National and state-level Republicans are engaged in a coordinated legal effort to disqualify thousands of absentee and mail-in ballots in key battleground states ahead of Election Day, a mass voter suppression campaign that—if successful—could swing the results of close races.
In states such as Pennsylvania and Wisconsin, right-wing organizations and Republican groups animated by former President Donald Trump’s “Big Lie” have filed lawsuits seeking to toss ballots on technical grounds, potentially disenfranchising thousands of voters for failing to put a date on the outer envelope of a ballot or other small mistakes.
“They’ve calculated that this is a way that they can win more seats.”
Additionally, Republicans in Pennsylvania sued in an unsuccessful attempt to block counties from notifying voters about technical errors on their ballots.
Last week, the Pennsylvania Supreme Court sided with GOP groups in ruling that mail-in and absentee ballots lacking a correct date on the outer envelope cannot be counted. Voting rights organizations are fighting back, and Pennsylvania Gov. Tom Wolf (D) said in a statement Sunday that “no voter should be disenfranchised simply because they made a minor error in filling out their ballot.”
“This was not a controversial concept in our country or our commonwealth until recently, with the rise of the Big Lie and the efforts to spread mis- and disinformation in the days leading up to the general election,” Wolf added. “I urge counties to continue to ensure that every vote counts.”
In Georgia, home to a razor-close U.S. Senate race that could decide control of the upper chamber, right-wingers have challenged the eligibility of tens of thousands of individual voters, making use of a GOP-crafted law allowing state residents to file an unlimited number of challenges.
Republican groups in several states—including Arizona, Michigan, and Nevada—have also filed lawsuits aimed at requiring the appointment of more Republican poll workers.
“They’re looking for every advantage they can get, and they’ve calculated that this is a way that they can win more seats,” Sylvia Albert, director of voting and elections for the democracy watchdog group Common Cause, told The Washington Post, which reported Monday that “the potential for chaos is especially high in Pennsylvania, where the legal fight is ongoing and could influence or postpone the outcome in some of the state’s tightest races.”
Albert went on to note that “research has shown that absentee ballots are more likely to be discarded if they are voted by young people and people of color, which are not generally seen as the Republican base.”
More than 40 million ballots have been cast thus far ahead of Election Day, but Republican candidates and former President Donald Trump have baselessly sowed doubt about mail-in voting and urged their supporters to cast their ballots in person on November 8.
“If enough voters are dissuaded from casting ballots early,” the Associated Press recently noted, “it could lead to long lines on Election Day and would push back processing of those late-arriving mailed ballots. Those ballots likely would not get counted until the next day or later.”
Legal fights could delay ballot counting even further, meaning it could take weeks to determine the final election outcome in every state.
Citing data from Democracy Docket, Bloomberg reported Monday that “more lawsuits have been filed this year than in all of 2020 by Democrats and Republicans challenging everything from who can vote to where ballots are collected and monitored.”
“So far, at least 157 suits were filed by partisans, and more are likely after Election Day,” the outlet noted. “In 2020, there were about 150, including dozens of failed attempts by Republicans to overturn President Joe Biden’s victory over Donald Trump.”
While voting rights groups have filed lawsuits designed to preserve the franchise and expand ballot access, Republican legal challenges aim to do the opposite in the name of “election integrity.”
“This is not about stopping fraud,” Clifford Levine, a Pittsburgh-based election lawyer for Democrats, told the Post. “It’s about discounting mail ballots. There’s just no question.”