Republicans sue to disqualify mail ballots in swing states

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Republican officials and candidates in at least three battleground states are pushing to disqualify thousands of mail-in ballots after urging their own supporters to vote on Election Day, in what critics call a concerted effort to suppress partisan voters.

In Pennsylvania, the state Supreme Court has agreed with the Republican National Committee that ballots where the voter neglects to put a date on the outer envelope should not be counted — even in cases where the ballots arrive before Election Day. As a result, thousands of ballots were allocated, enough to swing a close race.

In Michigan, Christina Karamo, a Republican candidate for secretary of state, sued Detroit’s top elections official last month for trying to cast absentee ballots that don’t come in person with an ID, even though the practice is against the state’s interests. Asked at a recent hearing, Karamo’s attorney disputed why the lawsuit is targeting Detroit, a heavily Democratic, majority-black city, and not the entire state.

Republicans in Wisconsin secured a court ruling that would prevent some mail-in ballots from being counted when the required proof of address is not complete.

Over the past two years, Republicans have mounted a sustained campaign against alleged voter fraud. Experts say the lawsuits — which could significantly affect Tuesday’s vote — represent a parallel strategy to litigation to disqualify mail-in ballots based on technicalities. While the denials may have some basis in state law, experts say they appear to run afoul of a principle stated in federal law that voters should not be disenfranchised for minor offenses.

suits It coincides with a systematic effort by Republicans — led by former President Donald Trump — to persuade GOP voters to vote only on Election Day. Critics argue that the overall goal is separation Republicans and Democrats use lawsuits to challenge the voting system and then disproportionately invalidate Democratic mail-in ballots.

“They’re looking for every advantage they can get, and they figure this is a way for them to win more seats,” said Sylvia Albert, director of voting and elections for Common Cause, a nonpartisan democracy advocacy organization. “Research has shown that absentee ballots are more likely to be cast if voted by young people and people of color, who are not typically seen as the Republican base.”

Albert said Legal battles over postal vote eligibility have the potential to delay and even change results. In some cases, disputes may end up before the US Supreme Court.

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The potential for confusion is particularly high in Pennsylvania, where the legal battle is ongoing and could affect or delay The outcome of several tight races in the state, including one that could decide control of the U.S. Senate.

Republican National Committee spokeswoman Emma Vaughan said in a statement that the committee The lawsuit filed in Pennsylvania said, “We’re simply asking states to follow state law, which was supported by dozens of Democrats.

“We look forward to continuing our legal actions to ensure that elections are administered in accordance with this bipartisan law,” Vaughan added.

Pennsylvania Gov. Tom Wolf (D) issued a statement Sunday night saying that “no voter should be disenfranchised because of a minor mistake in filling out their ballot.”

“This has not been a controversial concept in our country or our commonwealth until recently, with the rise of big lies and efforts to spread misinformation and misinformation in the days leading up to the general election,” Wolf added. “I urge the states to ensure that every vote counts.”

Election officials are bracing for a repeat of a protracted dispute after Pennsylvania’s May primary between county officials and the three counties of Berks, Fayette and Lancaster that refused to include undated ballots in their certified results.

Wolf’s administration sued those states in July to force them to include the ballots, which were overwhelmingly declared by Democrats, court records show. In August, a state judge ordered states to include “all legitimate ballots,” including the missing dates, in their certified results.

Republicans then successfully convinced the state Supreme Court to reverse that policy for the general election in a decision issued last week. The state court blocked the issue of whether denying ballots violated voters’ federal civil rights.

Common Cause and others quickly filed a federal lawsuit seeking to overturn the state court ruling on the grounds that rejecting ballots based on a technical error violates the Civil Rights Act. The case is pending.

The date printed on the envelope of a mail-in ballot is a “meaningless technique” that has no bearing on officials’ ability to judge whether an eligible voter has cast a ballot on time, the complaint said.

Federal courts have already weighed in on the issue: Earlier this year, the U.S. Court of Appeals for the 3rd Circuit found that the failure to count undated mail ballots violated federal civil rights law. However, the US Supreme Court vacated the ruling, injecting uncertainty into the issue and directing that the case be dismissed as moot since the election in question had already passed.

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Meanwhile, there are voting rights groups and others Launched a full-court press to inform voters across Pennsylvania Ballots were rejected and needed to be corrected or replaced. At least 7,000 such ballots have been rejected statewide for a variety of reasons, including the missing date, according to data compiled by the Pennsylvania Department of State. Activists said the number could be much higher because many states have refused to publish information.

In Philadelphia, More than 2,000 such ballots have been rejected in the state’s largest city and a Democratic stronghold. Election officials posted voter lists online with instructions to visit City Hall through Election Day to cast a proxy vote. Nick Custodio, a deputy city commissioner, said in a telephone interview that a steady stream of residents turned out over the weekend to cast new ballots.

Shoshana Israel, a coordinator for the liberal Working Families Party in Philadelphia, said her organization has assigned 49 volunteers to contact voters with ballots that need correction. The group has contacted 1,800 voters since last Tuesday.

But not everyone can go to the town hall.

“I am totally disabled,” he said Jean Terrisi, 95 A ballot with a missing date is listed as returned. She added That she has an important doctor’s appointment on Monday, just to “let it go” and that her vote shouldn’t count.

“This voting situation is terrible,” she said, declining to reveal her political affiliation. “It’s so disgraceful.”

Republicans also sued to prevent states from notifying voters who failed to date their ballots to give them a chance to correct them. The effort failed, but states can choose whether to do so, which means not all voters are given a chance to correct voting errors.

A small number of votes could make a difference in the types of close races Pennsylvania is used to.

“If you can take away 1 percent of the vote and they tend to lean Democratic, that gives you that statistical advantage,” said Clifford Levin, a Pittsburgh-based election lawyer for the Democratic Party.

“This is not about stopping fraud,” Levin said. “It’s about discounting postal votes. No problem.”

Republican candidates in Pennsylvania, including gubernatorial candidate Doug Mastriano, are urging supporters to vote by mail rather than by mail on Election Day.

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Jeff Mandel, a Democratic election lawyer in Wisconsin, said that despite Trump’s appearance this year and making that pitch, there has been little in the way of a coordinated effort in that state to sway Republicans toward Election Day.

Under Wisconsin law, an absentee voter must find a witness — usually a spouse, relative or friend — to certify that the voter legally completed the ballot. The witness must sign the ballot envelope and provide an address.

Republicans successfully sued this year The Wisconsin Elections Commission allows local election officials to fill in incomplete proof addresses on ballots. As voting rights groups seek new guidelines Missing elements of the address allowed a ballot to be thrown out, which the judges decided was too close to the election to change public policy.

“There is a concerted effort by the Republican infrastructure, the party and others working with it, as well as Republican leaders in the Legislature, to undermine absentee voting and make it harder for people to vote that way,” Mandel said.

Voting and counting are increasingly decided in the courtroom

Wisconsin Republicans who spoke in favor of the case said state law is clear that only a voter can correct an incomplete address.

“Illegal ballot curation cannot be allowed to continue,” Republican Senate Majority Leader Devin LeMahew said in a statement at the time. “We put the full weight on the Legislature to close this case [the Wisconsin Elections Commission’s] Lawless and ruthless abuse.

Republicans and Democrats In Michigan, they say they think the case brought by Karamo. The GOP Secretary of State candidate has little chance of success. Democratic election lawyer Mark Brewer called the Karamo case “racist, frivolous and condoning.”

In a text message exchange, Karamo attorney Daniel Hartman said the black candidate Filed the lawsuit in Detroit In part because of what he described as the city’s history of election security breaches. Karamo is an outspoken proponent of the baseless claim that the 2020 election was stolen from Trump.

Even if the suit fails, other challenges occur: In recent days, Received by state clerks across Michigan Emails from organized groups seeking to dispute the eligibility of voters who requested or declared absentee ballots; It suggests that more lawsuits may be filed in the future.

Tom Hamburger in Washington and Patrick Marley in Madison, Wis. contributed to this report.

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