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Gov. Gretchen Whitmer asked for the new Michigan law allowing poll workers to start opening mailed ballots ahead of Election Day.

Partisan twists in four key states help keep ballot rules in limbo

The end of a week that brought the country within 40 days of the election included a smorgasbord of legal developments underscoring how the rules governing the coming surge of mailed votes are far from finalized.

The Republican lieutenant governor asked the Justice Department to investigate North Carolina's brand new easements on absentee voting. A federal appeals court revived witness requirements on ballots mailed in South Carolina. Philadelphia's top election official asked Pennsylvania to scratch at the last minute a requirement for returning such ballots inside secrecy envelopes. And Michigan decided to give local clerks a small head start on processing absentee ballots.

The series of moves Thursday were the latest in the pitched partisan battle over mail-in voting. The first two reflect the Republican effort to make the rules tougher, while the other two reflect the Democratic view that those rules should be simpler.

These are the details:

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Absentee voting fight pressed anew in three Southern states

Thanks to the pandemic and the coming surge of absentee voting, several swing states have already been compelled to grant extra time for ballots to arrive by mail. North Carolina joined this roster Tuesday.

To settle one from the blizzard of lawsuits pushed by Democrats, the state not only extended that deadline on Tuesday but also agreed to allow voters a chance to correct procedural mistakes with their absentee ballots.

The double-barrel agreement came as a fresh federal lawsuit was seeking to make Arkansas give its voters a similar "ballot curing" option, while Republicans appealed a federal judge's extension for mailed ballots in Georgia.

As the record wave of litigation continues to roil preparations six weeks from Election Day, these are the details of the latest developments:

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Access to absentee voting expands in three more states

Claim: Absentee ballot request forms sent by political organizations are legitimate. Fact check: True

Voters in states such as Texas and North Carolina were sent absentee voter request forms from political organizations that sometimes feature ads for candidates, including President Trump. As long as the form included in the ad is "not altered or pre-filled" the form would pass inspection in North Carolina, according to Patrick Gannon of the state's Board of Elections.

"As long as they are official North Carolina Absentee Ballot Request Forms (older versions of the official state form are also accepted, as we have updated them this year), and as long as no information is pre-filled, our county boards of elections should accept them," Gannon continued in his email.

Full details on determining the validity of absentee ballot request forms in North Carolina can be found here. Organizations involved in sending these mailers include the North Carolina GOP and the Center for Voter Information. Voters should make sure to inspect the forms they receive from political organizations to ensure they match their state's official request form or they can request an absentee ballot directly from their state's board of elections website.

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Under the judges' ruling, thousands of North Carolinians with felony records are now eligible to register to vote for the 2020 election.

Judges void N.C. law making felons pay fines and fees before voting

Some North Carolinians with felony records will have their voting rights restored in time for the election.

A panel of three state judges has temporarily blocked part of a state law that prevents former felons from registering if they have outstanding fines or fees. Unless there's a successful appeal of Friday's 2-1 ruling, it opens the door for thousands to vote in one of this year's most important states — where the contest for 15 electoral votes is a tossup and so is a Senate race that will help determine partisan control of Congress.

North Carolina is one of 20 states where felons can vote after their prison time, probation and parole are complete. Civil rights advocates argue that requiring former felons to also pay fines or fees before being allowed back in the voting booth is the equivalent of an unconstitutional poll tax.

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