COVID-Related Election Litigation Tracker

Case Details

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.

Case Details

 

Self Advocacy Solutions N.D. v. Jaeger

Closed

Self Advocacy Solutions N.D. v. Jaeger, No. 3:20-cv-00071 (D.N.D.), 2020 WL 2951012 2020 WL 3068160

  Case Summary Suit challenges North Dakota statutes that vest election officials with authority to reject mail-in ballots based on signature discrepancies, as the statutes fail to provide affected voters with notice and an opportunity to verify their ballots before rejection. Plaintiffs are individual with multiple sclerosis (affecting ability to write), nonprofit that represents persons with disabilities, and The League of Women Voters; defendants are Secretary of State and local election officials. Plaintiffs asserted claims under the 1st and 14th Amendments for deprivation of procedural due process and the imposition of an undue burden on the right to vote.
Filed 05/01/2020
State North Dakota
Type of Court Federal
Circuit Eighth Circuit
Status Closed (Parties agreed to how to handle signature mismatches going forward. Agreement outlined in the court's final judgment of 8/28/20.)
Last Updated 09/21/2020
Issue Tag(s) Vote-by-Mail (Signature Verification Standards)
Complaint(s) 05/01/2020: Complaint filed.
Dispositive Ruling(s) 06/03/2020: Order/Ruling, Prelim. inj. granted by Peter D. Welte, Chief Judge : (1) With respect to June 9, 2020 primary election, defendants enjoined from rejecting any mail-in ballot on the basis of a signature mismatch between application for absentee ballot and signed ballot absent adequate notice and cure procedures. If matter has not been finally resolved on the merits prior to the November 3, 2020 general election, the plaintiffs may apply for additional injunctive relief. (2) The parties shall confer and submit proposed procedures to the Court by June 5, 2020. Count findings included: individual plaintiff had standing; was likely to succeed on procedural due process claim; signature-matching requirement "wholly deficient" as voters are "never notified or afforded any opportunity to respond if election officials reject their ballots"; "any fiscal or administrative burden is miniscule when compared to the palpable threat of disenfranchisement"; plaintiffs did not wait too long to sue as "COVID-19 pandemic forced the June primary to transform into an exclusively vote-by-mail election, inflating the importance of the signature-matching requirement"; and decision not too close to election as "no potential for voter confusion or dissuasion from voting because the process for submitting an absentee ballot will remain unchanged."
06/05/2020: Order/Ruling, New Order supersedes 6/3/20 Order and adopts procedures submitted jointly by plaintiffs and defendant Secretary for county auditors to provide voters with notice and an opportunity to respond when a ballot is identified as containing a signature mismatch, which Court concludes sufficiently afford constitutional guarantee of due process. Procedure varies depending on whether ballot received on or before election day ("early ballot"), or is postmarked by day before election but received within 6 days thereafter ("postmark ballot"). For early ballots, if election board finds signature mismatch, county auditor shall take reasonable steps as soon as practicable to inform voter that ballot will be rejected if not verified. Reasonable steps include without limitation calling the elector if phone number is available or, if not able to reach, mailing notice. Voter has until meeting of canvassing board 6 days after election to verify signature, whether by phone, in person or in writing. If no response and canvassing board confirms signatures do not match, ballot not counted. For postmark ballots, if county auditor determines canvassing board likely to reject signature, will immediately implement notice procedures and voter has same right to cure within 6 days after election. All voters whose absentee ballots were not counted will be sent a written explanation.
08/28/2020: Order/Ruling, Permanent Injunction Granted; parties' joint motion for consolidation of preliminary injunction hearing with trial on the merits, as well as for entry of a permanent injunction and final judgment granted; parties permanently ENJOINED from rejecting any mail-in ballot on the basis of a signature mismatch; court outlines detailed procedures to for state elections officials to follow regarding signature mismatches
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