Virginia Voters Sue to Block Widespread Absentee Voting

May 26, 2020 by Tom Ramstack
Virginia Gov. Ralph Northam, with his wife Pam at his side, said at a news conference in the Executive Mansion on Saturday, Feb. 2, 2019, that he is not the person in the racist photo in the EVMS yearbook and he will not resign. (Steve Earley/Virginian Pilot/TNS)

A group of Virginia voters is suing their state over a plan for wider use of absentee ballots during the primary election next month as coronavirus restrictions continue.

Their lawsuit is one of more than a dozen pending nationwide that seek orders for more absentee ballots or are trying to block them.

The Virginia lawsuit argues that absentee ballots create a disincentive to vote, effectively blocking many residents from the election process.

Widespread use of absentee ballots “would be a logistical nightmare and increases the risk of disenfranchisement,” says the lawsuit filed last week in U.S. District Court in Virginia.

The lawsuit by six Northern Virginia residents was in response to an executive order from Governor Ralph Northam. It allows anyone to obtain an absentee ballot by claiming “illness or disability” on the application.

Normally state law requires a doctor’s excuse or a qualified witness to verify the illness or disability. Northam’s executive order waives the requirement.

Northam also postponed the primary election by two weeks to June 23 as state health officials try to manage the pandemic that has killed about 1,200 Virginians.

“Due to the sudden surge in absentee ballots that will result from the plan, many voters will be disenfranchised because requested ballots never arrive or arrive too late and filled-out ballots get lost or are delayed in the return process,” says the lawsuit.

Northam’s executive order throws Virginia into a dispute over voting by mail that has entangled a growing number of states.

President Donald Trump last week threatened to freeze federal aid to Nevada and Michigan over their plans for nearly universal use of absentee ballots. He said mail-in voting is vulnerable to fraud.

A federal judge on Thursday denied a request by the conservative advocacy group True the Vote to halt Nevada’s arrangement. State election officials are preparing to send absentee ballots to all voters for their June 9 primary.

U.S. District Judge Miranda Du called True the Vote’s complaint about unavoidable voter fraud “speculative” and “without any factual basis.”

True the Vote also says absentee ballots favor Democrats who have tried for years to prevent strict photo ID requirements at polling places and the removal of inactive voters from registration rolls.

True the Vote is represented in Nevada by conservative attorney James Bopp Jr., who also represents the Virginia plaintiffs.

Virginia Attorney General Mark Herring argued in a brief filed in the case that coronavirus has elevated the absentee ballot issue beyond a voting rights case.

“And the stakes here are even higher than in a typical case because the challenged actions protect not only citizens’ right to vote, but also the health and safety of voters, poll workers, election officials and others who would otherwise be at risk from a highly contagious virus,” the brief says.

He won support from the nonprofit Lawyers’ Committee for Civil Rights Under Law, which filed a friend-of-the-court brief in the case.

“Plaintiffs’ constitutional claims are fundamentally flawed because they fail to recognize that [Virginia’s] policy of permitting all voters to apply for an absentee ballot is not a ‘restriction’ on voting rights at all – instead, it expands access to the voting process,” the brief says.

The Virginia General Assembly plans to make easier access to absentee ballots a permanent part of its election process after the June 23 primary.

A law the General Assembly approved this year would allow all registered voters to use mail-in voting on request without the need to claim an excuse. The law takes effect July 1.

Voting

Vote by Mail Has a Long History in Florida, but in 2020 It’s a Coronavirus Salvation and Battleground
2020 Elections
Vote by Mail Has a Long History in Florida, but in 2020 It’s a Coronavirus Salvation and Battleground

Voting by mail, a centerpiece of elections in Florida for almost 20 years, is being hailed in 2020 as a life-saving necessity amid the coronavirus pandemic and attacked by President Donald Trump and his supporters as “fraud.” Elections supervisors can begin sending out mail-in ballots on... Read More

High-stakes Lawsuits Could Shape Who Votes and How Ballots Are Counted in November
2020 Elections
High-stakes Lawsuits Could Shape Who Votes and How Ballots Are Counted in November

PHILADELPHIA — The lawyers are busy. And the future of voting is at stake. With less than four months until November’s election, a flurry of lawsuits in state and federal courts is seeking to change election rules in Pennsylvania and dozens of other states around the... Read More

1 Ad, 3 Accents: How Democrats Aim to Win Latino Votes
Political News
1 Ad, 3 Accents: How Democrats Aim to Win Latino Votes

WASHINGTON (AP) — The Spanish-language ads for Joe Biden used the same slogan to contrast him with President Donald Trump — “los cuentos no pagan las cuentas,” a play on words that roughly means “telling stories won't pay the bills.” But the narrator for the version... Read More

Appeals Court Halts Florida Felons from Registering to Vote, Pending Further Review
State News
Appeals Court Halts Florida Felons from Registering to Vote, Pending Further Review

TALLAHASSEE, Fla. — A federal appellate court has temporarily stopped a judge’s order that granted hundreds of thousands of felons the right to vote, the latest turn in Florida’s battle over felon voting rights. The U.S. Court of Appeals for the 11th Circuit ruled in favor... Read More

Alabama Asks Supreme Court to Review COVID-19 Election Ruling
Elections
Alabama Asks Supreme Court to Review COVID-19 Election Ruling

WASHINGTON — Alabama officials asked the Supreme Court to step into the debate over how to conduct election laws in the midst of a national health crisis, in a legal dispute over absentee ballot requirements in three of the state’s largest counties. Alabama Secretary of State... Read More

FEC Quorum Proves Short-Lived, As GOP Commissioner Resigns
Elections
FEC Quorum Proves Short-Lived, As GOP Commissioner Resigns
June 26, 2020
by Dan McCue

WASHINGTON - Barely a month after regaining its ability to take major enforcement actions, the Federal Elections Commission is once again losing its quorum. On Friday, longtime Republican commissioner Caroline Hunter submitted her letter of resignation to President Donald Trump, effective July 3. Depending on how... Read More

News From The Well
scroll top