Second Federal Lawsuit Filed Over Mississippi’s Mail-in Ballot Receipt Deadline

WASHINGTON, D.C. — The Mississippi Libertarian Party yesterday filed a federal lawsuit challenging a Republican-backed state law that allows mail-in ballots that are postmarked on or before Election Day to be counted so long as they are received within five business days of the election.

The new lawsuit is the second challenge to be mounted against Mississippi’s mail-in ballot deadline in recent weeks. At the end of January, the Republican National Committee, Mississippi Republican Party and individual voters filed a similar complaint against state election officials seeking to overturn the state’s current receipt deadline. 

In the complaint filed yesterday, the Mississippi Libertarian Party alleges that by allowing mail-in ballots to be counted after Election Day, the state is unlawfully “extending” Election Day past the date prescribed by federal law — the Tuesday after the first Monday in November. 

According to the lawsuit, Mississippi’s deadline results in “valid votes” cast on or before Election Day being illegally “diluted” by votes received after the election in violation of federal law and the right to vote under the U.S. Constitution. The state Libertarian Party additionally asserts that the challenged deadline contravenes the U.S. Constitution’s Electors and Elections Clauses, which, as the complaint argues, afford unconditional authority to Congress to set “Time regulations” for congressional and presidential elections. 

Judicial Watch, the right-wing legal group representing the Mississippi Libertarian Party in the new lawsuit, is also behind a similar legal challenge to Illinois’ mail-in ballot receipt deadline law, which permits valid mail-in ballots to be counted up to two weeks after Election Day. A federal judge previously dismissed the challenge out of Illinois, but the GOP plaintiffs have since appealed to the 7th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals, which will hold oral argument on March 28, 2024. 

Just last week, a Trump-appointed federal judge dismissed an analogous right-wing lawsuit seeking to invalidate a North Dakota election law that allows for the counting of mail-in ballots up to 13 days after Election Day so long as they are postmarked on or before the election. 

In both the Illinois and North Dakota cases, the U.S. Department of Justice submitted statements emphasizing the importance of post-Election Day mail-in ballot deadlines for military and overseas voters, who often face “logistical challenges that can…result from transporting ballots from overseas or distant locations across the country” and disproportionality rely on later ballot receipt deadlines to protect against unlawful disenfranchisement. 

Aside from Illinois, Mississippi and North Dakota, at least 16 other states as well as Washington D.C. have post-Election Day mail-in ballot receipt deadlines. 

Read the complaint here.

Learn more about the case here.