Texas: Voters who fear catching the coronavirus can vote by mail, state judge rules | James Barragán/Dallas Morning News

A state judge said Wednesday afternoon that all voters in Texas afraid of contracting COVID-19 through in-person voting should be allowed to vote by mail during the pandemic. State District Judge Tim Sulak of the 353rd District Court in Travis County said he will issue a temporary injunction allowing voters who fear catching the new coronavirus to qualify for mail-in voting through the disability clause in the state’s election code. The lawsuit was filed by the Texas Democratic Party and several voting rights groups who are concerned that voters in upcoming July elections, including the primary runoffs, could catch the virus if access to mail ballots is not expanded. “Today is a victory for all Texans. The right to vote is central to our democracy,” the party’s chairman Gilberto Hinojosa said in a statement. “Voters should not have to choose between their lives or their right to vote.” Texas Attorney General Ken Paxton said he was “disappointed” that the court had “ignored the plain text of the Texas election code to allow perfectly healthy voters to take advantage of special protections made available to Texans with actual illness or disabilities.”

Editorials: Wisconsin Voters Faced an Impossible Choice. It Shouldn’t Happen Again. | The New York Times

It was as gratifying as it was unexpected to watch Wisconsin’s Republican lawmakers — who have repeatedly ignored if not erased the political voices of their own constituents — take a drubbing at the hands of the voters themselves. The state’s Republican leadership insisted on holding an election in the middle of a pandemic and a statewide stay-at-home order, knowing that the dilemma it posed would hit minorities and other Democratic-leaning voters hardest. Yet Republicans still lost in the state’s marquee race. When the ballots were counted and the official results were reported on Monday, Jill Karofsky, the Democratic candidate for a seat on the state’s Supreme Court, had comfortably beaten her Trump-endorsed opponent, the incumbent, Justice Daniel Kelly. Defying the pleas of voters, poll workers, public-health officials, the Democratic governor and Democratic lawmakers, Republican legislators forced Wisconsinites to make a choice between protecting their health and casting their ballot.

National: Voting in the pandemic: Why mobile applications are not the answer | Brent Hansen/GCN

As we all sit together in isolation, it seems only natural to begin to ask the question of how voting for public office will take place across the U.S.  The prevailing sentiment indicates that some type of new online system in place of in-person or current absentee methods may offer a solution. Popular media is giving voice to opinions from election officials and political leaders that some extraordinary measures must be taken to ensure elections can continue despite shelter-in-place directives. These opinions are tempered with the acknowledgement that such extraordinary measures must have equally extraordinary security safeguards to protect both the integrity of the votes and the personal information of the voters. That’s sensible, but at the same time we must acknowledge that mobile application safeguards are not yet ready.

National: Democrats accuse Trump administration of voter suppression in mail ballot fight | Joseph Marks/The Washington Post

Democrats are accusing President Trump and his allies of using the novel coronavirus to suppress minority votes as they rally for federal funding to increase voting by mail during the pandemic. They point to last week’s primary election in Wisconsin where Democratic efforts to delay the vote were stymied by Republicans and mail-in ballots never arrived for some voters. As a result, many voters in heavily African American Milwaukee County and elsewhere were forced to stand in blocks-long lines and risk contracting the virus to cast their ballots. “What we saw in Wisconsin … is its own most cynical form of voter suppression,” Oregon Gov. Kate Brown (D), whose state votes almost entirely by mail, said during a call organized by the advocacy group Stand Up America. “That they would require Wisconsin voters to risk their health and risk their lives in order to vote is suppression of the highest order.” Brown and other Democrats are urging up to $4 billion in federal funding to ensure mail-ballot access for all voters across the country. The calls underscore how the pandemic and the chaos in Wisconsin have broadened the coalition pushing for major changes to the voting system. They’re also uniting groups that sought changes to protect elections against hacking by Russia and other adversaries, and those who want to ensure ballot access laws don’t disenfranchise minorities and lower-income voters.

National: Trump Denigrates Vote By Mail, But Troops Have Been Doing It For Decades | Courtney Bublé/Government Executive

President Trump and other Republicans have alleged that voting by mail is not secure, but some election experts and former military officials say otherwise, noting that U.S. troops and civilians posted overseas  have been doing it successfully for decades. As the presidential election coincides with the novel coronavirus pandemic, many states have adopted vote-by-mail for their primaries and caucuses and support is growing among election officials to expand such efforts for the general election in November to heed social distancing guidance. Dr. Anthony Fauci, director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases and White House coronavirus task force member, said on CNN on Sunday, that he “can’t guarantee” in-person voting will be possible or advisable in November due to the ongoing pandemic.

National: Mail-in voting benefits neither party, is nearly fraud-free | The Fulcrum

Voting by mail does not help Democrats more than Republicans and does not incubate fraud — but does generate a bit more turnout, a pair of academic studies out Thursday conclude. The twin reports, one from Stanford and the other from the Union of Concerned Scientists, come as the debate about making elections more flexible in the face of the coronavirus has become increasingly partisan. Although voting in person, the method used by three-quarters of Americans before this year, currently poses serious health risks to both voters and poll workers, President Trump is opposing efforts to broadly expand absentee balloting by November. He says the GOP will suffer and that a wave of widespread cheating will be the major reason. There’s no evidence of such partisan advantage in the detailed results from the past dozen elections in California, Utah and Washington. They were analyzed by the Democracy and Polarization Lab at Stanford, which chose the states because each steadily expanded voting by mail, county by county, in the last two decades so that it is now nearly universally used.

National: Historic shifts seen in support for mail-in voting | Maggie Miller/The Hill

The coronavirus pandemic is leading to major shifts in how Americans vote across the country and is forcing some of the most restrictive voting states to embrace change in their election procedures. The change is most apparent on the East Coast, where governors from New England to the South are signaling a new willingness to expand voting measures such as early voting and mail-in ballots, and on Capitol Hill, where leaders including Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) are strongly in support. Support for these efforts is spurred on by the public, with Democracy Corps finding in a poll conducted over the past month that more than 70 percent of Americans living in key battleground states are in favor of no-excuse absentee voting, which allows for voters to request an absentee ballot without having to state a reason. Some Republicans, including President Trump, are still staunchly against voting by mail, arguing it could lead to voter fraud and lessen election chances for the party.

National: Vote-by-mail states don’t see the rampant fraud that alarms Trump | Bridget Bowman(Roll Call

States are expecting an increase in voters wanting to mail in their ballots as the coronavirus pandemic has made in-person voting potentially dangerous. And some — most notably the president — have questioned whether mail-in ballots are secure. President Donald Trump has repeatedly said voting by mail has a high potential for voter fraud, despite recently casting an absentee ballot in Florida himself. But officials in states that conduct elections entirely by mail say fraud is extremely rare, and they also have measures in place to protect against ballot tampering. The question for other states is whether, and how quickly, they can ramp up similar protections ahead of November. Trump and others questioning the security of mail-in ballots do have a recent, high-profile example in North Carolina’s 9th District, where the 2018 election results were thrown out after a Republican political consultant was accused of tampering with absentee ballots. Proponents of voting by mail pushed back, arguing that there is little evidence of fraudulent ballots and that no system is perfect. “If someone really wants to perpetrate fraud, I think they probably could in any system, including voting at a polling place,” said Washington Secretary of State Kim Wyman, a Republican. “So no system is completely free of the potential of fraud.”

Editorials: Why the Supreme Court made Wisconsin vote during the coronavirus crisis | Austin Sarat/The Conversation

When Wisconsin voters had to brave the coronavirus pandemic to vote in their state’s April 7 election, it was the latest phase of a nearly 60-year legal and political fight over who can vote in the U.S. Wearing masks and gloves, Wisconsin residents who voted in person were met by election officials in similar attire. That was new. But it wasn’t new that voters found hundreds of polling places closed and therefore had to wait in line for hours. A U.S. Supreme Court decision just the day before had ordered Wisconsin to hold its in-person election without delay, not allowing extra time for voters to cast their ballots by mail. Critics called the decision one of “raw partisanship,” “an ominous harbinger for what the Court might allow in November in the general election” – and even a “death threat” aimed at voters. As someone who has long studied the complex intersections of law and politics, I saw the ruling as the latest episode in the fight over the franchise and one of a series of decisions under Chief Justice John Roberts that have rejected efforts to protect or extend voting rights.

Georgia: Record number of absentee ballot requests pour in for Georgia primary | Mark Niesse/The Atlanta Journal-Constitution

More Georgia voters are planning to vote by mail than ever before, with 395,000 people having requested absentee ballots so far for the June 9 primary. The first release of statewide primary voting data Wednesday night showed high demand for voting remotely during the coronavirus pandemic. Secretary of State Brad Raffensperger sent absentee ballot request forms to Georgia’s 6.9 million active voters last month, encouraging them to avoid human contact at precincts.About half as many people, 220,000, voted absentee in the 2018 election for governor. There were almost 203,000 absentee ballots cast in the 2016 presidential election. More voters have requested Republican than Democratic absentee ballots for this year’s primary. About 223,000 people pulled Republican ballots compared to 161,000 Democratic ballots. Another 10,000 sought nonpartisan ballots.

Indiana: State to Offer Limited In-Person Voting at Upcoming Primary Election | Lauren Stone/NBC Chicago

While Indiana officials are encouraging mail-in absentee voting, the state will still have in-person voting for its pushed-back primary election on June 2. At Thursday’s coronavirus briefing, Indiana Secretary of State Connie Lawson updated Hoosiers on the upcoming election that was previously moved from May 5 to June 2 over growing concerns of spreading the coronavirus. Lawson said early in-person voting will take place, but will be limited. Instead of the typical 28 days prior to the primary, voters can cast an early in-person ballot from May 26 through June 1. “These recommendations come after many discussions with county clerks and election staff, the state parties, the Indiana election division,” Lawson said, “and they represent what we believe to be best practices for an unprecedented election cycle.” Lawson encouraged voters to double check their polling locations before leaving home to cast a ballot and addressed safety concerns over in-person voting at these precincts.

Maryland: Controversy over decision to open polling places for 7th District special election | Keith Daniels/WBFF

The decision to open polling places in the upcoming special election is causing some controversy. It’s a story of two candidates, and one concern. Democrat and former congressman Kwesi Mfume and republican strategist Kimberly Klacik are in the 7th district congressional race to fill the seat left vacant by the death of Elijah Cummings. At issue, governor Larry hogan’s reversal from only allowing mail in ballots to now allowing open polling places in the upcoming special election, April 28. Some political observers believe democratic voters tend to turn out more at polling places, than choose to mail in their ballots. And the matter has Klacik concerned. “If it’s something that’s been arranged by Kweisi Mfume she probably believes that this is going to benefit the Democratic candidate, mainly him,” said Matthew Crenson, professor emeritus of political science at Johns Hopkins University.

Missouri: Camden County hit by cybersecurity attack | The Lake News

Camden County’s computer systems have once again come under attack. The county announced in a press release on Wednesday afternoon that it was a victim of a sophisticated encryption attack that has disrupted operations. “Camden County places the utmost importance on its network and system security, and County technology experts have been working diligently with independent cybersecurity experts to restore normal operations as soon as possible and conduct a thorough forensic investigation,” the press release stated. “At this time, the County is not aware of any unauthorized disclosure of personal data or financial information.” Camden County has alerted the FBI of the incident and will provide the necessary cooperation.

Nevada: Democrats sue state’s top elections official over vote-by-mail primary election plan | James DeHaven/Reno Gazette Journal

The Nevada State Democratic Party has filed a lawsuit to force changes to the state’s “unconstitutional” vote-by-mail primary election plan.  The 65-page suit, filed in Carson City District Court on Thursday, was heralded in a joint statement from several prominent Democrats, including Democratic National Committee Chair Tom Perez. “These steps are essential to holding a safe, fair, and accessible election on June 9,” Perez wrote. “In the midst of a global pandemic, our leaders should be working to help us safely exercise our right to vote — not standing in the way.  “It’s never been more urgent to take action that will expand access to voting, protect public health, and preserve Nevadans’ right to make their voices heard.”

North Carolina: Suit claims ES&S ExpressVote could leave voters vulnerable to COVID-19 | Jim Morrill/Charlotte Observer

North Carolina’s NAACP has filed suit against election boards in Mecklenburg County and elsewhere, charging in part that new, touch screen voting machines risk exposing voters to COVID-19. The suit also says the ExpressVotemachines are “insecure, unreliable, and unverifiable” and threaten “the integrity of North Carolina’s elections.” The N.C. State Board of Elections, which was also sued, referred questions to the state Justice Department. Laura Brewer, a spokeswoman for Attorney General Josh Stein, said the department is reviewing the filing. Mecklenburg and several other counties adopted the machines in response to a 2013 state law requiring paper ballots in an effort to maintain elections security and stop potential hacking. The machines are similar to those used in the county since 2006. But after using a touch screen to make their choices, voters pull out a paper copy of their ballot and give it to a poll worker who inserts it into a tabulator. County and state officials have said the machines are secure. The suit alleges that the machines give voters a printed copy of their selections. But it includes a barcode of the selections that the suit says “may not necessarily match the human readable text.” The NAACP also alleges that the machines are susceptible to sabotage or hacking.

North Dakota: Secretary of State hopes people participate in June mail-in election | Karassa Stinchcomb/KX News

Because of the coronavirus, this June’s election will be unlike any other in our state’s history. Counties are opting to conduct the election by mail with no physical polling places. “Polling locations will not be open because of the concern of the spread of the virus,” said Secretary of State Al Jaeger. Jaeger said preparations to have a wide-scale mail-in election began in March. 600,000 residents will receive voting applications by the end of this month. If you don’t receive that application form by May 1, contact your auditor as soon as possible. “Any individual who wants to vote in that election, we want to make sure that they have that ballot and are able to mark that ballot and to cast their vote,” said Jaeger.

Ohio: Voters deluge election boards with requests for absentee ballots | Lynn Hulsey/Dayton Daily News

Ohio’s in-person primary election voting may have been canceled due to the coronavirus crisis, but with less than two weeks left to cast ballots by mail, voters across the Dayton region are inundating election boards with requests for ballots. “The amount of people voting is phenomenal,” said Jan Kelly, director of the Montgomery County Board of Elections. “We’re working sometimes seven days a week, 10 hours a day.”As of Tuesday the Montgomery County board had processed 57,000 applications for absentee ballots and mailed out 45,849 ballots, Kelly said.Across the region election officials said they believe the vote-by-mail process is challenging but voters will become more comfortable with it. They expect voters will use absentee ballots in far greater numbers in the future, even if people are once again allowed to go to the polls in November for the General Election.

Oregon: ‘A 20-year history of success’: GOP Secretary of State says Oregon shows mail-in voting is secure, effective | Pat Dooris/The Oregonian

Oregon voters began marking ballots that came to them in the mail back in the early 1980s. According to former Secretary of State Phil Keisling, the tradition began with the Linn County elections clerk who wondered why the county was sending sample ballots to voters and not the real thing. That soon changed and in the mid to late 1980s, many local elections in Oregon featured ballots that were mailed to voters. It really took off after the resignation of Oregon Senator Bob Packwood in 1995. Keisling was the Secretary of State at the time and had just seen a fellow Democrat, Gov. John Kitzhaber, veto a bill passed by the Legislature that would have instituted vote by mail for statewide elections. The Packwood election gave Keisling the opening he needed. “Under Oregon law that was a special election. And a special election could be done in this manner and we had the nation’s first ever federal election using all mailed out ballots to everybody and turnout went through the roof. Participation hit 66%,” he said.

Pennsylvania: Allegheny County might soon send all county voters mail-in ballot applications with prepaid postage | News | Pittsburgh | Ryan Deto/Pittsburgh City Paper

Given the ongoing coronavirus pandemic, gatherings of just about any kind have been prohibited and discouraged as much as humanly possible. With that in mind, and a primary election upcoming, Allegheny County Council could be taking action shortly to encourage voters to avoid the in-person polls, and vote by mail instead. Allegheny County Councilor Bethany Hallam (D-Ross) drafted an ordinance that will be introduced tomorrow that would require Allegheny County election officials to send mail-in ballot applications to every registered voter in the county who has not already applied for a mail-in ballot. Last year, Pennsylvanian reformed its election laws to allow all registered voters to vote by mail without an excuse. Hallam’s legislation would require that the county send mail-in ballot applications to registered voters by May 8 at the latest. The deadline to fill out a mail-in ballot application is May 26. The ordinance would also require the mail-in ballot applications sent out by county officials to include prepaid postage. Hallam says Allegheny County residents should not have to endanger their health or well-being in order to exercise their right to vote.

Texas: A Battle Brews Over Voting by Mail Amid Coronavirus | Elizabeth Findell/Wall Street Journal

Republicans and Democrats in Texas are locking horns over coronavirus-related efforts to expand voting by mail, with Republicans arguing it can fuel voter fraud and Democrats warning that disallowing it could harm turnout and sway results. The Texas Democratic Party has filed two lawsuits against state election officials and Republican Gov. Greg Abbott to extend the state’s limited mail-in eligibility. A state district judge Wednesday afternoon said he would grant Democrats an injunction to allow Texans to vote by mail; state Republicans are expected to appeal. At the same time, Texas Attorney General Ken Paxton issued a letter saying someone already ill with Covid-19 could vote by mail, but mere fear of contracting the illness wouldn’t qualify. Election stakes are high in the country’s second-largest state. For years, hopeful Democrats have declared that this will be the year Texas turns blue, while Republicans have rolled their eyes and said Texas will always be a red state. Now, after former Rep. Beto O’Rourke came within a few percentage points of unseating Sen. Ted Cruz in 2018, Texas is more widely considered a battleground.

South Korea: Lesson for America: South Korea proves you can hold a democratic election despite coronavirus | Trudy Rubin/Philadelphia Inquirer

One week after the Wisconsin primary, where voters faced long lines and confusion, South Korea showed how to hold a national election in the era of COVID-19. Standing three feet apart, wearing masks, voters had their temperatures taken before entering the polls. All were given plastic gloves, and booths were repeatedly disinfected. Early voting was permitted, and those under quarantine could vote by mail or at a special time slot after polls closed. Most impressive, beyond the sheer competence of the preelection planning, was that 66.2% of the electorate voted, the most in nearly three decades. In large part, this was a tribute to the success of President Moon Jae-in’s government in curbing COVID-19, making South Korea a global model and earning Moon a landslide win. But the vote was also a tribute to South Koreans’ commitment to democracy. They were determined that the precious right to vote would not be thwarted by a virus — or by political games.