National: Vote-by-mail debate raises fears of election disinformation | Eric Tucker and Amanda Seitz/Associated Press

A bitterly partisan debate unfolding on whether more Americans should cast their votes through the mail during a pandemic is provoking online disinformation and conspiracy theories that could undermine trust in the results, even if there are no major problems. With social distancing guidelines possibly curtailing in-person voting at the polls in November, states are drawing up plans to rely more heavily on a mail-in system that has until now seen only limited use. Historically, there is no evidence of widespread voter fraud through mail-in voting. But social media users are already pushing grandiose theories casting doubt on the method. President Donald Trump has encouraged the skepticism, saying during a televised briefing that “a lot of people cheat with mail-in voting.” On Saturday, he tweeted: “Don’t allow RIGGED ELECTIONS!” Justice Department officials are concerned foreign adversaries could exploit any vulnerabilities in the vote-by-mail process, especially since even minor tampering could trigger widespread doubts about the integrity of the vote. “Is it possible, in particular for a foreign actor, to cause enough mischief in the vote-by-mail process to raise a question in the minds of Americans, particularly Americans perhaps whose candidate has lost, that somehow the result of this election is unfair?” Assistant Attorney General John Demers, the department’s top national security official, said in describing a key question confronting law enforcement.

Editorials: What Happened When Our Election-Hacking Documentary Came Out During Coronavirus | Simon Ardizzone and Sarah Teale/Talkhouse

When HBO chose March 26, 2020, as the airdate for our documentary Kill Chain: The Cyber War on America’s Elections, we obviously had no idea that we would be launching our film in the middle of a pandemic. But oddly enough, as the primary vote in Wisconsin recently showed, the challenges presented by COVID-19 have only sharpened the debate about our ability to vote using paper ballots and highlighted the deep shortcomings of our current system. How do we vote when most of our precincts are run by the elderly – the population most at risk from coronavirus? How do we vote in the primaries when we are not supposed to gather and visit public places? How do we vote when so many of the voting machines use touch screens and are therefore an infection risk? Does mailing in our ballots present the answer? Perhaps the coronavirus offers us an unprecedented opportunity to secure the vote, but there are also risks.

Alabama: Push for no-excuse absentee voting going nowhere | Sara Macneil/Alabama Daily News

The Alabama Senate approved Tuesday a resolution that says it’s “imperative to the democratic process to propose and adopt” no-excuse absentee voting, but the passage of actual legislation to loosen restrictions on the ballots seems unlikely in the GOP-controlled body. Sen. Rodger Smitherman, D-Birmingham, filed a bill Monday that would authorize no-excuse absentee voting. Smitherman’s Senate Bill 335 strikes out the list of excuses that qualify a voter for an absentee ballot, and deletes a section of state law that says they must have one of those excuses to apply for an absentee ballot. Alabamians go to the polls July 14 for primary runoffs. The election date was delayed in March because of concerns about the coronavirus outbreak. Smitherman this week said he needs to rush the no excuse voting bill into committee during the shortened session, so he had no time to consult with his Republican colleagues. His bill was assigned to the Governmental Affairs Committee, which has no meetings scheduled this week.

Florida: Is postage a poll tax? Federal lawsuit challenges Florida’s vote-by-mail. | Jim Saunders/Tampa Bay Times

Pointing to expected voting problems this year because of the coronavirus pandemic, left-leaning groups have filed a federal lawsuit challenging parts of Florida’s rules for vote-by-mail ballots. Priorities USA, Alianza for Progress, the Florida Alliance for Retired Americans and individual plaintiffs filed the lawsuit Monday, almost exactly six months before the Nov. 3 general election. The lawsuit challenges state laws and procedures that include requiring elections supervisors to receive vote-by-mail ballots by 7 p.m. on election night for the ballots to count. The lawsuit argues that ballots should be valid so long as they are postmarked on or before Election Day. “While the Election Day receipt deadline is constitutionally problematic in its own right, under the current circumstances —where a global pandemic will lead to a significant increase in mail voting while at the same time severely burdening an already compromised USPS (United States Postal Service) and thinly stretched local elections staff — it cannot survive judicial scrutiny,” said the lawsuit, filed in federal court in Tallahassee.

Maryland: Ignore the date on your vote-by-mail ballot. Maryland’s election is June 2. | Emily Opilo/Baltimore Sun

Don’t be fooled by the April 28 date on your vote-by-mail ballot — Maryland’s primary is June 2. As ballots arrive in mailboxes beginning this week for the state’s first full-scale election held primarily by mail, election officials are instructing voters to ignore the date at the top of the ballot. That’s because the ballots sent to the state’s more than 4 million eligible registered voters are marked with the original date for the primary. Republican Gov. Larry Hogan postponed the primary in mid-March as it became increasingly clear the coronavirus pandemic was going to make the state’s traditional polling places a health hazard. The COVID-19 respiratory illness caused by the virus has killed nearly 1,300 people in Maryland and infected more than 27,000. However, the ballots were printed in advance of the governor’s decision, said Nikki Charlson, deputy administrator for the State Board of Elections. “To change the date would have meant that we would have started building the ballots from the very beginning,” she said “That is a deliberate process, and to rush it introduces risk to the election.” Instead, the Board of Elections included instructions with the ballots that point out the incorrect date. The instructions, which include a list of locations for drop boxes and limited in-person voting centers, were printed more recently.

Massachusetts: Secretary of State plan would allow any voter to request mail-in ballot | Matt Stout/The Boston Globe

Any Massachusetts voter could vote by mail ahead of the September state primary or the November general election under a proposal the secretary of state’s office says will ease access to the ballot amid the novel coronavirus pandemic. The plan, released Wednesday by Secretary of State William F. Galvin, would need to be filed and approved by the Legislature, and adds to a variety of proposals lawmakers have already floated to expand voting options amid fears COVID-19 could upend elections this fall. Galvin, the state’s chief elections officer, is seeking to allow any voter this year to vote early by mail, without an excuse, should they request a ballot. His seven-page bill, a draft of which his office released Wednesday, would also establish a 7-day early voting period ahead of the Sept. 1 primary — there currently isn’t one — and expand the required window before the Nov. 3 election from a 10-day period to 18 days. The plan would also allow voters to return ballots to an “official drop box” or ask a family member to deliver the ballot by hand, something that isn’t currently allowed. Voters could also submit their request for a mail-in ballot electronically.

Michigan: Absentee ballots account for 98% of tabulated votes in Michigan elections Tuesday | Associated Press

Michigan communities saw record turnout for local elections Tuesday, as voters participated in largely mail-based contests that could be a blueprint for the presidential battleground in November. In a first, Secretary of State Jocelyn Benson’s office automatically sent absentee ballot applications to all 740,000 registered voters in roughly 50 municipalities — about 10% of the electorate — to discourage in-person voting in a state where nearly 4,200 people have died from coronavirus complications. Turnout was projected to be at least 22%, nearly double the average for May elections. Voters decided school tax, bonding and other proposals. “People want to vote and weigh in on critical issues in their communities. … Even in crisis, democracy is essential,” Benson, a Democrat, said. Each jurisdiction had at least one place for in-person voting, though only about 850 people had done so as of late afternoon. Absentee ballots — roughly 180,000 had been returned by 6:30 p.m. — accounted for 98% of the vote.

Michigan: Senate bill would establish universal, vote-by-mail system | Virgina Gordon/Michigan Radio

All voting would be done by absentee ballot under a bill introduced Wednesday by State Senator Jeff Irwin (D-Ann Arbor). The bill would end in-person voting at polling places. Under the bill, registered voters would return their ballots by mail or drop them off at designated, local sites. “My bill proposes using the system already in place for absentee ballots to provide that opportunity for citizens to vote through the mail,” said Irwin. “And clerk’s offices would be open on election day for individuals who want to make use of same day registration or, if they’re disabled voters, who need particular accomodations or if people just want to drop their ballot off in person because they don’t want to put it in the mail.” Irwin says the legislation would increase voter turnout and save millions in election administrative costs. Irwin said fewer election workers, less voting equipment, and fewer polling locations would save money, some of which could be invested in additional election security and auditing.

Nevada: Democrats drop lawsuit against planned all-mail primary election after Clark County agrees to more voting sites, other concessions | Riley Snyder/Nevada Independent

A cadre of Democratic Party-aligned groups is temporarily dropping a lawsuit asking a state court to implement multiple changes to the planned all-mail primary election in June after Clark County election officials agreed to expand in-person voting sites and other changes. The plaintiffs — including Democratic National Committee, the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee, progressive political nonprofit Priorities USA — announced their decision to drop the lawsuit in a joint press release sent out Tuesday after Clark County election officials said in a court filing that they would add two additional in-person voting sites and send out ballots to “inactive” voters. The groups also said that Clark County election officials had agreed to other stipulations, including reviewing every flagged mismatched signature by at least two reviewers of different parties and reaching out to voters within 24 hours if an issue with their signature is identified. The county officials have also agreed to “deputize and train” 20 individuals (including Democrats, Republicans and independents) to serve as “field registrars of voters” allowed to travel and receive voted, sealed mail ballots from voters on Election Day.

New York: State Must Hold Democratic Presidential Primary, Judge Rules | Matt Stevens and Nick Corasaniti/The New York Times

A federal judge on Tuesday ordered elections officials in New York State to hold its Democratic primary election in June and reinstate all qualifying candidates on the ballot. The ruling came after the presidential primary was canceled late last month over concerns about the coronavirus. The order, filed by Judge Analisa Torres of United States District Court, came in response to a lawsuit filed last week by the former Democratic presidential candidate Andrew Yang. He sought to undo the New York State Board of Elections’ decision in late April to cancel the June 23 contest, a move it attributed to health and safety worries and the fact that the results would not change the primary’s outcome. On Tuesday night, Douglas A. Kellner, a co-chair of the New York Board of Elections, said the board was “reviewing the decision and preparing an appeal.” And speaking on CNN, Gov. Andrew M. Cuomo said the presidential primary would proceed per the court’s ruling at least for the time being, but he noted the potential for an appeal. Mr. Yang said in a statement on Twitter that he was “glad that a federal judge agreed that depriving millions of New Yorkers of the right to vote was wrong,” and he urged state elections officials to safeguard democracy.

New York: Democratic presidential primary on June 23 reinstated, but State appeals | Joseph Spector/Democrat & Chronicle

The Democratic presidential primary in New York is back on. A federal judge in Manhattan ruled late Tuesday that New York must hold the primary on June 23, contending that canceling it would be unconstitutional and take away the ability of the candidates to receive delegates for the party’s convention in August. Removing the candidates from the ballot and “canceling the presidential primary denied them the chance to run, and denied voters the right to cast ballots for their candidate and their political beliefs,” U.S. District Judge Analisa Torres ruled. The lawsuit was brought on behalf of former presidential candidates Bernie Sanders and Andrew Yang, who argued in a lawsuit April 28 that it was illegal for New York to cancel the primary. “Yes – the people of New York will be able to vote in the Democratic presidential primary,” Yang wrote on Twitter.

Ohio: The Primary May Be Over For Voters, But It’s Just Getting Started For Boards Of Elections | Nick Robertson/WVXU

Even though Ohio’s primary ended April 28, the election isn’t over just yet. Results aren’t official until they are certified by the Hamilton County Board of Elections, and for them, the process is just getting started. On election night, the Board of Elections conducted an unofficial ballot count of all ballots received by mail and in-person, but many ballots were still on the way. They are now still accepting ballots until May 5, as long as they were postmarked before Election Day. Ballots from overseas and military voters will be accepted until May 8. Additionally, voters who did not present valid IDs when voting and submitted provisional ballots or had mislabeled absentee ballots have until May 5 to “cure” their ballots and ensure they are counted. Provisional ballots are ballots submitted by voters that had errors or could not be verified. According to Hamilton  County Board of Election Deputy Director Sally Krisel, common reasons for submitting provisional ballots are name changes, address changes, lack of valid ID, or requesting an absentee ballot and not receiving it in time.

Ohio: Secretary of State Frank LaRose outlines changes needed for general election | Rick Rouan/The Columbus Dispatch

Ohio Secretary of State Frank LaRose is all-in for in-person voting in November’s presidential election, but he is offering some “tweaks” he believes will make the general election smoother than the coronavirus-extended primary. The state needs to allow online requests for absentee ballots, provide postage-paid envelopes for both absentee ballots and requests, and set an earlier deadline for requesting absentee ballots to prepare for a potential increase in voters casting ballots by mail, he said. But it also needs to encourage boards of elections to consolidate polling places and step up its recruitment of poll workers for in-person voting even as it encourages voting by mail to stop the spread of COVID-19, he said. “In a usual year, I would not want to make large changes this late in the game, but this is not a usual year. These are unusual times. We have to respond to the unique situation we find ourselves in with these changes,” LaRose told The Dispatch on Tuesday.

Ohio: Democratic Lawmakers Propose Blockchain Voting in Elections Overhaul Bill | Danny Nelson/Yahoo News

Democrats in the Ohio House of Representatives have proposed launching a blockchain voting pilot for overseas military voters registered in the Buckeye State. Introduced Tuesday as part of the Democrats’ elections law overhaul, the bill calls on Ohio Secretary of State Frank LaRose to “establish a pilot program” of blockchain voting specifically for uniformed service members stationed outside the U.S. The bill was introduced by Reps. Beth Liston and Michele Lepore-Hagan, and cosponsored by 16 other Democrats. The proposal is unusually detailed on blockchain’s role. If passed, it would see military members transmit their ballots to election officials via “encrypted blockchain technology” that “protects the security and integrity of the process and protects the voter’s privacy.” The receiving board of elections would then print out that ballot “for counting purposes.”

Oklahoma: House Republicans vote to reverse court ruling on absentee ballots | Kayla Branch and Carmen Forman/The Oklahoman

Mere days after the Oklahoma Supreme Court struck down a requirement that absentee ballots be notarized, House Republicans moved Wednesday to reverse the ruling. Despite fierce opposition from House Democrats, Republicans passed an amended bill that seeks to reinstate the notary requirement. The amendment’s author, Rep. Chris Kannady, R-Oklahoma City, said the legislation was born out of recommendations from State Election Board Secretary Paul Ziriax, Oklahoma’s top elections official. Senate Bill 210, which passed the House on a near-party-line vote, would require absentee ballots to be notarized, which was the procedure in place until the Oklahoma Supreme Court ordered otherwise on Monday. In light of the COVID-19 crisis, Senate Bill 210 makes exceptions that would be in place for the June 30 primary election.

Tennessee: Shelby County Election Commission meets Thursday on new voting system | Bill Dries/The Daily Memphian

Shelby County Election Commissioners will meet Thursday, May 7, online to discuss and possibly select a new voting system for the county. The 5 p.m. meeting will be via Webinar despite calls by several election commissioners at their last meeting, April 23, to have an in-person meeting with social distancing precautions instead of online. The election commission has fielded several proposals from vendors in a request for proposal — or RFP — process. But the election commission has not disclosed those proposals or the proposed costs of the systems, saying they cannot until they make a selection. Commissioners reviewed the proposals at a closed April 23 meeting before a public session. The plan is for commissioners to discuss in public the different proposals without identifying the vendors or discussing the price and then voting in public.

Virginia: Judge approves absentee ballot witness signature agreement for June primary | CBS19

A judge has approved an agreement to promote absentee voting by mail. According to a release, Attorney General Mark Herring announced on Tuesday the approval of his agreement to promote public health and participation in elections by encouraging absentee voting by mail in the upcoming June primaries. Under the terms of the decree, Virginia will accept absentee ballots without the signature of a witness “for voters who believe they may not safely have a witness present while completing their ballot.” “This agreement is a win for Virginia voters and a win for democracy. No Virginians should ever have to put their own health and safety at risk to exercise their right to vote,” said Herring. “Now susceptible Virginians will not have to jeopardize their well-being and violate social distancing measures to cast their ballot by mail.” The judge writes that “applying the witness requirement during this pandemic would impose a serious burden on the right to vote, particularly among the elderly, immunocompromised, and other at-risk populations. Weighed against those risks, the present record reflects the likelihood that the burden would not be justified by the witness requirement’s purpose as an anti-fraud measure.”

Wisconsin: 26 Milwaukee residents may have been infected with COVID-19 during in-person voting April 7, but report is inconclusive | Mary Spicuzza/Milwaukee Journal Sentinel

Twenty-six Milwaukee County residents may have been infected with COVID-19 during in-person voting on April 7, but local officials say the effect of Wisconsin’s election could be impossible to determine. A report released Wednesday found 26 people may have been infected while at the polls last month, and another 26 may have been infectious when they participated in the election. That total includes 52 voters and two poll workers in Milwaukee County. But the latest analysis, which was done by the Milwaukee County COVID-19 Epidemiology Intel Team, was not able to determine exactly how many people were infected with the virus at the polls. Darren Rausch, the director of the Greenfield Health Department and lead for the Milwaukee County COVID-19 Epidemiology Intel Team, said the timing of the election made it difficult to clearly identify coronavirus cases linked to the election. “What complicated our analysis is also included in this time frame is both the Easter and Passover holiday weekends, and both of those included the opportunity for significant breaches of the safer-at-home order,” Rausch said in an interview. “So that was complicating our work from the beginning.”

Wisconsin: State to hold more elections during pandemic as clerks scramble to ensure safety | Chelsea Hylton, Francisco Velazquez and Dee J. Hall/Wisconsin Watch

Tamia Fowlkes of Milwaukee was among thousands of voters in Wisconsin who reluctantly went to the polls on April 7. Fowlkes had voted absentee — like more than a million other voters in the state — but then helped her grandfather cast his ballot in person after the state Supreme Court ruled that Gov. Tony Evers lacked the authority to delay the election because of the pandemic. “We were the only state in the entire country to have an (in-person) April primary,” said Fowlkes, a UW-Madison student active in registering students to vote. “I don’t know if there was any way to make it safe, because it just wasn’t something that we should have been doing.” Last week, state officials said as many as 52 people — including National Guard members, voters and poll workers — developed COVID-19 after in-person voting, although it is possible they were exposed in other ways. That day, voters chose former Vice President Joe Biden as the state’s Democratic selection for president and liberal judge Jill Karofsky to join the Wisconsin Supreme Court. On May 12, voters in central and northern Wisconsin will again be asked to cast ballots during a pandemic, this time to replace U.S. Rep. Sean Duffy in the sprawling 7th Congressional District.

National: Will Americans Lose Their Right to Vote in the Pandemic? | Emily Bazelon/The New York Times

In March, as a wave of states began delaying their spring primaries because of the coronavirus, Wisconsin’s election, scheduled for April 7, loomed. The ballot for that day included the presidential primary, thousands of local offices and four statewide judgeships, including a key seat on the Wisconsin Supreme Court. On March 17, the day after Ohio postponed its spring election, voting rights groups asked Wisconsin’s Democratic governor, Tony Evers, to do the same. “No one wanted the election to happen more than us, but it felt like this wave was about to hit our communities,” Angela Lang, the founder and executive director of the Milwaukee group Black Leaders Organizing for Community, a nonprofit organization, told me. While Evers weighed the idea of postponement, BLOC encouraged residents to apply for absentee ballots, which any registered Wisconsin voter can do by requesting one online. But some voters were struggling to figure out how to upload their identification from their phones to the state’s MyVote website. City officials reported that they couldn’t keep up with the overwhelming demand for absentee ballots; applications in Milwaukee rose from a typical daily count of 100 or so to between 7,000 and 8,000. “People were waiting on their ballots and asking where they were,” Lang said. “We needed a plan. But we knew the governor was in a tough position with the Legislature.”

National: Is online voting the answer during a pandemic? Cybersecurity experts say no | Brooke Wolford/McClatchy

The coronavirus pandemic has created a need for a new way to hold elections, and while many states are considering vote-by-mail, some states are experimenting with “internet voting.” But some experts and officials from both parties worry that could put the security of the country’s elections at risk, according to NPR. Two states will allow some to vote online, both using technology from the Seattle-based company Democracy Live, NPR reported. Delaware became the latest state to allow voters with disabilities, voters overseas and military voters to use the cloud-based system, according to NPR. West Virginia passed a bill earlier this year allowing voters with disabilities to use the technology, following its decision to allow overseas and military voters to use an app to vote in the 2018 midterms, NPR reported. New Jersey is reportedly considering allowing it under the same circumstances, according to NPR. Eugene Spafford, Purdue University’s director emeritus of the Center for Education and Research in Information Assurance Security, released a statement expressing his concern about the growing list of municipalities choosing to use online voting software, according to a release from the university.

National: Some States Dabble in Online Voting, Weighing Pandemic Against Cybersecurity Concerns | Alexa Corse and Dustin Volz/Wall Street Journal

A few states are allowing some voters to cast ballots over the internet in coming elections, overriding concerns from cybersecurity experts about tampering or technical glitches as election officials grapple with voting amid the coronavirus pandemic. At least three states—Delaware, New Jersey and West Virginia—will allow small slices of their electorates to use an online voting tool in presidential primaries or local elections. Those eligible chiefly include voters who are overseas, in the military, or sick or disabled. Particularly for those overseas and in the military, they would ordinarily vote by mail but that option could be hindered by the pandemic’s disruptions to postal services. At least two of these states looked into the option before the pandemic, and supporters say their efforts could promote wider adoption of online voting, particularly as states grapple with containing the pandemic. The move, if limited, shows how the pandemic is forcing some election officials to weigh protecting public safety along with cybersecurity in ways that seemed far-fetched a few months ago.

National: EAC on internet voting funds | Tim Starks/Politico

State election officials can use the grants they received in the CARES Act (H.R. 748) to fund internet voting projects, the Election Assistance Commission confirmed to MC on Friday. The rollout of internet voting is a permitted use of the grants if it is done “in response to [the] coronavirus and the 2020 election,” Mona Harrington, the agency’s acting executive director, said in an email to Eric. News that states can use the grants for internet voting, first reported by MC, comes as three states prepare to let some residents vote online in upcoming contests, with two of them adding the option due to the ongoing pandemic. Election security experts lambasted the decision, saying the government was effectively putting its seal of approval on a technology they consider highly dangerous. “To me, the purpose [of the grants] is to promote safety in elections and security in response to the COVID crisis — which should mean responsible vote-by-mail, early voting, and safe in-person voting options,” said Adam Ambrogi, a former EAC staffer who leads the elections program at the Democracy Fund. “The downside risks of moving in this direction are immense,” said Douglas Jones, a University of Iowa computer science professor who studies electronic voting. Asked about the legislative language, Jones said, “I think there are too few strings.” Congress did not address specific technologies when it authorized $400 million for “election security grants” in the CARES Act, a fact that dismayed a key lawmaker. “It would be a mistake for states to experiment with [insecure] methods of voting when there are time-tested and safer alternatives readily available,” House Administration Chairwoman Zoe Lofgren (D-Calif.), whose committee oversees election policies, told MC in a statement. “Requiring vote by mail paper ballots for all voters who want one and expanding early voting to reduce crowd size on election day, as House Democrats have proposed, will not only produce a verified paper trail that is secure and auditable, but also protect the safety of voters and the integrity of our elections.”

National: DHS, FBI: Russia could try to covertly advise candidates in 2020 | Eric Tucker/Associated Press

The Department of Homeland Security and FBI warned states earlier this year that Russia could look to interfere in the 2020 U.S. elections by covertly advising political candidates and campaigns, according to a law enforcement memo obtained by The Associated Press. The Feb. 3 document details tactics U.S. officials believe Russia could use to interfere in this year’s elections, including secretly advising candidates and campaigns. It says that though officials “have not previously observed Russia attempt this action against the United States,” political strategists working for a business mogul close to President Vladimir Putin have been involved in political campaigning in numerous African countries. The memo underscores how Trump administration officials are continuing to sound alarms about the prospect of future Russian interference in American politics even as President Donald Trump has sought to downplay the Kremlin’s involvement in his 2016 win over Democrat Hillary Clinton. Because it was prepared before the coronavirus outbreak, the memo does not reflect how the pandemic might affect the tactics Russia might use to interfere with the election.

California: A crippled US Postal Service could throw a wrench in November election for San Diego and beyond | Charles T. Clark/The San Diego Union-Tribune

The coronavirus pandemic has exacerbated problems for the U.S. Postal Service and sparked a debate in Washington D.C. that could carry major ramifications for the November general election in San Diego and beyond. The U.S. Postal Service, or USPS, has long been America’s most popular public agency; a recent poll by the Pew Research Center found that 91 percent of Americans had favorable opinions about the agency. Nevertheless the agency has frequently faced financial challenges which have escalated during the pandemic, as revenue plummeted and mail volume dropped more than 30 percent from last year. Federal officials said they expect things to worsen in coming months, projecting mail volume will be down 50 percent in the second quarter, which runs April through June. Postmaster General Megan Brennan also told Congress last month she expects USPS will run out of cash by the end of September if it doesn’t receive government assistance, and the service has projected it could lose more than $23 billion over the next 18 months.

Connecticut: State will send absentee ballot applications to all voters for primary and November elections amid concern that coronavirus could disrupt voting | Emily Brindley/Hartford Courant

Under her new plan to ensure safe and secure voting this year, Connecticut Secretary of the State Denise Merrill said she will send out absentee ballot applications to every registered voter in the state and pay the postage for their ballots. But that doesn’t mean that every voter in the state will be legally eligible to vote by ballot. Under state law — which is not being modified for Merrill’s plan — fear of catching the coronavirus at the polls doesn’t necessarily qualify someone for an absentee ballot. Merrill said Monday that she would like Gov. Ned Lamont or the General Assembly to provide more guidance to her office. “It is within my office’s authority … to interpret the statute,” Merrill said. “I am completely sympathetic to the issues that people have. I think it’s unconscionable that we would make people decide their health versus their vote.” The absentee ballot initiative is among Merrill’s priorities for the August presidential primary and November general election. Under Merrill’s plan, her office will also provide grants to municipalities, recruit and train general election poll workers and launch a public awareness campaign.

Michigan: Absentee returns up ahead of COVID-19-curbed elections | Beth LeBlanc/The Detroit News

Participation in Tuesday’s election is up from past Michigan May elections, according to absentee ballot returns in several cities. The increased absentee ballot returns ahead of the Tuesday election, which is being conducted largely through mail, occurs as the state continues to grapple with the effects of the coronavirus pandemic. Municipalities in 34 counties will hold elections Tuesday for school millage proposals or small local elections. Secretary of State Jocelyn Benson, following an executive order from Gov. Gretchen Whitmer, mailed absentee ballot applications last month to every registered voter in those communities, likely increasing participation this year, clerks said. Whitmer’s March 27 executive order also required clerks to condense voting precincts into one that could be used by voters who needed assistance voting or were unable to do so by mail. Clerks are planning to implement safety protocols to ensure voters keep appropriate distances at the polling location. “The fewer people we have lining up at polling places the better, ensuring Michiganders safely practice social distancing while allowing them to safely exercise their right to vote in local elections,” Whitmer said in a statement.

New York: Judge weighs constitutionality of cancellation of New York primary | Larry Neumeister/Associated Press

Lawyers for supporters of withdrawn presidential candidates Bernie Sanders and Andrew Yang on Monday urged a judge to overrule New York state’s decision to cancel its 2020 Democratic presidential primary. The lawyers for would-be delegates including Yang argued that the state acted unconstitutionally when it made the cancellation on April 27. The Democratic members of the State’s Board of Elections voted to cancel the presidential primary even though New York still plans to hold its congressional and state-level primaries June 23. Attorney Jeffrey Kurzon, representing Yang and others, said the case was about protecting the rights of citizens to vote. Kurzon said those who brought the lawsuits “must be protected for our democracy to survive” and asked that U.S. District Judge Analisa Torres declare the decision to cancel the democratic presidential primary unconstitutional.

North Carolina: New lawsuit in North Carolina over absentee voting, mail-in ballots | Brian Murphy/Raleigh News & Observer

A group of voters backed by Democratic legal groups sued North Carolina on Monday seeking to loosen rules around absentee mail-in ballots amid predictions that the coronavirus pandemic will make voting by mail a widespread practice. They want the state to provide prepaid postage on all absentee ballots, change a requirement for two witnesses to sign a ballot, extend the deadline for receipt of ballots until nine days after Election Day and give voters a chance to fix signature discrepancies before election officials reject those ballots. North Carolina’s state board of elections endorsed the first two provisions in a proposed list of election changes released in March. “The current restrictions on mail ballots not only violate the state Constitution, but they also pose significant risks to voters’ health and safety, and, unless they are remedied, they could result in the disenfranchisement of an unprecedented number of North Carolinians,” said Marc Elias, a top Democratic elections attorney representing the challengers, in a statement.

Ohio: Lawmakers, secretary of state at odds over provisional ballot counts | Sarah Elms/Toledo Blade

Unless you have a disability, lack a permanent address, or properly requested an absentee ballot but never received it in the mail, your in-person vote in Ohio on April 28 won’t count. That’s according to a directive sent by Ohio Secretary of State Frank LaRose on Friday to the state’s boards of elections. But three Democratic state lawmakers, including Rep. Paula Hicks-Hudson (D., Toledo), argue that refusing to count all in-person ballots cast April 28, regardless of whether someone met one of those three criteria, disenfranchises voters. Ms. Hicks-Hudson on Monday called the secretary of state’s directive “an insult to the voters of Ohio,” while Mr. LaRose, a Republican, contends the very law she and her colleagues passed in March is what prevents some votes from being counted. She said there was widespread confusion among registered voters about how, when, and where to cast their ballots in Ohio’s first mail-in election after the in-person March 17 primary was called off because of coronavirus concerns. Many voters showed up to their respective boards of elections on April 28 believing that they could vote in person, just as they would have on March 17, she said.