SCOTUS Intervention Adds To The Chaos Of Wisconsin’s COVID-19 Afflicted Election

Voting rights primer
|
April 13, 2020 12:48 p.m.

This piece is part of our weekly Prime series on voting rights, but it has been moved outside of the paywall while we cover COVID-19.

Wisconsin Primary A Warning Sign For Coronavirus Election Debacles To Come: What was already expected to be a chaotic and potentially dangerous primary election in Wisconsin was taken to the next level with an election-eve intervention by the Supreme Court. Upon the request of Republicans, the court’s conservative majority reversed a judge’s order that would have helped election officials deal with the operational challenges of the massive expansion of mail-in voting prompted by the outbreak. The Supreme Court’s move, which in practice likely threw away thousands of absentee ballots, came after Republicans refused the Democratic governor’s calls to delay the election. Many voters had no choice but to wait in long lines in the midst of a pandemic if they wanted their votes counted. An image from this ugly episode went viral last week. The photo featured a top Wisconsin GOP lawmaker claiming it was perfectly fine to vote in-person, as he wore a full head-t0-toe protective gear.

The downwind effects of the chaos are still being felt:

  • Wisconsin’s health officials intend to track voters to assess how COVID-19 might have spread further due to in-person voting.
  • The state’s bipartisan U.S. senators want an investigation into how the U.S. Postal Service may have screwed up the delivery of absentee ballots.
  • Local election officials are still weighing whether to count ballots that made it to their offices by the day after Election Day but are missing postmarks for Election Day, likely due to U.S Postal Service error.

ACLU Sues Georgia Over Mandate That Absentee Voters Pay For Ballot Postage: A new ACLU lawsuit alleges that Georgia is imposing an unconstitutional poll tax with its requirement that voters pay for the postage on both absentee ballot applications and the ballots themselves. The lawsuit comes as voter advocates are bracing for an expansion of mail-in voting everywhere, due to the coronavirus.

Voter Advocates Win In New Hampshire Registration Case: Yet again, New Hampshire saw an attempt to disenfranchise student voters blocked by the courts. A state court issued a final ruling striking down a 2017 measure that complicated voting for New Hampshirites utilizing same day voter registration — which college students disproportionately take advantage of in the state — because the measure imposed an “unreasonable” and a “discriminatory” burden on voters. The state plans to appeal the ruling.

More Ex-Felons Can Vote In Florida Now With New Move By Judge: The state of Florida has accrued a number of court losses as it tries to defend the law it passed to undermine the felon re-enfranchisement measure approved by voters in 2018. The latest defeat was an order Tuesday by the judge overseeing the challenge to the 2019 law — a case that goes to trial this month. The new order expanded a previous order that allows more ex-felons to vote under the hold that has been placed on the law’s enforcement. Initially, the judge blocked enforcement of the law for the individual challengers who could not afford to pay off outstanding court fees, the requirement for voting that Florida Republicans passed in 2019. With the new order, any ex-felon who can’t afford to pay off their court fees can register to vote while the case is being litigated.

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