The country’s biggest pro-Democrat group scored major wins in election lawsuits in crucial battleground states this week, with courts in Michigan and Pennsylvania agreeing to relax absentee ballot deadlines among other voting restrictions.
Courts in the two Rust Belt states ruled primarily in favor of parties backed by Priorities USA, a super PAC that has spent $34 million dollars in recent years on election-related litigation to support Democrats and their presidential nominee, former Vice President Joe BidenJoe BidenTexas announces election audit in four counties after Trump demand Pennsylvania AG sues to block GOP subpoenas in election probe House passes sweeping defense policy bill MORE.
Perhaps most significantly, the rulings extended the dates by which absentee ballots may be sent and received, giving breathing room to Democratic voters who are more likely than Republicans to vote by mail during the coronavirus pandemic, according to recent polling.
The decisions also eased restrictions on other Democratic-preferred voting features such as expanded use of drop boxes in Pennsylvania, an issue which has become a legal flashpoint amid a push for greater alternatives to in-person voting.
“This week definitely expanded access to the ballot in ways that benefit voters across these two states,” said Aneesa McMillan, who directs the voting rights program at Priorities USA. McMillan added that the rulings would help ensure “that everyone who is eligible to vote is allowed to do so without unnecessary barriers.”
In Michigan, a state court judge on Friday agreed to relax a critical deadline related to the return of absentee balloting. The previous rule stipulated that mail-in ballots must be received no later than 8 p.m. on Election Day. But under Friday’s ruling, ballots that are postmarked by the day before Election Day will be counted so long as they are received within two weeks after the Nov. 3 election.
The top state court in Pennsylvania issued a similar ruling Thursday. The decision by the Supreme Court of Pennsylvania requires election officials to accept ballots postmarked by Election Day — rather than received by that date — as long as they arrive within three days after Nov. 3.
But the Pennsylvania Supreme Court also dealt a blow to the Democratic-allied plaintiffs, rejecting a request to allow for third parties to deliver absentee ballots, a practice referred to by Democrats as "community collection" and derided by the GOP as "ballot harvesting."
“State Supreme Court in Pennsylvania just affirmed that Ballot harvesting remains illegal,” Trump tweeted after Thursday’s ruling. “We will be watching that the Democrats do not Ballot Harvest — a felony.”
Separately, Democrats scored another win on Thursday when a federal court in Michigan temporarily halted a law that made it illegal to provide voters transportation to the polls.
“We are encouraged that the District Court in Michigan recognized the absurdity of the Voter Transportation Law — giving voters who do not have easy access to personal transportation more opportunities to get to the polls and have their voices heard on election day,” Guy Cecil, who chairs Priorities USA, said in a statement.