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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

West Virginia: What a mail carrier says was a small, joking attempt at voter fraud shows just how closely officials are watching | Kelly Mena and Rebekah Riess/CNN

A case of alleged election fraud that a West Virginia mail carrier says was a joking attempt to alter ballot requests shows just how closely local and federal officials are watching. According to a complaint written by an investigator working for the West Virginia Secretary of State’s Office, Thomas Cooper, 47, of Dry Fork, West Virginia, and a mail carrier for Pendleton County, was joking when he altered ballot requests sent by some people on his delivery route, changing their party affiliations from Democrat to Republican. The complaint goes on to note that the local clerk knew the people named on the ballot requests weren’t Republicans and gave them a call. The revelation launched an investigation by the West Virginia Election Fraud Task Force, led by assistant US attorneys from the Northern and Southern districts of West Virginia, special agents from the FBI and investigators from the West Virginia Secretary of State’s Office, and an attempted election fraud charge against Cooper. US Attorney Bill Powell announced on the charge on Tuesday.

Wisconsin: Election officials agree to mail absentee ballot request forms to most voters | Patrick MarleyMilwaukee Journal Sentinel

Wisconsin election officials agreed Wednesday to send absentee ballot applications to most voters this fall, but the plan could face obstacles next month if Democrats and Republicans can’t agree on the wording of the mailing. The members of the bipartisan Wisconsin Elections Commission voted 6-0 to advance the plan a week after they failed to reach consensus on who should receive ballot applications. Under the commission’s plan, the state will not send actual absentee ballots, but rather the forms voters can use to request them. If voters filled out those forms and provided a copy of a photo ID, they would receive an absentee ballot for the Nov. 3 presidential election. The mailing would also include information about how to request an absentee ballot using the state’s online portal, Mail voting surged to nearly 1 million in the April election for state Supreme Court as people tried to stay at home as much as possible during the coronavirus outbreak. Mail voting this fall is expected to surpass the record set in April. The state has 3.4 million registered voters. About 528,000 of them have already requested absentee ballots and the state believes about 158,000 of them have moved since they last voted.

South Korea: Election watchdog demonstrates ballot-counting process to dispel ‘rigging’ claims | Park Han-na/Korea Times

South Korea’s election watchdog demonstrated the ballot-counting process to the public in a mock version on Thursday, intent on debunking vote-rigging allegations raised by a lawmaker who lost his seat in the April 15 parliamentary election. The National Election Commission carried out the demonstration at its headquarters in Gwacheon, Gyeonggi Province, setting up a hypothetical situation where 1,000 out of 4,000 eligible voters cast ballots in advance polls for four constituency candidates and 35 political parties for proportional representation. The commission’s officials disassembled electronic machines used in last month’s election and explained how they work in an effort to prove the impossibility of rigging an election. One of the machines classifies ballot papers according to the choice of candidate and counts them. Another machine assesses the validity of the votes.