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.
In deep-blue Massachusetts, the Supreme Judicial Court on Monday denied a lawsuit filed by the state Republican Party that had sought to block no-excuse mail-in voting from becoming permanent.
The party had argued that voting by mail, made popular during the pandemic and codified as part of a law signed last month by Gov. Charlie Baker, a Republican, is unconstitutional.
The court’s order in Massachusetts was not the only setback this week for Republicans.
The secretary of state and state attorney general, offices held by Republicans, had sought to dismiss the legal action by several voting rights groups.
The restrictions forbade balloting methods introduced in 2020 to make voting easier during the pandemic, including drive-through polling places and 24-hour voting. They also barred election officials from sending voters unsolicited absentee-ballot applications and from promoting the use of vote by mail.
Voters must now provide their driver’s license number or the last four digits of their Social Security number on applications for mail-in ballots and on return envelopes.