Pennsylvania: The Trump campaign is suing Pennsylvania over how to run the 2020 election | Jonathan Lai/Philadelphia Inquirer

The Trump reelection campaign sued Pennsylvania state and county elections officials Monday, saying mail ballot drop boxes were unconstitutional in the way they were used in the June 2 primary election and asking a federal court to bar them in November. “Defendants have sacrificed the sanctity of in-person voting at the altar of unmonitored mail-in voting and have exponentially enhanced the threat that fraudulent or otherwise ineligible ballots will be cast and counted in the forthcoming general election,” says the suit, filed in the U.S. District Court for the Western District of Pennsylvania. Instances of voter fraud are rare, and there is virtually no evidence of successful widespread conspiracy to commit fraud via mail ballots. (An alleged effort in Paterson, N.J., last month quickly raised flags, and last week the state attorney general charged four men in the scheme.) The lawsuit says mail ballot drop boxes violate the state and federal constitutions because elections officials are making decisions outside of what the law allows, taking the power to make law away from the legislature. The suit also argues that state and county elections officials set up different rules and policies across the state, creating a patchwork system that violates constitutional guarantees of equal protection.

National: Trump ignores Covid-19 risk in renewed attack on ‘corrupt’ mail-in voting | Sam Levine/The Guardian

Donald Trump has continued to suggest that fear of contracting Covid-19 is not a good enough excuse not to appear at the polls, and that Americans should only be able to vote by mail under limited circumstances. Trump is wrongfully conflating no-excuse vote by mail, a system where anyone can request a ballot, and universal mail-in voting, a system where all registered voters are mailed a ballot. Thirty-four states and the District of Columbia allow anyone to request an absentee ballot, but just five have universal vote by mail. While fraud is extremely rare in mail-in voting, the New Jersey case Trump referenced occurred in a local election held entirely by mail and was caught as ballots were being counted. The president and his campaign have repeatedly tried to make the false distinction as part of an effort to explain why Trump and many other administration officials have voted by mail, even though they staunchly oppose the practice.

National: Drive-up US citizenship eases backlog, but new threat looms | Ben Fox and Mike Householder/Associated Press

A 60-year-old U.K. citizen drove into a Detroit parking garage on a recent afternoon, lowered the window of her SUV to swear an oath, and left as a newly minted American. It took less than 30 minutes. Anita Rosenberger is among thousands of people around the country who have taken the final step to citizenship this month under COVID-19 social-distancing rules that have turned what has long been a patriotic rite of passage into something more like a visit to a fast-food restaurant. “It was a nice experience in spite of the fact that I was in the car by myself with a mask on,” said Rosenberger, a sales manager for an electronics component company from suburban Detroit. “And I will say that I will remember this.” Similar drive-thru ceremonies are being held around the country, but perhaps for not much longer. U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services says a budget crisis could force the agency to furlough nearly three-quarters of its workforce, severely curtailing operations as tens of thousands of people wait to become citizens. That could have potential political consequences, especially in states such as Michigan and Florida where the number of newly naturalized Americans already exceeds the narrow margin of victory for President Donald Trump in 2016.

National: The Looming Threat to Voting in Person | Nathaniel Persily and Charles Stewart III/The Atlantic

The daunting logistics of holding an election during a pandemic were on display in Kentucky on Tuesday, as voters in the state’s primary made their way to just 170 polling places—down from 3,700 before the coronavirus arrived. Considering the logistical challenges of social distancing, record absentee-ballot requests, and uncertainties about whether officials could recruit sufficient poll workers, observers on the ground judged the election to be surprisingly well run. Even then, some voters in Lexington faced two-hour waits, and an afternoon traffic jam in Louisville prompted a judge to order the reopening of a polling place after hours. Kentucky’s experience was yet another reminder that the presidential election in November will be held under radically changed circumstances. As the pandemic has unfolded, an expansion of mail balloting has become the central focus of reformers, state lawmakers, and the litigants in voting-rights cases. But Americans will most likely still go to the polls on Election Day, and many of them will go to polling places that are unready to receive them. The current trajectory in many states suggests that the demand for in-person voting will hugely outstrip the supply of poll workers and polling places. This imbalance erects barriers to voter participation and needlessly jeopardizes the health of poll workers and voters.

Alabama: Secretary of State asks Supreme Court to review COVID-19 election ruling | Todd Ruger/Roll Call

Alabama officials asked the Supreme Court to step into the debate over how to conduct election laws in the midst of a national health crisis, in a legal dispute over absentee ballot requirements in three of the state’s largest counties. Alabama Secretary of State John Merrill filed an application to the high court Monday to overturn a lower court’s injunction that found that the requirements could violate the constitutional right to vote for some elderly and disabled voters during the COVID-19 pandemic. Merrill points out that federal district and appeals courts nationwide are dealing with similar requests to change state election laws because of the health concerns — and ruling in different ways. Voters across the country have looked to cast ballots without the risk of going to public polling places and possibly exposing themselves to the novel coronavirus that causes some severe illness and death. “This confusion in the lower courts will not end without firm guidance from this Court,” the application states. “And as election dates draw nearer, culminating in the 2020 presidential election on November 3, these challenges to the constitutionality of election practices during the COVID-19 pandemic will only increase.”

Georgia: Absentee voting program embraced by Georgia voters, then abandoned by Republican Secretary of State | ark Niesse/The Atlanta Journal-Constitution

When election officials mailed absentee applications to nearly 7 million Georgia voters, they responded in droves. Absentee voting rates skyrocketed, from 6% of all ballots cast in the 2018 general election to over half of the votes cast in this month’s primary. A record 1.1 million voters cast absentee ballots in the primary, avoiding human contact during the coronavirus pandemic. Voters won’t have the same easy access to absentee voting again. Secretary of State Brad Raffensperger, who started the absentee ballot request program in April, decided against mailing ballot applications to voters for the presidential election, when turnout is expected to reach a new high of 5 million. He said it would be impractical and too expensive to repeat the effort this fall. Instead, Raffensperger plans to create a website where voters can request absentee ballots on their own. All registered voters are eligible to cast absentee ballots. The move is likely to reduce requests for absentee ballots.

Massachusetts: Lawmakers closer to bringing early, mail-in voting options to 2020 elections | Steph Solis/MassLive

Massachusetts residents should expect to be able to vote by mail in a general election for the first time in state history, lawmakers say as they move closer toward getting voting legislation to the governor’s desk. The $8 million voting reform would send applications to residents statewide to enable them to vote by mail in the Sept. 1 primary and Nov. 3 general election — a first in Massachusetts. It would also allow early voting ahead of the primary. Lawmakers said Monday they reconciled differences between the House and Senate bills teed up the bill, H. 4829, for final votes Tuesday and Thursday for the House and Senate, respectively. If approved, the bill lands on Gov. Charlie Baker’s desk. “The goal was to provide options, make it easier for people to vote this fall despite COVID-19, and give clerks the tools they need to process the ballots expeditiously,” Sen. Barry Finegold, an Andover Democrat and chair of the Senate Election Laws Committee. “We’ve accomplished that in this bill.” Massachusetts voters have mailed in ballots in recent local elections to prevent the spread of COVID-19, but this bill would make state history in making the option widely available to residents for a primary and general election. It also requires safety standards for polling places to let voters cast their ballots in person.

Michigan: Blind voters say Secretary of State Benson broke voting promise | Paul Egan/Detroit Free Press

Blind voters in Michigan are asking a federal judge to find Secretary of State Jocelyn Benson in contempt, saying she failed to live up to an agreement to implement a system for them to vote absentee in the August primary. Blind voters Michael Powell and Fred Wutzel, along with the National Federation of the Blind in Michigan, sued Benson in April, alleging that with COVID-19 making it dangerous for blind voters to go to the polls — where they can use special equipment to vote privately and independently — the state’s absentee voting system is unworkable for the blind. But on May 1, the parties in the case agreed to a consent order. That agreement required the state to introduce a Remote Accessible Vote-by-Mail system for the Aug. 4 primary, allowing blind voters to cast an absentee ballot privately and independently, just as other voters can. Under the system, blind voters could easily request and receive an accessible ballot online and read it and fill it out with existing screen reading technology, said Jason Turkish, the Southfield attorney representing the plaintiffs.

New Jersey: What alleged voter fraud in Paterson, New Jersey tells us about November — and what it doesn’t | Philip Bump/The Washington Post

At some point it becomes blurry whether President Trump is defending a position because he believes it or because he refuses to lose the debate. He has been claiming for four years that American elections are subject to massive, widespread voter fraud, for example, and continues to make those claims despite a complete lack of evidence. Yes, some fraud occurs, but that doesn’t mean that it occurs widely, much less without detection. This is an important distinction, so it’s worth reiterating. It is the case that your car could be stolen. Auto theft exists. There are even local gangs who steal cars regularly and sell them for parts. It is not the case, though, that there exists a national ring of car thieves who operate without detection, purloining and selling millions of cars a year. That auto theft exists does not strengthen the argument that auto theft exists at a scale in which the system of auto ownership is imperiled.

Pennsylvania: Trump campaign sues Pennsylvania over mail-in drop-off sites for ballots | Mark Scolforo/Associated Press

President Donald Trump’s re-election campaign, the national Republican Party and four Pennsylvania members of Congress sued Monday to force changes to how the state collects and counts mail-in ballots under revamped rules. The federal lawsuit filed in Pittsburgh claims that as voters jumped to make use of the greatly broadened eligibility for mail-in ballots during the June 2 primary, practices and procedures by elections officials ran afoul of state law and the state and federal constitutions. It claims the defendants, which are the 67 county election boards and Secretary of State Kathy Boockvar, “have inexplicably chosen a path that jeopardizes election security and will lead — and has already led — to the disenfranchisement of voters, questions about the accuracy of election results, and ultimately chaos” ahead of the Nov. 3 general election. A spokeswoman for Boockvar, a Democrat, declined comment about the litigation, as did the head of the County Commissioners Association of Pennsylvania, whose members administer elections. The head of the Pennsylvania Democratic Party called the lawsuit an effort to suppress votes as a campaign tactic, noting Democrats far outpaced Republicans in getting their voters to apply for mail-in ballots ahead of the primary.

Texas: Masks, distance and plastic dividers: Officials will use runoffs as ‘tests’ for November elections | James Barragán/Dallas Morning News

Officials across Texas will start their first major test in holding elections during the COVID-19 pandemic as polls open Monday for early voting in the state’s July 14 primary runoffs. Democrats across the state will decide their nominee for the U.S. Senate, and there are several important GOP runoff races for Congress and the statehouse. Though Secretary of State Ruth R. Hughs, the state’s top elections official, has issued minimum health protocols, the elections will be a dry run for local administrators preparing for the presidential contest, when voter turnout is expected to be much higher and possibly record-breaking. “We’re saying this is the test election for November,” said Jacquelyn F. Callanen, the Bexar County elections administrator. “This is the preview, and that is really nice because we’ll find out if some things work and some things didn’t work.” Among the state’s safety protocols are requirements to keep voters and poll workers 6 feet apart, make hand sanitizer available to voters and regularly clean surfaces that are frequently touched. But local election administrators say they plan to go beyond the state’s minimum standards.

West Virginia: Half of West Virginia voters cast their ballots by mail in June. Election officials wonder if they’ll have the legal authority and manpower to make it happen again. | Lacie Pierson/WV Gazette Mail

A little more than half of the more than 436,000 ballots cast in West Virginia’s 2020 primary election earlier this month were mail-in absentee ballots, Secretary of State Mac Warner said Monday. For comparison, historically in West Virginia, about 3% of votes in a presidential primary election are cast by absentee ballot, Warner said. In total, 224,734 ballots were cast by mail, according to the secretary of state’s website, meaning more work and more paperwork for the state’s 55 county clerks, their staffs and often the staffs from other county courthouse offices that were off limits to in-person visits early during the coronavirus pandemic lockdown. Now, with the election behind them, Warner said he and county clerks are working to figure out what their options are for the November general election, especially if there’s no state of emergency that gives them and, most importantly, Mountain State voters, flexibility to vote without potentially exposing themselves to the virus.

Wisconsin: Appeals court limits Wisconsin early voting to 2 weeks before election, stops voters from receiving ballots via email, fax | Patrick Marley/Milwaukee Journal Sentinel

In a sweeping decision that took more than three years to come out, a panel of federal judges on Monday reinstated limits on early voting and a requirement that voters be Wisconsin residents for at least a month before an election. The three judges also banned most voters from having absentee ballots emailed or faxed to them and told a lower court to continue to tweak the system the state uses to provide voting credentials to those who have the most difficulty getting photo IDs. The unanimous decision by the 7th Circuit Court of Appeals in Chicago was mostly a setback for the liberal groups that challenged Wisconsin’s voting laws, but it did give them some victories. The appeals court upheld a decision that allows college students to use expired university IDs to vote and barred the state from requiring colleges to provide citizenship information about dorm residents who head to the polls. A lower court judge struck down many of Wisconsin’s election laws in 2016 because he found they disproportionately affected the ability of minorities to vote. But the appeals judges concluded GOP lawmakers wrote the laws to help their party, and not specifically to discriminate against anyone based on race.

Australia: Electoral legislation amendments leave door open to internet voting | Asha Barbaschow/ZDNet

Australia’s Electoral Legislation Amendment (Miscellaneous Measures) Bill 2020 is currently before the House of Representatives Electoral Matters Committee to review the changes put forward by Minister for Finance Mathias Cormann. The changes within the Bill [PDF] would amend the Commonwealth Electoral Act to modify electoral donation and disclosure laws and “address anomalies” in entity registration and public election funding rules; as well as the intention to improve electoral processes, electoral administration, vote issuing procedures, and improve workforce flexibility for the Australian Electoral Commission (AEC). But as cryptographer Dr Vanessa Teague highlighted late Monday, by way of introducing the capability to expand electronically assisted voting methods to Australians working in Antarctica, the Bill somewhat forces the AEC to accept internet voting. While legislation currently allows for electronic voting to be performed by those with vision impairment, the Bill seeks to replace the phrase “sight-impaired people to vote by an electronically assisted voting method” with “an electronically assisted voting method to be used by sight-impaired people to vote”.

Voting Blogs: Russia scales up e-voting for key referendum – but misses security issues | Alex Hardy/openDemocracy

The delayed Russian referendum on constitutional reform goes ahead this week as the country emerges from many of the quarantine measures imposed over the past few months to control the spread of the Covid-19 virus. The referendum is being held to amend the Russian constitution, and was unveiled in January. The proposed changes most notably mean that President Putin can legally remain in power until 2036 by making him eligible to stand in a further two Presidential elections, should he wish to do so. Holding a referendum for these changes is not required by law. Such amendments can and have now been authorised by Russia’s regional legislative assemblies. However, the referendum is seen as a show of public legitimacy for these changes. As such, it is important for the authorities that the turnout is seen to be suitably high. Divided opposition movements have been in debate as to whether or not the vote should be boycotted. Meanwhile, the move towards online voting has been presented by the authorities as a move to protect public safety during the Covid-19 pandemic but it also represents an opportunity for the Kremlin to encourage higher voter turnout.

Texas: As states expand vote by mail amid COVID, Texas leaders continue their fight against it | Mark Dent/Fort Worth Star-Telegram

The local election news of the last few weeks reminds Lisa Morris of her mom. Gloria Meeks, who lived in the Rolling Hills neighborhood of south Fort Worth, was an entrepreneur with a seemingly endless supply of energy. She operated her own catering company yet found time to cook fiesta dip and Texas King Ranch casserole for her kids and grandkids. She regularly joined a pilot friend on leisurely plane rides in the skies of North Texas and took two cruises almost every year. On top of all that, she was devoted to ensuring the Black community exercised its right to vote. Meeks organized a phone bank for Democratic voters and assisted the elderly with their mail-in ballots during election seasons. “She was just a great lady,” says Democratic Fort Worth Congressman Marc Veasey. “She worked really hard. She liked getting out the vote.” Then, in August 2006, investigators with the Texas Attorney General’s Office arrived at Meeks’ house. She was drying off from a bath when two male inspectors looked in through her bathroom window, according to a signed declaration. She screamed, and they waited outside to interview her until she got dressed. Meeks was never charged. She was one of many Fort Worth women to experience scrutiny regarding mail-in ballots, and the encounter convinced her the Attorney General’s Office was after her for no reason, leading to difficulty sleeping. Later that year, Meeks had a stroke. Morris says her mother never fully recovered until her death in 2012 at age 75. The situation left Morris with a negative opinion of Greg Abbott, who was Attorney General at the time. “In all honesty, I believe he’s the reason my mother had a stroke,” she said.

National: From 47 Primaries, 4 Warning Signs About the 2020 Vote | Michael Wines/The New York Times

Evelina Reese has been a poll worker for 40 years. And for the last six decades, she says, she has never missed a chance to vote. “We’re all dedicated citizens as far as voting goes,” Ms. Reese, a retired social services worker from the Atlanta suburb of Riverdale, said this past week. But this year, out of concern about the coronavirus, Ms. Reese, 79, skipped her routine of visiting an early-voting site and instead requested one of the absentee ballots that the state promised to all who wanted one. Georgia’s June 9 primary came and went, the ballot never arrived, and Ms. Reese’s 60-year streak was broken. After Tuesday’s votes in New York and Kentucky, 46 states and the District of Columbia have completed primary elections or party caucuses, facing the ferocious challenge not just of voting during a pandemic, but voting by mail in historic numbers. The task for November is not just to avoid the errors that disenfranchised Ms. Reeves and many others, but to apply lessons learned since the Iowa caucuses ended in chaos on Feb. 3. Despite debacles in some states, votes have been counted and winners chosen largely without incident — a feat, some say, given that many states only had weeks to scrap decades of in-person voting habits for voting by mail. But the challenges and the stakes will be exponentially higher in November when Americans choose a president and much of Congress.

National: No presidential winner on election night? Mail-in ballots could put outcome in doubt for weeks| Joey Garrison/USA Today

Kentucky won’t have final results of last week’s state primary until Tuesday. New York could take twice as long. In Pennsylvania, the state’s largest city, Philadelphia, was still tallying mail-in ballots nearly two weeks after its June 2 primary. The unprecedented volume of mail-in ballots during the coronavirus pandemic has produced hiccups in some state primaries and operated smoothly in others. But one thing is constant: States have shattered turnout records for primaries because of the deluge of mail-in ballots, forcing election officials to need days, even weeks, to count all the votes. Fast-forward to the Nov. 3 presidential election, when all 50 states and the District of Columbia will vote the same day. Many states are expected to turn to mass mail-in voting again but this time for a presidential race that will draw significantly greater turnout than primaries. In the race between President Donald Trump and Democratic presumptive nominee Joe Biden, down to races for Congress and even local contests, voting experts have a warning: Unless there’s a clear and decisive winner, brace for an election week or weeks, not an election night. “I think ‘weeks’ is potentially being generous,” said Joe Burns, a Republican election attorney for the Lawyers Democracy Fund.

National: Trump’s attacks seen undercutting confidence in 2020 vote | Jill Colvin/Associated Press

It was a startling declaration about one of the pillars of American democracy, all the more so given its source. The president of the United States last week publicly predicted without evidence that the 2020 presidential election would be “the most corrupt election in the history of our country.” “We cannot let this happen,” Donald Trump told an audience of young supporters at a Phoenix megachurch. “They want it to happen so badly.” Just over four months before Election Day, the president is escalating his efforts to cast doubt on the integrity of the vote. It’s a well-worn tactic for Trump, who in 2016 went after the very process that ultimately put him in the White House. He first attacked the Republican primaries (“rigged and boss controlled”) and then the general election, when he accused the media and Democratic rival Hillary Clinton’s campaign of conspiring against him to undermine a free and fair election. “The process is rigged. This whole election is being rigged,” he said that October when polls showed him trailing Clinton by double digits as he faced a flurry of sexual misconduct allegations. Then, as now, election experts have repeatedly discredited his claims about widespread fraud in the voting process.

National: Voter Registrations Are Way, Way Down During The Pandemic | Kaleigh Rogers and Nathaniel Rakich/FiveThirtyEight

Poll after poll showed a high level of enthusiasm for voting in the general election in 2020, and in the beginning of the year, voter registration surged to match that excitement. Then the COVID-19 pandemic hit. New registrations have fallen off a cliff. The spring of a presidential election year is often a busy time for adding new voters to the rolls, and a recent report from the Center for Election Innovation and Research, a nonprofit organization that aims to improve voter turnout and election security, shows registration numbers were even stronger in early 2020 than early 2016. But things changed dramatically in March, at least in the 12 places where FiveThirtyEight or CEIR were able to obtain data on new voters, a category that includes first-time voters, voters who recently moved to the state and, in some states (Texas, for example) even voters who moved between counties in the state. Consider Florida, for example, where 109,859 new voters registered in February of this year, compared to 87,351 registrants in February of 2016. But in April 2020, only 21,031 new voters registered, compared with 52,508 in 2016. The same pattern holds in 10 other states, plus Washington, D.C.: Each one registered fewer new voters in April 2020 than in April 2016, including in states where online voter registration is available.

National: Federal Election Commission losing quorum again after Caroline Hunter resigns | Daniel Lipman and Zach Montellaro/Politico

The Federal Election Commission is losing its short-lived quorum after Caroline Hunter, a longtime Republican commissioner of the FEC and former chair of the agency, is resigning, according to a resignation letter obtained by POLITICO. Her departure from the agency means that the FEC will be unable to make major enforcement actions. After almost a year of not having enough commissioners, the FEC had only just regained its quorum last month when the Senate confirmed Texas election attorney Trey Trainor on a party line vote to fill an empty seat on the nation’s campaign finance watchdog. Last week, the FEC had its first meeting after Trainor’s confirmation, during which it approved only three advisory opinions on minor issues. Without four commissioners, the FEC, which is supposed to have six commissioners, is functionally unable to address complaints alleging campaign finance law violations. That meant that at the end of March, there were more than 300 pending cases that hadn’t been addressed, including about three dozen that alleged foreign interference. Hunter will leave the agency on July 3 and said in her letter that she fought against “unnecessary government regulations and unfair enforcement actions” and promoted the FEC being more transparent. During the Citizens United era, which has been marked by an explosion in campaign spending and super PACs pumping cash into elections, Hunter often opposed limits on such activity.

Alabama: Federal appeals court won’t block ruling allowing curbside voting in Alabama | Brian Lyman/Montgomery Advertiser

A three-judge panel of the U.S. 11th Circuit Court of Criminal Appeals on Thursday refused to stop a lower court ruling that allowed curbside voting and loosened some absentee voter requirements in three counties for the July 14th runoff. Writing for the court, U.S. Circuit judges Robin Rosenbaum and Jill Pryor ruled that the state had failed to prove that the plaintiffs in the cae who argued that current policies put them at greater risk of contracting COVID-19 would lose in court. The judges also accused the state of minimizing the potential harms from the outbreak. “Appellants’ (the state) failure to acknowledge the significant difference between leaving one’s home to vote in non-pandemic times and forcing high-risk COVID-19 individuals to breach social-distancing and self-isolation protocols so they can vote reflects a serious lack of understanding of or disregard for the science and facts involved here,” the judges wrote. A message seeking comment was sent Thursday to the Alabama Attorney General’s Office. Natasha Merle, senior counsel for the NAACP Legal Defense and Educational Fund, one of three groups representing the plaintiffs, said in a statement Thursday they hoped to see curbside voting in Alabama “in July and beyond.”

Arkansas: Governor Wants To Decide On Arkansas Absentee Voting By August 1 | Steve Brawner/KUAR

Gov. Asa Hutchinson said he hopes to make a decision by August 1 regarding allowing voters in Arkansas more flexibility to vote absentee this November. He made the comment at his daily press conference June 24 in response to a reporter’s question about a lawsuit filed in Pulaski County seeking no-excuse absentee voting. He said has been communicating with the Arkansas Board of Election Commissioners, Secretary of State John Thurston, and county officials. “My timeframe is to make some decisions based upon their guidance and their requests sometime before August 1,” he said. “And that way there is adequate time to prepare for the election and make any adjustments that are needed.” Arkansas voters now must sign a form when voting absentee certifying that they will be “unavoidably absent” on Election Day,” that they will be unable to vote in person “because of illness or physical disability,” or that they reside in a state-licensed long-term care or residential facility. They also can vote absentee if they are a member or the spouse of a member of the military or merchant marines, or if they temporarily live outside the United States. Written in all-caps at the top of the form are the words, “If you provide false information on this form, you may be guilty of perjury and subject to a fine of up to $10,000 or imprisonment for up to 10 years.”

Delaware: No excuse voting by mail gets Senate nod | Randall Chase/Associated Press

On Thursday, the Senate gave final approval to a bill authorizing universal voting by mail in primary, general and special elections in Delaware this year. The bill cleared the Democrat-led Senate on an 18-to-3 vote Thursday after passing the Democrat-controlled House last week on a strict party line vote. Supporters of the bill said the coronavirus epidemic justifies allowing everyone in the state to vote by mail, rather than having to go to local polling places or request an absentee ballot. Senate President Pro Tem David McBride, D-New Castle, said lawmakers have “a moral obligation” to ensure that voters can cast ballots without endangering their health.

Florida: Judge chips away at mail-in ballots case in Florida | Dara Kam/News Service of Florida

Laying the groundwork for an upcoming trial in a case seeking to expand the state’s vote-by-mail procedures, a federal judge on Friday tossed out an effort by left-leaning groups to require county elections officials to pay for postage for mail-in ballots. U.S. District Judge Robert Hinkle held a status conference in preparation for a July 20 trial in the case, which is a consolidation of legal challenges focused largely on the state’s mail-in ballot processes. The trial is expected to last at least 10 days and will come a little more than three months before the November elections. In one of the lawsuits, the organization Priorities USA and other plaintiffs have urged the judge to extend a deadline for mail-in ballots to be returned and require free postage for the ballots. They’re also challenging a provision in Florida law restricting paid workers from collecting mail-in ballots. Earlier in the week, Hinkle rejected the plaintiffs’ argument that requiring voters to pick up the tab for stamps amounts to an unconstitutional “poll tax,” saying the cost for postage was no different than the price voters have to pay to take public transportation to cast their ballots in person.

Georgia: Ban on mailing absentee ballot application forms dies at Georgia Legislature | Mark Niesse/The Atlanta Journal-Constitution

A bill that would have barred election officials from mailing absentee ballot applications to Georgia voters failed to pass Friday. The proposal sputtered amid opposition to a limiting voting access after record numbers of Georgians cast absentee ballots in the state’s primary election. Over half of all primary voters, 1.1 million, voted absentee. The measure arose after Secretary of State Brad Raffensperger mailed absentee ballot request forms to 6.9 million voters before the June 9 primary. While the absentee effort allowed voters to avoid human contact during the coronavirus pandemic, it created problems as well. Some counties, especially Fulton County, struggled to process absentee ballot applications for weeks, forcing voters back to the polls. And House Speaker David Ralston said widespread use of absentee ballots created opportunities for fraud. The legislation, Senate Bill 463, never received another vote after it passed the House Governmental Affairs Committee on Wednesday.

Iowa: Gov. Kim Reynolds signs law limiting Iowa secretary of state’s powers in elections | Ian Richardson/Des Moines Register

Gov. Kim Reynolds has signed into law new restrictions that will prevent Secretary of State Paul Pate from mailing ballot request forms to Iowans in November’s election without first seeking approval from legislators. The law will also prohibit county election officials from decreasing the number of polling places by more than 35% during an election. The legislation was passed by state lawmakers after Pate and county election officials took similar steps before the primary because of the coronavirus pandemic. Leading up to the primary, Pate extended the mail-in voting period from 29 to 40 days and mailed ballot request forms to every registered voter in Iowa. The primary had record turnout, with nearly 80% of those casting ballots voting absentee. But Republicans in both chambers of the Legislature looked to limit Pate’s power, with some saying he had pushed the limits of his authority and that another secretary of state could use the same powers in an effort to reduce voter turnout.

Maryland: Local election directors call for hybrid election, saying traditional format would set them up to fail | Emily Opilo/Baltimore Sun

Maryland’s local election board directors are calling on state officials to hold a hybrid vote-by-mail election in the fall with more in-person voting centers, saying it is too late to plan for a traditional election. In a letter to the governor, legislative leaders and top state election officials, the Maryland Association of Election Officials said Friday that its members are best prepared to hold a hybrid election amid the ongoing coronavirus pandemic. The local election officials said they feared they would be “set up to fail” in a regular election with voting at precincts because of a shortage of personal protective gear, election judges and viable locations for polling places. Many neighborhood voting sites, such as schools and senior centers, remain closed or off limits during the pandemic. “While we acknowledge there were some problems with implementation of the primarily vote-by-mail June 2, 2020, primary election, valuable lessons have been learned and there is adequate time to remedy those issues before the general election,” the association wrote.

Montana: Lawmakers get update on Native American voting in all-mail primary | Jonathon Ambarian/KTVH

On Friday, a state legislative committee got an update on how Montana’s all-mail primary election went in Indian Country. The State-Tribal Relations Interim Committee wrapped up three days of online meetings Friday. Because of concerns about COVID-19, Gov. Steve Bullock gave Montana counties the option to switch to all-mail ballots for the June 2 election – and all 56 counties took that option. On Friday, the committee heard from four election administrators from counties with large Indian populations – Dulcie Bear Don’t Walk of Big Horn County, Tammy Williams of Blaine County, Katie Harding of Lake County and Joan Duffield of Rosebud County. All four counties had voter turnouts at or below the Montana average in the primary, with Big Horn County having the lowest turnout in the state at 35.4%. However, administrators said there were some positive signs for tribal turnout. Bear Don’t Walk said 25% to 35% turnout is typical for a primary in Big Horn County, and that about 44% of those who were mailed a ballot this year returned them. Williams said Blaine County estimated about 30% turnout in reservation areas, but that overall turnout was again on the high end of what was expected. According to Duffield, turnout in Rosebud County’s Lame Deer precinct was 20% this year, compared to 11% and 10% in the 2016 and 2018 primaries.

New Hampshire: Lawmakers, Secretary of State seek to iron out COVID-19 absentee ballot process | Ethan DeWitt/Concord Monitor

Weeks after a lengthy commission and exhaustive debate, lawmakers and the Secretary of State’s office say they’ve come up with a process for voting in New Hampshire during the coronavirus. But it’s not going to be effortless. Voters will be allowed and encouraged to vote by absentee ballot to avoid going to the polls – an option usually reserved for specific circumstances. Getting the state’s potential voters familiar and comfortable with the new process, however, will take new levels of outreach. Under the new process, voters looking to avoid polling locations will need to know how to register to vote by mail, apply for an absentee ballot by mail, and turn that ballot in properly. For many, it’ll be their first experience with the process. Town officials and the Secretary of State’s office are prepping for a surge. On Thursday, a key state Senate committee hammered out legislation that could make it easier. An amendment to House Bill 1266 recommended by the Senate Election Law Committee Thursday would allow voters to register to vote and apply for an absentee ballot for both the Sept. 8 state primary and the Nov. 3 presidential election. The bill will receive a full hearing and vote in the Senate on Monday.