National: Voting rights, public health officials roll out guidelines to protect voters from COVID-19 | Maggie Miller/TheHill

A coalition of voting rights and public health groups on Thursday rolled out guidelines to help protect voters from catching and spreading COVID-19 while exercising their right to vote this year. The Healthy Voting Guidelines, rolled out initially for states holding primaries in June, are the product of the non-partisan coalition We Can Vote, and were drafted by groups including the American Public Health Association and the Center for Tech and Civic Life. According to the authors, the recommendations are the the nation’s first healthy voting guidelines, and details ways that voters can exercise their rights at the polls while taking steps to prevent the spread of COVID-19. The guidelines address both mail-in and in-person voting for more than a dozen states and the District of Columbia. Recommendations include wearing a mask and standing six feet apart from other voters if going to the polls in person, voting during less busy times and washing your hands after dropping off a mail-in ballot.

National: Trump’s Mail-In Voting Fraud Claims Draw Republican Critics | Shaun Courtney/Bloomberg

President Donald Trump‘s unsubstantiated claims that voting by mail will result in massive fraud in November has prompted worried protests from an increasing number of luminaries from within his own party. “It’s actually disappointing because it means you’re trying to sow the seeds of doubt in a process that has been so much a part of Americans’ history,” former Homeland Security Secretary and Pennsylvania Gov. Tom Ridge said about the president’s vote-by-mail tweets. “It flies in the face of what I think both parties should be focused in on, and that’s creating options that are safe and secure for all voters, particularly during the pandemic.” Ridge is the Republican face of VoteSafe, a bipartisan campaign to ensure that every U.S. state and territory has secure mail-in ballots and safe, in-person voting sites during the Covid-19 pandemic. The group, also led by former Michigan Gov. Jennifer Granholm, a Democrat, launched May 21. By politicizing access to voting for a perceived short-term political gain, Trump risks undermining one of the basic tenets of American democracy, Ridge and other former leaders of the Republican Party say.

National: Politicizing vote-by-mail efforts amid COVID-19 could disenfranchise some voters: Experts | Matthew Vann/ABC

Amid President Donald Trump’s charge that voting by mail is ripe with fraud potential, there are worries that such claims, in addition to the subsequent lawsuits that have followed, politicize state efforts to expand mail-in voting, and could cost some Americans a vital opportunity to have their votes counted. The Republican National Committee has intervened in legal battles across the country, including New Mexico, Michigan and Arizona to limit mail-in ballot expansions. In California, the RNC filed a lawsuit seeking to have Gov. Gavin Newsom’s executive order automatically issuing an absentee ballot by mail to every registered state voter, overturned and declared unlawful. “Democrats continue to use this pandemic as a ploy to implement their partisan election agenda, and Governor Newsom’s executive order is the latest direct assault on the integrity of our elections,” said Republican National Committee Chairwoman Ronna Romney McDaniel in a statement announcing the lawsuit. “Newsom’s illegal power grab is a recipe for disaster that would destroy the confidence Californians deserve to have in the security of their vote.”

National: Donald Trump is Waging War on Vote-By-Mail. The Facts Don’t Support It | Lissandra Villa/Time

Michigan Secretary of State Jocelyn Benson doesn’t follow the President of the United States on Twitter. She was sitting in her basement office eating breakfast May 20 when her staff called to inform her that Donald Trump had called Benson a “rogue Secretary of State,” accusing her of mailing ballots to Michigan voters (in fact, they were ballot applications) and suggesting (incorrectly) that vote by mail would lead to fraud. Oh, and he threatened to withhold funding from Michigan over the issue. (It’s unclear what funding he was referring to; the White House did not respond to a request for comment.) What stood out about the episode to Benson, a Democrat, wasn’t just how Trump had addressed her, the factual inaccuracies, or the threat tucked into his tweet. It was that she was hardly the only Secretary of State to take a step like this. States like Iowa, Georgia, Nebraska, and West Virginia—which Trump won in 2016, and which have Republican Secretaries of State—have taken similar actions in sending out applications for absentee ballots in the midst of the coronavirus pandemic, at least for their primaries.

National: Kellyanne Conway on voting by mail in 2018 midterms: ‘That’s called an absentee ballot’ | J. Edward Moreno/The Hill

White House senior counselor Kellyanne Conway is drawing a contrast with her mail-in vote for the 2018 midterm elections in New Jersey with general mail-in voting, saying she filed an absentee ballot, not a mail-in ballot. “That’s called an absentee ballot. One completes it and posts it by U.S. Mail,” Conway told the HuffPost in an email. “Don’t confuse it with a [non-absentee] ‘mail-in ballot’ to serve your purposes.” Conway voted in the New Jersey midterm election while living in Washington, D.C., much like President Trump did in Florida. The state of New Jersey does not require voters voting remotely to indicate if they are in the state or not when they send in the ballot. Her statement comes after she defended the president’s stance against mail-in voting to reporters on Wednesday, where she compared waiting in line for a cupcake to standing in line to cast a ballot.

National: U.S. Accuses Russian Military Hackers of Attack on Email Servers | Julian E. Barnes and David E. Sanger/The New York Times

The National Security Agency publicly accused Russian government hackers of targeting email servers around the world in an unusual announcement on Thursday, showing that the agency is becoming more aggressive in calling out Moscow’s action as the presidential election approaches. While the Trump administration has publicly attributed cyberattacks to Russia before — including for its 2016 election hack and for paralyzing Ukraine in 2017, which damaged the operations of the shippers Maersk and FedEx — this allegation was unusually specific. It singled out Russia’s military intelligence unit, widely known as the G.R.U., demonstrating intelligence agencies’ concern that Russia intends to interfere in the election only a little more than five months away. But it also comes as President Trump has renewed his baseless claims that the investigation into Russia’s activities was part of a “hoax” intended by Democrats to paralyze him. He has publicly questioned Russia’s culpability in the election hacking and appeared to accept President Vladimir V. Putin’s argument that Russia was so good at cyberoperations that it would never have been caught. “There has been a reluctance to be critical of Russia because of echoes of investigations,” said retired Gen. Martin E. Dempsey, the former chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff. “For the N.S.A. to do that, in this climate, they must have absolutely incontrovertible evidence.”

National: Coronavirus Blocks Naturalization Ceremonies In Election Year | Ashley Lopez/NPR

Elizabeth Hernandez moved to the United States from Mexico almost 30 years ago and was days away from becoming an American citizen when her March 15 naturalization ceremony was canceled as a result of the coronavirus pandemic. “It made me sad,” said Hernandez, who lives in New Mexico. She hadn’t thought much about becoming a citizen until this year because of the upcoming election. “I want to vote for a president who will improve the country.” Hernandez is one of hundreds of thousands of people who were scheduled to become naturalized this year. But naturalization ceremonies have been on hold during the coronavirus pandemic in this election year. An estimated 860,000 people were set to become citizens — with many also expected to become first-time voters. The crimp in the pipeline of new citizens is one of a series of unexpected challenges that could reshape the electorate ahead of the November general election. About a quarter of naturalized citizens live in Texas, Florida, Pennsylvania and Georgia, all potentially key states in the fall election, according to data from the U.S. Department of Homeland Security.

Alabama: League of Women Voters of Alabama sue over voting amid COVID-19 pandemic | Eddie Burkhalter/Alabama Political Reporter

The League of Women Voters of Alabama on Thursday filed a lawsuit against Gov. Kay Ivey, Secretary of State John Merrill and several Montgomery County election officials asking the court to expand Alabama’s absentee voting and relax other voting measures amid the COVID-19 outbreak. The nonprofit is joined in the suit by 10 plaintiffs who range in age from 60 to 75, many of whom have medical conditions that put them at greater risk for serious complications or death from COVID-19. “Voting is a right, not a privilege, and elections must be safe, accessible, and fairly administered,” the League of Women Voters of Alabama said in a press release Thursday. “Alabama’s Constitution specifically requires that the right to vote be protected in times of ‘tumult,’ clearly including the current pandemic.” Currently, to vote absentee in Alabama, a person must send a copy of their photo ID and have their ballot signed by a notary or two adults. The lawsuit asks the court to require state officials to use emergency powers to waive the notary or witness requirement, the requirement to supply a copy of a photo ID and to extend no-excuse absentee voting into the fall.

Editorials: Republicans would rather undermine California’s elections than honorably take their lumps | Los Angeles Times

Making it safe to vote during a pandemic shouldn’t be a partisan issue. But Republicans, including and especially the president, are turning it into one. This week, the state and national Republican Party organizations filed a lawsuit challenging Gov. Gavin Newsom’s executive order mandating that every registered voter receive a vote-by-mail ballot as a hedge against the likelihood that the coronavirus will still be circulating in November (though in-person vote centers will still be available). No one should have to risk the fate of the many Wisconsin residents who had to cast ballots in the April primary in person. Fifty-two people who participated were later found to have contracted COVID-19. The lawsuit claims that the governor’s emergency authority doesn’t extend to setting rules about voting and that only the Legislature has the power to do so. Maybe, maybe not. The governor’s emergency authority is so broad and vague that it’s possible a federal judge may agree. But it’s largely irrelevant because the Legislature is moving a bill (Assembly Bill 860 by Palo Alto Democratic Assemblyman Marc Berman) to codify the governor’s order. And even if it didn’t, the vast majority of Californians already choose to vote via mail ballots. But halting mail ballots is probably not the intent of the lawsuit. What seems more likely is that Republicans are seeding doubts in the legitimacy of California’s election returns in expectation of a drubbing in November. That’s a game that President Trump has been playing for months, as he continues to falsely claim that mail ballots lead to fraud (drawing his first Twitter fact-check disclaimer on Tuesday).

Georgia: Heavy absentee turnout seen in Georgia primary, but obstacles remain | Mark Niesse/The Atlanta Journal-Constitution

Secretary of State Brad Raffensperger said Thursday that Georgia’s absentee voting process is working, with over 600,000 ballots returned so far, though many ballots are still pending as the June 9 election day approaches. Raffensperger defended his decision to mail absentee ballot request forms to the state’s 6.9 million active voters, saying it was a necessary move to ensure Georgians are able to vote remotely during the coronavirus pandemic.“We have cut through the political rhetoric, ignored the talking heads and put you, the voter, first,” Raffensperger said during a press conference at the Capitol. “If you want to vote from the safety of your home, you can. If you prefer in person, you may.”But many challenges to the primary election remain. Ballots are still in the mail but haven’t yet been received by 39,000 Fulton County voters, leaving them little time to fill them out and return them to county election offices. Fulton didn’t clear its backlog of absentee ballot requests until Tuesday.

Missouri: Governor: if you don’t feel safe, ‘don’t go out and vote’ | Crystal Thomas/The Kansas City Star

Ahead of Tuesday’s local elections, Gov. Mike Parson said Missourians should prioritize their safety over voting. “I hope people feel safe to go out and vote, but if they don’t, you know, the No. 1 thing — their safety should be No. 1,” Parson said during Thursday’s press briefing. “If they don’t, then don’t go out and vote.” Most Missouri voters will be deciding on city council and school board races, or local ballot measures Tuesday. Parson signed an executive order March 18 to move elections planned for April 7 to June 2 because of concern caused by the rising number of Missourians infected with the novel coronavirus. Unlike several states, Missouri does not offer “no-excuse” absentee voting, and most voters are only eligible to cast their ballot in-person.

Montana: State Supreme Court: Ballots Must Be Received By Election Day | Kevin Trevellyan/MTPR

The Montana Supreme Court today overruled a lower court order and restored the state’s Jun. 2 mail-in ballot receipt deadline for the upcoming primary. The high court’s order means voters must get their mail-in ballots to their local election office or other drop off locations by 8 p.m. on Election Day. Attorney General Tim Fox asked the state supreme court to address Montana’s ballot receipt deadline the morning of May 27 on behalf of Secretary of State Corey Stapleton. In its five-two decision on May 27, the state Supreme Court’s majority says it retained the ballot receipt deadline to avoid voter confusion and disruption of election administration. Instructions included with primary ballots tell voters to return their envelopes by that deadline.

Nevada: US judge refuses again to block Nevada’s mail-in primary | Scott Sonner/Associated Press

A federal judge has again rejected a conservative voting rights group’s bid to block the mail-in primary election now under way in Nevada as part of an effort to guard against spread of the coronavirus at traditional polling places. U.S. District Judge Miranda Du said in a strongly worded opinion late Wednesday the Voters’ Rights Initiative’s “second proverbial bite at the apple is no more fruitful than the first.” The judge in Reno said she didn’t understand why the group essentially requested reconsideration of her earlier denial of a preliminary injunction to halt the June 9 election instead of appealing it to the 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals, especially given that early voting began May 23. Ballots already have been mailed to voters statewide. Tens of thousands of voters have filled out their ballots and returned them through the mail to county election offices where many are being processed.

New York: Lawmakers OK Email Requests For Absentee Ballots | Keshia Clukey/Bloomberg

New York state lawmakers on Thursday voted to temporarily make it easier for voters to obtain absentee ballots. The state Senate and Assembly passed legislation (S.8130D/A.10516) that would let voters apply for absentee ballots electronically and remove the signature requirement. The bill also would allow absentee ballots to be counted if they are postmarked the day of the election. Absentee ballots currently must be postmarked the day before the election. The Senate passed the legislation 39-22. The Assembly passed it on a vote of 102-41. It now heads to Gov. Andrew Cuomo (D) for his consideration. The measure was one of dozens of bills passed by the state Legislature on Wednesday and Thursday in response to the coronavirus pandemic.

North Carolina: Near-unanimous North Carolina House passes funding, rules to prepare for spike in voting by mail | Will Dorn/Raleigh News & Observer

A bill making it easier for people to vote by mail in the 2020 elections passed with near-unanimous support Thursday in the N.C. House of Representatives. State officials have told lawmakers that normally, around 4% or 5% of North Carolinians vote by mail. But because of uncertainty surrounding COVID-19 and public health concerns, they expect that it could grow to as high as 40% this year. “The most important thing about the bill is that it gives the State Board of Elections and county boards the flexibility and resources needed to accommodate the expected increase in absentee ballot requests due to the pandemic,” Republican Rep. Holly Grange, the bill’s lead sponsor, told The News & Observer last week when she first filed it. The bill would spend millions of dollars on that goal, as well as on public health concerns for polling places, cyber security improvements and more. It would also make it easier for people to request mail-in ballots, reduce the witness requirement for such ballots from two people to one, and mandate the use of technology that would let voters track their ballots to make sure they actually get submitted.

Pennsylvania: Judge orders Pennsylvania to launch new voting method for visually impaired voters | Emily Previti/PA Post

A federal judge ruled late Wednesday that the Pennsylvania Department of State must provide a way for visually-impaired voters to fill out an absentee or mail-in ballot online, print it at home and return it to their county elections office. This approach would require the use of assistive technology, such as screen readers or the ability to update refreshable braille displays. The order was prompted by a lawsuit filed May 21 by the National Federation for the Blind of Pennsylvania on behalf of Joseph Drenth  a blind individual living in Chalfont, Bucks County, and working as a software engineer. NFB-Pa. and Disability Rights PA attorneys noted the health risks of voting in-person during the pandemic and the fact that if Drenth “were to go to a polling place, he could not determine on his own whether the people surrounding him were maintaining adequate ‘social distancing’” or taking other precautions. Independent of coronavirus concerns, the lawsuit also faults the existing absentee and mail-in ballots because they require a blind voter to have help in filling them out — an infringement on the voter’s right to privacy.