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Trump’s team found early success in restricting mail ballots

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“Part of our concern is that the rules are unclear, and some of the relief Democrats want in court may actually allow ballots to be cast after election day,”

; said Justin Reimer, a senior adviser to the Republican National Committee. “Who will say that the ballot was actually voted on November 3? Reasonable minds may differ on some of these issues, but I think we can all agree that ballots should not be voted on after elections. “

A record number of voters – more than half – are expected to vote by mail this year as Americans avoid polls during a global pandemic. About 15 million people have already voted early, according to the US Election Project, which collects data on early voting.

As early as this year, voters filed complaints about the delay in receiving ballots from the post office in their country’s primary elections. And voting experts warn that returning ballots too close to election day could create problems.

“Millions of people will vote in the mail for the first time,” said Barry Burdon, founder of the University of Wisconsin Election Research Center in Madison. “Most of them will be unknown about the process. … Many voters may not realize how early they have to start to get on the ballot until election day. “

Since the spring, Trump has tried to link postal voting to fraud – with scant evidence – as he seeks a strategy to help his prospects for re-election amid hesitant poll numbers. However, human error is more likely to cause problems: ballots may be sent to the wrong address or lost in the mail, or voters may withdraw their ballots from election officials for a variety of reasons – such as having a signature or a name that does not exactly match the information in the file.

Although Trump has failed to stop the 10 states that send absentee ballots to all voters, he has managed to limit the time frame for counting those ballots when they are returned.

The Trump campaign and the Republican National Committee have sought to tighten extended pandemic deadlines in at least 10 countries as part of broader pressure to suspend or repeal measures aimed at extending remote voting during a pandemic. In recent weeks, Republicans have declared victory in half a dozen cases on the issue of the voting deadline, even if they lost on other issues.

Some countries have long-standing laws that allow the counting of ballots that arrive after election day. For example, Ohio accepts ballots 10 days later if they are postmarked no later than the day before the election. States also adopt military and provisional ballots after election day.

Republicans argue that local election officials and judges are changing these rules too close to the election, noting that the Constitution gives state legislatures the power to regulate federal elections.

“What is happening in most of these states is that it is not the state legislature that changes these rules, but the judges who come in and say that the laws set by the state legislature are not good enough,” said Hans von Spakowski, who runs the election of the conservative Heritage Foundation Law Reform Initiative. “You have judges … a sudden extension of the deadline for absent ballots. Judges cannot do that. “

But Sean Morales-Doyle, deputy director of voting rights, elections and democracy at the Brennan Justice Center, said that in some cases, Republicans were in fact challenging the deadlines set by the legislature.

“Details of the deadlines for dispatch and receipt have been set by the legislature at first instance, but our system is designed to allow courts to intervene when necessary to protect and preserve the right to vote,” he said.

To counter Republicans, Biden and Democrats launched a $ 100 million educational program using texts, e-mail, and digital applications focused on explaining to Americans how to vote by mail and in person and encouraging them to vote as much as possible. -early, according to Biden’s official campaign. About 2,500 employees from across the country are helping with the effort.

There are signs that Democrats may be making their own way. Recent opinion polls show that Democrats are more likely to vote by mail and that Democrats are ahead of Republican demands for absentee ballots in some swing states.

“We are confident that the voting process will go smoothly this November, and we have created the largest voter protection program in history to ensure that this is the case,” said Biden spokesman Michael Gwyn. “Republicans may try in vain to restrict access to voting, but this year Americans will have more opportunities to vote than ever before, and we have introduced a huge voter training and organization program to help them navigate the process.”

Still, the Trump campaign and the RNC are spending $ 20 million to challenge moves to expand mail voting and extend ballot counts. They are also recruiting thousands of lawyers to challenge the results on election day.

Republicans have succeeded in some lawsuits on everything from the location and number of ballots to whether absentee ballots require witness signatures, in addition to deadlines for counting remote ballots. Since 2006, the Supreme Court has repeatedly warned courts not to allow significant changes in voting near election day, with a deadline of 75 days in one case.

The RNC is counting victories – at least on the deadline – in Wisconsin, New Hampshire, Georgia, Maine, South Carolina and Florida. And in a case in which the RNC was not even involved, the Montana Supreme Court overturned a decision of the appellate court that would allow the counting of votes until Monday after election day.

“Election day exists for some reason,” said RNC national spokesman Mandy Merritt. “Democrats are reducing the integrity of the process by trying to force states to count ballots for days and even weeks after election day. Voters reasonably expect timely results, and moving posts to targets for late-arriving ballots to continue counting only reduces confidence in the result. “

Republicans have not won all their challenges in extending the number of ballots. They want the US Supreme Court to reject the decision of the Pennsylvania Supreme Court, which allows a three-day extension. In Swing, Michigan, a judge ruled that ballots stamped before election day could be counted if they arrived within two weeks of election day. In Nevada, a state that Trump hopes to undertake, a judge ruled that Trump’s campaign was not upheld to challenge a change that allowed ballots to be counted as long as they were received within three days of the election. And in North Carolina, a judge refused to block government officials’ policies on Wednesday, extending the voting deadline to Nov. 12. Democrats are also appealing some of the Republican victories, such as in Wisconsin.

However, the Conservatives expect the actual election to give them legal status to start new challenges.

“Many times when you have a pre-election lawsuit, you can fail because what you say is not yet real,” said Jason Sneed, executive director of the conservative fair election project. “Once you have a rejected bulletin or a bulletin that you say is invalid, then this damage is real and specific and you can file additional lawsuits.”

Josh Gerstein contributed to this report.

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