Senate Republicans OK Bill With Election Settlement In Mind

Apr 28, 2021

Senate Republicans still angry over a legal settlement reached between the State Board of Elections and a union-affiliated group over counting 2020 election absentee ballots approved legislation on Tuesday designed to keep legislators in the loop on future agreements.

The measure says the attorney general can't enter into settlements involving certain litigation in which top legislative leaders are parties or have formally intervened unless those leaders first sign off on them.

The bill now goes to the House after a party-line floor vote. It stems from what GOP leaders call a “collusive settlement” that Attorney General Josh Stein's office agreed to on behalf of the elections board in September. The agreement ultimately allowed election officials to accept absentee ballots postmarked by Election Day and received by Nov. 12, rather than Nov. 6 as directed in state law.

Republicans have accused board Executive Director Karen Brinson Bell of scheming with the lawsuit plaintiffs to generate the settlement. Brinson Bell said that never happened. Lawyers from Stein's department represented the board. Democrats say the settlement was lawful and doesn't meet the definition of “collusive.”

The settlement also described how absentee ballots lacking full witness information could still be counted without requiring voters to complete a whole new ballot.