The 5th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals dealt a blow to those hoping to ensure legitimate absentee votes are counted and it could influence the outcome of a case in Arkansas.
The 5th Circuit, which doesn’t cover Arkansas, ruled yesterday that Texas can toss out absentee ballots over signature mismatches without giving voters a chance to appeal. As it happens, that’s how the system works in Arkansas as well. The League of Women Voters has a lawsuit pending asking for notice to voters and a chance to demonstrate they are who they say they are despite inconsistent signatures on ballot applications and other voter records.
The 5th Circuit decision stunned those working for full and fair elections, as did the 4-4 split by which the U.S. Supreme Court voted on an election case. With Amy Coney Barrett’s likely agreement, that case could have eventually held that the Supreme Court could override the Pennsylvania Supreme Court on how it interprets the PENNSYLVANIA constitution, not a normal Supreme Court action. The Pennsylvania court allowed a three-day extension for counting absentee ballots. The conservative Supreme Court bloc wanted to take the case. They are not friends of expanded voter access, nor is Barrett. But the tie vote killed that. For now.
Back to Texas and this pronouncement from Monday’s 5th Circuit decision:
“Texas’s strong interest in safeguarding the integrity of its elections from voter fraud far outweighs any burden the state’s voting procedures place on the right to vote,”
There’s no evidence in the past or in this case of any meaningful fraud in absentee voting. But thousands get disqualified nationwide by signature matching, an inexact practice at best. And that’s OK for conservative Republican judges. Better to guard against theoretical and unproven dangers than to let people vote.
The appellate courts, stacked with Trump appointees, are increasingly reversing lower courts holding voter interests paramount.
And so back to Arkansas. The request for an order from Judge P.K. Holmes to require notice of ballots rejected in Arkansas is pending. Yesterday, Republican Secretary of State John Thurston and the Republican-controlled Board of Election Commissioners filed a pleading in the case. The judge is controlled by 8th Circuit precedent, but developments in the law elsewhere can be influential. The 8th Circuit is also oversupplied with conservative Republican judges.
Republican Attorney General Leslie Rutledge’s office added to its motion to dismiss the League of Women Voters lawsuit the decision Monday in the Texas case.