ATLANTA — With broad new voting rules now made law, elections will never be the same in Georgia. The changes will be felt by millions of voters, potentially with enough impact to alter the results of close elections in a sharply divided state. Absentee voters — there were 1.3 million in November's presidential election — will face new ID requirements to submit their driver's license or state ID number, a small step for many but a difficulty for the three percent of voters who lack that ID. To return absentee ballots, many will have to rely on the Postal Service to deliver them on time since drop boxes wi...
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.
In response to Kruzel's long tweet thread, Rep. Bill Pascrell Jr. (D-N.J.) took aim at the postmaster general, tweeting: "Haul Louis DeJoy in front of a criminal grand jury."
Journalist Ari Berman, who has extensively covered voting rights in the United States, similarly declared that "Louis DeJoy should be held in contempt of court and face criminal charges for obstructing an election if these ballots are not delivered on time."
Berman noted that mail delays have gotten worse in the lead-up to Election Day. For months, voting rights advocates have slammed DeJoy—a GOP megadonor who took over the Postal Service earlier this year—for forcing mail operations changes that critics charge were intended in part to sabotage the November election.
Stephen Wolf, a staff writer at Daily Kos Elections, also took to Twitter to highlight the missed deadline and the Washington Post reporting that Berman shared about how USPS ballot processing has slowed down in recent days. Wolf alleged "intentional sabotage by the Trump administration."
As Common Dreams reported earlier Tuesday, in response to a motion filed by the NAACP, Sullivan ordered sweeps at various facilities including some in seven battleground states—Arizona, Florida, Georgia, Maine, Michigan, New Hampshire, and Wisconsin—which don't allow ballots that arrive after November 3 to be counted.
Kruzel shared a statement from USPS claiming it was not possible to comply with the court order because of the number of inspectors at facilities:
...and would take them away from their other pressing Election Mail- related responsibilities, as detailed above."… https://t.co/BTzkeExnJC— John Kruzel (@John Kruzel)1604439661.0
According to Bloomberg, the Postal Service told the judge that "defendants were unable to accelerate the daily review process to run from 12:30 pm to 3:00 pm without significantly disrupting preexisting activities on the day of the election, something which defendants did not understand the court to invite or require."
Meanwhile, election law and voting rights experts and advocates issued accusations of disenfranchisement.
"This is very concerning and shows why a 'received by' deadline just makes no sense and improperly disenfranchises voters," Josh Douglas, a professor at the University of Kentucky Rosenberg College of Law, said of USPS missing the Tuesday deadline.
Eric Klinenberg, a social science professor and director of New York University's Institute for Public Knowledge, concurred. "This is how you deny citizens the franchise and steal an election," he said. "Also, it's how we all thought they would do it. It's what they said they wouldn't do. And it's exactly what they are doing."
Michael McDonald, the University of Florida professor behind the U.S. Elections Project, estimated Tuesday morning that at least 100 million Americans cast ballots before Election Day this year.
Amid months of predictions that the U.S. would see historic participation in early voting—both by mail and in person—for the November election partly due to the ongoing coronavirus pandemic, President Donald Trump has baselessly attacked the security of voting by mail. Trump faces a tough reelection battle against the Democratic challenger, former Vice President Joe Biden.
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.
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.
"We are targeting 8.8 million students, faculty and staff in universities in Alabama, Arizona, Florida, Georgia, Mississippi, North Carolina, South Carolina and Texas. We have state-specific ads for every one of our campaigns," said Andrea Miller, executive director of People Demanding Action, which has been turning out voters in communities of color. "And then we are also advertising our election protection tool, 'See Something, Say Something'… We have done outreach to nearly 20 million people and the election isn't over."
More than 85 million people have already voted as of Friday, October 30, according to the U.S. Elections Project early voting tracking website. So far, more than 55 million absentee ballots have been received by local election officials, 30 million people have voted in person, and another 35.5 million absentee ballots have yet to be returned. According to those voters' party registrations, Democrats and Republicans have split the in-person voting, but Democrats lead in absentee ballots—where sizable numbers of voters registering as independents have cast ballots.
Whether or not the apparent enthusiasm gap continues through Election Day—or shifts via what the Republicans hope will be a large in-person turnout on November 3—is an open question. However, the Trump campaign and its allies are not counting on popular vote victories to secure a winning margin among state Electoral College delegations. Their litigation strategy arguably has been the Republican Party's most overt voter suppression effort in years—building on Trump's ongoing and baseless attacks on the legitimacy of absentee balloting.
The voting wars are legal fights over technicalities in processes that can end up disqualifying—or empowering—blocs of voters to tilt close-margin contests. The 2020 election has seen more litigation over these technicalities, especially surrounding the use of mailed-out (or absentee) ballots, than any recent presidential election. While Democrats secured many early victories, especially in state and federal district courts, Republicans in recent days have won notable decisions—and legal arguments—in the Supreme Court and federal appeals court.
There's a common thread running through these decisions that appears to give Republicans an opening to initiate post-Election Day litigation. In rulings affecting Wisconsin, Pennsylvania, North Carolina and Minnesota, conservatives have highlighted a way to disqualify what may become thousands of absentee ballots that were properly mailed and postmarked (by Election Day), but are received by election officials days later via mail delivery.
Various judges—including a likely Supreme Court majority among the high court's conservatives without Chief Justice John Roberts—have said that only state legislatures have the authority to regulate elections with federal candidates. That construction is based on the U.S. Constitution, whose opening articles delegate no power to state supreme courts, state constitutions, secretaries of state or statewide election boards to run elections. These non-legislative actors took steps this year to issue regulations to assist voters and election officials in response to COVID-19.
Thus, in Wisconsin, the Supreme Court said absentee ballots that were not received by November 3 would not be counted—because the state's (Republican majority) legislature did not extend the deadline. Justice Brett Kavanaugh also commented that election results should be known by election night, which mirrors Trump's rhetoric but does not reflect the reality of states like Wisconsin where local clerks will only start processing 1.1 million ballots that morning.
In Pennsylvania and North Carolina, the Supreme Court said one week before Election Day that it was too late to overturn ballot-return deadlines that went past Tuesday. (In Pennsylvania, it's Friday, November 6. In North Carolina, it's Thursday, November 12.) While much national press coverage said those two rulings were Democratic victories, those assessments glossed over statements, concurrences and dissents from four conservative justices that basically said that ballots arriving after Election Day could be disqualified if a legislature didn't extend the return deadline. Newly seated Justice Amy Coney Barrett didn't participate in those cases.
In response, Pennsylvania's attorney general told the Supreme Court that the secretary of state was directing all county election officials to "segregate" all absentee ballots arriving after November 3 and through the November 6 deadline. Election law experts said that Pennsylvania's move would insulate absentee ballots arriving earlier from challenges—because late-arriving ballots would not be mixed in with those earlier batches of ballots when counted.
North Carolina's state election board is not following Pennsylvania's lead—as a precautionary measure. It issued a statement urging all voters to return absentee ballots as soon as possible, but said the final deadline was on November 12.
A day after the Supreme Court ruling in the Pennsylvania and North Carolina suits, a federal appeals court in Minnesota threw out its week-long absentee ballot-return deadline extension—issued this summer by the secretary of state as part of a legal settlement with Republicans.
"The Secretary and his respective agents… are ordered to identify, segregate, and otherwise maintain and preserve all absentee ballots," the Eighth Circuit Court's decision said, "in a manner that would allow for their respective votes [for president and vice president]… to be removed from vote totals in the event a final order is entered by a court."
Taken together, the highest rungs of the federal courts have given the Republicans an opening to seek to disqualify any late-arriving ballots in Pennsylvania, North Carolina and Minnesota. (All other states with extended absentee ballot-return deadlines resulted from legislation.)
How many votes could be implicated should post-Election Day legal challenges arise? Former Oregon Secretary of State Phil Keisling, a Democrat who oversaw its shift to all-mail balloting, said that 90 percent of voters who apply to vote with absentee ballots return those ballots. According to the U.S. Elections Project, which gets its data from state election officials, as of Friday, October 30, hundreds of thousands of absentee ballots are still in play.
- In North Carolina, 883,000 ballots have been returned, out of 1.45 million requested ballots, a return rate of 61 percent. Nearly 600,000 absentee ballots have not yet been received.
- In Pennsylvania, 2.1 million ballots have been returned, out of 3.1 million requested ballots, a return rate of 68 percent. Nearly 985,000 absentee ballots have not yet been received.
- In Minnesota, nearly 1.6 million people voted early and returned their absentee ballots. The state doesn't further break down those figures. Statewide, 1.97 million absentee ballots were requested.
Under any scenario, it's not likely a presidential election winner would be known until later in the week—at the earliest. The U.S. Senate's majority will take longer, as some states such as Georgia are likely to see runoffs. And control of state legislatures may take longer still, if the balance comes down to a few contests where recounts are triggered.
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.
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.
"The Secretary [of State]'s instructions to count mail-in ballots received up to seven days after Election Day stand in direct contradiction to Minnesota election law governing presidential elections… [and] are likely to be declared invalid under the Electors Clause of Article II of the United States Constitution," the Eighth Circuit said in a 2-1 split decision that found Minnesota Secretary of State Steve Simon lacked authority to extend the ballot-return deadline.
"The Secretary and his respective agents… are ordered to identify, segregate, and otherwise maintain and preserve all absentee ballots," the order continued, "in a manner that would allow for their respective votes [for president and vice-president]… to be removed from vote totals in the event a final order is entered by a court."
The appeals court ruling is the latest decision by a federal court that has thrown into question a subclass of absentee ballots—those postmarked by Election Day but arriving in the mail days later — that GOP officials have sought to disqualify via an ultraconservative interpretation of election law. Republicans, in Minnesota and in other 2020 swing states, have contended that only a state's legislature has the authority to adopt rules governing how elections with federal candidates are to be run.
On Wednesday, the U.S. Supreme Court issued two decisions where non-legislative actors had extended their state deadline for accepting absentee ballots. In Pennsylvania, the state's supreme court extended the deadline by three days to November 6. In North Carolina, the state's election board extended it to November 12. In these states, the Supreme Court let the ballot-return deadlines stand, saying that it was too close to Election Day to alter it without confusing voters.
But statements by several conservative justices in those rulings said that post-Election Day litigation could likely disqualify the late-arriving ballots for the same reasons cited in the Minnesota ruling: that non-legislative actors (a state supreme court citing a state constitution and a state board of elections) had made decisions affecting the "time, place and manner" of federal elections without authority under the federal Constitution.
"Simply put, the Secretary [of State] has no power to override the Minnesota Legislature," the appellate court said. "In fact, a legislature's power in this area is such that it 'cannot be taken from them or modified' even through 'their state constitutions.'"
Late last week, the U.S. Supreme Court issued a similar ruling for Wisconsin, another swing state, when it decided not to overturn an appeals court ruling that concluded its absentee ballots had to be returned by Election Day because Wisconsin's legislature had not extended the ballot-return deadline.
In reaction to Wednesday's Supreme Court ruling, Pennsylvania told the high court that it would "segregate" the absentee ballots arriving after Tuesday and through its Friday deadline. While Pennsylvania officials have not said much about that decision, election law experts have said the move would shield 2.1 million absentee ballots that already have been returned from possible GOP challenges. In Pennsylvania, 3.1 million voters applied for absentee ballots.
The press office for the North Carolina State Board of Elections did not respond to an inquiry Thursday asking whether it might follow Pennsylvania's lead and also segregate the ballots arriving in the mail between November 3 and November 12.
Voting rights groups, including North Carolina's NAACP state chapter, discussed the Supreme Court ruling on Thursday to assess its legal options for defending properly postmarked ballots arriving after Nov. 3. As of October 29, 852,000 absentee ballots have been returned by North Carolinians. Across the state, 1.45 million voters have applied for the ballots.
In Minnesota, Secretary of State Steve Simon told the Star-Tribune newspaper before the ruling was issued, "If that [ballot return deadline] is reversed, it would be extraordinarily disruptive — not to mention disenfranchising." His office's website did not have a comment on the ruling.
Statewide, more than 1.7 million absentee ballots have been requested in Minnesota, the U.S. Elections Project reported. As of October 29, 1.19 million Minnesotans have voted early—a mix of in-person early voting and absentee ballots. The state combines these figures.
Stepping back, it appears the Republican Party and its allies have found a way that may disqualify potentially large volumes of late-arriving absentee ballots in four swing states: Minnesota, Wisconsin, Pennsylvania and North Carolina. The basis for that prospect is the contention that no authority other than a state legislature can regulate federal elections.
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If you've received a mail ballot but have changed your mind and want to vote in person, there's some good news: You probably can do this.
The details differ from state to state. In some, you'll be allowed to cast a regular ballot, and in others you'll cast a “provisional" ballot, to be counted once election officials determine you haven't already voted.
You may need to bring your mail ballot to the polling place or election office and hand it to election workers to have it voided, or destroy it yourself, and you might be required to sign an affidavit stating that you did not already vote by mail.
However, many election officials across the country encourage mail voters to stick with their original voting plan. “I encourage people who have received an absentee ballot to go ahead and vote that ballot," said Jason Hancock, Idaho's deputy secretary of state. “Spoiling ballots and issuing new ones adds to the cost and administrative burden of running an election and may slow down the voting process for anyone behind the voter in line at the polls." With a week to go until Election Day, voters can still deliver mail ballots to county or town drop-box locations.
When you arrive at the polling place or voting site, it's possible that poll workers may be able to consult a database to see if you returned a mail ballot, but such systems are not in place everywhere. Be prepared to explain your situation, and it's a good idea to bring your mail ballot with you just in case.
These guidelines can change, and there can be important differences in each county or town, and differences between early voting and Election Day. Check with your local election office to confirm the procedure in your area before showing up to vote.
If your experience differs from the advice below, let us know — and be sure to sign up with our Electionland project to alert us if you experience any problems at the polls.
You should expect to cast a provisional ballot.
According to the Division of Elections, “You should destroy and dispose of your absentee ballot if you choose to vote in-person."
You should expect to cast a provisional ballot.
If you take your absentee ballot packet to the county clerk's office and have it “spoiled," you can cast a regular ballot in person. “If they do not have the packet, they would have to vote a provisional ballot until the County Board of Election Commissioners can ascertain if the other ballot came back," said Chris Powell, press secretary for the Arkansas secretary of state.
If you didn't receive the mail ballot, don't have it with you or election officials cannot verify that you haven't already returned it, you will vote a provisional ballot.
Coloradans have voted primarily by mail since 2013, but if you don't have your mail ballot, you can still vote in person.
As long as you haven't already returned your mail ballot, you can vote in person, but you should dispose of the unused mail ballot, said Gina Atanasoff, press secretary for the secretary of state.
According to the Department of Elections: “When you arrive at your polling place, an election officer (poll worker) will confirm via the pollbook that your Vote By Mail (VBM) ballot has not been returned to the Department. Your unreturned VBM ballot will be voided, and you will be allowed to vote in person at the polling place."
District of Columbia
All registered voters were sent a mail ballot. According to the Board of Elections: “You can dispose of the ballot for the 2020 General Election you received in the mail. We will provide you a ballot at the Vote Center." You can also bring your ballot with you and have poll workers dispose of it.
If you have the mail ballot, bring it with you to the polls. Poll workers will cancel it and direct you to cast a regular ballot. If you do not have the mail ballot, they will check if the elections office has received it before allowing you to vote. If they cannot confirm if you returned the mail ballot, but you have not already voted, you can still cast a provisional ballot.
According to the secretary of state: “If you do not receive your absentee ballot after submitting your application, contact your county registrar to assess your options. If there is not enough time to receive a new absentee ballot, or if for any reason you cannot have another sent to you, you may vote in person. If you attempt to vote in person because you never received a requested absentee ballot, you will have to sign a document attesting that you are only voting once. If you request and return an absentee ballot, you cannot change your mind and vote in person. Once you return your absentee ballot, you have voted."
All active registered voters were mailed ballots, but if you prefer to vote in person, you may do so at any voter service center in your county.
If time permits, bring your mail ballot to the county clerk's office before Election Day to have it spoiled, Deputy Secretary of State Jason Hancock said. Otherwise, bring it to the polls to have it spoiled by a poll worker, who will give you a new ballot to vote in person.
According to the Board of Elections: “If you have already received your mail ballot, take it with you to an early voting site or your polling place on Election Day and surrender it to an election judge. Your mail ballot will be voided, and you will receive a regular ballot. If you have not yet received your mail ballot, you will be asked to sign an affidavit certifying you have not received your ballot. You will then be issued a regular ballot. If you received your mail ballot but lost it, you may sign an affidavit certifying you have not yet voted in this election. You will then be issued a provisional ballot."
If you have the mail ballot, surrender it to a poll worker to vote a regular ballot. If you never received the mail ballot, sign an affidavit at your polling location to vote a regular ballot. If you sent in your completed mail ballot but it was rejected, go to the county election board before 5 p.m. on Election Day to request an ABS-21 form and then go to your polling place to vote, according to the Election Division.
According to the secretary of state, “If you have not returned your absentee ballot on Election Day, you have the following options: Deliver your voted absentee ballot to the county auditor's office before the polls close on election day, surrender your voted absentee ballot at the polls and vote a regular ballot, or vote a provisional ballot at the polls if you cannot surrender your voted absentee ballot."
You should expect to cast a provisional ballot.
You can vote in person if you did not receive your mail ballot by Oct. 28. According to the Emergency Administrative Regulation issued for the Nov. 3 elections, “If a voter has requested, but not received their absentee ballot by October 28, 2020, the voter may appear at a county polling location to vote in person." Your application for an absentee ballot will be canceled in the system, and you'll sign an oath before voting.
According to the secretary of state: “You can vote in person during early voting or on Election Day as long as you have not returned your absentee ballot to the registrar of voters. Simply destroy your absentee ballot after you have voted in person during early voting or on election day."
If voters received an absentee ballot, “they need to vote it or visit their clerk to return it and be removed from the absentee voter list. Voters will not be eligible to receive a second ballot to vote in-person absentee ahead of Election Day if they have already received one at home," said Kristen Schulze Muszynski, director of communications for Maine's secretary of state. For further details, see the state's guidance on absentee voting. Though the state discourages voters from “wasting their absentee ballot," Muszynski said if a voter shows up on Nov. 3 and has not already submitted an absentee ballot, they will be allowed to cast a regular ballot in person. “If people plan to do this, we do ask that they return their absentee ballot to the clerk ahead of Election Day. They should not expect to bring their ballot to the polls and cast it then."
You should expect to cast a provisional ballot.
According to the secretary of the commonwealth: “You can vote in person as long as you haven't already voted by mail. If you choose not to return your mail-in ballot, you can vote in person on Election Day or during early voting. You can also vote in person if you mail your ballot and it does not reach your election office by Election Day or if your mail-in ballot is rejected for any reason."
Bring your mail ballot to your precinct polling location on Election Day to “surrender" it for a new in-person ballot. If your ballot was lost or destroyed, you can sign a statement to that effect and vote at your precinct polling location.
According to the secretary of state: “As long as your absentee ballot hasn't been counted by your election officials, you may still cast a ballot in person by voting in your polling place on Election Day or at your local early voting location. You can track the status of your absentee ballot to see when it is sent to you and when it is received by election officials. After voting in person, the unique ballot ID number on your original absentee ballot will be invalidated, so that if it is returned to the election office the officials will not count it. If you plan on voting in person, please do not bring your absentee ballot with you. Your election official will provide you with a new ballot to complete that day."
You should expect to cast an affidavit ballot.
Contact your local election authority.
Most counties are holding this election primarily by mail, with ballots sent to all active registered voters; others are holding a polling-place election, with the option to request an absentee ballot. For guidance on how to vote in person in a mail-election county or if you requested an absentee ballot in a polling-place election county, contact your county elections office.
You should expect to cast a provisional ballot.
All active registered voters were mailed a ballot. “Voters who choose not to vote by mail are welcome to vote in person by surrendering their mail ballot or signing an affidavit saying they will not/have not voted their mail ballot," said Jennifer Russell, public information officer for the Nevada secretary of state.
You may vote a regular ballot at the polls as long as you have not already returned your voted mail ballot. Destroy the unused mail ballot.
New Jersey is conducting this election primarily by mail for the first time. If you prefer to vote in person, you may go to your polling location on Election Day and cast a provisional ballot.
You may vote in person at your polling place after signing an affidavit stating that you did not and will not vote your mail ballot. If your absentee ballot didn't arrive, you can also pick up a replacement absentee ballot at your polling place on Election Day.
You may vote in person during early voting or on Election Day.
According to the State Board of Elections: “You may still vote in person as long as you did not return your absentee ballot. Your absentee ballot will be spoiled after you vote in person. You may simply discard your absentee ballot — there is no need to bring it with you to a polling place."
To vote in person, bring your unused mail ballot to the poll where it will be voided by an election worker. If you don't have it with you, you can still vote in person as long as you did not already submit the voted mail ballot.
During early voting, you can vote a regular ballot in person, according to a directive from the secretary of state. Officials request you bring your absentee ballot to have it spoiled, but if you don't, you will still be allowed to vote. If you wait until Election Day, however, you should expect to cast a provisional ballot.
Destroy your absentee ballot and accompanying materials. Before voting at the polling place or early voting site, you will sign an affidavit stating you did not vote the mail ballot you requested.
“We have been entirely vote by mail for over 20 years," said Andrea Chiapella, legislative and communications director for the Oregon secretary of state. “We don't have polls, but I could go to my county election office and vote my ballot using a privacy booth if I wanted to."
According to the Pennsylvania Department of State: “If you did not return your mail-in or absentee ballot and you want to vote in person, you have two options: Bring your ballot and the pre-addressed outer return envelope to your polling place to be voided. After you surrender your ballot and envelope and sign a declaration, you can then vote a regular ballot. If you don't surrender your ballot and return envelope, you can only vote by provisional ballot at your polling place. Your county board of elections will then verify that you did not vote by mail before counting your provisional ballot."
You should expect to cast a provisional ballot.
According to the South Carolina Election Commission, “You must first return the unvoted absentee ballot to the county voter registration office or extension office before voting in person."
Voters “are directed to not vote the ballot they received in the mail and may go visit their county auditor up until November 2nd or vote at their polling location on Election Day," said Rachel Soulek, public information specialist for the South Dakota secretary of state's office. “They do not need to bring the ballot with them. They should destroy the ballot."
You should expect to cast a provisional ballot. “If a person submits a request for a by-mail ballot, the person should have voted and returned that ballot by-mail by Election Day," said Julia Bruck, director of communications for the Tennessee secretary of state. “However, if there is an issue with someone not receiving their ballot in time to cast the by-mail ballot, there is a safe harbor for voters. The person can vote a provisional ballot. The provisional ballot will only be counted if the by-mail ballot has not been received or not been counted."
You can bring your mail ballot to the poll or early voting site, surrender it and then vote a regular ballot. If you do not have the mail ballot when you come to the polls, you can cast a provisional ballot.
All active registered voters were automatically mailed ballots. According to the Utah Elections Office: “If you receive a mail ballot but prefer to vote in person, please bring your mail ballot to the polling place to 'surrender' it when you vote. While this is not required, it helps your local elections officials process ballots more efficiently."
According to the Elections Division, if you decide to vote in person “you should bring your ballot with you. However, if you do not, you will be allowed to vote if you fill out an affidavit affirming you have not voted already."
According to the Department of Elections: “If you have requested or received an absentee by mail ballot but would rather vote in person, please bring your unopened ballot with you when you go to vote. If you have lost or did not receive your ballot, you may either vote early in person at your registrar's office or cast a provisional ballot at your polling place on Election Day."
Washington conducts all elections by mail, but you can still vote in person at your nearest voting center.
If you bring your mail ballot to the polls and have it spoiled, you can vote a regular ballot. If you do not return the mail ballot, you must cast a provisional ballot.
“Voters who've received an absentee ballot will have a watermark on their name in the poll book indicating an absentee ballot has been issued, prompting poll workers to ask them if they've already returned their absentee ballot. As long as the answer is no, the voter can vote. If the voter has already returned her ballot, that will also be noted on the poll book, and the poll workers will not issue a new ballot," said Reid Magney, public information officer for the Wisconsin Elections Commission.
“Ideally, the voter would return their absentee ballot at the time they presented themselves to the polling place," said Monique Meese, communications and policy director for the Wyoming secretary of state's office. “However, if they do not bring their absentee ballot, they will be provided a provisional ballot and permitted to vote. Prior to counting that provisional ballot, a clerk would ensure that the absentee ballot had not been returned. Essentially, the first ballot received into the system is the ballot that is counted and requesting an absentee ballot does not preclude you from changing your mind and voting in person."
In Nevada Wednesday, Donald Trump said he hopes that states won't be permitted to count ballots after Election Day.
"I think on Tuesday we're gonna over-perform, and we'll see what happens at the end of the day," Trump said. "Hopefully, it won't go longer that. Hopefully, the few states remaining that want to take a lot of time after Nov. 3 to count ballots — that won't be allowed by the various courts, because as you know, we're in courts on that."
Trump Oval Office from Shareblue Media on Vimeo
He added that Republicans had just seen "a big victory" in Wisconsin on the subject, referring to a Supreme Court decision that refused to reinstate a lower court's ruling to extend Wisconsin mail-in voting deadlines.
It's not the first time Trump has suggested that not all ballots should be counted. He suggested on Tuesday that it would be "improper" to count ballots after Election Day.
"It would be very, very proper and very nice if a winner were declared on November 3rd, instead of counting ballots for two weeks, which is totally inappropriate, and I don't believe that that's by our laws," Trump said.
Last month, a White House reporter asked Trump if "win, lose, or draw," he would commit to "a peaceful transferral of power after the election."
Trump responded, "We'll have to see what happens, you know that. I've been complaining very strongly about the ballots, and the ballots are a disaster."
Pressed again to answer, Trump announced that there "won't be a transfer," but rather, "a continuation."
"We want to have — get rid of the ballots," he said, suggesting that that would be the only way to obtain a peaceful election outcome.
Supreme Court Justice Brett Kavanaugh was also widely criticized for remarks in his opinion in the Wisconsin case suggesting absentee and mail-in ballots shouldn't be counted after Nov. 3.
He wrote that "states want to avoid the chaos and suspicions of impropriety that can ensue if thousands of absentee ballots flow in after election day and potentially flip the results of an election."
Kavanaugh also added that "states also want to be able to definitively announce the results of the election on election night, or as soon as possible thereafter."
Sens. Amy Klobuchar (D-MN) and Bernie Sanders (I-VT) spoke out to debunk this in a public statement.
"In America, we count the votes to determine who wins an election," the statement said. "Despite the incorrect assertions from President Trump and Justice Kavanaugh, election officials across the country accept ballots well after Election Day every year, and results are not certified until the votes are counted and a canvas to confirm the results is conducted. Absentee ballots counted after election day do not 'flip the results of an election,' as Justice Kavanaugh claimed. They are the results of the election."
Published with permission of The American Independent Foundation.
Reprinted with permission from Alternet
In yet another disturbing U.S. Supreme Court decision, three conservative justices signed on to an opinion clearly suggesting they're open to arguments that might invalidate some Pennsylvania ballots after the election.
To understand what's going on, let's start with the positive news. The court as a whole rejected a plea from Republicans to reconsider a case in which the Pennsylvania Supreme Court extended the deadline for mail-in ballots received three days after Election Day, as long as they're postmarked by Nov. 3 (or the postmark is absent or unclear). The court had already declined to involve itself on the issue in a 4-4 split decision, leaving the state court's extension in place.
Newly confirmed Justice Amy Coney Barrett, whose nomination was not yet complete at the time of the previous decision, recused herself from the latest case. According to the Supreme Court's Public Information Office: "Justice Barrett did not participate in the consideration of this motion because of the need for a prompt resolution of it and because she has not had time to fully review the parties' filings."
But while the Supreme Court did not take up the case again, Justice Samuel Alito, one of the court's staunch conservatives, wrote a statement making it clear that he objected to the state court's extension and desperately wanted to overturn it. He also made clear that he would be open to reconsidering the issue after the election — that is, he would be open to throwing out at any mail-in ballots received and counted after Election Day in Pennsylvania, despite the fact that they would be cast and counted in accordance with the rules as they are. Justices Neil Gorsuch and Clarence Thomas signed on to Alito's statement.
"[The] Court's denial of the motion to expedite is not a denial of a request for this Court to order that ballots received after election day be segregated so that if the State Supreme Court's decision is ultimately overturned, a targeted remedy will be available," Alito wrote, in an extreme understatement for such an extraordinary claim. What he means is he's leaving open the possibility to later toss out some voters' ballots.
Alito's position is superbly arrogant. Whatever one may think of the Pennsylvania Supreme Court's extension of the deadline to receive ballots, it is, in effect, the law of the state — just as the U.S. Supreme Court's decisions determine the state of federal law.
But rather than recognizing the court's authority, Alito warns that "the election in Pennsylvania" is "being conducted under a cloud." This claim is based on the idea that Alito himself objects to the court's ruling and nothing more.
In fact, it's his own statement, which threatens to invalidate ballots after they're cast and counted, that is putting the state's election "under a cloud."
Many legal experts argue that it's clearly the state supreme court's role to interpret questions of law in their state, and the Supreme Court shouldn't insert itself to intervene on state law matters. Alito, along with at least some of the other conservatives on the court, argue instead that because the Constitution grants authority over elections to state legislatures, the U.S. Supreme Court can and should step in to uphold the will of the Pennsylvania legislature, which did not want to extend the mail-in deadline.
Regardless of the merits of that debate, however, the legal facts are what they are. The state supreme court ruled, and a challenge to take the case to the U.S. Supreme Court before the election failed. Voters are currently planning to act under the laws as they've currently been established. Alito himself acknowledges that there is not enough time at this point to take the case up again, which is why he did not dissent from the decision of his colleagues not take up the case now.
What's truly arrogant, though, is that in spite those facts on the ground, Alito is continuing to assert that the U.S. Supreme Court should have a say and might overturn the existing rules. He sees it as so necessary that he and the Supreme Court involve themselves in a case that the Pennsylvania Supreme Court has decided that he's openly forecasting that they might overturn an election result and throw out ballots that were legitimately cast under the rules at the time. A more small-c conservative or modest justice would recognize that, whatever his objections in the case, his view hadn't won the day. But that's not how Alito sees it.
This arrogance is especially egregious give the matter at hand. While the issue, of cours,e has the potential to be highly influential, and thus the stakes are high, the state supreme court's decision is about the handling of ballots that would be cast by legitimate voters and presumably delivered by election day. Many states conduct elections this way — it's not as if the change is some extreme or unheard of remedy. Alito's extreme threat to disenfranchise people after the fact is not proportionate to the issue.
All that said, Pennsylvania voters with mail-in ballots would be well-advised at this point to not rely on the postal service to deliver their ballot, given the risks. They should seek out advice from their local election offices and potentially turn in their ballots in person or at official drop boxes, if possible.
Now, despite all the legitimate reasons I've described to be disturbed by Alito's statement, there are several reasons to think the issue is not particularly dire, as law professor Steve Vladeck explained.
In theory, Alito, along with Gorsuch, Thomas, Justice Brett Kavanaugh, and Barrett, could potentially hear a case after the election and decide to throw out enough ballots in Pennsylvania to swing the presidential race from Biden to Trump. But that seems quite unlikely to happen in fact, because a whole slew of factors would have to be in place for the move to work.
First, Pennsylvania would have to be the tipping point state in the electoral college. That's plausible, but far from guaranteed. Even more important, though, is that Pennsylvania would have to be the decisive state. This would mean that Biden only barely won the presidential election, with no extra states. That would likely mean Biden lost in North Carolina, Florida, Georgia, Arizona, and Texas, where he is currently either leading slightly or running neck-and-neck with Trump. Again, this is possible, but it probably isn't the most likely scenario.
The Pennsylvania race would also have to be extremely close, close enough for the mail-in ballots that arrive after Election Day to make the difference between Biden and Trump. Again that's possible, but it doesn't seem most likely when the New York Times polling average has Biden leading in the state by 6 points. Any ballots arriving after Election Day will be split between Trump and Biden — they could even potentially favor Trump — so it's only the final margin that would matter.
And for the Supreme Court's intervention to make the difference, Alito would need Barrett and at either Kavanaugh and Roberts to join him. It's impossible to give odds on how likely this is, but we can content ourselves by saying at least it's not a sure thing that a full five of six conservative justices on the court would be interested in going along with this plan after the votes have been cast.
Vladeck also noted that Pennsylvania has taken the wise step of planning to segregate any late-arriving ballots from the rest of the ballots it counts. That should forestall the possibility that the Supreme Court (or state legislature) would be inclined to say the state's whole election has been tainted by the inclusion of late-arriving ballots and try to circumvent the will of the people.
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