Voting Access Updates Mail Ballots Are At Issue As States Consider New Rules And Legal Action

As the nation prepares for yet another pandemic election, the rules for voting by mail remain a flash point in many states, a conflict that is being waged in courtrooms and state houses over Republican-backed restrictions.

Here’s what happened this week:

  • In North Carolina, the State Board of Elections rejected a signature-matching requirement for absentee ballots that was proposed by the state Republican Party. The measure, denied by a party-line vote on Thursday, would have let counties compare signatures on applications and return envelopes for absentee ballots with those on voter registration cards.

    The board’s three Democrats said that the verification method would conflict with state law and would contribute to voters being treated differently, which they cautioned would be unconstitutional. The panel’s two G.O.P. members contended that checking signatures “simply builds trust in the system.”

North Carolina is not the only battleground state where Republicans and Democrats are clashing over mail-in ballots.

  • Pennsylvania’s top election official, Leigh M. Chapman, a Democrat who is the acting secretary of the commonwealth, sued three counties on Tuesday over their refusal to include undated mail-in ballots in their official tallies from the May 7 primaries.

    A state court had directed counties in June to report two sets of tallies to Ms. Chapman’s office, one that included ballots without dates handwritten on their return envelopes as required by law and one that did not.

    The three counties — Berks, Fayette and Lancaster, which are controlled by Republicans — have prevented the state from completing its final certification of the primary results, state elections officials said.

    The lack of dates on ballot envelopes was a point of contention in the Republican Senate primary that was narrowly won by Dr. Mehmet Oz over David McCormick. Disputes over such ballots have resulted in legal action in state and federal courts, including the U.S. Supreme Court.

The conflict over mail-in voting is not limited to purple or red states.

The court’s order in Massachusetts was not the only setback this week for Republicans.

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