One issue that comes up repeatedly as the coronavirus pandemic interferes with the 2020 election season is how to ensure that people can vote safely. While Republicans seem hellbent on forcing voters to choose between risking their health to vote in person or staying home and not voting at all, Democrats have filed a lawsuit aimed at ending what they feel are unconstitutional restrictions prohibiting voters—particularly young and African-American voters—from casting absentee ballots.
According to WCSC 5, the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee, Democratic National Committee, and South Carolina Democratic Party filed the “Four Pillars” lawsuit in a U.S. Federal Court in Columbia, S.C. on Saturday. The suit alleges that stipulations around mail-in voting—which generally say that the only people who qualify are people 65 and older; people with disabilities or underlying health issues; and people in the military serving overseas—unfairly require voters to risk exposure to a deadly virus in order to vote in South Carolina’s primary on June 9 and in the general election in November.
“We won’t allow this pandemic to be used as an excuse to undermine our democracy,” DNC chairman Tom Perez said in a statement, according to The State. “It’s the job of our leaders to defend our right to vote, not to create unnecessary, unconstitutional burdens.”
The suit also alleges that, because black people are being killed by COVID-19 infection at higher rates, black voters are disproportionately affected by absentee-ballot restrictions and are being forced to choose between staying home on Election Day or “avoiding needless and serious risk to their health, the health of their friends and family and the broader community.”
According to WRDW 12, the American Civil Liberties Union, ACLU of South Carolina and NAACP Legal Defense and Educational Fund filed a similar lawsuit to that of the DNC groups against members of the S.C. Election Commission and Gov. Henry McMaster. This suit was also filed in a federal court over officials’ failure to ensure that all voters can vote by mail during the pandemic.
Susan Dunn, the legal director of ACLU S.C., said the lawsuit was filed against the commission and the governor because “they’re in the position to fix these things” but are failing to do so.
“The Election Commission feels that they need the guidance of the governor or the legislators in order to make the changes that are needed,” Dunn said. “And our position is, well, if you can’t get it from the governor, you can’t get it from the legislature, we’ll go and ask for it from a court. If people are discouraged from voting or have to make choices about choosing between voting and being able to protect their health, that’s not a good plan for democracy.”