By Marc Elias

August 2020

Democracy Docket 2.0

At last, we have a full Democratic ticket for November—Joe Biden and Kamala Harris.

As Democrats were choosing their nominees and holding a virtual convention, Democracy Docket was undergoing a facelift of its own. In addition to newer, brighter colors, we have expanded our site to include a new explainer series. We also opened up a new Spotlight series for guest opinions. Our first Spotlight was by Senator Michael Bennet, “We Can’t Let the Pandemic Keep Students from Voting.” You can expect even more content in the coming days, including articles by elections experts and, of course, new cases. So stay tuned and make sure you follow us on Twitter, Instagram, and Facebook.

In addition to the website, we also expanded our litigation. Not only did we continue to protect vote by mail (VBM) and fight Trump (details below), but we also took on the problems facing in-person voting, starting with long lines in Georgia. We all remember Georgia’s chaotic primary election where voters waited for hours in line to cast a ballot. Well, we have filed suit to prevent that from happening again this fall. We also sued to expand early voting days in North Carolina, where many voters prefer in-person early voting.

Our balanced approach to protecting VBM and in-person voting tracks closely with Kamala Harris’ VoteSafe Act. I was proud to be one of the first to endorse the bill when it was introduced in April. In addition to containing all Four Pillars, it also reflects many of the reforms for in-person voting I wrote about in The Atlantic and which we are litigating in court.

Our Rebuttal to GOP Lawsuits

In July, I warned about the Trump Campaign and RNC-sponsored lawsuits directly attacking VBM. Just as I predicted, every day we get closer to November, the GOP mounts additional attacks on voting rights. Republican state committees are following Trump’s lead and bringing their false claims about VBM to courtrooms across the country.

But we are fighting back. In the past few weeks, we have intervened to defend against Republicans’ cases in Illinois, Iowa, Nevada, New Jersey, and Pennsylvania. Wherever Trump and the Republicans try to deprive people of their voting rights, we’ll be there fighting back.

Luckily, we don’t have to rely solely on our successes in court. Elected officials are also taking the lessons of our litigation into consideration as they create new laws and regulations for November. In Nevada, the state addressed the concerns raised in our lawsuit by passing a new law—sparking Trump’s outrage and resulting in another Republican lawsuit. The new law addressed 100% of our Four Pillars case challenges, including legalizing ballot collection, adopting new signature matching standards and expanding early voting days.

Active Cases

Another example of state officials improving their election laws as a result of our litigation came in Pennsylvania. After filing our lawsuit, the state changed its position on two of the Four Pillars. Thanks to our litigation, all voters in Pennsylvania now have prepaid postage on their absentee ballot. The state also agreed that voters should have their ballot counted if it is postmarked by Election Day and received by three days after.

As a result of a different Four Pillars case, Minnesota will no longer enforce its burdensome Witness Requirement and Election Day Receipt Deadline. Because of our litigation, sponsored by the National Redistricting Foundation, voters will now have their ballot counted if it is postmarked on or before Election Day and received within one week of Election Day. A few weeks later, Republicans threw in the towel and dismissed their appeal of our victory, further cementing what the lower court judge wrote:

“Moreover, as to the question of voter safety, and with deep respect to Committees’ counsel, his clients can’t have it both ways. As the Defendant noted at argument, the President’s own tweets suggest a recognition that voter safety will be compromised in November. The day before this hearing, the President of the United States tweeted “Delay the Election until people can properly, securely and safely vote???”

This month, we also successfully foiled Republican dirty tricks in Montana. Weeks after voters signed a petition to get the Green Party on the ballot, Montana voters discovered that the Montana Green Party had absolutely no connection to the petition. The misleading petition was actually led by a professional, out-of-state, for-profit consulting firm funded by the Montana Republican Party. When petitioners requested their names be withdrawn, the Green Party did not meet the political party qualification requirement to be listed on the ballot. We won in both the District and State Supreme Court, where the judge said, “The actions of the MTGOP and its agents demonstrate that its misrepresentations and failures to disclose in violation of Montana campaign finance law were intentionally designed to create an advantage for the MTGOP at the expense of unwitting signers.”

Keeping USPS delays and fears over mail ballots arriving after state deadlines in mind, we continue to work on implementing the Four Pillars to safeguard VBM ahead of November. We filed two new Four Pillars cases in August—one in New Hampshire and one in Missouri. New Hampshire lacks three of the Four Pillars: prepaid postage, ballot receipt deadline and third party collection. We also challenged New Hampshire’s witness and documentation requirements and the state’s overly-complicated absentee registration request process that relies on voters registering in person. In Missouri, we challenged the state’s notary requirement, restriction that voters return their ballots only by the USPS, received by deadline, ban on third party collection and signature matching protocols.

We are preparing to take on every legal challenge the GOP will throw our way in November. We must ensure no one is disenfranchised by Trump’s malicious voter suppression tactics that prioritizes maintaining power over eligible voters’ inalienable right to cast a ballot.


August Spotlight: Empowering Latino Civic Engagement

This month, we’re spotlighting Mi Familia Vota, an organization empowering Latino communities through their seven pillars model of community engagement. Mi Familia Vota is a national, non-partisan organization that operates in six states and identifies voting rights as one of their six key issues. In addition to citizenship workshops, voter registration and organizing voter participation, they are also on the ground on Election Day as a resource to fight voter suppression. Learn more about ways to get involved here, or donate directly to their Education Fund here.


What I’m Reading

Despite the President’s constant bashing of VBM, support for voting by mail in the United States is quite high. In July, researchers at the COVID-19 Consortium for Understanding the Public’s Policy Preferences Across States conducted a 50-state survey asking voters if they support making it easier to VBM in November. The results showed 64% of likely voters support making it easier to VBM.

Last week, the U.S. Postal Service sent detailed letters to 46 different states, warning election officials that mail-in ballots may not arrive in time and that ballot receipt deadlines should be changed accordingly. These letters are blaring alarms, warning states of the potential disenfranchisement of tens of millions of Americans who plan to VBM in November. You can read all of the letters to the states here.


What Bode’s Barking About

“Trump’s remarks are part of a pattern of comments in which he has suggested he is willing to take actions to impede how people cast their ballots this fall. He has repeatedly sought to undermine confidence in the November vote, making false claims about the integrity of mail-in balloting and raising the specter of widespread electoral fraud.”

Washington Post

“The United States Postal Service has warned election officials in 46 states and the District of Columbia that their absentee voting rules are “incongruous” with the agency’s mail delivery service standards and may result in uncounted ballots, raising further alarms with the viability of a voting platform millions of Americans are expected to use in the run-up to the November vote.”

ABC News

“Getting politically active may feel intimidating if you’re not sure where to start, but it’s never too late to get involved and make your voice heard. Here’s a primer of some of the most essential steps you can take.”

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