National: More than 800 public health experts call on Congress to fund mail-in voting | Maggie Miller/The Hill

A group of more than 800 public health experts on Tuesday called on Congress to fund mail-in voting amid rising concerns about in-person voting related to the coronavirus pandemic. The experts — made up of professors, phycologists and doctors led by the Center for American Progress — sent a letter to the House and Senate asking that states be given $4 billion to address moving to mail-in voting. These funds would cover the mailing and printing of ballots, securing ballot request systems and staffing, among other issues. “In order to ensure the integrity of the electoral process and protect the public health at the same time, it is incumbent on our leaders to prepare for a Presidential election by mail, in which ballots are sent to all registered voters, to allow them to vote from home and ensure their health and safety in the event of a new outbreak of SARS-CoV-2,” the public health experts wrote. The experts used the recent Wisconsin primary elections as an example of how COVID-19 can spread if Americans are forced to vote in-person, after dozens of individuals there tested positive for the coronavirus in the weeks since the election.

National: States worried about mail-in ballot access consider online voting options | Matthew Vann/ABC

Some states, predicting challenges around expanding paper ballot access in time for the November general election amid the COVID-19 pandemic, are weighing the use of Internet-based voting platforms. The considerations come as election officials across the country brace for what will likely be a record year of mail-in paper ballot usage amid the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic. ABC News has confirmed that Delaware, New Jersey and West Virginia will permit groups of eligible voters across their states to use online voting platforms for upcoming local elections and presidential primaries as several other states consider wider usage for elections this fall. The use of online and mobile based voting platforms introduces significant cybersecurity risks, that many election experts warn have the potential to be used by foreign actors looking to influence election outcomes. Ahead of the 2020 primary season, former senior government officials and private sector executives warned of computerized voting equipment as particularly vulnerable at a House Cybersecurity, Infrastructure Protection and Innovation subcommittee hearing in 2019 leading some states to drop plans they may have had in motion.

National: Experts worry push for 2020 mail voting could leave Native American voters behind | Alisa Wiersema/ABC

As many election officials across the country move to bolster vote by mail efforts in their states amid the ongoing coronavirus pandemic, some leaders in Native American communities are worried their voters could be left behind if voting by mail becomes the overwhelming norm for conducting the 2020 election. Their concerns are largely rooted in existing hurdles facing some Native Americans living in rural communities and who, as a result, would not be able to easily access the resources necessary to register and vote in a predominately all-mail election. As outlined by the Native American Rights Fund, an organization that provides legal assistance to tribes and Native American individuals, the potential obstacles range from issues with access to traditional mail services, to a lack of broadband connectivity, and in some cases, cultural communication barriers. Experts also point out that high poverty rates and some states’ voter identification requirements create even more potential roadblocks for Native Americans seeking to cast their ballots. “We’ve tried to point out to people — you got to stack all of these things on top of each other,” Natalie Landreth, a senior staff attorney with Native American Rights Fund said in an interview with ABC News.

National: Postal Service Pick With Ties to Trump Raises Concerns Ahead of 2020 Election | Alan Rappeport/The New York Times

The installment of one of President Trump’s financial backers and a longtime Republican donor as the postmaster general is raising concerns among Democrats and ethics watchdogs that the Postal Service will be politicized at a time when states are mobilizing their vote-by-mail efforts ahead of the 2020 election. The Postal Service’s board of governors on Wednesday night selected Louis DeJoy, a North Carolina businessman and veteran of the logistics industry, to lead the struggling agency, which faces insolvency and has frequently drawn the ire of Mr. Trump. The president has been pushing the post office to increase prices on companies that use it to deliver packages, such as Amazon, and has threatened to withhold funding if sweeping changes are not enacted. Those changes have failed to get off the ground, but with Mr. DeJoy at the helm there are growing concerns that the nation’s mail carrier could be weaponized. Mr. Trump declared last month that “the Postal Service is a joke” and assailed it for taking steep losses on packages it ships for big e-commerce companies at low rates. He suggested that the service increase the price it charges companies by four or five times the current rates.

National: Postal Services Struggles Could Hurt Mail-In Election | Matt Vasilogambros/Stateline

An unprecedented shift in American democracy is underway, as more states and counties turn to voting by mail. But as jurisdictions prepare for a pandemic-riddled presidential election, the threat of a financial crisis at the U.S. Postal Service looms over that alternative to in-person voting. If Congress does not pass a $75 billion bailout, the Postal Service says uninterrupted mail service may not last past September. That’s when local election officials plan to send out mail-in absentee ballots, letters with polling place information, voting booklets, new voter cards and federally mandated voter registration confirmation postcards. Because so much U.S. election infrastructure relies on mail, some state officials of both parties are sounding the alarm about the prospect of a financial crisis at the Postal Service. “I can’t understate how disastrous this would be to our democracy and our economy,” said Vermont Secretary of State Jim Condos, a Democrat. “Mid-election year is not the time to risk the dependability of the Postal Service.” State and local officials depend on the agency to run smooth elections, they say.

Editorials: Why We Need Postal Democracy | David Cole/The New York Review of Books

Nothing symbolizes democracy like long lines at the polls on election day. They represent a collective act of faith, as chances are virtually nil that any one of the votes we cast over our lifetime will determine the outcome of an election. They remind us that many of our fellow citizens have had to fight to stand in such lines. And because long lines are also often a sign that election officials have failed to provide sufficient voting opportunities, they illustrate the tenacity of citizens who insist on casting their ballots even when the government seems more interested in obstructing than in facilitating the franchise. Not since the civil rights era, when African-Americans in the South braved death threats to exercise their right to vote, has a voting line embodied this commitment more profoundly than on April 7 in Milwaukee. People lined up around the block, trying to maintain six-foot social-distancing intervals, to vote in what was a relatively unimportant election. At issue were only the all-but-concluded Democratic presidential primary, a single state supreme court seat, and a small number of lower state and local offices. At a time when their governor and mayor—both Democrats—had instructed them to shelter in place, these Milwaukee citizens had come out to stand in public for hours in order to exercise their constitutional right. The city, which ordinarily operates 180 polling places, opened only five, as poll workers balked at showing up. At least forty voters and poll workers may have contracted the coronavirus as a result.

Delaware: State postpones presidential primary for second time amid coronavirus | Sarah Gamard/Delaware News Journal

Delaware’s presidential primary election has been postponed for a second time. The new date for the presidential primary is Tuesday, July 7. Gov. John Carney announced the move shortly before noon on Thursday. Along with the date change, all registered Democrats and Republicans who didn’t already request an absentee ballot will now get an absentee ballot application in the mail so they can vote from home. A spokesman for Carney said the date was postponed again so that the Department of Elections can issue the applications in time. Only registered Republicans and Democrats can vote in the presidential primary, which is when they choose their respective presidential nominees. The deadline to register for this election has been pushed back to Saturday, June 13. The last day to request an absentee ballot for the presidential primary is Friday, July 3. The deadline to pick up an absentee ballot at your local elections office is now noon on July 6, which is the day before the election.

Editorials: Kentucky has it right on voting in the age of Covid-19 | Joshua A. Douglas/CNN

There must be something in the water in Kentucky. At a time when partisanship still runs rampant, despite a pandemic, Kentucky’s leaders have found a way to come to a bipartisan agreement on how to administer the upcoming primary on June 23. That agreement — which expands vote-by-mail for all voters, permits in-person voting for those who need it, and allows the state to begin the process of cleaning up the voter rolls — pales in comparison to the debacle in Wisconsin, where partisan bickering and court decisions that fell along ideological lines led voters to face an unfathomable choice between their health and their fundamental right to vote. Officials in other states should copy Kentucky’s lead. Senator Mitch McConnell should look to his own backyard to see how working across the aisle can actually produce positive results for the people. Maybe if McConnell emulated his state’s leaders—and learned how to work in a bipartisan manner — he would not be so unpopular.

Louisiana: Emergency election plan draws lawsuit over limits on mail-in voting during pandemic | Coronavirus | Sam Karlin/The Advocate

An emergency election plan aimed at addressing voting during the coronavirus pandemic, which Republican lawmakers altered to limit the expansion of mail-in ballots, has drawn a federal lawsuit seeking a more robust expansion of absentee voting. The lawsuit, brought by the NAACP, Power Coalition for Equity and Justice and four individual voters, says the reasons voters can access mail-in ballots under the plan fall short of protecting voters of the coronavirus, which has taken an outsized toll on Louisiana. It calls the plan “unduly restrictive” and seeks to repeal the requirements that voters present an excuse to receive an absentee ballot, thereby expanding them to everyone. “Risking your health, and the health of your family, should not be a requirement to partake in the electoral process,” Catherine Meza, senior counsel at the NAACP Legal Defense and Educational Fund, said in a statement. “We are hoping this lawsuit not only increases access to absentee voting but also makes in-person voting safer, so that Louisianans can exercise their constitutional right without putting their lives at risk.” The lawsuit also asks for other rules on absentee ballots to be suspended and for early voting to be expanded, among other things, all while the coronavirus pandemic is ongoing in Louisiana. The lawsuit argues the election plan would particularly impact black voters, because the virus has taken a disproportionate toll on minorities.

Minnesota: Legislature agrees on measures to make voting safer | Brian Bakst/MPR

The Minnesota Senate has approved election changes meant to provide extra safety during the coronavirus pandemic, but the bill stops short of expanding voting by mail. The Senate voted 66-1 Thursday to follow the House lead in approving the election bill, although minor changes mean it needs one more vote in the House before it goes to the desk of Gov. Tim Walz. The bill permits candidates to file electronically, extends the counting period for absentee ballots and releases $17 million in federal election money. Sen. Mary Kiffmeyer, R-Big Lake, said her bill also provides more flexibility around polling place locations. “The ability to relocate polling places away from sites that might not be safe for those who are vulnerable, in particular nursing homes, assisted living, congregate living-type situations,” she said. Authorities would have had to make any location changes by the start of this year under current law. While some had called for an expansion of vote by mail in light of the coronavirus pandemic, Minnesota law already allows people to use absentee ballots for any reason if they don’t want to vote in person.

Nevada: Clark County election changes shrouded in mystery | Rory Appleton/Las Vegas Review-Journal

Clark County will offer more voting options in the June 9 primary election as part of sweeping changes revealed Tuesday, but how and when those decisions were made remained a mystery. Most members of the Clark County Commission and several county staff members did not respond Wednesday to requests for comment on the changes. Two commissioners applauded the new measures but said they either could not share or did not know how the changes were made. Meanwhile, Republicans feel the changes were the result of either pressure from or a deal with the Democrats and are threatening a new lawsuit of their own to block them. This week’s news came after Clark County Counsel Mary-Anne Miller submitted a court document Monday in which she said that the registrar of voters, Joseph Gloria, “at the direction of local county officials” was setting up two additional in-person voting sites in the county.

Oklahoma: Governor signs bill to reinstate notary requirement for absentee voting | Carmen Forman/The Oklahoman

Gov. Kevin Stitt on Thursday signed legislation to reinstate the requirement that absentee ballots be notarized. The legislation that reverses an Oklahoma Supreme Court order from Monday that incited a fierce partisan battle in Oklahoma’s Legislature. Citing concerns that not requiring absentee ballots to be notarized would lead to voter fraud, the Republican majority in both chambers supported legislation to bring back the notary requirement, but include some exceptions while the state is dealing with the COVID-19 crisis. “Oklahomans need to have confidence that our election process is secure and free from fraud,” said Senate Pro Tem Greg Treat, R-Oklahoma City. “This measure upholds the integrity of our absentee ballot process while also making it easier to vote absentee during the ongoing coronavirus pandemic all in an attempt to protect the health and safety of voters and election workers.”

Pennsylvania: State allows big reduction in poll workers for 2020 primary election to help counties during pandemic | Jonathan Lai/Philadelphia Inquirer

Pennsylvania’s county election officials are receiving some relief from state requirements. Counties will be allowed to run the June 2 primary election with fewer than half the normal number of poll workers, the Pennsylvania Department of State said Wednesday evening, with a minimum of five workers per polling place regardless of how many precincts it serves. That will help relieve pressure to fill poll-worker slots. While recruitment has been a challenge for years, the older average age of poll workers makes them vulnerable to the coronavirus. Across the state, counties have heard from poll workers scared to work the primary because of health risk. (State officials have even considered deploying the National Guard to serve as poll workers.) “Poll worker recruitment is always hard, but it is especially hard when whole election boards are telling us that they will not be working due to COVID-19, like they are doing this election,” said Lisa Deeley, chair of the Philadelphia Board of City Commissioners, which normally has to recruit, train, and oversee thousands of poll workers. “Under these circumstances, every little bit that makes running election day easier is helpful.”

Pennsylvania: As Poll Workers Worry About Safety, Staffing For June Primary Will Be A Challenge | Katie Meyer(WHYY

This week, after much deliberation, Nancy Nylund decided that she’s staying home this primary. “It was actually quite agonizing because I love working at the polls,” she said. Nylund, 68, has served as an inspector of elections in her Plymouth Meeting precinct for several years. But she is also on immunosuppressant medication for her rheumatoid arthritis, and so she decided she didn’t want to risk coming into contact with someone infected with COVID-19. As a retired nurse, she knows what would be at stake. “Of course it makes it more risky, since I’m considered immunosuppressed, to be sitting three feet from people checking the books,” she said. Across Pennsylvania, other poll workers are facing the same dilemma as the primary election approaches. Poll workers have to decide whether to disregard pandemic best practices and commit to sitting in a polling place for an entire day, and county and state officials have to figure out ways to keep those workers and voters safe while not infringing on anyone’s rights.

Tennessee: Shelby County Election Commission approves new voting system | Bill Dries/The Daily Memphian

Shelby County election commissioners approved a new voting system for Shelby County Thursday night, May 7, that will include machines with a paper audit trail. The 4-1 vote came at the end of a 4.5-hour special meeting that all five election commissioners attended in person at their operations center at Shelby County, along with staff, as an online audience watched and commented. On the advice of its attorneys, the election commission did not disclose the name of the vendor or the cost of their proposal. The attorneys and county purchasing officials said the commission couldn’t disclose any of the information until after it made its decision and a formal letter of intent was issued. It was one of three proposals made in the formal “request for proposal” process and the one that county elections administrator Linda Phillips recommended. The decision goes next to the Shelby County Commission, which will vote on appropriating the funding necessary to buy the machines. That is when the details of the proposal, including the name of the company and the price as well as the offers of competitors, are to become public. The Tennessee Coalition for Open Government has questioned whether the secrecy surrounding what the election commission voted on is a violation of the state’s open meetings law.

Vermont: Governor pushes back on mail-in ballot disagreement | Kit Norton and Grace Elletson/VTDigger

Gov. Phil Scott said Wednesday he is not opposed to moving toward a mail-in voting system for the general election, but he would prefer not to make a decision now that will change how people vote in November. Scott’s remarks came a day after VTDigger reported on his reluctance to immediately support expanding the state’s mail-in voting system. “I had preferred not to do this through the media, but it appears that is no longer viable,” the governor said. The Republican governor said he has asked Secretary of State Jim Condos, a Democrat, if the state could set up the infrastructure for expanding mail-in voting, but not decide what to do until after the Aug. 11 primary election. Condos has said that his proposal does not force any voter to cast a ballot by mail, but authorizes the Secretary of State’s office to send ballots to all active voters in Vermont, at which point the individual can decide if they would rather go to the polls or vote-by-mail.

Wisconsin: Madison logs over $100,000 in extra costs for April 7 pandemic election | Abigail Becker/The Capital Time

Madison spent an extra $108,000 to help voters cast ballots in the spring election as local officials statewide worked to secure supplies and cover sometimes heightened labor costs for contests held in the midst of the COVID-19 pandemic. That’s around 21% higher than the $504,000 originally budgeted for pulling off the April election, city finance director Dave Schmiedicke wrote in an email. Madison logged 56% turnout among absentee and in-person voters. But while Madison’s costs soared, Dane County Clerk Scott McDonell said the county’s expenses for setting up the elections were not as affected by the pandemic. Municipalities, which are responsible for mailing absentee ballots, faced the brunt of additional expenses like postage, staff time and safety equipment like Plexiglass shields.  “April expenses were not too out of line for the county as we were already planning on large turnout due to the Democratic primary,” McDonell said, noting the county ordered extra ballots. It’s still unclear how Madison’s figures compare to other large municipalities in the state, which saw increased requests for absentee ballots and, in some cases, large lines on Election Day as polling locations were consolidated amid staffing shortages and other concerns.