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Are There Any Federal Appellate Lawsuits Out There NOT Involving the 2020 Election?

STAMFORD, CONNECTICUT - AUGUST 11: A woman drops her Connecticut 2020 presidential primary ballot at a secure ballot drop box at a Stamford library on August 11, 2020 in Stamford, Connecticut. Due to the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic, Connecticut Governor Ned Lamont signed an executive order allowing all registered voters to vote absentee in the August 11, 2020 primary. Connecticut has also experienced fallout from the recent tropical storm, which knocked out power to half of the state at its peak. President Trump has been critical of the absentee ballot process saying it contributes to voter fraud. (Photo by Spencer Platt/Getty Images)
By Joseph Fawbush, Esq. | Last updated on

Entropy is a fundamental law of the universe, and all things will eventually descend into chaos. No particular reason to bring that up in a blog about the latest round of election litigation.

What's happening now? Here's a rundown.

SCOTUS Takes Up Voting Restrictions in Arizona

A lower court held that two voting restrictions in Arizona unlawfully prohibited Black and Latino voters from exercising their rights in violation of the Civil Rights Act. The Supreme Court agreed to take up the case on October 2. The full nine-Justice court will hear the case in January. The laws in question prohibit third-party absentee ballot collection (sometimes referred to by critics as "ballot harvesting") and counting ballots cast at the wrong polling precinct. The measures will remain in place during the 2020 election, as the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals issued a stay of their ruling pending Supreme Court resolution.

Texas Prohibition on Straight-Ticket Voting Upheld

Straight-ticket voting allows a voter to select a slate of candidates from one party with one checkbox. In 2017, the Texas Legislature outlawed this practice. Eighteen days before the election, a district court issued an injunction prohibiting this as a violation of voters' right to free association. Not so fast, said the Fifth Circuit. The Supreme Court has repeatedly noted that lower courts cannot change election rules on the eve of an election. The straight-ticket prohibition stands.

What's Your Beef, Wisconsin Republicans?

A district judge held that some voter registration provisions negatively impacted voters due to the pandemic, and extended certain deadlines. The Republican Party of Wisconsin, which was not a party to the lawsuit, intervened.

Weird, the Seventh Circuit wrote, since Wisconsin Republicans "ha[ve] no legal interest in the outcome of this litigation." Whether some voting deadlines are extended has no bearing on the constitutional rights of the Republican Party of Wisconsin or its legislative branch. The Seventh Circuit panel denied their request for a stay, meaning certain deadlines remain extended.

South Carolina's Signature Requirement

On September 24, a Fourth Circuit panel issued an injunction prohibiting South Carolina's witness signature requirement on its absentee ballot, finding it to be an unconstitutional violation of state residents' right to vote. Getting a witness could be too onerous for some. 

On Monday, October 5, the Supreme Court issued a stay of the lower court's injunction, meaning the ballot signature requirement is back on in South Carolina. However, " any ballots cast before this stay issues and received within two days of this order may not be rejected for failing to comply with the witness requirement."

More Uncertainty, More Lawsuits

The lawsuits will keep coming until November 3, and many will be decided after the most highly litigated election in U.S. history. Whether we see a rush of additional litigation as a result of the vote tabulation remains to be seen, but is certainly a distinct possibility.

Election Litigation (FindLaw's Don't Judge Me Podcast)

State Voting Rights Litigation: An Overview (FindLaw's Law and Daily Life)

Ongoing and Recent Litigation Over the 2020 Election (FindLaw's Voting Made Clear)

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