Mississippi Court Affirms Greater Access to Absentee Voting During COVID-19

September 3, 2020 9:00 am

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JACKSON, Miss. — A Mississippi court has ruled that every voter with underlying medical conditions placing them at risk of severe COVID-19 illness or death can vote absentee this election.

The American Civil Liberties Union, ACLU of Mississippi, and Mississippi Center for Justice had filed a lawsuit seeking to ensure that absentee voting is more accessible to Mississippians during the COVID-19 pandemic.

The case was filed on behalf of several Mississippians who are following public health guidance and who want to vote, but are fearful of contracting COVID-19 if they ignore that guidance and vote in person on Election Day.

The following is reaction to the decision, which was issued late last night:

Theresa Lee, staff attorney, ACLU’s Voting Rights Project: “This ruling means more Mississippians will not have to risk exposure to a deadly virus in order to vote. The court should have extended this to all voters, and we are examining next steps to ensure everyone can protect their health and their vote.”

Joshua Tom, legal director, ACLU of Mississippi: “We are pleased that more voters can cast a ballot safely, but more needs to be done.”

Vangela M. Wade, president and CEO, Mississippi Center for Justice: “Voters should not have to choose between their health and their vote. We are doing everything we can to insure they are not forced to make that decision.”

Rob McDuff, director of the George Riley Impact Litigation Initiative, Mississippi Center for Justice: “The court correctly concluded that Mississippi voters may vote absentee if they have medical conditions that will lead to particularly severe consequences if they contract COVID-19. But we believe the right to vote extends even further and requires that absentee voting be available to all Mississippi voters who are following public health guidance and avoiding community events during this pandemic.”

The lawsuit, Oppenheim v. Watson, was filed in Chancery Court/Hinds County, First Judicial District.

Ruling: https://www.aclu.org/legal-document/order-oppenheim-v-watson

Case details: https://www.aclu.org/cases/oppenheim-v-watson

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