Sun | Oct 25, 2020

Voting lawsuits pile up across US as election approaches

Published:Wednesday | September 30, 2020 | 2:56 PM
In this September 8, 2020 photo, voting booths are kept socially distant at the Chesterfield, New Hampshire polling site. Democrats and Republicans are involved in hundreds of lawsuits across the country relating to the upcoming election. The lawsuits concern the core fundamentals of the American voting process, including how ballots are cast and counted. (Kristopher Radder/The Brattleboro Reformer via AP)

WASHINGTON (AP) — They’ve been fighting in Wisconsin and Pennsylvania over the cutoff date for counting mailed ballots, and in North Carolina over witness requirements.

Ohio is grappling with drop boxes for ballots as Texas faces a court challenge over extra days of early voting.

Measuring the anxiety over the November election is as simple as tallying the hundreds of voting-related lawsuits filed across the country in recent months.

The cases concern the fundamentals of the American balloting process, including how ballots are cast and counted, during an election made unique by the coronavirus pandemic and by a president who refuses to commit to accepting the results.

The lawsuits are all the more important because President Donald Trump has raised the prospect that the election may wind up before a Supreme Court with a decidedly Republican tilt if his latest nominee is confirmed.

“This is a president who has expressed his opposition to access to mail ballots and has also seemed to almost foreshadow the inevitability that this election will be one decided by the courts,” said Kristen Clarke, executive director of the National Lawyers Committee for Civil Rights.

That opposition was on display Tuesday during the first presidential debate when Trump launched into an extended argument against mail voting, claiming without evidence that it is ripe for fraud and suggesting mail ballots may be “manipulated.”

“This is going to be a fraud like you’ve never seen,” the president said of the massive shift to mail voting prompted by the pandemic.

The lawsuits are a likely precursor for what will come afterward. Republicans say they have major law firms on retainer, along with thousands of volunteer lawyers at the ready. Democrats have announced a legal war room of Democratic heavyweights, including a pair of former solicitors general and a former attorney general.

The race is already regarded as the most litigated in American history, due in large part to the massive expansion of mail and absentee voting. Loyola Law School professor Justin Levitt has tallied some 260 lawsuits arising from the coronavirus.

The Republication National Committee says it’s involved in more than 40 cases, and a website run by a chief Democrat lawyer lists active cases worth watching in about 15 states.

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