National: Which Party Would Benefit Most From Voting by Mail? It’s Complicated. | Michael Wines/The New York Times

Not so many months ago, casting a ballot by mail was a topic reserved for conferences of election administrators, a matter of voting mechanics blander than a water cracker. In Republican Arizona and Democratic Oregon as well as many other states, vast numbers of citizens not only voted by mail, but also loved it. That was before the mail ballot became seen as an essential element for voting in a pandemic, and before President Trump weaponized mail voting with largely invented allegations that it would lead to massive voter fraud — despite being used for years in Democratic and Republican states without controversy. bRepublican opposition seemed driven by the conviction that an increase in mail voting would benefit Democrats, who have tended to use mail ballots less compared with Republicans. But, like a lot of assumptions about voting, the reality is far less clear.

National: Voter Registration Plummets Due To Pandemic, Reshaping 2020 Electorate | Pam Fessler/NPR

No door to door canvassing. Public gatherings are canceled. Motor vehicle offices are closed. Naturalization ceremonies are on hiatus. Almost every place where Americans usually register to vote has been out of reach since March and it’s led to a big drop in new registrations right before a presidential election that was expected to see record turnout. The consequences of that decline could reshape the electorate ahead of the November election, although it’s not yet clear how. Four years ago, organizers for the progressive group New Virginia Majority were able to register 120,000 new voters, who contributed to Hillary Clinton’s victory in the state and Democrats’ subsequent takeover of the state legislature. But this year, in the middle of a pandemic? “The rules of engagement have been completely upended,” said Tram Nguyen, New Virginia Majority’s co executive director. “We’re not able to walk the neighborhood streets. We’re not able to set up tables at community centers and places where it’s easy to reach people in community. So organizers have still continued to do the work around engaging folks. It looks a lot different,” she said.

National: States plead for cybersecurity funds as hacking threat surges | Maggie Miller/The Hill

Cash-short state and local governments are pleading with Congress to send them funds to shore up their cybersecurity as hackers look to exploit the crisis by targeting overwhelmed government offices. Members of Congress have taken notice of cyber threats at the state and local level, both before and during the pandemic, and efforts are underway to address the challenges, though how much will be provided is uncertain amid a fight over the amount of additional coronavirus stimulus. For Atlanta’s top cybersecurity official, any funds cannot come soon enough. “We would love and welcome more funding from the federal government as our digital infrastructure is just expanding and it’s going to expand even more because of this,” Gary Brantley, the chief information officer for the city of Atlanta, told The Hill. Brantley said that coronavirus-related attacks have become an issue for his office, particularly those targeted at his office through malicious phishing emails. “We are seeing a lot more malicious activity, especially a lot of activity related to COVID-19,” Brantley said. “I know our phishing attacks are up tremendously across the city and attempts to confuse our user base are high.”

National: Trump is trying to make mail voting a partisan issue. It’s not in many states. | Joseph Marks/The Washington Post

President Trump has slammed voting by mail as a Democratic ploy to fix elections and attacked Democratic leaders who want to expand the practice in swing states such as Michigan. But many of the states that are making the greatest strides on increasing voting by mail during the pandemic are unlikely to play a significant role in deciding the winner of the 2020 presidential election – and are doing it without much partisan angst. Massachusetts, where a Republican presidential candidate hasn’t won since Ronald Reagan in 1984, is a case in point. The state’s moderate Republican Gov. Charlie Baker is broadly supportive of Democratic-led efforts to expand voting by mail and has already signed a bill aimed at dramatically expanding the practice through elections in June. It’s Democratic Secretary of State William Galvin, meanwhile, who is pushing back against the most ambitious mail-in voting plans from Democratic state legislators, warning that if the state tries to go too far it could damage the integrity of the election.

National: Trump Sows Doubt on Voting. It Keeps Some People Up at Night. | Reid J. Epstein/The New York Times

In October, President Trump declares a state of emergency in major cities in battleground states, like Milwaukee and Detroit, banning polling places from opening. A week before the election, Attorney General William P. Barr announces a criminal investigation into the Democratic presidential nominee, Joseph R. Biden Jr. After Mr. Biden wins a narrow Electoral College victory, Mr. Trump refuses to accept the results, won’t leave the White House and declines to allow the Biden transition team customary access to agencies before the Jan. 20 inauguration. Far-fetched conspiracy theories? Not to a group of worst-case scenario planners — mostly Democrats, but some anti-Trump Republicans as well — who have been gaming out various doomsday options for the 2020 presidential election. Outraged by Mr. Trump and fearful that he might try to disrupt the campaign before, during and after Election Day, they are engaged in a process that began in the realm of science fiction but has nudged closer to reality as Mr. Trump and his administration abandon longstanding political norms. The anxiety has intensified in recent weeks as the president continues to attack the integrity of mail voting and insinuate that the election system is rigged, while his Republican allies ramp up efforts to control who can vote and how. Just last week, Mr. Trump threatened to withhold funding from states that defy his wishes on expanding mail voting, while also amplifying unfounded claims of voter fraud in battleground states.

National: Voting by Mail in November? States Need to Prepare Now | Alexa Corse and Robert McMillan/Wall Street Journal

Americans are expected to vote by mail in record numbers in November, but authorities are running out of time to secure the vast number of ballots and ballot-processing machines needed to ensure a smooth process, election and industry officials say. Many Americans will likely want or need to avoid polling stations in the fall because of the coronavirus pandemic. A Department of Homeland Security-led working group said weeks ago that local governments should have started preparing in April if they want to ready their vote-by-mail systems for the November election. Many haven’t begun, and some states also still need to ease legal restrictions to even allow widespread mail-balloting. Carrying out such voting faces potential choke points even for states that have already started preparing, such as printing enough ballots and deploying sufficient scanners to quickly count those votes, election procedure experts say. Runbeck Election Services Inc., one of the country’s largest mail-ballot printers, is already getting order inquiries for November surpassing what it could handle, company President and Chief Operating Officer Jeff Ellington said. To prepare, the Phoenix-based company in March bought 11 new machines that can insert thousands of ballots into envelopes per hour, tripling its capacity so it can produce about 20 million ballots by November. Even that, he said, may not be sufficient.

National: Trump escalates fight against mail-in voting | Brett Samuels/The Hill

President Trump this week ratcheted up his attacks on mail-in voting as more states move to increase absentee ballot access due to coronavirus uncertainties. The president has levied unsubstantiated claims of widespread voter fraud dating back to the 2016 election and has continued to do so even though he was victorious. But he took his complaints a step further in threatening to withhold federal funding from Michigan and Nevada, two potential swing states, as they took different steps to allow residents to vote by mail. “To really vote, and without fraud, you have to go and you have to vote at the polling place,” Trump said Thursday at a Ford factory in Michigan, arguing that mail-in voting is “wrought with fraud and abuse.” The president has targeted Democrat-run states over their efforts to expand mail-in voting to ensure safety during the pandemic, lashing out in recent weeks at Wisconsin, Michigan, Nevada and California. GOP-led states such as Nebraska, West Virginia and Georgia have made similar plans to offer applications for absentee ballots but have not drawn sharp rebukes from the Oval Office. Experts note there is minimal evidence of meaningful fraud in mail-in voting, and some see Trump’s latest round of attacks as an effort to restrict ballot access and preemptively cast suspicion on the 2020 election results should he lose.

National: Postal Service’s financial stress might hurt its ability to handle large volume of mail-in ballots | Yelena Dzhanova/CNBC

As the coronavirus pandemic forces adjustments in 2020 races, some states worry that financial disruptions at the U.S. Postal Service may lead to decreased voter turnout in the general election.  More than a dozen states are already preparing for the November election, with the anticipation that more voters will choose mail-in ballots over in-person voting. If the USPS continues to endure financial stress, there are concerns that it may not be able to effectively carry out the expected onslaught of mail-in ballots for the election. “The Office of the Secretary of State has become increasingly concerned about the declining revenue of the United States Postal Service,” said Kylee Zabel, communications director at the Washington state election agency. “If the USPS diminishes, or interruptions in mail service occur, every single state will have to mitigate the impacts to their by-mail voters.” Washington state is one of five that conduct voting entirely by mail.

National: Mail-in voting will suppress Native Americans’ votes in November | Thea Sebastian/The Guardian

Native communities have spent centuries battling for voting rights. Indigeneous Americans couldn’t formally vote in every state until 1957, more than three decades after securing full US citizenship. The campaign against this community persists, including discriminatory policies like voter ID laws and lack of polling locations on reservations. But this November, as lawmakers adapt voting to the Covid-19 pandemic, Native voters face a new hurdle: the reforms that best balance public health and democratic access will disproportionately suppress Native voting. Especially when it comes to vote-by-mail. Households on Native American reservations, like many households in rural America, disproportionately lack mail delivery. In Arizona, only 18% of Native Americans receive mail at home – white voters have a rate that is 350% higher. As Elouise Brown, a Navajo activist and grazing officer, said bluntly: “This vote-by-mail is not going to work. Not for us.”

California: Republicans sue California to try to halt mail-in voting following Trump claims of election fraud | Oliver O’Connell/The Independent

The Republican National Committee and two other Republican groups have filed a lawsuit against California to stop the state from mailing absentee ballots to all voters ahead of the 2020 general election. Democrat Governor Gavin Newsom decided to encourage mail-in voting, specifically for November’s presidential election, as part of the state’s response to the coronavirus pandemic. The RNC is challenging the move by the country’s most populous state, making the suit a significant front in the battle between Republicans and Democrats over the issue of mail-in votes. Similar legal challenges are ongoing in approximately a dozen states. Donald Trump has been particularly vocal in his opposition to mail-in votes, claiming there is widespread fraud when they are used, but without providing evidence.

California: Long Beach Reform Coalition files suit against Los Angeles County registrar over Measure A recount | Harry Salzgaver/ Press Telegram

The Long Beach Reform Coalition has filed a lawsuit against Los Angeles County Clerk/Recorder Dean Logan over the county’s new voting system and an aborted recount of the city’s Measure A ballot initiative. The lawsuit, filed Monday, May 11, in Los Angeles County Superior Court, seeks to have the Registrar’s Office restart the Measure A recount “at a reasonable cost,” said Ian Patton, director of the coalition. Mike Sanchez, spokesperson for the registrar, said the office has not yet been served and has not seen any of the lawsuit documents. “We do not comment on active litigation,” Sanchez said in an email. Measure A was a ballot initiative during the March 3 election that sought to indefinitely extend the 10-year 10.25% city sales tax that voters passed in 2016. Its proponents said throughout the campaign that Long Beach needs more funds to address infrastructure and public safety needs. Those opposed, including the coalition, argued that Long Beach hasn’t been a good steward of the money it’s received from the tax since 2016. The initiative passed by 16 votes, with nearly 100,000 votes cast.

Georgia: Elections chief asks 1M voters to return absentee ballots | Mark Niesse/The Atlanta Journal-Constitution

Secretary of State Brad Raffensperger on Monday urged voters to return their absentee ballots in time for the June 9 primary, even as thousands of Fulton County voters are waiting for their ballots to arrive and the coronavirus forced some early voting locations to close. About 1 million voters who requested absentee ballots haven’t yet turned them in, according to state election data through Sunday. “Vote from the convenience of your own kitchen table. Take your time to do it, but get it done as soon as you can,” Raffensperger said in an interview. “Sooner better than later, because it has to be received by June 9, no later than 7 p.m., to be counted.” So far, over 551,000 voters have returned their absentee ballots, and another 77,000 voted in person during the first week of early voting. Meanwhile, Fulton County reported Monday that it had nearly cleared a large backlog of absentee ballot requests that had piled up in election office inboxes, including some requests made more than seven weeks ago.

Idaho: Federal Court rules voters have more time to request their absentee ballot | Ximena Bustillo/Idaho Statesman

Idaho voters will now have until Tuesday to request their absentee ballots, according to a new Idaho federal court ruling Friday night. All voters who submitted a request that arrived at Ada County Elections after the previous May 19 deadline will be issued a ballot, along with any additional requests received before May 26 at 8 p.m, according to a press release from the Ada County Clerk’s office. The ruling is a response to a series of problems the Idaho Votes website encountered in processing last-minute requests on Tuesday. Chief Deputy Secretary of State Chad Houck said voters had two options: download and email the form or drive it down to their county clerk’s office by 8 p.m. that night. That afternoon, the Idaho Secretary of State’s Office announced it did not have plans to extend the deadline to request a ballot.

Indiana: Virus stings county election budgets | Dave Gong/The Journal Gazette

Voting in a pandemic presents unique challenges for county election officials who anticipate cost increases, especially in postage expenses, as many voters turn to mailed-in absentee ballots for Indiana’s June 2 primary. The Allen County Election Board estimates it received about 38,000 applications for absentee ballots, Beth Dlug, the county’s director of elections, said Friday. About 2,800 people requested ballots during the 2016 presidential primary, Dlug said. The deadline to request an absentee ballot was 11:59 p.m. Thursday. More than 20,000 ballots have been returned to the Election Board; the deadline for their return to local election boards is noon on Election Day. That has meant a drastic increase in the cost to run the election in Allen County, Dlug said. “We have already gone through our year’s budget for postage and so we’re moving funds around from one line-item to the other,” she said. “This election will be overall much more expensive than an election that would be mainly electronic.”

Michigan: With Trump threatening Michigan, lawsuit filed to expand rights of absentee voters | Todd Spangler/Detroit Free Press

Michigan’s statutory requirement that all absentee ballots be returned by 8 p.m. on Election Day in order to be counted is being challenged in court. The League of Women Voters, represented by the American Civil Liberties Union and former state Democratic Party Chairman Mark Brewer, filed the lawsuit Friday in the Court of Appeals against Secretary of State Jocelyn Benson in her official capacity as Michigan’s top elections official. It claims that a law in place since at least 1929 in Michigan that requires absentee ballots be received by a local clerk’s office by 8 p.m. on Election Day to be counted runs counter to what the lawsuit says is an “unqualified, unconditional state constitutional right for registered voters to vote in all elections by absentee ballot.” In 2018, no-reason absentee voting passed by state referendum, giving voters the right to cast absentee ballots by mail or in person beginning 40 days before an election. Since regular mail can often take days, the lawsuit says the old rule conflicts with the intention of the state referendum to expand absentee voting.

Editorials: Vote by mail works in Oregon. It will work in Michigan, too. | Bill Bradbury and Tim Palmer/Detroit Free Press

Voting by mail works. We know. We’ve been doing it in Oregon for 20 years. As Michigan’s Secretary of State endeavors to make it easier for Michigan voters to apply for absentee ballots and ensure safe voting in August and November, let us tell you why we vote entirely by mail. More people get to vote. Data proves this in Oregon, Colorado and elsewhere. This makes voting more democratic, addressing a fundamental American value, enshrined in the Constitution. It’s safer. No exposure to COVID-19, or even the common cold. It’s easier, especially for the elderly. No one leaves home. None of us have to skip work, find a baby sitter, or cram another commitment into the day. There’s no need to drive or catch a bus to the polls.

Montana: Attorney general challenges mail-in ballot deadline | Associated Press

A court ruling that allows election ballots to be counted as long as they are postmarked by June 2 is being challenged by Montana Attorney General Tim Fox. Previously only ballots that arrived by the date of the election could be counted. State District Court Judge Donald Harris on Friday temporarily suspended the state law that said ballots must be received in a county election office by 8 p.m. on election day. Now, ballots that are postmarked by June 2 can still be counted as long as they arrive by the following Monday, the judge said. That Monday, June 8, also is the deadline for receipt of federal write-in ballots for military and overseas voters. The primary is being held by mail because of the coronavirus. Fox, who is running for governor in the Republican primary, said the last-minute suspension could have a negative impact on Montana voters, Lee Newspapers of Montana reporte d. He asked in a court filing for the ruling to be put on hold and for the dispute to be decided by the Supreme Court.

North Carolina: Expand vote-by-mail for 2020, says a bipartisan group of lawmakers | Will Dorna/Raleigh News & Observer

With uncertainty looming over how serious coronavirus will be this fall, a bipartisan push at the state legislature would make it easier for North Carolinians to vote by mail this year. State officials are expecting a massive increase in people wanting to vote by mail in November. The legislature wants to make sure that goes smoothly, said Rep. Pricey Harrison, who has co-sponsored a new elections bill along with one fellow Democrat and two Republicans. Usually, Harrison said, fewer than 5% of North Carolina voters choose to vote by mail — but for 2020, “they’re expecting a surge of up to 40%.” Republican Rep. Holly Grange, the lead sponsor of House Bill 1169, said they wanted to give both state and local elections officials “the flexibility and resources needed to accommodate the expected increase in absentee ballot requests due to the pandemic.” People who vote by mail now have to find two people to serve as witnesses while they vote. But the bill filed Friday would drop that requirement to just one witness. Voters are currently not allowed to request absentee ballots by email or fax, but this bill would lift those restrictions.

Pennsylvania: Blind voters sue Pennsylvania, say they risk COVID-19 exposure without online voting option for June 2 primary | Matt Miller/PennLive

The National Federation of the Blind has filed a federal civil rights lawsuit against Pennsylvania, claiming the state isn’t taking steps to adequately protect blind voters from the coronavirus during the delayed June 2 primary election. A virus-prompted provision that will give sighted voters the option of casting their ballots by mail to avoid possible contagion is useless to blind electors, the federation claims in suit filed in U.S. Middle District Court. It is asking the court to order the state to develop a system where blind voters can select their candidates online. Otherwise, the federation contends, many of those voters will have to either pass up the election or risk their health by going to the polls to seek help in voting from poll workers. “The once-in-a-century impact of the COVID-19 pandemic has indelibly changed Pennsylvania. For example, for the upcoming…primary election, most Pennsylvanians will choose to safely vote via absentee or mail-in ballot instead of going to the polls, where they risk their health,” the suit states. “But this safer, vote-at-home option is not available to blind1 Pennsylvanians, because the commonwealth’s absentee and mail-in ballots are inaccessible to the blind,” it adds. “Pennsylvania’s reliance on exclusively paper ballots keeps blind Pennsylvanians from participating in absentee and mail-in voting.”

Pennsylvania: Election fraud case sparks renewed accusations about ballot security in Philadelphia | Chris Brennan/Philadelphia Inquirer

An election fraud case in Philadelphia has reignited a long-smoldering partisan political issue and stirred up the 2020 presidential race with less than two weeks before the state’s primary. A South Philadelphia election judge’s March guilty plea to taking bribes to inflate votes for Democratic candidates was kept quiet by federal prosecutors until Thursday, a day after President Donald Trump was again making broad claims about Democratic voter fraud. He offered no evidence to back them up, and threatened to withhold money from states that make it easier to vote by mail. Trump’s campaign and the Republican National Committee seized on Domenick J. DeMuro’s plea Friday, calling it proof that “voter fraud exists” despite what they said was the news media’s reluctance to report on the issue. “Democrats have a clear and blatant history of committing voter fraud in Pennsylvania,” Melissa Reed, a spokesperson for the RNC and Trump’s campaign, said in a statement. She said the GOP “continues to fight back against the Democrats’ nationwide vote-by-mail push to destroy the integrity of elections.” But Trump’s campaign, along with the RNC and the Pennsylvania Republican Party, also have been urging voters to sign up for the very vote-by-mail ballots that the president keeps declaring instruments for voter fraud.

South Carolina: Absentee voters won’t need a witness due to coronavirus, court rules | Sara Coello/Post and Courier

A federal court ruled Monday that South Carolina must allow all voters to use absentee ballots without the signature of a witness to keep coronavirus from spreading at the polls in the June primary election. “Were it not for the current pandemic, then this element may have cut the other way,” U.S. District Court Judge Michelle Childs wrote in the finding. “Strikingly, the witness requirement would still apply to voters who have already contracted COVID-19, therefore affirmatively mandating that an infected individual … risk exposing the witness.” The state had required a witness signature for absentee voters, which several plaintiffs argued in two separate lawsuits would pose an unnecessary risk and could disenfranchise swaths of voters adhering to social distancing measures. “The court’s decision protects the safety and well-being of those voters who are most at risk from COVID-19,” said Deuel Ross, an attorney with the NAACP. “The temporary suspension of the witness signature requirement for absentee ballots removes a needless barrier that required people to violate social distancing protocols to vote.”

Texas: For some voters, being able to vote by mail is life or death matter; others just see fraud potential | James Barragán/Dalla Morning News

For the past two months, the state of Texas has been in a legal battle with the Texas Democratic Party and voting rights groups over a push to expand mail voting during the coronavirus pandemic. In state and federal courts, the parties have argued and gotten orders from judges to allow more people to vote by mail. Those orders have been appealed and fought over. Expanded mail voting has been on in the state, then off; then on again, then off again. Most of the fighting has involved legalistic procedural challenges. Shellie McCullough, a sixth-generation Texan, has no use for such ticky-tacky procedural arguments. But the outcome may determine whether she has to place her life in danger come July when she plans to vote in the state’s primary runoffs. McCullough, 47, who lives just outside of Midlothian, was diagnosed with hypertension 12 years ago. That condition, which she shares with nearly half of all adults in the United States, puts her at high risk for severe illness if she develops COVID-19, the disease caused by the novel coronavirus.

Wisconsin: Election officials vow changes to absentee ballot system | Daphne Chen/Milwaukee Journal Sentinel

Election officials vow major changes to the state’s absentee voting system after ballots failed to reach thousands of citizens in Wisconsin’s spring election, throwing an already chaotic vote into further disarray amid the COVID-19 pandemic. The fixes “will save so much work for the clerk and hopefully save work for the voters,” Wisconsin Elections Commission spokesperson Reid Magney said. The changes follow an investigation by the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel, the PBS series FRONTLINE and Columbia Journalism Investigations that revealed numerous breakdowns in the state’s absentee ballot system, including inadequate computer systems and misleading ballot information. The investigation found that voters may have been misled by the state-run election website MyVote, where they could track the progress of their ballot, including the date their ballot was “sent.” That date actually reflects the date the mailing label was generated, the investigation found, not the date a ballot was mailed.

France: Prime Minister announces new date for second round of elections, delayed due to coronavirus | Lauren Chadwick/Euronews

French Prime Minister Édouard Philippe says the second round of the country’s municipal elections will take place on June 28. The first round was held on March 15th two days before France entered a nationwide coronavirus lockdown. The second round, scheduled for March 22, was postponed. Around 5,000 cities or towns will need to hold a second round due to an inconclusive first round. That means that 16 million voters in France will head to the polls on June 28. Philippe said it was necessary to continue democratic processes “with the virus and despite the virus”, adding that the law requires that the election occurs in June. Otherwise, the French government would have to reschedule both the first and second rounds at a later date. Philippe said that there was no way to know if the situation would be better in September. The scientific body advising the government was not against the decision though not all politicians agreed within the government.

Indonesia: Election commission investigates data breach on over two million voters | AFP

Indonesia is probing how 2.3 million voters’ personal information was leaked online, the election commission said on Friday (May 22). The data breach, which included names, home addresses and national identification numbers, appeared to be from the 2014 election voter list, according to the General Election Commission. Agency commissioner Viryan Azis said an investigation had been launched into the source of the leak earlier this week.

Russia: Putin changes Russia’s electoral law to allow remote vote | Elena Pavlovska/New Europe

Russia’s president Vladimir Putin on Saturday approved changes to the country’s electoral law, allowing the public to vote electronically or by mail in future polls, the Kremlin said. The new law allows the Central Election Commission to organise voting by mail or via the Internet. The gathering of signatures needed to qualify for elections can be conducted through a special government website. Supporters of the new system say it will help stop the spread of the coronavirus. Critics complain that an electronic system will be easier to manipulate and that Russians will not be able to protest against the changes because of the coronavirus lockdown. In January, Putin proposed changes to the constitution that could pave the way for his indefinite rule, and remained secretive about the reforms he proposed, saying that they were intended to strengthen government bodies.