Voting rights advocacy groups have sued to stop Ohio from conducting its primaries in four weeks with almost no in-person voting.
The lawsuit, filed in federal court Monday, is the latest challenging efforts to keep electoral democracy going during the coronavirus pandemic. But it appears to be the first alleging the backup plan favored most by democracy reformers — switching to vote-at-home — is inappropriate if implemented too quickly.
The groups allege that the state's plan violates federal law and both the First and Fourteenth amendments by not providing more than a month to prepare for, and inform voters about, a primary in which almost every ballot will be delivered by mail.
The coronavirus pandemic continues to ripple through the nation's electoral system.
While there's a two-week break in the presidential contest, judges and state officials have made another series of decisions in recent days designed to make voting easier and safer while the nation is largely locked down.
Registration for the next major Democratic primary, in Wisconsin, has been extended. The next two congressional special elections will be conducted by mail, and it's likely that so will much of the Ohio primary postponed last week at the final hour. The number of states with postponed presidential primaries moved toward nine. Runoffs in four states have also been delayed, while petition drives to get referendums on the ballot in two states were put on hold.
Opdycke is the president of Open Primaries, a national election reform organization that advocates for open and nonpartisan primary systems.
For weeks leading up to the pivotal South Carolina primary, the media warned of a sinister plot hatched by President Trump and Rush Limbaugh called "Operation Chaos."
Pundits warned that tens of thousands of sleeper-cell Republicans were being prepped to flood the polls during the Democratic presidential contest two weekends ago in a cynical (but legal in states with nonpartisan voter registration) effort to push Bernie Sanders to victory — on the theory the Vermont senator would be the weakest Trump opponent in the general election. Hundreds of hours of cable news histrionics reinforced this narrative. Social media was abuzz with dire warnings about the dangers of allowing people to vote in ways not deemed appropriate or legitimate.
Except it was all hype. It didn't happen.
So what's the problem?
More long lines, the smell of disinfectant and the sight of poll workers in rubber gloves are at the intersection of another big day of Democratic presidential voting and the rapidly spreading coronavirus.
As if there wasn't already enough public skepticism about the reliability of American elections, officials in six states were working Tuesday to assure voters they could participate in democracy's central rite and stay healthy at the same time — so long as they exercise common sense and basic hygiene.
The day began with some reassuring statistics. No confirmed coronavirus cases have been reported in Idaho, Mississippi, North Dakota or Michigan, the biggest prize of the day. There's a single Covid-19 patient in Missouri. And the biggest state in the nation where everyone is permitted to vote by mail is Washington, meaning Democrats in the state that also has the biggest known coronavirus exposure so far — 19 deaths and another 100 or so confirmed cases — have no need to get near a voting booth on primary day.