- The Washington Times - Thursday, October 29, 2020

The 2020 election has already set records for lawsuits, and experts say the legal wrangling so far over rules, ballots and deadlines is just the tip of the iceberg: Expect another avalanche of cases as the vote counting begins.

Rules were being written and rewritten by election officials and courts even this week, deep into the mail-in ballot season and just days before Election Day.

That makes challenges over how those ballots are received and counted inevitable.

“When you change rules, you invite litigation,” said Curt Levey, president of the conservative Committee for Justice.

Samantha Zager, deputy national press secretary for the Trump campaign, blamed Democrats for the explosion of litigation, saying the party has tried to alter state election laws too close to Nov. 3.

“Now, with different rulings in different states, Democrats only have themselves to blame for any voter confusion ahead of Election Day — especially in states that have completely altered their election processes to accommodate the Democrats’ universal vote-by-mail scheme without the proper systems in place,” she told The Washington Times. “The Trump campaign is continuing to utilize our top-notch ground game to educate voters on the multiple ways they can cast their ballots.”

For voters themselves, it can be difficult to know what the rules are at this point. Decisions in some states have upheld signature match requirements for mail-in voters, while a federal judge in South Carolina this week ruled that signature matching can’t be used to block a ballot. The Pennsylvania Supreme Court reached the same conclusion last week.

In Texas, meanwhile, the state Supreme Court was still settling questions over ballot drop-off locations this week.

“Voters are confused. They have been confused for the last six months. All they are hearing about how this election is different and how the rules are changing, but every time they look to find out what the rules are, they are different,” said Sylvia Albert, director of voting and elections for Common Cause. “It probably leads to some people not voting.”

In Wisconsin, a state with 10 electoral votes, a federal judge ruled to allow mail-in ballots to be counted through Nov. 9 as long as they were postmarked on or before Election Day, but the Supreme Court shot down the extension on Monday.

The high court, however, didn’t roll back a longer extension of the vote count in North Carolina, where the state board of elections decided to accept mail-in ballots until Nov. 12.

There are 15 electoral votes at stake in North Carolina.

Once ballots start to be counted, many of those rules could land right back in the courts.

Supreme Court Justice Samuel A. Alito Jr. suggested as much for Pennsylvania, where the state’s highest court has ruled that mail-in ballots can be counted as long as they are received by Nov. 6, three days after Election Day.

That question has been debated in courts for weeks, with the U.S. Supreme Court this week declining to expedite a new ruling, saying there wasn’t enough time to settle the matter before Tuesday.

But Pennsylvania officials have directed county boards of elections to separate ballots that are received after 8 p.m. on Election Day, and through Nov. 6 at 5 p.m., so that if the dispute is to return to the Supreme Court on appeal after Tuesday, those ballots could be discounted.

“If it is granted, the case can then be decided under a shortened schedule,” Justice Alito noted.

In Michigan, another swing state where 16 electoral votes are available, a state court batted down an attempt to allow mail-in votes to be counted up to two weeks after Election Day.

Ms. Albert said all votes should be counted, pointing to military ballots that are permitted several days after Election Day in several states.

But she said the likelihood of the Supreme Court weighing in on the election in a dispute out of critical states such as Pennsylvania is almost certain.

“Our goal is to have as few ballots caught up in the legal wrangling as possible,” Ms. Albert added.

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