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Early Voting

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Democratic National Committee v. Bostelmann (3:20-cv-249), Gear v. Knudson (3:20-cv-278), and Lewis v. Kundson (3:20-cv-284) (William M. Conley, W.D. Wis.) and City of Green Bay v. Bostelmann (William C. Griesbach, 2:20-cv-479) and Taylor v. Milwaukee Election Comm’n (Pamela Pepper, 2:20-cv-545) (E.D. Wis.)
In light of a global infectious pandemic, federal litigation to modify election procedures for the April 2020 election in Wisconsin, which included a presidential primary election, began about three weeks before the election. Shortly after a complaint was filed, and again a few days before the election, a federal judge in the Western District of Wisconsin ordered some modifications to enable absentee voting by mail. The judge declined to order a delay in the election. The court of appeals reversed the district judge’s modification to absentee voter witness certification requirements, and the Supreme Court reversed the district judge’s extension of time to mail absentee ballots after election day. Suits in the Eastern District were unsuccessful, and related actions in the Western District remain pending.
Subject: Absentee and early voting. Topics: COVID-19; registration procedures; absentee ballots; enjoining elections; interlocutory appeal; voter identification; intervention; primary election; voting technology; case assignment; class action.

One of many Case Studies in Emergency Election Litigation.

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Common Cause Rhode Island v. Gorbea (Mary S. McElroy, D.R.I. 1:20-cv-318)
For the June 2020 presidential primary election in Rhode Island, the governor suspended the state’s requirement that mail-in ballots be witnessed by a notary or by two other witnesses. A district judge approved a consent decree applying the witness requirement suspension to elections in Rhode Island in September and November. The court of appeals and the Supreme Court denied a major political party’s motion to stay the consent decree.
Subject: Absentee and early voting. Topics: Absentee ballots; COVID-19; intervention; interlocutory appeal; laches; primary election.

One of many Case Studies in Emergency Election Litigation.

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Gallagher v. New York State Board of Elections (Analisa Torres, S.D.N.Y. 1:20-cv-5504)
New York’s allowance for voting by mail during the global COVID-19 infectious pandemic of 2020 had a postmark requirement, but prepaid mail was not always postmarked, so a district judge ordered that ballots received by the day after the election would be counted without a postmark and ballots received by the following day would be counted unless they had a postmark after election day.
Subject: Absentee and early voting. Topics: Absentee ballots; COVID-19; intervention; primary election; class action.

One of many Case Studies in Emergency Election Litigation.

Available Online Only

Black Voters Matter Fund v. Raffensperger (Amy Totenberg, N.D. Ga. 1:20-cv-1489)
In light of widespread absentee voting by mail during the 2020 global COVID-19 infectious pandemic, a federal complaint alleged that requiring voters to pay the postage was an unconstitutional poll tax. The district judge denied relief for an imminent primary election for practical reasons. After careful consideration of the law and the facts, the judge ultimately decided that absentee ballot postage is not a poll tax.
Subject: Absentee and early voting. Topics: COVID-19; absentee ballots; class action; primary election.

One of many Case Studies in Emergency Election Litigation.

Available Online Only

McMurray v. Mohr (Lawrence J. Vilardo, W.D.N.Y. 1:20-cv-689)
A district judge denied immediate relief to plaintiffs who sought an injunction requiring county election officials to publicize more widely early voting opportunities for a special congressional election.
Subject: Absentee and early voting. Topics: Early voting; COVID-19; interlocutory appeal.

One of many Case Studies in Emergency Election Litigation.

Available Online Only

Powell v. Benson (Gershwin A. Drain, E.D. Mich. 2:20-cv-11023), Drenth v. Boockvar (Jennifer P. Wilson, M.D. Pa. 1:20-cv-829), and Hernandez v. New York State Board of Elections (Lewis J. Liman, S.D.N.Y. 1:20-cv-4003)
In light of the greater need for absentee voting in 2020 because of the COVID-19 global infectious pandemic, lawsuits in three states resulted in electronic at-home absentee voting for blind voters that protected the secrecy of their ballots.
Subject: Absentee and early voting. Topics: COVID-19; absentee ballots; Uniformed and Overseas Citizens Absentee Voting Act (UOCAVA); intervention; class action; primary election.

One of many Case Studies in Emergency Election Litigation.

Available Online Only

League of Women Voters of Virginia v. Virginia State Board of Elections (Norman K. Moon, W.D. Va. 6:20-cv-24)
During the global COVID-19 infectious pandemic, seven weeks before a primary election, a district judge approved a consent decree that nullified the witness requirement for absentee ballots in the election. Later, the judge approved a similar consent decree for the general election.
Subject: Absentee and early voting. Topics: Absentee ballots; intervention; primary election; attorney fees.

One of many Case Studies in Emergency Election Litigation.

Available Online Only

Gwinnett County NAACP v. Gwinnett County Board of Registration and Elections (Steven D. Grimberg, N.D. Ga. 1:20-cv-912)
A federal complaint filed on the Thursday before three weeks of early voting set to begin on Monday challenged election officials’ decision to offer early voting at only one location in the county during the first week. The district court held a hearing on Monday afternoon and denied the plaintiffs immediate relief, finding no constitutional entitlement to additional early voting locations.
Subject: Absentee and early voting. Topics: Early voting; primary election; 42 U.S.C. § 1983.

One of many Case Studies in Emergency Election Litigation.

Available Online Only

Democratic Party of Georgia v. Burkes (M.D. Ga. 1:18-cv-212) and Democratic Party of Georgia v. Crittenden (Amy Totenberg, N.D. Ga. 1:18-cv-5443)
Following a morning proceeding three days after an election, a federal judge signed a consent agreement extending the deadline for election officials to receive cast absentee ballots. Ballots were mailed late to voters because of a state court injunction and a hurricane. In another district in the same state, a consent order similarly ex-tended the deadline for absentee ballots statewide in a runoff election.
Subject: Absentee and early voting. Topics: Absentee ballots; enjoining certification.

One of many Case Studies in Emergency Election Litigation.

Available Online Only

Williams v. DeSantis (Robert L. Hinkle, N.D. Fla. 1:20-cv-67)
During the global infectious COVID-19 pandemic, a federal judge declined to modify absentee ballot provisions in a presidential primary election in response to a complaint filed on the night before election day.
Subject: Absentee and early voting. Topics: Absentee ballots; COVID-19; laches; intervention; case assignment; primary election.

One of many Case Studies in Emergency Election Litigation.

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