Minority Voters Sue To Secure Mail-In Ballot Applications
Minority Voters and Voting Rights Advocates Sue Secretary of the Commonwealth William Galvin Over Refusal to Send Mail-In Ballot Applications
Today, seven Black, Latinx and Asian-American voters joined Common Cause Massachusetts and MassVOTE in filing a petition in the Massachusetts Supreme Judicial Court seeking an order requiring Secretary of the Commonwealth of Massachusetts William Galvin to send an application to request a mail-in ballot to voters on July 15 as specified in the state’s new emergency elections law. Without receiving an application, the voters — most of whom have serious underlying medical conditions and limited access to computers or printers at home — will experience difficulty requesting ballots and exercising their right to vote without risking life-threatening COVID-19 infection, illness, and death. The voters and organizations are represented by Lawyers for Civil Rights and the law firm Ropes & Gray LLP on a pro bono basis.
Secretary Galvin announced on July 7 that he would not send an application to request a mail-in ballot to registered voters by July 15, as required by the emergency elections law signed by Governor Charlie Baker. Secretary Galvin has said he does not have enough funds to cover the mailing of ballot applications. Individual voters, Common Cause Massachusetts and MassVOTE dispute this characterization and note that compliance with the new state law is required in any case.
“The legislation signed by Governor Baker was clear: Secretary Galvin must send mail-in ballot applications to Bay Staters so that they have the option to vote from the safety of their own home,” said Common Cause Massachusetts Executive Director Pam Wilmot. “This mailing is not just a ballot access issue: it’s an equal rights issue.”
“Voters are expecting this mailing and it is required by the new law,” added Cheryl Clyburn Crawford, Executive Director of MassVOTE. “A timely mailing is critical for voters who are elderly and/or low-income and do not have access to a computer and printer. Secretary Galvin’s inaction will hurt the most vulnerable communities in our state whose voices are most often ignored.”
The Election Assistance Commission sent out a memo in April that lists “additional mailing and postage costs” as an allowable use of the CARES funds and repeatedly discussed the need for “flexibility” in light of the pandemic. Already, at least three other states have used CARES funding for the exact purpose that Secretary Galvin claims is prohibited.
“Secretary Galvin’s claim that he does not have money and is waiting on the Legislature to send funding for mail ballot applications is bizarre at best,” said Pam Wilmot, Executive Director of Common Cause Massachusetts. “Failing to send an application, as required by law, unravels a core concept of the legislation unanimously approved by the legislature — allowing voters easy access to mail voting. This will increase risks to the health of voters and elections officials alike.”
“An emergency lawsuit is the only available option to protect the health of voters, poll workers, and our democracy. It is clear that Secretary Galvin has not taken the steps required to mail applications to voters, as state law demands. We hope to resolve this quickly because delay comes at the expense of those in our communities who are most vulnerable, particularly those historically disenfranchised who need safe ballot access the most,” said Oren Sellstrom, Litigation Director at Lawyers for Civil Rights.
The petition, filed directly with the Massachusetts Supreme Judicial Court, seeks emergency relief in the nature of mandamus ordering Secretary Galvin to comply with the state’s new emergency elections law. The case is Bertin v. Galvin.
Check out our courageous voters here.
The full petition is available here:July-13-2020-Emergency-Petition