National: GOP senator blocks bill to boost mail-in and early voting during pandemic | Maggie Miller/The Hill

Sen. Roy Blunt (R-Mo.) on Tuesday blocked an attempt by Sen. Amy Klobuchar (D-Minn.) to push legislation through the Senate that would promote mail-in voting and expand early voting during the COVID-19 pandemic. Blunt, who serves as chairman of the elections-focused Senate Rules Committee, blocked Klobuchar’s attempt to pass the bill in a Senate by unanimous consent due to concerns that it would federalize the election process. “I just don’t think this is the time to make this kind of fundamental change,” Blunt said, pointing to concerns that passing the bill would lead to state and local election officials having less control over elections. The Natural Disaster and Emergency Ballot Act, introduced by Klobuchar and Sen. Ron Wyden (D-Ore.) in March, would provide $3 million to the Election Assistance Commission to implement new requirements in the bill. These include requiring states to expand early voting to 20 days prior to the election, and extending the time for absentee ballots to be counted.

Kentucky: Despite poll worker crunch, Kentucky voters poised to break turnout records as they embrace mail ballots | Amy Gardner, Michelle Ye Hee Lee and Elise Viebeck/The Washington Post

Voters in Kentucky were on track to cast ballots in record numbers for Tuesday’s primary despite the risk of coronavirus infection and shortages of poll workers, thanks in part to the widespread embrace of voting by mail. Michael G. Adams, Kentucky’s Republican secretary of state, projected that total turnout would exceed 1 million, including roughly 800,000 mailed ballots. The final figure would shatter the previous record of 922,456 primary voters set in 2008. Poll worker cancellations had forced election officials to staff fewer than 200 polling locations instead of the usual 3,700, but Adams said an avalanche of mail-in balloting and in-person early voting helped lessen demand on the polls Tuesday. The numbers reflected an overwhelming shift to absentee voting by Kentucky voters, even as President Trump has railed against mail ballots and claimed without evidence they lead to massive fraud. As of mid-afternoon, about 570,000 absentee ballots had been received by election offices in the state, in addition to the 100,000 ballots cast at early voting locations. At least 156,000 people voted in person on Election Day. Primaries were also held Tuesday in Virginia, as well as New York, where there were scattered reports of delays in opening polling sites, voters receiving incomplete ballot packages and long lines that stretched into the night.

National: Here’s why all election officials should pay attention to Kentucky’s primary | Joseph Marks/The Washington Post

Kentucky’s primary contest yesterday marked a rare bright spot after a string of primaries where officials proved wholly unprepared to hold safe and secure elections during the pandemic. The Kentucky primary Tuesday was far from flawless. Indeed, some in-person voters waited up to two hours in Lexington. But the state managed to evade the fate of Wisconsin, Georgia and the District of Columbia where large numbers of requested mail ballots never arrived, poll workers were unprepared and voting lines stretched for four hours and longer. And it did it while shattering the record for primary voter turnout, largely driven by interest in a contentious Democratic primary to take on Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.). Secretary of State Michael G. Adams (R) predicted total turnout would exceed 1 million voters with a large percentage of them casting ballots by mail, Amy Gardner, Michelle Ye Hee Lee and Elise Viebeck report. The Kentucky situation was a welcome victory after speculation the state could face major primary day challenges — especially because a dearth of poll workers healthy enough to brave the pandemic forced the state to just open 200 polling sites, down from 3,700 in a typical election year.

National: ‘An embarrassment’: Trump’s justice department goes quiet on voting rights | Sam Levine/The Guardian

The Department of Justice (DoJ), the agency with unmatched power to prevent discrimination at the ballot box, has been glaringly quiet when it comes to enforcing voting rights ahead of the 2020 election, former department attorneys say. Amid concern that the attorney general, William Barr, is using the department to advance Trump’s political interests, observers say the department is failing to protect the voting rights of minority groups. Remarkably, while the department has been involved in a handful of cases since Donald Trump’s inauguration, it has largely defended voting restrictions rather than opposing them. The department’s limited public activity has been striking, particularly as several states have seen voters wait hours in line to vote and jurisdictions are rapidly limiting in-person voting options because of the Covid-19 pandemic. “It just seems like there’s nobody home, which is tragic,” said William Yeomans, who worked in the department’s civil rights division, which includes the voting section, for over two decades. “This is especially sad considering the plethora of voting issues crying out for action, from Georgia to Wisconsin.” Until late May, the justice department had not filed a new case under the Voting Rights Act, the powerful 1965 law that prohibits voting discrimination, during Trump’s presidency. (In 2019, it settled a Voting Rights Act case in Michigan that was filed in the final days of the Obama administration.)

National: Trump’s war against mail-in voting lacks Republican allies | Michael Warren, Manu Raju and Marshall Cohen/CNN

Donald Trump’s campaign against mail-in voting isn’t getting much support from other Republicans, either in Washington or in some key swing states. After Trump tweeted Monday morning that mail-in ballots would make 2020 the “most RIGGED election in our nation’s history,” CNN spoke with numerous GOP senators, including members of the GOP leadership team. None of them said they agreed with the President’s views on mail-in voting, and a number of them said they supported expansions as a way to deal with the coronavirus. “I think it’s fine,” Sen. Deb Fischer of Nebraska, a member of the Senate GOP leadership team, said of the expansion of mail-in voting in her state. “It’s worked well in Nebraska. We had tremendous turnout in the primary in May. No issues that I’ve heard from our secretary of state. It’s worked well.” Fischer was joined by several other Republican senators Monday who said they did not believe more voting by mail — which has been expanding in states in recent years and has accelerated since the coronavirus outbreak began — would unfairly rig the election.

National: 16 Trump officials who have voted by mail recently, despite Trump’s warnings about it | Aaron Blake/The Washington Post

President Trump spent much of his Monday on Twitter decrying the supposed dangers of voting by mail. And in that effort, he got an assist over the weekend from Attorney General William P. Barr. Appearing on Fox News with Maria Bartiromo, Barr said twice that expanded voting by mail would open “the floodgates of potential fraud.” “Right now, a foreign country could print up tens of thousands of counterfeit ballots, and [it would] be very hard for us to detect which was the right and which was the wrong ballot,” Barr said. Barr’s allegation has astounded election experts, who say something on the scale he’s talking about is simply unthinkable. Basically, localities know who they’ve sent ballots to and would be aware of duplicate ballots or ballots being returned by people who were never sent them. Yet here Barr is raising it again — and with no pushback from the Fox host. Barr’s commentary, though, is similar to Trump’s in one key respect: While warning against the dangers of voting by mail, Barr himself has used it. As The Washington Post reported earlier this month, Barr voted absentee in both the 2019 and 2012 elections. Voting absentee and opposing making voting by mail easier aren’t inherently at odds, it bears noting. One could know that their own absentee ballot is legitimate, for example, while believing that expanding the practice could lead to problems with other ballots. And one could believe that being out of state is a valid excuse but not wanting to show up to vote during the coronavirus pandemic isn’t.

National: Democratic election officials punch back on Trump mail voting claims | Joseph Marks/The Washington Post

Democratic election officials are punching back at President Trump’s unfounded claims that voting by mail leads to widespread fraud. In a new digital ad, Democratic secretaries of state describe the president’s assault on mail voting as an effort to suppress minority votes and link it to a long history of racist voting requirements such as poll taxes. The video also attacks Trump and Republicans for other actions that make it harder to vote, such as voter ID laws and purging the files of people who haven’t voted in several elections. “White supremacy has no place in our elections and no place in our country,” the ad declares. It pledges Democratic secretaries of state will work to ensure voting by mail is an option for everyone during the coronavirus pandemic. The ad – released at the same time as a new website promoting Democratic secretary of state candidates – marks a significant rhetorical escalation from election officials who’ve spent much of the pandemic countering the president’s unfounded claims with facts and figures that show fraud rates from voting by mail are exceptionally low. It also underscores the stakes as election officials struggle to maintain public faith in the security and credibility of the 2020 elections while Trump continually undermines it.

Arkansas: Mail-in voting focus of suit filed in state | John Lynch/Arkansas Democrat-Gazette

The national battle over voting by mail opened a front in Little Rock on Tuesday when a retired Arkansas Court of Appeals judge and a former state elections director filed suit to force election officials to abide by a 35-year-old state Supreme Court ruling that greatly expanded the right to absentee balloting. Arkansas election authorities appear to have embraced a more restrictive standard for mail-in voting than the high court established in 1985, say Olly Neal Jr., the former judge, and Susan Inman, the former director, in their lawsuit that calls on Pulaski County Circuit Judge Wendell Griffen to order Secretary of State John Thurston to follow the Supreme Court holding in the November election. They are further asking the judge to bar Thurston from requiring voters to explain why they would want to vote by mail. No hearings have been scheduled.

Georgia: Election officials grilled over lines and problems in Georgia primary | Mark Niesse/The Atlanta Journal-Constitution

State representatives demanded improvements in Georgia’s elections Tuesday as they confronted Secretary of State Brad Raffensperger with questions about what went wrong. Raffensperger acknowledged that long lines in Georgia’s June 9 primary were “unacceptable” but downplayed problems with the state’s new voting system. He said most difficulties in the election occurred in Fulton County, which had some of the most extreme wait times.The state Capitol hearing, part of an investigation ordered by Republican House Speaker David Ralston, came as legislators are seeking ways to avoid a repeat of three-hour waits, precinct closures and equipment difficulties during a high-turnout presidential election in November. “It’s not going to work and it’s not going to be good enough for you to just keep saying it’s in Fulton County and not my issue,” said state Rep. Renitta Shannon, a Democrat from Decatur. “What specific policies are you going to put in place?” Raffensperger, a Republican, responded that election officials need to add voting locations, improve hands-on training and encourage early voting. He said he’s reaching out to community groups such as Rotary Clubs, Boy Scouts and sororities to ask whether they can host precincts.

Kansas: More Kansans are asking for mail ballots while officials work to make polling places pandemic-safe | Jim McLean/Shawnee Mission Post

Facing the prospect of standing in line at polling places amid the coronavirus pandemic, requests from Kansans for mail ballots continue to come in at a record clip. As of June 17, more than 142,000 Kansans had filed applications for advance ballots for the Aug. 4 primary. That far exceeds the 54,000 requested at the same point in the last presidential election year. Kansas Secretary of State Scott Schwab said the jump reflects worries about in-person voting, but he’s not willing to heed calls from state Democratic Party officials to switch to all-mail elections. That would create “massive voter confusion,” said Schwab, a Republican preparing to oversee his first statewide election. Five states — Colorado, Hawaii, Oregon, Utah and Washington — conduct all elections by mail. Other states may do so this year to prevent a surge in coronavirus cases. Kansas Democrats conducted their May 2 presidential primary entirely by mail. They considered it such a success that State Party Chair Vicki Hiatt said Schwab should use a similar process for this year’s primary and general elections rather than putting “a whole lot of money into making provisions for safety.”

Kentucky: State votes amid COVID-19, suppression claims as late voters are allowed into polling site | Phillip M. Bailey and Joe Sonka/Louisville Courier Journal

Kentuckians streamed into polling places across the state on Tuesday during a historic primary election that withstood a global pandemic and outside worries of voter suppression. When polls opened at 6 a.m., a line had formed at the lone voting location in Jefferson County — the cavernous Kentucky Exposition Center at the state fairgrounds. Those who showed up throughout the day described their experience as quick and easy, with most saying the traffic entering and leaving the parking lot was the most difficult task. Conflict erupted, though, when the Jefferson County Clerk’s Office closed the doors at 6:03 p.m., just after the announced time for voting to cease throughout the state, leaving a crowd of about 50 people outside. About a dozen voters pounded on the glass doors and shouted, “Let us in!” The campaign of state Rep. Charles Booker, a Democratic U.S. Senate candidate, sought an injunction to allow the polling place to stay open until 9 p.m., according to a tweet from campaign manager Colin Lauderdale.

Louisiana: Lawsuits challenging Louisiana virus election plan dismissed | Melinda Deslatte/The Advocate

A federal judge has thrown out a lawsuit challenging Louisiana’s emergency plan for its July presidential primary and August municipal elections, a plan written in response to the coronavirus outbreak. The emergency plan — crafted by Secretary of State Kyle Ardoin and approved by state lawmakers in April — increased early voting by six days and expanded mail-in balloting options for some people at higher risk to the virus. Two separate lawsuits filed in Baton Rouge federal court argued the plan didn’t go far enough to protect people from the virus. U.S. District Judge Shelly Dick, of Baton Rouge, disagreed in a decision issued Monday that dismissed the consolidated lawsuits and upheld the plan. “The court rejects plaintiffs’ contention that they are being ‘forced to choose’ between their health and voting,” Dick wrote. The 13-day early voting period for the July 11 presidential primary is ongoing, running through July 4. Applications for mail-in ballots are due by July 7.

Maryland: Senate leaders call for ‘hybrid’ election in November, with mail ballots plus more in-person voting sites | Emily Opilo/Baltimore Sun

Two state Senate leaders have called for a “hybrid” election to be held in Maryland this fall that would expand the number of in-person voting locations and allow early voting, while still mailing ballots to registered voters across the state. In a letter sent Tuesday to the state’s top election officials, Senate President Bill Ferguson…

Minnesota: Secretary of State says state will waive mail-in ballot witness requirement | Jessie Van Berke/Minneapolis Star Tribune

Minnesota Secretary of State Steve Simon’s office said Tuesday that the state will waive the witness requirement for absentee ballots in the August primaries despite a federal judge’s misgivings about a consent decree easing the rules for mail-in voting. Simon’s office said he will follow a state court decision from a week ago that approved an agreement removing the witness requirement, a move that was sought in a lawsuit filed by the Minnesota Alliance for Retired Americans Educational Fund. Early voting in the August primary begins Friday. But in a separate case brought by the League of Women Voters of Minnesota, a federal judge said Tuesday that a similar agreement went “well beyond” the concerns raised by a voter who said her health could be jeopardized by having to meet the witness requirement to vote during the coronavirus pandemic. U.S. District Judge Eric Tostrud called for a more narrowly tailored agreement to remedy specific harms cited by the league’s lawsuit. Despite Tostrud’s opinion, Simon, a leading DFL proponent of mail-in voting, said his office will continue to waive the witness requirement in accordance with a decision signed last week by Ramsey County District Judge Sara Grewing.

Missouri: State Supreme Court sending absentee voting case back to Cole County Circuit Court | Brian Hauswirth/Missourinet

The Missouri Supreme Court issued a decision on Tuesday involving absentee voting, ruling that a lawsuit that aims to allow all Missourians to cast absentee ballots without notarization in 2020 can proceed. The Supreme Court is sending the case back to Cole County Circuit Judge Jon Beetem. The decision means the lawsuit from the NAACP of Missouri and the ACLU of Missouri can proceed. The circuit court dismissed the lawsuit, finding that the plaintiffs failed to state a claim on which relief could be granted. The Supreme Court reversed that decision, finding the plaintiffs had stated a claim and remanded the case to the circuit court so the parties can proceed. The organizations filed a lawsuit in mid-Missouri’s Cole County, challenging the constitutional validity of absentee voting legislation that was approved by the Missouri Legislature on the final day of session in May. Governor Mike Parson (R) signed the legislation from State Rep. Dan Shaul, R-Imperial, in June. It expands voting by mail through the rest of 2020. There are two but separate options under the bill.

New Mexico: Bill could allow for all-mail election in certain areas | Michael Gerstein/Santa Fe New Mexican

Emergency powers included in legislation Gov. Michelle Lujan Grisham is expected to sign into law could allow for an all-mail general election in certain areas of the state with public health concerns from the pandemic, according to lawmakers and the Governor’s Office. Senate Bill 4, which the Legislature sent to Lujan Grisham’s desk Saturday night, was not intended to create a statewide, all-mail election. And a provision that would have allowed county clerks to send absentee ballots to all registered voters — not just those who made a formal request for one — was stripped from the bill in a Senate committee. But broad emergency powers in the bill provide a path for a range of measures, on a county-by-county basis, to protect public health. That could include shutting down polling locations in November, allowing drive-thru voting or requiring all-mail voting without an absentee ballot, according to the bill’s sponsors. “There is no plan [to do that] because we don’t know what’s going to happen,” said Sen. Daniel Ivey-Soto, D-Albuquerque, one of the sponsors. “Nothing is off the table,” Ivey-Soto added.

New York: Primary Plagued By Voting Issues, Including Long Lines, Broken Machines And Absentee Ballot Mix-Ups | CBS New York

Many New Yorkers say voting in the primary Tuesday was a nightmare. Some people never got their absentee ballots, and others were waiting in line for hours. The line to vote at Bronx Regional High School snaked around the block for most of the day Tuesday. “How long do you think you waited in line to vote?” CBS2’s Ali Bauman asked Shameeka France. “Oh, two hours, easy. I came here four times,” France said. “I waited inside because it was so hot out here and it’s been a long time. It’s been a long time to wait,” Renee Alford, of Morrisania, said. “I went walking in to find out and they told me there was only five people they were letting in at the time,” Kolaco Acquindo, of Morrisania, said. Acquindo called the Board of Elections to complain about the hold-up, and they eventually sent over an employee two hours before the polls closed. In the meantime, Acquindo says people who were waiting in line to vote got so frustrated they began to leave.

Virginia: Virginia Beach congressional primary election sees technical issue with electronic pollbooks | 13newsnow

On Tuesday morning, as Virginia Beach residents headed to local polling locations to vote for congressional primary candidates, some were met with paper provisional ballots instead of the option to vote on a computer. The City of Virginia Beach wanted voters to know it’s not the voting computers that are the problem — it’s poll workers’ check-in computers, called electronic pollbooks. Donna Patterson, the city’s Voter Registrar, said offering paper provisional ballots was a “normal emergency plan.” By 2:30 p.m., all electronic pollbooks at the 91 active precincts were working properly again, Patterson said. The provisional ballots will be counted, Patterson said, but not today. Virginia Beach’s anticipated final voting results will be counted Wednesday, instead of Tuesday night. Virginia Beach spokeswoman Julie Hill said the Registrar’s Office is investigating why this happened and why the issue wasn’t caught ahead of the elections and will release a report with more details.

Malawi: Protect the vote, or the voter? In African elections, no easy choice. | Ryan Lenora Brown and Josephine Chinele/CSMonitor

The crowd gathered in Kasungu, stretched down its main street and bunched around a small stage. Some wore sky-blue skirts and dresses emblazoned with the face of Peter Mutharika, the country’s president. Others waved handkerchiefs or flyers stamped with four ears of corn – the logo of his political party, the Democratic Progressive Party. Shoulder to shoulder, they jostled for a view of his black SUV. As it parted the crowd, they cheered and ululated. Soon he was onstage, promising in a booming voice that his second term would bring a raft of good fortune to this town in central Malawi. It looks like a scene from another era, before social distancing made gatherings like this a near-impossibility in many parts of the world. But this rally was filmed in mid-June, as Malawi entered the final run-up to its election – held today. Across the world, the COVID-19 crisis has introduced a new wrinkle into the already complicated business of holding an election. Traditional campaigning, after all, is built on closeness – handshaking and posing for photos and the show of strength that is a mass rally. And voting itself often forces people to scrunch together in queues, touching the same polling-place door handles and touch screens and ink pads. How do you do that when experts say touch and breath could spread a deadly disease?

Singapore: Call to be aware of foreign interference risk during elections | Lim Yan Liang/The Straits Times

The Internet has made foreign interference in elections easy and inexpensive to carry out, and it will be foolish for Singapore not to take steps to deal with the threat, Law and Home Affairs Minister K. Shanmugam said yesterday. Whether it is cultivating political parties or sentiment amplification – such as using fake accounts to push a particular narrative – different methods of interfering in elections are “getting fused” together and employed by various entities, both governments and non-state actors, he added. “The Internet has turbocharged this kind of interference through fake news, through lies, through a variety of disinformation campaigns, through hacking,” he noted. “Many things are happening, and you got to be on top of the game.” Among the nations that said they have been targeted are advanced ones such as the US, Britain, France and Germany, he said. But there are ways to prepare for and counter foreign actors who try to interfere in elections or shape the voting behaviour of an electorate, said Mr Shanmugam.