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The Drop Box Dilemma Part II

By Nicholas Matuszewski

On October 8, U.S District Judge Aaron Polster overruled the one drop box per county limit imposed by Frank LaRose, Ohio’s Republican Secretary of State.

Judge Polster focused his ruling on the fact that 15% of Cincinnati and Cleveland’s population would have to travel over 90 minutes to vote. Of those 15%, most are poor minorities; many of whom may not even have the means to travel that far and would potentially be forced to utilize crowded public transportation and risk endangering their health during the pandemic.

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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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Ballot Collection Limitation Law Struck Down by Montana Courts

By Cody McCracken

As occurs every few years, this past November millions of people cast their votes for a wide range of offices. However, a major difference this year was that many of these voters cast their ballots in a way they may have never done so before—by mail. The ongoing COVID-19 pandemic has forced nearly all states to expand their absentee voting and early voting procedures. Yet, even before COVID, voters in Montana routinely voted well before election day.

While not a fully mail-in voting state, such as Washington and Oregon, Montana has robust mail and early voting accommodations that a majority of voters take advantage of. In Montana’s 2018 general election, 73 percent of the votes cast were by absentee ballot sent in before election day.

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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. 

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Despite a bumpy start and handwringing in court, Georgia had a relatively smooth Election Day “

By: Alex Lipow

When in-person early voting for the 2020 General Election in Georgia began, technological and logistical issues—coupled with unprecedented voter enthusiasm—created excessively long lines for voters to cast ballots. Across the Atlanta metropolitan area, many voters had to stand in line for five hours to vote. A disproportionate number of unreasonably long voting lines occurred in minority communities. This episode was only the latest example of long voting lines plaguing Georgia’s electoral system and some feared it portended poorly for a smooth Election Day.

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Virginia Cuts the Cable, Gets Same Day Voter Registration

By: Allen Coon

It was an early Tuesday morn when the Commonwealth awoke to an October surprise all of its own: on October 12th, the last day for eligible Virginians to register to vote in the November 3rd General Election, a Chesterfield County utilities crew accidentally severed a cable providing online connectivity for multiple Commonwealth agencies—including the Virginia Department of Elections. Prospective voters who had hoped to register or update their registration online were denied the option, with no alternative but to register in-person by 5:00 p.m.

In October 2016, when a similar technological malfunction prevented applicants from registering online, such a glitch may have posed a burden for citizens with limited or no transportation access or employment flexibility. Now, during a global pandemic, the unavailability of online registration also required all in-person applicants—and specifically elderly, poor, disabled, and minority Virginians (all vulnerable populations)—to unnecessarily risk exposure to COVID-19.

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Dead on Arrival: Oklahoma’s State Question 804

By: Parker Klingenberg

The Oklahoman citizen group People Not Politicians, backed by the Women Voters of Oklahoma, led the charge earlier this year to get State Question 804, also known as the Independent Redistricting Commission Initiative, on the ballot for Oklahomans voting on November 3, 2020. State Question 804 would have laid out a new framework for drawing both state and federal district lines, complying with both federal law and numerous other criteria. These lines would be drawn not by the state legislature like in the past, however, but would be drawn by a newly created Independent Redistricting Commission consisting of three members of the majority party, three members of the minority parties, and three non-party affiliated members. State Question 804 will not be on the ballot, however. The Oklahoma Supreme Court blocked it based on the grounds that the “gist,” or the summary that would appear to citizens during the process of gathering the required signatures to get on the ballot, was not “sufficiently informative to reveal its design and purpose.” Specifically, the gist failed to properly inform citizens that the ballot initiative was designed to stop partisan gerrymandering, and how the proposed committee would do so. While Oklahomans were not able to decide in November whether they want to vote for or against this proposal, it still raises interesting issues about Oklahoma’s future.

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How Much is on the Chopping Block? – Arizona Sends a VRA Section 2 Case to the Supreme Court

By: Megan Kelly

What do ballot harvesting and out-of-precinct votes have in common? Arizona is sending cases about both to the Supreme Court next term. In early October, the Supreme Court granted certiorari on two cases about voting regulations in Arizona. The first is Arizona’s law banning ballot harvesting. The law bans third parties from turning in voter ballots, except in the case of family, members of the household, or caregivers. The second is Arizona’s law requiring that ballots cast at the wrong precinct not be counted.

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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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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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