Thursday, October 8, 2020

Electionline Weekly October-8th-2020

Legislative Updates

Connecticut: The Legislature has approved and the governor has signed a bill that will give registrars the option to open the outer envelopes of absentee ballots as soon as 5 p.m. on Friday, Oct. 30. Previously, they were not permitted to open the envelope until 6 a.m. on Election Day. The new rules would be optional and at the discretion of town clerks working in concert with registrars of voters. The bill did not give local officials the ability to begin tallying absentee votes early. The votes are contained in an inner envelope, which cannot be opened until Election Day.

Louisiana: Voting largely along party lines, the Louisiana Senate approved a bill sold as a way to streamline the bitterly partisan way of setting up elections in an emergency that opponents said would remove the governor’s power to veto the plan. Senate Bill 20 would create an Emergency Election Commission to decide. The commission would be chaired by the Secretary of State and consist of nine other members including the chairs of the legislative committees overseeing such plans now, the Speaker of the House and Senate President plus the heads of the party delegations in each chamber and the governor. Under the current make-up, the Commission would have seven Republicans and three Democrats, including the governor. The plans would be approved by a majority vote, though the Secretary of State would only vote in a tie.

Michigan: Gov. Gretchen Whitmer has signed a bill into law allowing clerks in cities or townships of at least 25,000 people to start processing absentee ballots a day before the general election. Election officials currently cannot remove ballots from outer envelopes until 7 a.m. on Election Day. The new law lets them be opened between 10 a.m. and 8 p.m. on Monday, Nov. 2nd.

Mississippi: The Legislature failed to take up bills that would have allowed people to vote early in-person to avoid crowded precincts on Election Day. Two bills filed by Sen. David Blount, D-Jackson, and three members of the House would allow no-excuse early voting in circuit clerks offices for people who want to avoid going to what are expected to be crowded precincts on Election Day. The three House members jointly filing the legislation were Reps. Jansen Owen, R-Poplarville; Kent McCarty, R-Hattiesburg; and Shanda Yates, D-Jackson. “This year’s election is incredibly important, and likely to be one of the highest turnout elections in the history of the state. With that said, we are also in the midst of an incredibly dangerous health crisis that is the COVID-19 pandemic,” Owen said. “This bill aims to reduce the number of voters at the precincts on Election Day, stymy the potential spread of the coronavirus, and allow voters the option to vote safely, while keeping the integrity of our election secure.”

New York: GOP legislators are pushing a package of bills that would, among other things, require a voter ID to vote and would expedite the process for striking deceased voters from the rolls. The bills would require photo identification for voters. Another measure is designed to prevent undocumented immigrants from voting illegally by requiring any application to vote made be through applying for a driver’s license, and including a Social Security number. They also want to do away with publicly financed campaigns and instead redirect the money to aid elections officials with expenses for personal protective equipment, poll worker wages, pre-paid postage for absentee ballots, and other measures to smooth absentee voting. Both Legislatures, House and Senate, are Majority Democrat.

Legal Updates

Alabama: The Freedom From Religion Foundation has filed a federal lawsuit challenging Alabama’s mandatory religious oath for voter registration. Alabama is the only state in the country that requires voters to register on a form mandating they swear “so help me God,” without allowing any option of a secular affirmation, the Madison, Wisconsin-based group said. The foundation is filing on behalf of four Alabama citizens who have encountered and objected to the religious test when trying to register to vote. The defendant is Alabama Secretary of State John H. Merrill. “The Alabama secretary of state excludes Alabama citizens from being able to vote if they are unable to swear a religious oath,” the lawsuit states. “The secretary of state’s official policy is to hinder the registration of voters who are unable to swear ‘so help me God.’ This policy violates the rights of the plaintiffs and others under the First and 14th Amendments to the United States Constitution.”

Alaska: Superior Court Judge Dani Crosby ruled enforcement of witness requirements for absentee ballots during a pandemic “impermissibly burdens the right to vote” but did not immediately put into effect an order eliminating the requirement for the general election. Crosby gave the parties until late Tuesday to propose how the Division of Elections should communicate the message and said she would later issue an order “specifying how to implement elimination” of the requirement for the Nov. 3rd election. She noted the state might appeal to the Alaska Supreme Court. Maria Bahr, a Department of Law spokesperson, said Crosby’s decision “makes it clear that the injunction is not yet in effect – meaning the requirement for signature witnesses is still in place.” The department, in consultation with the division, “is evaluating the decision and considering possible options,” Bahr said by email. Natalie Landreth, an attorney for the plaintiffs, said what Crosby ordered “and what we have argued is the most practical, common sense way to make sure that everybody can vote in the pandemic. The case is really that simple.”

Arizona: The U.S. Supreme Court will review two provisions of an Arizona voting rights law that a federal appeals court said could have a discriminatory impact for American Indian, Hispanic and African Americans in violation of the Voting Rights Act. One provision concerns an “out of precinct policy” that does not count provisional ballots cast in person on Election Day outside of the voter’s designated precinct. Another concerns the “ballot collection law” which permits only certain persons — family and household members, caregivers, mail carriers and elections officials — to handle another person’s completed ballot. The dispute will not be resolved before the election because the argument calendar is already full through December.

Judge, Steven P. Logan issued a ruling on this week that extends the voter registration deadline for the November general election to Oct. 23rd at 5 p.m. Mi Familia Vota and the Arizona Coalition for Change filed the lawsuit on Sept. 30th, claiming the original Oct. 5th voter registration would violate their First and Fourteenth Amendment rights. The two nonprofits wanted to extend the voter registration to Oct. 27th. However, with early ballots going out on Oct. 23rd, Logan decided that day would have to be the deadline. The two plaintiffs argued that because of the coronavirus pandemic, they couldn’t help register as many voters as they usually would. Also, the lack of internet access made it harder for potential voters to register. Logan noted in the court documents that 31 other states had later voter deadlines than Arizona. The defendant, Secretary of State Katie Hobbs, said the Oct. 5th deadline was necessary to enforce the state’s 29-day residency rule. But Logan said that argument was “unpersuasive,” since voters need to have proof of residency at the polls. Hobbs indicated she will not appeal the court order extending voter registration deadline to Oct. 23rd. An appeal has been filed.

Maricopa County Superior Court Judge Randall H. Warner has ruled that election officials in Arizona can use videoconferencing to help some voters confined to hospitals, nursing homes or living with severe disabilities cast their ballots. Attorney General Mark Brnovich asked the court to strike down plans adopted by the Maricopa County Recorder’s Office and Arizona Secretary of State’s Office for limited “virtual” voting assistance, arguing that state law does not allow anyone to cast a ballot by video. Gov. Doug Ducey also opposed the policies, contending that state law requires officials provide such services in person. But in a ruling that reflected how unusual this election year is, found that videoconferencing may be necessary for some voters with very particular circumstances who would otherwise have to choose between protecting themselves from COVID-19 or forgoing their right to participate in the electoral process.

A three-judge panel of the 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals temporarily blocked a lower court ruling that would have given Arizona voters five days past Election Day to fix early ballots that were accidentally filed without a signature. The ruling means current law stands – for now – and any unsigned ballots not corrected by 7 p.m. on Election Day will be discarded. The circuit court Tuesday said that, with less than a month to Election Day, the public interest is best served by keeping current election laws instead of “sending the State scrambling to implement and to administer a new procedure for curing unsigned ballots at the eleventh hour.”

Arkansas: U.S. District Judge P.K. Holmes III has denied a motion to expedite the schedule in a case regarding absentee ballots for the Nov. 3rd election. Holmes ruled that Secretary of State John Thurston and six members of the state Board of Election Commissioners have until Oct. 13th to respond to a motion for a preliminary injunction. The League of Women Voters of Arkansas and three other plaintiffs wanted the schedule fast-tracked to make sure county election commissioners begin the process of comparing absentee ballot signatures to registration signatures 15 days before the Nov. 3rd election, said Susan Inman, a member of the League and former state election commissioner. The plaintiffs also want absentee voters to have the opportunity to correct any discrepancies before Election Day to make sure their ballots aren’t discarded over a technicality or poor penmanship.

Colorado: Judicial Watch, along with three voters from El Paso, Elbert and Adams counties filed suit this week in US District Court in Denver alleges the Colorado Secretary of State’s office failed to clean up its voter rolls in compliance with the National Voter Registration Act. The lawsuit contends that the counties removed comparatively low numbers of voters from the rolls even though the Census Bureau suggests a greater number of people had changed addresses. Additionally, the plaintiffs state that county clerks failed to send adequate numbers of address verification forms to voters as is required by the National Voter Registration Act. A spokesperson for the Secretary of State’s Office rebuffed the lawsuit as a partisan attempt to undermine the election and asserted that Judicial Watch relied on bad data. “By misinterpreting data, this blatantly partisan group seeks to undermine the election,” Communications Director Betsy Hart said in a statement. “The claims made by this group are based solely on a comparison between real-time voter registration information and outdated census data. The population of our state has grown considerably over the last several years and the number of registered voters has predictably increased as well. We are confident the State of Colorado will win this lawsuit.”

Georgia: the 11th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals ruled 2-1 to reinstate Georgia’s Election Day deadline for the receipt of mail-in ballots, staying a lower court ruling that had extended that deadline by three days for November’s general election. Georgia law says absentee ballots must be received by the close of polls on Election Day. U.S. District Judge Eleanor Ross on Aug. 31st issued a preliminary injunction ordering that absentee ballots that are postmarked by Election Day and arrive at county election offices by 7 p.m. three business days later be counted. The state appealed and a three-judge panel of the 11th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals ruled 2-1 to stay the injunction pending the outcome of the appeal.

Judge William M. Ray II has dismissed requests from a civil rights group to require Gwinnett County and the state to send absentee ballot applications in Spanish. Ray dismissed the case saying that the secretary of state’s office and the Gwinnett elections board didn’t violate the federal Voting Rights Act, as the lawsuit claimed. “Nonetheless, this Court recognizes that Plaintiffs’ end goal of ensuring that Spanish-speaking Gwinnett voters receive bilingual absentee ballot applications is a reasonable and desirable outcome,” Ray wrote. He said, though, that GALEO and the other groups lacked the standing to make the case. Ray said in his order that the individuals who said they weren’t sent Spanish-language ballot applications were able to get them from the county, and did vote. He added that a Spanish-language ballot application was accessible on the county website.

Indiana: The Seventh Circuit has rejected a lawsuit that sought to give all Indiana voters the right to cast their ballots by mail in the November general election. The three-judge panel of Republican appointees handed down the decision late Tuesday, finding that the Hoosier State’s mail-in ballot rules do not violate the rights of voters. “Indiana’s absentee-voting regime does not affect plaintiffs’ right to vote and does not violate the Constitution. In the upcoming election, all Hoosiers, including plaintiffs, can vote on Election Day, or during the early-voting period, at polling places all over Indiana,” wrote U.S. Circuit Judge Michael Kanne, a Ronald Reagan appointee.

Judge Sarah Evans Barker temporarily halted her ruling that would have forced Indiana to count mail-in ballots that were postmarked by Election Day. The temporary halt will give time for a federal appeals court to consider the case. In a new order, Barker said she doesn’t want Hoosier voters to have a “false sense of security” about getting their ballot in on time. The judge halted her ruling for seven days to give the appeals court time to consider the case. And she urged voters to get their ballots in well ahead of time.

Kansas: U.S. District Judge Holly Teeter has ruled a Kansas law that prohibits electioneering within a 250-foot buffer zone of a polling location is constitutional and does not infringe on the First Amendment. Teeter dismissed the lawsuit filed by the American Civil Liberties Union of Kansas against Kansas Attorney General Derek Schmidt and the Johnson County election commissioner. In her ruling, Teeter cited a 1992 U.S. Supreme Court decision, Burson v. Freemen, that rejected a challenge to a similar Tennessee statute. Teeter noted the Kansas electioneering has also stood unchallenged for nearly 60 years, and that all 50 states have similar laws.

Louisiana: Attorney General Jeff Landry issued a warning to registrar of voters and clerks of court not to pursue money provided by Facebook founder Mark Zuckerberg. Landry has also filed suit asking a court to declare the arrangement illegal and warning of the “corrosive influence of outside money on Louisiana election officials.” According to The Advocate, Secretary of State Kyle Ardoin, urged locals to apply for the grants after discovering the opportunity. Ardoin said in a statement he “encouraged all clerks to apply for that grant money” to ensure all parishes had the same opportunity. Ardoin is now backing legislation to outlaw the practice.

Iowa: Judge Robert Hanson blocked Iowa’s secretary of state Monday from enforcing an order that barred counties from sending absentee ballot applications to voters with their identification information already filled in. Hanson ruled in favor of state and national Democratic Party groups, who contended that Secretary of State Paul Pate exceeded his authority when he told counties that absentee ballot request forms must be blank when mailed to voters. Hanson ordered Pate to put enforcement of his directive on hold. Local elections officials said they were studying the ruling to determine the impact, including whether they could take steps to mail ballots to thousands of voters whose requests were previously invalidated based on Pate’s directive.

Maine: The Maine Supreme Judicial Court has rejected a request to suspend its earlier decision allowing ranked-choice voting to be used in the state’s fall presidential election. The legal issue raised by Republicans was whether Maine’s law on circulating petitions is constitutional, but the practical impact of any court-ordered stay would have been to block the use of ranked-choice voting in Maine this November. Assistant State Attorney General Phyllis Gardener’s argument before the law court, that thousands of votes have already been cast, was cited by the justices in their decision issued later in the day.

This week, the U.S. Supreme Court rejected a plea by Republicans to block the state from using ranked-choice voting in the upcoming presidential election. Justice Stephen Breyer, who handles emergency appeals from the geographic area that includes Maine, turned down the request without comment and without referring the appeal to the full court, suggesting that Breyer did not regard it as a particularly close call.

Minnesota: U.S. District Judge Patrick Schiltz ruled against a Minnesota group that claimed that masks should not be required at polling places. Minnesota Voter Alliance and political activists filed the lawsuit, seeking a restraining order against Gov. Tim Walz to prevent enforcement of the statewide mask mandate at the polls on Nov. 3rd. An attorney for the group, Erick Kaardal, argued that the mask requirement violates constitutional free-speech rights. Kaardal also cited that the mandate conflicts with a state law created in 1963 that makes it illegal to wear a mask in a public place. However Schiltz said in a hearing last week that the rarely enforced law is only intended to prevent people from disguising themselves when committing a crime. In his order of denial, Schlitz cited Centers for Disease Control and Prevention guidelines that recommend face coverings be worn in public to prevent the transmission of COVID-19. Schlitz added that the 1963 state law does not make wearing masks unlawful, but wearing disguises unlawful. Additionally, Schlitz said extending the law to this situation would mean that doctors, manicurists and construction workers could not wear masks while performing their jobs.

Missouri: Democratic state Auditor Nicole Galloway who is running against incumbent Republican Gov. Mike Pearson has filed suit in Cole County Circuit Court against Secretary of State Jay Ashcroft over a campaign finance investigation launched by his office. Galloway’s suit argues that Ashcroft’s office lacks the legal authority to issue a subpoena for documents relating to a probe involving campaign finance violations. “In less than 30 days before a major election, the Secretary of State is commencing an entirely unlawful investigation against another statewide elected official based upon a fatally flawed complaint from a dark money organization,” the complaint states. Ashcroft denies any such motivation. In a statement on his website, Ashcroft said the investigation is similar to the one his office launched against then Republican Attorney General Josh Hawley, who is now a U.S. Senator.

Montana: The plaintiff’s in the federal case, claiming Governor Bullock overstepped his authority by allowing counties to opt for all mail-in voting for the November 3rd general election have appealed their case to the 9th Circuit Court of Appeals. In their filing, the plaintiffs have asked the 9th Circuit to issue an emergency injunction, no later than October 8th to prevent mail-in ballots from being sent out to Montana voters on October 9th. The case is on appeal to the 9th Circuit follows Judge Dana Christensen’s ruling Wednesday in favor of the Governor Steve Bullock supporting his decision to issue the order allowing counties to conduct an all-mail in election. The plaintiffs argue that Montana law specifically does not allow for an all mail-in ballots for a general election and that the power to set election guidelines falls within the scope of the state legislature. The 9th Circuit denied an emergency injunction and plaintiffs have file an appeal with the U.S. Supreme Court. The filing is for an emergency application for writ of injunction relief no later than Thursday, October 8th, 2020.

New Hampshire: Hillsborough County Superior Court Judge Will Delker dismissed most arguments in a lawsuit by the American Federation of Teachers that challenged New Hampshire’s voting procedures during the coronavirus pandemic, saying there was a lack of evidence. The union had sued to force New Hampshire to extend its deadline for accepting absentee ballots by mail; to cover absentee ballot postage costs; to allow wider use of absentee ballot dropboxes; and to permit third-party groups to return absentee ballots on voters’ behalf. Similar lawsuits have been filed in other states. Delker ruled that the union failed to demonstrate that the current rules actually prevented anyone from voting. Delker, however, did order the state to develop a process to accept requests for absentee voter registration forms.

New Jersey: Federal Judge Michael Shipp has rejected an attempt by the president’s re-election campaign to curtain part of the state’s vote-by-mail plan. The campaign had asked the court to stop the state from allowing election officials to process ballots received by mail 10 days before Election Day and those received two days after Election Day even if those ballots don’t have a postmark. Shipp said those provisions were legal and sound, rejecting the Trump campaign’s premise that they violated federal law. “Federal law establishing a national uniform election day does not prevent New Jersey from canvassing ballots before Election Day so long as the election is not consummated and the results reported before the polls close on Election Day,” the federal judge wrote.

New York: Judge J. Machelle Sweeting has denied a preliminary injunction that sought to prevent election officials from enforcing a 25-day voter registration deadline. Sweeting ruled against the League of Women Voters of New York State, which argued that tens of thousands of people would miss the voter registration deadline for the November general election if the court didn’t step in. “There is simply no showing here that the failure to grant the injunction would necessarily deprive any eligible voter of the right to vote, as any eligible voter could simply register to vote by the legal deadline,” Sweeting wrote in the ruling.

North Carolina: Wake County Superior Court Judge Rebecca Holt has denied a temporary restraining order that would have halted plans for an election polling site at the Appalachian State University Plemmons Student Union. The complaint was filed against the North Carolina State Board of Elections by two Watauga County Board of Elections members, Republicans Eric Eller and Nancy Owen. Holt filed the order denying the restraining order request on Sept. 30th after a Sept. 29th virtual hearing. “After consideration of the arguments and materials presented, the court finds that the plaintiffs have failed to persuade the court that they would suffer immediate and irreparable harm justifying the imposition of a temporary restraining order,” Holt’s order stated.

On Oct. 2nd, Wake County Superior Court Judge Bryan Collins approved the settlement of a lawsuit that would change how absentee ballots are handled in North Carolina for the 2020 election. Collins said the settlement was fair and reasonable and not illegal or a product of collusion. But a federal judge held a hearing later Friday in a lawsuit seeking to block the settlement, and he said he’ll issue a ruling “in due course.” Collins said the agreement was a compromise between two parties — the State Board of Elections and a political group representing retirees that filed suit Aug. 18th over the state’s various rules for mail-in voting. The agreement would allow the board of elections to accept mail-in ballots up to nine days after the general election, as long as they are postmarked before 5 p.m. Election Day, Nov. 3rd. The settlement also would allow North Carolina voters who are missing a witness signature or address on their mail-in ballot to fix the problem without filling out a new ballot. Judge James Dever placed a temporary restraining order on the Settlement on Oct. 3rd. The restraining order is in place until Oct. 16th and the case will be transferred to U.S. District Court Judge William Osteen in the Middle District of North Carolina.

Ohio: A three-judge panel on the Ohio 10th District Court of Appeals ruled that Secretary of State Frank LaRose can legally require counties to offer multiple drop boxes per county. The judges disagreed somewhat on the particulars — but a majority said it was within LaRose’s discretion to allow multiple drop boxes, while overturning a lower court decision from a Franklin County judge that said LaRose was legally required to do so. On balance, the judges in their Friday ruling agreed that LaRose could allow multiple drop boxes if he wanted, but only one said he should be legally required to. Judges Julia L. Dorrian, a Democrat, and Judge Betsy Luper Schuster, a Republican, wrote Friday that LaRose’s interpretation that only one drop box is allowed was “unreasonable.” But Luper Schuster said LaRose shouldn’t be required to allow more than one, while Dorrian said he should be. Judge Susan Brown, a Republican, meanwhile said LaRose’s opinion wasn’t unreasonable, but agreed with Dorrian and Luper Schuster that multiple drop boxes were allowed under state law.

Pennsylvania: The president’s re-election campaign has sued the city of Philadelphia over city officials preventing campaign representatives from watching people registering to vote or filling out mail-in ballots in election offices there. The 14-page lawsuit, filed in a state court in Philadelphia, revolves around the question of what rights there are for campaign representatives to watch people in election offices where they can register to vote, apply for mail-in ballots, fill them out or turn them in. The campaign is asking to be able to assign representatives to observe inside satellite election offices that Philadelphia began opening Tuesday around the city to help collect what is expected to be an avalanche of mail-in ballots in the Nov. 3rd presidential election. But election lawyers, city officials and the state’s top elections official all say that there is no right under Pennsylvania law, even for a certified poll watcher, to watch people do things like register to vote or fill out a mail-in ballot. Those rights, they say, are limited to certified campaign representatives to observe voting at a polling place on Election Day or the opening of absentee and mail-in ballots in an election office.

Luzerne County Director of Elections Shelby Watchilla has sued county Councilman Walter Griffith for defamation in a suit that also names the county as a defendant. The suit alleges that Griffith repeatedly made defamatory statements against Watchilla and criticized her qualifications and job performance, even though county council has no supervisory role over the election bureau or its director. Griffith made “knowingly false” statements about Watchilla and violated county regulations that forbid council members from interfering in personnel matters, which are the purview of county administration, the suit alleges.

South Carolina: The legal back and forth over South Carolina’s absentee ballot witness signature requirement finally (maybe?!) came to an end this week when the U.S. Supreme Court reinstated the requirement other than for ballots cast before it acted and received by election officials within two days of its order. The court’s most conservative members, Justices Clarence Thomas, Samuel A. Alito Jr. and Neil M. Gorsuch, said they would have reinstated the requirement for all ballots. Only one member of the court provided reasons. In a concurring opinion, Justice Brett M. Kavanaugh wrote that the majority’s approach was warranted because state election laws should not ordinarily be second-guessed by federal judges and because the Supreme Court frowns on changes to election procedures made close to Election Day.

The SC Progressive Network Education Fund has sued to extend the state’s voter registration deadline. The complaint notes that the State Election Commission (SEC) in the past has supported moving the registration period closer to the elections, citing extensions the SEC has provided due to hurricanes. “There is no doubt that pandemic safety measures and government restrictions have prevented some citizens from registering and participating in the next election,” Network Director Brett Bursey said. A hearing before U.S. District Court Judge Mary Geiger Lewis that could have extended the deadline was cancelled Tuesday morning and had not been rescheduled at press time.

Texas: In two separate federal lawsuits filed on behalf of older voters, groups including the Texas and National Leagues of United Latin American Citizens, the League of Women Voters of Texas and the Texas Alliance for Retired Americans asked that the federal courts overturn the governor’s order, which forced Travis and Harris counties — two of the state’s most important Democratic strongholds — to shutter a number of drop-off sites they had already opened this week. “The impact of this eleventh-hour decisions is momentous, targets Texas’ most vulnerable voters—older voters, and voters with disabilities—and results in wild variations in access to absentee voting drop-off locations depending on the county a voter resides in,” attorneys in the LULAC suit argued. “It also results in predictable disproportionate impacts on minority communities that already hit hardest by the COVID-19 crisis.” Attorneys in both cases also pointed out that Abbott was making a major change to election procedures just weeks away from an election — an action the state and its attorneys argued was improper in a separate federal lawsuit over straight-ticket voting.

Texas and The Texas Organizing Project sued the Bexar County Elections Department in state court over the number of Election Day polling sites. Bexar County has 284 polling sites reserved for Election Day. asked a judge to increase the number of voting sites to handle anticipated record turnout expected on Nov. 3rd. The lawsuit also included a claim that Bexar County did not accept additional deputy voter registrars who could help people register to vote within the few remaining days before the voter registration deadline. In the lawsuit, the plaintiffs asked a judge to order the county to open at least 311 polling sites on Election Day, an increase of 27 sites.

The Texas Supreme Court handed down two elections-related rulings this week. In one ruling, the court ruled that Harris County may not send out mail ballot applications to all registered voters. The court ruled that County Clerk Chris Hollins may not put the applications in the mail. The documents can be accessed online and are often distributed by political campaigns, parties and other private organizations. But for a government official to proactively send them oversteps his authority, the court ruled. “We conclude that the Election Code does not authorize the mailing proposed by the Harris County Clerk,” the court wrote in an unsigned per curiam opinion. The Republican justices sent the case back to a lower court in Harris County to issue an injunction blocking Hollins from sending the mailers. In the other ruling the state’s high court rejected a request from several top Texas Republicans to limit the number of days for early voting. In July, Gov. Gregg Abbot ordered that early voting begin six days earlier on October 13. The high court cited the timing of the suit. “To disrupt the long-planned election procedures as relators would have us do would threaten voter confusion,” Chief Justice Nathan Hecht wrote in the court’s majority opinion.

Wisconsin: Five voters have asked Dane County Circuit Judge Mario White to declare that the Democracy in the Park events were a valid way for voters to return their ballots. According to the Milwaukee Journal-Sentinel, City Clerk Maribeth Witzel-Behl scheduled the events to help deal with a flood of absentee ballots that voters have requested because of the coronavirus pandemic. An attorney for Republican lawmakers raised objections to the events, claimed they were illegal and argued absentee ballots submitted at them could be invalidated. The voters who brought Wednesday’s lawsuit dispute those claims and want the judge to assure voters that their absentee ballots will be counted. More than 10,000 absentee ballots were returned at the first event, according to the city. During hearing last week, White questioned whether he can rule since no one involved in the suit opposes the collection program. He asked the voters to file briefs on whether a controversy exists by Oct. 9th.

The Wisconsin Supreme Court told federal judges this week that Republican lawmakers have the power to pursue an appeal as they try to prevent an expanded absentee voting counting period. The 4-3 ruling is a victory for Republicans, but they still face obstacles as they try to undo a court order that would allow the counting of absentee ballots that arrive after Election Day if they are postmarked by then. The decision sends the case back to the U.S. 7th Circuit Court of Appeals in Chicago, which must decide whether the lawmakers can continue the appeal and, if so, whether to throw out the absentee balloting extension.

NYC Wins When Everyone Can Vote! Michael H. Drucker

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