Do you have to request an absentee ballot application, or will one be sent to you automatically? Will your ballot be counted if the mailman is late? If you fill out your absentee ballot wrong, can you fix it?
Questions like these — the fine print of democracy when it comes to mail voting — are at the heart of a record-breaking, high-dollar legal war being waged in courtrooms nationwide, fueled by the coronavirus that’s upended the idea of holding a presidential election as usual and by President Donald Trump’s constant warnings about widespread voter fraud that no one can prove exists.
"This is clearly a historic high," Trevor Potter, the former commissioner and chairman of the Federal Election Commission and now president of the Campaign Legal Center, a nonprofit watchdog, said of the sheer number of lawsuits tied to vote by mail. "It would have been a contentious fall without the pandemic, but the pandemic changes everything because it has caused so many states to revisit how they vote."
NBC News has reviewed more than 175 suits in 43 states and the District of Columbia contesting everything from whether postage must be prepaid on absentee ballots to where you can vote and how ballots can be legally transported from voters’ hands to election officials. It’s litigation that will decide who can vote in the 2020 presidential election and how, and advocates fear it will perpetuate and exacerbate racial biases that have long been baked into the voting system.
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