Vital lawsuits that will determine whose vote will count and whose will not are still pending with fewer than 40 days left until Nov. 3, Election Day.
Republicans in key swing states are pushing to overturn crucial court rulings that expanded access to absentee and mail-in voting during the coronavirus pandemic.
These cases could decide the election. They will determine how many ballots cast through the mail are either counted or invalidated because of minor errors made by the voter or delayed mail delivery. Even a relatively small number of ballots going uncounted could have major implications: The 2016 presidential contest was decided by just tens of thousands of votes across three states.
Most elections don’t involve a litigation frenzy. But the pandemic, coupled with a U.S. Postal Service crippled by both the virus and new leadership, has driven both parties to the courts.
Voting rights advocates and Democratic Party lawyers have sued in more than two dozen states seeking to ease or eliminate restrictions on absentee and mail-in voting practices. Republicans, led by President Donald Trump, have sued or intervened in 20 states trying to either maintain those restrictions or overturn newly enacted laws expanding absentee and mail-in voting rights.
The question now is whether federal appeals courts, and ultimately the Supreme Court, will uphold lower court rulings that reduced barriers to counting ballots in the general election. In litigation during this year’s primary season, the Supreme Court and federal appeals courts routinely overturned lower court rulings that had loosened restrictions on voting absentee or by mail during the pandemic.
“The federal judiciary is not being a great avenue for relief,” said Sylvia Albert, director of voting and elections at Common Cause, a nonpartisan nonprofit. “Some state courts have provided more. And that’s where you’ve seen more orders for expanded access.”
These appeals are part of Trump and...