Spate Of Court Rulings Striking Down GOP Voter Suppression

voter suppression
Photo by Susan Melkisethian / CC BY-NC-ND 2.0

Republicans faced a series of defeats this week in their efforts to make it harder for Americans to vote, as both state and federal courts ruled against them in lawsuits and struck down laws they'd passed.

Donald Trump's campaign has pledged to spend $20 million to fight the expansion of absentee ballot use amid the COVID-19 pandemic as well as to try to block measures that make it easier for voters to return those ballots, such as adding ballot collection boxes and allowing states to count ballots that were postmarked on Election Day but were received by election officials late due to Postal Service delays.

But the efforts of Trump and other Republicans to make it harder to vote were dealt a series of blows in the critical swing states of Michigan, Nevada, and Pennsylvania, and in Illinois.

On Friday, voting rights advocates notched a win in Michigan when the state Court of Claims ruled that ballots postmarked by Nov. 2, one day before the election, and received by Nov. 17 will be counted. That means if voters' ballots are delayed due to changes made recently to Postal Service operations by Trump donor-turned-Postmaster General Louis DeJoy, they will still be counted.

The court also ruled that voters can receive "assistance in returning an absent voter ballot" to a ballot drop box.

One day earlier, the U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of Michigan struck down a law that made it a misdemeanor to "hire a motor vehicle or other conveyance, or cause the same to be done, for conveying voters, other than voters physically unable to walk, to an election." That law made it illegal for ride-share companies like Uber and Lyft to offer discounts or free rides for voters on Election Day.

The court ruled that the Michigan law violated a federal law that "gave citizens the right to spend money on transporting voters to the polls."

In Illinois, a federal judge ruled against the Cook County Republican Party, which had filed a lawsuit against a state law that made it easier to vote. The law made Election Day a state holiday, expanded hours for early in-person voting, improved signature verification on mail-in ballots, and sent vote-by-mail applications to all recent voters.

In Pennsylvania, the state Supreme Court ruled that all ballots postmarked by Election Day will be counted if they arrive within three days after the election — a move that will ensure voters won't be disenfranchised by Postal Service delays.

The court also ruled that ballot drop boxes are allowed, despite GOP efforts to ban them, and that any poll watchers must be residents of the county in which they are watching, which would block outsiders from coming into Democratic strongholds like Philadelphia to intimidate voters out of casting ballots.

And in Nevada, a judge ruled against a GOP effort to block a state law mandating that absentee ballots are sent to all registered voters, said Marc Elias, a voting rights lawyer.

"WE ARE NOT DONE WINNING!" Elias tweeted Thursday night after the series of court victories.

Published with permission of The American Independent Foundation.

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