The Supreme Court will not intervene in a legal fight concerning absentee ballots in Rhode Island, meaning the state’s order removing a requirement that absentee ballots must be signed by two witnesses or a notary public will stand.
Thursday’s order is a loss for the Republican National Committee, which had asked the court to step in after lower courts ruled to uphold the new absentee ballot rules. The witness requirement was eliminated at the height of the pandemic, and applied to absentee ballots during the state’s rescheduled presidential primary on June 2.
The order was unsigned. Justices Clarence Thomas, Samuel Alito and Neil Gorsuch said they would have granted the RNC’s request for a stay.
Rhode Island’s Secretary of State Nellie Gorbea, a Democrat, said the Supreme Court’s order means the state will begin sending out absentee ballots Thursday for its September primary.
“Your health should never be the price of admission to our democracy,” Gorbea said in a statement. “Making it easier to vote safely from home by removing the burden of obtaining two witnesses or a notary is a common-sense step that will protect Rhode Islanders during this pandemic.”
In its filing to the Supreme Court, the Republicans argued that the pandemic won’t prevent voters from getting signatures from witnesses or a notary.
“That task is not unusually difficult - certainly no more difficult than getting a photo ID,” the party’s filing stated.