Virginia Lawsuit: Mass Vote-by-Mail ‘Logistical Nightmare, Increases Risk of Disenfranchisement’

In this May 17, 2016, file photo, ballots are prepared for counting at Multnomah County election headquarters in Portland, Ore. The coronavirus has knocked presidential primaries back several weeks as officials worry about voters crowding into polling places. If the disease remains a hazard in November, Democrats say there's only …
Don Ryan/AP Photo

Voters in Virginia are suing state election officials for loosening restrictions on absentee ballots for next month’s statewide primary, arguing that the coronavirus is not a reason to shut down in-person polling places.

Democrat Gov. Ralph Northam and state election officials have been pushing for vote by mail for the June 23 primary to prevent the spread of the virus, saying that voters can use the “disability” or “illness” qualification for an absentee ballot.

The Fox News D.C. affiliate reported on the lawsuit, filed by attorney Jim Bopp on behalf of six northern Virginia voters:

“The same social distancing and good hygiene practices — which are effective for preventing the spread of the virus when going out for essential services, like grocery shopping and other essential services — are also an effective way to prevent the spread of the virus for in-person voting,” the lawsuit states.

The lawsuit also says that a dramatic increase in absentee ballots “would be a logistical nightmare and increases the risk of disenfranchisement.”

“Due to the sudden surge in absentee ballots that will result from the Plan, many voters will be disenfranchised because requested ballots never arrive or arrive too late and filled-out ballots get lost or are delayed in the return process,” the lawsuit states.

Recent data has not shown a compelling public health justification for vote-by-mail. Wisconsin is one of the only U.S. states that held its primary election with in-person voting after the nation’s coronavirus lockdowns began. Only a few dozen people at most were confirmed to have contracted the virus after participating either as voters or poll workers, and none of those cases was fatal. Out of the 413,000 participants, that equals an infection rate below two-hundredths of one percent. Just days later, South Korea held national elections which did not result in any new coronavirus cases.

The lawsuit also states that checking off “illness” or “disability” is part of the slippery slope to falsifying voting records, which is a felony.

But the state of Virginia believes the virus is an emergency situation and Virginia Attorney General Mark Herring said that people could be disenfranchised out of fear of being exposed to the virus. The state argues in the lawsuit:

And the stakes here are even higher than in a typical case because the challenged actions protect not only citizens’ right to vote, but also the health and safety of voters, poll workers, election officials, and others who would otherwise be at risk from a highly contagious virus.

In the Fox5 report, Charlotte P.L. Gomer, Herring’s spokesperson, called the plaintiffs “conservative activists” who “are engaged in thinly-veiled voter suppression by trying to force Virginians to choose between their health and the right to vote.

“Their suit would disenfranchise tens of thousands of Virginians by changing the rules in the middle of an election in which absentee ballots have already been mailed and cast,” Gomer said.

“Virginia’s General Assembly passed a law earlier this year allowing no-excuse absentee voting, but it will not go into effect until July 1,” Fox5 reported.

Bopp has also filed a vote by mail lawsuit on behalf of voters in Nevada.

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