Category Archives: absentee ballots

“Vote-by-mail rejections are testing integrity of Texas Republicans’ voting law”

Alexa Ura for Texas Tribune:

Barely started down the path toward the first elections conducted under voting restrictions enacted last year by Republican lawmakers, Texas voters and local election officials have found themselves enveloped in a fog of errors, delays and miscommunications as they navigate new rules for casting votes by mail.

Only a small slice of the state’s electorate is allowed to cast absentee ballots, and the trickle of requests for mail-in ballots that began in early January is now swelling into the usual pre-election flood.

But hundreds of applications are being rejected — in many cases because voters appear to not know the new rules. Local election workers themselves are still deciphering the procedures, and say they’ve been hampered by a paucity of help and information from the Texas secretary of state’s office. Meanwhile, the state is scrambling to provide training under the crush of advising counties on implementing a multitude of election changes.

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“Texas rejects hundreds of mail ballot applications under new voting limits”

Reuters:

Texas election officials have rejected hundreds of mail-in ballot applications, abiding by a new Republican-backed law just weeks before a March 1 primary kicks off this year’s U.S. election cycle.

“My friends, this is what voter suppression looks like,” Democrat Dana DeBeauvoir, the Travis County clerk, told reporters on Tuesday.

The county, home to the state capital Austin, invalidated approximately 300 applications because people failed to meet the law’s stricter identification requirements, said DeBeauvoir, who retires at month’s end….

Among other provisions, the law requires voters applying for a mail ballot to provide either a driver’s license or Social Security number, which must match the number they gave when first registering to vote.

That leaves some voters playing a “guessing game,” DeBeauvoir said, because many people cannot recall which number they provided originally and there is no easy way for voters to check….

Other provisions in the law are also creating obstacles, she said. The office previously added a sticker with voters’ addresses to applications that were mailed out to save them a step, but that is no longer permitted, Callanen said.

The law also prohibits residents from obtaining applications for other people, including relatives. Callanen said her office regularly receives messages from senior citizens asking for ballots for themselves and their spouses; under the law, spouses must make their own separate requests.

“It’s sort of thwarting us at every turn,” she said.

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“Alleged ‘dead’ Georgia voters found alive and well after 2020 election”

AJC:

False claims that there were thousands of ballots cast in the names of dead Georgia voters can now rest in peace.

Election investigators found just four absentee ballots in the 2020 presidential election from voters who had died, all of them returned by relatives.

The State Election Board referred the cases to the attorney general’s office this month after investigators reviewed dozens of allegations. Almost all voters were found to be alive.

The tiny number of ballots actually cast on behalf of deceased voters contrasts with Republican Donald Trump’s false accusation that there were 5,000 dead voters in Georgia’s election.

It’s the latest in a series of unsubstantiated claims of fraud that have since been debunked, including allegations of counterfeit ballotsballot stuffing and forged absentee ballot signatures. Three vote counts showed that Trump lost by about 12,000 votes in Georgia.

In one case, a 74-year-old widow submitted an absentee ballot on behalf of her husband, William Nelson, after he died in September 2020.

“He was going to vote Republican, and she said, ‘Well, I’m going to cancel your ballot because I’m voting Democrat.’ It was kind of a joke between then,” Barry Bishop, an attorney for Sharon Nelson of Canton, told the State Election Board. “She received the absentee ballot and carried out his wishes. … She now realizes that was not the thing to do.”

Georgia election officials said there need to be consequences, even for a mistake.

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“Republican lawsuits over Pennsylvania’s mail voting law have some Democrats quietly worried”

Jonathan Lai for the Philly Inquirer:

Two years ago this month, Republicans and Democrats in Harrisburg reached a deal on the most significant changes to Pennsylvania election law in decades — including greatly expanded mail voting.

But now, a year after a presidential race in which Donald Trump’s lies about mail voting and Pennsylvania’s results sowed distrust of the electoral system among his supporters, someRepublicans are intensifying efforts to undo a law their party almost universally supported.

The law known as Act 77 is facing perhaps its most serious court challenges yet. Republicans filed two lawsuits this summer saying it violates the state constitution. Democrats had hoped courts would quickly throw them out, but the cases have instead been combined and continue to move forward. The national and state Democratic Party organizations asked Friday to join the litigation in defense of Act 77.

During oral arguments in one case, a panel of judges aggressively questioned lawyers representing the state, in what one Democratic observer described as “skepticism and hostility.” The hearing raised fears among Democrats that the state court might soon rule against the law.

Democratic Gov. Tom Wolf’s administration would almost certainly appeal a loss to the Pennsylvania Supreme Court, where a majority-Democratic bench has generally sided with the state on election issues. But while few believe the Supreme Court would ultimately throw out Act 77, some Democrats and good-government advocates worry that even a temporary loss could create significant challenges.

They worry about how such a setback would be received in a political environment already highly charged on elections issues. And regardless of how the courts rule, they fear the ongoing litigation will continue undermining already-tenuous public trust in the electoral system — just as Republican leaders begin talking with Wolf again about changing election law.

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Michigan: “Nessel charges three Metro Detroit women with fraud related to 2020 election”

Detroit News:

Three Metro Detroit women have been charged with election fraud by Attorney General Dana Nessel in connection to absentee ballot applications and ballots submitted during Michigan’s 2020 general election.

Nessel and Secretary of State Jocelyn Benson stressed that the charges announced Monday reflect the strict scrutiny applied to the absentee voting process and that violations of the laws surrounding absentee voting are “rare.” More than 250 post-election audits and several court cases have dismissed claims of widespread fraud in Michigan.

“These cases highlight the scrutiny applications and ballots undergo throughout the election process, as well as the thorough investigative process that ensues when instances of attempted fraud are suspected,” Nessel said in a Monday statement. 

“These charges also send a clear message to those who promote deceitful claims about widespread fraud: The current protocols we have in place work to protect and ensure the integrity of our elections,” Benson said in the statement. 

The charges announced Monday involved three individuals alleged to have been involved in election fraud in Oakland, Macomb and Wayne counties. 

Only one case — one resulting in a double vote — was caught after the election, said Lynsey Mukomel, a spokeswoman for Nessel’s office….

Trenae Myesha Rainey, 28, was charged with three counts of election law forgery and three counts of forging signatures on absentee ballot applications after she is alleged to have filled out applications and forged residents’ signatures on the applications at Father Murray Nursing Home in Center Line, where she worked. 

The Center Line clerk contacted the Bureau of Elections in October 2020 after receiving about two dozen absentee voter applications where the signatures were found not to match those in the state’s qualified voter file. …

Carless Clark, 59, was charged with impersonating another to vote and election law forgery after she was alleged to have signed and returned her grandson’s mail-in ballot despite his decision to vote in person. 

Clark, according to the statement, admitted to signing the ballot because she thought her grandson wouldn’t have time to vote in person. …

Nancy Juanita Williams, 55, was charged with 14 counts of false statement on an absentee ballot application, forging a signature on an application and election law forgery in several different courts.

She is alleged to have submitted 26 absentee ballot applications to nine different clerks for legally incapacitated persons under her care and to have the ballots sent to her address. Williams also is alleged to have submitted voter registration applications for each of the people without his or her knowledge or consent. 

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“Appeals court: Postage for absentee ballots isn’t a poll tax”

AP:

A federal appeals court on Friday upheld a lower court’s ruling that said requiring voters to provide their own stamps for mail-in ballots and ballot applications does not amount to an unconstitutional poll tax.

The American Civil Liberties Union and its Georgia chapter filed a lawsuit in April 2020 saying that Georgia’s postage requirement for absentee ballots and ballot applications effectively imposes a poll tax and is therefore unconstitutional. The challenge was brought on behalf of voters and a group seeking to empower communities of color, the Black Voters Matter Fund.

“We hold that the fact that absentee voters in Georgia who decide to vote by mail must pay their own postage is not a ‘tax’ or unconstitutional fee on voting,” Circuit Judge Elizabeth Branch wrote in the opinion for a three-judge panel of the 11th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals.

That affirmed an August 2020 ruling by U.S. District Judge Amy Totenberg in Atlanta.

You can find the unanimous opinion of the 11th Circuit panel here. The opinion ends with the footnote: “We note that the Plaintiffs’ claims border on the frivolous. At this time, however, we
are not imposing sanctions.”

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“All-mail voting in Colorado increases turnout and reduces turnout inequality”

New article from Adam Bonica, Jacob M. Grumbach, Charlotte Hill, & Hakeem Jefferson in Electoral Studies:

The COVID-19 crisis has generated interest in all-mail voting (AMV) as a potential policy solution for avoiding in-person elections. However, the quality of AMV implementation has varied greatly across states, leading to mixed results in previous research. We exploit the understudied 2014 implementation of AMV in Colorado to estimate the effect on turnout for all registered voters, along with age, racial, education, income and wealth, and occupational subgroups. Using large voter file data and a difference-in-differences design within individuals, we find a positive overall turnout effect of approximately 8 percentage points—translating into an additional 900,000 ballots being cast between 2014 and 2018. Effects are significantly larger among lower-propensity voting groups, such as young people, blue-collar workers, voters with less educational attainment, and voters of color. The results suggest that researchers and policymakers should look to Colorado’s AMV approach as an effective model for boosting aggregate turnout and reducing voting disparities across subgroups.

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The effect of Brnovich v. DNC on the intentional discrimination lawsuit against Georgia

Over at RealClearPolitics, I have this piece looking at the potential effect of Brnovich v. Democratic National Committee on intentional discrimination claims, including the lawsuit recently filed by the Justice Department against portions of Georgia’s SB 202. Much of the commentary after Brnovich has focused on the disparate impact components of the opinion, but I wanted to tease out some of the implications from the intentional discrimination side. Additionally, I try to puzzle out Justice Elena Kagan’s footnote in her dissenting opinion in which she concludes she “need not pass” on the intentional discrimination holding of the Ninth Circuit’s opinion.

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“Texas Republicans Reveal Bills of Far-Reaching Voting Restrictions”

NYT:

Republicans in the Texas Legislature on Thursday fully unveiled their plans to overhaul the state’s election apparatus, outlining a raft of proposed new restrictions on voting access that would be among the most far-reaching election laws passed this year….

Among many new changes and restrictions to the state’s electoral process, both bills would ban 24-hour voting and drive-through voting; prohibit election officials from proactively sending out absentee ballot applications to voters who have not requested them; add new voter identification requirements for voting by mail; limit third-party ballot collection; increase the criminal penalties for election workers who run afoul of regulations; limit what assistance can be provided to voters; and greatly expand the authority and autonomy of partisan poll watchers.

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“Arizona Cites High Court Win to Back Another Voting Restriction”

Bloomberg:

Arizona urged a federal appeals court to reverse a 2020 ruling that forces the state to give voters who forget to sign envelopes for their mail-in ballots as long as five days after Election Day to sign them.

At a hearing Wednesday before a three-judge panel of the Ninth Circuit in San Francisco, a lawyer for the Republican National Committee, which intervened in the case to support the state, cited the U.S. Supreme Court’s recent upholding of two other restrictive Arizona election laws to argue the state is on the right track in its effort to handle voting fairly.

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Brnovich on Brnovich v. DNC

Mark Brnovich’s WSJ op-ed:

The court’s ruling is a win for election integrity at a time when the far left conducts propaganda campaigns to trick people into believing any election law that protects against voter fraud is “Jim Crow 2.0.”

The irony is that the DNC chose to attack Arizona, a state that offers some of the most convenient ways to vote. You can vote early in-person, vote on Election Day, or request a no-excuse absentee ballot. Don’t want to get out of the car? We also have drive-through ballot drop-off sites. Contrast that with other jurisdictions such as Delaware, Connecticut and New York, which require bureaucrats to approve your reason for absentee voting. 

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“Judge rejects attempt to stop parts of Georgia voting law”

Atlanta Journal-Constitution:

A federal judge denied an effort to invalidate parts of Georgia’s voting law Wednesday, the first court ruling upholding new rules passed after last year’s elections.

U.S. District Judge J.P. Boulee wrote in his order that he wouldn’t “change the law in the ninth inning” amid ongoing runoffs for the state House. Boulee reserved judgment about future elections.

The lawsuit by the Coalition for Good Governance, an election security organization, opposed new requirements that voters request absentee ballots at least 11 days before election day, a deadline that left voters with little time to vote by mail in the runoffs. 

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Divided Sixth Circuit Rejects Preliminary Injunction That Allowed First-Time Tennessee Voters to Vote by Mail During the Pandemic; Judge Readler’s Troubling Concurrence

Three opinions, including a troubling concurrence by Judge Readler that says that states don’t need to make accommodations to assure people can vote in the face of natural disasters: “And even when the law is viewed
through the unique lens of 2020, voting laws need not be put aside due to issues not of the State’s making.”

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