Michigan's top court has decided not to weigh in on one of the emerging big issues of the November election: whether absentee ballots delayed in the mail should still count.
The state Supreme Court decision means that Michigan, like most of the presidential battlegrounds and 33 states altogether, will only open and tabulate envelopes that have landed at election offices by the time polls close on Election Day. As a result, the franchise may be denied to millions nationwide unless the beleaguered Postal Service is able to keep up with the coming torrent of mailed-in ballots.
Friday's decision was part of the latest flurry of legal developments over voting rights — including a lawsuit, similar to the one in Michigan, to make Indiana count late-arriving ballots, along with two fresh suits to relax absentee voting rules in Ohio and a bid to force South Carolina to make elections safer for people vulnerable to the coronavirus.
These are the details:
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Burden is a professor of political science and director of the Elections Research Center at the University of Wisconsin-Madison.
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The number of cases is still small, but campaigns to allow electronic signatures to replace handwriting on ballot petitions are starting to fare better in federal court than state court.
The issue is central to keeping grassroots democracy alive despite the coronavirus — by allowing activists to show enough support for their ideas that they merit being put to a statewide vote, but in a safe and practical way while in-person canvassing remains both a profound health risk and prohibitively inefficient.
A potential breakthrough came Tuesday, when a federal judge said groups promoting a package of voting law changes, a minimum wage increase and marijuana decriminalization in Ohio should be allowed to circulate their petitions online.
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