Pro-Voting Groups Sue Over New Mississippi Law Targeting Voters With Disabilities

WASHINGTON, D.C. — On Wednesday, May 31, Disability Rights Mississippi, the League of Women Voters of Mississippi and three voters filed a federal lawsuit challenging Senate Bill 2358, a recently enacted Mississippi law that limits who can assist voters with disabilities in returning their completed mail-in ballots. 

Signed into law by Gov. Tate Reeves (R) on March 23, S.B. 2358 stipulates that only election officials, postal workers, family members, household members or caregivers can help voters with disabilities return 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, a voter with disabilities could designate anyone of their choosing to return their mail-in ballot, including social workers, voting organizations and other trusted individuals. 

The plaintiffs allege that the challenged law makes it harder for voters to cast their ballot and “also risks disenfranchising entirely blind, disabled, or low-literacy voters,” thereby violating Section 208 of the Voting Rights Act (VRA). Section 208 of the VRA guarantees that a person who needs help with voting due to “blindness, disability, or inability to read or write” can receive assistance from a “person of the voter’s choice,” except the voter’s employer or union representative. 

The lawsuit further asserts that Section 208 provides for assistance throughout “all aspects of the voting process…regardless of the method by which the voter lawfully chooses to vote,” including mail-in voting.

The plaintiffs contend that federal law preempts (meaning supersedes) conflicting state law and therefore ask the court to block S.B. 2358 for violating Section 208 of the VRA and the Supremacy Clause of the U.S. Constitution. The voting rights groups argue that the law “threatens to undermine the next election in Mississippi by disenfranchising some of its most vulnerable citizens” and should be blocked prior to the state’s upcoming August 2023 primary.

Read the complaint here. 

Learn more about the case here.