Missouri: Judge Rejects Bid for Widespread Absentee Voting | Joe Harris/Courthouse News

A lawsuit seeking to allow absentee voting for all eligible Missourians in light of the Covid-19 crisis was dismissed by a state judge who found that the complaint asked for measures that went beyond concerns over the pandemic. “The court takes very seriously the health concerns regarding the Covid-19 pandemic that plaintiffs allege in their petition, but the relief plaintiffs seek is not limited to Covid-19 and goes far beyond the health concerns they raise,” Cole County Circuit Judge Jon Beetem wrote in his opinion Tuesday. He continued, “Plaintiffs are seeking a radical and permanent transformation of Missouri voting practices without the authorization of the Legislature.” The American Civil Liberties Union, which filed the lawsuit, has appealed to the Missouri Supreme Court. “We don’t think the case should have been dismissed,” ACLU lawyer Tony Rothert said in an interview. “But, on the other hand, we all knew this was going to a Missouri Supreme Court resolution and this will get it there faster.”

Minnesota: League of Women Voters challenges absentee voting witness rule | By Stephen Montemayor/Minneapolis Star Tribune

Minnesota’s witness requirement for absentee ballots faces a second legal challenge in a lawsuit filed Tuesday by the League of Women Voters asking a judge to let voters concerned about COVID-19 cast absentee ballots without witness signatures. The lawsuit, filed against Minnesota Secretary of State Steve Simon, follows a similar state court lawsuit filed last week by the Minnesota Alliance for Retired Americans Educational Fund. Both cases come as Simon and other state election officials race to prepare for an expected surge in absentee voting this year. “Minnesota consistently has the highest voter turnout in the nation, with many safeguards in place to ensure election integrity,” said Michelle Witte, executive director at the League of Women Voters Minnesota. “Making this small change to our witness requirements during this global pandemic will not damage that integrity — it will only make our elections stronger by ensuring that all voters have as few barriers as possible to exercise their constitutional right.”

New Jersey: Emergency Motion to Stop Internet Voting in New Jersey | Penny Venetis/Freedom to Tinker

On May 4th, 2020 a press release from mobilevoting.org announced that New Jersey would allow online voting in a dozen school-board elections scheduled for May 12th. On May 11, the Rutgers International Human Rights Clinic filed an emergency motion to stop internet voting in New Jersey. During a conference on May 18 with Superior Court Judge Mary Jacobson, the State notified the court that it had abandoned its plans to use internet voting for the upcoming July 7 primary election.  The Clinic, led by Rutgers Law School professor Penny Venetis, argued that the Democracy Live online voting system (that New Jersey planned to use) violated a broad court order issued in March 2010 by Judge Linda Feinberg.  That order was issued in the Clinic’s case Gusciora v. Corzine, which challenged paperless voting machines as unconstitutional.   The March 2010 court order stated clearly and unequivocally that no part of any New Jersey voting system could be connected to the internet, under any circumstance.  New Jersey has a continuing obligation to ensure that the order is followed, and that all voting-related software is “hardened” on a regular basis.

Missouri: Lawsuit for absentee voting amid virus appealed | Summer Ballentine/Associated Press

Civil rights groups on Tuesday appealed to the Missouri Supreme Court after a local judge dismissed their lawsuit seeking to allow all Missourians to vote absentee in upcoming elections to help reduce the risk of catching or spreading the coronavirus. The lawsuit was filed in Jefferson City by the ACLU of Missouri and the Missouri Voter Protection Coalition on behalf of the NAACP, the League of Women Voters and several residents. It claims that requiring voters to appear at traditional polling places during the pandemic puts lives at risk. Cole County Circuit Judge Jon Beetem in a Monday judgment tossed the lawsuit, writing that the civil rights groups who sued were asking for widespread absentee voting for all future elections regardless of whether COVID-19 is still around. Beetem wrote that the plaintiffs sought “radical and permanent transformation of Missouri voting practices without the authorization of the Legislature.” Voters currently can request absentee ballots only if they provide an excuse for why they can’t vote in person. Illness is one option, but the law isn’t explicit on whether the illness excuse covers healthy voters concerned about catching or spreading COVID-19.

New Jersey: Officials disqualify 19% of votes cast in Paterson | Joe Malinconico/Paterson Press

A total of 3,190 mail-in ballots – about 19 percent of those submitted – have been disqualified in the hotly-contested elections for Paterson’s six ward seats on the City Council, officials said on Wednesday. The Passaic County Board of Elections previously had announced that it decided not to count about 800 ballots because they allegedly were improperly bundled in mailboxes and would be turned over to law enforcement authorities for an investigation of potential irregularities. But the election board ended up disqualifying more than 2,300 additional votes during its ballot-by-ballot review of the documents. Keith Furlong, spokesman for Passaic County government, attributed the additional disqualifications to the election board’s annual practice of checking the signatures on the ballots against those on file for voters. “It’s part of the normal process,” Furlong said. The massive number of disqualified ballots in an election already rife with allegations of fraud has political insiders predicting that several losing candidates would file legal challenges seeking to overturn the results.

Nevada: Primary underway, but argument over mail election continues | Rory Appleton/Las Vegas Review-Journal

Thousands of Nevadans began voting last week in the state’s first all-mail primary election, as concerns over the spread of COVID-19 have closed traditional polls throughout the country. As of Monday afternoon, Clark County had received 69,238 ballots, with 33,118 from Democrats and 24,451 from Republicans. Nevada and its counties had planned an all-mail election for some time. But Clark County is the only county to adjust its plans after legal pressure from state Democrats, who pushed for ballots to be sent to inactive voters and to add two more in-person voting locations on Election Day, June 9. The first week of voting saw the state GOP raise the alarm on ballots for the county’s 200,000 inactive voters being mailed to the wrong addresses, with photos of ballots tossed in trash cans and littering apartment mailbox areas. If state Democrats get their way and relax signature matching, the GOP claims, then voter fraud will be simple. But groups working hard to help traditionally disenfranchised populations, such as immigrant communities, vote during a pandemic that’s likely to depress turnout say that giving voters multiple ways to participate is critical. Low-income voters are more likely to move around a lot and be classified as inactive, but their votes should count, advocates say. Thousands of inactive voters — those who are verified as eligible voters, but who have had an election mailer returned as undeliverable — can and do vote every cycle.

New Jersey: State is arbitrarily throwing out thousands of mail-in ballots, lawsuit says | Blake Nelson/NJ.com

Ahead of a surge in mail-in ballots because of the coronavirus, New Jersey voting rights and social justice groups are suing to change how the state counts votes. In order to verify a ballot, election officials currently compare the signature on a ballot with the corresponding signature on the initial application, according to state law. That has led “untrained” staff to arbitrarily throw out thousands of votes without due process, according to a lawsuit filed Monday by a resident with Parkinson’s disease, who said his shaking hand has fundamentally altered how he signs his name. “When you think about how much a signature can change over the years, or how a disability can impact one’s handwriting, it is clear that this is unacceptable,” Ryan Haygood, president of the New Jersey Institute for Social Justice, said in a statement. The institute co-filed the complaint in U.S. District Court of New Jersey on behalf of the resident with Parkinson’s and the state chapters of the League of Women Voters and the NAACP.

New Jersey: Close Results In Paterson Vote Plagued By Fraud Claims; Over 3K Ballots Seemingly Set Aside | Jonathan Dienst/NBC

mid widespread vote-by-mail fraud allegations in the Paterson city council election, one race was apparently decided by just 8 votes. Incumbent Shahin Khalique defeated Mohammed Akhtaruzzaman — 1,729 votes to 1,721. And long-time council member William McKoy lost by 245 votes to challenger Alex Mendez. A Passaic County spokesman said 16,747 vote-by-mail ballots were received, but the county’s official results page shows 13,557 votes were counted — a difference of 3,190 votes. Those thousands of ballots not counted would represent nearly one in five of all votes cast, or 19 percent. The Board of Elections previously announced about 800 votes would be set aside and not counted amid charges they were found improperly bundled in mailboxes in Paterson as well as at a drop box in nearby Haledon.

Texas: Federal judge says Texas voters can vote by mail during coronavirus | Alexa Ura/The Texas Tribune

A federal judge opened a path for a massive expansion in absentee voting in Texas by ordering Tuesday that all state voters, regardless of age, qualify for mail-in ballots during the coronavirus pandemic. Days after a two-hour preliminary injunction hearing in San Antonio, U.S. District Judge Fred Biery agreed with individual Texas voters and the Texas Democratic Party that voters would face irreparable harm if existing age eligibility rules for voting by mail remain in place for elections held while the coronavirus remains in wide circulation. Under his order, which the Texas attorney general said he would immediately appeal, voters under the age of 65 who would ordinarily not qualify for mail-in ballots would now be eligible. Biery’s ruling covers Texas voters “who seek to vote by mail to avoid transmission of the virus.” In a lengthy order, which he opened by quoting the preamble to the Declaration of Independence, Biery said he had concerns for the health and safety of voters and stated the right to vote “should not be elusively based on the whims of nature.”

New York: Federal appeals court: New York must host Democratic presidential primary | Cayla Harris/Albany Times Union

A federal appeals court on Tuesday ruled that New York must host its Democratic presidential primary on June 23. The U.S. Second Circuit Court of Appeals in Manhattan upheld a lower court’s decision earlier this month that canceling the primary would be unconstitutional and deprive New Yorkers of their right to vote. The state’s Board of Elections had called off the contest in late April, citing public health concerns amid the coronavirus pandemic – a move that drew swift backlash from supporters of former presidential candidates Andrew Yang and Bernie Sanders, who eventually filed the lawsuit seeking to reinstate the election. “Thrilled that democracy has prevailed for the voters of New York!” Yang, also a plaintiff in the suit, tweeted. The Board of Elections, after appealing the first decision, will not seek to appeal the decision to the U.S. Supreme Court, the board’s Democratic co-Chair Doug Kellner said on Tuesday.

Oklahoma: Democratic groups challenge absentee voting laws | Carmen Forman/The Oklahoman

The Oklahoma Democratic Party is suing the state Election Board over several voting procedures they say “severely burden” the right of Oklahomans to vote during the COVID-19 pandemic. The state party and the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee are asking a federal judge to declare several of Oklahoma’s voting provisions unconstitutional. In the lawsuit filed this week, the groups ask a judge to block the state from enforcing the state’s notary requirement so long as absentee voters have signed their ballot affidavit. The lawsuit calls the notary requirement or the alternative requirement that voters must submit a copy of an identification card with their absentee ballot, “onerous and unnecessarily burdensome.” Oklahoma’s GOP-controlled Legislature and Gov. Kevin Stitt recently reinstated the state’s notary requirement for absentee ballots. They also added some provisions to state law that make some exceptions if Oklahoma is in a state of emergency before upcoming elections, which likely will apply to the June 30 primary.

Pennsylvania: Coronavirus measures further complicating primary when some counties will debut voting machines | Rick Dandes/Daily Item

Valley county election officials are taking steps to ensure that on Pennsylvania primary election day voters and poll workers are protected from COVID-19. On Tuesday, a message sent by the counties of Montour, Northumberland, Snyder and Union assured all voters in their respective counties that polling locations will be open for any registered voter who wishes to cast their vote in person for the June 2nd primary election. Complicating matters further is that poll workers will be watching new machines and voters will be using these new machines for the first time in Northumberland, Snyder and Montour counties. Union County had the machines in September 2019 and held a public demonstration. Precincts will be organized to follow CDC guidelines regarding social distancing and sanitizing procedures to protect everyone involved. “We ask for your patience while at the polling location, in case the procedures should cause the lines to move more slowly than in the past,” said Sheryl Vrabel, executive administrative assistant, Union County commissioner’s office. Polling location procedures, including the sanitizing of voting machines between uses, social distancing and encouragement of masking are in place to ensure that everyone who wishes to vote in-person can do so safely, Vrabel said.

South Carolina: State considers cutting ties with printer after Charleston absentee ballots found in Maryland | Andy Shain/Post and Courier

South Carolina election officials could have counties cut ties to a Minnesota printer after about 20 Charleston County absentee ballots were found in Maryland this week. The ready-to-mail ballots have since made their way to Charleston-area voters, state and county election officials said, but it is just the latest problem with SeaChange Print Innovations, which prints and mails absentee ballots for 13 S.C. counties. Some Greenville County voters received the wrong absentee ballots this year when the Democratic presidential primary and a special election for sheriff were held 10 days apart, S.C. Election Commission spokesman Chris Whitmire said. Some Charleston County voters received ballots that were folded in a way that could make them tougher to read by scanning machines, he said. The latest mishap has left the state election agency with little confidence that SeaChange can handle the surge in absentee voting this year as people practice social distancing to avoid contracting the coronavirus, Whitmire said.

Pennsylvania: Allegheny County election officials describe around-the-clock efforts amid ‘perfect storm’ | Julian Routh/Pittsburgh Post-Gazette

Convening for one last public board meeting before Pennsylvania’s primary contests in two weeks, Allegheny County officials gave insight Tuesday into the difficulties facing their elections division as it processes a backlog of thousands of mail-in ballot applications and prepares for in-person voting in the midst of a pandemic. Officials insisted that staffers in the elections division are working around the clock — three crews manning three shifts — to send mail-in ballots to voters in a timely manner, but confirmed that about 80,000 ballots are still waiting to be sent. As those sit in the queue, applications continue to stream into the office every day — adding to the more than 225,000 applications it has received so far and the 189,000 it’s processed, officials said. And as mail-in applications continue to flood their mailboxes, elections officials find themselves having to recruit poll workers for in-person voting precincts, make sure those workers are equipped with sanitary equipment and educate voters about where they’re actually supposed to vote when the day comes.

Editorials: Texas Attorney General Paxton’s cynical ploy lost in the mail as Texas voters prevail | Houston Chronicle

Stop us if you’ve heard this one: what’s the difference between the novel coronavirus and the voter fraud rate in Texas? Give up? They’re both microscopic, but if a federal ruling is allowed to stand, only one can get you killed. U.S. District Judge Fred Biery had ruled Tuesday that all Texans will be able to vote by mail during the pandemic. On Wednesday afternoon, however, Texas Attorney General Ken Paxton convinced a three-judge panel of the U.S. Fifth Circuit Court of Appeals to block Biery’s ruling temporarily. Now the plaintiffs in the case have until Thursday to tell the appeals court why it shouldn’t agree to Paxton’s demand that the ruling be stayed until the court can issue a ruling on the appeal his office filed earlier in the day. It’s the latest development in a series of court battles between those who would prioritize voter health over a cynical ruse to limit voter access in the name of “election security.”

Wisconsin: Glitches, mailing problems mar absentee voting in Wisconsin | Patrick Marley/Milwaukee Journal Sentinel

Nearly 2,700 absentee ballots in Milwaukee were not sent and about 1,600 in the Fox Valley were not processed because of computer glitches and mailing problems, according to the most comprehensive account yet of what went wrong in the April 7 election. In Milwaukee, 2,693 voters were not sent absentee ballots after technical issues marred their production on March 22 and March 23, according to a report by the Wisconsin Elections Commission. About half of those people eventually voted, either with replacement absentee ballots or at the polls. The others did not vote. The election for a seat on the state Supreme Court, the presidential primary and a host of local offices, put a global spotlight on Wisconsin for holding an election in the middle of the coronavirus pandemic. The report highlights the kind of difficulties Wisconsin and other states could face in the November presidential election. A separate problem emerged when about 1,600 ballots for the Appleton and Oshkosh areas were found at a mail processing center the day after the election. It was not clear in the report if the ballots were on their way to voters or on their way back to clerks when they were found. Either way, they were discovered too late to be counted.

Wisconsin: Election officials show support for sending voters absentee ballot forms, but split on who should get them | Patrick Marley/Milwaukee Journal Sentinel

Wisconsin election officials inched toward sending absentee ballot request forms to voters Wednesday, but they put off a decision after Republicans and Democrats split on how many people should get the ballot applications. Democrats on the Wisconsin Elections Commission want to send the applications to about 2.7 million people, the vast majority of the state’s registered voters. The Republican chairman agreed ballot applications should be sent out. But he doesn’t want to send them to those who appear likely to have previously voted by mail or who live in communities that are already planning to mail absentee ballot forms to their residents. That would result in ballots going to 1.7 million or fewer people. The commission consists of three Republicans and three Democrats. It was unclear Wednesday if the commissioners could reach a deal on the issue when they meet again in about a week. The commission is not considering the mass mailing of actual ballots. Rather, it is weighing sending applications that voters could fill out and return with a copy of a photo ID. Those voters would then be sent an absentee ballot.

Editorials: Wisconsin is starting to resemble a failed state | Nathan Robinson/The Guardian

A failed state is one that can no longer claim legitimacy or perform a government’s core function of protecting the people’s basic security. Lately, the Wisconsin supreme court seems to be doing its level best to make its state qualify for “failed” status. Multiple decisions have both undermined the government’s legitimacy and endangered the people. First, there was the primary. Because voting in person is clearly risky during a pandemic, several states delayed their primaries to make sure everyone was able to mail in a ballot instead of having to go to a polling place. Not so Wisconsin. The state’s Democratic governor signed an executive order for an all mail-in election but was thwarted by the Republican legislature. Then the governor issued an order postponing the election. Republicans challenged it, and the Wisconsin supreme court sided with them. The primary went forward, but was a disaster: there were “long lines in Milwaukee, where only five polling places in the whole city were open” and more than 50 people appear to have contracted coronavirus as a result. Ensuring that people can vote without risking their lives is a basic duty of government, one at which Wisconsin failed. But the Wisconsin supreme court’s latest decision is even worse. The conservative majority overturned the state’s “stay-at-home” order, immediately leading bars to be flooded with patrons. Even as public health officials stress the danger in suddenly lifting restrictions, justices presented it as a freedom issue, with one writing that the “comprehensive claim to control virtually every aspect of a person’s life is something we normally associate with a prison, not a free society governed by the rule of law”. Public opinion is generally against the anti-lockdown protests, but if a conservative minority has power, the “letting a deadly virus spread unchecked = freedom” perspective will triumph.

Burundi: Burundi holds crucial presidential election amid pandemic | Eloge Willy Kaneza and Ignatius Ssuuna/Associated Press

A crucial election appeared peaceful Wednesday in the East African nation of Burundi, where President Pierre Nkurunziza is stepping aside after a divisive 15-year rule but will remain “paramount leader” in the country that often rejects outside scrutiny. The vote is one of the most important transfers of power in Burundi since independence in 1962. Some observers worry that disputed results could lead to the kind of violence that marked the previous vote in 2015. Few face masks were seen, even on the ruling party’s candidate, in crowded lines of voters though some paused to wash their hands. Burundi has been criticized for not appearing to take the coronavirus pandemic seriously. Nkurunziza himself attended crowded political rallies. The country has 42 confirmed virus cases but testing has been limited. “We are not afraid because the organizers did not require us to distance 1 meter,” voter Ndayishimiye Innocent said. “They saw that God is with us.”

Wisconsin: Questions linger as new research suggests election was linked to rise in coronavirus cases | Daphne Chen and John Diedrich/Milwaukee Journal Sentinel

Research on the effects Wisconsin’s spring election continues to emerge — and not all of it agrees. A study released Monday by economists at the University of Wisconsin-Oshkosh and Ball State University suggests that in-person voting may have led to a “large” increase in the rate of positive coronavirus tests weeks later. The report, which has not been peer-reviewed, is at least the third to come out since the April 7 election, and the first to conclude a positive link, giving the public a front-row seat on the messy, uncertain and sometimes lurching progress of science. Epidemiologists and infectious disease experts in Wisconsin previously said the spring election did not lead to a feared spike in COVID-19 cases, though they warned that the effects may be hidden in the data and difficult to ever detect. Investigations involving contact tracing by public health officials were similarly inconclusive. Last week, Milwaukee County epidemiologists said they found 26 county residents who may have been infected with coronavirus during in-person voting. However, they said their attempts to prove the link were complicated by a lack of data and the fact that the election took place around Easter and Passover, which led to more people gathering in general.

Kansas: Johnson County will consider spending $1 million to update voting machinery to address COVID-19 concerns | Roxie Hammill/Shawnee Mission Post

County election officials are getting set to spend $1 million soon to add tabulation devices to its two-year-old voting machinery – a move election officials say is necessary because of concerns over the spread of COVID-19. But the change also renders redundant the built-in tabulation function that was the star feature of the $10.6 million purchase in 2018. That year the county was first in the country to use the voting machine/tabulation combo that had just been developed by vendor Election Systems and Software, of Omaha. The existing machines will now basically become ballot markers instead. Voters who use them to make their choices will then walk their marked ballots over to a separate tabulator to be counted, said Connie Schmidt, who is election commissioner through this year’s ballots, after which the Secretary of State’s appointee Fred Sherman will take over. The plan is to swap out 240 of the voting machines with brand-new DS 200 tabulators, Schmidt said. But because they aren’t equal in price, the county will need to spend another $1,020,500. And it has to be done before the end of May, because that’s when special pricing expires from a previous group deal with Sedgwick, Shawnee and Wyandotte counties. All but about $35,000 may be reimbursed from federal funds.

National: Democrats try again with sweeping mail voting requirements | Nicholas Riccardi/Associated Press

Despite an earlier failed attempt, Democrats tried again Friday to adopt a massive expansion of voting by mail during the coronavirus outbreak, including $3.6 billion in funding for states to adjust their election systems to deal with the pandemic. The money was included in a $3 trillion coronavirus response bill that was passed Friday by the Democratic-led House. But it has no chance of moving forward. The Republican-led Senate opposes the bill, and the White House has vowed to veto it. The most controversial aspect of the election funding section of the bill is another round of mandates that Democrats wish to place on states to ensure they have fair and safe elections at a time when crowded polling stations are a potential health risk. The bill would require states to end requirements that voters get a legal excuse to request an absentee ballot, mandate 15 days of early voting and order states to mail a ballot to every voter during emergencies. The Senate blocked similar requirements in a coronavirus relief bill in March.

National: The Cyberspace Solarium Commission Makes Its Case to Congress | William Ford/Lawfare

During a videoconference on May 13, the Cyberspace Solarium Commission made its case to Congress that the U.S. should adopt a strategy of layered cyber deterrence, a three-pronged plan to reduce the frequency of and the damage wrought by cyberattacks targeting America. The commission’s proposal follows 11 months of intense internal deliberation. During that time, the task force worked to answer the question Congress established it to address: What strategic approach should the federal government take to defending the United States in cyberspace? On March 11, the commission unveiled its vision in an exhaustive report detailing the concept of layered cyber deterrence. The commission’s members—two senators, two representatives, four executive branch officials and six private experts—packed the report with scores of policy recommendations, including 57 legislative proposals, which delineate exactly how to execute the novel cyber strategy. The report’s recommendations are designed to be turned into bills, ushered swiftly through Congress, and implemented. To that end, the commission transmitted its legislative proposals directly to the relevant House and Senate committees, some of which have begun the work of incorporating the commission’s ideas into legislation. But more than two months passed between the release of the commission’s report and the first time the task force got to discuss its proposals in public testimony before lawmakers.

National: Suits filed across US challenging mail-in voting obstacles | Jacob Dougherty/JURIST

With an expected increase in mail-in voting during the COVID-19 pandemic, voter rights advocates have filed lawsuits across the country challenging existing obstacles in states’ mail-in voting procedures. Challenges to mail-in voter restrictions have been filed in Tennessee, Texas, Minnesota, Georgia and North Carolina, among others. Some challenges primarily address the general restrictions states have placed on who can receive a mail-in ballot. For example, in Texas, according to Texas Election Code § 82.002, “a qualified voter is eligible for early voting by mail if the voter has a sickness or physical condition that prevents the voter from appearing at the polling place on election day.” The plaintiffs in the federal court case contend that all voters qualify for mail-in voting under this provision. In Tennessee, the same argument is being made for the state’s Excuse Requirement, which allows an “excuse,” or reason for a mail-in ballot, for voters who are “hospitalized, ill or physically disabled, and because of such condition, [are] unable to appear at [their] polling place on election day.”

National: Voting During Coronavirus: Will We Have Universal Vote-by-Mail by November? | Emilie Mutert/NBC

The experts are clear: The coronavirus will be here through the summer and will stick around through November’s general election. An American presidential election has never been postponed or canceled, but with warnings from health officials discouraging crowds – which are generally unavoidable at polling places – officials are in many cases already working to ensure they have the extra resources needed to implement vote-by-mail on an expanded scale. “It’s either going to be vote-by-mail or nothing if we have to deal with a worst-case scenario,” Sen. Ron Wyden, D-Ore., who along with Sen. Amy Klobuchar, D-Minn., is sponsoring an emergency bill to expand vote-by-mail, has said. Others say vote-by-mail would have to be part of a suite of responses, such as extended early in-person voting with crowd controls and “curbside voting,” which allows voters concerned about entering a polling place to return a ballot without leaving their car, NBC News reported.

National: Freed by Court Ruling, Republicans Step Up Effort to Patrol Voting | Michael Wines/The New York Times

Six months before a presidential election in which turnout could matter more than persuasion, the Republican Party, the Trump campaign and conservative activists are mounting an aggressive national effort to shape who gets to vote in November — and whose ballots are counted. Its premise is that a Republican victory in November is imperiled by widespread voter fraud, a baseless charge embraced by President Trump, but repeatedly debunked by research. Democrats and voting rights advocates say the driving factor is politics, not fraud — especially since Mr. Trump’s narrow win in 2016 underscored the potentially crucial value of depressing turnout by Democrats, particularly minorities. The Republican program, which has gained steam in recent weeks, envisions recruiting up to 50,000 volunteers in 15 key states to monitor polling places and challenge ballots and voters deemed suspicious. That is part of a $20 million plan that also allots millions to challenge lawsuits by Democrats and voting-rights advocates seeking to loosen state restrictions on balloting. The party and its allies also intend to use advertising, the internet and President Trump’s command of the airwaves to cast Democrats as agents of election theft.

Georgia: Emergency rule allows absentee ballots to be opened early| Mark Niesse/The Atlanta Journal-Constitution

Election officials can begin opening absentee ballots eight days before Georgia’s June 9 primary, according to a State Election Board rule approved Monday to deal with a deluge of mailed-in ballots during the coronavirus pandemic. The board voted unanimously to pass the emergency rule, which will help election officials handle record numbers of absentee ballots. In previous elections, absentee ballots couldn’t be processed until election day.Even though ballots can be opened in advance, election results in some races might not be known for several days after the primary because of the time needed to count absentee ballots.It will take much longer to scan and count absentee ballots than it would on Georgia’s new in-person voting system, which combines touchscreens and printed-out paper ballots. So far, over 1.4 million voters have requested absentee ballots. Polls opened Monday for three weeks of in-person early voting. “For this once-in-a-lifetime unprecedented emergency, this regulation painstakingly attempts to balance transparency and security,” State Election Board member Matt Mashburn said during the meeting held via teleconference.

Georgia: ‘Social Distancing & Sanitizing’: Georgia Opens Early Voting | Ben Nadler/Associated Press

Wait in your car until your group is called. Stand on the painted circle so you don’t get too close to other voters in line. (Please) Wear a mask. Everything you touch will be sanitized. Those are some of the new procedures Georgians were greeted with Monday as they participated in the first day of in-person early voting for the state’s June 9 primaries with the coronavirus pandemic still raging. In metro Atlanta’s Cobb County, Election Director Janine Eveler said new procedures and guidelines have “slowed things down considerably, and people are having to wait.” She said that voters faced wait times of over an hour Monday morning. Eveler said safety procedures implemented in Cobb include having people wait in their car until called up to the line in groups, maintaining 6-foot spacing in line and only allowing a small number of people into the voting room. In addition, an ongoing shortage of poll workers means the county is down to a single early voting location, when normally two are in operation for early voting’s first week.

Idaho: Privacy please: Protected information for some Idaho voters accidentally released | Misty Inglet/KTBV

The Idaho Secretary of State’s Office is admitting to a computer glitch that led to some private voter information being released. Recently, the Idaho Freedom Foundation requested a list of registered Idaho voters from the Secretary of State’s Office. That list contains voter names, addresses, and party affiliation. That basic voter information is public and as such, the Secretary of State’s Office followed legal procedure by providing the list to the group as well as eight other organizations. However, Dep. Secretary of State Chad Houck confirmed to KTVB that the list provided did contain some protected information that should not have been released. Idaho Freedom Action, a branch of the Idaho Freedom Foundation, posted the list online on May 13, which drew the privacy issue to the attention of the Secretary of State’s Office, as well as others.

Maryland: Primary election ballots delayed in Baltimore because they’re mailed from out-of-state | Kate Amara/WBAL

Some registered voters in Baltimore City have yet to receive their mail-in ballot for Maryland’s presidential primary on June 2. Maryland elections officials said the ballots are in the mail. Because of the coronavirus, the election is designed to be an all vote-by-mail election. Baltimore’s ballots didn’t get sent on May 8 as elections officials had been saying, but rather, a week later on May 15. Elections administrators confirmed the delay Sunday. Baltimore City Council President Brandon Scott, who’s also a candidate for mayor, said he has yet to receive a ballot. “Right, but for me, it’s much bigger than me. It’s not that just I didn’t get it — all of my neighbors didn’t get it. All of my family didn’t get it,” Scott said. “Look, it’s just unacceptable, it’s just unacceptable. If they knew that, they should have made us aware.” But elections officials said the print shops are out-of-state. The ballots were printed in Minnesota, Florida and Ohio, and mailed to Marylanders from there.