Voting Blogs: Why Online Voting Isn’t the Answer to Running Elections During Covid-19 | Lawrence Norden/Brennan Center for Justice

There has been growing buzz around the potential for internet voting as states struggle with preparing to conduct safe and fair elections during the Covid-19 pandemic. Companies selling online voting systems promise a “silver bullet” to deal with voting during the pandemic: a new technology that will allow people to vote from their homes, a safe distance from others. Unfortunately, there is no magical solution for running elections during a pandemic. Ensuring voters and election workers can be safe will require money, work, and time. States and localities need substantial resources to ensure they can handle more mail balloting and keep polling places safe. Indeed, given all the other changes election officials and voters are facing this year, there couldn’t be a worse time to try to add a risky, unproven technology like internet voting into our elections, particularly when we know that hostile actors have not given up on disrupting our democracy.

National: States Cannot Waver in Election Security Efforts | Matt Parnofiello/StateTech Magazine

Election security concerns for state and local governments have not gone away during the coronavirus pandemic. In fact, they’ve only grown more urgent. Those concerns are mounting as states argue they do not have enough leeway to use the $400 million Congress appropriated for election security this spring, and “a coalition of more than 200 public-interest groups are pushing hard for Congress to include $3.6 billion for the 2020 election cycle in the next coronavirus relief bill,” as The New York Times Magazine reports. Some states are considering moving to online voting because of concerns about having residents congregate at polling places. However, that move is something security experts are strongly cautioning against because of cybersecurity vulnerabilities. The Guardian reports the Department of Homeland Security opposed such moves in a draft guidance, warning that casting ballots over the internet is “a ‘high-risk’ endeavor that would allow attackers to alter votes and results ‘at scale’ and compromise the integrity of elections.”  The challenges posed by the pandemic are making a complicated security picture even more complex for state and local election officials. They need to remember all of the election security concerns that existed in January are still out there and are now more difficult to tackle — and they include malicious actors spreading disinformation and attackers targeting voting databases. All of those concerns need to be addressed between now and November.

National: States push millions of people toward absentee voting amid pandemic | Reid Wilson/The Hill

State and local election administrators are pushing millions of voters to cast their ballots by mail in upcoming elections amidst a pandemic that could spread widely where people gather. The applications raise the prospect of a massive surge of ballots pouring into election administration offices in the days leading up to the presidential election. They have also raised the ire of President Trump, who on Wednesday accused two states of acting illegally and raised the prospects of punishing those states by withholding funding. At least 32 million people have already received or will soon receive absentee ballot applications in the mail, either for upcoming primary elections or November’s general elections. Michigan Secretary of State Jocelyn Benson (D) said Tuesday her office would mail an absentee ballot application to all 7.7 million registered voters in her state. Georgia Secretary of State Brad Raffensperger (R) and Iowa Secretary of State Paul Pate (R) said last month they would send applications to every active voter in their states, too. “The safety of voters while casting their ballots is our top priority,” Pate said when he announced the mailings. “The safest way to vote will be by mail.”

National: The mail voting debate gets more confounding | David Weigel/The Washington Post

On Tuesday, as he celebrated the arrival of two new Republican colleagues, House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy (R-Calif.) was asked whether he really had a problem with mail-in voting. Rep. Mike Garcia of California had won an election that relied heavily on mail-in ballots, and so had Rep. Tom Tiffany of Wisconsin. So, what was the problem? “We don’t have a problem if someone votes by mail,” McCarthy said. “The problem we have is if you try to federalize the election.” One day later, President Trump attacked Democrats in Nevada and Michigan for expanding vote-by-mail. In one tweet, he threatened to “hold up funding to Michigan if they want to go down this Voter Fraud path,” and in another he threatened the same if Nevada sent out “illegal vote by mail ballots, creating a great Voter Fraud scenario.” Since the start of the pandemic, vote-by-mail has been expanded in multiple states. The debate over that expansion has grown increasingly surreal and politically contradictory. As they ramp up their own absentee ballot programs, aimed at their base, state and national Republican committees have sued to stop states from making vote-by-mail easier, conducted polling to suggest that voters want limits on the process, and highlighted stories about the difficulty of quickly implementing all-mail elections.

National: Trump threatens funding for Michigan, Nevada over absentee, mail-in voting plans | Amy Gardner, Josh Dawsey, Jeff Stein and John Wagner/The Washington Post

President Trump on Wednesday escalated his campaign to discredit the integrity of mail balloting, threatening to “hold up” federal funding to Michigan and Nevada in response to the states’ plans to increase voting by mail to reduce the public’s exposure to the coronavirus. Without evidence, Trump called the two states’ plans “illegal,” and he incorrectly claimed that Michigan’s “rogue” secretary of state is planning to mail ballots to all voters. The state is planning to send applications for mail-in ballots to all voters — not ballots themselves. “This was done illegally and without authorization by a rogue Secretary of State,” Trump tweeted about Michigan. “I will ask to hold up funding to Michigan if they want to go down this Voter Fraud path!” Trump later corrected the error and suggested he would not need to withhold federal money, but he did not retreat from his claim that both states are taking steps that will encourage voter fraud. A spokesman for the Trump campaign asserted that the Michigan secretary of state did not have legal authority to send ballot applications to all voters, a claim that she disputed.

National: Trump’s mail voting attacks put him at odds with GOP election officials | Joseph Marks/The Washington Post

President Trump’s attacks on voting by mail during the pandemic are putting him increasingly at odds with Republican election officials. The president’s harshest salvo to date threatened in a pair of tweets to withhold federal funding from Michigan and Nevada over their efforts to increase voting by mail. He falsely claimed the states, which have Democratic governors, were violating the law by sending absentee ballot applications to all registered voters. But the president’s attacks come as Republican officeholders in at least 16 states that don’t have all-mail elections have encouraged residents to vote absentee due to coronavirus. Republican-led states – including Georgia, Iowa, Nebraska and West Virginia – have also implemented the same system that Trump just attacked in Michigan and Nevada. And Nevada’s own secretary of state, who runs the elections there, is a Republican. The attacks are increasingly leaving Trump — who voted by mail himself in Florida this year — exposed as Republican election officials ignore his warnings given the anticipated public health risks of in-person voting during a pandemic.

National: As Trump Rails Against Voting by Mail, States Open the Door for It | Michael Wines/The New York Times

By threatening on Wednesday to withhold federal grants to Michigan and Nevada if those states send absentee ballots or applications to voters, President Trump has taken his latest stand against what is increasingly viewed as a necessary option for voting amid a pandemic. What he has not done is stop anyone from getting an absentee ballot. In the face of a pandemic, what was already limited opposition to letting voters mail in their ballots has withered. Eleven of the 16 states that limit who can vote absentee have eased their election rules this spring to let anyone cast an absentee ballot in upcoming primary elections — and in some cases, in November as well. Another state, Texas, is fighting a court order to do so. Four of those 11 states are mailing ballot applications to registered voters, just as Michigan and Nevada are doing. And that does not count 34 other states and the District of Columbia that already allow anyone to cast an absentee ballot, including five states in which voting by mail is the preferred method by law. “Every once in a while you get the president of the United States popping up and screaming against vote-by-mail, but states and both political parties are organizing their people for it,” said Michael Waldman, the president of the Brennan Center for Justice at New York University. “It’s a bizarre cognitive dissonance.”

National: Here’s the problem with mail-in ballots: They might not be counted. | Enrijeta Shino, Mara Suttmann-Lea and Daniel A. Smith/The Washington Post

State and local officials across the country are making difficult decisions about how to enable citizens to vote without jeopardizing their health. One widely discussed approach involves allowing more people to vote by mail, lowering the risk of spreading the novel coronavirus. Most Americans support that option for this November’s election. And for good reason: Those of us who study mail voting agree that it has little effect on election results because it has a marginal impact on turnout and doesn’t give either party an advantage. But voting by mail increases the number of ballots that are rejected — and not counted in the final tally. And ballots from younger, minority and first-time voters are most likely to be thrown out. Here’s how we know.

Verified Voting Blog: Election Security and an Accessible Vote By Mail Option

Guidance by Common Cause and Verified Voting published today outlines that remote accessible vote by mail options that keep voters choices private and secure already exist and should be made available to voters with disabilities as states increase access to vote by mail. Download PDF

During the COVID 19 pandemic, policymakers and elections officials are working to make voting safe, secure and accessible. As many jurisdictions expand vote by mail options, members of the disability community have pointed out that traditional vote by mail programs are not accessible to all voters. Some have urged that Congress adopt options for online voting to accommodate people with disabilities.

It is paramount that jurisdictions accommodate all voters with a secure and safe voting option during the pandemic, including voters with disabilities. Online voting is not secure. The Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI), the National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST), the Election Assistance Commission (EAC) and the Department of Homeland Security all agree that no practically proven method exists to securely, verifiably, or privately return voted materials over the internet. In a recently released document entitled Risk Management for Electronic Ballot Delivery, Marking and Return, all four agencies stated, “Electronic ballot return faces significant security risks to the confidentiality, integrity, and availability of voted ballots. These risks can ultimately affect the tabulation and results and can occur at scale.” In other words, the security risk is high. Despite what vendors may say, voting by email or via web portals jeopardizes the integrity of the election results; votes can be manipulated or deleted without the voter’s knowledge and the voter’s selections could be traced back to the individual voter.

Florida: GOP enters legal fray over Florida vote-by-mail | Gary Fineout/Politico

Republicans are seeking to join a high-stakes voting rights battle in Florida, claiming that Democrat-aligned groups are using the coronavirus outbreak as an excuse to strike down voting laws. The Republican National Committee, the Republican Party of Florida and the National Republican Congressional Committee on Thursday asked a federal judge for permission to intervene in a lawsuit brought against Gov. Ron DeSantis, a Republican, and state and local election officials. “Democrats never let a crisis go to waste, and they are using a pandemic to completely destroy the integrity of our elections,” RNC Chairwoman Ronna McDaniel said in a written statement. The case, she said, “exposes Florida to potential fraud.” A group of Florida voters, Democratic super PAC Priorities USA and other Democratic-leaning organizations filed the lawsuit in U.S. district court in Tallahassee in early May. The case seeks to throw out state ballot-return deadlines and laws limiting who is allowed to collect vote-by-mail ballots and return them to local election offices.

Florida: No charges filed in Florida Democrats’ mail vote fraud probe | Ana Ceballos/Miami Herald

State law-enforcement officials found “no evidence of fraudulent intent” by the Florida Democratic Party after more than a yearlong investigation into alleged vote-by-mail fraud, records show. The Florida Department of Law Enforcement on Wednesday released records tied to an investigation into Democratic Party members altering election forms at the tail end of the 2018 election cycle, which was dominated by three statewide recounts. Investigators found “no evidence of fraudulent intent to use the altered forms” on April 20 and handed the case over to the Florida Office of Statewide Prosecution to determine if there was enough evidence and information to file charges. “It is closed now, so prosecutors have determined no charges,” Jessica Cary, a spokeswoman for FDLE, wrote in an email Wednesday to The News Service of Florida. Florida Statewide Prosecutor Nick Cox said Wednesday there was a “lack of sufficient evidence to support prosecution” in the case.

Florida: A Trump election conspiracy collapses | Marc Caputo/Politico

A Trump election conspiracy theory has fallen apart after Florida’s law enforcement agency said it had found no widespread voter fraud in the 2018 races for Senate and governor. President Donald Trump had complained repeatedly about election “fraud” and theft in heavily populated, Democrat-rich Broward and Palm Beach counties, which had slowly but erratically updated their vote totals after polls closed on Election Day. With each updated tally, Republican candidates Rick Scott, who was running for U.S. Senate, and Ron DeSantis, in a bid for the governor’s mansion, saw their margins of victory narrow. Both races ultimately went to recounts. It’s common for election margins to change as more ballots are counted, but Scott, who was governor at the time, claimed without evidence that the counts reeked of Democratic fraud, a conspiracy theory Trump amplified on Twitter. Scott called for an investigation. Trump backed him up. “Law Enforcement is looking into another big corruption scandal having to do with Election Fraud in #Broward and Palm Beach. Florida voted for Rick Scott!” wrote Trump on Nov. 8, 2018.  In a tweet the next day, the president falsely accused Democrats of sending “their best Election stealing lawyer, Marc Elias, to Broward County they miraculously started finding Democrat votes. Don’t worry, Florida – I am sending much better lawyers to expose the FRAUD!” But neither Trump’s unnamed “lawyers” nor the Florida Department of Law Enforcement found evidence of a “big corruption scandal.” The state took more than 17 months to wrap up its investigation Wednesday, and found none of the wrongdoing alleged by Trump and Scott.

Illinois: House approves legislation to expand vote-by-mail program after hours of questions from GOP | Jamie Munks/Chicago Tribune

The Illinois House on Thursday passed legislation to significantly expand Illinois’ vote-by-mail program in advance of November’s general election after hours of debate during which Republicans took issue with various facets of the plan. The legislation would direct election authorities to mail or email official vote-by-mail applications for the Nov. 3 general election to any voters who applied for an official ballot in the 2018 general election, the 2019 municipal elections or the March 2020 primary. Voters who submit their application for a mail-in ballot before Oct. 1 would receive their ballot no later than Oct. 6. Sponsoring Rep. Kelly Burke, an Evergreen Park Democrat, said its aim is to “try to make vote-by-mail more user-friendly, efficient, secure and accessible.” The House voted 72-43 in favor Thursday evening. Rep. Brad Stephens of Rosemont was the lone Republican to vote in favor of the measure, which now moves to the Senate.

Kentucky: Election officials scramble to conduct mail-in primary | Daniel Desrochers/Lexington Herald Leader

Kentucky’s primary election is on June 23. Sort of. By then, though, almost everyone will have already cast their vote. Some people have already started voting by absentee ballot, and those will become widely available in coming days. Every county in the state is supposed to offer in-person voting by appointment only starting June 8. The last day to mail in your ballot is June 23. The last day for county election officials to transmit vote totals to the Secretary of State’s office is June 30th. Welcome to voting in the middle of a global pandemic. “A regular election is super hard,” said Gabrielle Summe, the Kentucky County Clerk. “There’s a lot of moving pieces, there’s a lot of logistics. This election, no one really knows what to expect.” This April, as COVID-19 spread through the state, Gov. Andy Beshear and Secretary of State Michael Adams came to an agreement: they would let Kentuckians vote by mail. The reasons were simple: the coronavirus spreads easily in large crowds and most poll workers are older than 65, making them particularly vulnerable to deadly complications from the virus.

Michigan: Trump misstates Michigan mail-in ballot policy, threatens federal funding | Zach Montellaro and Quint Forgey/Politico

President Donald Trump mischaracterized Michigan’s absentee ballot policies on Wednesday while threatening federal funding to the state if election officials there do not retreat from measures meant to facilitate mail-in voting. The ultimatum from the White House, which Trump tried to downplay later in the day, comes as Michigan, a state crucial to Trump’s reelection chances, combats the fallout from a particularly severe coronavirus outbreak. “Breaking: Michigan sends absentee ballots to 7.7 million people ahead of Primaries and the General Election,” Trump tweeted. “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!” He then followed up with another message mentioning the official Twitter accounts for acting White House budget director Russ Vought, White House chief of staff Mark Meadows and the Treasury Department. Hours later, the president deleted his original tweet and re-sent a similar tweet that said “absentee ballot applications” without noting his original mistake. The president’s tweets inaccurately described a recent policy change in Michigan, where Secretary of State Jocelyn Benson, a Democrat, announced Tuesday that all of the state’s registered voters would be mailed absentee ballot applications for the August down-ballot primaries and November general election — not a ballot directly.

Michigan: Trump attacks Michigan Secretary of State with false claim; Benson quickly responds | By Matt Durr/MLive

President Donald Trump has again attacked Michigan leadership via his Twitter account. This time Trump went after Michigan Secretary of State Jocelyn Benson, alleging she’s sent absentee ballots to 7.7 million voters in Michigan ahead of the August primaries. In a now deleted tweet, Trump called Benson a “rogue Secretary of State” and threatened to withhold funding to the state for attempted voter fraud. “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!..” read Trump’s original tweet. The problem with Trump’s message is that Benson did not send ballots to voters. On Tuesday, Benson announced all voters in the state will receive applications to vote from home ahead of the August primary and general election in November. Benson said the option is available to Michiganders as part of efforts to protect the safety of voters and election workers during the coronavirus crisis. Shortly after Trump sent his tweet Wednesday morning, Benson corrected the president and pointed out that similar efforts have been made in other states.

Michigan: Can Michigan Mail Absentee Forms? Yes. Can Trump Withhold Funds? Unlikely. | Linda Qiu and Nick Corasaniti/The New York Times

President Trump on Wednesday made false accusations about mail-in voting in Michigan and Nevada, continuing his unfounded attacks on absentee balloting. He initially mischaracterized the Michigan secretary of state’s actions to expand voting by mail during the coronavirus pandemic, falsely claimed such actions were illegal, and repeated his false assertion that there is rampant fraud in mail balloting. He also threatened to withhold money from the states — which itself may be unconstitutional or illegal. Here’s an assessment of his claims.

Is Michigan mailing absentee ballots to 7.7 million voters?

No. Mr. Trump’s first tweet on the issue, on Wednesday morning, inaccurately said that absentee ballots were being mailed to 7.7 million people. But Michigan’s secretary of state, Jocelyn Benson, a Democrat, is sending out applications for absentee ballots for the August primary and the November general election. To receive an actual mail-in ballot, a voter would have to fill out the application form and mail it to a local election office to be verified.

New Jersey: New Jersey abandons internet voting, for now | Tim Starks/Politico

New Jersey has decided not to repeat its recent experiment with internet voting during its July 7 presidential primary, the state told MC on Wednesday. “Given Gov. [Phil] Murphy’s announcement on how the primary will be run, it was determined that we don’t need the technology,” said Alicia D’Alessandro, a spokesperson for Secretary of State Tahesha Way. New Jersey allowed voters with disabilities to cast ballots online during May 12’s municipal elections, becoming one of the first states to test the technology as the coronavirus pandemic prompts in-person voting fears. That decision quickly drew a lawsuit from residents seeking to enforce a 2010 court order prohibiting any voting equipment connected to the internet. The Garden State’s decision comes as activists urge election officials to heed the overwhelming expert consensus: Internet voting is fundamentally insecure. Warnings from multiple federal agencies and independent experts “should be enough for New Jersey should to immediately ban all internet-based voting systems for all future elections,” said Penny Venetis, the director of Rutgers University’s International Human Rights Clinic, who wrote a letter supporting the recent lawsuit. (Only one person used the internet voting platform in the May 12 elections, according to Venetis.)

North Carolina: Bipartisan election bill promised as others fight over ballot rules | Travis Fain/WRAL

House leaders are close to filing a bill, with bipartisan support, changing state election rules because of the pandemic. The measure has most of what the State Board of Elections asked for two months ago when it rolled out a laundry list of requests, Rep. David Lewis, R-Harnett, said Thursday. There are key exceptions though: The bill won’t make Election Day a holiday, and it won’t cover postage costs on absentee ballots, both state board requests. The bill would forbid the board from going to an all-mail-ballot election in November, something the State Board of Elections has not requested but has been a concern for conspiracy theorists nonetheless. Mail-in ballots are already available in North Carolina to any voter who requests one, and they would remain so. Lewis, a top House Republican on election issues, confirmed some details of the bill Thursday and said it will likely be ready Friday after weeks of conversation. He said the bill would also include “a significant amount of money” for local boards of elections.

Ohio: The Buckeye State Readies for the Covid-Russia-Trump Election | Francis Wilkinson/Bloomberg

In an April poll, two-thirds of Americans said the coronavirus pandemic would “significantly disrupt” the election in November. In the same poll, nearly as many expressed confidence that “all citizens who want to vote in the election will be able to.” There may be some tension between those beliefs. “Even people with good intentions don’t know how hard it is to pull off an election,” said Jen Miller, executive director of the League of Women Voters in Ohio. “Pulling off an election” is the task of the elected officials, administrators and volunteers who make voting feasible in the nation’s 10,000 electoral jurisdictions. “Election policy and implementation are really complicated,” said Miller, who has been working on voting rights for 16 years and lobbying the Ohio legislature for nearly as long. “Most of the legislature, regardless of party, struggles to understand the realities of elections.” Those realities are quickly changing as the election comes under multiple threats. Well before the arrival of the novel coronavirus, U.S. intelligence agencies had already concluded that Russia is once again seeking to help elect Donald Trump and rattle public confidence in democracy, an effort that may include cyberattacks on election systems or related infrastructure. Likewise, Trump is once again spreading falsehoods about voter fraud in a parallel effort to undermine democratic faith.

Editorials: Voting test run: Officials will learn a lot from Pennsylvania primary vote by mail | Pittsburgh Post-Gazette

The campaign to encourage Pennsylvania voters to request mail-in ballots for the June 2 primary election has already resulted in more than 1 million registered voters asking for ballots. Along the way, elections officials are learning that even a mail-in system is not without challenges, and those must be addressed before the November presidential election. In Allegheny County, which has already processed about 180,000 absentee or mail-in ballot requests, officials have had to deal with a problem of duplicate ballots being mailed because of a glitch in processing batches of mailing labels. Elections officials said they have corrected the problem and that bar codes on the ballots will prevent any voter from having more than one ballot counted. Officials need to continue their vigilance in identifying and correcting that problem. Since the county opted to send applications for a mail-in ballot to all registered voters, there is also the issue of ballot applications going to deceased people who have not been removed from registration rolls. Those registration rolls need to be reviewed and purged before November’s election to limit the possibility of voter fraud.

Tennessee: Connection between Shelby County Elections administrator and ES&S under scrutiny | April Thompson/WREG

WREG has learned there is a lot of controversy surrounding the company providing new voting machines for the county and the Shelby County Elections administrator. WREG has confirmed with an election commissioner the company is ES & S, the same company that commission and election administrator Linda Phillips recommended. Phillips says the new machines are desperately needed. “Our current scanners are very, very old,” Phillips said. “Our new election system has new modern updated scanners. But I am becoming increasingly concerned we will not get those in time to do the August election. The hold up, the Letter of Intent for the new equipment hadn’t been approved by the County Mayor.” A group of concerned citizens have raised the issue about the purchase and about Phillips. Erika Sugarmon among them. “It’s an appearance of conflict of interest. Because once these contracts are executed then one or two of her children has appointment with these companies,” Sugarmon said. “And the company ‘Everyone Counts’ for example, she worked there prior to coming to the Shelby County Election Commission.”

Texas: Federal appeals court puts coronavirus mail voting expansion on hold again | James Barragán/Dallas Morning News

A federal appeals court has once again put on hold an expansion of mail voting during the coronavirus in Texas. The decision by a three-judge panel of the U.S. Fifth Circuit Court of Appeals in New Orleans on Wednesday came just one day after a federal judge in San Antonio ordered that all Texas voters who feared contracting the coronavirus could apply to vote by mail. The temporary hold on that order is a victory for Attorney General Ken Paxton, who said U.S. District Judge Fred Biery had ignored evidence and disregarded well-established laws in his decision to expand mail voting on Tuesday. But it could prove to be a temporary win. The appeals court’s action is an administrative stay that is in place while the court considers whether to block Biery’s ruling while it hears Paxton’s appeal. The Texas Democratic Party and the voting rights groups that filed the suit to expand mail voting have until Thursday at 3 p.m. to present their argument to the appeals court to give reasons Biery’s order should remain in place while the appeals court hears the case.

Utah: Pushing back against Trump, Romney says 90% of ‘very Republican’ Utah votes by mail | Summer Lin/McClatchy

Senator Mitt Romney broke with President Donald Trump and other GOP leaders who denounced voting by mail, saying it works “very, very well,” media outlets reported. “In my state, I’ll bet 90% of us vote by mail. It works very, very well, and it’s a very Republican state,” Romney told reporters on Wednesday, according to ABC News. Trump has rallied against voting by mail. “They grab thousands of mail-in ballots and they dump it,” Trump told reporters at the White House on Tuesday, according to Politico. “I’ll tell you what — and I don’t have to tell you, you can look at the statistics — there’s a lot of dishonesty going along with mail-in voting.” Trump doubled down on his comments on Wednesday, saying that it could lead to fraud. “Mail-in ballots are a very dangerous thing. They’re subject to massive fraud,” Trump said, according to NPR. When asked if he’d take away federal funding from states that offer mail voting, he said: “We’ll let you know if it’s necessary. … I don’t think it’s going to be necessary.”

Virginia: Conservative lawsuit says absentee voting not needed for coronavirus | Denise Lavoie/Associated Press

A group of voters is suing Virginia election officials over a loosening of restrictions on absentee ballots for next month’s statewide primary, arguing that the state can’t allow voters to use the coronavirus pandemic as an excuse to vote by mail. State elections officials and Gov. Ralph Northam have encouraged voters to use absentee ballots for the June 23 primary to prevent the spread of the virus at polling places. Because state law requires voters to list a reason why they can’t vote in person on Election Day, the Virginia State Board of Elections has advised voters they can choose the “disability or illness” option on the form. The federal lawsuit was filed last week by conservative attorney Jim Bopp on behalf of six northern Virginia voters. Bopp has filed a similar lawsuit on behalf of voters in Nevada. The Virginia lawsuit says that expanding absentee balloting is unnecessary to combat COVID-19. “The same social distancing and good hygiene practices — which are effective for preventing the spread of the virus when going out for essential services, like grocery shopping and other essential services — are also an effective way to prevent the spread of the virus for in-person voting,” the lawsuit states.