Voting-Rights Lawsuits Explode as 2020 Election Kicks Into High Gear

(AP Photo/Tony Dejak)

(CN) — A record-breaking number of voting rights lawsuits have been filed in the lead-up to the November election, with 82% more cases filed this year compared to the same time during the last presidential election, according to a new report Monday.

The Transactional Records Access Clearinghouse at Syracuse University found voting rights filings for the last six months have far surpassed the number of similar lawsuits filed during the same time leading up to the 2016 presidential election.

During the last six months, 155 voting rights lawsuits have been filed in courts across the country compared with 85 such cases during the same time in 2016.

Compared to 47 voting rights suits filed during the lead-up to the 2018 election, this year’s pace of filings is more than three times greater, according to TRAC.

The last six months have seen the highest amount of voting rights lawsuits since TRAC began tracking federal civil litigation in October 2007.

The Northern District of Georgia (Atlanta) has seen the greatest number of voting rights lawsuits, with 15 filed in the past year.

Last month, a federal judge in one of the cases denied a voting rights group’s request for an order barring Georgia election officials from requiring voters to pay for their own postage on absentee ballots.

The decision followed a record-breaking June primary where more than 1.1 million Georgians voted by mail.

In an interview, TRAC co-director and Syracuse University statistician Susan Long said the “Northern District of Georgia from 2008 to 2016 was by no means a leader in the amount of litigation going on then compared to now.”

Right behind the Northern District of Georgia is the Eastern District of Michigan (Detroit) with 13 voting rights lawsuits filed this fiscal year.

The Western District of Texas (San Antonio) has had 10 voting rights lawsuits this year, while Arizona has had eight and the Southern District of New York (Manhattan) has seen seven.

The District of Columbia had the largest volume of lawsuits relative to its population size at six.

Eliza Sweren-Becker, counsel of NYU Law’s Brennan Center for Justice Democracy Program, said in an interview voting rights lawsuits this year have largely been spurred by the Covid-19 pandemic.

“Conducting an election in a pandemic was not factored during the creation of election rules and budgets,” Sweren-Becker said.

Many of the lawsuits have challenged state election rules which prove burdensome to comply with during social distancing measures necessary to prevent the spread of coronavirus, Sweren-Becker said.

She noted notary or third-party witness signature requirements to validate absentee ballots before they can be submitted are one such burden being challenged in the courts.

Sweren-Becker also pointed out legal challenges brought over ballot receipt deadlines, where hundreds of thousands of ballots were rejected during primaries this year due to late arrivals — through no fault of the voters and despite the U.S. Postal Service’s warnings of mail lag times.

“The experience of the pandemic has shown some of these rules are truly unnecessary. Many states do not implement them and they run elections successfully with no real claims to the integrity of their elections,” Sweren-Becker said.

Another trend this year has been the litigation by the Trump administration challenging states’ efforts to expand mail voting.

“This is a remarkable effort at trying to suppress the vote by challenging the integrity of mail voting without any real evidence to establish these false claims of voter fraud the president makes both on Twitter and in legal briefs,” Sweren-Becker said, pointing out Justice Department legal challenges have been tossed for failing to cite evidence of any actual fraud.

“The lawsuits are intended to create the impression there is something wrong with mail voting and that’s flatly not the case,” Sweren-Becker said.

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