Voting During a Pandemic

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Republicans have spent decades making it more difficult for core Democratic constituencies to vote by implementing things like voter ID, “exact-match” signature requirements, voter purges, poll closures, and other election rules that voting-rights groups say disenfranchise millions of Americans every year.

Now, their efforts are facing a much tougher test than a Supreme Court that usually lets them have their way: a pandemic that highlights the need for making voting easier.

However, instead of putting voter safety first, many Republicans seem more willing to double down — regardless of the cost to democracy and the health of Americans — and shout baseless claims of widespread voter fraud in order to have an edge this November.

But the debate on vote-by-mail is still largely a partisan battle among political elites — not voters. So, we’ve compiled a few resources on registering to vote, finding your polling place, and requesting an absentee ballot. (learn more)

Big Win for Fair Maps: In 2016, Michiganders overwhelmingly passed a ballot measure to get politics out of redistricting. The new commission would prevent anyone with ties to lobbying or the government from joining for six years — so Republicans unsurprisingly filed a lawsuit.

But a federal appeals court upheld the state’s independent redistricting commission on Wednesday, noting that the eligibility criteria is “part and parcel” of how the commission “achieves independence from partisan meddling.” (read the ruling)

Vote-by-Mail Gets Boost From the Courts: A Texas judge allowed all registered voters to request an absentee ballot in response to the coronavirus. District Judge Tim Sulak expanded the definition of “disability” to include fear about the virus when requesting a ballot. (read more)

More Voting Machine Headaches in the Tar Heel State: The North Carolina chapter of the NAACP and a group of voters filed a lawsuit last week, alleging that the state’s ballot-marking devices (touchscreen voting machines) violate voters’ constitutional rights to fair and free elections. (read more)

The system in question is Election Systems & Software’s (ES&S) ExpressVote, which has been proven time and again to have a number of cybersecurity flaws. Earlier this year, WhoWhatWhy reported that the North Carolina State Board of Elections rushed to approve a different model of these voting machines without undergoing another certification process after ES&S failed to fill the state’s original order. (read more)

The Presidential Primary Comes to an (Unofficial) End: With Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-VT) suspending his campaign, former Vice President Joe Biden is now the presumptive Democratic presidential nominee. So, what happens next with COVID-19 front and center?

It appears that the heavy hitters are emerging from quarantine life to endorse Biden — and sound the alarm about misinformation and the Republican party’s fundraising war chest. Former President Barack Obama released a 12-minute-long endorsement last week, at one point accusing Republicans of repeatedly “[disregarding] American principles of rule of law, and voting rights and transparency.” (watch here)

Meanwhile, former First Lady Michelle Obama will be co-hosting a virtual “#CouchParty 2.0” with her group When We All Vote (and some celebrities like Tom Hanks) tonight as part of the group’s get-out-the-vote efforts. (more information here)

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