Republicans Fight Back in Court Against Democrats’ Revisions of Voting Policy

BY MATTHEW VADUM September 30, 2020 | Updated: September 30, 2020

Republicans in several states are pushing back against Democratic-led changes to state voting laws they say are unfair and likely to cause chaos in the Nov. 3 elections.

Republican state senators asked the U.S. Supreme Court on Sept. 28 to block a Pennsylvania Supreme Court ruling that extended the Nov. 3 deadline for receiving and counting mailed ballots in the Keystone State.

On Sept. 24, the Pennsylvania high court, which has a 5–2 Democratic majority, refused without comment a request to put its controversial ruling on hold while Republicans prepared to appeal the ruling to the Supreme Court.

The deadline was shifted from 8 p.m. Nov. 3 to 5 p.m. Nov. 6, provided the ballots are postmarked, or believed to be postmarked, by 8 p.m. on Nov. 3. The Pennsylvania court also allowed voters to leave their ballots in drop boxes.

“The court’s judgment … creates a serious likelihood that Pennsylvania’s imminent general election will be tainted by votes that were illegally cast or mailed after Election Day,” Republicans stated in court documents.

Pennsylvania is among the most hotly contested battleground states in the Nov. 3 presidential election. President Donald Trump narrowly won the state in 2016 by 44,292 votes out of more than 6 million cast. The Republican candidate secured 48.2 percent of the popular vote in the state, beating Democrat Hillary Clinton, who won 47.5 percent, according to Ballotpedia.

Pennsylvania has 20 electoral votes out of the 270 needed to be elected president.

Last week, a federal judge in Wisconsin ruled that absentee ballots postmarked by 8 p.m. on Election Day would be allowed if they arrived as many as six days later.

But on Sept. 27, the 7th Circuit Court of Appeals temporarily blocked the six-day extension in a lawsuit brought by the Republican National Committee and state party leaders. If that ruling stands, ballots will again be due Election Day by 8 p.m.

Wisconsin is an important 2020 battleground state that President Trump narrowly won in 2016. In that contest, Trump won 47.2 percent of the popular vote in the state, beating Clinton, who won 46.5 percent. Wisconsin has 10 of the 270 electoral votes needed to win the presidency.

Meanwhile, a group of conservative Wisconsin voters filed a complaint with the Wisconsin Election Commission against an activist group funded by Facebook founder Mark Zuckerberg, claiming that election-assistance grants it gave to Democrat-dominated cities violate state law and attempt to unfairly influence the outcome of the November election.

The complainant, Wisconsin Voter Alliance, is an unincorporated association of voters based in Suamico, Wisconsin, “that desires to have clean and fair elections in the state of Wisconsin,” according to the legal complaint.

The Alliance claims that grants allocated by the Center for Tech and Civic Life (CTCL) favor Democrats because they went to the electoral apparatus in five Wisconsin cities—Green Bay, Kenosha, Madison, Milwaukee, and Racine—which, past data show, vote overwhelmingly for Democrats. The CTCL is a left-leaning election reform nonprofit based in Chicago.

CTCL announced Sept. 1 that Zuckerberg and his wife, Priscilla Chan, had committed $250 million to the group.

“We’ve seen government playing favorites in elections before,” Phill Kline, director of the Amistad Project of the Chicago-based Thomas More Society, said in a statement.

“Through much of the last century, southern states made it difficult for blacks to vote and easy for white citizens to vote, promoting racism in the manner that they orchestrated their elections. Government targeting a demographic to increase turnout is the opposite side of the same coin as targeting a demographic to suppress the vote,” said Kline, who represents the Wisconsin Voter Alliance.

According to the Amistad Project, related, separate federal lawsuits by conservative groups have also been filed objecting to the CTCL funding regime in Wisconsin, Michigan, Minnesota, and Pennsylvania.

The lawsuits claim that the use of the CTCL funds violates the federal Help America Vote Act, which prevents local governments from accepting private federal election grants without state legislative approval, on the theory that such grants lead to government playing favorites in the election process.

And in Texas, state Republicans are suing their own governor, Republican Greg Abbott, over an extension of early voting he ordered by citing his emergency pandemic powers, the Texas Tribune reports. Among the plaintiffs are state party chairman and former congressman Allen West, Agriculture Commissioner Sid Miller, and members of the Texas Legislature.

In July, Abbott moved the start date for early voting to Oct. 13 from Oct. 19, adding six days in the process. The plaintiffs say in the action filed in the state’s supreme court that election law mandates a different start date.

“Governor Abbott seems to have forgotten that the Texas Constitution is not a document that he consults at his convenience,” Jared Woodfill, counsel for the plaintiffs, reportedly said. “It is an uninterrupted charter of governmental structure that limits Governor Abbott’s ability to act as a king.”

In North Carolina, the Republican National Committee and the Trump campaign sued, seeking to reverse a recent change that allows ballots to be received through Nov. 12. Also, ballots returned with deficient information can now be fixed without forcing the voter to fill out a new blank ballot, according to the new changes.

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