10/29 Daily Update: VPP Highlights State vs. Federal Role in Elections

Key Dates & Deadlines

Early Voting Begins

  • TODAY, Thursday, October 29th in Oklahoma

Early Voting Ends

  • TODAY, Thursday, October 29th in TN and AL.
  • Friday, October 30th in ME, AZ, GA, TX, MA, NV, ID, and UT. 
  • Saturday, October 31th in VA, NC, NM, WV, FL, and OK
  • Sunday, November 1st in WI and NY
  • Monday, November 2nd in MN, SD, WY, VT, IL, MI, MT, CA, IA, NE, DE, SC, IN, OH, KY, KS, RI, WA, AK, AR, CO, ND, HI, MD, NJ, and DC

Social Media

  • Follow the Voter Protection Program on Twitter to stay updated on the latest voter protection news!

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

National Updates

Misinformation: Election officials across the country are battling an onslaught of misinformation concerning the election. Already stretched thin due to record numbers of mail-in ballots, officials are launching social media campaigns and appearing on the news in attempts to contain the spread of false claims about the election. Despite these assertive countermeasures, some election officials feel the misinformation is overwhelming. Read more from the New York Times here.

Robocalls and Voter Suppression: This week, the prosecution progressed against Jacob Wohl and Jack Burkman, who are alleged to have made over 85,000 robocalls to deceive and threaten voters in Michigan, New York, Pennsylvania, Ohio, and Illinois.  A New York district court judge ordered the pair to call back all of the 85,000 people whom they originally robocalled and issue a corrective message. The two men also face up to seven years in prison in Michigan for charges stemming from the same conduct. Authorities in Ohio indicted them this week on similar charges. This law enforcement activity reflects a  broad effort across the country to combat late-breaking misinformation and suppression tactics before Election Day. Read more from ABC here.

State News

Colorado:  Attorney General Phil Weiser and his office issued a cease-and-desist letter to a landlord who distributed a notice to tenants saying their rent could double if Democrat Joe Biden wins the presidential election. AG Weiser said that the notice constitutes voter intimidation. Read more from US News here

Maryland: Election officials in Maryland and Washington, D.C.  are now urging voters to drop their ballots at designated drop-box locations instead of mailing them, saying that given U.S. Postal Service delays, mailed ballots may not arrive in time to be counted. Read more from the Washington Post here

Minnesota: Attorney General Keith Ellison shared a video message from Governor Walz and three prior Minnesota Governors, representing three parties,  urging voters to vote, be patient, and have confidence in the election system, even though things are a little different this year.  Meanwhile, the Star Tribune reported that a Minneapolis police union encouraged retired police officers to illegally act as “eyes and ears” at the polls. AG Ellison shared a strong message on Twitter reminding everyone that unofficial “poll watching” is illegal and will not be tolerated. 

Pennsylvania: Today, Attorney General Josh Shapiro was featured in the Washington Post discussing his office’s efforts to combat voter suppression and misinformation. The feature comes after the Guardian published a piece yesterday about continued attempts to undermine the safety and security of mail-in voting, targeting Philadelphia specifically. Also today, AG Shapiro appeared on MSNBC with Hallie Jackson to discuss the U.S. Supreme Court’s decision to allow the ballot counting extension in Pennsylvania to stand. 

Virginia: Today, Attorney General Mark Herring shared a training video that his office produced, outlining voter intimidation protections and ways to deal with potentially illegal conduct at the polls. The training video was also sent to local law enforcement agencies. Read more hereWisconsin: Yesterday, Attorney General Josh Kaul appeared on CNN with Chris Cuomo to discuss the U.S. Supreme Court’s rejection of Wisconsin’s mail-in ballot counting extension. Also yesterday, AG Kaul appeared on NPR’s Morning Edition to discuss the role of state leaders and local law enforcement in responding to armed individuals at the polls.

Legal Corner

Federal and state courts continue to hear cases about attempts to expand and restrict voting rights. As always, updated summaries of significant recent voting rights decisions are on the VPP’s website. Among the decisions today:

Michigan: The Michigan Court of Appeals declined to hear the Michigan Secretary of State’s appeal of a lower court order blocking her ban on openly carried guns at polling places. Secretary of State Jocelyn Benson issued the directive against the backdrop of election-related violence threats, including a plot to kidnap Governor Gretchen Whitmer. The lower court found that Benson had not followed the state’s Administrative Procedure Act in issuing the directive. The case is Lambert v. Benson, No. 35526 (Mich. Ct. App.). In declining to hear the appeal, the court noted that voter intimidation and brandishing a firearm in public remain illegal, and that local law enforcement had authority to enforce those laws. Attorney General Dana Nessel indicated that she will appeal the case to the state supreme court.

Minnesota: This evening, a divided panel of the federal Eighth Circuit blocked Minnesota from extending its absentee ballot receipt deadline. The state had agreed to extend its deadline for receiving mailed ballots from November 3 until November 7. A federal district court judge refused to intervene. But two appeals court judges found that the state likely violated the Constitution’s Electors Clause by extending the deadline contrary to state statute. The court ordered the state to segregate all ballots arriving after the statutory November 3 deadline, so that they can be discarded if the courts eventually resolve the case against the state. The case is Carson v. Simon, No. 20-3139 (8th Cir.). This decision would seem to moot the Trump campaign’s petition asking the Minnesota Supreme Court to order the late-arriving ballots segregated. 

Also in Minnesota today, a federal district court issued a preliminary injunction barring Atlas Aegis, a private security company, from deploying armed personnel within 2,500 feet of a polling place. Voting rights plaintiffs sued after reports emerged of Aegis’ attempts to recruit ex-Special Forces troops to “secure” polling places in Minneapolis. The case is Council on Am.-Islamic Relations – Minnesota v. Atlas Aegis, No. 20-cv-2195 (D. Minn.).

North Carolina: The Supreme Court denied a stay pending appeal in another attempt by North Carolina Republicans to stop the state from extending its absentee ballot receipt deadline. The State Board of Elections voted to extend the deadline for receiving ballots from November 3 to November 12. Republicans then brought state and federal suits to try and block the extension. Yesterday, the Supreme Court rejected two such requests. Today, the third was rejected, too, with three justices — Alito, Gorsuch, and Thomas — noting their dissent. The case is Berger v. North Carolina State Board of Elections, No. 20A74 (U.S.).

Texas: Contravening an order issued by Governor Greg Abbott, a federal judge yesterday ruled that Texas voters must wear masks. Abbott’s Executive Order carved out an exception to the statewide mask mandate for anyone “voting, assisting a voter, serving as a poll watcher, or actively administering an election.” The case is now before the federal Fifth Circuit, which has granted an administrative stay pending appeal. Read more from The Hill here.

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