Watson v. Oppenheim
Watson v. Oppenheim (Mississippi Supreme Court, September 18, 2020) – The Mississippi Supreme Court found that voters with pre-existing conditions putting them at higher risk for severe illness from COVID-19 do not have a disability that automatically qualifies them to vote absentee. Mississippi law permits individuals with a disability preventing them from voting in person or “whose attendance at the voting place could reasonably cause danger to himself” to vote absentee. The legislature also passed a COVID-19 emergency measure allowing individuals under a physician-imposed quarantine to vote absentee. Plaintiffs, who have pre-existing conditions putting them at higher risk for severe illness upon contracting COVID-19, requested an order that they are entitled to vote absentee under the law and emergency measure because doctors recommend people with such pre-existing conditions avoid in-person voting. The court rejected both arguments, narrowly construing which disabilities qualify an individual for absentee voting and finding that a physician recommendation against in-person voting is not a physician-imposed quarantine. Read the full opinion here.