Republicans in Iowa, Alabama score legal victories on election rules

FILE PHOTO: Voters cast ballots for the midterm elections at a polling station set up at the West Des Moines Fire Station 18 in West Des Moines, Iowa, U.S., November 6, 2018. REUTERS/Scott Morgan

WASHINGTON (Reuters) - U.S. Republicans scored legal victories on Wednesday when a Supreme Court ruling allowed Alabama to ban curbside voting and an Iowa court upheld a law that makes it harder to fix problems with absentee ballot requests ahead of the Nov. 3 presidential election.

The rulings were a setback to Democrats, whose presidential candidate, Joe Biden, is running a close race against Republican President Donald Trump in Iowa, while Democratic Senator Doug Jones of Alabama is seen at risk of losing his seat in the election, imperiling Democrats’ chances of seizing control of the Senate.

Opinion polls suggest a larger share of Democrats will cast absentee ballots - which include those returned by mail - than will Republicans.

Trump and his Republican allies have argued, without evidence, that voting by mail is rife with fraud, and Republican lawyers have been suing across the country to prevent the easing of election rules because of the COVID-19 pandemic.

In a 5-3 ruling led by the court’s more conservative justices, the U.S. Supreme Court allowed Alabama Republican Secretary of State John Merrill to block counties in the state from offering curbside voting in which people can cast ballots in their vehicles outside a polling station.

Merrill has said the ban will prevent election fraud, while proponents of curbside voting say it will help people vote during the COVID-19 health crisis.

In Iowa, the state’s top court upheld a state law that makes it harder for county officials to process absentee ballot requests that have missing information.

The law requires that officials contact voters directly to obtain the missing information, rather than use the state’s voter registration database to fill in the blanks.

Iowa has a Saturday deadline for requesting a ballot for the election.

Reporting by Jason Lange; Editing by Peter Cooney