In Michigan, Republican secretary of state candidate Kristina Karamo sued top election officials in Detroit last month for trying to throw away absentee ballots that weren’t cast in person, despite violating state requirements. When asked at a recent court hearing, Karamo’s attorney declined to say why the lawsuit was aimed at Detroit, a highly Democratic, black-majority city, rather than the entire state.
In Wisconsin, Republicans won a court ruling that would prevent some mail-in ballots from being counted when the addresses of required witnesses are incomplete.
For the past two years, Republicans have been waging a campaign against so-called voter fraud. Experts say the lawsuit — which could have a major impact on Tuesday’s vote — represents a parallel tactic of trying to disqualify mail-in ballots based on technicalities. While the denials may have some basis in state law, experts say they appear to violate a principle laid out in federal law that small mistakes do not disenfranchise voters.
Suit It coincides with a systematic attempt by Republicans led by former President Donald Trump to convince Republican voters to vote only on Election Day.Critics argue that the overall purpose is to separate Republicans and Democrats voted and then used lawsuits to cancel a disproportionate number of Democratic mail-in ballots.
Sylvia Albert, director of voting and elections at Common Cause, a nonpartisan democracy advocacy group, said: “They’re looking at every advantage they can get, and they’ve calculated that it’s them winning more seats. “Research shows that absentee ballots are more likely to be dropped if they are voted by young people and people of color, who are not generally considered to be in the Republican base.”
albert says Legal disputes over eligibility for mail-in ballots have the potential to delay or even change results. In some cases, these disputes may go to the U.S. Supreme Court.
Potential for chaos in Pennsylvania is particularly high, with legal battles underway that could affect or delay The results of some of the state’s toughest races, including one that could decide control of the U.S. Senate.
RNC spokeswoman Emma Vaughn said in a statement that the committee Indicted in Pennsylvania, “because we’re just asking counties to obey state law, which, by the way, is supported by dozens of Democrats.”
“We look forward to continuing legal action to ensure elections are administered in accordance with the bipartisan rule of law,” Vaughan added.
Pennsylvania Gov. Tom Wolf (D) issued a statement Sunday night in which he claimed “no voter should be disenfranchised simply because they made a small mistake in filling out their ballot.”
“Until recently, with the rise of Big Lies and efforts to spread misinformation and disinformation in the days leading up to the election, this has not been a controversial concept in our country or our Commonwealth,” Wolf continued. Counties are urged to continue to ensure every vote counts.”
After Pennsylvania’s May primary, state officials and three counties — Berks, Fayette and Lancaster — refused to include undated ballots in their certified results, and election officials braced for another protracted deadlock.
Court records show that the Wolfe administration sued the counties in July to force them to include ballots, most of which were cast by Democrats. In August, a state judge ordered counties to include “all legally voted ballots” in their certification results, including those with missing dates.
Republicans then successfully persuaded the state Supreme Court to reverse the election-focused policy in a decision issued last week. A state court is deadlocked on whether refusing to vote violates voters’ federal civil rights.
Common Cause and others quickly filed a federal lawsuit to try to overturn a state court ruling, arguing that denying the vote because of a technical error violated the Civil Rights Act. The case is still pending.
The complaint alleges that the dates on mail-in ballot envelopes are “meaningless technicality” and have nothing to do with officials’ ability to judge whether eligible voters cast their ballots on time.
Federal courts have weighed the issue: Earlier this year, the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Third Circuit found that not counting undated mail-in ballots violated federal civil rights law. However, the U.S. Supreme Court injected uncertainty into the issue by vacating the decision and directing the case to be dismissed as moot because the election in question had already passed.
Meanwhile, voting rights groups and others have Launched a full-scale press conference to inform Pennsylvania voters Ballots are rejected and need to be amended or replaced. At least 7,000 such ballots statewide were rejected for a variety of reasons, including missing dates, according to data compiled by the Pennsylvania State Department. Activists say the number could be much higher because many counties refuse to release the information.
in Philadelphia, More than 2,000 such ballots were rejected in the state’s largest city and bastion of the Democratic Party. Election officials posted electoral rolls online and directed them to come to City Hall for by-elections before Election Day. A steady stream of residents showed up over the weekend to vote again, Deputy City Commissioner Nick Coustodio said in a phone interview.
Shoshanna Israel, coordinator of the Freelance Home Party in Philadelphia, said her group assigned 49 volunteers to contact voters to process ballots that need repairs. The group has contacted 1,800 voters since last Tuesday.
But not everyone can make it to City Hall.
“I’m totally disabled,” he said Jean Terrizzi, 95 Ballots listed as returned are missing a date.she added She had an important medical appointment on Monday and just needed to “let go” instead of counting the votes.
“This voting situation is terrible,” she said, declining to specify her political affiliation. “It’s too embarrassing.”
Republicans are also suing to prevent counties from notifying voters who ignore ballot dates, giving them a chance to address the issues. Efforts have failed, but counties can choose whether to do so, meaning not all voters have a chance to correct ballot errors.
A small number of votes could have an impact on the kind of close race that Pennsylvania has become accustomed to.
“If you can eliminate 1 percent of the vote, and they tend to lean Democratic, that gives you a statistical advantage,” said Clifford Levine, a Pittsburgh-based Democratic election attorney.
“It’s not about preventing fraud,” Levine said. “It’s about discounting mail-in ballots. There’s just no problem.”
Republican candidates in Pennsylvania, including gubernatorial candidate Doug Mastriano, have been vocal in urging supporters to vote on Election Day rather than by mail.
Jeff Mandel, a Democratic election lawyer in Wisconsin, said that despite Trump’s pitch in an appearance this year, there has been little concerted effort in the state to steer Republicans toward Election Day.
Under Wisconsin law, absentee voters must find witnesses—usually a spouse, relative or friend—to prove that the voter legally completed the ballot. Witnesses must sign and address the ballot envelope.
Republicans successfully sued this year Waive Wisconsin Board of Elections guidance to allow local election officials to fill out incomplete witness addresses on ballots.As voting rights groups seek new guidelines What was missing from the address would allow voting, and a judge ruled it was too close to the election to change state policy.
“The GOP infrastructure, the party and others who work with it, and the GOP leadership in the legislature, are working together to undermine absentee voting and make it harder for people to vote that way,” Mandel said.
How votes are voted and counted is increasingly being decided in court
Wisconsin Republicans who support the lawsuit say state law makes it clear that only voters can correct an incomplete address.
“Illegal ballot treatment cannot and will not be allowed to continue,” Republican Senate Majority Leader Devin LeMahieu said in a statement released at the time. “We are fully supporting this lawsuit to close legislature [the Wisconsin Elections Commission’s] Contempt and flagrant abuse of the law. “
Republicans and Democrats In Michigan, they argue that the lawsuit brought by Karamo, The Republican nominee for secretary of state has a slim chance of success. Democratic election lawyer Mark Brewer called the Karamo lawsuit “racist, frivolous, and sanctionable.”
In the text exchange, Karamo attorney Daniel Hartman said the black candidate, File a lawsuit in Detroit Part of the reason is what he says is the city’s history of election security breaches. Karamo has been an outspoken supporter of the baseless claim that the 2020 election was stolen by Trump.
Even as the suit failed, other challenges played out: The last few days, County clerks in Michigan have received Emails from organized groups attempting to contest the eligibility of voters who requested or cast absentee ballots, There are hints that more lawsuits may follow.
Tom Hamburger in Washington and Patrick Marley in Madison, Wisconsin contributed to this report.