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Alabama and its governor, Kay Ivey, are the latest target of a lawsuit seeking to ease the rules governing absentee ballots because of the coronavirus pandemic.

Alabama latest target of lawsuit seeking to ease election rules

The League of Women Voters has sued Alabama to ease the rules governing absentee ballots during the coronavirus pandemic.

The lawsuit, filed in state court in Montgomery on Thursday, claims Secretary of State John Merrill did not go far enough in March, when he waived strict excuse requirements for voting absentee — but only for primary runoffs that were then postponed to July 14.

The suit joins dozens filed in state and federal courts, in almost a score of states across the country, by voting and civil rights groups that want more people to be able to vote by mail so they don't have to risk their health by voting in person.

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In an effort to walk back earlier comments, Missouri Gov. Mike Parson said he hopes everyone feels safe going to polling places Tuesday because voting is "one of the most important things you can do."

Don't feel safe? Then don't vote, Missouri governor says

Missouri's governor signaled Friday he was likely to sign legislation making it easy to vote by mail during the coronavirus pandemic, but not in time for local elections across the state next week.

Republican Gov. Mike Parson tipped his hand as he sought to tamp down a budding furor for what he said a day earlier. Critics viewed him as cavalierly dismissing anxieties of those having to venture out Tuesday for failing to qualify for an absentee ballot under the current excuse requirements.

"I hope people feel safe to go out and vote, but if they don't, you know, the No. 1 thing — their safety should be No. 1," Parson said during a press briefing Thursday. "If they don't, then don't go out and vote."

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Texas secretary of state

When checking the disability box on the form, Texas voters are not required to provide any more explanation and county officials are not authorized to investigate further.

Covid no excuse but absentee ballots on an honor system, top Texas court says

Lack of immunity to the coronavirus does not qualify Texans to vote by mail, the state Supreme Court has ruled, while also declaring that voters should be given broad leeway to cite their excuse of choice when applying for an absentee ballot.

That decidedly split decision on Wednesday likely assures continued confusion and combat over voting rights this year in the second-most populous state — and one of the few where the state government is actively fighting calls to ease access to the polls because of the pandemic.

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Sara Swann/The Fulcrum

Bogus fraud claims cloud real obstacles to expanded mail voting

On the surface, the idea of conducting elections mainly by mail appears deceptively simple. It evokes images of a serious-minded citizen at the kitchen table, poring over information about candidates before thoughtfully marking a ballot, slipping it in an envelope and dropping it in the corner mailbox.

But the history of recent elections show that, even though such absentee ballots have accounted for only a quarter or so of the total vote, the system has faced serious obstacles. Suddenly doubling or even tripling the mail-in volume, which looks very plausible this November because of the coronavirus, will only magnify those challenges.

Compounding the problems is how the issue has become yet another partisan fight — with Democrats all in favor and President Trump pushing Republicans to oppose efforts to make voting by mail more available and reliable. The president's vastly overblown claims about a looming explosion of voter fraud, in particular, are overshadowing genuine worries about the abilities of election officials and the Postal Service to handle the coming surge of ballot envelopes.

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