For six months, the rules for how Americans can vote during the coronavirus pandemic have been locked in court battles while states across the country rushed to embrace mail ballots.
Now, with just weeks to go before the Nov. 3 election, voting rights advocates and Democrats have advanced on key fronts in the legal war,scoring victories that make mail voting easier, ensure votes cast by mail are counted and protect the wide distribution of mail ballots in some states.
A review by The Washington Post of nearly 90 state and federal voting lawsuits found that judges have been broadly skeptical as Republicans use claims of voter fraud to argue against such changes, declining to endorse the GOP’s arguments or dismissing them as they examined limits on mail voting. In no case did a judge back President Trump’s view — refuted by experts — that fraud is a problem significant enough to sway a presidential election.
Some of the Democrats’ wins have been preliminary.And in many cases, judges issued split decisions, granting some of the changes sought by liberal plaintiffs and otherwise maintaining the status quo as favored by Republicans.
But The Post found that judges appointed by Republicans and Democrats alike have been dubious of GOP arguments that lowering barriers to mail voting could lead to widespread fraud.
“Do you have any evidence of any voter fraud actually existent in Montana in the last 10 to 20 years?” District Judge Dana L. Christensen, an appointee of President Barack Obama, pressed a GOP lawyer in a Missoula courtroom last week.
“No,” said the lawyer, James Bopp Jr., who is representing Republicans in a suit challenging the state’s decision to allow counties to run all-mail elections this fall. “No. But it is, with all due respect, I understand your question, but, no, it’s irrelevant.”…
Many important rules for voting remain in flux after hundreds of cases were filed in more than 44 states. The decisions will shape the contours of an election already made singular by the public health crisis and Trump’s preemptive declarations that the outcome will be rigged.
So far, GOP lawyers have scored several defensive wins related to mail ballots, such as maintaining North Carolina’s witness requirement and keeping in place limitations on third parties collecting and returning ballots or applications, which Republicans deride as “harvesting,” in Florida, Minnesota and Michigan.