According to the suit, not allowing African Americans to vote by mail forces them to choose between exercising their right to vote or “avoiding needless and serious risk to their health, the health of their friends and family and the broader community.”
Democrats are suing in a South Carolina federal court to make absentee mail-in ballots available to everyone, saying the COVID-19 pandemic shouldn’t force voters to choose between their health and their constitutional right to representation.
The Democratic National Committee, Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee, and South Carolina Democratic Party filed suit in a Columbia, South Carolina, federal court Friday. Mail-in voting requires a witness, which would force voters to violate social distancing to find another person to validate their secure ballot; voter-supplied postage, despite it being unconstitutional to pay in any way to vote; and it’s a felony for a campaign staffer to assist voters with returning their ballot.
The lawsuit seeks to strike all these conditions down ahead of South Carolina’s primary on June 9, saying they shut out many African American voters during a time when that demographic is being killed by COVID-19 infection at higher rates than their peers. According to the suit, not allowing African Americans to vote by mail forces them to choose between exercising their right to vote or “avoiding needless and serious risk to their health, the health of their friends and family and the broader community.”
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“The bottom line is that no voter should face unnecessarily restrictive barriers to voting with an absentee mail-in ballot,” said DCCC Chairwoman Rep. Cheri Bustos. “In the midst of a global pandemic, our leaders must ensure every voter has access to participating in our democratic process free of fear they might be jeopardizing the health and safety of themselves, their families, and their community.”
Last month, Wisconsin voters were forced to show up to the polls to cast their ballots: At least seven people, including a poll worker, have been diagnosed with the novel coronavirus.
A new poll from the Pew Research Center found that nearly three out of four Americans support universal access to voting by mail.
The American Civil Liberties Union, ACLU of South Carolina, and NAACP Legal Defense and Educational Fund filed a similar lawsuit in April to the one filed last week. The main requirements of mail-in voting stipulate that eligible voters must be over 65, have disabilities, or be serving overseas in the military. The April suit pushed to categorize voters who practice social distancing as physically disabled and therefore, eligible to vote absentee without having to choose “between protecting their health and participating in our democracy,” Bustos said.
“We won’t allow this pandemic to be used as an excuse to undermine our democracy,” said DNC Committee chair Tom Perez. “It’s the job of our leaders to defend our right to vote, not to create unnecessary, unconstitutional burdens.”