Supreme Court Protects Absentee Voters from Unnecessary Witness Requirement

Issues

WASHINGTON – Today, the U.S. Supreme Court rejected an attempt by the Republican National Committee to reinstate a requirement that would force absentee voters in Rhode Island to find two witnesses or a notary public to sign absentee ballots for them to count. Rhode Island was in the minority of states with such a requirement.

This is now the third federal court that found Rhode Island’s law unconstitutional. The decision leaves in place an August 8 ruling from the U.S. District Court for the District of Rhode Island, which approved a consent agreement between state election officials and voters represented by Campaign Legal Center (CLC) and partners seeking to waive the law because of the hardships it would cause if enforced in an election held during a pandemic.

“Making voting safer during a pandemic is a good outcome for everyone, state election officials and advocates alike agree,” said Danielle Lang, Co-Director, Voting Rights and Redistricting, at Campaign Legal Center (CLC). “Removing the witness and notary requirement will protect people’s health and their right to vote.”

Common Cause Rhode Island v. Gorbea was filed on behalf of two voting rights advocacy groups – Common Cause Rhode Island and the League of Women Voters of Rhode Island – and three Rhode Islanders with significant medical vulnerabilities that place them or members of their household at a heightened risk of severe illness or death if they contract COVID-19.