National: Nationwide changes needed to make election coronavirus-ready could cost $2 billion: study | Marty Johnson/The Hill

Costs for the federal government to make it safe for voters to participate in the general election could add up to $2 billion, should the coronavirus still be a concern in November, a new study by an independent think tank shows. The study, which was conducted by the Brennan Center for Justice, outlines several sweeping nationwide changes to the current voting system such as universal mail-in voting, easier online voter registration and more. According to study, the process of mailing and receiving ballots would cost between $413 million and $593 million alone. For example, costs would be incurred in many states from ballot box construction — a place where voters could go and drop off their mail-in ballots. At least four states — California, Colorado, Oregon and Washington — already have drop-off ballot boxes.  Another big chunk of the cost — approximately $270 million — would go to maintaining and bolstering in-person polling places.

National: HBO’s ‘Kill Chain’ reveals scary reality: U.S. voting system under attack | Nadine Matthews/New York Amsterdam News

Is America’s voting process broken? Recent developments aren’t encouraging. For instance, in May of 2019 Sen. Kamala Harris along with twelve other senators, introduced the Protecting American Votes and Elections (PAVE) Act in the senate. It sought to mandate that states secure elections by use of a paper ballot and new cybersecurity standards for federal elections. Republicans, though, led by Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, have proven to be better at blocking bills than Hakeem Olajuwon was at blocking shots; the PAVE Act was just one of five election security bills Republicans didn’t even allow to come to the floor. They also give no indication of allowing any such bill to the floor, even in the face of reports by U.S. Intelligence just last month that Russia is currently attempting to interfere with the 2020 elections. Harris and the other senators introduced the act after reports, from both Former FBI Head and Special Counsel Robert Mueller and members of the nation’s intelligence apparatus, found that Russia had, in fact, tried to influence the 2016 elections via electronic means, and continues to do so daily.

National: ‘We Need To Go To Paper Ballots’: Director Sarah Teale Talks 2020 Presidential Election Ahead Of HBO Doc ‘Kill Chain’ | CBS

The 2020 presidential election is less than eight months away and there are still major concerns about the country’s election technology. A new documentary from HBO called “Kill Chain: The Cyber War On America’s Elections” follows hacker and cyber security expert Harri Hursti as he travels around the world to expose the issues with America’s voting system. Director Sarah Teale has been following this issue since the mid 2000s and not much has changed since her first documentary “Hacking Democracy.” “We did the first film in 2005 and it came out in 2006. It got nominated for an Emmy and thought it would institute and awful lot of change and nothing changed,” said Teale in an interview with CBS Local’s DJ Sixsmith. “In 2016, here we were facing attacks from outside the US, which was very scary, and still wide open. Coronavirus presents its own particular challenge because potentially for the primaries, people are not going to be able to go to their local precinct. In a way, it’s quite good because it would lead to paper mail in ballots.”

National: Everything to know about states moving and changing their primaries over coronavirus | Zach Montellaro/Politico

The coronavirus pandemic has thrown America’s electoral system into shock, prompting officials in six states so far to move presidential primaries as the federal government urges people not to gather in large groups. Connecticut became the latest state to push back its vote on Thursday, and even more states are considering delays. Meanwhile, election officials are also gaming out the changes they can make to voting systems to allow Americans to participate in elections while keeping themselves safe and preventing the spread of the virus. Tom Perez, the chairman of the Democratic National Committee, has urged states not to postpone their primaries and instead embrace expanded voting by mail. But Perez has little authority over how individual states conduct their elections. 23 states, Washington D.C., Puerto Rico and other territories have yet to vote in the presidential contest, and we are tracking developments in every one as the calendar shifts and states puzzle through when — and how — people can vote. Here’s what has happened so far in all the states that were scheduled to vote from mid-March through the end of April.

National: Coronavirus threatens the November election, can vote by mail save it? | Evan Halper/Los Angeles Times

As states scramble to postpone presidential primaries, election workers abandon their posts, and voters worry about the risk of contagion in crowded polling places, the question of how the nation is going to pull off a general election in November has generated increasing anxiety. Some states are much better prepared than others. In a significant swath of the nation, however, most voters still lack the one viable option for casting ballots that doesn’t put their health at risk in a time of pandemic: voting by mail. Now the decades-long push by advocates and many lawmakers to make that alternative universally available has gained new momentum amid a public health crisis. Backers are racing to overcome longstanding political barriers so that states that have resisted can start confronting the huge logistical challenges involved in a quick shift away from in-person voting. “Ohio, Louisiana, Georgia and other states are showing that without vote-by-mail, states might not be able to hold elections at all,” Sen. Ron Wyden (D-Oregon) said in an email, referring to states that have postponed scheduled primaries. He and Sen. Amy Klobuchar (D-Minn.) are rallying colleagues behind their bill that would require all states to allow citizens to vote absentee. “I understand that standing up a new election system will be a heavy lift, but in the face of this pandemic, vote by mail is the best choice we have to keep our democracy running,” Wyden said.

National: Coronavirus pandemic makes U.S. more vulnerable to serious cyberattack, lawmakers warn | Joseph Marks/The Washington Post

The United States is increasingly vulnerable to a cyberattack targeting hospitals, food supplies or other vital functions during the coronavirus pandemic, lawmakers and experts say. They’re calling on the Trump administration to take bold action to keep adversaries at bay. Already during the outbreak, unidentified adversaries launched what appears to be an unsuccessful digital attack aimed at overwhelming computer networks at the Health and Human Services Department. A separate effort spread misleading claims that President Trump planned to impose a nationwide lockdown over text message, encrypted apps and social media platforms. “There are actors out there in cyberspace that think we’re vulnerable,” Rep. Mike Gallagher (R- Wis.), who co-chaired the recent Cyber Solarium Commission on the future of U.S. cybersecurity, told me. “At a minimum, we need to impose costs on whoever did this. We don’t want the signal to be that now is a good time to take advantage of the U.S.” The pandemic has heightened concerns among cyber hawks that the United States hasn’t done enough to deter digital attacks from adversaries such as Russia and China. And they worry a lack of serious consequences now could embolden adversaries to target vital services such as medical care or food supplies and cost people’s lives.

Editorials: We Can’t Let Coronavirus Postpone Elections | Jon Meacham/The New York Times

Darkness reigned. It was 1864, and the nation was split into two warring camps. Casualties rose steadily — previously unimaginable numbers, ultimately reaching about 750,000 dead — and fighting continued throughout the year. Gen. George McClellan, the Democratic nominee, posed a genuine threat to a second term for Abraham Lincoln. McClellan promised a quick, negotiated end to the war; a Lincoln defeat would have led to a permanently divided nation and the preservation of slavery in the Southern states.  The fate of the war, the future of the Republic, the nature of the American experiment: Everything hung in the balance. And to preserve that experiment, Lincoln insisted that the presidential election go forward. The president was fully prepared to lose the election and, according to due constitutional form, to surrender power the following March. In August 1864, in a private note, he wrote, “This morning, as for some days past, it seems exceedingly probable that this Administration will not be re-elected.” But he would accept the verdict of the voters. Here was an incumbent president, the commander in chief of a nation facing a sustained armed rebellion, unilaterally subsuming his own ambitions and his own priorities to the very constitutional order currently under siege.

Editorials: Postponing An Election: Prudent or Bad Precedent? | Michael Thorning/Bipartisan Policy Center

A key principle of an election’s legitimacy is that the public knows when, where, and how the election will take place and that it is widely accessible to qualified voters. Unfortunately, the COVID-19 pandemic has struck in the middle of various election contests and states now confront difficult, last-minute questions about how or when to run their planned elections. There are unprecedented and difficult decisions to make. Should elections move forward as planned or be postponed until the virus is more under control? Should they go on only with absentee voting and no in-person voting? Arizona, Florida, Illinois, and Ohio faced precisely these decisions in the lead up to their primary elections this week. Postponing an election, especially a primary, does not have to be a legitimacy crisis, but there are certain steps states should take to avoid doing so imprudently. For most of the country, voting involves showing up to sometimes crowded polling places, waiting in line, sharing the use of technology and pens, and generally being closer than six feet from groups of more than 10 people at a time. This is a nightmare for the social distancing necessary to flatten the curve and reduce the spread of the novel coronavirus.

Connecticut: Governor says primaries moved to June | Kate Sullivan/CNN

Connecticut Gov. Ned Lamont said Thursday that the state’s primaries have been moved to June 2, making Connecticut the sixth state to postpone its elections amid the coronavirus pandemic. “In coordination with other states and our Secretary of the State, and in an effort to carry out Democracy while keeping public health a top priority, I have decided to move our presidential primary to June 2nd,” Lamont tweeted. Connecticut’s Democratic and Republican primaries had been scheduled to take place on April 28. Over the past week, Georgia, Kentucky, Louisiana, Maryland and Ohio also postponed their primaries, citing public health concerns over coronavirus. Connecticut Secretary of State Denise Merrill tweeted that the decision to move the primaries was made after consulting with Lamont, local election officials, bipartisan leadership in the General Assembly and colleagues in other states.

Kentucky: Bill Requiring Secure Voting Machines Advances, Without Funding | Ryland Barton/WFPL

As the Kentucky legislature continues to meet during the coronavirus pandemic, lawmakers advanced a bill that would require counties to purchase more secure voting machines whenever they replace their old ones. The measure would provide no funding for counties to purchase the equipment, though Kentucky will soon get about $6.4 million in federal funding to boost election security. That’s a tiny fraction of the overall need, though—state election officials estimate Kentucky needs about $80 million to upgrade voting machines across the state. Republican Secretary of State Michael Adams told a legislative committee on Thursday morning that there are 29 counties that only use outdated voting machines that don’t create a paper backup. “It’s primarily rural counties that have equipment that’s functionally obsolete, or at least aging. Those will be the first places that we allocate the funds to,” Adams said. Electronic voting machines that create paper copies of individual ballots have become the industry standard in recent years amid worries about foreign actors being able to hack domestic elections.

Guam: ‘What’s another six months?’: Election Commission debates whether to postpone, cancel Yona election | Steve Limtiaco/Pacific Daily News

The March 28 special election for Yona mayor should be canceled because of the ongoing coronavirus public health crisis, said Guam Election Commission member Jerry Crisostomo. “I think it should be canceled altogether,” he said, noting the village already has been without a sitting mayor for months. A General Election for village mayors will be held later this year, anyway he said. The special election was scheduled to fill the seat left vacant after former Yona Mayor Jesse Blas, who faces federal criminal charges, resigned. Guam law states an election to fill the vacancy must be held within 60 days. March 28 is the 60th day, commission members said. Commission members met late Thursday afternoon to discuss the special election, with most taking the position it should be postponed or canceled. They cited the governor’s executive order prohibiting large gatherings and questioned whether the Election Commission staff would be capable of conducting a safe election, following Centers for Disease Control guidelines. The governor’s executive order is in effect through March 30.

New Jersey: Governor announcing major changes to election schedule | David Wildstein/New Jersey Globe

Gov. Phil Murphy is expected to announce significant changes to New Jersey’s upcoming elections as part of a plan to curb the spread of the deadly coronavirus pandemic, although there is still no determination of changes for the June primary election, the New Jersey Globe has learned. That includes rescheduling March special elections and April school board elections, and requiring all May 12 non-partisan municipal elections be held with only vote-by-mail ballots with no polling locations open. Murphy has delayed a decision to postpone the June 2 primary election, or to shift it to all-VBM.  Both options remain on the table, according to sources familiar with the governor’s plans to sign an executive order today. “We will not hesitate to act if the emergency requires us to do so,” Murphy said.  “We want to make sure everyone is safe in voting.” Executive Order # 105 is expected to include an online portal to submit petitions, and will give county chairs the option of holding county committee elections in 2020 or extending their terms and postponing those contests until 2021.

Oregon: Primary Elections, by Mail, to Proceed as Planned | Andrew Selsky/Associated Press

Oregon’s primary elections will proceed as scheduled on May 19, the state’s top election official said Thursday, though results may be slower to come in because of the coronavirus pandemic. Several states, including Ohio, Kentucky and Georgia, had recently announced they were moving their primary elections back over COVID-19 concerns. “Because Oregon votes by mail we do not have to be concerned about social distancing issues at polling places that so many other states are struggling with,” Oregon Secretary of State Bev Clarno’s office said by email. Marion County Clerk Bill Burgess noted that ballot counters are normally sitting at tables in fairly crowded rooms and are often over 60 years old, and among the vulnerable population to COVID-19.

Pennsylvania: Postponing April 28 election one option being discussed by governor and state lawmakers | Laura Olson and Ford Turner/The Morning Call

Gov. Tom Wolf and top legislative leaders are working to resolve questions surrounding Pennsylvania’s April 28 primary election, including whether it should be postponed due to public health concerns from the coronavirus, according to several lawmakers involved in that effort. Legislators on a call Thursday with Wolf, including Republican state Sen. Pat Browne of Lehigh County, said they need to come up with answers soon. County election officials have raised concerns about the mounting challenges of processing paperwork, recruiting enough poll workers, and finding appropriate poll sites amid the public health crisis. “The question is, ‘What is a better date?’ and we haven’t arrived at that yet,” said Senate Majority Leader Jake Corman, R-Centre. There has been disagreement in the state Capitol not only over whether it’s time to delay the primary, but also whether the governor can do so without action from the state Legislature.

Rhode Island: Board seeks delay, mail ballots for presidential primary | John Howell/Johnston Sun Rise

Following the call from the State Board of Elections to postpone the April 28 presidential preference primary to June 2, Dottie McCarthy is breathing easier – although the challenge ahead is daunting. The April 28 date is set by law and to change would require the governor to issue an executive order to override the law. That hadn’t occurred as of Wednesday afternoon. “As we’ve seen, this is a quickly evolving situation. The Rhode Island primary is still more than a month away, and the Governor’s top priority is protecting the immediate public health and safety of Rhode Islanders. She is open to the idea of moving the election date and will rely on guidance from public health and election officials to inform that decision,” Josh Block, the governor’s spokesperson, said in an email. In response to efforts to control the coronavirus, the Board of Elections would mail primary ballots. While this will eliminate the congregation of people at the polls, voting isn’t going to be as simple as walking into the polls, giving your identification and picking up a ballot.

Washington: State elections chief asks Inslee to cancel April 28 special election | James Drew/Tacoma News Tribune

Washington Secretary of State Kim Wyman said Wednesday she has asked Gov. Jay Inslee to cancel the April 28 special election to protect the health of elections workers during the novel coronavirus outbreak. “What’s invisible to most voters is that our county election officials rely on a lot of people to conduct an election. Counties and vendors require staff to work in close quarters to support an election and the age of most of these employees is 60 years old or older — the very folks we are most worried about protecting during the pandemic,” Wyman said. Wyman said the Secretary of State’s office began to think about the need to cancel the April 28 special election while implementing social distancing for the March 10 presidential primary. “When you look at large counties like King County or Pierce County where you have maybe 50 to 100 part-time workers who are coming in to help you process ballots, it’s very difficult in the close quarters that they work in to be able to give a 6-foot space around every worker,” she said.

Guinea: Guinea defies virus for vote that could keep leader in power | Boubacar Diallo/Associated Press

The West African nation of Guinea is defying the coronavirus pandemic to hold a controversial referendum on Sunday that could allow the president to stay longer in power. Nearly 5 million voters are registered for the vote, which also will choose 14 National Assembly members. President Alpha Conde, whose second and currently final term ends in December, might win the chance to stand for two more seven-year terms. Some civil society groups urge authorities to postpone the vote until the end of the pandemic. Guinea has two cases of the virus, according to the National Agency for Health Security. However, the ruling party has said the cases cannot prevent the rest of the county from voting. The election won’t spread the virus, spokesman Amadou Damaro Camara said. A coalition of opposition and civil society groups, the National Front for the Defense of the Constitution, which has been demonstrating against the referendum, has called for another demonstration on Saturday and Sunday against the election.

Russia: Russian media ‘spreading Covid-19 disinformation’ | Jennifer Rankin/The Guardian

Pro-Kremlin media have been spreading disinformation about coronavirus with the aim of “aggravating” the public health crisis in the west, the European Union’s diplomatic service has concluded in a leaked report. An EU monitoring team collected 80 examples of disinformation from Russian sources in nearly two months up to 16 March. Coronavirus was claimed to be a biological weapon deployed by China, the US or the UK. Other conspiracy theories contended the outbreak was caused by migrants or was a pure hoax. “Pro-Kremlin media outlets have been prominent in spreading disinformation about the coronavirus, with the aim to aggravate the public health crisis in western countries, specifically by undermining public trust in national healthcare systems,” states the report, seen by the Guardian. The European commission’s chief spokesperson on foreign and security policy, Peter Stano, said there had been an increase in “disinformation, misleading information, outright lies and wrong things” since the start of the outbreak. The commission had noticed, he said, an increase in disinformation from Russia, providers based in the country and those with links to pro-Kremlin sources.