Lawsuit filed by Disability Rights Mississippi, the League of Women Voters of Mississippi, a voter and two individuals who provide voter assistance challenging Senate Bill 2358, a recently enacted law that “restricts voters with disabilities from having a person of their choice assist them in submitting their completed” mail-in ballots. Specifically, S.B. 2358 stipulates that only election officials, postal workers, family members, household members or caregivers can assist voters with disabilities in returning their completed mail-in ballots and imposes criminal penalties and fines on those who violate the law. Prior to the enactment of S.B. 2358, anyone of a voter’s choice — including social workers, voting organizations and other trusted individuals — could assist voters with disabilities in returning their completed mail-in ballots.
The plaintiffs allege that the challenged law — which makes it harder for voters to cast their ballot and “also risks disenfranchising entirely blind, disabled, or low-literacy voters” — violates Section 208 of the Voting Rights Act (VRA). Section 208 of the VRA guarantees that “[a]ny voter who requires assistance to vote by reason of blindness, disability, or inability to read or write may be given assistance by a person of the voter’s choice’” so long as the assistor is not the “the voter’s employer or agent of that employer or officer or agent of the voter’s union.” Furthermore, the plaintiffs note that Section 208 provides for assistance throughout “all aspects of the voting process—from registration, to casting a ballot, to having that vote counted properly—and regardless of the method by which the voter lawfully chooses to vote,” including mail-in voting. The plaintiffs contend that federal law preempts conflicting state law and therefore ask the court to preliminarily and permanently block S.B. 2358 for violating Section 208 and the Supremacy Clause of the U.S. Constitution, arguing that the law “threatens to undermine the next election in Mississippi by disenfranchising some of its most vulnerable citizens.” On July 25, a judge temporarily enjoined S.B. 2358.
On Aug. 29, the Mississippi attorney general and secretary of state appealed the order granting the preliminary injunction to the 5th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals.