Uncategorized: After April’s election difficulties, would a vote-at-home system make more sense for Wisconsin? | Patricia McKnight/Milwaukee Journal Sentinel

Wisconsin’s April primary was problematic by any standard. Voters in some locations stood in line for hours in the midst of the coronavirus pandemic, thousands of absentee ballots either weren’t sent out or ended up lost in the mail and others were returned too late to be counted. As a battleground state sure to draw national attention for its August primary and again during the presidential election in November, could a more robust vote-at-home system help more voters safely cast their ballots?  “I’m for whatever makes voting easy or convenient for the most amount of people,” said Milwaukee voter Jaime Wendt. “I think having vote-from-home is a good idea. It would be best if we had something like that with the option to vote in-person either on election day or vote early.” Implementing such a system so quickly would be difficult even if the state’s political leadership was willing to work together to make it happen. And there is ample evidence that Democratic Gov. Tony Evers and the state’s GOP leadership — Assembly Speaker Robin Vos and Senate Majority Leader Scott Fitzgerald — have a hard time doing much of anything together.

National: Trump Steps Up Attacks on Mail Vote, Making False Claims About Fraud | Reid J. Epstein, Nick Corasaniti and Annie Karni/The New York Times

President Trump on Wednesday escalated his assault against mail voting, falsely claiming that Michigan and Nevada were engaged in voter fraud and had acted illegally, and threatening to withhold federal funds to those states if they proceed in expanding vote-by-mail efforts. The president inaccurately accused Michigan of sending mail ballots to its residents. In fact, the secretary of state in Michigan sent applications for mail ballots, as election officials have done in other states, including those led by Republicans. In Nevada, where the Republican secretary of state declared the primary an all mail election, ballots are being sent to voters. The Twitter posts were the latest in a series of broadsides the president has aimed at a process that has become the primary vehicle for casting ballots in an electoral system transformed by the coronavirus pandemic. As most states largely abandon in-person voting because of health concerns, Mr. Trump, along with many of his Republican allies, have launched a series of false attacks to demonize mail voting as fraught with fraud and delivering an inherent advantage to Democratic candidates — despite there being scant evidence for either claim.

Texas: Federal judge orders expansion of mail-in voting in Texas | Paul J. Weber/Associated Press

A federal judge Tuesday ordered Texas to allow any of the state’s 16 million voters to cast a ballot by mail over fears of the coronavirus, paving the way for what would be one of the most dramatic expansions of mail-in voting in the country. The decision is unlikely to be the last word. Republican Texas Attorney General Ken Paxton, who in recent weeks has suggested that steering voters toward wrongly applying for mail-in ballots could result in prosecution, said the state would appeal. He called the ruling by U.S. District Judge Fred Biery a dismissal of “well-established law.” The fight in Texas is just one of several court battles across the country over efforts, mainly by Democrats, to expand access to mail-in ballots amid the pandemic. In Wisconsin, where election officials drew widespread criticism for holding its April 7 presidential primary even as other states delayed voting, a new lawsuit filed Monday argued that not enough has been done since then to ensure that the upcoming elections can be conducted safely and fairly. Voting by mail in Texas is generally limited to those 65 or older or those with a “sickness or physical condition” that prevents voting in person. In a lengthy ruling, Biery rejected Paxton’s assertion that fear of getting the virus doesn’t qualify as a disability under the law.

National: Two primaries underscore dueling paths to holding elections during coronavirus pandemic | Joseph Marks/The Washington Post

Voters got a split-screen view of pandemic-era elections yesterday in Oregon and Kentucky. Both states were scheduled to conduct their presidential primaries, but only Oregon, where voters cast ballots almost entirely by mail, carried it off. The state had tallied results from about 75 percent of 1.2 million ballots it received as of early this morning and declared winners in most major races. Former vice president Joe Biden, the last remaining Democratic presidential candidate, handily won the state’s presidential primary with about 70 percent of votes.  Kentucky, where just about 2 percent of voters cast their ballots by mail in 2018, delayed its primary until June 23. Now, the state is scrambling to rebuild its voting operations from the ground up in just a matter of months. The split demonstrates how some states are facing far greater challenges preparing for the primaries and general election during the pandemic — and how some voters are in greater danger of facing a choice between casting their votes and protecting their health.

National: Trump Is Threatening to Go Ukraine on Michigan Because They’ll Let People Vote By Mail During a Pandemic | Jack Holmes/Esquire

Just to recap a presidential abuse of power from 14 years—whoops, three months—ago, the president withheld vital aid to a United States ally, Ukraine, until the government of that country agreed to ratfuck the 2020 presidential election for his personal benefit. When he was impeached on the basis he’d misused the powers of his office in an attempt to extort a foreign country until it acted to undermine our democracy to help him get reelected, Pamela Karlan, a legal scholar from Stanford, testified in favor of his removal from office on those grounds. She also offered a future hypothetical. “Imagine living in a part of Louisiana or Texas that’s prone to devastating hurricanes and flooding. What would you think if you lived there and your governor asked for a meeting with the president to discuss getting disaster aid that Congress has provided. What would you think if that president said, ‘I would like you to do us a favor. I’ll meet with you, and I’ll send the disaster relief, once you brand my opponent a criminal.’ Wouldn’t you know in your gut that such a president had abused his office, that he had betrayed the national interest, and that he was trying to corrupt the electoral process?”

Editorials: Trump’s bogus attacks on mail-in voting could hurt his supporters, too | Richard L. Hasen /The Washington Post

On Wednesday morning, President Trump threatened to withhold aid from Michigan and Nevada because of purportedly illegal activity related to absentee ballots. In reality, the states are doing nothing illegal — they are trying to ensure voters can exercise their right to vote without jeopardizing their health during a pandemic. Even putting aside the likely unconstitutionality of the president conditioning aid to states upon acceding to his political demands, Trump’s unsupported claims are exceedingly troubling because they seek to cast doubt on the legitimacy and fairness of the upcoming elections without reason. Trump may not realize it, but they are also politically counterproductive for him: Rural Republican voters, even in blue states, may be the ones most hurt in November by attacks on mail-in balloting. Let’s start with the facts. On Michigan, Trump wrote: “Breaking: Michigan sends absentee ballots to 7.7 million people ahead of Primaries and the General Election. This was done illegally and without authorization by a rogue Secretary of State. I will ask to hold up funding to Michigan if they want to go down this Voter Fraud path!.” On Nevada, he wrote: “State of Nevada ‘thinks’ that they can send out illegal vote by mail ballots, creating a great Voter Fraud scenario for the State and the U.S. They can’t! If they do, ‘I think’ I can hold up funds to the State. Sorry, but you must not cheat in elections.” But Michigan is not sending absentee ballots to all 7.7 million registered voters in the state, as Trump’s claim suggests. Instead, as Michigan Secretary of State Jocelyn Benson explained, officials are sending absentee ballot applications to voters. These forms have to be filled out and sent back to election officials, who verify that these voters are, indeed, eligible to obtain ballots. Republican election officials in states such as Iowa and Nebraska have done the same thing. Political parties send such applications to voters all the time. Trump has offered no evidence that sending absentee ballot applications leads to the fraudulent casting of ballots.

Colorado: State’s mail-in voting infrastructure a boon during COVID-19 | Griffin Swartzell/Colorado Springs | Colorado Springs Independent

Colorado will hold its primary elections on June 30. But during a pandemic, nothing happens normally. On April 7, Wisconsin’s presidential primary elections drew national attention, presenting a model for how states could handle the process of democracy safely. According to an NPR report, turnout there was respectable for a presidential primary — 34 percent, about the same as the state’s turnout in 2008. But Wisconsin’s turnout was only as high as it was because 71 percent of those who voted did so by absentee ballot, a massive leap from 27 percent in November 2016 and 21 percent in November 2018. The Milwaukee Journal Sentinel reported that in Milwaukee, the largest city in Wisconsin, only five of a planned 180 polling places opened that day. Vox reported that, after initially agreeing to a typical in-person election, Wisconsin Governor Tony Evers pushed to delay the election or extend the deadline for absentee ballots due to how suddenly the pandemic came on. The former was overturned by the state legislature and supreme court, and the latter was overturned by the U.S. Supreme Court. And the Wisconsin State Journal reports that at least 67 Wisconsinites tested positive for COVID-19 after voting in person or working at the polls that day, though it’s hard to say for certain these people were infected because they were voting.

Connecticut: Voters will be allowed to cast mail-in ballots for the presidential primary if a COVID-19 vaccine isn’t available by August | Zach Murdock/Hartford Courant

Every Connecticut voter will be able to cast a mail-in or drop-off absentee ballot in the state’s delayed-to-August presidential primary election if no COVID-19 vaccine is widely available by then, per a new executive order issued Wednesday by Gov. Ned Lamont. The order comes the same day that President Donald Trump blasted officials in Michigan and Nevada for their plans to send absentee ballot applications to millions of voters — as Connecticut already had announced — and said that he would withhold some unspecified funding from those states in retaliation. Lamont shrugged off the president’s threats at his daily coronavirus news briefing Wednesday afternoon, and pledged to work toward a similar measure for the upcoming November general election.

Florida: Groups say federal funding for election efforts during coronavirus | Dave Berman/Florida Today

A coalition of voting-rights advocacy organizations on Wednesday urged the state to do more to assure that there would be full access to elections in the current time of the coronavirus pandemic. During a video news conference, they pushed for the state to help local supervisors of elections gain access to federal money from the Coronavirus Aid, Relief and Economic Security Act, including for measures to accommodate the expected increase in people voting by mail. They also want to increase the time periods for early in-person voting. That would reduce the potential for long lines of voters on Election Day, allow for social distancing, and better protect poll workers and voters from risk of infection. “Florida’s voters deserve a safe, efficient and fair election,” said Patricia Brigham, president of the League of Women Voters of Florida. “We expect nothing less.”  One proposal would be to have county supervisors of election mail every voter information on how to obtain a vote-by-mail ballot, including a mail ballot request form.

National: Coronavirus has made the 2020 election a perfect storm for voting rights lawsuits | Jon Ward/Yahoo News

The 2020 election is setting up a legal battle of historic proportions over voting rights, said the top Democratic attorney in the thick of the fight. “There’s been more voting rights litigation this election cycle already than there was in all of 2016, by a lot,” said Marc Elias, a D.C.-based lawyer with a long history in the political trenches. “There may be more voting rights litigation in 2020 already than there was in 2016 and 2012 combined. It is on an order of magnitude,” Elias said in an interview on “The Long Game,” a Yahoo News podcast. And the situation is being exacerbated by the coronavirus outbreak, which could require an unprecedented increase in mail-in voting this November. Elias, who was the top campaign lawyer for Hillary Clinton’s 2016 presidential campaign, said he currently has 32 active lawsuits in 16 states, with about three-quarters of those suits having been filed since last November. Republicans are not sitting idly by either. The Trump campaign and the Republican National Committee have budgeted $20 million for court fights over voting rights.

National: America Is Woefully Unprepared for a COVID-19 Election—And More Than a Million Votes Are at Stake | Ken Stern/Vanity Fair

On Monday advocates for minority voters and voters with disabilities filed a lawsuit asking a federal judge to make sweeping changes in election practices in Wisconsin. After a shambolic primary, marked by clashes between the Democratic governor and the Republican-controlled legislature, last-minute court battles, and mail-ballot stumbles, the lawsuit argues that officials will need to make dramatic changes to rectify the failures of the April primary and comply with the requirements of the U.S. Constitution, the Voting Rights Act, and the Americans With Disabilities Act. (A spokesman for the Wisconsin Elections Commission declined ABC News’s request for comment.) Last month more than 1 million Wisconsin voters turned to mail voting, overwhelming state officials. Many towns couldn’t adequately staff polling places, as volunteers, many of them elderly, were hesitant to work. Only five voting locations were open in Milwaukee, with voters waiting up to two and a half hours to cast their votes. In a call with reporters last week, Senator Amy Klobuchar described images of voters wearing garbage bags as makeshift personal protective equipment, which she acidly contrasted with “the president of the United States [who] was able to vote in the luxury of 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue.” It could have been far worse. Wendy Weiser, an election expert at the Brennan Center for Justice at New York University, told me that Wisconsin is a “marker for all that can go wrong.” She noted that April 7 was only a lightly contested primary election, and that pitfalls would have been multiplied in a heavily trafficked general election. The specter haunting election officials across the country is a November repeat of Wisconsin 50 times over.

Illinois: Will Illinois switch to all vote-by-mail in November? It could cost counties millions | Kelsey Landis/Belleville News-Democrat

They don’t have enough money and the clock is winding down, but election officials are preparing for three times as many voters to cast ballots by mail in November. The threat of coronavirus could compel unprecedented numbers of Illinoisans to vote from home rather than risk a trip to the polls on November 6, said St. Clair County Clerk Thomas Holbrook. “Anyone with an ounce of sense knows it makes more sense to vote by mail,” Holbrook said. “But the presidential general election is going to be overwhelming and it’s going to stretch our budget and capacity to the limit.” With already strapped budgets, clerks worry about the price tag: each packet costs at least a dollar to print, not to mention postage and labor to process applications, said Vicky Albers, Clinton County clerk. “That’s over a dollar a piece that you don’t have in your budget,” Albers said. In 2016, St. Clair County saw a 66% voter turnout, and 11,400 people applied to vote by mail. That number could double or triple this year as voters decide to avoid the polls, Holbrook said. Statewide in 2016, just 6.5% of voters cast their ballots by mail, according to the Illinois State Board of Elections. That number is almost certain to increase this year.

Georgia: More Georgians voted by mail than in-person on Day 1 of early voting | Mark Niesse/The Atlanta Journal-Constitution

Turnout was relatively high on the first day of in-person early voting in Georgia’s primary, but even more people voted absentee Monday amid the coronavirus pandemic. Over 15,000 voters, many of them wearing masks, cast their ballots at early voting locations, according to state election data.That’s a larger turnout than on the first days of in-person voting for primaries in 2016 and 2018, but slightly lower than the start of early voting for this year’s presidential primary on March 2.Still, most Georgians preferred to vote remotely, with over 26,000 absentee ballots received by county election offices Monday. The combination of voting options could result in significant participation in the combined presidential and general primary. A record 1.46 million voters have requested absentee ballots, and many more will cast their ballots during three weeks of early voting and on election day June 9. Overall, nearly 415,000 people have voted so far, including 400,000 who submitted absentee-by-mail ballots. Secretary of State Brad Raffensperger is encouraging people to vote absentee and avoid human contact, but they can also choose to vote in person.

Indiana: No PPE required: State orders no restrictions on voting | Gus Pearcy/Pharos Tribune

County clerks across Indiana were notified this week by the Indiana Election Division that voters cannot be required to be screened for COVID-19 or forced to wear masks, use hand sanitizer, wash their hands or even respect social distancing guidelines when showing up to vote in person. “You don’t want to have anything perceived as voter suppression or requirements of the voter over and above just coming in and voting,” Boone County attorney Bob Clutter said about the development which he said he hadn’t considered. “You know, the screening might make some people uncomfortable and you don’t want to do anything that would in any way inhibit their way to vote.” The Boone County Courthouse is currently closed to the public. However, people who have business with the courts and all employees are being screened before entering the courthouse with a series of questions about exposure or symptoms of COVID-19. All entrants are also having their temperatures taken. Anyone whose temperature is 100.4 or above is not allowed to enter. Voters will not be subjected to the screening.

Idaho: Secretary of State working with Boise cybersecurity company on absentee election security | Rachel Spacek/Idaho Press

The Idaho Secretary of State’s Office is working with a Boise-based cybersecurity company to track election security-related issues during the state’s unprecedented absentee ballot election. According to a press release, PlexTrac will allow the secretary of state election cybersecurity team to collaborate with every county in the state about any election security issues that come up. Tuesday, the day of the primary election, was the last day for voters to request a ballot. Completed ballots are due June 2, when results will be released. Foster Cronyn, deputy secretary of state, said the office has implemented several tools over previous election years that monitor and report on election security. “PlexTrac consolidates this very complex information into an organized, actionable report for our cyber security analysts,” Cronyn said. “In previous elections, we have had to manually review these reports and look for patterns. Although this election is absentee ballot only, these are still requested, tallied and reported on using large online computing systems. PlexTrac aggregates security reports from these systems.”

Massachusetts: Vote-By-Mail Forces Grow Anxious About Timeline, Renew Push For Action On Beacon Hill | Chris Lisinski/WBUR

Legislation outlining vote-by-mail procedures for the September and November elections in Massachusetts “absolutely cannot wait another month,” electoral reform advocates said Wednesday as they renewed their push for action on Beacon Hill. Under normal circumstances, local departments need several months to prepare fully for major statewide elections, particularly in a presidential year. But with the COVID-19 pandemic upending most aspects of public life — and with voters broadly supporting mail-in ballots — reform advocates argued it is critical for lawmakers to quickly find consensus on the myriad proposals before them. The Sept. 1 primary is less than four months away, and Secretary of State William Galvin wants to begin printing ballots as soon as two weeks from Tuesday. “Election officials need to prepare for the fall, and they need to do it as soon as possible,” said Common Cause Massachusetts Executive Director Pam Wilmot during a virtual press conference alongside about a dozen groups. “We’ll see what the Legislature decides, but time is absolutely of the essence and it needs to go now.”

Kentucky: State board working through election complications | Tom Latek/State Journal

The State Board of Elections met Tuesday to continue preparations for what is likely to be the most unusual election in Kentucky history due to the coronavirus pandemic. Chairman Ben Chandler repeated their goal is to have as many people as possible vote by absentee mail-in ballot for the primary election, which was delayed from May 26 to June 23.  “We’re having trouble getting poll workers, which shouldn’t surprise anybody, and we want to make sure that not only the poll workers who are necessary but the administrative staff at the county clerk offices and the voting public are safe,” he said. Chandler also acknowledged the county clerks have to be able to accommodate those who vote in-person absentee, as well as those who want to vote on Election Day itself, so each of the 120 county clerks were to submit a plan to the state Board of Elections for approval. Executive Director Jared Dearing told the board members, “We are currently at around 90-plus counties with a little less than 30 more to come in. We are in contact with those counties who are still making their plans as we speak.”

Louisiana: House panel refuses expanded vote by mail | Catherine Hunt/The Advocate

A Louisiana House committee Tuesday rejected legislation that would have allowed all registered voters to vote by mail in all state elections, including this fall’s presidential contest. More voters than normal can cast mail-in ballots in 33 states and Washington, D.C., this year to reduce health risks from the coronavirus. Some states, such as Colorado, Oregon and Washington, rely entirely on mail-in ballots for all their elections. Red states like Wyoming, Montana, Utah and Alaska also have decided to conduct their presidential primaries this year entirely through mail ballots. Michigan, a political swing state, announced Tuesday that it would send mail-in ballots to all its voters for the fall election. New Orleans Democratic Rep. Mandie Landry’s House Bill 419 would not mandate voting by mail but simply allow it to be used more broadly. Before the House and Governmental Affairs committee, the measure failed in a party-line, 9-5 vote.

Maryland: After vendor wrongly said Baltimore’s ballots were on the way, officials are scrambling to get them | Emily Opilo/Baltimore Sun

An out-of-state vendor failed to mail hundreds of thousands of ballots to Baltimore voters for nearly a week despite assuring Maryland they were on the way, officials revealed Tuesday amid growing concerns over administration of the June 2 primary. U.S. Postal Service trucks have been driving overnight shifts since officials learned of the problem Sunday, ferrying ballots from Minnesota to Maryland where they are placed into the local mail stream, said Nikki Charlson, deputy administrator of the Maryland Board of Elections. “We have significant unanswered questions about the process, and after the election, we will require a full accounting with a particular focus on Baltimore City ballots,” Charlson said. She said the state had delivered necessary voter information to the company in time for ballots to be mailed more than a week ago. “We are extremely disappointed that the vendor has failed to deliver according to the schedule,” Charlson said.

Michigan: All voters to get absentee ballot applications in mail | Todd Spangler/Detroit Free Press

Secretary of State Jocelyn Benson said Tuesday all of Michigan’s 7.7 million registered voters will be mailed absentee ballot applications so they can take part in elections in August and November without the risk of in-person voting if they choose to do so. Benson, in a move likely to anger some Republicans and potentially lead to a court battle, said the threat posed by the spread of coronavirus, which has already killed 4,915 Michiganders since March but has been on the decline in recent weeks, is still too great to consider having people go en masse to the polls to vote in the Aug. 4 and Nov. 3 elections. Benson is a Democrat. “By mailing applications we have ensured that no Michigander has to choose between their health and their right to vote,” Benson said. She noted that in 50 local elections held across the state on May 5, turnout was up significantly from other years and that the vast majority of voters cast absentee ballots by mail or through a drop box. “We know from the elections that took place this month that during the pandemic Michiganders want to safely vote,” she said.

Missouri: Judge Rejects Bid for Widespread Absentee Voting | Joe Harris/Courthouse News

A lawsuit seeking to allow absentee voting for all eligible Missourians in light of the Covid-19 crisis was dismissed by a state judge who found that the complaint asked for measures that went beyond concerns over the pandemic. “The court takes very seriously the health concerns regarding the Covid-19 pandemic that plaintiffs allege in their petition, but the relief plaintiffs seek is not limited to Covid-19 and goes far beyond the health concerns they raise,” Cole County Circuit Judge Jon Beetem wrote in his opinion Tuesday. He continued, “Plaintiffs are seeking a radical and permanent transformation of Missouri voting practices without the authorization of the Legislature.” The American Civil Liberties Union, which filed the lawsuit, has appealed to the Missouri Supreme Court. “We don’t think the case should have been dismissed,” ACLU lawyer Tony Rothert said in an interview. “But, on the other hand, we all knew this was going to a Missouri Supreme Court resolution and this will get it there faster.”

Minnesota: League of Women Voters challenges absentee voting witness rule | By Stephen Montemayor/Minneapolis Star Tribune

Minnesota’s witness requirement for absentee ballots faces a second legal challenge in a lawsuit filed Tuesday by the League of Women Voters asking a judge to let voters concerned about COVID-19 cast absentee ballots without witness signatures. The lawsuit, filed against Minnesota Secretary of State Steve Simon, follows a similar state court lawsuit filed last week by the Minnesota Alliance for Retired Americans Educational Fund. Both cases come as Simon and other state election officials race to prepare for an expected surge in absentee voting this year. “Minnesota consistently has the highest voter turnout in the nation, with many safeguards in place to ensure election integrity,” said Michelle Witte, executive director at the League of Women Voters Minnesota. “Making this small change to our witness requirements during this global pandemic will not damage that integrity — it will only make our elections stronger by ensuring that all voters have as few barriers as possible to exercise their constitutional right.”

New Jersey: Emergency Motion to Stop Internet Voting in New Jersey | Penny Venetis/Freedom to Tinker

On May 4th, 2020 a press release from mobilevoting.org announced that New Jersey would allow online voting in a dozen school-board elections scheduled for May 12th. On May 11, the Rutgers International Human Rights Clinic filed an emergency motion to stop internet voting in New Jersey. During a conference on May 18 with Superior Court Judge Mary Jacobson, the State notified the court that it had abandoned its plans to use internet voting for the upcoming July 7 primary election.  The Clinic, led by Rutgers Law School professor Penny Venetis, argued that the Democracy Live online voting system (that New Jersey planned to use) violated a broad court order issued in March 2010 by Judge Linda Feinberg.  That order was issued in the Clinic’s case Gusciora v. Corzine, which challenged paperless voting machines as unconstitutional.   The March 2010 court order stated clearly and unequivocally that no part of any New Jersey voting system could be connected to the internet, under any circumstance.  New Jersey has a continuing obligation to ensure that the order is followed, and that all voting-related software is “hardened” on a regular basis.

Missouri: Lawsuit for absentee voting amid virus appealed | Summer Ballentine/Associated Press

Civil rights groups on Tuesday appealed to the Missouri Supreme Court after a local judge dismissed their lawsuit seeking to allow all Missourians to vote absentee in upcoming elections to help reduce the risk of catching or spreading the coronavirus. The lawsuit was filed in Jefferson City by the ACLU of Missouri and the Missouri Voter Protection Coalition on behalf of the NAACP, the League of Women Voters and several residents. It claims that requiring voters to appear at traditional polling places during the pandemic puts lives at risk. Cole County Circuit Judge Jon Beetem in a Monday judgment tossed the lawsuit, writing that the civil rights groups who sued were asking for widespread absentee voting for all future elections regardless of whether COVID-19 is still around. Beetem wrote that the plaintiffs sought “radical and permanent transformation of Missouri voting practices without the authorization of the Legislature.” Voters currently can request absentee ballots only if they provide an excuse for why they can’t vote in person. Illness is one option, but the law isn’t explicit on whether the illness excuse covers healthy voters concerned about catching or spreading COVID-19.

New Jersey: Officials disqualify 19% of votes cast in Paterson | Joe Malinconico/Paterson Press

A total of 3,190 mail-in ballots – about 19 percent of those submitted – have been disqualified in the hotly-contested elections for Paterson’s six ward seats on the City Council, officials said on Wednesday. The Passaic County Board of Elections previously had announced that it decided not to count about 800 ballots because they allegedly were improperly bundled in mailboxes and would be turned over to law enforcement authorities for an investigation of potential irregularities. But the election board ended up disqualifying more than 2,300 additional votes during its ballot-by-ballot review of the documents. Keith Furlong, spokesman for Passaic County government, attributed the additional disqualifications to the election board’s annual practice of checking the signatures on the ballots against those on file for voters. “It’s part of the normal process,” Furlong said. The massive number of disqualified ballots in an election already rife with allegations of fraud has political insiders predicting that several losing candidates would file legal challenges seeking to overturn the results.

Nevada: Primary underway, but argument over mail election continues | Rory Appleton/Las Vegas Review-Journal

Thousands of Nevadans began voting last week in the state’s first all-mail primary election, as concerns over the spread of COVID-19 have closed traditional polls throughout the country. As of Monday afternoon, Clark County had received 69,238 ballots, with 33,118 from Democrats and 24,451 from Republicans. Nevada and its counties had planned an all-mail election for some time. But Clark County is the only county to adjust its plans after legal pressure from state Democrats, who pushed for ballots to be sent to inactive voters and to add two more in-person voting locations on Election Day, June 9. The first week of voting saw the state GOP raise the alarm on ballots for the county’s 200,000 inactive voters being mailed to the wrong addresses, with photos of ballots tossed in trash cans and littering apartment mailbox areas. If state Democrats get their way and relax signature matching, the GOP claims, then voter fraud will be simple. But groups working hard to help traditionally disenfranchised populations, such as immigrant communities, vote during a pandemic that’s likely to depress turnout say that giving voters multiple ways to participate is critical. Low-income voters are more likely to move around a lot and be classified as inactive, but their votes should count, advocates say. Thousands of inactive voters — those who are verified as eligible voters, but who have had an election mailer returned as undeliverable — can and do vote every cycle.

New Jersey: State is arbitrarily throwing out thousands of mail-in ballots, lawsuit says | Blake Nelson/NJ.com

Ahead of a surge in mail-in ballots because of the coronavirus, New Jersey voting rights and social justice groups are suing to change how the state counts votes. In order to verify a ballot, election officials currently compare the signature on a ballot with the corresponding signature on the initial application, according to state law. That has led “untrained” staff to arbitrarily throw out thousands of votes without due process, according to a lawsuit filed Monday by a resident with Parkinson’s disease, who said his shaking hand has fundamentally altered how he signs his name. “When you think about how much a signature can change over the years, or how a disability can impact one’s handwriting, it is clear that this is unacceptable,” Ryan Haygood, president of the New Jersey Institute for Social Justice, said in a statement. The institute co-filed the complaint in U.S. District Court of New Jersey on behalf of the resident with Parkinson’s and the state chapters of the League of Women Voters and the NAACP.

New Jersey: Close Results In Paterson Vote Plagued By Fraud Claims; Over 3K Ballots Seemingly Set Aside | Jonathan Dienst/NBC

mid widespread vote-by-mail fraud allegations in the Paterson city council election, one race was apparently decided by just 8 votes. Incumbent Shahin Khalique defeated Mohammed Akhtaruzzaman — 1,729 votes to 1,721. And long-time council member William McKoy lost by 245 votes to challenger Alex Mendez. A Passaic County spokesman said 16,747 vote-by-mail ballots were received, but the county’s official results page shows 13,557 votes were counted — a difference of 3,190 votes. Those thousands of ballots not counted would represent nearly one in five of all votes cast, or 19 percent. The Board of Elections previously announced about 800 votes would be set aside and not counted amid charges they were found improperly bundled in mailboxes in Paterson as well as at a drop box in nearby Haledon.

Texas: Federal judge says Texas voters can vote by mail during coronavirus | Alexa Ura/The Texas Tribune

A federal judge opened a path for a massive expansion in absentee voting in Texas by ordering Tuesday that all state voters, regardless of age, qualify for mail-in ballots during the coronavirus pandemic. Days after a two-hour preliminary injunction hearing in San Antonio, U.S. District Judge Fred Biery agreed with individual Texas voters and the Texas Democratic Party that voters would face irreparable harm if existing age eligibility rules for voting by mail remain in place for elections held while the coronavirus remains in wide circulation. Under his order, which the Texas attorney general said he would immediately appeal, voters under the age of 65 who would ordinarily not qualify for mail-in ballots would now be eligible. Biery’s ruling covers Texas voters “who seek to vote by mail to avoid transmission of the virus.” In a lengthy order, which he opened by quoting the preamble to the Declaration of Independence, Biery said he had concerns for the health and safety of voters and stated the right to vote “should not be elusively based on the whims of nature.”

New York: Federal appeals court: New York must host Democratic presidential primary | Cayla Harris/Albany Times Union

A federal appeals court on Tuesday ruled that New York must host its Democratic presidential primary on June 23. The U.S. Second Circuit Court of Appeals in Manhattan upheld a lower court’s decision earlier this month that canceling the primary would be unconstitutional and deprive New Yorkers of their right to vote. The state’s Board of Elections had called off the contest in late April, citing public health concerns amid the coronavirus pandemic – a move that drew swift backlash from supporters of former presidential candidates Andrew Yang and Bernie Sanders, who eventually filed the lawsuit seeking to reinstate the election. “Thrilled that democracy has prevailed for the voters of New York!” Yang, also a plaintiff in the suit, tweeted. The Board of Elections, after appealing the first decision, will not seek to appeal the decision to the U.S. Supreme Court, the board’s Democratic co-Chair Doug Kellner said on Tuesday.