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Voting and Disability Rights Advocates Take Legal Action to Protect Mississippi Absentee Ballot Law

GULFPORT, Miss. — Voting and disability rights advocates are asking to intervene in a lawsuit filed by the Mississippi Republican Party and Republican National Committee that seeks to overturn a Mississippi law that allows for people voting absentee to mail ballots up until Election Day, and to have those ballots counted if they’re postmarked by Election Day and received within five business days after.

The American Civil Liberties Union, ACLU of Mississippi, Dechert LLP, and Disability Rights Mississippi filed the motion late yesterday to defend Mississippi’s four-year-old law on behalf of their clients, Disability Rights Mississippi and League of Women Voters of Mississippi.

The groups also asked the U.S. District Court for the Southern District of Mississippi to dismiss the challenge to the law over lack of standing.

Plaintiff comments:

“Absentee-by-mail voting is a crucial and empowering mechanism for Mississippians with disabilities, providing them with an accessible means to exercise their fundamental right to vote,” said Greta Kemp Martin, litigation director of Disability Rights Mississippi. “Disallowing each and every vote to be counted would further marginalize the disability community and diminish the principles of democracy and a fair electoral process.”

“The League must step in where the rights of voters are at stake,” said Peg Ciraldo, co-president of the League of Women Voters of Mississippi. “This case is an undemocratic attempt to disenfranchise voters who take all the right steps to vote, voters who deserve to have their voice heard.”

“Voters cannot control the speed of mail, and they shouldn’t be penalized for that,” said Celina Stewart, chief counsel and senior director of advocacy and litigation at the League of Women Voters of the US. “More than a dozen states allow absentee ballots postmarked by Election Day to be counted. Voters deserve access to cast their ballots within reasonable bounds.”

Counsel comments:

“We’re taking legal action to ensure all eligible votes are counted and to safeguard democratic participation in Mississippi,” said Davin Rosborough, deputy director of the ACLU’s Voting Rights Project.

“Some of our cases can take a while to explain,” said Joshua Tom, legal director at the ACLU of Mississippi. “This one does not. All eligible voters should be able to vote and have that vote counted.”

“Fundamental to the right to vote is ensuring that all valid votes are counted,” said Angela Liu, a partner at Dechert who is handling the case pro bono. “A nearly unanimous bipartisan majority adopted the law setting absentee receipt deadlines in 2020, and Governor Tate Reeves signed it into law, to ensure that properly and timely cast absentee votes are not excluded due to postal service delays. We are committed to defending that law and ensuring the votes of all eligible voters and particularly absentee voters — who are primarily elderly, homebound or military personnel and their families — count.”

Filings: Motion to Intervene and Motion to Dismiss

Case background: https://www.aclu.org/cases/republican-national-committee-v-wetzel

 

Originally published at https://www.aclu.org/press-releases/voting-and-disability-rights-advocates-take-legal-action-to-protect-mississippi-absentee-ballot-law

- Part of VUGA -USA media group