National: State and local officials beg Congress to send more election funds ahead of November | Maggie Miller/The Hill

Top state and local election officials on Wednesday begged Congress to appropriate more election funding ahead of November to address COVID-19 challenges. Congress sent $400 million to states to address COVID-19 election concerns as part of the stimulus package signed into law by President Trump in March, called the Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security (CARES) Act. Election officials testified during an Election Assistance Commission (EAC) summit on Wednesday that those funds were running out. “It’s looking like I spent close to 60 percent of my CARES Act funding on the primary election,” Jared Dearing, the executive director of the Kentucky State Board of Elections, testified. “To put that in context, we are expecting turnout to go from 30 percent, which was a record high for a primary election, to as much as 70 percent.” Dearing noted that only around 2 percent of ballots in Kentucky are typically cast through mail-in voting, but that number increased to 75 percent during the COVID-19 pandemic, a change he said would require further funds to address. “Where we procure these funds and how much this is going to cost is incredibly concerning,” Dearing said. Iowa Secretary of State Paul Pate (R) also testified in favor of the federal government sending more funds, but argued the funds should be sent with fewer strings attached. “Clearly we welcome more resources, the goal here is we want more stable and consistent funding, because we have COVID, we may be facing COVID in the next elections,” Pate said.

National: Prospect of chaos in November grows as coronavirus cases rise and Trump escalates attacks on voting | Abby Phillip/CNN

The rickety, decentralized election system that has been a hallmark of American life is facing its most significant test yet under the combined pressure of a worsening coronavirus pandemic and President Donald Trump’s determination to undermine faith in the voting system. In November, this year’s presidential election could be unlike anything the country has seen in at least 20 years, when the results of the 2000 election hinged on paper ballots and hanging chads. As Trump’s poll numbers have flagged this summer, he has increasingly resorted to baseless allegations of widespread cheating and claims that Democrats will corrupt the result of the election through mail-in voting. And as coronavirus cases continue to rise across the country, the need for alternatives to in-person voting is becoming more urgent by the day. Republicans and Democrats are now preparing for a pitched legal battle over which votes will count and when they should be counted. States are struggling to retrofit their voting process to meet the needs of voters concerned about risking their lives to cast their ballot. And primary elections held so far this summer indicate that November could bring historic turnout, albeit via mail-in ballots — and correspondingly, a lengthy wait for election results.

National: Trump’s voting by mail assaults could cost him the election | Joseph Marks/The Washington Post

President Trump’s assaults against voting by mail may backfire and sink his own reelection chances in November. Republicans have voted by mail in far lower numbers than Democrats in a string of primaries since Trump began falsely claiming the process would lead to widespread fraud, Amy Gardner and Josh Dawsey report. That could be an electoral disaster for the president, who’s locked in a difficult reelection race — especially if the coronavirus pandemic makes it difficult or risky for many of his supporters to vote in person. The issue was already dividing Trump from Republican election officials who have generally joined Democrats in trying to vastly expand mail voting during the pandemic so people don’t have to risk their health to cast ballots. Now it’s splitting him from his own party’s strategists. The president’s criticism of mail voting “does reduce the likelihood of Republicans embracing this process,” a senior GOP strategist told my colleagues. “Especially for older, more rural voters, that could be important for Republicans getting out the vote in 2020. I don’t want ‘I will not vote by mail’ to become a political statement. But it may be too late.” The rift is especially noteworthy because voting by mail has not historically been a partisan issue. Many right-leaning states, such as Utah and Arizona, have embraced the process with large percentages of their populations casting mail ballots. Many left-leaning states, including Massachusetts and New York, have shied away from it.

Editorials: Congress must act to protect the legitimacy of the election this fall | Chuck Hagel, Leon Panetta, Tim Roemer and Zach Wamp/The Hill

Nothing is more sacred in our democratic republic than the right to free and fair elections. But that right is being threatened by those who seek to promote fear and division. If fear prevails, the United States could be on a collision course to disaster in November. We cannot allow that to happen. Our nation is in an unprecedented situation. While state election officials have tried their best to hold primaries as the coronavirus pandemic rages, there have been major problems with the operations of several contests, from Georgia to Wisconsin, and plenty of challenges in others. The causes of these problems were largely predictable. Polling stations were shut down, often without notice, due to a lack of workers, meaning long lines at those polling stations that were open. There were faulty and untested equipment and poll workers not knowing how to operate them. There were delayed results and absentee ballot requests not processed due to current staffing levels. None of this is acceptable in 2020. Local and state officials from both parties know best what assistance they need to prepare for the election. They have made their calls clear for new funding, including federal funding, to help make voting safe and secure. The $400 million they have received so far from Congress unfortunately does not even begin to cover all of the costs to make voting safe.

Georgia: Officials try to avoid calamity, fix election problems | Mark Niesse Amanda C. Coyne/The Atlanta Journal-Constitution

The Georgia Secretary of State’s Office is working with county elections officials to avoid a repeat of June’s chaotic primary elections that included hours-long lines to vote. Poll worker jobs will be advertised through social media, newspaper and radio. Tech experts will be dispatched to set up voting equipment. State election officials will tell counties where precincts need to be added. These efforts are designed to help county election offices prevent problems in primary runoffs Aug. 11 and the presidential election Nov. 3, when election day turnout is expected to be three times higher than the primary. Whether the measures will work depends on election officials’ ability to get staff hired and trained, add voting locations and manage the ongoing threat of the coronavirus pandemic, which contributed to extensive wait times because of social distancing requirements.

Indiana: Lawsuit challenges Indiana limits on voting time extensions | Tom Davies/Associated Press

An Indiana law violates the U.S. Constitution by blocking voters and candidates from asking courts to keep polling places open past the state’s 6 p.m. closing time because of Election Day troubles, a voting rights group argued in a lawsuit filed Wednesday. The law passed by Indiana’s Republican-dominated Legislature in 2019 prevents anyone other than a county election board, which oversee voting matters, from requesting court orders to extend voting hours. The lawsuit filed in federal court in Indianapolis on behalf of Common Cause Indiana cites equipment troubles, delays in opening polling sites and ballot shortages during the November 2018 elections in Johnson, Porter and Monroe counties. It argues that the state law wrongly thwarts voters and political parties from protecting the right to vote. “Shutting the courthouse doors to voters and erecting a multi-step process to obtain an extension of polling-place hours to correct irregularities places a severe and unconstitutional burden on all Indiana voters,” the lawsuit said.

Maine: Voters get mixed messages on mail-in ballot postage | Edward D. Murphy/Portland Press Herald

Thousands of Mainers are switching to absentee voting, but many are encountering a quandary over how much postage to put on their mail-in ballots. And they’re getting mixed answers from their town officials, who often provide either wrong advice or no guidance. Charlie Bernstein of Augusta said a notification that came with his ballots for next week’s primary election said he would need a 55 cent stamp, the same amount as a first-class letter, to mail in his absentee ballots. But when he went to his local post office to buy the postage, he was told it would cost 70 cents because of the weight of the ballots for the Democratic primary, a local school budget and the state ballot for bond questions. Bernstein wasn’t concerned about the extra 15 cents, but he got to wondering what would happen if he had sent his ballots with the 55 cent stamp he was told he would need. Would it go to a dead letter box? Get returned to him for more postage? Be delayed beyond the 8 p.m. July 14 deadline and not be counted? The answers are no, no and no.

Maryland: Governor orders in-person election for November despite election officials’ concerns | Pamela Wood and Emily Opilo/Baltimore Sun

Despite concerns from state and local election officials about the practicality and safety of staffing polling places in November, Gov. Larry Hogan on Wednesday ordered them to run a regular, in-person election with every precinct open to its voters on Election Day. To accommodate anyone who feels unsafe casting a ballot in person because of the coronavirus pandemic, Hogan also ordered the State Board of Elections in a letter to mail each voter an application for an absentee ballot. He said on the “C4 Show” on WBAL-AM on Wednesday that a “normal” election would resolve problems Maryland had in the June 2 primary, which was mostly a vote-by-mail format in which ballots were automatically sent to 4 million eligible voters choosing nominees for offices such as president and mayor of Baltimore. Some voters said they didn’t receive ballots in time, and there were long lines at in-person voting centers and at ballot drop boxes on primary day. “We’re very frustrated with the way the election was handled in the primary by the State Board of Elections and the city board of elections,” Hogan said. “Mistakes were definitely made, and it was unacceptable and inexcusable that they screwed up so much with respect to getting the ballots out on time and getting them out to everybody.” Amy Cruice of the ACLU of Maryland said despite the hiccups with some ballots arriving late or having errors, the primary was a success from the standpoint of voter participation. Turnout was high, and 97% of those who voted did so with their mailed ballots, she said.

Missouri: Court hears lawsuit again about mail-in voting law | Alisa Nelson/Missourinet

Cole County Circuit Court Judge Jon Beetum is considering a lawsuit designed to let all Missouri voters cast a ballot by mail this year without a notarized signature. The NAACP of Missouri and the ACLU of Missouri are suing the state and contend that a new law requiring some voters to get a notary could put their health and the health of others at risk during the COVID-19 outbreak. Beetum dismissed the case in May and said the groups did not state a claim. He went on to say they are trying to get widespread absentee voting for all future elections. The case was then appealed to the Missouri Supreme Court and the high court reversed Beetum’s decision. It said the groups actually stated a claim. Plaintiffs want the court to block the notarization requirement in Senate Bill 631. Under the plan, all registered Missouri voters can mail in their ballot this year, if requested, and the ballot envelope must be notarized.

Montana: Native American tribes win injunction on vote collection law | Bill Theobald/The Fulcrum

A Montana judge has blocked new state restrictions on the collecting of others’ ballots, a victory for Native American tribes that say their members rely on the help. The law probably violates the tribal members’ right to vote because it would make it especially difficult for them to make sure their own ballots got from reservations and other remote areas to election offices, District Judge Jessica Fehr of Yellowstone County said Tuesday in putting a hold on the requirements. Her injunction, while not final, is nonetheless the latest voting rights victory for people in Indian Country, who say too many election rules disregard their special circumstances and amount to suppression. It’s also the latest turn in the generally partisan battle over so-called ballot harvesting. The American Civil Liberties Union had sued on behalf of several tribes in March, challenging a state law passed in 2017 and endorsed by statewide referendum the next year. It says caregivers, family members and acquaintances can collect no more than six ballots in an election. Proponents say such limits prevent election fraud by preventing partisan operatives from conducting mass collections of mail-in ballots — potentially from both friendly and unfriendly precincts.

New Hampshire: Blind voters sue over New Hampshire absentee ballot system | Holly Ramer/Associated Press

New Hampshire’s absentee ballot system will force blind voters and those with other disabilities to sacrifice their privacy, safety or potentially both during the coronavirus pandemic, according to a lawsuit filed against the state. Disabilities Rights Center-New Hampshire sued Secretary of State William Gardner on behalf of the National Federation of the Blind and its New Hampshire chapter, Granite State Independent Living, and three voters with disabilities. The lawsuit, filed Tuesday in U.S. District Court, seeks to force the state to implement an accessible, electronic absentee voting system. Every step of New Hampshire’s absentee voting program is inaccessible,” the lawsuit states. “Plaintiffs are entitled to equal access to New Hampshire’s absentee voting program to vote privately, secretly, independently, and safely, as individuals without disabilities can.” Absentee ballots typically are only available in limited circumstances, but the state is allowing anyone to use them for the Sept. 8 state primary and Nov. 3 general election if they have concerns about the virus. Special voting machines for people with disabilities will be available for those who vote in person, but both scenarios are problematic, according to the lawsuit.

New York: League of Women Voters Sues NY State Board of Elections, Alleging Serious Flaws in Absentee Ballot System | Jane Wester/New York Law Journal

The League of Women Voters sued the New York State Board of Elections Wednesday, arguing that the state’s absentee ballot procedures are woefully flawed and must be repaired. While absentee ballots have been used by a relatively small portion of New York voters in the past, absentee ballot requests skyrocketed amid the coronavirus pandemic and are expected to represent a substantial number of ballots in November, attorneys from Selendy & Gay and the Campaign Legal Center argued in Wednesday’s filing. “If New York’s standardless process for reviewing absentee ballots and the lack of notice or opportunity to cure are permitted to continue in the 2020 November election, many more absentee voters will suffer erroneous deprivation of their right to vote,” Selendy & Gay partner Joshua Margolin wrote in the complaint, which was filed in the Southern District of New York. In 2018, election inspectors rejected nearly 14% of the absentee ballots cast in New York, according to the complaint. Many were rejected because of a mismatch between the voter’s ballot envelope signature and their voter registration.

Ohio: Early voting, coronavirus forcing election boards to plan early | Bonnie Meibers/Dayton Daily News

Ohio Secretary of State Frank LaRose sent a readiness plan for the November 2020 election to area counties, mandating they recruit more poll workers, get personal protective equipment and relocate polling locations for vulnerable populations, among other points. The Secretary of State’s Office will provide each county board of elections a block grant from the CARES Act. The amount will be determined by the number of registered voters in each county. No county will get less than $25,000. The CARES grant will be disbursed to each county in single up-front, lump sum amount. Each county board of elections is required to use this funding to implement the requirements of the directive given by LaRose’s office. Jan Kelly, director of the Montgomery County Board of Elections, said Montgomery County will get about $433,000 to implement the various points in the directive. “We are very grateful to have the extra funds to procure the extra staff and supplies we’re going to need for this very, very special election,” Kelly said.

Editorials: Now is the time to fix vote-by-mail in Pennsylvania | Pittsburgh Post-Gazette

President Donald Trump’s re-election campaign is suing Pennsylvania to force changes in how the state collects and counts mail-in ballots. The lawsuit raises some concerns worthy of review, but the lawsuit should not intimidate officials against moving forward with an even more robust mail-in voting process. The Trump campaign maintains that mail-in voting procedures were accompanied by illegal changes, including allowing voters to drop off completed ballots at collection sites outside of county elections offices such as community college campuses, fairgrounds, retirement homes and parks. This is a more than fair point. We cannot go to such lengths to make voting “convenient” that we compromise the franchise. The campaign is also demanding security envelopes for ballots and poll watchers who monitor collection sites. Democratic leaders view the lawsuit as a strategy to further paint mail-in voting as inherently fraudulent, but that doesn’t address the substantive problems that have become evident. The issues raised in the lawsuit should be reviewed to ensure the integrity of the election, but state officials should also make use of the time before the November presidential election to better prepare for what will likely be a huge number of requests for mail-in ballots.

Rhode Island: Board of Elections recommends against sending mail ballot applications to all registered voters for September primary | Katherine Gregg/Providence Journal

State election officials sent word Wednesday that they do not support sending unsolicited mail ballot applications to every one of Rhode Island’s 700,000-plus registered voters for the September primaries. The unanimous vote, aimed at Secretary of State Nellie Gorbea, came during a two-hour meeting of the Board of Elections that touched on worries about a possible resurgence of the coronavirus in the fall and the chilling effect that could have on voting. As one of the commissioners who also sits on Gorbea’s separate elections task force, Isadore Ramos questioned the value of the “redundancy.” “Now we’re talking about the same issues,’’ he said. ”I’ve heard it all. It is time to move and make some decisions.“

Wisconsin: Cities Getting $6.3M In Grants To Help With Elections During Pandemic | Shamane Mills/Wisconsin Public Radio

Five Wisconsin cities will get a total of $6.3 million in grants to help administer elections during the coronavirus pandemic. The money comes from the Center for Tech and Civic Life, a nonprofit voting advocacy group, and will be distributed to Madison, Milwaukee, Green Bay, Kenosha and Racine. “We’re obviously thrilled,” said Racine Mayor Cory Mason. “The big winners in all of this are the voters who are going to be able to vote safely this year in the midst of the pandemic.” Long lines at some Wisconsin polling places during the state’s April election, which was conducted under a statewide stay-at-home order, drew national attention as voters and poll workers weighed potential safety risks against civic duty. Next month is the primary for congressional and state legislative races. Usually such elections have low turnout but some cities are seeing a record number of requests for absentee ballots.