But the barriers to voting raised by the pandemic have increased the stakes.
Voting by mail is the main battleground. Thirty-four states and the District of Columbia allow absentee voting without excuses, most likely ensuring that the November election in those locations will be held primarily by mail if the pandemic persists. Many of the remaining states relaxed the mail voting rules for the primaries, and some have also moved for November. But Republicans, led by Mr. Trump, have insisted, without evidence, that loosening voting rules in absentia invites widespread fraud.
“We understand if people want to vote absentee, but there is a process for that,” said Harrington. Loosening the rules can lead to mistakes, he said, citing reports that some ballots mailed to voters in Nevada primaries ended up in apartment lobbies or in the trash.
“That is not the way a first world country conducts elections,” he said.
Voting rights advocates point out that some states vote almost entirely by mail, with almost no fraud. “This has nothing to do with the security of elections,” said Sylvia Albert, director of voting and elections for Common Cause. “It is clear that her intention is to limit access to the ballot to people who believe they will not vote. for them”.
Legal vote-by-mail battles span the full range of electoral rules. There are fights over whether to let voters vote absentee, whether to automatically send them ballots or ballot requests, whether to relax the witness requirements for absentee ballots, and even how to collect ballots.
Democrats and voting rights groups have won their share of these disputes: In Nevada, an unexcused absentee voting state, the courts upheld the state’s plan to send absentee ballots to all active voters over Republican objections. . In another unexcused state, Minnesota, Democrats persuaded a judge about Republican objections to suspending the requirement that absentee ballots be signed by a witness, a condition some voters may have difficulty meeting in a pandemic.
But Republicans have prevailed elsewhere. In Wisconsin, they went to the Supreme Court in April to thwart the state’s Democratic governor’s plans to delay primary elections due to the coronavirus and allow new absentee ballots.
Another potential battleground, Texas, strictly restricts voting in the absence of anyone under the age of 65. The Republican-controlled government has blocked lawsuits by the Texas Democratic Party seeking to open mail voting to all citizens, in part due to the pandemic.