AG Tong Joins 15- State Coalition Defending North Carolina's Extended Ballot Deadline For Receiving Mail-In Ballots(Hartford, CT) – Attorney General William Tong announced today that he joined a group of 15 state attorneys general in defending North Carolina’s deadline extension for receiving and counting mail-in ballots that were properly cast on or before Election Day.
In a friend-of-the-court brief filed in Wise v. Circosta and Moore v. Circosta in the U.S. Supreme Court, the multistate coalition argues that state election officials should be allowed to administer the upcoming election in ways that protect voter safety and voter participation considering the COVID-19 pandemic and uncertainties with the United States Postal Service (USPS). The brief argues that extending the date by which a mail-in ballot must be received to count is a reasonable measure several states have taken to allow voters to cast their ballot by mail while also accounting for USPS’s recent delays.
“Every vote must count,” Attorney General Tong said. “We stand with the citizens of North Carolina seeking to ensure their votes will be counted.”
Amid the COVID-19 pandemic, states across the country have modified their election procedures to protect both voter participation and the health of voters and election workers. Extending receipt deadlines for mail-in ballots that are properly cast on or before November 3, 2020, is a popular option adopted by many states, especially given recent crises engulfing the USPS.
In August, Connecticut, Washington D.C and several other states sued to stop USPS cuts that threatened mail service in advance of Election Day, and the trial court in that case issued a preliminary injunction preventing the operational changes that would undermine mail delivery. Despite this win, USPS has indicated that it faces challenges around timely delivery of election mail, which makes extending receipt deadlines for mail-in ballots an important accommodation.
In September 2020, as part of a consent decree, the North Carolina Board of Elections extended the deadline by which absentee ballots must be received in order to be counted from three days to nine days after Election Day. State and national Republican leaders and the Trump Campaign sued to block the extension, and a federal district court and the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Fourth Circuit denied their requests for an injunction. The plaintiffs have filed an emergency application with the Supreme Court to block the deadline extension.
In the amicus brief, the coalition supports North Carolina’s deadline extension for receiving mail-in ballots because:
• States have a duty to protect voter safety and participation amid the pandemic and USPS concerns: The Supreme Court has recognized that states have the power to regulate elections and must do so in ways that preserve the right to vote. During the pandemic, states have taken reasonable, common-sense steps to encourage safe vote-by-mail options, including by extending receipt deadlines. These extensions help ensure properly cast ballots are counted and boost confidence in voting by mail.
• Accepting mail-in ballots received after Election Day is a longstanding practice in many states: At least 22 states and the District accept absentee or mail-in ballots received after Election Day when the ballot is shown—via postmark or otherwise—to have been cast on or before Election Day. This practice has expanded during the COVID-19 pandemic, during which many states have extended their receipt deadlines to reduce the public health risks of voting in-person and accommodate potential delays in USPS service.
The brief is available here.
AG Racine is leading the friend-of-the-court brief and is joined by Attorney General Tong and the attorneys general of California, Illinois, Maryland, Massachusetts, Minnesota, Nevada, New Jersey, New Mexico, Oregon, Pennsylvania, Vermont, Virginia, and Washington.