State of Elections

William & Mary Law School | Election Law Society

Tag: mail-in voting

The Legal Necessity of Machines for Voting by Mail

By Anthony Scarpiniti

In the age of Covid-19, social distancing, and staying at home, the “norms” of society are no longer normal. Because of the recent November election, many states adjusted or expanded their absentee and mail-in voting procedures. According to a Pew Research Center survey, approximately two-thirds of Americans support the ability to vote absentee or early without a specific reason. Even President Donald J. Trump and First Lady Melania Trump requested mail-in ballots for the Florida Republican primary election in August.

While many Americans support absentee and mail-in voting in theory, in order for them to work in practice, the United States Postal Service (USPS) had to be prepared for the large influx of ballots. During the 2019 holiday season, the USPS sorted and delivered approximately “2.5 billion pieces of First-Class Mail,” and this was just in one week. This breaks down to about 500 million letters per day. The Census Bureau estimated that the voting age population in the United States was about 245.5 million citizens in 2016, and only about 157.6 million of them were registered to vote. Between the holiday season and a hypothetical election held completely via the mail, it is a fair assumption that the USPS is much busier during the holiday season.

Continue reading

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.

Continue reading

Small Problem, Big Fight: Saving the Unsinged Ballot in Arizona

By: Megan Kelly

What happens when the state receives an unsigned mail-in ballot? This is the question that new and contentious litigation in the District Court of Arizona is seeking to answer. Last week, a district judge held that unsigned ballots in Arizona were to be afforded the same five-day curing period that other unidentifiable ballots—from mismatched signatures or lack of voter ID—are given. 

We may ask how frequently people are really mailing in unsigned ballots. In 2018, Arizona rejected about 3,000 unsigned ballots. This number is small, but in an increasingly competitive purple state, a small number of votes can make the difference. 

Continue reading

Mississippi: Masks, Mandates, and Mail-In Voting

By Catrina Curtis

Mississippi finds itself in an odd position going into this important Election Day amidst the COVID-19 pandemic: it is the only state to have allowed its statewide mask mandate to expire and the only state that is not offering early or mail-in voting for all of its citizens. 

The Magnolia State is one of only five states that will not offer no-excuse absentee voting for this November’s election, even as the vast majority of states have expanded their mail-in voting options due to health and safety concerns. However, among the five states not offering no-excuse absentee voting, Mississippi is the only state also not offering early voting. Although the Mississippi Legislature passed an amendment this summer to allow for those quarantining due to COVID-19 or those caring for someone with COVID-19 to vote by mail, the Mississippi Supreme Court recently held that the amendment does not also allow for those with pre-existing conditions at a greater risk of COVID-19 to vote absentee, striking down a lower interpretation of the amendment that was appealed by the Secretary of State. 

Continue reading

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.

Continue reading

Retweet: Colorado Secretary of State Urges Careful Election Night Reporting

By Anna Pesetski

In a Twitter thread on October 1, Colorado Secretary of State Jena Griswold encouraged news outlets to abstain from reporting the results of the presidential election on the night of the election. In her tweets, Griswold stated that this is an “unprecedented election” and “call[ed] on national media networks to pledge to #PressPause for democracy” by refraining from making projections or reporting results on election night. She quickly received backlash for these statements from both sides of the political spectrum. Fox News host Laura Ingraham, a conservative, stated that “[i]t’s not up to her to say what the media or anyone else says on election night.” Colorado state senator Steve Fenberg, the Democratic majority leader, tweeted “[t]his will only cause mass confusion and creates an opening for reckless behavior from the President. Demanding journalists to withhold verifiable facts or rational projections is counter to how a free democracy works.” 

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

Continue reading

Mail-in-Voting: A Showdown in Texas Over Expanding Access Due to COVID-19

By Sikander Zakriya

There is a battle raging in the Lone Star State. No, not the one with COVID-19 – although it was the virus that gave this conflict new life. 

A fight over mail-in-voting emerged between the Republican state officials in Austin and the Democratic clerk’s office in Harris County over whether the county can mail all of its residents an application to receive mail-in-ballots. The secretary of state and the attorney general sought to restrain the Harris County clerk from sending all residents of the county an application for a mail-in-ballot because the Republicans claim it will lead to mass voter fraud. 

Harris County already sent applications for mail-in-ballots to voters over the age of 65 because Texas law permits those voters to automatically qualify for mail-in-ballots. However, the state of Texas filed suit against Harris County seeking an injunction prohibiting the clerk’s office from sending out the mail-in-ballot applications to all voters because they allege the move would violate Sections 31.005 and 84.012 of the Texas Election Code. 

Continue reading

© 2021 State of Elections

Theme by Anders NorenUp ↑