Alaska’s Supreme Court has ruled that state residents voting by mail will no longer require a witness over the age of 18 to sign their absentee ballots.
The court threw out the rule after a lower court ruled that the witness requirement “impermissibly burdens the right to vote” amid the coronavirus pandemic. Attorneys for the plaintiffs argued that the rule to have voters’ ballots witnessed and signed by another person effectively made it impossible for those not living with another adult to vote.
Kristen Clarke, president of the Lawyers’ Committee and advocate for mail-in voting, praised the Supreme Court’s decision, calling it a “win for voters in Alaska,” and promising to “keep fighting coast to coast to protect voters from being disenfranchised amid the pandemic.”
BREAKING: Win for voters in Alaska! The state’s Supreme Court affirmed a preliminary injunction ELIMINATING the unconstitutional ballot witness requirement for voters.— Kristen Clarke 866-OUR-VOTE (@KristenClarkeJD) October 13, 2020
We’ll keep fighting coast to coast to protect voters from being disenfranchised amid the pandemic. pic.twitter.com/msAM5gHfZT
State officials had attempted to keep the witness rule in place, saying its absence could create confusion. Following the ruling, the Division of Elections said that voters must still sign the back of their absentee ballot envelope and provide a voter identifier such as date of birth or driver’s license number, but confirmed that ballots would now be counted with or without the previously required witness signature.
The lawsuit to change the rules was organised by the League of Women Voters of Alaska, two elderly women and the tribal government of the community of Arctic Village.
Over 111,000 Alaskans have requested absentee ballots for November’s vote, up from the 62,455 who voted absentee in August’s primary election, Anchorage Daily News has reported.
On Track to Reach Record Highs
According to data released Monday by the United States Elections Project, 10.3 million Americans have already cast ballots by mail with election day still three weeks away. By comparison, an estimated 57.2 million voted early, absentee or by mail in 2016.
President Trump has repeatedly complained about mail-in ballots’ alleged vulnerability to fraud. Last month, he called mail-in voting a “disaster” and said he could not guarantee a peaceful transition of power if he loses based on the results of votes cast by mail. Trump’s comments prompted Joe Biden ally Senator Bernie Sanders to propose the creation of a “nonpartisan commission” by Congress to oversee the election and ensure that voting and vote-counting laws were “scrupulously” followed.
Allegations of fraud haven’t been limited to the Democrats. On Tuesday, California Attorney General Xavier Becerra sent a cease and desist order to state Republican Party officials, demanding the removal of unauthorised ballot drop-off boxes organised by the GOP popping up across multiple locations.