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Constitutional Rights & the Public’s Health

Republican National Committee v. Common Cause Rhode Island

Overview

Republican National Committee v. Common Cause Rhode Island (U.S. Supreme Court, August 13, 2020): The U.S. Supreme Court rejected a challenge by the Republican National Committee and state Republican Party to a consent decree suspending Rhode Island’s requirement that 2 witnesses sign an absentee ballot. In granting the decree, the lower court held that the witness requirement unconstitutionally burdened the right to vote during the COVID-19 pandemic, and the First Circuit appellate court agreed. Even though the Supreme Court previously allowed a similar Alabama witness requirement to stand (Merrill v. People First of Alabama, decided July 2, 2020), it declined to equate the matters. The Court noted that to the extent Rhode Island’s Governor suspended the witness requirement for the presidential primary in June 2020, many voters might already assume it was also suspended for the November election. Additionally, Alabama state officials had defended the need for a witness requirement, whereas Rhode Island election officials support the decree. Read the full opinion here.  

View all cases in the Judicial Trends in Public Health – November 16, 2020.

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