Attorney General Becerra Stands Up in Support of Effort to Help Americans Vote Safely and Securely During COVID-19
Pushes back on onerous absentee ballot requirements in Mississippi that threaten to exclude voters who seek to vote by mail because of the coronavirus
SACRAMENTO – California Attorney General Xavier Becerra today joined a coalition of 17 attorneys general in an amicus brief in support of a challenge to aspects of the State of Mississippi’s vote-by-mail requirements that threaten to exclude voters who wish to avoid exposure to COVID-19. In the friend-of-the-court brief, the coalition highlights the states’ own success with safely and securely voting by mail — and urges the U.S. District Court for the Southern District of Mississippi to grant a preliminary injunction as requested in Parham v. Watson.
“Protecting your right to vote is about protecting our democracy,” said Attorney General Becerra. “When there are clear obstacles, we’re going to speak up and take action. No matter where you live, voters are entitled to feel safe and secure when casting their ballots. We hope the State of Mississippi will join us in taking that obligation seriously. Your vote is your voice and — no matter who you support — we urge you to stand up and be heard in the November election.”
On August 27, 2020, a coalition of individual voters and community organizations filed suit to block aspects of Mississippi’s vote-by-mail requirements that are particularly onerous and disruptive during the COVID-19 pandemic. Historically, Mississippi has required most voters to cast their ballot in person, providing only narrow exceptions for absentee ballots. However, under the current circumstances, it is critically important to provide voters with alternatives to going to their polling station in person. Failing to make such accommodations during a global pandemic ultimately threatens to amount to voter suppression. The voting requirements being challenged in the lawsuit include:
- An “excuse” requirement that limits voting by mail only to certain reasons, which do not necessarily include concerns about exposure to COVID-19;
- A notarization requirement both to apply for an absentee ballot and to sign such a ballot, requiring two in-person meetings; and
- A signature matching requirement with no standards in place or a notification process to afford voters an opportunity to correct their ballots.
The State of California has taken significant steps to protect the rights of voters and ensure they can vote safely and securely. In California, county election officials are required to process and count vote-by-mail ballots that are postmarked on or before election day and arrive no later than 17 days after the election. Further, as a result of Assembly Bill 860, every active registered voter in California will receive a vote-by-mail ballot in the general election. More information about registering to vote or checking your registration status is available on the California Secretary of State’s website at https://www.vote.ca.gov/.
Attorney General Becerra is committed to protecting the voting rights of people in California and across the country. Last week, the Attorney General secured a preliminary injunction blocking unlawful changes imposed by the Trump Administration on the U.S. Postal Service. Last month, Attorney General Becerra filed an amicus brief in support of an effort to protect voter rights and health in Texas during the pandemic. In August, he filed an amicus brief pushing back on a Florida law attempting to roll back voting rights. In July, he filed a lawsuit challenging the Trump Administration’s latest attack on a complete, accurate census count, which determines Congressional representation and the distribution of billions of dollars in federal funds. In May, the Attorney General filed an amicus brief in support of a felon re-enfranchisement effort in North Carolina. Ahead of the 2018 midterm election, Attorney General Becerra reminded voters of their rights under the California Voter Bill of Rights.
In filing the amicus brief, Attorney General Becerra joins the attorneys general of the District of Columbia, Connecticut, Delaware, Hawaii, Illinois, Maryland, Massachusetts, Minnesota, Nevada, New Mexico, New York, Oregon, Rhode Island, Vermont, Virginia, and Washington.
A copy of the amicus brief is available here.