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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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Missouri mail-in curbs head to state's top court as governor mulls exemption

The Missouri Supreme Court will review the state's limitations on voting by mail, among the strictest being enforced in the country this spring, in case the governor rejects legislation relaxing the rules.

The appeal comes after a trial court judge dismissed a lawsuit seeking to make absentee ballots available to everyone in the state starting with the Aug. 4 primary.

Exposure to the coronavirus should be reason enough to vote by mail, and the state's rebuffing of that valid excuse during the pandemic is unconstitutional, the suit maintains. It's the same argument being made by voting rights groups hoping to force relaxation of excuse requirements in the remaining handful of states that have not done so voluntarily: Texas, most prominently, plus, Tennessee, Mississippi and Connecticut.

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St. Paul city council member Dai Thao faced charges in 2017 for helping a Hmong woman, who had trouble seeing, translate and complete her ballot. The charges were ultimately dropped.

Help at the polls won't be limited in Minnesota under latest voting rights settlement

Minnesota has agreed to abandon two of its most unusual and harsh election rules, which have restricted help for people casting ballots — the freshest victory in the barrage of voting rights litigation in this year's battleground states.

The state laws at issue bar candidates from helping others vote and say that no one else may help more than three people complete in-person or absentee ballots in any election. With the lawsuit settlement, announced Tuesday, Arkansas will be the only other state with such strict limits on providing voting assistance.

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All six states require an excuse for voting by mail, which could produce lines at the polls similar to Wisconsin's this month.

The 6 toughest states for voting during the pandemic

The coronavirus has forced a fundamental reassessment of how best to allow citizens to both stay safe and carry out their most important civic responsibility — voting.

Almost half the states have already eased restrictions that would make it tougher to cast a ballot during the pandemic, and more may do so soon. But at the same time, six states now stand out as having the most restrictive voting rules in the country. And those hurdles will either disenfranchise or threaten the health of millions this year, assuming critical adjustments are not made soon and Covid-19 continues to upend normal life until fall.

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