This database consolidates and tracks litigation concerning the effect of the pandemic on election law. The purpose of this tool is to provide an interactive list of relevant cases that can be searched by issue, court, status, and jurisdiction.
Baker v. Thurston
Baker v. Thurston, No. 60CV-20-3565 (Ark. Cir. Ct., Pulaski Cnty.)
|Case Summary||Plaintiffs (Arkansas residents) filed suit against Arkansas Sec. of State challenging the State's limitations on eligibility to vote absentee. Arkansas law permits absentee voting only by those who fall into one of four statutorily defined categories: (i) “Any person who will be unavoidably absent from his or her voting place on the day of the election”; (ii) “Any person who will be unable to attend the polls on election day because of illness or physical disability”; (iii) “A member of the Uniformed Services, merchant marines or the spouse or a dependent family member away from polling location due to the member’s active duty status”; (iv) “A U.S. citizen whose residence is in Arkansas but is temporarily living outside the territorial limits of the US”. Plaintiffs asked the Court to (1) issue a declaratory judgment finding that AR law allows for any excuse for voting absentee; (2) issue a declaratory judgment finding that AR law allows fear of contracting COVID-19 as a valid excuse for voting absentee; and/or (3) enjoin AR's limitations on eligibility to vote absentee and declare those limitations unconstitutional.|
|Type of Court||State|
|Issue Tag(s)||Vote-by-Mail (Failure to Allow No-Excuse Vote by Mail, Failure to Allow Fear of COVID to Qualify as “Excuse”, Failure to Mail Ballots w/out Application to All Registered Voters)|
|Complaint(s)||06/23/2020: Complaint filed.|
|Dispositive Ruling(s)||07/21/2020: Order/Ruling, Sec. of State filed a Motion to Dismiss the Complaint for failure to state a claim and join "indispensible parties": (1) AR Sec. of State has already publicly announced that fear of contracting Covid-19 is a legimitate reason to request an absenteee ballot (within existing statutorily-defined category (ii) “Any person who will be unable to attend the polls on election day because of illness or physical disability”); (2) Plaintiffs have no standing - they have not alleged that they were denied an absentee ballot; and (3) the only Defendant named in Plaintiff's Complaint is the Sec. of State, but the Sec. of State does not determine which individual voters receive absentee ballots (that function is performed by the County Clerk). Following a hearing where the Court heard arguments, the Court granted the Sec.'s Motion to Dismiss and the Complaint was dismissed for failure "to allege facts upon which a claim for relief can be granted" (no claim by Plaintiffs that they had actually been denied absentee ballots; no claim by Plaintiffs that the Sec. of State has directed County Clerks to deny absentee ballots to those claiming fear of Covid-19).|