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.”