Hundreds of election-linked lawsuits pile up as Americans navigate voting rules during pandemic

Early voters navigate mail-in ballot rules
Early voters navigate mail-in ballot rules 03:32

As millions of Americans cast their ballots early in the 2020 presidential election, some are finding it difficult to navigate the uncertainty of voting during a pandemic. More than 300 lawsuits have been filed in 46 states contesting election rules, leading to questions over how these early votes will be counted.

"Right now I'm weak in the knees because I'm wondering why my ballot is not going through and nobody's really telling me anything," North Carolina resident Hassan Hakim told CBS News' chief Washington correspondent Major Garrett.

State data shows that the percentage of Black absentee ballots that have not been accepted is nearly two and a half times higher than those sent by White voters.

Hakim, who is Black, thought he cast his ballot early when he voted absentee in Elizabeth City, until he learned from a friend that the lack of a witness signature rendered it invalid due to state law. 

"I asked for it back. I can't get it back. So, now what do I do? Do I go ahead and vote again?" he said. 

North Carolina is one of several states that flag early ballots when voters fill them out incorrectly. Until recently, procedures for remedying witness signature requirements were tied up in court.

The lawsuit was filed by North Carolina's speaker of the house, Republican Tim Moore, who argued that the rule reduces fraud and procedures should not be changed so late in a campaign season

"Whatever you start with, those are the rules. You don't change the rules midway through the game," Moore said.

In 2006, the Supreme Court stated that election rules should not be changed close to an election. However, it does not define how close is too close. 

"Changing the rules late in the game, even if they're good changes, that can be really problematic for voters," election law expert David Becker said. "Voters need certainty about what the rules are."

Texas and Ohio are two of the states seeing lawsuits challenging ballot drop boxes. Pennsylvania and Wisconsin have both had challenges over mail-in ballots deadlines.

In North Carolina, a federal judge sided with Moore and upheld the witness signature requirement — meaning early voter Hassan Hakim's absentee ballot was invalid. 

"My ballot got rejected, so I'm here to vote again and in person this time," Hakim said.

To make sure his vote counted in an election he said was "more important" than any he had seen, Hakim went to his local early voting center and successfully cast a new ballot.