National: Few States Are Prepared To Switch To Voting By Mail. That Could Make For A Messy Election. | Nathaniel Rakich/FiveThirtyEight

As with most aspects of our daily lives, the coronavirus pandemic has disrupted the administration of elections. Several states have already postponed primaries that were scheduled for this spring, and the few in-person elections that have taken place were marred by chaos. But with an election date of November 3 more or less set in stone, how can the general election be conducted safely if the pandemic is still raging in the fall? Many officials and voters alike think the solution is to conduct the election predominantly by mail — but that’s easier said than done. Converting to a vote-by-mail system is arduous and expensive, and most states simply aren’t set up to smoothly conduct a mail election with their present resources and laws. Currently, state laws on the use of mail voting are a patchwork quilt. Only five states regularly conduct mail elections by default: Colorado, Hawaii, Oregon, Utah and Washington. Three more, though, do allow counties to opt into mail voting, and nine more allow certain elections to be conducted by mail — although these are typically low-turnout, local elections, a far cry from the 2020 presidential race.

National: States Expand Internet Voting Experiments Amid Pandemic, Raising Security | Miles Parks/NPR

Election officials nationwide are preparing for what may the highest election turnout in modern history in the middle of a pandemic. In response, several states will be turning to a relatively new and untested form of internet-based voting to aid the voters who may have the most trouble getting to the polls. In the latest demonstration of the technology, Delaware will allow voters with disabilities to return their ballots electronically in its primary election next month, becoming the second U.S. state to do so. The decision comes despite grave warnings from the cybersecurity community that the technology doesn’t offer sufficient safeguards to protect the integrity of an election. NPR is the first to report the development, which has yet to be announced publicly. Both the state, and the Seattle-based company administering the technology, Democracy Live, confirmed the decision, although they dispute the term “internet voting” for the cloud-based system. Earlier this year, West Virginia passed a bill to allow the use of the technology for disabled voters, after becoming the first state to allow overseas and military voters to use an app to vote in the 2018 midterms. Delaware will also allow overseas and military voters to use the technology.

National: Weighing the Risks of Remote Voting Technology | Council on Foreign Relations

The spread of COVID-19 has raised serious questions about how Americans can vote without jeopardizing their health. The controversial Wisconsin primary held in early April, in which the state’s Supreme Court ordered election officials to proceed with in-person voting over the course of a single day, was plagued with long lines and crowding. This is exactly the opposite of the social distancing measures that have been put in place across the country to control the virus. Moreover, poor and minority communities in particular appear to have been confronted with a choice between voting and risking their health, essentially disenfranchising large groups of voters. While the option of voting at polling stations during the pandemic still seems to be on the table, some have suggested allowing people to vote remotely over the internet instead of casting their ballot in person. Policymakers may want to consider some forms of remote voting, such as vote-by-mail, but remote voting technology poses formidable security risks.

National: Infrastructure interdependence a threat to upcoming elections | Nicholas Cunningham/Atlantic Council

Election season approaches and the effects of Russian information operations are once again manifesting in our government. In February 2020, the New York Times reported that both Democrats and Republicans are already suspicious that the other side of the aisle is benefitting from Russian interference. However, we have overlooked other vulnerabilities in our elections amidst the threat of information operations. The numerous sectors of our critical infrastructure, to include the elections process, are interdependent on one another and a failure in one sector could result in the failure of another. For example, a power outage would significantly degrade the ability of a small municipality to conduct an election. Recent developments indicate that Russia could exploit the interdependent nature of our critical infrastructure to disrupt our elections via well-timed cyberattacks. How prepared are we to address election interference that goes beyond information operations?

National: Absentee voting: Voters face potential life-or-death choices in states with limited measures | Abby Phillip/CNN

Elections are a sacred ritual for Jeremy Rutledge and always have been. But for the first time in his life, the 49-year old minister of a historic Circular Congregational Church in Charleston, South Carolina, says that he is being forced to make what could be a life-or-death choice because of the risk Covid-19 poses to him. Rutledge, who lives with his wife and son, says he has for nearly 12 years suffered from a chronic autoimmune disorder that has caused scarring in his lungs. His doctors have warned him that a Covid-19 infection could be a death sentence. “I’ve always voted since I was old enough to vote — in every election,” Rutledge told CNN. “I never imagined that I would have to decide whether I wanted to vote or whether I wanted to live and be healthy.” “We’ve really had serious conversations,” he said. “All of my doctors are worried that if I contract the virus, I could die from it.”

National: Partisan battle erupts over US Postal Service as some look to mail-in ballots amid pandemic | Allison Pecorin/ABC

As some lawmakers have begun to advocate for the use of mail-in ballots as a means of safeguarding voters amid the coronavirus pandemic during the upcoming 2020 elections, a partisan battle has erupted in Washington over the future of the crippled U.S. Postal Service. Lawmakers were already facing challenging decisions about how to rescue the troubled agency, which is on the brink of insolvency in the midst of the global health crisis, but the ongoing debate over mail-in ballots has added a political dimension to an already complex problem. The stakes could not be higher. Rep. Gerry Connolly, a Democrat from Virginia who chairs the House subcommittee that oversees the U.S. Postal Service, told ABC News that if Congress does not approve more money for the agency, efforts to implement a nationwide vote-by-mail measure could be in jeopardy. “The whole point of this is to make it safe and effective, and I believe the post office is well equipped to do both,” Connolly said. “But it has to get an infusion of capital to ensure that that mission is smooth and uninterrupted.”

National: Pelosi says Democrats will push for vote by mail in next coronavirus relief package | Rebecca Shabad/NBC

House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, D-Calif., said Monday that Democrats will push for a vote-by-mail provision in Congress’ next coronavirus relief package. In an interview on MSNBC’s LIVE with Stephanie Ruhle, Pelosi said that it’s important to protect the “life of our democracy” as the coronavirus crisis continues. “In this next bill, we will be supporting vote by mail in a very important way — we think it’s a health issue at this point,” Pelosi said. Democrats have been for weeks pushing mail-in voting before May and June primary contests— over a dozen of which have been postponed or canceled because of the coronavirus— and as they look ahead to the November election.

Voting Blogs: It’s Crunch Time for 2020 Election Security: Is Arizona Equipped to Face New Threats? | Kristin Palmason/State of Elections

The Help America Vote Act (HAVA) enacted by Congress in 2012 with overwhelming bipartisan support, provides federal funds to states for the purpose of reforming the administration of elections, including upgrading voting equipment and eliminating punch-card and lever voting machines. As HAVA was enacted in response to the 2000 contested election of Bush v. Gore, which hinged on outdated voting equipment and “hanging chads,”  HAVA funds were intended to streamline internal election processes and updating archaic voting systems. Arizona committed to using the funds to replace punch card voting systems, add touch screen equipment and update voter registration, provisional balloting, and grievance processes. By 2015, approximately $3.3 billion in HAVA funds for election assistance was awarded to states nationwide, with approximately $52.5 million awarded to Arizona.

Georgia: Absentee ballots mailed without an inner envelope | Mark Niesse/The Atlanta Journal-Constitution

Absentee ballots arriving in Georgia voters’ mailboxes now come with just one return envelope instead of two. State election officials eliminated the inner envelope, which secured ballots in another layer of packaging. The inner envelope has been replaced with a white folded piece of paper that says, “Official absentee ballot. Ballot must be enclosed.”The secretary of state’s office confirmed the change Monday — after voters began receiving absentee ballots last week.With just one envelope to open, county election officials will be able to process ballots more quickly, said Deputy Secretary of State Jordan Fuchs. Record numbers of Georgia voters are expected to mail their ballots for the June 9 primary after Secretary of State Brad Raffensperger sent absentee ballot request forms to the state’s 6.9 million active voters. More than 825,000 people had returned their absentee ballot requests through Sunday.

Maine: State may struggle to claim federal pandemic funding for elections | Scott Thistle/Portland Press Herald

Maine may struggle to claim its share of $400 million in federal funding designated to help states conduct elections safely during the coronavirus pandemic. The federal money, included in the Coronavirus Aid, Relief and Economic Security Act, would help pay for such measures as installing barriers in polling places, training poll workers and covering the costs of casting ballots by mail. But because the law requires states to provide a 20 percent match for the federal funds, Maine may not be able to access the money, according to Maine Secretary of State Matthew Dunlap, who oversees elections. With the Legislature currently adjourned, the state has no way to appropriate the $658,000 needed to match the $3.2 million in federal funds available to Maine. “Things we could use the extra revenue for could include postage for extra absentee ballots, space costs for relocated polling stations, Plexiglass and other spacing barriers for social distancing, to pay for extra or replacement poll workers, and a few other things,” Dunlap said in a written statement. He said Maine’s congressional delegation is trying to amend the CARES act to help make the funding more readily available.

Maryland: Mail-in special election for Cummings seat Tuesday | Jenna Portnoy and Ovetta Wiggins/The Washington Post

The late Maryland congressman Elijah E. Cummings’s 92-year-old mother begged him, as she lay dying, to protect the fundamental right to vote above all else, he told a congressional committee last year. A major test of government’s ability to do just that amid the coronavirus pandemic will play out Tuesday as officials carry out the state’s first mostly mail-in election. There will be only one race on the ballot: the special election to decide who will complete the remaining eight months of Cummings’s term representing the 7th District, which includes parts of Baltimore City, Baltimore County and Howard County. The election will also help officials work out any kinks in the process before the large-scale primary on June 2, which will include the presidential race and crowded contests for Baltimore mayor, City Council seats and congressional offices. In one of his first executive orders in response to the health crisis, Gov. Larry Hogan (R) postponed the April primary election until June, and later called for a mail-in primary with a handful of in-person polling centers.

Michigan: Blind voters sue State for not making absentee ballots accessible during coronavirus | Taylor DesOrmeau/MLive

Absentee ballots aren’t an option for blind Michigan voters who want to vote on their own. And during the coronavirus pandemic – when state officials are encouraging people to stay home and vote absentee instead of congregating at the polls – that’s dangerous, said Jason Turkish, managing partner at Nyman Turkish PC. The firm is suing Secretary of State Jocelyn Benson and Director of Elections Jonathan Brater for failing to provide alternatives for blind people to vote absentee. The lawsuit requests a judge to require Michigan to implement an accessible absentee voting alternative by the May 5 election. The federal lawsuit was filed over the weekend, on behalf of blind Michiganders Michael Powell and Fred Wurtzel, the current and former president of the Michigan Affiliate of the National Federation of the Blind.

Missouri: Missouri coalition calls for no-excuse absentee voting | Glenn Minnis/The Center Square

The Missouri Voter Protection Coalition is pushing to make voting easier for residents across the state, recently outlining a set of recommendations that include expanding absentee voting by mail and in-person because of the COVID-19 crisis.  “This is a scary time, and we’re all anxious,” Protection Coalition coordinator Denise Lieberman recently said during a Zoom forum held by Empower Missouri, where state Rep. Trish Gunby (D-St. Louis) also spoke. “We’re anxious about a lot of things, including voting, and we have reason to be because this pandemic is going to affect our ability to access democracy.” While the lingering effects of the deadly virus have made the issue of acceptable forms of voting a red-hot topic, Lieberman stressed there are other reasons the option of absentee voting should be a viable one.  “I want to say this: We can ensure the proper functioning of our democracy in this state in 2020,” she added. “Our leaders may not have the political will to do it, but we have the tools to do it.”

New York: Board of Elections Cancels Democratic Presidential Primary | Stephanie Saul and Nick Corasaniti/The New York Times

New York officials canceled the state’s Democratic presidential primary on Monday, prompting an immediate backlash from the campaign of Senator Bernie Sanders and his legion of progressive supporters who had hoped to amass convention delegates and help shape the party’s platform in August. In making the decision against holding a primary, which had been scheduled for June 23, the Democratic chair of the New York State Board of Elections called the primary “essentially a beauty contest” that the state could ill-afford in the face of the coronavirus pandemic. The vote followed a decision this month by Mr. Sanders to suspend his presidential campaign, effectively conceding the Democratic nomination to former Vice President Joseph R. Biden Jr. Mr. Sanders had expressed a desire to remain on the ballot, however, and his supporters had launched an email, phone and Twitter campaign to persuade the elections board to go forward with the primary, calling its cancellation an affront to Democracy. On Monday, his campaign released a statement, calling the decision “an outrage, a blow to American democracy” and accused the state party of having a “checkered pattern of voter disenfranchisement.”

Ohio: Mail-in primary tests voting during virus outbreak | Will Weisert and Julie Carr Smyth/Associated Pressa

The first major test of an almost completely vote-by-mail election during a pandemic is about to unfold in Ohio, offering lessons to other states about how to conduct one of the most basic acts of democracy amid a health crisis. The process hasn’t been smooth as state officials have navigated election laws and the need to protect citizens and poll workers from the coronavirus. Ohio’s in-person primary was delayed just hours before polls were supposed to open last month, prompting legal challenges and confusion. Tuesday’s election replacing it requires voters to run at least three pieces of mail — an application, a blank ballot and a completed one — through the U.S. Postal Service. With Joe Biden emerging as the presumptive Democratic presidential nominee, there’s little suspense in the results. Ohio’s vote is instead being closely watched as a case study for how to proceed with elections if the pandemic doesn’t ease. States have taken drastically different approaches, with Wisconsin proceeding with in-person voting earlier this month and New York saying Monday it would cancel its presidential primary, which was scheduled for June.

Ohio: Election may still draw thousands in person: ‘We don’t know what to expect’ | Chris Stewart/Dayton Daily News

Today’s primary election — postponed and shifted to mail-in voting because of the coronavirus pandemic — may still draw thousands of in-person voters, threatening the health of voters and elections workers. The unprecedented extension of the March primary — compounded by mail delays — has left voters confused and many potentially without ballots in hand to complete before yesterday’s postmark deadline.The result could be what officials hoped to avoid — long lines at county boards of elections, said Brian Sleeth, Warren County’s elections director.“I have to plan for one,” he said. “We’re in uncharted territory. It’s hard to tell. We have no data to compare how many people to expect tomorrow.” At least 36 people in Wisconsin tested positive for COVID-19 after reporting they voted in or worked the polls during that state’s controversial in-person election on April 7, according to news reports.

Pennsylvania: Lawsuit seeks to extend mailed ballot return by a week | Emily Previti/PA Post

Voting rights groups filed a lawsuit late Monday seeking to give voters more time to return their ballots for the upcoming presidential primary. Voters who request absentee and mail-in ballots before the May 26 deadline might receive them at different times due to “factors outside their control, such as variation in mail delivery schedules across the commonwealth or application processing [by] county elections boards,” attorneys from the Public Interest Law Center allege in the 67-page document. Voters could end up getting their ballots late enough that they’d feel compelled to deliver them in person to ensure they’re counted – a health risk given the coronavirus pandemic, the suit contends, also noting about 10,000 voters faced that very scenario in Wisconsin a few weeks ago. Plaintiffs include Disability Rights Pennsylvania, nonprofits SeniorLAW and Southeast Asian Mutual Assistance Associations Coalition, and visually impaired and senior voters. They are asking the Pennsylvania Supreme Court to change the rules so that any absentee and mail-in ballot must be counted so long as the voter sends it by June 2 and counties get it by June 9. Currently, voters have until May 26 to request an absentee or mail-in ballot and must return it by 8 p.m. June 2.

South Carolina: Fear of COVID-19 isn’t a reason to vote by mail now, but South Carolina officials want guidance | Joseph Bustos/The State

State elections officials want to know whether voters can request an absentee ballot because of the ongoing coronavirus pandemic. It’s a question they have asked the S.C. Attorney General’s Office to answer. In an April 13 letter, the South Carolina State Election Commission sought the opinion on whether voters worried about catching the coronavirus, who prefer not to vote in person in order to limit possible exposure to the virus, are allowed to ask for an absentee ballot. The state also is facing two lawsuits attempting to settle the question. Registered S.C. voters may request absentee ballots if they work in a county other than where they live and vote, or if they are sick, disabled or in the hospital; tending to someone who is sick or disabled; going to be on vacation on the day of the election; or over the age of 65, among other reasons. State law does “not expressly address voters who may not be sick or confirmed as having COVID-19, but must still risk exposure by physically attending a polling place on election day,” Elections Commission Executive Director Marci Andino wrote to the Attorney General Alan Wilson.

Wisconsin: Health department: 36 people positive for coronavirus after primary vote | Nolan D. McCaskill/Politico

At least three dozen Wisconsin voters and poll workers have tested positive for Covid-19, the disease caused by the unique coronavirus, the state health department told POLITICO on Monday. Shortly after the state held an in-person election on April 7, the Wisconsin Department of Health Services announced “new tracing mechanisms” to help local health departments track residents who might have been exposed to the virus while working the polls or casting a ballot. “So far, 36 people who tested Covid-19 positive after April 9 have reported that they voted in person or worked the polls on election day,” said Jennifer Miller, a spokeswoman for the Wisconsin Department of Health Services. Miller said “several” people within that group reported additional possible exposures, making it unclear whether the election itself is responsible for their contraction of the disease. If those people contracted the virus prior to the election, they could have also spread it to others who went to the polls that day.

Wisconsin: State Senators Consider Options For Safer Elections | Elizabeth Dohms-Harter/Wisconsin Public Radio

With elections for Wisconsin’s 7th Congressional District and the U.S. president coming up this year, and with a chaotic April 7 primary still in the rear-view mirror, two Wisconsin senators agree that the threat from COVID-19 will change the way future elections are run. April’s election was beset with problems including voters not receiving requested absentee ballots, mailed absentee ballots getting lost and long voting lines that dragged on as voters tried to social distance to protect themselves during the COVID-19 pandemic. Speaking on WPR’s “Central Time,” state Sen. Kathy Bernier, R-Lake Hallie, who represents Wisconsin’s 23rd state Senate district, said in future elections, she fully expects to see safety measures implemented at polling sites such as the plexiglass barriers that were used in April’s election. But the long lines in cities such as Milwaukee that had five polling places serving 180 wards shouldn’t happen, said Bernier, who’s also chair of the State Senate Committee on Elections, Ethics and Rural Issues.