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Democrats Challenge Ballot Order Statutes in Three Battleground States Ahead of 2020 Elections

Ballot Placement Laws in Arizona, Georgia, and Texas Provide Republicans with an Unconstitutional Advantage

The Democratic Senatorial Campaign Committee, Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee, Democratic National Committee, and Priorities USA today challenged laws in three battleground states that provide Republican candidates with an arbitrary and unconstitutional advantage in their placement on general election ballots. The lawsuits target statutes in Arizona, Georgia, and Texas that require that ballots list Republicans first, giving them a substantial and unfair advantage in the 2020 elections.  

Position bias is well documented and widely acknowledged. Even Arizona and Texas randomized ballot order for primary elections “so that no preference” is given to any candidate. However, these states do not have such safeguards in place in partisan races the general elections. Under the current statutes:

  • In Arizona, the Republican candidate will be listed first in 11 of the state’s 15 counties, where that 80 percent of the state’s population lives. 
  • In Georgia, the Republican candidates have been and will be listed first on all of the state’s ballots. Last election, races up and down the ballot were decided by slim margins: the governor was elected by a mere 1.39 percent; the Republican candidate for CD-7 was elected by only 0.14 percent; the Republican candidates for State Representative in House Districts 43, 109, and 138 were elected by narrow margins.
  • In Texas, the Republican candidates have been and will be listed first on all of the state’s ballots. This has been the case since 1995, and as a result has given GOP candidates for federal, statewide and local elections over the last 24 years an arbitrary and unfair benefit that will continue through at least 2022, when the next gubernatorial election will take place. 

“No candidate or party should benefit from an unfair advantage in our elections, and we will take every step available to correct these unconstitutional mandates,” said DSCC Chair Nevada Senator Catherine Cortez Masto. “Voters should have faith that elections are fairly administered without bias, and that applies to the ballots they cast.”

“Politicians should not be in the business of drawing arbitrary partisan advantage into the law. As the 2020 election approaches, we’re challenging these unconstitutional provisions in states across the country,” said DCCC Chairwoman Cheri Bustos. “Voters have the right to be represented by public servants who were elected because of the merits of their ideas, not because they belong to the same political party as their Governor. That’s just common sense.”

“Democrats are taking every action possible to protect the integrity of our democratic process and ensure every voter can participate in a fair election,” said DNC Chair Tom Perez. “An unbiased ballot is one of the cornerstones of our democratic system, and this joint effort will help make sure no one political party is given an unfair advantage at voters’ expense.” 

“Ballot order laws in Arizona and Georgia are creating unfair advantages for one political party and are antithetical to fair elections,” said Guy Cecil, Chairman of Priorities USA. “Priorities USA is committed to working with our partners to ensure that we protect our election process from these unconstitutional advantages.” 

“Our democracy only works if we have free and fair elections without any arbitrary partisan advantages for one party or another,” said Nikema Williams, Chairwoman of the Democratic Party of Georgia. “Every Georgian should have confidence that their vote will count, and that their elections are administered under a fair and unbiased system. Especially given the history of Republican efforts at voter suppression in Georgia, the result from the last election should not determine who wins the next one.”

“For years, Republicans in the state of Texas have benefitted from the unconstitutional advantage mandating that the party of the Governor is placed first on the ballot,” said Texas Democratic Party Chair Gilberto Hinojosa. “For over twenty years, Republicans have used dirty tactics and tricks like ballot order to retain power at all costs at the expense of Texas voters. Elections should be fair and free. No political party should have an unfair advantage. There’s simply too much at stake. We thank our fellow plaintiffs the DNC, DSCC, and DCCC for their commitment to an unbiased ballot. Texas is the biggest battleground state. We owe it to our voters to have the fairest and unbiased ballot in Texas history.”  

Democrats have taken action in states across the country this week to protect the integrity of elections, including filing lawsuits to restore voting on the last Saturday before Election Day in North Carolina, which was the most popular day of early voting in 2018; and to restore mobile voting locations in Texas, which helped boost young voter turnout last year by 508 percent compared to 2014. 

A copy of the complaint filed by the DSCC, DNC, and Priorities USA in Arizona is available here.

A copy of the complaint filed by the DSCC, DCCC, DNC, Priorities USA, and the Georgia Democratic Party in Georgia is available here.

A copy of the complaint filed by the DSCC, DCCC, DNC, and Texas Democratic Party in Texas is available here

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