verification Issues

By Jessica Washington

Pennsylvania requires a signature for all mail-in ballots. The voter’s signature must match the voter’s permanent registration card.  If the signature matches, the voter’s ballot is counted. If the signature does not match, the voter’s ballot is discarded.

Prior to this year, signatures for mail-in ballots have been an issue. They are poised to become an even greater problem as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic taking the world by storm. As a result of the pandemic, many people have begun to work from home, had their groceries delivered to their door, and have limited their need to go out in accordance with health guidelines. As a result of the COVID-19 pandemic, more people than ever are expected to vote through mail-in ballots. This increases the chance that more ballots than ever will be discounted as a result of rejected signatures.

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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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The Fifth Circuit Got it Wrong: Last-Second Burdens on Voting Should be Prohibited

The conjunction of the COVID-19 pandemic and the 2020 election has wrecked legal and electoral chaos in the state of Texas. In July, in order to accommodate the large amount of individuals filing for mail-in-ballots, Governor Abbott issued several proclamations, permitting voters to turn in their mail-in-ballots in person not only on election day but for the entire early voting period. 

In response, several of Texas’s most populous and geographically dispersed counties set up multiple drop-off locations where voters could turn in their mail-in-ballots. This allowed voters to turn in their mail-in-ballots without having to travel far, wait in long lines, and risk exposure to COVID-19. In effect, the counties sought to realize the whole purpose of allowing mail-in-ballots: to avoid exposure to COVID-19. 

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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

Postmark on Validity: Nevada’s Mail-in Ballots and the Constitution

By: Liz DePatie

On Monday, August 3rd, the Nevada governor signed Assembly Bill No.4 (AB4) into law. On Tuesday, August 4th, President Trump’s campaign filed a lawsuit claiming the law was unconstitutional. Thus, Donald J. Trump for President v. Cegavske was born.

AB4 was drafted and passed by the Nevada legislature in response to the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic. The goal of the bill is to make mail-in and early voting easier and safer for Nevadans during times of crisis. Among other things, the bill validates and counts ballots with unclear postmark dates to be counted if received within three days of Election Day

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The Night the Votes Went Out in Georgia

By: Fiona Carroll

Legal action is pending following Georgia’s problematic June 9 primary that was characterized by long lines at polls, broken voting machines, failure to process mail-in ballots, and fears over possible voter suppression. With November’s general election rapidly approaching, several state entities and voters’ rights groups are scrambling to ensure a fairer process this time around.

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Off Trend and Out-Dated: Absentee Ballot Restrictions Effect Pennsylvania First Responders and Shift Workers

By Allie Amado

Absentee voting dates back to the Civil War, when soldiers mailed ballots to family members to cast by proxy in their name. These practices became official in the 1900s when states established processes to allow ballots to be mailed directly to election officials if they had a state-approved excuse for casting an absentee ballot. California was the first state to eliminate the excuse requirement for voting by mail in 1980, followed by other western states, some of which have implemented a permanent mail-in voting process. In 1996, Florida, Tennessee, and Texas opened their election process by permitting in-person early voting in satellite polling places across the state. In 2001, a challenge to Oregon’s no-excuse absentee ballots, in Voting Integrity Project, Inc., v. Keisling, resulted in the holding that early voting is legal, despite the federal law setting a uniform day of voting, as long as ballots are not counted until Election Day.

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