National: Stimulus Money to Protect Elections Falls Short, Critics Say | Michael Wines/The New York Times

The $2 trillion stimulus package that appeared likely to be approved by the Senate on Wednesday contains $400 million to address one of the most uncertain impacts of the coronavirus outbreak — its potential to wreak havoc with voting, including the presidential election in November. The figure falls far short of what state officials and voting rights experts have said is needed to ensure a safe and accurate count if the virus keeps millions of people away from polling places in primary elections and on Election Day. The $400 million in the stimulus package is one-fifth of the $2 billion that voting experts said was needed and that some Democrats had sought. The money could only be used to help states create and staff new polling places to reduce crowding, or to increase opportunities to register online and vote by mail, according to a Senate official who declined to be named because he was not authorized to talk about specifics of the legislation. Voting-rights advocates said the money was a shadow of the amount needed to ensure that the November general election goes smoothly if the pandemic has not ebbed. “It’s a start, but inadequate to the crisis,” Michael Waldman, the president of the Brennan Center for Justice at New York University, said of the proposal. “If Congress doesn’t provide full funding, we could have a fiasco in November.”

National: Vote-by-Mail Gains Momentum, But It’s Not Fast, Cheap, or Easy | Ryan Teague Beckwith/Bloomberg

The coronavirus outbreak that has forced Americans to retreat to their homes and brought the economy to a standstill also threatens to upend the presidential election. Multiple states have rescheduled their spring primaries as the number of confirmed cases of Covid-19 keeps climbing. Some polling places in states that held primaries on March 17 were hastily closed; at others, workers scrambled to disinfect voting machines and keep people 6 feet apart in line. Voters were encouraged by officials to avoid the health risks of in-person voting entirely—by casting their ballots by mail. The pandemic has prompted new attempts to expand mail-in voting, a trend that has been slowly building over the last two decades. A bill introduced on March 18 by Oregon Senator Ron Wyden—the first U.S. senator elected in a statewide mail-in election—and Minnesota Senator Amy Klobuchar would require states to allow mail-in and early voting during a pandemic or natural disaster and would provide funding for the cost of ballots and postage, among other things. The stimulus bill passed on March 25 includes $400 million for states to allow vote by mail, expand early voting and online registration, and hire more workers, but it doesn’t include a mandate.

National: Cybersecurity Experts Say Hacking Risk Is High for Mobile Voting | Kartikay Mehrotra/Bloomberg

While Senators Amy Klobuchar and Ron Wyden push to expand vote-by-mail programs, a small group of companies argue for an alternative, one they claim will boost voter participation nationwide: mobile voting. Jurisdictions in at least 15 states are planning to use mobile balloting in a limited capacity in 2020 to account for overseas voters and those with disabilities. Proponents of a digital electorate hope the coronavirus spurs adoption of their technology. The virus has provided an “opportunity,” says Bradley Tusk, chief executive officer of Tusk Holdings and a supporter of mobile voting: “People are being told by the government not to congregate, and that’s a pretty clear directive not to go vote.” Tusk, who says he hasn’t invested in any mobile voting companies, has spent “in the low seven figures” helping local governments cover the costs of adopting the systems. Massachusetts Institute of Technology doctoral student Michael Specter describes Tusk’s position as a “false dichotomy” that ignores postal ballots. He and his colleagues say mobile voting technology is unproven and opens the door to cyber risks. A mobile voting app called Voatz has already been used in federal, local, and partywide elections in Denver, Oregon, Utah, and West Virginia. In a paper published in March, cybersecurity research firm Trail of Bits discovered 79 flaws in the Voatz system, including one that allows someone armed with the proper credentials to alter votes. The paper, funded in part by Tusk and Voatz, expanded on findings published in February by Specter and his MIT colleague James Koppel.

National: Coronavirus response includes $400 million in election assistance. Will it be enough? | Bridget Bowman/Roll Call

A sweeping federal spending package responding to the new coronavirus pandemic will include millions to help states administer elections, but some fear it will not be enough to prevent chaos in November. The enormous spending bill expected to be released Wednesday morning will include $400 million in election assistance, according to two sources who have seen a summary of the bill from appropriators. That figure is still a fraction of the $2 billion the Brennan Center for Justice estimated is necessary for states to prepare for a surge of voters casting ballots by mail and to ensure safe in-person voting. Ben Hovland, the chairman of the Election Assistance Commission, said on Tuesday before the deal was announced that it is difficult to determine how much federal assistance is necessary to prepare states for November. “From what I’ve been hearing from state and local election officials around the country, I think the number is closer to $2 billion,” he added. Election officials are already scrambling to adjust to the pandemic, postponing primaries and stressing absentee voting options so voters can avoid polling places. To curb the spread of the virus, public health officials have recommended gatherings not exceed 10 people.

National: Senate stimulus package includes $400 million to help run elections amid the pandemic | Amy Gardner and Mike DeBonis /The Washington Post

A $2 trillion stimulus deal reached in the Senate on Wednesday includes $400 million of election assistance for states now racing to protect voting from possible disruptions caused by the coronavirus pandemic — far less than Democrats said would be necessary to prepare for November’s elections. The money will be distributed through the federal Election Assistance Commission, and states will be required to report back to the EAC on how they plan to spend the money “to prevent, prepare for, and respond to coronavirus.” The Senate language, which faces a vote in the House as early as Thursday, does not include any of the mandates that Democrats had hoped to impose on states as a condition of receiving the money. Those include requiring them to make mail-in voting available to everyone and, if an election is held during a national emergency, sending a mail-in ballot to every registered voter. Senate Republicans had balked at those requirements, saying that elections should be administered by state and local governments. A GOP summary of the bill said that Senate Democrats were seeking to “override state control of elections and create a federal mandate for early and mail-in-voting.”

National: States surge mail-in voting for delayed primaries as coronavirus pandemic intensifies | Joseph Marks/The Washington Post

States including Georgia, West Virginia and Ohio are rushing to dramatically ramp up mail-in voting for primary contests during the coronavirus pandemic — even with no guarantee Congress will help foot the bill. Those states are all planning to spend millions of dollars to send absentee ballot applications to all their registered voters in anticipation of largely mail-in primaries that will be unlike any their states have ever conducted. The efforts come as congressional leaders continue to wrangle over whether the federal government should help states increase mail-in voting amid the pandemic and if Democrats can use the crisis to mandate reforms to improve ballot access and security. Senate leaders announced an agreement early today on a $2 trillion stimulus bill to respond to the pandemic but have yet to release details on whether the bill contains new election funding. Senators are likely to vote on the measure later today but House action could take longer. House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) (told NBC News’s Andrea Mitchell yesterday the deal then under discussion fell far short of the $4 billion Democrats requested for election officials, but her office didn’t answer queries about what actually made it into the deal. The state efforts mark a huge logistical and financial undertaking by officials struggling to protect democratic processes under conditions that make in-person voting extremely difficult if not dangerous.

National: Stimulus Bill Has $400 Million in Election Help for States | Alyza Sebenius and Erik Wasson/Bloomberg

The U.S. economic stimulus package will include $400 million to help states grapple with 2020 voting amid the coronavirus pandemic, according to two people familiar with the bill. The funds would allow states to increase the ability to vote by mail, and expand early voting and on-line registration. The provision would also make in-person voting safer by allowing states to create additional voting facilities and increase the number of poll workers, according to a Senate aide who has seen a summary of the legislation but declined to be identified discussing the matter. The Trump administration struck a deal early Wednesday with Senate Democrats and Republicans on an historic rescue package with more than $2 trillion in spending and tax breaks to bolster the hobbled U.S. economy and fund a nationwide effort to stem the coronavirus. The bill does not create a national requirement for voting by mail, which some Democrats had asked for but Republicans objected to. It calls on states to make decisions about how best to prepare voting in 2020.

National: New Documentary Debuting Tonight Explores Weaknesses In U.S. Election Technology | Jane Levere/Forbes

In advance of the 2020 Presidential election,  a new documentary, Kill Chain: The Cyber War on American’s Elections, debuting tonight on HBO, takes a deep dive into the weaknesses of today’s election technology, investigating the startling vulnerabilities in America’s voting systems and the alarming risks they pose to our democracy. From filmmakers Simon Ardizzone, Russell Michaels and Sarah Teale, the team behind HBO’s 2006 documentary Hacking Democracy, the film follows Finnish hacker and cyber security expert Harri Hursti as he travels around the world and across the U.S. to show how our election systems remain dangerously unprotected. As the film uncovers, despite official claims to the contrary, individuals and foreign states can employ an array of simple, low-cost techniques to gain access to voting systems at any stage – from voter registration databases to actual election results to malware that can be widely distributed and anonymously activated without detection at any point.

Delaware: Governor postpones presidential primary to June due to coronavirus | Sarah Gamard/Delaware News Journal

Delaware’s presidential primary is getting postponed due to the spread of the coronavirus. Following suit of neighboring states, Gov. John Carney on Tuesday moved Delaware’s election date to June 2.  The presidential primary election is for registered Democrats and registered Republicans to choose their parties’ presidential nominees for the general election that, so far, is still scheduled for Nov. 3. The move, which came the same afternoon that Delaware health officials confirmed more than 100 cases of the coronavirus in the state, doesn’t come as a surprise because other states have also postponed their elections to the summer. Maryland, Connecticut, Rhode Island have postponed elections set for the same day. Officials in New York and Pennsylvania, which also have April 28 primary dates, are reportedly considering following suit. Other states such as Kentucky, Louisiana and Georgia have also postponed their elections. Delawareans will be able to use social distancing due to coronavirus as a valid reason to vote by absentee ballot, according to a Tuesday news release announcing the postponement.

Georgia: Voting rights groups oppose Georgia bill to fight long lines | Mark Niesse/The Atlanta Journal-Constitution

At first, a bill to fight long lines and open more voting locations seemed like it could win broad-based support. After all, who wants to be stuck in lines? Then came the backlash.A voting rights group called the proposal “the anti-voting rights bill of 2020.” Democrats in the state Senate said voters would still go to their old precincts, where they’d be unable to cast a ballot. They say the bill would discourage turnout instead of increasing it.The legislation, Senate Bill 463, would require election officials to add precincts, poll workers or voting equipment if voters had to wait in line for more than an hour before checking in to vote in the previous election. Secretary of State Brad Raffensperger and Republicans say the measure would give voters more access to the polls. At least 214 precincts closed in Georgia from 2012 to 2018, according to research by The Atlanta Journal-Constitution. Voting rights groups should welcome expanded access to polling locations and shorter lines, Deputy Secretary of State Jordan Fuchs said. “Now it’s clear that some are all talk, no action,” Fuchs said. “They just want a talking point.”

Idaho: Secretary of State asks Idaho voters to use absentee ballots | Corey Evan/Independent-Enterprise

As the spread of the novel coronavirus COVID-19 continues, the Idaho Secretary of State is encouraging voters in Idaho to use absentee ballots for the May 19 election. Christine Poe, Deputy Election Clerk for Payette County, said that every effort would be made to preserve election integrity. “The State of Idaho and all counties do all we can insure that when a voter goes to the polls or absentee votes by mail or in person, that privacy and integrity are priorities,” said Poe via email on March 20. “Mail ballot absentees are processed by an election official in our office and personally delivered to the post office for mailing. A new registrant is required to show ID and proof of residency to order to request an absentee ballot.  [For] a voter that is already registered, our office will compare signatures with our records. When ballots are returned, our office will place the ballots in a locked ballot box until the evening of May 19, when our staff will remove the voted ballot envelope from the signed affidavit envelope. Only when all the affidavit envelopes are all opened will we begin to open the voted envelopes, so as not to associate any ballot with any voter. We will then run the ballots thru our tabulating machines to get the final voting results.”

Indiana: Election Commission makes changes to smooth June 2 primary | Chris Sikich/Indianapolis Star

The Indiana Election Commission on Wednesday OK’d several changes that Gov. Eric Holcomb, Secretary of State Connie Lawson and Republican and Democratic leaders recommended at a news conference last week. Holcomb signed an executive order Friday to move the primary election from May 5 to June 2 and asked the commission to make several changes to smooth that process, most notably allowing all voters to cast absentee ballots by mail. The commission also acknowledged doing so could delay election results and asked local election boards to count votes by June 12.  “As we take precautions to protect Hoosiers from the threat of COVID-19, it is vitally important to protect citizens’ right to vote,” Lawson said in a prepared statement. “I am pleased that our bipartisan recommendations have been adopted, and I thank the Indiana Election Commission for their expeditious work.”

Maryland: Elections board to recommend no in-person voting for June primary | Emily Opilo/Baltimore Sun

The State Board of Elections is recommending that there be no in-person voting for the June 2 primary due to the new coronavirus pandemic, pushing citizens to mail-in or drop-off ballots that would be sent to every one of Maryland’s more than 4 million voters. Leaning on advice from state health officials, who said they could not guarantee protective equipment for poll workers, board members opted Wednesday against allowing in-person voting — even under limited circumstances. State election officials presented that path, along with other choices, at an online meeting of the board. Under the current plan, which remains in draft form but must be submitted by April 3 to Gov. Larry Hogan, all eligible voters would receive ballots by mail before June 2. Voters could then cast those ballots by mail, using a postage-paid envelope included with the ballot, or place them in drop boxes at locations yet to be determined. The five-member board was ordered last week to submit the plan to the governor as part of his executive order to postpone the state’s April 28 primary. At the same time, the governor ordered a special general election for the 7th Congressional District, also slated for April 28, to be held on schedule but by mail only. He stopped short of making a decision on the mechanics of the June 2 primary, but ordered the upcoming report from the board.

Montana: Governor: Counties can choose to hold all-mail primary | Holly Michels/Bozeman Daily Chronicle

Montana Gov. Steve Bullock, under the powers of an emergency declaration he made earlier this month, told counties on Wednesday they can choose to conduct an all-mail election in June. He also expanded early voting. The moves come as Montana is dealing with the spread of the COVID-19 virus, which had hit 53 cases statewide by midafternoon Wednesday. Bullock is also requiring counties to implement measures to ensure social distancing during voter registration and voting. Bullock has previously closed public K-12 schools and some business where people gather. Some candidates in the 2020 election had called on the state to move to an all-mail primary, which is June 2. Bullock’s order does not go that far, but allows the option should counties choose to do so. Montanans can also request absentee ballots to vote by mail.

Nevada: Nevadans to mail in ballots for June’s primary because of COVID-19 | James DeHaven/Reno Gazette Journal

Nevada will hold a nearly all-mail primary election in June, adding to a growing tally of states that have postponed or canceled in-person voting during the coronavirus outbreak. Secretary of State Barbara Cegavske, the state’s top elections official, on Tuesday announced her office would mail absentee ballots to all of the Silver State’s active voters, who will mark their candidate choices at home before returning ballots in the mail or at a designated county drop-off location. Cegavske says the virus-prevention effort will only apply to the June 9 primary, and not November’s general election. “Because of the many uncertainties surrounding the COVID-19 pandemic, as well as the immediate need to begin preparations for the 2020 primary election, it became necessary for me to take action regarding how the election will be conducted,” Cegavske said in a statement.  “Based on extensive conversations with Nevada’s 17 county election officials, we have jointly determined that the best option for the primary election is to conduct an all-mail election.”

Ohio: Lawmakers sets all-mail primary election through April 28; legal challenge still possible | Andrew J. Tobias/Cleveland Plain Dealer

Ohio lawmakers on Wednesday approved a plan for an all-mail primary election running through April 28, the state legislature’s fix to wrap things up after the original March 17 Election Day was canceled due to the coronavirus pandemic. The bipartisan plan, approved unanimously by the House and Senate, would send postcards to every Ohioan with instructions on how to apply for an absentee ballot. Anyone who hasn’t cast an early ballot already would have to print off a paper application, or call their county elections and request one be mailed to them, and mail it in. Elections officials then would mail an empty ballot with a postage-paid envelope. Voters would have until April 27 to mail it back or drop it off at at a curbside county ballot box, and votes would be counted on April 28. The plan now heads to Gov. Mike DeWine, who is expected to sign it. The legislature’s plan likely would make moot a lawsuit filed by the Ohio Democratic Party in the Ohio Supreme Court. But it might not be the last legal word on the issue. A coalition of voter-rights groups said the legislature’s plan is unacceptable, saying it would disenfranchise wide swaths of voters. As the Senate was voting Wednesday, they suggested they might sue if the plan isn’t changed.

Pennsylvania: Lawmakers vote to delay primary until June 2 over coronavirus | Associated Press

Pennsylvania lawmakers voted Wednesday to delay the state’s primary election by five weeks to June 2, potentially past the spike of the state’s spreading coronavirus cases. The measure passed both chambers of the Republican-controlled state Legislature on Wednesday and Gov. Tom Wolf, a Democrat, said he will sign it. As a result, Pennsylvania will join more than 10 states in delaying primaries. It comes just a few months after Wolf and lawmakers approved legislation giving every voter the ability to mail in a ballot. Under the bill, Pennsylvania would hold its primary election June 2, instead of April 28, when the state could be in the thick of a surge of COVID-19 cases. Wolf’s administration has steadfastly refused to publicly discuss projections for when it believes the surge of cases will peak, however. But training and recruiting poll workers during that time could prove impossible, lawmakers say.

Wisconsin: Frustration over refusal to delay April 7 election spurs lawsuit | Todd Richmond/Associated Press

Local officials’ frustration with Gov. Tony Evers’ refusal to order any changes to Wisconsin’s presidential primary to protect people from the coronavirus reached new heights as the city of Green Bay sued to stop in-person voting and leaders in River Falls questioned how the election can proceed. The virus has infected nearly 600 people in Wisconsin and killed seven. Models show that without stricter social distancing measures, as many as 22,000 people could contract the virus and as many as 1,500 could die by April 8. The April 7 election features a Wisconsin Supreme Court race and hundreds of local races, in addition to the presidential primary. A number of states have postponed their presidential primaries, but Evers, a Democrat, has refused to delay Wisconsin’s election. Many local officials’ terms end in mid-April and delaying the election would leave those offices vacant, the governor has said. Republican legislative leaders said Wednesday they want the election to go on as scheduled as well and maintain that Evers can’t unilaterally adjust its parameters.