A sandwich board with directions posted on signs showing the way to vote outside a Cobb County voting building in Marietta, Ga.

Disability Rights Mississippi v. Fitch

Location: Mississippi
Status: Ongoing
Last Update: July 25, 2023

What's at Stake

A law passed in 2023 significantly diminishes access to the ballot for Mississippians with disabilities by restricting who may return an absentee ballot for a voter to only a narrow category of assistors. We’re suing to block this law.

In May 2023, the League of Women Voters of Mississippi, Disability Rights Mississippi (DRMS), and three Mississippi voters filed a federal lawsuit challenging SB 2358, newly passed legislation that significantly diminishes access to the ballot for Mississippians with disabilities by restricting who may return an absentee ballot for a voter to only narrow categories of assistors. The plaintiffs are represented by the ACLU, ACLU of Mississippi, Southern Poverty Law Center (SPLC), Mississippi Center for Justice, and Disability Rights Mississippi.

SB 2358 applies harsh criminal penalties to Mississippians who help members of their communities vote by absentee ballot. It blocks anyone — including a friend, neighbor, or volunteer from a voter services group — from helping a Mississippi voter submit an absentee ballot unless they are an election official, family member, or caregiver. Since the term caregiver isn’t defined, staff of health care institutions are also chilled from helping residents with voting.

Plaintiffs alleged that SB 2358 violates the right of Mississippians with disabilities to receive assistance in voting from the person of their choice, as recognized in Section 208 of the Voting Rights Act. More specifically, Section 208 grants voters who need assistance due to disability, blindness, or inability to read or write the right to select a person of their choice to assist them with all aspects of the voting process with only narrow employment-related exceptions, but SB 2358 winnows down the world of possible assistors to narrow categories of assistors selected by the state. In July 2023, the district court enjoined the law meaning Mississippi voters covered under Section 208 may select a person of their choice to assist them with delivering or returning their absentee mail-in ballot. The order remained in place through Mississippi’s 2023 elections. The state appealed the order, and the case is currently pending before the Fifth Circuit.

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