Legal challenges play out as voters cast ballots in midterms
Election legal challenges were playing out Tuesday as voters cast ballots across the country in the midterm elections. And more bruising court fights are expected in the coming days that could draw out how long it takes for votes to be counted in some races.
More than 100 lawsuits were filed before Tuesday’s elections, targeting rules for things like mail-in voting, voting machines and access for partisan poll watchers.
And observers are bracing for a deluge of challenges after polls close as some Republican candidates have already said they will not accept a loss or have planted doubt on the election process despite no evidence of fraud.
The avalanche of election cases follows Republican Donald Trump’s failed effort to get courts to overturn his loss to Democrat Joe Biden in 2020. Trump and his Republican allies brought roughly 60 lawsuits challenging the election that were roundly rejected by judges appointed to the bench by presidents of both political parties.
Here’s a look at at the legal challenges playing out in some states:
A federal judge in Texas has barred election volunteers and workers at a polling location in a predominantly Black neighborhood from asking voters to publicly recite their address before allowing them to cast a ballot in the midterm elections.
The Monday night order came after the Beaumont chapter of the NAACP and voter Jessica Daye sued, alleging that Black voters were harassed and intimidated during early voting at the John Paul Davis Community Center polling location, where 90% of voters are Black.
U.S. District Judge Michael Truncale also barred workers and volunteers from shadowing voters as they cast ballots.
The complaint also alleged that poll workers, who are partisans brought on by political parties, helped white voters insert or scan ballots into voting machines but not Black voters, and the judge’s order barred that activity as well.
Beaumont is a city of about 112,000 people near the Louisiana border that’s about 80 miles (125 kilometers) east of Houston. In 2020, Jefferson County — where Beaumont is the county seat — voters narrowly backed Donald Trump, with 50.2% favoring the former president and 48.6% backing Joe Biden.
Pennsylvania Democratic Senate nominee John Fetterman’s campaign went to court late Monday in a bid to have mail-in ballots that lack accurate handwritten dates on the exterior envelopes counted. Fetterman’s legal action followed a state Supreme Court ruling that said the ballots could not be counted and another over the weekend clarifying what constituted an incorrect date.
Fetterman’s campaign — in partnership with national congressional and senatorial Democratic campaign organizations and two voters — sued county boards of election across the state, arguing that throwing out ballots that lack proper envelope dates would violate a provision in the 1964 U.S. Civil Rights Act that says people can’t be kept from voting based on what the lawsuit calls “needless technical requirements.”
In Philadelphia, voters who had missing or incorrect dates on their mail-in ballots were being allowed to file replacement ballots at City Hall or vote provisionally at their regular precincts Tuesday.
It’s unclear how many ballots would be affected by the decision across the state, but thousands were flagged by election officials in Philadelphia and Allegheny County, which includes Pittsburgh.. The number of mail-in ballots is large enough that they might matter in a close race, such as the U.S. Senate contest between Fetterman and Republican Mehmet Oz.
The Philadelphia City Commissioners also voted in an emergency meeting early Tuesday to reinstate a process to reconcile the poll books while the count is happening, rather than waiting until after the count. The procedure has been used to weed out possible double votes in the past, but has not found any issues during the past three elections and is slower than reconciling after the count. The final ballots are likely to be counted Friday.
The vote came after a judge issued an order denying Republicans’ request for an injunction that would have forced the city to reinstate the process. But the judge’s opinion, which had admonished the city’s decision to remove the process, raised concerns for commissioners.
Associated Press reporter Claudia Lauer contributed to this report.
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