Georgia: ‘This … is real to us’: Poll workers prepare for voters in pandemic | Nicole Sadek, Mary Margaret Stewart and Ada Wood/The Atlanta Journal Constitution

Georgia elections officials face a daunting question as they prepare for early voting in the June 9 primary in the midst of a global pandemic: What do they do if a voter appears ill? “I’ve asked for guidance from the state as to what we’re supposed to do if a manager notices anyone in line with symptoms,” Fulton County Elections Director Richard Barron said at a recent elections board meeting. “I still haven’t heard back.”The Georgia News Lab and GPB News asked dozens of county supervisors how they would handle such a situation. None reported receiving any guidance from state elections officials as of publication, leaving local officials to determine how to balance health and safety concerns due to COVID-19 against the fundamental right to vote.A spokeswoman for Secretary of State Brad Raffensperger said the office is actively working with counties to develop best practices for polling locations.“Just like other essential services that have continued to operate during this time, in-person voting will need to incorporate both social distancing and increased cleaning,” Deputy Secretary of State Jordan Fuchs said. “Exact measures will look different depending on the specific polling place but election officials should be prepared to limit the number of people in a polling place at a time.”

National: Partisan Fight Looms Over Voting by Mail | Lindsay Wise and Alexa Corse/Wall Street Journal

Six months out from Election Day, Republicans and Democrats in Congress are headed for a showdown over expanding voting by mail, with Americans set to converge on the polls when experts say the coronavirus could remain a health threat. Democrats point to images of masked voters waiting in long lines to cast ballots in Wisconsin’s April 7 primary to argue that reducing in-person voting is crucial to public health. Wisconsin’s public health department says at least 52 people tested positive for Covid-19 after voting in person or working at a polling location on primary day, though several of those people reported multiple possible exposures. “Voting by mail is central to this in any event, but at the time of the coronavirus, very essential,” said House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D., Calif.) in a recent MSNBC interview. House Democrats are proposing $4 billion to enact a slew of policies that range from requiring states to enable online and same-day voter registration, to mandating prepaid postage on mail-in ballots, to a nationwide minimum of 15 consecutive days of early voting. Senate Democrats have proposed a similar, $3.6 billion plan.

National: Whether the Ballot You Mail Is Counted May Depend on Where You Vote | Ryan McCarthy/ProPublica

The April 6 guidance from the U.S. Supreme Court seemed final: Election officials in Wisconsin should only count absentee ballots postmarked on or before the next day’s voting. Then, in the days after the chaotic primary, thousands of ballots poured in with missing or illegible postmarks — an issue the court had not directly addressed. Throwing up its hands, the Wisconsin Elections Commission left it to local officials to decide if ballots had been mailed on time. The result was a troubling disparity. Janesville, longtime home of former Republican U.S. House Speaker Paul Ryan, received 65 ballots without postmarks after primary day, but before an April 13 deadline. “Consistent with the order from the U.S. Supreme Court,” Janesville officials rejected them all, according to City Clerk David Godek. In the village of Cambridge, outside Madison, Barbara Goeckner counted all five such ballots. After talking with postal supervisors, the deputy clerk said, she took into consideration that the U.S. Postal Service had reported widespread delays and delivery problems. “You had 1,854 municipal clerks each determining whether to count or not count,” Goeckner said. “Personally, I believe every vote should count.”

National: Postal Service Funding Shortfall Could Derail Vote-By-Mail Efforts During Pandemic | Paul Blumenthal/HuffPost

If Congress allows the U.S. Postal Service to fail ― as President Donald Trump seems willing to do ― the nation’s ability to hold free, fair elections would be at risk, as would millions of voters who would be forced to go to the polls during a pandemic if they wanted to exercise their rights. In the 2016 election, 33 million Americans voted through the mail, using either absentee, military or mail-in ballots. Every state anticipates a significant increase in mailed ballots due to the coronavirus pandemic, with anywhere from a doubling of vote-by-mail to a near 100% replacement of in-person voting. All of the states rely on the Postal Service to deliver and return those ballots. But the Postal Service projects that the drop in mail volume due to the pandemic could lead it to run out of funds in late summer or early fall. The independent agency is asking Congress for $75 billion in relief funding to keep it afloat, but faces resistance from Trump.

Editorials: Online Voting Is Not the Answer Even in a Pandemic | Hans von Spakovsky/The Daily Signal

What is the best way to conduct elections in a time of epidemic? The simplest and most obvious answer might appear at first glance to be voting over the internet—via email, fax, blockchain, or smartphone apps. While this would certainly seem to fit with our internet-dependent lives as we socially distance, online voting is not a viable or acceptable solution and must not be on the table. No method of casting ballots over the internet is safe, secure, or trustworthy. Period. Votes can be manipulated or changed, recorded and spied on, deleted or cast fraudulently through hacking, viruses, Trojan horses, and other types of malware. The even bigger danger is that these sorts of attacks could succeed and go completely undetected, imperiling the integrity of the election process.
Computer security experts insist that online voting is far too insecure to be used for public elections.

Arizona: Voting-rights advocates call for election changes in Arizona amid virus | Jonathan J. Cooper/Associated Press

Voting rights advocates called on Arizona officials Tuesday to send a ballot to every registered voter for the primary and general elections this year and take other steps to ensure people can safely vote during the coronavirus outbreak. Citing infections linked to Wisconsin’s primary earlier this month, the groups said nobody should risk their health to cast a ballot. They want election officials to send ballots to everyone while preserving in-person voting opportunities for those who prefer it or can’t vote by mail, such as living in remote areas of Native American reservations. They also want extended deadlines for in-person early voting and voter registration. The moves are critical “so we don’t end up in a situation where we’re tracing back new coronavirus cases…to people who were exercising their fundamental right to living in a democracy by voting,” said Aaron Marquez, western states director for Vote Vets, an advocacy organization for progressive veterans.

California: Republicans Sue to Stop Collection of Ballots Amid Pandemic | Nick Cahill/Courthouse News

Though it has used the tactic in recent elections, the California Republican Party on Wednesday sued state officials to ban “ballot harvesting” in the upcoming runoff for the seat of former Democratic Rep. Katie Hill. In a lawsuit filed late Wednesday in state court against Governor Gavin Newsom and other officials, the party claims allowing campaign workers and volunteers to go door-to-door to collect ballots conflicts with the statewide shelter-in-place order caused by the coronavirus pandemic. The lawsuit accuses Newsom of “dodging” the party’s requests for clarity as to whether the practice should be allowed in a pair of May 12 special elections. Party chair Jessica Millan Patterson blasted Newsom in a statement and accused him of “putting Californians’ lives at risk” by not explicitly barring the practice.

Georgia: Elections Officials Grapple With Potential COVID-19 Illness At Polls | Stephen Fowler/WJCT

Georgia elections officials face a daunting question as they prepare for early voting in the June 9 primary in the midst of a global pandemic: What do they do if a voter appears ill? “I’ve asked for guidance from the state as to what we’re supposed to do if a manager notices anyone in line with symptoms,” Fulton County Elections Director Richard Barron said at a recent elections board meeting. “I still haven’t heard back.” GPB News and the Georgia News Lab asked dozens of county supervisors how they would handle such a situation. None reported receiving any guidance from the state elections officials as of publication, leaving local officials to determine how to balance health and safety concerns due to COVID-19 against the fundamental right to vote. A spokeswoman for Secretary of State Brad Raffensperger said the office is actively working with counties to develop best practices for polling locations.

Indiana: Lawsuit seeks no-excuse absentee voting for general election | Tribune Star

A dozen people including two members of the nonprofit Indiana Vote by Mail organization on Wednesday filed a federal class-action lawsuit against the Indiana Election Commission and Indiana Secretary of State. The lawsuits seeks to expand no-excuse absentee voting to the November general election. The lawsuit contends the state’s election law allowing some — but not all — registered voters to vote by mail violates the equal protection clause of the 14th Amendment of the U.S. Constitutions and the Equal Privileges and Immunities Clause of the Indiana Constitution. The lawsuit includes 12 plaintiffs, including two of whom are members of the Indiana Vote by Mail, which is based in Indianapolis.

Nevada: Judge promises quick ruling in mail-voting case | ill Dentzer/Las Vegas Review-Journal

A federal judge said Wednesday she would rule by the end of the week on a challenge to Nevada’s plan for conducting its June 9 primary almost exclusively by mail to cut down on spreading the coronavirus. Lawyers for state and national Democratic interests and True the Vote, a conservative voting rights group, are challenging the plan from opposing angles: Democrats want more in-person polling places and other protections for ensuring voting opportunities. The conservative group is claiming an all-mail procedure presents a greater potential for ballot fraud. The parties appeared by teleconference before U.S. District Judge Miranda Du on Wednesday for more than 90 minutes on a motion for a preliminary injunction. “The fact that we have this hearing by phone because the court is limiting in-person appearances does demonstrate the unusual circumstance of our time,” Du said as she opened the hearing. “So I don’t need counsel to explain to me how COVID-19 has affected our communities. I’m well aware of that.”

New York: Can the State Run a Safe Primary in June and Accommodate Voters With Disabilities? | Ethan Stark-Miller/City Limits

When Ian Foley goes to the polls on election day he casts his ballot with a piece of assistive technology called a ballot marking device. Foley can’t use traditional paper ballots because he’s legally blind, so the ballot marking device gives him an accessible way to read and mark his ballot. “That machine will basically walk us through the ballot, each step: like ‘column one, line one: here’s the Democrat running for village council,’” Foley, who’s legislative co-chair for the American Council of the Blind New York (ACBNY), said. However, going to polling sites in June for the primaries, and possibly in November for the general election, this year is a far more dangerous proposition amid the COVID-19 crisis. The New York State Board of Elections cancelled its Democratic presidential primary for this year Monday over this very concern, citing the fact that Joe Biden is the only candidate left in the race as the reason. However, the state will still be holding a primary on June 23 for congressional and state offices.

Ohio: The never-ending primary election: it could have been worse, but fixes needed, elections officials say | Andrew J. Tobias/Cleveland Plain Dealer

In talking with people closely involved with Ohio’s finally concluded presidential primary election, here’s the best thing people most had to say about it. It wasn’t good. But it could have been much worse. “I wouldn’t want to do it again in that kind of timeframe, but we did it,” Llyn McCoy, director of the Greene County Board of Elections, said Wednesday. Ohio’s first vote-by-mail election concluded Tuesday, five weeks after Gov. Mike DeWine canceled in-person voting on March 17 due to the coronavirus pandemic. The problems that arose — and the degree to which things worked — will be studied as Ohio considers how to prepare for the possibility of another outbreak before the general election in November. The long Tuesday lines of voters at county boards of election feared by voting rights activists didn’t come to pass. Voter turnout was nowhere near this year’s early-voting states and way below Ohio’s 2016 primary, but similar to the 2012 presidential primary, which maybe isn’t that bad considering the circumstances. Efforts by the U.S. Postal Service to clear a bottleneck of mailed ballots seemed to have an effect, with tens of thousands of ballots arriving at county boards of elections on Tuesday, although it delayed the results well past midnight for larger counties.

Oklahoma: State responds to lawsuit over absentee voting | Carmen Forman/The Oklahoman

A lawsuit against the Oklahoma State Election Board seeking changes to the state’s absentee voting process in light of the COVID-19 crisis “seeks to resolve a temporary problem by inventing a permanent solution,” attorneys for the state wrote. Vice Deputy Attorney General Niki Batt and Assistant Attorney General Thomas Schneider asked the Oklahoma Supreme Court Wednesday to toss a lawsuit filed last week by the League of Women Voters. Attorneys for the state responded to the lawsuit, saying changing absentee voter requirements would upend the will of Oklahoma’s Legislature and voters, according to court documents. With their eyes on the upcoming June 30 primary, the League of Women Voters is asking the state Supreme Court to prevent the State Election Board from enforcing a state law that requires absentee ballots to be notarized. Instead, the voting rights group is asking that voters be able to include on their ballot a signed statement swearing they are qualified to vote and marked their own ballot.

Pennsylvania: Counties struggle to find enough masks, gloves for in-person voting June 2 | Emily Previti/PA Post

Pennsylvania election directors face the unprecedented challenge of staffing voting locations for the June 2 primary while also taking steps to protect workers and voters from the coronavirus (and handling a historic number mailed ballots). Many say they aren’t ready. Personal protective equipment – mask, gloves, hand sanitizers and other materials often referred to collectively by the acronym “PPE” – remains difficult or impossible to acquire, county elections officials said. Berks County officials, for example, said they’ve obtained some items — such as gloves and hand sanitizer — for poll workers to use on June 2. But the county still faces “widespread issues surrounding PPE” acquisition in general, according to Brian A. Gottschall, the county’s director of Emergency Services. “It is really all about what product, what quality, what quantity, and what are you willing to pay. All of those things are coming into play with respect to delivery timing,” Gottschall said.

Pennsylvania: Judge rejects push from Green Party’s Jill Stein to decertify Philly voting machines as ‘daft,’ ‘ill-considered,’ and ‘pointless’ | Jeremy Roebuck/Philadelphia Inquirer

Calling her theories “daft,” “ill-considered,” and “pointless,” a federal judge in Philadelphia on Wednesday rejected a push from former Green Party presidential nominee Jill Stein to decertify Philadelphia’s new voting machines in advance of the June 2 primary over concerns they could be vulnerable to hacking. In an opinion, dripping with disdain for the “failed candidate’s” legal case, U.S. District Judge Paul S. Diamond found there was “no credible evidence” to support Stein’s concerns and that granting her request would effectively disenfranchise Philadelphia voters, as there would be no way to replace the machines with new ones in time for the election. “The Commonwealth and the city have expended considerable resources to demonstrate that Dr. Stein has based her motion on absolutely nothing,” he wrote.

South Carolina: Could South Carolina be like Wisconsin? Elections proceed amid mixed messages | Eric Connor and Genna Contino/Greenville News

The statewide June primaries will forge ahead even as uncertainty looms over how voters can best prevent spreading the novel coronavirus or avoid having to vote in person at all. The pandemic has created confusion over absentee voting, and election officials say that issue and social-distancing measures could mean delays that right now can’t fully be measured but must be accounted for as early voting begins next week. South Carolina is trying to avoid the confusion and monumental delays that Wisconsin saw in its primaries earlier this month, when voters had to choose between risking their safety and exercising their right to vote. Voters in South Carolina for years have been allowed to cast absentee ballots — whether in person or by mail — so long as they meet one of 18 exceptions. You can be sick. You can be on vacation. You can have a conflict because of work. But none of the exceptions expressly includes a provision for social distancing or fear of infection brought on by the pandemic and unprecedented shutdown of society.

Texas: Voters sue over age restrictions for mail-in ballots | Alexa Ura/The Texas Tribune

Citing the threats of the coronavirus, six Texas voters filed suit in federal court Wednesday challenging restrictions that limit age eligibility for voting by mail to those 65 and older. In a lawsuit filed in San Antonio, the voters — all between the ages of 18 and 28 — claim the Texas election code violates the 26th Amendment’s protections against voting restrictions that discriminate based on age. While all Texas voters 65 and older can request a mail-in ballot, those younger than 65 must meet a narrow set of requirements to qualify. The voters are backed by the National Redistricting Foundation, an affiliate of the National Democratic Redistricting Committee chaired by former U.S. Attorney General Eric Holder. The lawsuit cites the urgency brought on by the coronavirus outbreak in asking a federal judge to remedy what they argue are discriminatory and unconstitutional age restrictions. “Having opted to make mail-in voting an option for voters in Texas, Defendants may not constitutionally choose to restrict access to the franchise to voters for no other reason than the fact that they are 18 years old, 25 years old, or 64-and-a-half years old. Period,” the lawsuit argues. “While the Absentee Ballot Age Restriction would be unconstitutional under any event, in the current circumstances its application is unconscionable.”

National: ‘The Nightmare Scenario’: How Coronavirus Could Make the 2020 Vote a Disaster | Zack Stanton/Politico

For a certain segment of the American electorate, the onset of the coronavirus pandemic birthed a 2020 nightmare scenario, with an embattled President Donald Trump delaying the November election. But the prospect that terrifies election experts isn’t the idea that Trump moves the election (something he lacks the power to do); it’s something altogether more plausible: Despite an ongoing pandemic, the 2020 election takes place as planned, and America is totally unprepared. The nightmare scenario goes something like this: Large numbers of voters become disenfranchised because they’re worried it’s not safe to vote and that participating makes it more likely they catch the coronavirus. Voter-registration efforts, almost always geared toward in-person sign-ups, bring in very few new voters; few states allow online voter registration, and relatively few first-time voters take part in the election. A surge of demand for absentee ballots overwhelms election administrators, who haven’t printed enough ballots. In some states, like Texas, where fear of coronavirus isn’t a valid reason to request an absentee ballot, turnout drops as Americans are forced to choose between voting in person (and risking contact with the coronavirus) or not voting at all.

National: America’s Elections Won’t Be the Same After 2020 | Russell Berman and Elaine Godfrey/The Atlantic

This year’s democratic presidential primary was tumultuous from beginning to end—starting with a record field of two dozen major candidates and ending in the middle of a pandemic. But its lasting legacy could be far more fundamental: The chaos of the 2020 election season could radically, even permanently, change how Americans vote. By November, a majority of the country—and possibly the overwhelming majority—could cast their ballot by mail for the first time. In the years to come, more and more voters will pick their candidates not by selecting one favorite, but by ranking several under a system designed to give people more choices and less chance for regret. And by 2024, the final vestiges of a 200-year-old tradition—caucuses—could be gone, buried for good by the debacle in Iowa that launched this year’s nominating process. “I have this very sinking feeling that life in America will never again quite be the same,” says Phil Keisling, the former Oregon secretary of state who oversaw elections when the state switched to a vote-by-mail system in 1998. “Election systems have to evolve too.”

National: Ohio’s mail-in ballot brouhaha: a sign of coming trouble? | Carrie Levine/Center for Public Integrity

Risha Mason, who wants to vote in Ohio’s primary on Tuesday, called the local elections office three times in recent weeks to request applications for absentee ballots for herself and her mother. But the applications never arrived. Mason lives in Sandusky, Ohio, a city on the shores of Lake Erie that, like the rest of the state, is largely shut down because of coronavirus-related stay-at-home directives. Finally, more than a week ago, Mason said she drove to the county elections office to obtain ballot applications. She then made another trip to return them to the dropbox at the elections office. As of Monday, Mason, a manufacturing technician, still hadn’t received the ballots. “It’s not like [the ballots] are coming from another town,” she said. “If they sent it out Monday, I should have gotten it Tuesday. And still nothing.” Mason’s situation isn’t unique. Voting advocates and Ohio election officials acknowledge that many Ohio residents may not receive by-mail ballots in time to cast them in Tuesday’s rescheduled vote, which includes presidential, congressional and state Supreme Court races. They’re also preparing for the possibility of lines at county election offices, the only places where in-person voting can take place. State officials have mandated that nearly all voters vote by mail.

National: Why are Republicans afraid of vote-by-mail? | Zack Christenson/Spectator USA

Republicans are afraid of voting by mail in November. So is President Trump — which could cost him the 2020 election. The days are ticking by on our way to the general election and our fight with COVID-19 continues to rage. It’s more and more likely that November will see more voting by mail than in any previous election. It’s not a matter of whether Trump wants it or ‘allows’ it: he really doesn’t have much say. Voting by mail has been here for years. All 50 states already have some form of vote-by-mail. Regulations vary, with some states permitting 100 percent vote-by-mail and others demanding proof that you’d be unable to vote in person. Most are somewhere in the middle: you only need to request your ballot be mailed to you and give some vague reasoning that isn’t really important. The current Republican position on vote by mail is a curious one. Republican candidates have long enjoyed an advantage when it comes to voting by mail. Generally, Republican voters tend to love absentee voting too. Older voters understand the absentee process and are more likely request their ballots ahead of time. Millennials and Gen-Z voters would be hard-pressed to find a stamp, let alone take the time to drop it into a mailbox — or even understand how.

International: Why voting online is not the way to hold an election in a pandemic | The Economist

On May 3rd, months after Bolivia’s former president Evo Morales was forced to resign, the country was supposed to elect his successor. Because of covid-19, that election has been postponed. Bolivians are now stuck with a caretaker president who seems in no mood to relinquish power. They are not alone. The pandemic is playing havoc with elections worldwide. Britain, France, North Macedonia and Serbia have already postponed ballots of various sorts. Opposition politicians in Poland have called for the presidential contest in May to be delayed; some have called for a boycott if it takes place. Eighteen American states have postponed or cancelled presidential primaries, including New York, which scrapped its primary on April 27th. At this rate, scores of elections may be derailed or disrupted, perhaps even America’s polls in November.

Editorials: Let’s put the vote-by-mail ‘fraud’ myth to rest | Amber McReynolds and Charles Stewart III/The Hill

Widespread calls to conduct the 2020 elections by mail, to protect voters from COVID-19 exposure, are being met with charges that the system inevitably would lead to massive voter fraud. This is simply not true. Vote fraud in the United States is exceedingly rare, with mailed ballots and otherwise. Over the past 20 years, about 250 million votes have been cast by a mail ballot nationally. The Heritage Foundation maintains an online database of election fraud cases in the United States and reports that there have been just over 1,200 cases of vote fraud of all forms, resulting in 1,100 criminal convictions, over the past 20 years. Of these, 204 involved the fraudulent use of absentee ballots; 143 resulted in criminal convictions. Let’s put that data in perspective. One hundred forty-three cases of fraud using mailed ballots over the course of 20 years comes out to seven to eight cases per year, nationally. It also means that across the 50 states, there has been an average of three cases per state over the 20-year span. That is just one case per state every six or seven years. We are talking about an occurrence that translates to about 0.00006 percent of total votes cast.

Arizona: Election, Health Officials Urge Vote By Mail For Arizona | Ben Giles/KJZZ

A coalition of election officials, health experts and voting rights advocates collected more than 1,000 signatures urging Gov. Doug Ducey and legislative Republicans to let ballots be mailed to all voters. Calling it a “vote-by-mail plus” model, the coalition led by All Voting Is Local Arizona said mailing ballots to every voter would not preclude the state from still offering polling places on election day in August and November. In fact, Coconino County Recorder Patty Hansen said that mailing ballots would allow her office to allocate scarce resources and manpower to areas of the county that most need in-person voting options. Voters in urban areas have easy access to mail, while rural voters — particularly those on Arizona’s Indian reservations — still need the option to vote in-person. “Allowing the counties to mail ballots to all registered voters will alleviate the burden that the counties currently have in finding and staffing all of our election day polling locations,” Hansen said.

California: Los Angeles County Supervisors approve mail-in ballots for November election | Tammy Murga/Santa Clarita Valley Signal

Los Angeles County voters will be sent vote-by-mail ballots for all elections, starting with the Nov. 3 general election, according to a unanimous vote by the county Board of Supervisors on Tuesday. The decision comes in response to the COVID-19 pandemic, which has upended many aspects of life, including voting. “Voting is a right that should not come at the cost of being exposed to the virus,” read the approved motion by supervisors Janice Hahn and Sheila Kuehl. Despite success in flattening the curve among residents by practicing physical distancing and with an already extended safer-at-home directive set to expire on May 15, county Department of Public Health officials have warned the general public of the consequences of reopening or easing safety measures too soon. 

Delaware: State to allow voters with disabilities to vote online in primary: report | Maggie Miller/The Hill

Delaware will allow voters with disabilities to cast their ballots online during the upcoming primary election next month, NPR reported Tuesday.  The move would make Delaware the second state to allow internet voting for those with disabilities, after West Virginia. New Jersey is also considering allowing some online voting for people with disabilities or those who live overseas, according to NPR.  A spokesperson for the Delaware Department of Elections did not immediately respond to The Hill’s request for comment on the report.  Discussion around online voting has ramped up over the past month as in-person primary elections have been delayed or canceled due to the ongoing COVID-19 crisis. Mail-in voting has also been proposed by Democratic officials and voting rights advocates who argue that voters should not have to choose between their health and their right to vote.  Cybersecurity advocates have long cautioned against voting online, saying it would open up vulnerabilities that could be exploited by malicious actors to interfere in elections.

Georgia: Ballots mailed to Georgia voters with incorrect instructions | Mark Niesse/The Atlanta Journal-Constitution

Georgia election officials said Tuesday they will correct absentee ballot instructions that erroneously told voters to insert ballots into envelopes that no longer exist. Instructions mailed with future absentee ballots will tell voters that ballots should be placed inside a folded piece of paper labeled “Official absentee ballot,” which replaced an inner envelope that secured ballots in previous elections.The inner envelope protected the secrecy of ballots so they couldn’t be matched with voters’ information printed on the outer envelope. Without the inner envelope in Georgia’s June 9 primary, a county election worker could see how someone voted after opening the outer envelope.Absentee ballots will be counted as long as they’re received by the time polls close on election day, said Gabriel Sterling, implementation manager for Georgia’s voting system. Absentee ballots must be returned in signed and dated envelopes, which are still included. The secretary of state’s office only learned that absentee ballot packets wouldn’t include inner envelopes when voters began receiving them late last week, Sterling said.

Iowa: Absentee ballot requests spike as Iowans prepare to vote by mail in June primary elections | Brianne Pfannenstiel/Des Moines Register

Iowans are preparing to vote from home in historic numbers as concerns linger about the spread of the novel coronavirus, numbers from the Secretary of State’s office show. As of Tuesday, 49,325 people have requested absentee ballots — surpassing the 44,016 people who requested ballots during the entire 2016 primary. In the 2018 primary, 55,421 people requested absentee ballots. Iowa Secretary of State Paul Pate said in a statement that he’s confident in county auditors and their staffs’ ability to respond to the increased requests. “They’ve done a great job responding to the ballot requests so far,” he said. “It’s also important to keep in mind that while these numbers are high for a primary election, auditors process many more absentee ballot requests in the typical general election. County election officials are handling this situation well, and my office is here to assist them with anything they need.” Pate is among only a handful of Republican secretaries of state to expand early and absentee voting options ahead primary elections in an effort to stem the spread of COVID-19, the respiratory disease caused by the coronavirus.

Louisiana: Legislature passes election plan after rolling back access to mail-in ballots | Sam Karlan/The Advocate

An emergency plan for Louisiana’s delayed spring elections was approved by the state Legislature after Republican lawmakers rolled back an expansion of mail-in ballots for people concerned about the coronavirus. The state House and Senate both approved the revised plan, crafted by Republican Secretary of State Kyle Ardoin, even as a contingent of GOP lawmakers sought to block it because they believed it still featured too much access to mail-in ballots. Lawmakers voted by mail on the emergency plan. The House approved it on a 62-to-39 vote and the Senate voted 31-to-8. Following the vote, Ardoin called it a “pragmatic and temporary response” to the pandemic. Ardoin originally worked with Democratic Gov. John Bel Edwards on the emergency plan, and settled on an expansion of mail-in ballots to those 60 or older, those subject to a stay-at-home order, those unable to appear in public due to concern of exposure or transmission of COVID-19, or those caring for a child or grandchild whose school or child care provider is closed because of the virus, among others.