Lawsuit challenges vote by mail rules

TALLAHASSEE — As elections offices promote the “Vote By Mail” option for those concerned about the spread of COVID-19 virus, a lawsuit may further complicate the 2020 election.

Priorities USA, Florida Alliance for Retired Americans and Alianza for Progress have filed a lawsuit in U.S. District Court in Tallahassee challenging Florida’s voting laws. The complaint argues the COVID-19 pandemic makes access to absentee and mail-in voting increasingly important, and claims current Florida law creates “significant barriers” that infringe on voters’ rights.

Florida law requires ballots to received by 7 p.m. on the election night in order to be counted. The lawsuit argues ballots should be counted if they were postmarked on or before the day of the election.

The lawsuit also argues that voters should not have to pay the return postage on a Vote By Mail ballot.

“Requiring voters to spend money to submit a mail ballot imposes an unconstitutional poll tax in violation of the Twenty-Fourth Amendment. Indeed, Florida voters — and particularly voters who are low-income, disabled or homebound due to COVID-19 — are being forced to pay ‘a price for the privilege of exercising the franchise’,” the lawsuit states.

The lawsuit also challenges the provision in Florida law that puts limits on the assistance that individuals (who are paid by organizations such as Priorities USA) can provide to those submitting ballots by mail.

On May 21, the Republican National Committee, the Republican Party of Florida and the National Republican Congressional Committee asked a federal judge for permission to intervene in the lawsuit.

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