Republicans ask Supreme Court to intervene in Rhode Island case involving whether absentee ballots need witness signatures

(CNN)The Republican National Committee has asked the Supreme Court to intervene in a case about absentee ballots in Rhode Island, where a recent legal battle in federal court eliminated the state's requirement that two witnesses, or a notary public, must sign absentee ballots for them to count.

The Republican Party argued in its filing to Supreme Court Justice Stephen Breyer, who will review the request, that the pandemic isn't won't prevent voters from getting signatures from others.

"Rhode Island gives voters nearly a month to find two witnesses or one notary. That task is not unusually difficult— certainly no more difficult than getting a photo ID," the party's filing stated.

"Witnesses can be family, friends, coworkers, congregants, teachers, waiters, bartenders, gymgoers, neighbors, grocers, and more. And every bank, credit union, UPS, and FedEx has a notary."

In a ruling last week, the 1st US Circuit Court of Appeals declined to reinstate the witness requirement. The requirement was nixed as part of an agreement between the Democratic-run state government and a group of voters who brought a lawsuit, asking for the rule to be waived during the pandemic.
Rhode Island Secretary of State Nellie Gorbea, a Democrat, praised the ruling last week, saying it was "a victory for voting rights." Election experts say that witness requirements would disenfranchise voters during the Covid-19 pandemic, where people are reluctant to even invite family into their homes.

The Republicans have asked the Supreme Court to halt the lower court's decision before Wednesday, because Rhode Island will begin mailing absentee ballots for its primary in September to residents on Thursday.

This is a breaking story and will be updated.

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