Maryland: Lt. Gov. Rutherford calls on state board elections director to resign following mail-in primary issues | Hallie Miller and Pamela Wood/Baltimore Sun

Maryland’s second-in-command called on the state’s elections director to resign Wednesday, citing issues with the ways ballots have been delivered and returns have been counted in two largely mail-in contests conducted during the coronavirus pandemic. Lt. Gov. Boyd K. Rutherford, a Republican who serves under Gov. Larry Hogan, said at the opening of an online meeting of the Board of Public Works that the state should seek “new leadership” to head the Maryland State Board of Elections. “I really think it’s time for the administrator at the Board of Elections to step down,” he said. The rebuke follows the disappearance of as many as 75,000 counted ballots from the state’s website early Wednesday morning. Those votes, sent in by mail and collected from drop boxes through the weekend, appeared on the site at about 11:30 p.m. Tuesday. At about 2 a.m., the city’s early returns were not available on the state site and instead were marked as “NR” for not reported. Revised numbers appeared on the state website just around 11 a.m. Wednesday, including only some of the 75,000 votes reported the day before.

National: Trump’s Attacks on Vote-by-Mail Worry Some Election Officials | Matt Vasilogambros/Stateline

There is growing concern among election officials and experts that the increasingly partisan debate around voting by mail could sow doubt in the results of the presidential election. For months, President Donald Trump has been one of the loudest opponents to vote by mail, which experts agree is a safe alternative to in-person voting during the novel coronavirus outbreak. There is little evidence it leads to voter fraud or benefits one party over another. “Mail-in ballots are a very dangerous thing,” Trump told reporters last month, despite evidence to the contrary. “They’re subject to massive fraud.” Trump has voted by mail several times, including in Florida’s primary earlier this year. By attacking mail-in voting with unsubstantiated claims, some officials and experts fear, the president’s outbursts could threaten the integrity of the general election by dissuading voters from participating and diminishing Americans’ trust in the legitimacy of the results. His narrative has consequences, said Marian Schneider, president of the election security nonprofit Verified Voting. It could lead to some Americans doubting the outcome of the November election, she said.

Tennessee: Judge: Virus mail voting guidelines ambiguous | Jonathan Mattise/Associated Press

A Tennessee judge on Wednesday said the state’s guidance about who can vote by mail due to the coronavirus is “very ambiguous,” and she cited “weighty proof” that other states have expanded to let all voters cast absentee ballots this year — something Tennessee officials say is not feasible. In a hearing via video conference due to the pandemic, Davidson County Chancellor Ellen Hobbs Lyle cast doubts on some of the state’s key arguments against two lawsuits that seek a by-mail voting option for all voters this year to curb the virus’ spread at the polls. Lyle also cautioned that whatever she orders needs to be “a practical, workable solution, or it will throw the election into chaos.” She raised particular concerns about costs for local governments. The judge plans to rule Thursday on whether to issue a temporary injunction to allow all voters to request absentee ballots in the Aug. 6 primary. A similar federal lawsuit is also pending. At one point, she cited a section of the state Constitution that says the right to vote “shall never be denied” to any person entitled to do so. “When I read that, it really resonated with me that what you’re saying is, ‘It’s better to deny the injunction even if the result is that people don’t vote,’” Lyle said. “That’s what you’re saying, that they don’t get to access that fundamental right that we all treasure under the Tennessee Constitution.”

National: Pandemic, Protests and Police: An Election Like No Other | Reid J. Epstein and Nick Corasaniti/The New York Times

On the biggest day of voting since the coronavirus disrupted public life, Americans cast ballots in extraordinary circumstances on Tuesday, heading to the polls during a national health and economic crisis and amid the widespread protests and police deployments that have disrupted communities across the nation. The most high-profile race of the day produced a surprising result when Representative Steve King, the Iowa Republican who was ostracized by his party after questioning why white nationalism was offensive, lost his primary to Randy Feenstra, a state senator who had the tacit support of much of the state’s G.O.P. establishment. Mr. King is only the second congressional incumbent from either party to lose a bid for renomination in the 2020 primaries. The other was Representative Dan Lipinski of Illinois, a Democrat who lost a March primary to a more liberal challenger. But unlike Mr. Lipinski, Mr. King was defeated not because of his ideology but because his defense of white identity politics finally proved too toxic for his Republican colleagues to abide. In his campaign, Mr. Feenstra did not make an issue of Mr. King’s litany of racist remarks, but instead argued that his removal from House committees by Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy made Mr. King an ineffective congressman for Iowa.

National: Election officials contradict Barr’s assertion that counterfeit mail ballots produced by a foreign country are a ‘real’ worry | Amy Gardner/The Washington Post

Current and former election administrators said it would be virtually impossible for a foreign country to produce and mail in phony absentee ballots without detection, an issue Attorney General William P. Barr raised as a serious possibility in an interview published Monday. Barr told the New York Times Magazine that a foreign operation to mail in fake ballots was “one of the issues that I’m real worried about.” “We’ve been talking about how, in terms of foreign influence, there are a number of foreign countries that could easily make counterfeit ballots, put names on them, send them in,” Barr said. “And it’d be very hard to sort out what’s happening.” Barr did not offer any evidence of how such a scenario would take place. Elections officials in multiple states said it would be virtually impossible for a foreign government to achieve what Barr described. Judd Choate, the elections chief in Colorado, where nearly all voters cast ballots by mail, said “there is zero chance” it could happen in his state because of security precautions in place there.

National: CISA Official Sidesteps Controversy over Trump’s Voting Fraud Claims | Mariam Baksh/Nextgov

As lawmakers and election security experts try to counter President Trump’s assertion that voting by mail invites fraud, a senior official of the Cybersecurity and Infrastructure Security Agency dismissed the controversy as a “process” issue. “I mean, you got to keep in mind what our goal here is,” the senior CISA official said on a call with reporters today regarding the primary contests happening in eight states. “We’re supporting state and local officials as they implement their electoral, you know as they administer elections. We’re focused on the infrastructure, providing cybersecurity services to the infrastructure, back-end systems, on voting machines, those are all the things. The president’s concern is on the process side.” The official was answering a question about whether CISA was doing anything to publicly fact check May 26 tweets the president made claiming the use of mail-in ballots means “this will be a rigged election.” In an unprecedented move, Twitter labeled the tweets “misleading,” and noted their potential to sow confusion.  

National: ‘Biggest threat to election security is the coronavirus,’ security expert warns | Benjamin Freed/StateScoop

Although the rate of new infections appears to have slowed down in recent weeks, the COVID-19 pandemic remains the greatest challenge to ensuring that the 2020 presidential election runs accurately and securely, election security experts said Monday. Speaking on a webcast hosted by two members of the House Homeland Security Committee, Wendy Weiser of New York University’s Brennan Center for Law and Justice said election officials still need much more funding and support to make all the preparations for an election that will likely have to be conducted largely via mail, especially in states that have historically low rates of postal ballots. “By far the biggest threat to our election is the coronavirus,” Weiser said. “We are going to see substantial changes to how we run elections this year.” A potential preview of November is playing out Tuesday, with seven states and the District of Columbia holding their primary elections, including several that were delayed from March and April as the pandemic spread and kept voters cooped up under stay-at-home orders. In almost all those jurisdictions, election officials — Republican and Democratic — made efforts to expand their use of mail-in ballots.

National: ‘First Super Tuesday’ Of The COVID-19 Era: Voting Amid Protests, Pandemic | Miles Parks/NPR

Facing a pandemic that continues to spread through the United States and protests nationwide over the killing of another black man at the hands of police, voters headed to the polls Tuesday in more than half a dozen states. It’s a primary election date that was already going to be a challenge for election officials due to health concerns, even before nationwide unrest led to curfew orders in conflict with polling place hours in some places. In Washington, D.C., as well as the eight states voting Tuesday, the vast majority of ballots are expected to be mailed in. In Montana, for instance, election officials mailed every active registered voter a ballot. But the in-person voting options that are also required to be offered in many places create a unique problem. In Philadelphia, for instance, officials are trying to reassure voters they won’t be arrested for voting in the Pennsylvania primary if the city decides to extend a 6 p.m. curfew to Tuesday. Polling places will stay open in the city until 8 p.m. “Philly residents will not be arrested or prosecuted for going to or coming from voting tomorrow,” District Attorney Larry Krasner told NPR member station WHYY on Monday. “No curfew is going to interfere with any voter going to the polls. Please do not let these circumstances dissuade you.”

National: Mass upheaval and pandemic spell trouble for a megaday of primaries | Zach Montellaro/Politico

Holding an election in the middle of a once-in-a-century pandemic is tough. Holding an election as civil unrest sweeps across the country during that pandemic could be seriously problematic. Election officials will have to grapple with that challenge Tuesday, when voters in nine states and the District of Columbia vote by mail or head to the polls for primaries. Several cities set to hold an election have seen massive protests, at times spiraling into looting and violence. With widespread curfews keeping residents in their homes and some ballot-return locations shuttered, some voters could end up disenfranchised, voting rights activists warned. “We are particularly concerned about how the protests, and particularly the response to the protests, are going to affect voting,” said Suzanne Almeida, the interim executive director of Common Cause Pennsylvania. She cited two particular stress points: curfews and an increased police presence.

District of Columbia: Voters in D.C. primary face long lines, crowds at polls | Julie Zauzmer and Fenit Nirappil/The Washington Post

D.C. voters braved waits longer than four hours to cast ballots in a city primary election upended by coronavirus and demonstrations against police violence. The District attempted to shift to a mostly by-mail election to reduce the risk of spreading the virus. But many voters never received the absentee ballots they requested and the city shuttered most of its usual polling places, resulting in lines stretching for blocks. Results of the election were not available hours after polls closed at 8 p.m., to allow for the voters still waiting in line to cast their ballots. Initial results were not expected until early Wednesday. A 7 p.m. curfew the mayor imposed as protests continued to sweep the city halted public transportation and forced some voters to come up with alternative travel plans, and caused confusion when an officer improperly told voters lined up at a Georgetown-area polling place to go home. But residents said they were determined to exercise their voting rights in pivotal local council races and the presidential primary, with some citing the demonstrations against the police killing of George Floyd as inspiration.

Iowa: Armed with face masks and hand sanitizer, voters cast their primary ballots | Ian Richardson/Des Moines Register

Jan Hall has been voting in person for more than six decades, and she wasn’t going to let a pandemic stop her from doing it again. The 85-year-old Des Moines resident was among a steady trickle of voters filing in and out of the South Side Senior Center on Tuesday morning, where approximately 120 people had cast their primary votes in the first two hours, slightly above poll workers’ expectations. “I like the idea of going to a polling place and writing my vote on a ballot and putting it in a machine and knowing that it’s being counted,” she said. “I’ve got my mask on. I’ll be fine.” Cloth masks were standard for many of those who entered the polling places Tuesday morning. Poll workers also wore masks or face shields. It’s one of many precautions taken to protect voters casting their ballots in person amid the coronavirus pandemic.

Maryland: Amid pandemic and protests, voters compelled to vote ‘now more than ever’ | Jean Marbella/Baltimore Sun

After ballots for the primary election never arrived at their new home in Tuscany-Canterbury, Dan Dudrow and Miriam Travieso made calls and even went looking for them at their old place — to no avail. That is why they found themselves Tuesday at the University of Maryland, Baltimore, one of six in-person voting sites in the city. There, they were determined to have a say in who will lead their city and their country through a time of both pandemic and protest. “We really care about who gets elected,” said Dudrow, 79, a retired professor of painting and drawing at the Maryland Institute College of Art. “It’s very important the way that everything is going now,” said his wife Travieso, 82, a retired psychiatric nurse. “We really wanted to stand for peace and cooperation with others.” “Now more than ever,” Dudrow added.

Massachusetts: Plan to expand mail-in voting faces pushback | Christian M. Wade/Gloucester Times

Voters will be able to request mail-in ballots ahead of the upcoming elections under a proposal working its way through Beacon Hill, but voting rights groups say the changes won’t go far enough. The proposal, co-sponsored by Sen. Barry Finegold, D-Andover, would allow registered voters to request absentee ballots for the Sept. 1 state primary and Nov. 3 presidential election. The measure has already cleared a key legislative committee but has yet to be approved by the full House and Senate. The ballots will be mailed to voters’ homes and would have to be returned to local election clerks at least one week before the election to be counted. The changes also allow in-person early voting ahead of the fall primary and general elections. The state has already allowed early voting twice ahead of general elections in 2016 and 2018, but not for a state primary. Cities and towns would have to make early voting available for a set number of hours each day, from Aug. 22-28 for the primary and Oct. 17-30 for the presidential election.

Ohio: State task force created to prepare for presidential election during pandemic | Lawrence Budd/Dayton Daily News

A bipartisan statewide commission has been formed by the Ohio Secretary of State to help prepare for the November presidential election. Warren County Board of Election director Brian Sleeth was named Tuesday by Secretary of State Frank LaRose to the Ready for November Task Force.“How are we going to have this intimate interaction with voters while keeping a six-foot distance?” Sleeth said.The task force will provide updates on how counties are preparing, hear from experts, learn from county elections administrators about their needs and requirements, develop “best practices” and study information about “the evolving health situation,” according to the announcement.Sleeth said he spoke with LaRose Tuesday during a brief overview and introduction about how to prepare voters and election officials for the election “with everything that’s changed” since COVID-19 altered the primary election day. The task force will also study the progress of Ohio House Bill 680, which includes provisions for the upc0ming election different than those planned by LaRose and calling for expansion of early voting. The law change would eliminate in-person early voting on Saturday, Sunday and Monday before the Tuesday, Nov. 3 election, offered since 2015, It would also end the mailing of unsolicited absentee ballot applications to all registered voters, which has been done since 2008.

New Jersey: Division of Elections spent $89,000 for one online voter | David Wildstein/New Jersey Globe

New Jersey spent $89,000 to test online voting, but just one voter used the system in the May 12 non-partisan municipal elections. New Jersey Division of Elections director Robert F. Giles awarded the contact, obtained by the New Jersey Globe,  to Seattle-based Democracy Live, Inc. on April 27 to test an electronic ballot delivery system that would allow voters needing special assistance to vote online using their computer or mobile device. The contract was not publicly bid. “This was all very hush-hush,” a county clerk, speaking on the condition of anonymity told Globe.  “They didn’t want this heavily publicized.  They were just testing it and didn’t want people to know about it in case something went wrong.” The contract, which had been in the works, was not finalized until after ballots for the all-VBM May 12 elections had already been printed and mailed. Several election officials told the Globe that Giles instructed them to include an insert with the ballots that included vague language saying that a disabled voter needing assistance should call the county clerk’s office. One election official described the process as an “honor system” that would allow a voter to supply them with an e-mail address to send a link for online voting without any effective verification process. “We were told to just ask for an email address,” the official said.

North Carolina: GOP, Democratic Lawmakers Find Common Ground On Absentee Voting | Rusty Jacobs/WUNC

North Carolina is accustomed to deep partisan divisions over elections law. Republicans and Democrats, along with voting rights advocates, have been battling at the Legislature and in court over issues like redistricting and voter ID for most of the past decade. Indeed, back in January, a federal judge halted the latest photo ID requirement crafted by the GOP-controlled Legislature from taking effect. That’s what makes the measure now cruising through the General Assembly so exciting, according to Myrna Perez, Director of the Voting Rights and Elections Program at the Brennan Center for Justice. “There seems to be some real truth-telling, right? There seems to be some acknowledgment of the real facts on the ground,” Perez said.

Pennsylvania: What Pennsylvania’s ‘Dry Run’ Election Could Reveal About November | Nick Corasaniti/The New York Times

Every weekend since Gov. Tom Wolf of Pennsylvania issued a statewide stay-at-home order, on April 1, millions of cellphones across the commonwealth have buzzed with text messages from the state Democrats, checking on the status of voters’ mail-in ballots. During that period, state Republicans called two million phones around the state to try to mobilize support, and the Republican National Committee sent applications for mail-in ballots to thousands of targeted voters there. With Pennsylvania holding an important primary election on Tuesday, both parties are also treating it as their biggest chance to stage a statewide “dry run” for organizing and voting before the November presidential vote in one of the nation’s more crucial battleground states. The parties are in new territory this election season — not only because of Covid-19 and the protests over George Floyd’s death, including in Philadelphia and Pittsburgh, but also because of a new law mandating that anyone who votes by mail in the primary will be sent a ballot for the November election. Party officials and affiliate groups are racing to ramp up and test their voter mobilization efforts, given that the race between President Trump and Joseph R. Biden Jr. this fall is likely to involve obstacles wrought by the coronavirus.

Pennsylvania: Voter confusion abounds in places due to consolidated polling places | Jan Murphy/PennLive

Some voters in some cities around the state are finding their experience of participating in Tuesday’s primary to be confounding, intimidating, and frustrating. Changes made in response to the COVID-19 pandemic and having an election in the shadows of civil unrest gripping the nation added a new level of emotion to carrying out one’s civic duty. Many polling places weren’t in the locations where they used to be and many longtime poll workers sat out this election as a result of concerns about exposure to coronavirus. County election officials in midstate counties reported little to no problems with that. However, in other places around the state, voters showed up at their standard polling place only to be met with a sign directing them to another location or simply seeing no notice at all, said Erin Kramer, executive director of One Pennsylvania, an organization monitoring issues arising at polling places across the state as part of the Lawyers’ Committee for Civil Rights Under Law.

South Carolina: Absentee ballot requests ‘through the roof’ | John Monk/The State

With a week to go before the June 9 primary, people voting absentee across South Carolina will likely hit an all-time high in several categories, state and county elections officials predicted Monday. “These numbers are through the roof,” said Terry Graham, interim director of the Richland County Board of Voter Registration and Elections during an interview at his Harden Street office. “Right now, we have more than 22,320 absentee ballot requests,” Graham said. “But in 2016 for the primary, we only had 10,283 requests in all for absentee ballots.” Across town, at the S.C. State Election Commission, spokesman Chris Whitmire said, “One of the records we are going to set is the percentage of people participating in a statewide election by absentee.” The previous record for percentage of people voting absentee was in the 2016 general election, when 24% of all votes cast — or more than 500,000 votes — were absentee, Whitmire said.

South Dakota: With absentee voting at record high, poll workers report slow Election Day | Trevor J. Mitchell/Sioux Falls Argus Leader

Poll workers all across Sioux Falls had one word to describe the first few hours of voting in Tuesday’s joint election that combined state and county primaries with municipal and school board elections. “Slow.” It wasn’t a surprise, of course. COVID-19 is the reason for the joint election in the first place, and the concerns that combined the two elections still hang over the city even in early June. The Secretary of State’s Office said 86,906 absentee ballots had been cast in the state as of Tuesday morning, after an application for one was sent to every registered South Dakota voter. That’s 69% of the total ballots cast during the 2016 primary. And if it keeps people safe, “slow” isn’t that bad. May Stoll, a poll worker at Carnegie Town Hall who’s been volunteering for the past 30 years, said that on a normal election day at 8:30 a.m., 150 people would have already come through.

Vermont: Senate approves bill to remove Governor from vote-by-mail decision | Xander Landen/VTDigger

The Vermont Senate on Tuesday advanced legislation that would give Vermont Secretary of State Jim Condos the unilateral authority to expand mail-in voting during the Covid-19 pandemic, after he and Gov. Phil Scott have struggled to reach an agreement on the policy. The legislation, which advanced in a vote of 21-7, removes a requirement for the governor to sign off on emergency elections changes during the pandemic. The bill is expected to pass on a second vote Wednesday and then heads to the House where Democratic leaders have signaled support. The vote fell mostly along party lines. Democrats argued that establishing a universal vote-by-mail system is important to protect the health of voters and poll workers in November.  Republicans said the expansion is unnecessary and opens up avenues for voter fraud. The vote came after a disagreement between Condos and Scott that has taken on partisan overtones.