Voting rights advocates have won a singular victory in their multifaceted lawsuit to force more permissive voting regulations in battleground North Carolina this fall.
People whose absentee ballots get rejected must be notified and given a chance to challenge the disqualification and correct any mistakes, federal Judge William Osteen ruled Tuesday. But he also concluded that fears the coronavirus will sicken voters at the polls, or depress turnout, are not enough to make him order more widespread easements in the state's election laws.
His decision, which would be tough to successfully appeal in the three months before Election Day, gives some clarity on the election rules in one of the most politically pivotal states — where the battles for its 15 electoral votes as well as a Senate seat both look like tossups.
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With the presidential election now fewer than 100 days away, courthouses across the country are continuing to process a record flood of litigation hoping to improve access to voting during the coronavirus pandemic.
This week legal actions were filed in New York to extend the deadline for registration, and in both Virginia and North Carolina to improve the ability of blind citizens to vote from home.
Success for any of those lawsuits would likely increase turnout, but the only place where the extra voters might prove dispositive is North Carolina, where both the presidential and Senate contests look to be tossups. The other two states seem solidly blue.
These are the details of the cases:
New York lawmakers passed a bill this week to establish automatic voter registration, making it the second most populous state to do so.
The state Senate passed the measure Wednesday and the Assembly followed suit a day later, sending the legislation to Gov. Andrew Cuomo's desk. If AVR gets the Democratic governor's approval, it will go into effect at the start of 2023.
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The partisan fight over how to maintain voter registration lists has delivered one victory for each side this week — both in Midwestern states central to the November election.
The top court in Wisconsin decided against fast-tracking a decision about removing from the rolls more than 100,000 people with potentially out of date registrations — a delay that benefits the cause of voting rights advocates. But in neighboring Michigan, a conservative group claimed victory and dropped its lawsuit against Detroit after the city took a group of dead people and duplicate names off the rolls.
The cases capture a debate that pitches those (mostly Democrats) who believe aggressive attempts to remove, or "purge," names from voter rolls are an attempt at voter suppression against those (mostly Republicans) who believe poorly maintained voter lists clogged with the names of the mortally or physically departed provide an opportunity for fraud.
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