South Carolina election officers, GOP ask justices to reinstate witness requirement for absentee ballots

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South Carolina election officials, GOP ask justices to reinstate witness requirement for absentee ballots

Posted Oct 1st 2020, 6:37 pm by Amy Howe

South Carolina electoral officials and Republicans went to the Supreme Court Thursday to urge judges to reinstate a state law requiring voters to sign postal voting envelopes in the presence of a witness. The dispute is the last in a series of electoral battles that have been brought before the Supreme Court since the COVID-19 pandemic began in the spring. The judges' eventual decision could affect the outcome of the highly competitive US Senate race, in which a poll released Wednesday links Republican Sen. Lindsay Graham with challenger Jaime Harrison.

The lawsuit that led to the emergency complaint filed on Thursday began in May ahead of the state's June primary. The challengers, which include individual South Carolina voters, the South Carolina Democratic Party and the Democratic National Committee, argued that various provisions of South Carolina law, including the requirement to witness postal voting, were unconstitutional. US District Judge J. Michelle Childs prevented the state from enforcing the witness requirement for the June primary. Childs then issued a similar order two weeks ago for the upcoming November election. In a 71-page ruling, it concluded that the challengers had "a high probability" of demonstrating that the combination of testimony and the "unique risks of the COVID-19 pandemic" violated the challengers' constitutional right to vote. Childs instructed the state to "immediately and publicly inform" voters that the witness obligation was not in effect, including on websites and social media.

The state went to the U.S. Court of Appeals for the 4th Circuit. On September 24, a panel of the appeals court put Childs' order on hold. Four days later, the full 4th Circle temporarily restored Childs' order and agreed to review the case. Judge J. Harvey Wilkinson wrote a sharp disagreement against this decision, arguing that the challengers have a "legally unsustainable case" and that the majority's "disregard for the Supreme Court" is evident. In a broader sense, Wilkinson lamented what he described as the "deeply disturbing" "trend" of suffrage cases filed by political parties "to gain partisan advantage."

In their filing to the Supreme Court Thursday, electoral officials and the South Carolina GOP told judges that this dispute is a "figurehead" for what the Supreme Court ordered the federal courts not to do – the rules of an election shortly before change the choice, a doctrine known as the Purcell Principle. They found that the full 4th Circle reintroduced Childs' appointment even though the ballot papers had already been sent. In addition, earlier this year the Supreme Court restored a witness request in Alabama after a federal court in that state put it on hold. South Carolina officials and the state GOP urged judges to act quickly, telling the court that more than "150,000 postal ballots have been sent and each day increases the risk that ballots will be returned if they turn up." erroneously on the The order of the district court does not correspond to the witness obligation. "

Chief Justice John Roberts, who handles emergencies in the geographic area that includes South Carolina, ordered challengers to respond by 2:00 p.m. Saturday, October 3. SUMMERTIME.

This post was originally published on Howe on the Court.

Posted in Andino v. Middleton, Featured, Election Disputes, Emergencies and Requests

Recommended citation:
Amy Howe,
South Carolina, GOP, electoral officials are asking judges to restore postal voting rights.
SCOTUSblog (October 1, 2020, 6:37 p.m.),
https://www.scotusblog.com/2020/10/south-carolina-election-officials-gop-ask-justices-to-reinstate-witness-requirement-for-absentee-ballots/