The lawsuit could have ramifications across the nation for other states that also allow the counting of mail-in ballots after a federal Election Day.
The Republican National Committee (RNC) and the Mississippi Republican Party (GOP) have filed a lawsuit to challenge the mail-in ballot counting process in Mississippi passed in 2020 by the Republican-led Legislature and signed into law by Republican Governor Tate Reeves.
The suit alleges that Mississippi contravenes current federal law by allowing mail-in ballots to be counted up to five business days after a federal Election Day. They claim that by doing so, the state extends the federal election past the Election Day established by Congress.
According to federal law, under the Elections Clause, Congress determined that there will be a national day to elect members of Congress as well as appoint presidential electors. These laws were effectively put in place in order to provide a uniform time of electing Representatives, Senators and Presidential positions.
“The result of Mississippi’s violation of federal law is that timely, valid ballots are diluted by untimely, invalid ballots, which violates the right of candidates, campaigns, and the voters under federal law,” the lawsuit states.
According to data compiled by CNN, 23 states allow mail-in ballots postmarked on the federal election day to be counted after the polls are closed. Those states represent 317 of the U.S. 538 Electoral College, which is equivalent to 59% of the votes. Washington allows up to three weeks for those ballots to arrive, while most other states give a week. The delay can impact declaration of a winner on election night.
Among the defendants named in the case are Justin Wetzel in his official capacity as the clerk of the Circuit Court in Harrison County, members of the Harrison County Election Commission, and Secretary of State Michael Watson (R).
In short, the plaintiffs are looking for a permanent injunction prohibiting the implementation and enforcement of mail-in voting for the federal election. It also calls for a temporary restraining order and preliminary injunction during the proceedings.
In the suit, plaintiffs point to polarization within mail-in voting. According to MIT Election Lab data, 46% of Democratic voters in the 2022 General Election mailed in their ballots compared to 27% of Republicans. To the plaintiffs, this means late-arriving mail-in ballots that are counted for an additional five days disproportionately breaks for Democrats.
The GOP is being represented by attorney Spencer Ritchie.
The state of Mississippi will have the opportunity to provide a response and following that, a schedule order from U.S. District Judge Louis Guirola Jr. will be released.
The office of Attorney General Lynn Fitch (R) will be called on to represent the state in the matter.