The 2024 presidential election is over a year away, but the left’s legal assault on common-sense election integrity measures has already begun.
Last month, a district court in San Antonio ruled that Texas cannot enforce the provision of Senate Bill 1 which established a voter identification requirement for mail in voting in Texas. The next day, a district court in Atlanta ruled against Georgia Senate Bill 202‘s requirement that mail-voters provide their date of birth.
Although these cases will almost certainly be overturned on appeal, they reveal that there is no election rule or safeguard that the left won’t challenge in their efforts to abuse the courts to tilt the playing field in 2024.
Fortunately, Democratic lawyers like Marc Elias have their work cut out for them. Several states have adopted numerous new laws that have made voting easier and cheating harder. In 2021, for example, Texas and Georgia brought voter ID requirements to mail-in voting. Prior to this, mail voters’ identities were confirmed using signature matching, a process that is inherently subjective and error-prone.
Both states’ new laws require mail-in voters to provide their driver’s license numbers or the last four digits of their social security numbers. The provision contains a carveout for those without photo ID. Georgia also required mail-in voters to provide their dates of birth.
The mere addition of minor identification verification steps — a safeguard that enjoys overwhelming public support and is used in every other area of life — sent the left into their predictable tizzy. Activists and partisans smeared the laws as “voter suppression” and filed the usual lawsuits. Marc Elias and his crew — not Mr. Elias himself, as he no longer appears in Texas because he was sanctioned by the Fifth Circuit — filed suits in the Western District of Texas and the Northern District of Georgia, two courts that welcome partisan attacks on election integrity laws.
For decades, liberal lawyers weaponized the Voting Rights Act to empower courts to strike down election laws they merely disagreed with. Fortunately, because of Mr. Elias’ past overreaches — for example when he unsuccessfully challenged Arizona’s precinct–based voting and anti-ballot trafficking law — courts have reined in these abuses and denied that tool to the left.
In response, they have concocted a new legal theory based upon the materiality provision of the Civil Rights Act — a measure meant to address Jim Crow-era laws that once denied African Americans the right to vote based upon minor paperwork errors. On that basis, both courts ruled that the states could not require mail-in ballots to be rejected because the voter failed to provide proper identification numbers (Texas) or the voter’s date of birth (Georgia) because — according to the courts — identifying voters has nothing to do with establishing their qualification to vote.
It is difficult to imagine something more material to a voter’s qualification than his or her identity. But the argument is that it is somehow a civil rights violation not to take everyone’s word for it.
Liberals argue that matching signatures is sufficient, even as they work equally hard to dismantle that tool as well.
For example, in 2021, the Texas legislature unanimously passed House Bill 3107 which required that voter registration applications contain signatures in ink. This was passed primarily to ensure that the state has a good written signature on file, rather than an illegible signature scribbled on a tablet. Elias’s team again ran to the Western District of Texas and convinced a court, using the Civil Rights Act, that ink signatures were not material to a voter’s eligibility to vote. Fortunately, the appellate court has stayed that ruling noting that the plaintiffs are unlikely to prevail with their arguments.
Efforts to weaken signature-matching have reached other states, too. In Michigan, Democratic Secretary of State Jocelyn Benson has continued to reject measures to increase the reliability of signature matching. And in Arizona, a court recently ruled that Secretary of State Adrian Fontes, also a Democrat, unreasonably expanded the signatures that could be considered for matching, making a false positive more likely. Elias and his team intervened in the case, unsuccessfully fighting to keep Fontes’ lax rules.
Their plan seems to be to get courts to strike down voter ID laws, then weaken signature matching as well by undermining every state’s ability to do it properly. The result is less-reliable mail-in balloting with more mistakenly accepted and rejected ballots.
Legislatures must fight back with common-sense measures that keep elections free and fair, and state Attorneys General must continue to vigorously defend them.
Chad Ennis is the vice president of Honest Elections Project.
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