National: Coronavirus emerges as major threat to U.S. election process | John Whitesides and Jarrett Renshaw/Reuters

U.S. election officials looking to construct a safe voting system in a worsening coronavirus pandemic are confronting a grim reality: there may not be enough time, money or political will to make it happen by the November election. The possibility the pandemic could last into the fall, or flare again as millions of voters are set to choose the nation’s next president, has state and local officials scrambling for alternatives to help keep voters safe. The most-discussed proposals are to make mail-in voting available to all eligible voters nationwide, and to expand early in-person voting to limit the crowds on Election Day. But election officials say those changes will be costly and complex in a country where traditional voting remains ingrained. About six of every 10 ballots were cast in person on Election Day in 2016, Census data shows. Democrats fell far short in their effort to include at least $2 billion to help virus-proof the November elections as part of a $2.2-trillion coronavirus stimulus bill that was passed by the U.S. House on Friday. The package devotes $400 million to bolster vote by mail and early voting, expand facilities and hire more poll workers.

National: States Explore More Vote-By-Mail Options to Cope With Coronavirus | Alexa Corse and Dustin Volz/Wall StreetJournal

States are exploring ways to expand voting by mail and early voting ahead of the November general election to make sure balloting proceeds if the coronavirus pandemic persists. Election officials from state and local governments across the country held conference calls over the past week with the Department of Homeland Security and other agencies on the logistical, financial and legal obstacles to rolling out expanded vote-by-mail initiatives, according to people who participated in the calls. A call last Friday featuring the U.S. Postal Service looked at the feasibility of implementing widespread mail voting, including the costs for mail-in ballot services and whether they could be reduced. Another call this week included the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention to assess the coronavirus threat over the rest of the year. Early voting and voting by mail have increased across the country over the past two decades. Election experts said the coronavirus pandemic could supercharge that trend, overhauling how elections are conducted and accelerating the shift away from voting in person at a local polling site on Election Day.

Editorials: We know how much it will cost to safeguard voting from effects of the pandemic. Congress approved only one-fifth of that. | Wendy Weiser and Lawrence Norden/Politico

Federal lawmakers have reached a bipartisan agreement for a $2 trillion stimulus package aimed at ameliorating the public health and economic crises wreaked by the coronavirus. But in one critical respect, the deal is a colossal failure: it includes less than one-fifth of what is needed retrofit our voting systems for a nationwide pandemic in time for the November election. Unless Congress remedies this failure quickly, the coronavirus will add our democracy to its casualties. Don’t be lulled into complacency by the fact that there are seven months until November. The country needs to start making significant changes to our national election infrastructure now, or else it will be nearly impossible to hold a safe and fair election in the fall. Election officials across the country must have the funding to begin the enormous project before them. A bipartisan group of over 50 state and local election officials toldcongressional leaders this week that they face “unprecedented challenges” in carrying out their responsibility to “protect every voter and every vote.” To ensure a safe and secure election during the pandemic, these essential workers must receive significant financial assistance — immediately.

Arkansas: Federal suit asks to extend state’s deadline on absentee ballots | Linda Satter/Arkansas Democrat Gazette

The nonprofit Christian Ministerial Alliance, backed by a national legal group, turned to federal court Friday hoping to force state officials to extend the deadline by which absentee ballots must be submitted to be included in results of Tuesday’s runoff elections, in light of the covid-19 pandemic. On March 20, Gov. Asa Hutchinson issued an executive order suspending this week’s Tuesday deadline for absentee ballot applications to be emailed, faxed or mailed. But the requirement that election officials receive absentee ballots by 7:30 p.m. on Tuesday — election day — for the ballots to be counted has not been suspended, a federal lawsuit filed in Little Rock complains. It asserts “that provision poses a direct and severe obstacle to absentee voting.” “We don’t have the authority to alter election deadlines,” Chris Powell, spokesman for Arkansas Secretary of State John Thurston, said Friday in response to the lawsuit, which he said Thurston was aware of and which followed discussions about the deadline between the governor’s office and the secretary of state’s office.

Editorials: It’s time for Connecticut to allow voting by mail | Denise Merrill/Hartford Courant

In Connecticut, we pride ourselves on ensuring that every citizen has the opportunity to make their voice heard, whether it be in town meetings, at the ballot box, or in referenda that many towns hold every year. Despite that legacy, we have fallen behind most states in one crucial area: making it easy for registered voters to actually cast their ballots. Forty-one states allow their voters to mail in a ballot without a reason, vote early in a polling place or both. Five states conduct all of their elections by mail, and California, Pennsylvania and others are moving in that direction by allowing permanent mail-in voting status. Connecticut stands with Missouri, Kentucky, Mississippi, Alabama, South Carolina, New Hampshire and Rhode Island as the only states in the country that won’t let voters vote before Election Day and won’t let them vote by mail without an excuse. And of those states, we have the ignominious distinction of having the most restrictive absentee ballot laws in the country. The argument for flexibility in voting methods isn’t that Connecticut is behind most other states, although we are, or that it would make it more convenient for voters to vote, although it would — the argument right now is that we are in a public health emergency, and our inflexibility is threatening our democracy.

District of Columbia: Officials To Encourage Absentee Voting By Mail, Limit In-Person Voting For June Primary | Martin Austermuhle/WAMU

D.C. officials say they plan on encouraging more residents to use absentee ballots to vote by mail and will limit the number of physical voting sites for the June 2 primary. The changes are part of a plan to let the primary proceed as planned, while also addressing concerns raised by the coronavirus pandemic. “We have two major priorities during this unprecedented emergency. One, make sure D.C. voters and D.C. Board of Elections staff and poll workers remain safe. Number two, make sure voters have an opportunity to vote and every vote is counted,” D.C. Board of Elections Chair Michael Bennett said on Friday. Bennett said they’re asking as many voters as possible to request absentee ballots, which require no excuse or explanation. They can be requested online or through the election board’s app, and the city will also open phone centers for anyone who wants to call to request a ballot. Those ballots, which will be ready for distribution by May 1, can be mailed in or dropped off at designated locations.

Georgia: Stamps become issue in Georgia’s absentee ballot plan | Susan McCord/The Augusta Chronicle

As Georgia begins to mail absentee ballot applications to all registered voters this week, the plan is raising questions about whether it goes far enough to protect voters. Georgia Secretary of State Brad Raffensperger announced Tuesday that his office is mailing absentee ballot applications to all 6.9 million registered voters in the state, an effort to limit possible transfer of the coronavirus at polling places. The cost to taxpayers is up to $13 million, but the plan only includes postage to mail the applications and the requested ballots to voters. The price tag does not cover the 55-cent stamp needed to return the application or the 65 cents in postage — more than the 55-cent Forever stamp — that area voters need to mail back the ballots. Gregg Murray, a political science professor at Augusta University, said the stamps are an added expense that could discourage some from participating. “Having to go get a stamp is a new cost for people that don’t usually do mail,” he said. “Voting is kind of a cost-benefit analysis that probably most people go through. If the benefits outweigh the costs, they will do it.” The stamps themselves could befuddle some younger voters. Murray said he wasn’t sure all his students were familiar with them.

Maryland: Election board’s plan for no in-person voting is ripe for legal challenge, voting rights groups say | Emily Opilo/Baltimore Sun

When members of the Maryland Board of Elections convened, they knew they would be asked to make a near-impossible decision. Offer in-person centers to ensure every possible voter could participate in the June 2 primary, but risk the exposure of election staff and volunteers to a mysterious and deadly viral pandemic? Or hold an election exclusively with ballots sent by mail, a system that would exclude some of the most disadvantaged voters — people with disabilities, those without housing and people temporarily displaced by the spreading outbreak? Having listened to stern advice on both sides of the issue, board members came down on the side of public health, opting for a draft plan that does not include in-person polling. But such a decision would leave Maryland vulnerable to legal challenge, according to the heads of several voting rights groups and the Maryland attorney general’s office. “I just want to make clear that it is excluding that subset of the population from being able to independently and privately vote,” Andrea Trento, a lawyer from the attorney general’s office who serves as counsel to the state Board of Elections, warned the board Wednesday.

New York: Cuomo Postpones New York’s Primary Election From April 28 to June 23 | Stephanie Saul/The New York Times

New York will postpone its April 28 presidential primary until June 23, Gov. Andrew M. Cuomo announced on Saturday, buying time for the state to administer an election as it struggles to respond to the escalating coronavirus outbreak. “I don’t think it’s wise to be bringing a lot of people to one location to vote, a lot of people touching one doorknob, a lot of people touching one pen,” Mr. Cuomo said in a news conference. “So we are going to delay that and link it to an election that was previously scheduled on June 23.” A primary for state legislative and congressional races had already been set for June 23, and now all of the state’s primary elections will be held on the same date, he said. Ten other states, as well as Puerto Rico, have rescheduled their primary elections as the campaign calendar has been upended by the outbreak, citing guidance from health officials who have urged people to avoid gathering spots, including polling places. A handful of other states have switched to voting entirely by mail and have extended deadlines for doing so. Under rules set by the Democratic National Committee, the state risks forfeiting some delegates at the national convention for voting so late in the party’s nomination cycle.

Ohio: Groups Say New Plan for Ohio’s Primary Falls Short, Voting Should Extend Into May | Mary Kuhlman/Cleveland Scene

Civil-rights groups caution that Ohio’s new plan to address the state’s postponed primary could deprive people of their right to vote. To reduce the spread of the coronavirus, Gov. Mike DeWine closed the polls for the state’s March 17 primary. House Bill 197 was passed by the Legislature this week, extending mail voting for the primary to April 28. Mike Brickner, state director with All Voting is Local Ohio, says it’s too tight of a timeline for voters to request an absentee ballot and send it back to boards of elections. “Systems are not operating in an optimal way,” says Brickner. “Printers and mail houses and the United States Postal Service are all also reeling from COVID-19. Will there be other delays? Boards of Elections are also not operating optimally. Many have closed or are operating on very skeleton staffs.” 
Brickner and other election watchdog organizations contend the primary date should be set for no earlier than mid-May, with the voter registration deadline extended to 30 days prior as required by law.

South Dakota: Municipal elections, presidential primary could be delayed due to COVID-19 | Bart Pfankuch and Nick Lowrey/South Dakota News Watch

Amid growing concerns over the COVID-19 pandemic, South Dakota lawmakers will consider a bill to postpone upcoming city elections in Sioux Falls, Brookings and other cities at least until June, and to allow Gov. Kristi Noem to delay the presidential primary from June 2 to July 28. The elections bill is one of at least nine last-minute bills related to COVID-19 that lawmakers will consider on the last working day of the 2020 legislative session on Monday, March 30. Among the the other bills proposed on Friday, March 27, labeled Drafts 928-936, are measures that would: speed delivery of unemployment benefits; require treatment of anyone with COVID-19; give the governor, health secretary and counties more authority in the crisis; allow for education standards to be changed; exempt schools from standardized testing; and extend driver’s licensing expiration dates. Lawmakers are expected to discuss and vote on bills remotely by using communication technology that will allow them to take action without gathering in-person in Pierre.

Washington: Officials say April election will take place despite coronavirus concerns | Joseph O’Sullivan/The Seattle Times

Gov. Jay Inslee’s office will let Washington’s April 28 special election proceed despite worries among county election officials about safely administering and counting ballots during the coronavirus pandemic. Those concerns earlier this month led Secretary of State Kim Wyman and Washington’s county auditors to write a letter to Inslee requesting the election be canceled. The April elections are not considered a high-profile affair. Only 18 of Washington’s counties are scheduled to have issues on the ballot. Those elections don’t involve any candidates running for office, but present proposed bonds and levies to voters. Washington’s vote-by-mail system limits the contact voters have, compared with other places – think long lines at polling places in other states.

Wisconsin: Spring election still on for April 7 despite a chaotic week of political, legal wrangling | Mitchell Schmidt/Wisconsin State Journal

The spring presidential primary and Supreme Court election remain on track to take place April 7, but a flurry of related activity Friday left major concerns about the safety and practicality of holding the election as scheduled unresolved. With lawsuits continuing to mount, Gov. Tony Evers on Friday called on the Legislature to send an absentee ballot to every registered voter in the state to minimize in-person voting during the COVID-19 coronavirus pandemic — a request that drew a quick rebuke from GOP leaders. On Friday evening the Wisconsin Elections Commission approved Election Day procedures to mitigate the risks, including curbside, drive-through and outdoor options at polling places. Procedures to limit contact between voters and poll workers also were approved. The commission also recommended that anyone over the age of 65 and those with underlying health problems not serve as poll workers, a move that would drastically cut the already limited supply of poll workers in the state. In other developments, a federal judge tossed out a lawsuit filed by the city of Green Bay seeking to delay the election because of a shortage of poll workers and concerns about the respiratory disease. And the Republican Party of Wisconsin asked the Wisconsin Supreme Court to intervene in Dane and Milwaukee counties, where clerks have advised voters they can indicate they are indefinitely confined to avoid uploading a photo ID when voting absentee, something a nonpartisan legislative agency warned could be unlawful.

Wisconsin: GOP Calls Evers’ Mass Ballot Mailing Idea ‘Complete Fantasy’ | Todd Richmond/Associated Press

Wisconsin Republicans signaled Friday that they have no interest in postponing or adjusting the state’s April 7 presidential primary despite the coronavirus threat, branding Democratic Gov. Tony Evers’ call for the Legislature to send absentee ballots to every registered voter a “complete fantasy.” Evers called on Republican legislative leaders to convene quickly and change the state’s election statutes to allow for the mass-mailing and to give local clerks more time to count ballots. But Evers and Republicans have been at odds since he took office in January 2019, and Senate Majority Leader Scott Fitzgerald’s response to his request was all but expected. “Governor Evers just proposed procuring, printing, verifying and mandating the mailing of millions of ballots within 10 days,” Fitzgerald said in a statement. “Even he knows that’s not logistically feasible. The clerks of this state should know this is a complete fantasy. The Legislature on both sides of the aisle has to know this is ridiculous.” Evers’ spokeswoman, Melissa Baldauff, had no immediate comment on Fitzgerald’s statement. Earlier Friday, she said Evers was prepared to call the Legislature into special session to authorize the mailing but that he first wanted to try to reach consensus with Fitzgerald and Assembly Speaker Robin Vos. Both have said they want the election to take place as scheduled.

National: It’s probably game over for more election security before November elections | Joseph Marks/The Washington Post

Lawmakers’ failure to impose any new security rules on state election officials in the $2.2 trillion coronavirus stimulus bill probably signals the end of any serious chance to pass significant election security changes before November. The bill includes $400 million to protect elections during the pandemic. But it doesn’t contain any requirements sought by Democrats that the money be used to expand voting by mail or early voting options. With the coronavirus spreading, several states delayed their primaries and there are worries that in-person voting may be compromised, too. But the coronavirus stimulus legislation is the third such no-strings attached cash infusion for election security since the 2016 contest was marred by a Russian hacking and disinformation operation. And with three strikes against them on efforts to mandate changes such as paper ballots, post-election audits and cybersecurity reviews, election security hawks are likely out — at least until after November. “This was the last chance for coordinated federal action to help secure the 2020 election and unfortunately Congress has once again blown its chance,” Alex Halderman, an election security expert and computer science professor at the University of Michigan, told me. “It’s not surprising, but it ought to be scandalous that we’ve gone four years without Congress passing election security legislation.”

National: New HBO documentary Kill Chain shows the cyberwar on America’s elections is very real | John Doyle/The Globe and Mail

As though we didn’t all have enough to make us anxious, a new documentary suggests that the interference in 2016 has been underestimated and that the 2020 election there is extremely vulnerable. It’s about the United States, not about us, but it isn’t necessary to explain why it all matters. Kill Chain: The Cyber War on America’s Elections (Thursday HBO/Crave 9 p.m.) is a chilling look at the security of election technology. “Everything is hackable” is the message from the main software expert in the program. He explains the how and why. Fifteen years ago he demonstrated how, to one local election authority, and did it for them. People were shocked. Not much changed. The documentary is dense with information but succeeds in making a tangled story about technology easily understood. At times it’s jam-packed with jargon and at other times it’s like an understated episode of Homeland. The main figure is one Harri Hursti, a Finnish-born computer programmer and one of the world’s leading experts on data security. (If you think the doc is riddled with paranoia, just look up Hursti and his qualifications.) He’s very even-tempered and calm but you could forgive him for being mad as hell. At issue is the U.S. voting system. It’s locally run, without national supervision of standards. In fact it’s haphazard and kind-of chaotic. That’s why certain parties were able to assert with strange confidence that not a single vote had been changed by outside forces in 2016. It’s so chaotic, it must be near-impossible to manipulate, right?

National: Senate Democrats vow to keep pushing for more funds for mail-in voting | Maggie Miller/The Hill

Sens. Amy Klobuchar (D-Minn.) and Ron Wyden (D-Ore.) vowed on Thursday to keep pushing for additional funding for states to boost their mail-in voting efforts in the midst of the coronavirus crisis. The pledge by Klobuchar and Wyden comes a day after the Senate unanimously approved a $2 trillion coronavirus stimulus bill that included $400 million for states to enhance mail-in voting and other efforts to keep elections stable despite the ongoing pandemic. For the two senators, and for other election advocates, the funding level fell woefully short of the $2 billion they had pressed the Senate to include for elections earlier this week. “Clearly when you get $400 million in a bill, it is a priority, but we need to get the secretaries of State what they are looking for,” Klobuchar told reporters during a press call on Thursday, stressing that “we are in the middle of a crisis.” The amount was far less than the $4 billion proposed in the stimulus bill rolled out by Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) for elections earlier this week.

National: Coronavirus ‘worst-case scenario’: Could the presidential vote be done by mail? | Alex Seitz-Wald/NBC

If the coronavirus pandemic continues to make in-person voting virtually impossible by November, conducting the 2020 presidential election largely by mail isn’t out of the question. Advocates say a massive expansion of vote-by-mail is technically feasible, but may require more time, money and political willpower than is available, with the $400 million included in Congress’ new stimulus bill just the beginning of the need. “In my view, with the right leadership and with the right amount of funding by the federal government, most states would be able to go to a vote-by-mail system for November — if we begin planning now,” said Jocelyn Benson, the secretary of state in Michigan, where vote-by-mail has exploded in popularity since voters there approved a referendum in 2018 to allow anyone to request a mail-in absentee ballot. “In this extraordinary, unprecedented moment, there is an opportunity,” Benson added.An American presidential election has never been postponed or canceled, but a majority of poll workers are over the age of 60, a group at heightened risk for COVID-19, and health officials have discouraged crowds like the kind that are generally unavoidable at polling places. “It’s either going to be vote-by-mail or nothing if we have to deal with a worst-case scenario,” Sen. Ron Wyden, D-Ore., who is sponsoring an emergency bill to expand vote-by-mail, told reporters on a conference call.

National: Coronavirus Relief Bill Includes $400 Million To Protect Elections | Pam Fessler/NPR

The Senate coronavirus relief bill now under consideration would give states $400 million to protect upcoming elections against the pandemic threat. The money, far less than the $4 billion some Democrats had wanted, would allow states to expand mail-in and early voting, as well as online voter registration. The money could also be used to help secure in-person voting sites. Primaries and other elections have been postponed in more than a dozen states so far because of concerns about the coronavirus. Several states – including Ohio, Georgia and West Virginia – have announced that they will send absentee ballot applications to all registered voters so they do not have to vote in person. The package does not require states to offer 15 days of early voting, no-excuse absentee voting and other changes some Democrats had sought. Congressional Republicans, as well as state officials, oppose imposing federal requirements on elections, which are traditionally run by the states.

National: America’s Love Affair with Paperless Voting Is Over. Here’s Why | Luca Ropek/Government Technology

Before the novel coronavirus (COVID-19) took over as the single biggest threat to the 2020 presidential election, the security of state voting infrastructure was chief among the concerns held by many elected officials. Since 2016, foreign interference in American elections has been a critical concern, and direct-recording electronic (DRE) voting systems — or paperless voting machines — are increasingly viewed as a critical target that foreign adversaries might exploit. Touchscreen and electronic, the machines were once considered the most efficient, credible means to tabulate elections, but over the years many facets of them — in particular their lack of an auditable paper trail — have led experts to warn against their adoption. Hackers could gain entry, change votes and sway elections, cyberprofessionals fear. Here’s a look at how DREs became such a prominent fixture of U.S. voting infrastructure, and why they have since seen a precipitous decline in use as states ditch them for old-fashioned paper. 

National: States would get $400 million to run elections under COVID-19 threat | Derek B. Johnson/FCW

The $2 trillion economic relief package passed by the Senate March 25 would set aside $400 million for states and localities to restructure their election processes to deal with the consequences of the COVID-19 pandemic, but some lawmakers and election security experts say the sum is paltry compared to what is needed. The Election Assistance Commission is charged with distributing grants on a per capita basis within 30 days of passage. The bill does require that each state provide a report to EAC at least 20 days out from their election, detailing how they spent their share and how it allowed them “to prevent, prepare for and respond to the coronavirus.” The Brennan Center for Justice at New York University Law School, which examines election security and integrity issues, calculated that states need more funding to expand vote-by-mail infrastructure.

National: Hack the vote: terrifying film shows how vulnerable US elections are | Adrian Horton/The Guardian

Even as much of America grinds to a halt, coronavirus has yet to derail the date of the 2020 election. Which introduces a perhaps underestimated terror, as explained in one of the more deceptively scary documentaries to drop in recent weeks: the vulnerable voting machine. That seemingly benign piece of equipment – the hardware of American democracy – is, as several experts explain in HBO’s Kill Chain: The Cyber War on America’s Elections, nothing more than an obsolete computer. And these machines’ vulnerabilities to hacking are “terrifying”, Sarah Teale, co-director along with Simon Ardizzone and Russell Michaels, told the Guardian. America’s current election infrastructure is, as Kill Chain explains, a prescription for disaster – an outdated, willfully naive system no more prepared for attack than four years ago. Like After Truth: Disinformation and the Cost of Fake News, another HBO documentary which premiered last week and focused on the threat of disinformation on American democracy, Kill Chain re-examines foreign interference in the 2016 election with critical and scientific distance. The film follows the liabilities of the American democratic system even further than fake news, to its basic infrastructure: the machines in poll booths across the country, the very method through which votes are tallied, the databases in which voter data – name, address, eligibility – are stored.

Editorials: We Must Vote in November. This Is How to Ensure That We Can. | Bob Bauer, Ben Ginsberg and Nathaniel Persily/The New York Times

Voters should not have to choose between casting a ballot and risking their health. They should not have to endure confusion over the location of polling places or the availability of vote-by-mail. Yet voters might face exactly those problems in November if we do not act now to protect the election from Covid-19. To safeguard the inclusivity and legitimacy of our elections, the federal government should provide resources that states should use in a credible, bipartisan fashion. We must act now. Elections — American democracy itself — should not be among the pandemic’s victims. We’ve done something like this before. Roughly seven years ago, we led a bipartisan commission set up by President Barack Obama. There had been significant problems with the operation of the electoral process in 2012, and our task was to suggest possible solutions. Two of us (Mr. Bauer and Mr. Ginsberg) were co-chairs and the other (Mr. Persily) was the senior research director. As part of our broad charge, and in light of Hurricane Sandy, we looked at the challenges posed by natural disasters. Our recommendations on these and other election administrative issues were well received by election administrators across the country, of both parties. We also noted where more progress was urgently needed.

Editorials: If coronavirus doesn’t end us, electronic voting just might | Robert Abele/Los Angeles Times

Though the November 2020 election has probably never felt farther away, it doesn’t mean we shouldn’t be thinking about how we’re going to protect its integrity and ensure that this vital aspect of democracy runs smoothly. Then again, considering what we’ve learned about Russian interference in 2016 and beyond, and how routinely voting issues crop up every cycle, what if America is already behind the eight ball on that front as well? That’s the scary scenario rolled out over 90 minutes in the HBO documentary “Kill Chain: The Cyber War on America’s Elections” from filmmakers Simon Ardizzone, Russell Michaels and Sarah Teale, which says that electronic voting is still woefully unsafe from bad actors, be they nations or loners. Distraction viewing, this admittedly isn’t. The trio behind “Kill Chain” have tackled this story before, in the 2006 documentary “Hacking Democracy,” which centered on vulnerabilities in the Diebold e-voting machines that had risen to prominence in the 2000 and 2004 elections. In that film, Finnish computer security expert Harri Hursti demonstrated how easy it was to get into a Diebold system to change votes. Diebold is no more — it was bought by another company, which was then subsumed by a bigger voting machine outfit — but Hursti is still around, his knowledge of election security problems even greater, so it’s not surprising that the filmmakers have made him their tour guide for the 2.0 version of their techno-cautious crusade. At the core of the movie’s warning is that an electronic voting machine is always penetrable — something most readily proved in a scene at the annual hacker convention Def Con, in which Hursti instructs assembled participants to try to sabotage the voting machines provided, which they then do. That the main companies behind these products are tight-lipped about their security, and breaches around the country are sometimes kept from the public, doesn’t inspire confidence.

Editorials: Congress has to immunize Election Day against fear of coronavirus | Los Angeles Times

In the days, weeks and months ahead, we can expect all sorts of dramatic disruptions as a result of the coronavirus sweeping the nation and the world. But one that Americans absolutely must begin thinking about and planning for right now is the threat the virus poses to our democratic process in a year in which voters will choose a president, a third of the U.S. Senate and the entire House of Representatives. Several states have already postponed presidential primaries. Bernie Sanders and Joe Biden, and President Trump as well, are already rethinking what it even means to campaign at a moment in time when voters can’t come out to rallies, debates must be held virtually, and all discussion of issues from foreign policy to climate change to homelessness are subordinated to the one great concern on everyone’s mind. Obviously — but shockingly nevertheless — there is also speculation that this summer’s party political conventions might have to be canceled or drastically scaled back. But there is one political event that will and must go on as scheduled: the Nov. 3 general election. While prognostications about the spread — or hopefully the containment — of the pandemic are risky, it isn’t too early for Congress and state election officials to begin planning for an election that might have to be conducted under plague conditions. The goal must be to ensure that fear of contracting COVID-19 (or transmitting it to others) won’t cause participation in the election to plummet. Even if, as we all hope, self-isolation and social distancing are no longer necessary in November, lingering concerns about contamination could easily depress turnout at traditional polling places.

Editorials: The Vote Must Go On – Don’t let the coronavirus undermine America’s election | Ken Harbaugh/The Atlantic

A few days ago, a friend sent me a video intended to recruit military veterans to “protect our right to vote.” The group behind it has an appalling record of voter intimidation, and is one of a growing number preparing to influence this year’s election through the strategic deployment of “poll watchers.” The video’s narrator spoke about his time in Iraq providing security during a tense election. “We had snipers across the whole city protecting polling booths,” he said. Then he issued this ominous call to arms: “My brothers and I were willing to shed our blood … So I’m asking you as Americans to take involvement in this vote … Military, vets, first responders, we’re asking for your support.” I came to expect paramilitary vigilantes stalking polling places when I served overseas. I never imagined it could happen at home. But in the midst of the COVID-19 pandemic, suddenly the most far-fetched scenarios seem plausible. State governments around the country have imposed lockdowns on their residents. The U.S. Department of Justice has proposed suspending certain constitutional guarantees. And during the most important political contest of our lives, elections have been totally upended, as in Ohio, where I live, and where Republican Governor Mike DeWine delayed the primary. The decision came about chaotically, delivered the night before the election in open defiance of a court order. But as poorly executed as the governor’s decision was, I agreed with the rationale behind it. Ohioans will have their chance to vote. Holding the election as scheduled, with transmission rates of COVID-19 still accelerating, posed too great a risk. In this case, acting out of fear made sense.

Florida: Florida held its primary despite coronavirus. Two Broward County poll workers tested positive for COVID-19 | David Smiley and Bianca Padro Ocasio/Miami Herald

Two poll workers who spent Florida’s primary day at precincts in the city of Hollywood have tested positive for coronavirus, the Broward County Supervisor of Elections said Thursday. According to a spokesman for Supervisor Pete Antonacci, the office learned over the last 24 hours that two workers have tested positive for COVID-19, the disease caused by the novel coronavirus. The workers, who have not been identified, worked March 17 at precincts at the Martin Luther King Community Center and the David Park Community Center, both in the city of Hollywood. Spokesman Steve Vancore said the elections office — which oversees voting in one of the Florida counties hit hardest by the global pandemic — does not know when the workers contracted the virus. But he said their contact with voters was limited. “We just don’t know, did they contract it after or before? That’s between them and their physician,” Vancore said. “It’s just something that can’t be known, at least not to us. We just felt it was important to notify the public and, of course, their fellow poll workers who were there.”

Minnesota: All-Mail Ballot System Under Consideration For 2020 Elections | WCCO

Minnesota’s top election official said Thursday that the 2020 elections in the state “must go on” in Minnesota, even if the country is still grappling with the coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic. In a video statement, Secretary of State Steve Simon said his office is planning for a number of possibilities looking ahead toward November. “Whatever option we use, we’ll do this thoughtfully and carefully,” he said. “No one should have to choose between their health and their right to vote.” One option under consideration is an all-mail balloting system. In this scenario, each registered voter would be mailed a ballot, which would be filled out at home and returned by mail. Other states, such as Oregon, already do this. “I’m looking to [those states], and their leaders, right now to figure out what components of that system to bring to Minnesota,” Simon said.

New Jersey: Counting all-Vote by Mail election votes has challenges, state attorney general says | David Wildstein/New Jersey Globe

The state attorney general is recommending that county election boards maintain video and audio recordings when they count vote-by-mail ballots for the May 12 elections, according to a memo obtained by the New Jersey Globe that responded to a series of questions from election officials. Nearly 730,000 New Jersey voters in 31 municipalities will receive mail-in ballots for local elections in the state’s first all-VBM elections ordered by Gov. Phil Murphy in response to curbing the spread of the deadly coronavirus pandemic. Election officials will practice social distancing to count ballots “to the extent followed,” according to deputy attorneys general Susan Scott and George Cohen. “Consideration should be given to an electronic means of video/audio viewing of the counting. This should be determined in consultation with the Department of Health and in keeping with the recommendations for social distancing,” they said. Counties will not be permitted to begin counting mail-in ballots before May 12.