10/27 Daily Update: One Week Left: What Will Justice Barrett’s Appointment Mean For Voting Rights?

Key Dates & Deadlines

Voter Registration Deadlines

Early Voting Begins

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For detailed information on voting-related deadlines, visit vote.org.

National Updates

United Front Against Voter Intimidation: Today, the VPP co-hosted a press briefing to discuss the united front against voter intimidation among state and local officials and law enforcement leaders. The speakers included: Mary McCord, Legal Director at Georgetown University Law Center’s Institute for Constitutional Advocacy and Protection; Lori E. Lightfoot, Mayor of Chicago; Vanita Gupta, President and CEO of the Leadership Conference on Civil and Human Rights; Michael Harrison, Baltimore Police Department Commissioner and incoming President of the Police Executive Research Forum; and Nevada Attorney General Aaron Ford. A recording of the press call can be found here. 

What Justice Barrett Means for Voting Rights: For battleground states with cases before the Supreme Court, some are asking whether Justice Barrett’s swearing-in could mean the end of extended mail-in ballot receipt deadlines, implicating thousands of ballots in Pennsylvania and North Carolina. In the weeks before Justice Barrett’s confirmation, the U.S. Supreme Court has made decisions in key voting cases via its “shadow docket” — unsigned orders rather than written decisions, handed down without full briefings or oral arguments.  

Mail-in Voting: Yesterday, the U.S. Supreme Court voted 5-3 to block a ballot receipt deadline extension in Wisconsin. While the outcome was expected, Justices Gorsuch and Kavanaugh both issued opinions asserting that neither federal courts nor state supreme courts — which are generally regarded as the final arbiters of state law — can disturb election systems set up by state legislatures.  

Voter Intimidation: A Michigan state court judge today struck down Secretary of State Jocelyn Benson’s directive banning openly carried guns from polling places. In a lawsuit brought by pro-gun groups, the judge held that the directive was improperly promulgated under the state’s Administrative Procedure Act. Read more from CNN hereCyber Interference: A widespread suspicious email campaign is reportedly targeting local U.S. election officials across several states in a phishing  attempt to hack election officials’ computers. Read more from the Wall Street Journal here.

State News

Connecticut: Residents of Greenwich, CT, report receiving voter intimidation mail that lists their personal identification information and voting history, according to local Eye Witness News 3.  

Georgia: On Monday, news broke that a ransomware attack that hobbled a Georgia county government in early October disabled a database used to verify absentee ballot signatures. Local officials have affirmed that voting will proceed as usual, with signature checks completed manually. It is the first reported case of a ransomware attack affecting an election-related system in the 2020 cycle. Read more here.

Minnesota: Today, Attorney General Keith Ellison issued “know your rights” guidance for voters, empowering them against threats of voter intimidation and  interference.  See more here: Press Release, Twitter and YouTube.
Wisconsin:  Yesterday Attorney General Josh Kaul appeared on CNN to reinforce the message that our election will be safe and secure: “When people make claims about fraud, what they are doing is providing false information about the state of our elections, trying to scare voters. I encourage all people to ignore that and be aware we have a safe, secure, reliable voting system in Wisconsin.” View the full clip here.

Legal Corner

As always, the VPP is tracking and summarizing some of the most significant voting rights cases on our website, here. Some of today’s legal developments include:

  • Pennsylvania: Newly sworn-in  Justice Amy Coney Barrett was greeted today with a motion to recuse filed by respondents in Republican Party of Pennsylvania v. Boockvar, No. 20-542 (U.S.). In that case, Pennsylvania Republicans are seeking certiorari and an expedited hearing to overturn a state supreme court ruling extending the absentee ballot return deadline until November 6. On October 19, the Supreme Court, split 4-4, declined to stay the state court’s order. Now the petitioners are seeking another bite at the apple, counting on the new justice to break the tie. In seeking recusal, respondent Luzerne County cites the appearance of bias inherent in President Trump’s suggestion that the ninth justice would resolve the election in his favor.

  • South Carolina: In a victory for voting rights advocates, a district court judge today prohibited South Carolina from rejecting mail-in ballots due to signature mismatches and required the state to review and re-process all ballots that were previously rejected for signature-related issues. 

  • Texas: The Texas Supreme Court reinstated Governor Abbott’s October 1 proclamation limiting counties to one drop-off location for mail-in ballots. The order reversed an appellate court decision and dissolved the trial court’s injunction.

Messaging Guidance: Wisconsin SCOTUS Decision

  • This election will be free and fair. Right now, voters should focus on voting.
  • Although the court decision is disappointing, it does not change the importance of getting out the vote and sending a resounding message that our voices matter. 
  • Voters have been coming out in unprecedented numbers to be heard, and they’ll keep coming out to vote early, drop off ballots, or vote on Election Day. 
  • Voters need to make their voices heard by voting now – as early as they can.
  • Wisconsin voters: Don’t delay. If you can, vote your absentee ballot in-person. You have the option of dropping off your absentee ballot at an approved location. Do it today!