Democratic groups launched a blitz of voting rights lawsuits in three states this week, in a likely sign of how aggressive the party intends to be in challenging voting restrictions ahead of the 2020 elections.
The three suits target different policies and states, but share a common thread: They all take aim at laws that place restrictions on people who seek to cast ballots in ways other than in person on Election Day. Those policies could play a big role in 2020, when experts expect record-setting voter turnout.
Two of the federal suits filed this week came from state Democratic parties in North Carolina and Texas, as well as the Democratic campaign arms of the House and Senate. In Texas, the groups want to strike down a state law that prohibits temporary polling places during early voting. The law, the groups say, makes it more difficult for college students and rural voters to cast a ballot. The relatively new law follows increased voter turnout both overall and among young people in Texas.
“The gains Texas made in boosting turnout prove that when we remove obstacles to voting, more people cast their ballots ― and that’s a good thing,” Sen. Catherine Cortez Masto (D-Nev.), the chair of the Democratic Senatorial Campaign Committee, said in a statement Wednesday. “We won’t stand by while others work to disenfranchise Texans who want to lawfully participate in our democracy and will fight to protect their rights as well as the integrity of the early voting program.”
In North Carolina, the groups are challenging a new state law eliminating early voting on the Saturday before Election Day ― a popular day to cast ballots, especially among young voters and voters of color. (The lawsuit could be mooted after North Carolina lawmakers approved a measure this week to restore early voting that day.)
Priorities USA, a Democratic super PAC, also filed a federal suit in Michigan this week challenging the state law that requires election officials to throw out an absentee ballot if they determine the signature on it doesn’t match the one on file. The suit argues that signatures change over time, and that clerks are not handwriting experts and get no guidance on how to review signatures, which could result in them throwing out ballots from valid voters. It’s not clear how many ballots have been rejected because of the policy.
Marc Elias, known as a top Democratic election lawyer, is helping represent the plaintiffs in all three cases. Elias teased on Twitter that more lawsuits are coming, but did not respond to a request for comment for this story.
Last year, Priorities USA successfully sued Florida to strike down a statewide ban on using college buildings as early voting sites. Nearly 60,000 people voted early at those sites, more than half of whom were between ages 18 and 29, according to an estimate by the Andrew Goodman Foundation, one of the groups that supported the lawsuit.
Earlier this year, Florida lawmakers approved a measure that prohibits early voting at any location unless there is “sufficient” parking. Many groups saw the change as an attempt to limit voting on college campuses, where parking can be scarce. The lawmaker backing the measure denied the claim, and litigation over the issue is ongoing.