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Monday, December 09, 2019

Tag: mail ballots

Battleground Courts Reject GOP Efforts To Block Voting And Create Chaos

On November 7, the eve of Election Day, judges in numerous battleground states issued rulings that rejected efforts by Trump Republicans to impede the casting and counting of ballots and replace state-approved vote-count verification processes with untested hand counts.

Those critical decisions, which push back on efforts to stymie voters and counting in Democratic strongholds such as the cities of Philadelphia and Detroit, came as the Department of Justice announced that it will send federal election monitors to 67 counties in 24 states across the country.

“The [DOJ] Civil Rights Division will monitor for compliance with the federal voting rights laws,” said the department, listing jurisdictions that are blue epicenters – cities and counties – in Arizona, Florida, Georgia, Michigan, North Carolina, Nevada, Pennsylvania, Texas, and Wisconsin.

The suits filed by Trump Republicans and their allies in national and state Republican Party organizations show the range of GOP efforts to stymie voters, disqualify mailed-out ballots, and create alternative vote counts that likely would clash with results produced by federal- and state-approved election systems.

In Wisconsin, a judge ruling from the bench rejected an effort to set aside and stop counting mail ballots cast by military service members. In neighboring Michigan, a judge rejected a lawsuit filed by Republican secretary of state candidate and election denier Kristina Karamo that would have imposed strict limits on counting Detroit’s mail ballots.

There were three rulings in Pennsylvania. The first rejected a GOP attempt to urge the Pennsylvania Supreme Court to reconsider its ruling on the date range (on mail ballot return envelopes) when the ballots could be accepted. The GOP wanted a narrower window.

(The high court also had ruled that ballot return envelopes had to be properly signed and dated by a voter. As of Monday, a Philadelphia election official said that 3,400 mail ballots had been rejected on these grounds, causing Democratic Senate nominee John Fetterman’s campaign to file a suit seeking to count the rejected ballots.)

Another Pennsylvania ruling rejected an effort led by former U.S. Attorney General Bill Barr that would have impeded Philadelphia’s ability to use electronic poll books to check in Election Day voters. The third ruling rejected an effort to impede election officials in Monroe County from starting to reach out to voters to “cure” – meaning fix – a mistake they made filling out their ballot return envelope.

In Georgia and New York, courts issued rulings to expand access for some voters who otherwise might be disadvantaged. Metro Atlanta’s Cobb County was told to accommodate 1,000 voters who did not receive requested mail ballots. In New York, a court rejected a GOP effort to prevent a polling place from being set up at Vassar College.

In Arizona, a state court stopped Trump Republicans associated with the notoriously sloppy post-presidential election “audit” led by the Cyber Ninjas, an IT firm selected by Republican state senators, from supplanting the state-approved counting and audit process with a manual hand count of every ballot before certifying winners.

In Arizona’s Cochise County, which is on the border with Mexico, Trump Republicans on the county board of supervisors sought to override the objections of their county’s election director and replace a count of all ballots by computer scanners with a hand count. The court said the supervisors, who are Trump Republicans, violated Arizona law.

“The Board of Supervisors has acted unlawfully,” Superiors Court Judge Casey McGinley held. “Defendants urge the Court to consider that permitting a full hand count audit would help ameliorate fears that the electronic count was incorrect, and that it ensures that every vote is counted and counted correctly. However, there is no evidence before this Court that electronic tabulation is inaccurate in the first instance, or more importantly, that the audit system established by law is insufficient to detect any inaccuracy it may possess.”

There will be more court rulings in comings days as the administration of the election shifts from the last day for casting votes – Election Day – to the counting of those in-person votes and processing of mail ballots, which, in many states, can still be received in coming days and will count as long as they were postmarked by November 8.

Steven Rosenfeld is the editor and chief correspondent of Voting Booth, a project of the Independent Media Institute. He has reported for National Public Radio, Marketplace, and Christian Science Monitor Radio, as well as a wide range of progressive publications including Salon, AlterNet, The American Prospect, and many others.

This article was produced by Voting Booth, a project of the Independent Media Institute.

Arizona Republican Party Again Urges End To Mail-In Ballots

The Republican assault on free and fair elections, fueled by former President Trump’s lies claiming widespread voter fraud in the 2020 election, is gaining speed -- and the party is once again in Arizona court asking a judge to dismiss the state’s century-old mail-in voting system.

In its lawsuit filed Friday in a Mohave County Superior Court, the Arizona GOP sought legal redress for the state’s overwhelmingly popular 100-year-old system of mail-in voting that 90 percent of Arizona voters use, arguing that the practice is unconstitutional and should be scrapped.

Alex Kolodin, an attorney for the party, argued in the court filing that only voters, not the legislature, could permit the inclusion of mail-in voting in the constitution, even though a majority of the state’s voters vote early, particularly by mail.

“I think it's time for our state to have that debate and voters to get to decide for themselves what sort of system of absentee voting they are comfortable with,” Kolodin argued.

In its court filing, the Arizona GOP asked the judge to invalidate mail-in voting for voters in the November midterms, but not for the primary in August. The party demanded that the court — if it lets mail-in voting remain — strip voters of their ability to vote early without an excuse, a practice introduced by a GOP-controlled legislature in 1991.

Last month, the Arizona Supreme Court threw out a similar voter suppression lawsuit by the state GOP. However, the top court allowed the party to litigate the case in lower courts, which the Republicans are now doing.

Arizona’s Democratic Party, as well as election officials and attorneys for the state, have decried the assault on voting by mail in the state, saying the widely favored voting system is safe and not prohibited by the state’s constitution.

They also argued that there was already little to no time for election officials to expand in-person voting places, which served only 10 percent of voters in 2020.

“They are not magicians,” said Karen Hartman-Tellez, a lawyer from the Maricopa County Attorney's Office representing election officials in six counties. “They cannot conjure polling places or poll workers out of nothing.”

Judge Lee Jantzen of the Mohave County Superior Court said he hopes to issue a ruling by Monday afternoon, according to US News.

If the state GOP succeeds, a majority of voters in Arizona — including military service personnel, most of whom vote by mail nationwide — will lose their right to mail in their ballots during the COVID pandemic, in a state where positive cases are back on the rise.

Republicans have already introduced 20 election subversion bills in Arizona, where Trump supporters demanded a ballot recount to challenge President Joe Biden’s victory.

The lawsuit is the latest in the Republican Party’s escalating effort across the country to enact restrictive voting laws that spell doom for multiracial democracy in the United States. Republicans in 27 states have introduced or enacted 250 legislative bills to restrict voting rights, according to the Brennan Center for Justice.

The Guardian reports that by the end of 2021, 32 of the new voter-restrictions bills became law in 17 states, some of which are battleground states. These states were the focus of Trump’s “Stop the Steal” campaign, an effort that culminated in the violent January 6, 2021 insurrection that sought to upend the peaceful transfer of power after his 2020 election loss.

“We’re seeing an effort to hijack elections in this country, and ultimately, to take power away from the American people. If we don’t want politicians deciding our elections, we all need to start paying attention,” said Joanna Lydgate, CEO of the States United Democracy Center.

For the Republican Party, with its unpopular policies that cater strictly to its far-right base, minority rule through voter suppression is the only way to retain power.

McCormick Sues Over Undated Mail Ballots In Pennsylvania Senate Primary

(Reuters) - Senate candidate David McCormick has filed a lawsuit in a Pennsylvania court to compel counties to count undated mail-in ballots in his primary race against TV personality Dr. Mehmet Oz, whom he trails by less than 1,000 votes.

The race between McCormick, a former hedge fund executive, and Oz, who was endorsed by former President Donald Trump, for the Republican Party nomination is close enough to trigger an automatic recount under Pennsylvania state law.

While McCormick is slightly behind Oz after the May 17 vote, he is well ahead of his opponent in absentee ballots, according to polling firm Edison Research. McCormick has received 45,794 mail-in votes, compared with Oz, who has 32,944.

In a statement, McCormick's campaign said it sued on Monday in Pennsylvania's Commonwealth Court "to compel the counties to follow the [Republican-leaning] Third Circuit Court order from last week stating that undated ballots returned on time be counted."

The statement added that the ballots "are postmarked upon arrival to county boards of elections and, therefore, already dated and proven to be timely."

It was not clear how many mail-in ballots lack a handwritten date, and whether counting them could help McCormick or make a recount less likely. State election officials expect to know this week whether a recount will be needed.

Pennsylvania's Department of State, which oversees elections, said it agreed that undated ballots must be counted in the May 17 race, but advised they be "segregated" and "appropriately logged pending litigation."

"A determination on whether the segregated tabulations will be used in certifying elections has not yet been made, given the ongoing litigation," it said.

The Pennsylvania Republican Party said on Twitter that they "absolutely object to the counting of mail-in ballots. Pennsylvania law and our courts have been very clear that undated ballots are not to be counted."

In a statement on Twitter, Oz called McCormick's lawsuit "a tactic that could have long-term harmful consequences for elections in the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania."

(Reporting by Rami Ayyub; editing by Ross Colvin and Jonathan Oatis)

McCormick Vote Climbs With Mail Ballots In Pennsylvania, Enraging Trump

A recent run-in with a familiar enemy, mail-in ballots, has left former President Trump intensifying his baseless claims of widespread voter fraud in Pennsylvania’s GOP Senate race, which other Republicans, even the candidate he endorsed, Mehmet Oz, have refused to embrace.

After urging Oz to “declare victory” in his party’s too-close-to-call senate race — which Trump did himself in 2020 — the former president has again resorted to questioning the legitimacy of votes that arrived by mail, seething in fury as his candidate’s lead dwindles rapidly.

"Here we go again! In Pennsylvania, they are unable to count the Mail-In Ballots. It is a BIG MESS," Trump wrote on Truth Social, his much-ridiculed social media platform.

Oz still holds a narrow 980 vote lead over his rival, David McCormick, a former hedge fund manager Trump labeled a “Liberal Wall Street Republican.” However, mail-in ballots have appeared to favor McCormick, putting him in proximity with Oz in a race that’s well within the threshold for an automatic recount.

State officials have continued working long hours tallying ballots, including those mailed in. There has been no evidence of wrongdoing in the process — which is the same in every other election.

However, Trump appears to care little about the hardworking Pennsylvanian election officials as he did those in Georgia, Arizona, and other states he accused of engineering and facilitating voter fraud in 2020.

“It’s very reminiscent of what we saw in 2020,” said Al Schmidt, a former Philadelphia city election commissioner. According to the Washington Post, Schmidt faced death threats after Trump tweeted at him in 2020. “It’s an indication that he’s not confident that his candidate is going to win. When it looks like you’re losing, you want to flip the board game over — you’re clearly afraid of the outcome,” Schmidt added.

Pat Toomey, the Republican senator whose retirement has opened the hotly contested seat, voiced his admiration for Oz and McCormick, neither of whom has disseminated Trump’s false fraud claims.

“That’s not the least bit surprising given his history and what we know about Donald Trump,” Toomey said, reacting to Trump’s relentless fraud claims. “It’s much to Mehmet Oz’s credit that he hasn’t adopted that rhetoric and seems to be adhering to what used to be the conventional view that all the legal ballots should be counted.”

Haunted by ghosts of election losses past, Trum, posted Thursday morning on Truth Social: “The Pennsylvania Oz race is ridiculous. How long does it take to count votes. France, same day all paper, had VERIFIED numbers in evening. U.S. is a laughingstock on Elections. Stop FINDING VOTES in PENNSYLVANIA! RIGGED?”

Naturally, Trump’s bogus claims, which have no basis in fact, mirror the false allegations he made before, during, and after Election Day in 2020.

According to MSNBC's Steve Kornacki, Oz is still on track to score big in mail-in ballots because he’s fairing better in Lancaster County’s mail-in voting, which has the biggest stack of uncounted GOP mail-in ballots.

Outrage At DeJoy As Postal Service Misses Election Day Deadline

Election experts and other critics of voter suppression responded with alarm Tuesday after the United States Postal Service failed to meet a court-ordered afternoon deadline to conduct sweeps at mail processing facilities to "ensure that no ballots have been held up and that any identified ballots are immediately sent out for delivery."

Earlier Tuesday, U.S. District Judge Emmet Sullivan of the District of Columbia had ordered the sweeps between 12:30 pm and 3:00 pm ET, and set a 4:30 pm ET deadline for facilities to file a status update. John Kruzel, a reporter at The Hill, tweeted Tuesday afternoon that the USPS failed to comply, in spite of saying this week that about 300,000 ballots had entered the mail sorting system but lacked a delivery scan.

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Federal Judge Orders Postal Service To Find And Deliver Unsent Ballots Immediately

Reprinted with permission from Alternet

A federal judge, U.S. District Judge Emmet Sullivan, has ordered the United States Postal Service to check its facilities for any unsent ballots and send them immediately.

Under Sullivan's order, postal workers must inspect their facilities between 12:30 p.m. and 3:30 p.m. on Election Day — and if they find any ballots that haven't been delivered, make sure they go out right away and arrive at their destination before the polls close.Sullivan also ordered the Postal Service to give his court an update on their sweeps.

Under Trump's watch, Postmaster General Louis DeJoy has been blamed for making changes that have slowed down mail delivery — which, Democrats have been warning, could cause ballots to arrive too late to be counted. Some Democratic activists have, for weeks, been urging Biden supporters to hand-deliver their absentee ballots.

Federal Courts Invite Republicans To Challenge Absentee Ballots

This article was produced by Voting Booth, a project of the Independent Media Institute.

Two countervailing forces are competing to determine the outcome of the 2020 elections' highest-stakes contests before the close of voting on November 3.

President Trump and his Republican allies are pursuing a full-court press where their success hinges less on winning popular vote majorities and more on disqualifying volumes of absentee ballots via lawsuits to be filed after Election Day—if preliminary results in a few key states are close. The Democratic Party and their allies, meanwhile, have been pushing their party's more highly motivated voter base to continue their turnout lead seen in early and absentee voting, so Republicans cannot gain traction when they turn to the courts to disqualify late-arriving absentee ballots, or cite other technicalities to disqualify votes.

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Federal Appeals Court Orders Minnesota To ‘Segregate’ Absentee Ballots

Reprinted with permission from Independent Media Institute

A federal appeals court on Thursday ordered Minnesota to "segregate" all absentee ballots that are postmarked by Election Day, Nov. 3, but arrive in the mail over the subsequent days. The decision was a stark warning the courts may end up disqualifying these votes in post-election litigation.

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