Democrats, Republicans Wage Legal War Over Mail-In Voting

September 1, 2020 Updated: September 1, 2020

Democrat and Republican groups have filed more than 100 lawsuits this year over vote-by-mail rules around the nation as part of a legal battle that’s already shaping how millions of Americans can vote on Election Day.

Democrats and liberal groups dominate the battlefield with the backing of well-funded organizations such as the American Civil Liberties Union, and high-profile law firms such as Perkins Coie, which is litigating vote-by-mail cases in 11 states. The party has 600 lawyers working on election-related cases nationwide, according to Democratic presidential nominee Joe Biden.

Republicans and conservatives have filed significantly fewer lawsuits. President Donald Trump recently said that the GOP is involved in 18 cases around the country, a total that appears to include the cases litigated by his reelection campaign, the Republican National Committee, and state Republican parties.

“The Democrat Party and the greater organized left is far more invested than the opposite side,” said Logan Churchwell, communications director for the Public Interest Legal Foundation. “We’re talking hundreds upon hundreds of millions of dollars as opposed to a much smaller amount on the right.”

The battle lines are clear cut: Democrats and left-wing groups want to make it as easy as possible to vote by mail, while Republicans are challenging steps they say open the door to fraud and undermine the integrity of the election. The spree of left-wing lawsuits has frequently cited the outbreak of the CCP virus, or novel coronavirus, as a reason to consider voting by mail an essential option, for Americans who fear catching the virus.

Twenty states have taken steps toward more voting by mail since the last election, according to a tally maintained by The Washington Post. At least 83 percent of American voters, or 100 million, will be able to cast their ballots by mail in the fall. Fifty-one million will receive ballots automatically, and 44 million will be sent ballot request applications.

The Democrat lawsuits in these and other states have sought to do away with a number of safeguards meant to protect the integrity of each vote, including photo identification, signature matching, and witness requirements. Perkins Coie, as part of the Democracy Docket project, is litigating more than a dozen cases seeking to make the postage free for mail-in ballots, extend the deadlines for counting postmarked ballots, reform signature matching laws, and allow community groups to collect and deliver completed and sealed ballots.

The Trump campaign recently scored a victory in Iowa after a district court judge voided 50,000 absentee ballot request forms that had been improperly pre-filled with voters’ personal information by a county auditor. The Democrats had earlier won court challenges in Arizona and Minnesota.

The left’s investment spans beyond the legal battle over vote-by-mail. Private left-wing groups are pouring money into local government coffers with the stated goal of helping better administer the 2020 election.

Facebook’s Mark Zuckerberg committed $250 million on Sept. 1 to Center for Tech and Civic Life (CTCL), a nonprofit that will distribute the funds to local election administrators. The grants cover vote-by-mail and a range of other election-day expenses and are available to any local election office that applies. The city of Philadelphia accepted a $10 million grant from CTCL in late August, nearly doubling its election budget. Roughly $8.8 million of the total budget will go to fund mail-in voting, according to The Philadelphia Inquirer. In July, the center committed $6.3 million in grants to five Wisconsin cities.

“There is far more money on one side of the aisle being spent, and it used to be just litigation, but now it’s litigation plus grant money to governments,” Churchwell said.

Trump and Attorney General William Barr have repeatedly criticized widespread vote-by-mail as ripe for fraud. Democrats say the concerns are unfounded and accuse Republicans of suppressing the vote to their advantage.

“I think that [Republicans] have a couple of scenarios that they are looking toward,” former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton said in an interview with The Recount published on Aug. 24. “One is messing up absentee balloting—they believe that helps them—so that they then get maybe a narrow advantage in the Electoral College on Election Day.

“So we’ve got to have a massive legal operation, and I know the Biden campaign is working on that.”

The president has recently approved of mail-in voting in Florida, explaining that the Republican governors there have done a good job organizing an effective system. But he has strongly opposed universal vote-by-mail in other states, including Nevada, where Democrat Gov. Steve Sisolak called in an emergency legislative session on Aug. 3 and rushed through a mail-in voting measure.

“I mean, in Nevada, where you have a governor—he said, ‘Let’s just send out millions of ballots,’ and the Post Office cannot be prepared; I haven’t spoken to the Post Office about it, but I don’t know how they could possibly be prepared,” the president said.

The mail-in ballot debate has ensnared the U.S. Postal Service, which is expected to handle an unprecedented number of mail-in ballots in the coming months. Democrats in Congress began scrutinizing the agency on suspicion that wide-ranging changes enacted by a newly installed postmaster were meant to slow down the mail ahead of the election. The USPS is now involved in five lawsuits brought by Democrat politicians, left-wing groups, and 14 Democrat state attorneys general.

According to Tom Fitton, president of conservative watchdog group Judicial Watch, the left-wing litigation spree is meant to undermine the election and cause chaos on Nov. 3.

“The left is going to try to undermine election security up until the day of the election and obviously past that,” Fitton said, adding that nearly 100 million ballots and ballot requests would be mailed out based on outdated voter rolls, making them “an open invitation for voter fraud.”

“And on top of that, our system can’t handle those types of numbers,” Fitton said. “So we’ll have chaos on Election Day. Millions of people potentially will be disenfranchised. And what is the left doing? They’re planning for violence if they don’t like the election outcome.”

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