State of Elections

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Tag: mail-in ballots

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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150 Unfortunate Voters

By: Matthew Catron

Again…all eyes are on Florida, this time after the 2018 Midterm Election. While Broward County and the statewide recount seem to be caught in the spotlight, another controversy is brewing in the Florida Panhandle. In this case, the chief election official of Bay County allowed approximately 150 voters to cast their ballots via fax or email.

Hurricane Michael hit the Florida Panhandle in mid-October and had a lasting effect on the infrastructure and residents of several coastal counties. As a result of the devastation, Gov. Rick Scott issued an executive order extending the deadline for early voting and increasing the number of early voting locations in eight hurricane-hit counties. Gov. Scott issued this executive order pursuant to the governor’s power under the Florida Elections Emergency Act. However, Bay County Supervisor of Elections Mark Andersen went beyond the governor’s executive order and accepted roughly 150 ballots via fax or email. These electronically transmitted ballots were cast by voters who were displaced by Hurricane Michael.

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Are Rhode Island’s Mail-In Ballots a “Gigantic, Illegal Loophole?”

By: Eric Lynch

Ken Block, a two-time former gubernatorial candidate, made headlines in early October 2017 over a provocative tweet regarding voter identification (“voter-ID”) and mail-in ballots. Mr. Block claimed that mail-in ballots violated Rhode Island’s voter-ID law and are effectively a “gigantic, illegal loophole” to performing widespread voter fraud. Block implored the Rhode Island legislature to attend to this matter immediately. In response, Mr. Stephen Erickson, a Rhode Island State Board of Elections member, considered such a measure as “another effort to limit people’s ability to vote.” Mr. Erickson asserted that the Board “regularly rejects mail[-in] ballots where there is a substantial difference between the two signatures or if the witnesses does not provide enough information so that they can be identified and questioned.”

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