National: Voting rights, public health officials roll out guidelines to protect voters from COVID-19 | Maggie Miller/TheHill

A coalition of voting rights and public health groups on Thursday rolled out guidelines to help protect voters from catching and spreading COVID-19 while exercising their right to vote this year. The Healthy Voting Guidelines, rolled out initially for states holding primaries in June, are the product of the non-partisan coalition We Can Vote, and were drafted by groups including the American Public Health Association and the Center for Tech and Civic Life. According to the authors, the recommendations are the the nation’s first healthy voting guidelines, and details ways that voters can exercise their rights at the polls while taking steps to prevent the spread of COVID-19. The guidelines address both mail-in and in-person voting for more than a dozen states and the District of Columbia. Recommendations include wearing a mask and standing six feet apart from other voters if going to the polls in person, voting during less busy times and washing your hands after dropping off a mail-in ballot.

National: Trump’s Mail-In Voting Fraud Claims Draw Republican Critics | Shaun Courtney/Bloomberg

President Donald Trump‘s unsubstantiated claims that voting by mail will result in massive fraud in November has prompted worried protests from an increasing number of luminaries from within his own party. “It’s actually disappointing because it means you’re trying to sow the seeds of doubt in a process that has been so much a part of Americans’ history,” former Homeland Security Secretary and Pennsylvania Gov. Tom Ridge said about the president’s vote-by-mail tweets. “It flies in the face of what I think both parties should be focused in on, and that’s creating options that are safe and secure for all voters, particularly during the pandemic.” Ridge is the Republican face of VoteSafe, a bipartisan campaign to ensure that every U.S. state and territory has secure mail-in ballots and safe, in-person voting sites during the Covid-19 pandemic. The group, also led by former Michigan Gov. Jennifer Granholm, a Democrat, launched May 21. By politicizing access to voting for a perceived short-term political gain, Trump risks undermining one of the basic tenets of American democracy, Ridge and other former leaders of the Republican Party say.

National: Politicizing vote-by-mail efforts amid COVID-19 could disenfranchise some voters: Experts | Matthew Vann/ABC

Amid President Donald Trump’s charge that voting by mail is ripe with fraud potential, there are worries that such claims, in addition to the subsequent lawsuits that have followed, politicize state efforts to expand mail-in voting, and could cost some Americans a vital opportunity to have their votes counted. The Republican National Committee has intervened in legal battles across the country, including New Mexico, Michigan and Arizona to limit mail-in ballot expansions. In California, the RNC filed a lawsuit seeking to have Gov. Gavin Newsom’s executive order automatically issuing an absentee ballot by mail to every registered state voter, overturned and declared unlawful. “Democrats continue to use this pandemic as a ploy to implement their partisan election agenda, and Governor Newsom’s executive order is the latest direct assault on the integrity of our elections,” said Republican National Committee Chairwoman Ronna Romney McDaniel in a statement announcing the lawsuit. “Newsom’s illegal power grab is a recipe for disaster that would destroy the confidence Californians deserve to have in the security of their vote.”

National: Donald Trump is Waging War on Vote-By-Mail. The Facts Don’t Support It | Lissandra Villa/Time

Michigan Secretary of State Jocelyn Benson doesn’t follow the President of the United States on Twitter. She was sitting in her basement office eating breakfast May 20 when her staff called to inform her that Donald Trump had called Benson a “rogue Secretary of State,” accusing her of mailing ballots to Michigan voters (in fact, they were ballot applications) and suggesting (incorrectly) that vote by mail would lead to fraud. Oh, and he threatened to withhold funding from Michigan over the issue. (It’s unclear what funding he was referring to; the White House did not respond to a request for comment.) What stood out about the episode to Benson, a Democrat, wasn’t just how Trump had addressed her, the factual inaccuracies, or the threat tucked into his tweet. It was that she was hardly the only Secretary of State to take a step like this. States like Iowa, Georgia, Nebraska, and West Virginia—which Trump won in 2016, and which have Republican Secretaries of State—have taken similar actions in sending out applications for absentee ballots in the midst of the coronavirus pandemic, at least for their primaries.

National: Kellyanne Conway on voting by mail in 2018 midterms: ‘That’s called an absentee ballot’ | J. Edward Moreno/The Hill

White House senior counselor Kellyanne Conway is drawing a contrast with her mail-in vote for the 2018 midterm elections in New Jersey with general mail-in voting, saying she filed an absentee ballot, not a mail-in ballot. “That’s called an absentee ballot. One completes it and posts it by U.S. Mail,” Conway told the HuffPost in an email. “Don’t confuse it with a [non-absentee] ‘mail-in ballot’ to serve your purposes.” Conway voted in the New Jersey midterm election while living in Washington, D.C., much like President Trump did in Florida. The state of New Jersey does not require voters voting remotely to indicate if they are in the state or not when they send in the ballot. Her statement comes after she defended the president’s stance against mail-in voting to reporters on Wednesday, where she compared waiting in line for a cupcake to standing in line to cast a ballot.

National: U.S. Accuses Russian Military Hackers of Attack on Email Servers | Julian E. Barnes and David E. Sanger/The New York Times

The National Security Agency publicly accused Russian government hackers of targeting email servers around the world in an unusual announcement on Thursday, showing that the agency is becoming more aggressive in calling out Moscow’s action as the presidential election approaches. While the Trump administration has publicly attributed cyberattacks to Russia before — including for its 2016 election hack and for paralyzing Ukraine in 2017, which damaged the operations of the shippers Maersk and FedEx — this allegation was unusually specific. It singled out Russia’s military intelligence unit, widely known as the G.R.U., demonstrating intelligence agencies’ concern that Russia intends to interfere in the election only a little more than five months away. But it also comes as President Trump has renewed his baseless claims that the investigation into Russia’s activities was part of a “hoax” intended by Democrats to paralyze him. He has publicly questioned Russia’s culpability in the election hacking and appeared to accept President Vladimir V. Putin’s argument that Russia was so good at cyberoperations that it would never have been caught. “There has been a reluctance to be critical of Russia because of echoes of investigations,” said retired Gen. Martin E. Dempsey, the former chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff. “For the N.S.A. to do that, in this climate, they must have absolutely incontrovertible evidence.”

National: Coronavirus Blocks Naturalization Ceremonies In Election Year | Ashley Lopez/NPR

Elizabeth Hernandez moved to the United States from Mexico almost 30 years ago and was days away from becoming an American citizen when her March 15 naturalization ceremony was canceled as a result of the coronavirus pandemic. “It made me sad,” said Hernandez, who lives in New Mexico. She hadn’t thought much about becoming a citizen until this year because of the upcoming election. “I want to vote for a president who will improve the country.” Hernandez is one of hundreds of thousands of people who were scheduled to become naturalized this year. But naturalization ceremonies have been on hold during the coronavirus pandemic in this election year. An estimated 860,000 people were set to become citizens — with many also expected to become first-time voters. The crimp in the pipeline of new citizens is one of a series of unexpected challenges that could reshape the electorate ahead of the November general election. About a quarter of naturalized citizens live in Texas, Florida, Pennsylvania and Georgia, all potentially key states in the fall election, according to data from the U.S. Department of Homeland Security.

Alabama: League of Women Voters of Alabama sue over voting amid COVID-19 pandemic | Eddie Burkhalter/Alabama Political Reporter

The League of Women Voters of Alabama on Thursday filed a lawsuit against Gov. Kay Ivey, Secretary of State John Merrill and several Montgomery County election officials asking the court to expand Alabama’s absentee voting and relax other voting measures amid the COVID-19 outbreak. The nonprofit is joined in the suit by 10 plaintiffs who range in age from 60 to 75, many of whom have medical conditions that put them at greater risk for serious complications or death from COVID-19. “Voting is a right, not a privilege, and elections must be safe, accessible, and fairly administered,” the League of Women Voters of Alabama said in a press release Thursday. “Alabama’s Constitution specifically requires that the right to vote be protected in times of ‘tumult,’ clearly including the current pandemic.” Currently, to vote absentee in Alabama, a person must send a copy of their photo ID and have their ballot signed by a notary or two adults. The lawsuit asks the court to require state officials to use emergency powers to waive the notary or witness requirement, the requirement to supply a copy of a photo ID and to extend no-excuse absentee voting into the fall.

Editorials: Republicans would rather undermine California’s elections than honorably take their lumps | Los Angeles Times

Making it safe to vote during a pandemic shouldn’t be a partisan issue. But Republicans, including and especially the president, are turning it into one. This week, the state and national Republican Party organizations filed a lawsuit challenging Gov. Gavin Newsom’s executive order mandating that every registered voter receive a vote-by-mail ballot as a hedge against the likelihood that the coronavirus will still be circulating in November (though in-person vote centers will still be available). No one should have to risk the fate of the many Wisconsin residents who had to cast ballots in the April primary in person. Fifty-two people who participated were later found to have contracted COVID-19. The lawsuit claims that the governor’s emergency authority doesn’t extend to setting rules about voting and that only the Legislature has the power to do so. Maybe, maybe not. The governor’s emergency authority is so broad and vague that it’s possible a federal judge may agree. But it’s largely irrelevant because the Legislature is moving a bill (Assembly Bill 860 by Palo Alto Democratic Assemblyman Marc Berman) to codify the governor’s order. And even if it didn’t, the vast majority of Californians already choose to vote via mail ballots. But halting mail ballots is probably not the intent of the lawsuit. What seems more likely is that Republicans are seeding doubts in the legitimacy of California’s election returns in expectation of a drubbing in November. That’s a game that President Trump has been playing for months, as he continues to falsely claim that mail ballots lead to fraud (drawing his first Twitter fact-check disclaimer on Tuesday).

Georgia: Heavy absentee turnout seen in Georgia primary, but obstacles remain | Mark Niesse/The Atlanta Journal-Constitution

Secretary of State Brad Raffensperger said Thursday that Georgia’s absentee voting process is working, with over 600,000 ballots returned so far, though many ballots are still pending as the June 9 election day approaches. Raffensperger defended his decision to mail absentee ballot request forms to the state’s 6.9 million active voters, saying it was a necessary move to ensure Georgians are able to vote remotely during the coronavirus pandemic.“We have cut through the political rhetoric, ignored the talking heads and put you, the voter, first,” Raffensperger said during a press conference at the Capitol. “If you want to vote from the safety of your home, you can. If you prefer in person, you may.”But many challenges to the primary election remain. Ballots are still in the mail but haven’t yet been received by 39,000 Fulton County voters, leaving them little time to fill them out and return them to county election offices. Fulton didn’t clear its backlog of absentee ballot requests until Tuesday.

Missouri: Governor: if you don’t feel safe, ‘don’t go out and vote’ | Crystal Thomas/The Kansas City Star

Ahead of Tuesday’s local elections, Gov. Mike Parson said Missourians should prioritize their safety over voting. “I hope people feel safe to go out and vote, but if they don’t, you know, the No. 1 thing — their safety should be No. 1,” Parson said during Thursday’s press briefing. “If they don’t, then don’t go out and vote.” Most Missouri voters will be deciding on city council and school board races, or local ballot measures Tuesday. Parson signed an executive order March 18 to move elections planned for April 7 to June 2 because of concern caused by the rising number of Missourians infected with the novel coronavirus. Unlike several states, Missouri does not offer “no-excuse” absentee voting, and most voters are only eligible to cast their ballot in-person.

Montana: State Supreme Court: Ballots Must Be Received By Election Day | Kevin Trevellyan/MTPR

The Montana Supreme Court today overruled a lower court order and restored the state’s Jun. 2 mail-in ballot receipt deadline for the upcoming primary. The high court’s order means voters must get their mail-in ballots to their local election office or other drop off locations by 8 p.m. on Election Day. Attorney General Tim Fox asked the state supreme court to address Montana’s ballot receipt deadline the morning of May 27 on behalf of Secretary of State Corey Stapleton. In its five-two decision on May 27, the state Supreme Court’s majority says it retained the ballot receipt deadline to avoid voter confusion and disruption of election administration. Instructions included with primary ballots tell voters to return their envelopes by that deadline.

Nevada: US judge refuses again to block Nevada’s mail-in primary | Scott Sonner/Associated Press

A federal judge has again rejected a conservative voting rights group’s bid to block the mail-in primary election now under way in Nevada as part of an effort to guard against spread of the coronavirus at traditional polling places. U.S. District Judge Miranda Du said in a strongly worded opinion late Wednesday the Voters’ Rights Initiative’s “second proverbial bite at the apple is no more fruitful than the first.” The judge in Reno said she didn’t understand why the group essentially requested reconsideration of her earlier denial of a preliminary injunction to halt the June 9 election instead of appealing it to the 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals, especially given that early voting began May 23. Ballots already have been mailed to voters statewide. Tens of thousands of voters have filled out their ballots and returned them through the mail to county election offices where many are being processed.

New York: Lawmakers OK Email Requests For Absentee Ballots | Keshia Clukey/Bloomberg

New York state lawmakers on Thursday voted to temporarily make it easier for voters to obtain absentee ballots. The state Senate and Assembly passed legislation (S.8130D/A.10516) that would let voters apply for absentee ballots electronically and remove the signature requirement. The bill also would allow absentee ballots to be counted if they are postmarked the day of the election. Absentee ballots currently must be postmarked the day before the election. The Senate passed the legislation 39-22. The Assembly passed it on a vote of 102-41. It now heads to Gov. Andrew Cuomo (D) for his consideration. The measure was one of dozens of bills passed by the state Legislature on Wednesday and Thursday in response to the coronavirus pandemic.

North Carolina: Near-unanimous North Carolina House passes funding, rules to prepare for spike in voting by mail | Will Dorn/Raleigh News & Observer

A bill making it easier for people to vote by mail in the 2020 elections passed with near-unanimous support Thursday in the N.C. House of Representatives. State officials have told lawmakers that normally, around 4% or 5% of North Carolinians vote by mail. But because of uncertainty surrounding COVID-19 and public health concerns, they expect that it could grow to as high as 40% this year. “The most important thing about the bill is that it gives the State Board of Elections and county boards the flexibility and resources needed to accommodate the expected increase in absentee ballot requests due to the pandemic,” Republican Rep. Holly Grange, the bill’s lead sponsor, told The News & Observer last week when she first filed it. The bill would spend millions of dollars on that goal, as well as on public health concerns for polling places, cyber security improvements and more. It would also make it easier for people to request mail-in ballots, reduce the witness requirement for such ballots from two people to one, and mandate the use of technology that would let voters track their ballots to make sure they actually get submitted.

Pennsylvania: Judge orders Pennsylvania to launch new voting method for visually impaired voters | Emily Previti/PA Post

A federal judge ruled late Wednesday that the Pennsylvania Department of State must provide a way for visually-impaired voters to fill out an absentee or mail-in ballot online, print it at home and return it to their county elections office. This approach would require the use of assistive technology, such as screen readers or the ability to update refreshable braille displays. The order was prompted by a lawsuit filed May 21 by the National Federation for the Blind of Pennsylvania on behalf of Joseph Drenth  a blind individual living in Chalfont, Bucks County, and working as a software engineer. NFB-Pa. and Disability Rights PA attorneys noted the health risks of voting in-person during the pandemic and the fact that if Drenth “were to go to a polling place, he could not determine on his own whether the people surrounding him were maintaining adequate ‘social distancing’” or taking other precautions. Independent of coronavirus concerns, the lawsuit also faults the existing absentee and mail-in ballots because they require a blind voter to have help in filling them out — an infringement on the voter’s right to privacy.

National: Republicans Open to More Election Funding, but Not on Democrats’ Terms | Kristina Peterson/Wall Street Journal

Republican leaders on Capitol Hill say they don’t want the federal government telling states how to hold elections during the coronavirus pandemic. But they haven’t closed the door on increased funding for local officials wrestling with how to keep voters safe this November. While most Republicans are leery of new federal requirements backed by Democrats that mandate mail-in voting nationwide, they are discussing a range of other ideas. Sen. Roy Blunt (R., Mo.), chairman of the Senate Rules Committee, which has jurisdiction over federal elections, said he expected the next relief package would include more money for elections. “I think it’s likely and it’s likely necessary,” Mr. Blunt, a former Missouri secretary of state, said in an interview. He said he is also looking at reducing the current requirement that states provide a 20% match in order to access emergency election funding. In late March, Congress approved $400 million in election assistance grants as part of its roughly $2 trillion stimulus bill.

National: Will mail-in voting turn Election Day into Election Week? | Nicholas Riccardi/Associated Press

A shift to mail voting is increasing the chances that Americans will not know the winner of November’s presidential race on election night, a scenario that is fueling worries about whether President Donald Trump will use the delay to sow doubts about the results. State election officials in some key battleground states have recently warned that it may take days to count what they expect will be a surge of ballots sent by mail out of concern for safety amid the pandemic. In an election as close as 2016′s, a delayed tally in key states could keep news organizations from calling a winner. “It may be several days before we know the outcome of the election,” Jocelyn Benson, Michigan’s Democratic secretary of state, said in an interview. “We have to prepare for that now and accept that reality.” Ohio’s Republican secretary of state, Frank LaRose, pleaded for “patience” from the public. “We’ve gotten accustomed to this idea that by the middle of the evening of election night, we’re going to know all the results,” LaRose said Wednesday at a forum on voting hosted by the Bipartisan Policy Center. “Election night reporting may take a little longer” this year, he warned.

National: States weigh vote-by-mail options amid Trump and GOP opposition | Aaron Navarro/CBS

President Trump has called mail-in voting “substantially fraudulent.” But amid growing concerns about a second wave of the coronavirus in the fall, states are trying to figure out how they will increase access to mail-in voting. The pandemic has prompted a total of 17 states to postpone their presidential primaries and expand their mail ballot access, with some states, like Rhode Island, Georgia and Maryland, sending out ballot application forms to registered voters. Five states —Colorado, Hawaii, Oregon, Utah and Washington — already have all-mail elections, which consist of a mix of sending ballots to registered voters and opening up limited polling centers for those that wish to vote in-person. States including Massachusetts and New Hampshire, which previously had limited who could request a mail ballot, have opened access further for the November elections because of the pandemic. Connecticut and Michigan are sending mail absentee ballot applications to registered voters for their state primaries and the general election. California, which already had a substantial mail vote, will be sending the ballots themselves to every voter.

National: Trump rants about fraud. But here’s the secret to keeping voting by mail secure. | Allan Smith/NBC

President Donald Trump insists there’s “NO WAY” an election with increased mail-in voting will be legitimate. But both Democratic and Republican officials overseeing that process say he’s dead wrong and in interviews with NBC News they outlined the steps they take — most importantly, signature verification — to ensure the integrity of the system, which is coming into more widespread use because of the coronavirus. Washington Secretary of State Kim Wyman, a Republican, oversees the elections in one of the nation’s leading vote-by-mail states. “I think it’s good when the public questions any form of a voting system, but people should have confidence in it because election administrators are always trying to build in security measures that balance out that access,” she said. Like other states, Washington requires that voters sign their absentee ballot and that the signature matches the one on file with a voter’s registration. If the signatures don’t match, the voter will be contacted and alerted to the discrepancy.

National: With citizenship ceremonies postponed due to coronavirus, hundreds of thousands could miss chance to vote in November | Nick Miroff/The Washington Post

Hundreds of thousands of potential voters will be ineligible to cast ballots in November unless the Trump administration resumes citizenship ceremonies and clears a pandemic-related backlog of immigrants waiting to take the naturalization oath, according to rights groups and lawmakers from both parties. President Trump, who claims falsely that millions of immigrants vote illegally in U.S. elections, now has the ability to effectively deny a large number of foreign-born Americans from becoming legally eligible to register ahead of the next presidential election. U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services administers the oath of citizenship to an average of about 63,000 applicants per month, according to the agency’s latest statistics. The in-person ceremonies are the final hurdle immigrants must clear before registering to vote as naturalized U.S. citizens.

Florida: Vote by mail helps Florida Republicans. So why is Trump bashing it? | Allison Ross/Tampa Bay Times

Florida Republicans have long embraced vote by mail as a reliable method to turn out their base. And the Republican Party of Florida says it doesn’t plan to stop anytime soon. But as with many things in this unprecedented 2020 election in the age of the coronavirus, voting by mail has suddenly become a controversial and partisan issue. The reason why is the same as nearly everything else in politics these days: President Donald Trump. The country’s top Republican, who is a Florida resident and has himself voted by mail, has repeatedly attacked expanded use of mail-in ballots in recent weeks. Earlier this month, he tweeted a threat to withhold federal funding for Michigan for going down the “voter fraud path” of sending absentee voter applications to all registered voters. He’s said voting that way has “tremendous potential for voter fraud.” But Trump has also made comments that appear to signal a concern that greater access to voting by mail could increase turnout and aid Democrats, who have historically been less likely to vote by mail in Florida and in some other states.

New Mexico: Rio Arriba County hit in ransomware cyberattack | Amanda Martinez/Santa Fe New Mexican

Rio Arriba County government was the victim of a ransomware cyberattack, with a significant but still unknown number of its network servers, electronic files and databases having been encrypted, according to a Wednesday news release. “While the exact extent of this cyberattack has not yet been determined, what is known is that nearly every county server that has files or databases on it has been affected in some way, including the County’s backup servers,” the news release states. Raymond Ortiz, the county’s information technology consultant, confirmed the cyberattack Wednesday but said he could not provide further comment. County Manager Tomas Campós did not immediately return a message. The affected servers, files and databases cannot be accessed, reviewed or edited. Officials discovered agencies had been victims of the cyberattack Tuesday and reported the intrusion to the county’s insurance company and federal law enforcement authorities, according to the news release.

New York: Disability Equals Disenfranchisement, Lawsuit Says | Peter Slatin/Forbes

As the Trump administration and a mix of governors and state legislatures try to suppress voting by mail across the Union, a coalition of disability rights groups and citizens with disabilities is still fighting for full enfranchisement, 30 years after the passage of the Americans with Disabilities Act. The latest battleground is New York State, where the group has filed suit in the Southern District of New York against the state’s Board of Elections (BOE) for discrimination against New Yorkers with disabilities. While the state’s mail-in Absentee Voting program has recently been expanded in response to Covid-19 to enable voting by mail rather than by visiting a public polling place, no provision has been made for those who are unable to privately and independently mark a paper ballot. And although active duty military and citizens overseas can cast their votes electronically, that option is simply not allowed for the disabled. Along with several citizens, the plaintiffs’ coalition includes New York State affiliates of the National federation of the Blind (NFB), the American Council of the Blind (ACB) and the Center for Independence of the Disabled, all backed by their national offices. They are represented by law firms including Disability Rights Advocates, Disability Rights New York, and Brown Goldstein Levy LLP, a leading firm in disability rights advocacy.

North Carolina: Pandemic prompts lawmakers to make changes for fall elections | Laura Leslie/WRAL

An elections bill responding to the coronavirus pandemic moved through two House committees Wednesday on its way to what appears to be likely passage by the full House Thursday. House Bill 1169 makes changes, some temporary and others permanent, to make voting by mail easier and more secure at the same time. “Voting is going to change. Right now, we only have 5 percent usually of absentee ballot voting. We’re expecting that to be significantly higher,” explained primary sponsor Rep. Holly Grange, R-New Hanover. “So, we wanted to make sure we gave the county boards of elections the resources that they needed and the guidance so that they could execute a safe election.” For 2020, the requirement of two witnesses for an absentee ballot is dropped to one witness, who is required to print his or her name and address. Voters will also be able to submit an official absentee ballot request online or by fax or email as well as by mail or in person.

Editorials: Mobilize Pennsylvania National Guard to secure the June primary | Nathaniel Persily and Tom Westphal/Philadelphia Inquirer

With the June primary approaching and ballots already in the mail, Pennsylvania now finds itself in the same position as most states when it comes to running an election in a pandemic: overwhelmed and unprepared. It is already past time to take drastic action. Gov. Tom Wolf needs to mobilize the National Guard now to help secure the vote for all Pennsylvanians. The potentially devastating challenge that the pandemic poses for elections is now coming clearly into view. One need only look at what happened in Wisconsin’s April primary: mail ballots never received, massive poll worker shortages, most polling places shut down, and long, life-threatening lines for voters at a limited number of polling places put into operation.

South Carolina: State Supreme Court dismisses case that would expand absentee voting | Haley Walters/Greenville News

The South Carolina Supreme Court on Wednesday dismissed a case that sought to allow any voter to cast an absentee ballot in order to avoid polling places during the coronavirus pandemic. State democrats and the DCCC filed a lawsuit last month alleging the state’s absentee voting requirements would disenfranchise voters in upcoming elections. Absentee voting in South Carolina is usually available only for people who are away from their county and can’t vote in person; or if they meet other criteria, such as having a physical disability. The plaintiffs asked the state Supreme Court to interpret the physical disability requirement to include people who are practicing social distancing because of COVID-19. On May 12, the day the state Supreme Court heard oral arguments in the case, state lawmakers passed a measure to allow anyone to vote absentee in upcoming elections until July 1, 2020.

Texas: Vote-by-mail expansion blocked by state Supreme Court | Alexa Ura/The Texas Tribune

The Texas Supreme Court ruled Wednesday that a lack of immunity to the new coronavirus does not qualify a voter to apply for a mail-in ballot. In the latest twist in the legal fight over voting by mail during the coronavirus pandemic, the court agreed with Texas Attorney General Ken Paxton that the risk of contracting the virus alone does not meet the state’s qualifications for voting by mail. “We agree with the State that a voter’s lack of immunity to COVID-19, without more, is not a ‘disability’ as defined by the Election Code,” the court wrote. Texas voters can qualify for mail-in ballots only if they are 65 years or older, have a disability or illness, will be out of the county during the election period, or are confined in jail. The Texas election code defines disability as a “sickness or physical condition” that prevents a voter from appearing in person without the risk of “injuring the voter’s health.” Although the court sided with Paxton’s interpretation of what constitutes a disability, it indicated that it is up to voters to assess their own health and determine if they meet the state’s definition.

Editorials: Texas Voters Face Malicious Prosecutions After COVID-19 Absentee Ballot Ruling | Richard L. Hasen/Slate

On Wednesday, Texas Supreme Court issued a ruling that makes a Lone Star-sized mess of the state’s law on absentee balloting and the question of whether voters who lack immunity to COVID-19 have a valid “excuse” to vote by mail in the upcoming elections. In a nutshell, the court has said that the statute does not allow voters who lack immunity and who fear contracting the virus to vote by mail because the statute only allows voting by mail for those with physical conditions preventing them from voting. But it further says that election officials won’t check the validity of excuses and it will be up to each voter, acting in good faith, to determine whether they have the ability safely vote by mail. This “don’t ask, don’t tell” policy is a recipe for disaster in a state in which Attorney General Ken Paxton has already threatened with criminal prosecution those who advise voters who lack immunity and fear the disease to vote by mail. And it cries for federal court relief.

Virginia: Judge will be asked to rule Virginia’s absentee ballot plan unconstitutional | Neal Augenstein/WTOP

A federal judge in Alexandria will be asked to rule Wednesday that Virginia’s emergency absentee voting plan is unconstitutional, while Attorney General Mark Herring will say the lawsuit is a Republican attempt to force residents to vote in person during the COVID-19 pandemic, or not vote at all. A lawsuit, filed in federal court in Alexandria by five residents of Fairfax County, and one from Prince William County, names Virginia’s State Board of Elections and several elections officials as the defendants. They argue the Board of Elections’ emergency plan, spurred by Gov. Ralph Northam’s Executive Order 56, unconstitutionally widens who can cast absentee ballots in the June 23 primary elections.

 Plaintiffs Thomas Curtin, Donna Curtin, Suzanne A. Spikes, Kelley Pinzon, Tom Cranmer and Carol D. Fox cite information posted on the Virginia Department of Elections website: “Voting absentee in the coming June election is strongly encouraged. Voters may choose reason ‘2A My disability or illness’ for absentee voting in the June 2020 election due to COVID-19.” The suit opposes “allowing persons without disability or illness to vote absentee even though they are not actually ill or disabled.”