Judge dismisses lawsuit seeking to overturn 2020 state election results

Losing Republican candidates challenged COVID-era vote-by-mail law

A JUDGE has thrown out a challenge of the 2020 state election results that was filed by five losing Republican candidates. 

Former congressional candidates John Paul Moran and Caroline Colarusso, state Senate candidate Steven Hall, and state representative candidates Ingrid Centurion and Craig Valdez had challenged the state law that allowed voters to vote by mail for any reason during the COVID-19 pandemic. They asked a judge to overturn the November 2020 election results, order a new election, and prevent Secretary of the Commonwealth William Galvin from implementing a variety of voting practices in the future, including mail-in ballot applications and voting and early voting (which has existed for several election cycles). 

Worcester Superior Court Judge Janet Kenton-Walker ruled Monday that the challenge is no longer relevant. She granted a motion to dismiss the lawsuit that was filed by Attorney General Maura Healey on behalf of Galvin and Gov. Charlie Baker.  

“The plaintiffs lost in the November 2020 general election months ago,” Kenton-Walker wrote. “Any challenges they may have to now-expired provisions of Chapter 115 (provisions that applied to only the November 2020 election) are moot.” 

Kenton-Walker also ruled that the plaintiffs have only a “paucity of allegations” in their complaint, not enough to entitle them to relief. She said the Legislature has broad authority to establish election laws. In this instance, she wrote, “It is clear that the Legislature had a rational basis in enacting the laws at issue,” which was providing voters with greater access to voting during COVID-19. 

The decision did not get into what is likely to be a far thornier question should lawmakers make vote-by-mail permanent, which is whether the state constitution allows voting by mail for any reason. The constitution limits absentee voting to people with specific reasons (for example, if they are out of town on Election Day). State lawmakers and Galvin have argued that early voting by mail is different from voting absentee.