The Republican National Committee and Mississippi Republican Party sued state officials in federal court to prevent election workers from counting some mail-in absentee ballots during the state’s upcoming presidential and congressional election.
The national and state GOP plaintiffs argue that a 2020 state law allowing local election workers to count mail-in absentee ballots for up to five days after the election date violates federal law because only Congress sets the timeframe for when votes can be processed. The Mississippi law currently permits election workers to count mail-in votes if the ballots were postmarked by the election date.
In 2020, the Republican supermajority state House passed the bill in question by a vote of 97-14, and the Republican supermajority Senate passed the bill by a vote of 31-14. It was then signed into law by Republican Gov. Tate Reeves.
The plaintiffs, represented by former state GOP director Spencer Ritchie, argue that the five-day window should be suspended for all federal elections and only count mail-in absentee votes that arrive by Election Day.
“By holding voting open beyond the federal Election Day, Mississippi violates federal law and harms plaintiffs,” the RNC wrote in its complaint.
The state and national Republican Party also argued that voting by mail is “starkly polarized by party” because more Democrats than Republicans tend to vote by mail.
“That means the late-arriving mail-in ballots that are counted for five additional days disproportionately break for Democrats,” the GOP plaintiffs wrote in the lawsuit.
Secretary of State Michael Watson is a named defendant in the litigation because his agency oversees elections. His office declined to comment and referred questions to the Mississippi Attorney General’s Office, which will represent the agency in court.
Attorney General Lynn Fitch’s office, as of Wednesday morning, had not filed a formal response to the litigation. Her office declined to comment on the suit, citing its policy of not commenting on pending litigation.
U.S. District Judge Louis Guirola Jr., the federal judge presiding over the case, has not yet issued any order.
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