The League of Women Voters of Mississippi, Disability Rights Mississippi (DRMS), and three Mississippi voters have filed a federal lawsuit to challenge SB 2358, a recently passed bill that significantly reduces access to the ballot for Mississippians with disabilities. This lawsuit challenges the bill, which blocks the majority of Mississippians from helping friends and neighbors deliver absentee ballots. Jackson, Miss. The Southern Poverty Law Center (SPLC), the Mississippi Center for Justice, the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU), the ACLU-MS, and Disability Rights Mississippi all act on behalf of the plaintiffs.
The counter-citizen bill applies unforgiving criminal punishments to Mississippians who assist individuals from their networks with casting a ballot by non-attendant polling form. It prevents anyone other than an election official, family member, or caregiver from assisting a Mississippi voter in submitting an absentee ballot, including friends, neighbors, and volunteers from voter services organizations. Staff at healthcare facilities are also prohibited from assisting residents with voting because the term “caregivers” is not defined.
According to the lawsuit, Section 208 of the Voting Rights Act guarantees Mississippians with disabilities the right to have the person of their choice assist them in voting. You can find a copy of the complaint here.
“Electors — particularly those with inabilities — rely upon the help of local gatherings, companions, and neighbors,” said Stake Ciraldo, co-leader of the Class of Ladies Citizens of Mississippi. ” Mississippi voters who need help are being silenced as these neighborly efforts are now criminalized. When these voters are denied the right to vote, Mississippi’s democracy cannot be complete.
“For more than 100 years, the Class of Ladies Electors has helped American citizens in making their voices heard at the polling station,” said Celina Stewart, boss guidance and ranking executive of support and prosecution at the Class of Ladies Citizens of the US. ” The League’s essential services are directly threatened by bills like Mississippi’s SB 2358. The Voting Rights Act states that voters have the right to ballot assistance. Those voters who rely on voter assistance to cast their ballots are effectively silenced by SB 2358.
Ming Cheung, an ACLU staff attorney, stated, “Every voter in the state of Mississippi has the right to participate in their democracy.” In Mississippi, absentee voting is extremely difficult, and many voters with disabilities or other obstacles must rely on friends and community members for assistance. The ACLU will keep on remaining with the electors of Mississippi to guarantee their admittance to the voting station isn’t encroached upon.”
According to Ahmed Soussi, the SPLC’s staff attorney for voting rights, “anti-voter politicians are trying to deny Mississippians with disabilities a fair voice in government while criminalizing their friends and neighbors who want to help them deliver absentee ballots.” By penalizing volunteers who facilitate voting for historically discriminated communities, this bill would weaken American democracy.
Greta Kemp Martin, DRMS’s litigation director, stated, “The cornerstone of a thriving democracy is ensuring inclusive and accessible voting.” Facilitating universal voter registration and cultivating a culture of community-driven voter empowerment should be top priorities for Mississippi’s leaders. Instead, they are concentrating on preventing people with disabilities from receiving assistance with the delivery of ballots and unfairly criminalizing the kind of volunteers who assist fellow citizens. It is cruel and contrary to the democratic ideals of the United States.
Joshua Tom, legal director at the ACLU of Mississippi, stated, “This bill is the latest in a long history of attacks on the right to vote in Mississippi.” SB 2358 straightforwardly targets Mississippians with incapacities and reduces the voices of the citizen’s administrators have been chosen to serve. Instead of focusing on schemes like SB 2358, which are designed to undermine the agency and power of their constituents, our legislators ought to be fighting for the people.”
Rob McDuff, director of the George Riley Impact Litigation Initiative at the Mississippi Center for Justice, stated, “Mississippians deserve to vote with confidence.” Delivering absentee ballots is a common need among those in difficult circumstances. That would be prevented by this legislation. We support Mississippi voters as well as those working to make voting more accessible and ensure that the people retain power.
SB 2358 successfully deflects volunteers from aiding individuals from their local area vote and is important for a bigger pattern of assaults on unprejudiced workers by hostile to elector legislators. In 2020, Georgia passed SB 202, which made it a crime for friends or neighbors to help with the return of ballots and made it a crime to provide food and water to people waiting in long lines to vote. Florida passed SB 524 in 2021, which also limits who can deliver absentee ballots.
Source – Lwv