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

Secretaries of State Stress Need for Accuracy, Patience, When 2020 Vote is Counted
2020 Elections
Secretaries of State Stress Need for Accuracy, Patience, When 2020 Vote is Counted
September 24, 2020
by Dan McCue

The top elections officials of what will undoubtedly be two of the most closely watched states in the nation on election night 2020 told attendees of a virtual forum Tuesday that their top priority will be ensuring that the vote is counted "accurately" and "effectively." The... Read More

Trump Flips, Now Encourages Michigan Residents to Vote Absentee
2020 Elections
Trump Flips, Now Encourages Michigan Residents to Vote Absentee

DETROIT — In an about face on mail-in voting in Michigan, President Donald Trump took to Twitter Monday to encourage voters to request absentee ballots and vote early. Trump’s latest messaging on mail-in voting marks a mercurial swing from May, when the president threatened to withhold... Read More

LaRose Appealing Order to Permit More Than One Ballot Drop Box Per County
State News
LaRose Appealing Order to Permit More Than One Ballot Drop Box Per County

COLUMBUS, Ohio — A Franklin County judge issued a preliminary injunction on Wednesday permitting the installation of more than one ballot drop box per county ahead of the Nov. 3 presidential election. In handing down his decision, however, Franklin County Common Pleas Court Judge Richard Frye... Read More

Courts Will Decide Georgia Voting Rights — and Maybe Election Results
State News
Courts Will Decide Georgia Voting Rights — and Maybe Election Results

ATLANTA — Fierce battles over which votes count are already being fought in courts this election season, with armies of voting rights advocates, political parties and attorneys gearing up to bring more challenges to Georgia election laws when ballots are cast. The most significant court intervention... Read More

A Million Mail-in Ballots Could Go Uncounted This Fall. The USPS May Not Be to Blame
2020 Elections
A Million Mail-in Ballots Could Go Uncounted This Fall. The USPS May Not Be to Blame

WASHINGTON — The controversial new chief of the U.S. Postal Service had not even started his job when a disturbing thing happened to hundreds of thousands of Americans who cast ballots by mail in primary elections this spring. Their votes were never counted. The torrent of... Read More

Absentee Ballot Requests Cropping Up in Front Yards, Churches
2020 Elections
Absentee Ballot Requests Cropping Up in Front Yards, Churches

COLUMBUS, Ohio — As Ohioans stake the names of their preferred candidates in the November election outside their homes, a new form of activism is showing up alongside the traditional candidate yard signs. Absentee ballot requests, voter registration forms and other nonpartisan information about how to... Read More

News From The Well
scroll top