National: Trump can’t postpone the election, but officials worry he and the GOP could starve it | Evan Halper/Los Angeles Times

The elections chief in the Detroit suburb of Rochester Hills, Mich., a competitive softball player in her younger days, feels like she’s been pushed back into the batting cage. This time, nobody is giving Tina Barton a bat. “It is like I am just standing there without anything to hit the balls back,” Barton said. “Every day I step in, and something new is coming at me at high speed.” Poll workers quitting. A churn of court decisions throwing election rules into tumult. A COVID-19 outbreak at City Hall that could sideline her department at a critical moment. The viral pandemic has put the nation’s election system under a level of stress with little precedent. And, although figures in both parties rejected President Trump’s suggestion of postponing the November election when he flirted with the idea Thursday, they haven’t provided the money that officials like Barton need to get ready for it. The House months ago approved $3.6 billion to aid local and state elections officials in dealing with an expected flood of mail-in ballots this fall, something that threatens to overwhelm elections officials in states where voting by mail is a relative novelty. The money has stalled in the Republican-controlled Senate — part of the larger stalemate over a new round of help for people and businesses devastated by the economic impact of the pandemic.

National: Postal Service backlog sparks worries that ballot delivery could be delayed in November | Michelle Ye Hee Lee and Jacob Bogage/The Washington Post

The U.S. Postal Service is experiencing days-long backlogs of mail across the country after a top Trump donor running the agency put in place new procedures described as cost-cutting efforts, alarming postal workers who warn that the policies could undermine their ability to deliver ballots on time for the November election. As President Trump ramps up his unfounded attacks on mail balloting as being susceptible to widespread fraud, postal employees and union officials say the changes implemented by Trump fundraiser-turned-postmaster general Louis DeJoy are contributing to a growing perception that mail delays are the result of a political effort to undermine absentee voting. The backlog comes as the president, who is trailing presumptive Democratic presidential nominee Joe Biden in the polls, has escalated his efforts to cast doubt about the integrity of the November vote, which is expected to yield record numbers of mail ballots because of the coronavirus pandemic. On Thursday, Trump floated the idea of delaying the Nov. 3 general election, a notion that was widely condemned by Democrats and Republicans alike. He has repeatedly gone after the Postal Service, recently suggesting that the agency cannot be trusted to deliver ballots.

National: Ransomware feared as possible saboteur for November election | Eric Tucker, Christina A. Cassidy and Frank Bajak/Associated Press

Federal authorities say one of the gravest threats to the November election is a well-timed ransomware attack that could paralyze voting operations. The threat isn’t just from foreign governments, but any fortune-seeking criminal. Ransomware attacks targeting state and local governments have been on the rise, with cyber criminals seeking quick money by seizing data and holding it hostage until they get paid. The fear is that such attacks could affect voting systems directly or even indirectly, by infecting broader government networks that include electoral databases. Even if a ransomware attack fails to disrupt elections, it could nonetheless rattle confidence in the vote. On the spectrum of threats from the fantastical to the more probable, experts and officials say ransomware is a particularly realistic possibility because the attacks are already so pervasive and lucrative. The FBI and Department of Homeland Security have issued advisories to local governments, including recommendations for preventing attacks. “From the standpoint of confidence in the system, I think it is much easier to disrupt a network and prevent it from operating than it is to change votes,” Adam Hickey, a Justice Department deputy assistant attorney general, said in an interview. The scenario is relatively simple: Plant malware on multiple networks that affect voter registration databases and activate it just before an election. Or target vote-reporting and tabulation systems.

National: Despite virus threat, Black voters wary of voting by mail | Corey Williams/Associated Press

Despite fears that the coronavirus pandemic will worsen, Victor Gibson said he’s not planning to take advantage of Michigan’s expanded vote-by-mail system when he casts his ballot in November. The retired teacher from Detroit just isn’t sure he can trust it. Many Black Americans share similar concerns and are planning to vote in person on Election Day, even as mail-in voting expands to more states as a safety precaution during the pandemic. For many, historical skepticism of a system that tried to keep Black people from the polls and worries that a mailed ballot won’t get counted outweigh the prospect of long lines and health dangers from a virus that’s disproportionately affected communities of color. Ironically, suspicion of mail-in voting aligns with the views of President Donald Trump, whom many Black voters want out of office. Trump took it a step further Tuesday, suggesting a “delay” to the Nov. 3 presidential election — which would take an act of Congress — as he made unsubstantiated allegations in a tweet that increased mail-in voting will result in fraud. “I would never change my mind” about voting in person in November, said Gibson, who is Black and hopes Trump loses. “I always feel better sliding my ballot in. We’ve heard so many controversies about missing absentee ballots.”

National: House Republicans introduce legislation to give states $400 million for elections | Maggie Miller/The Hill

A group of House Republicans on Monday introduced legislation that would appropriate $400 million to states to address election challenges stemming from the COVID-19 pandemic. The Emergency Assistance for Safe Elections (EASE) Act would designate $200 million to assist with sanitizing in-person polling stations and purchasing personal protective equipment, while a further $100 million would go towards recruiting and training new poll workers, following a nationwide shortage of workers due to the pandemic. The final $100 million would be appropriated for states to maintain the accuracy of their voter registration lists. Other provisions in the bill include measures to increase the cybersecurity of the elections process, including establishing an election cyber assistance unit at the Election Assistance Commission, and updating voluntary voting system guidelines established by the Help America Vote Act to cover next-generation voting technology, such as e-pollbooks.

National: As Trump leans into attacks on mail voting, GOP officials confront signs of Republican turnout crisis | Amy Gardner/The Washington Post

President Trump’s unfounded attacks on mail balloting are discouraging his own supporters from embracing the practice, according to polls and Republican leaders across the country, prompting growing alarm that one of the central strategies of his campaign is threatening GOP prospects in November. Multiple public surveys show a growing divide between Democrats and Republicans about the security of voting by mail, with Republicans saying they are far less likely to trust it in November. In addition, party leaders in several states said they are encountering resistance among GOP voters who are being encouraged to vote absentee while also seeing the president describe mail voting as “rigged” and “fraudulent.” As a result, state and local Republicans across the country fear they are falling dramatically behind in a practice that is expected to be key to voter turnout this year. Through mailers and Facebook ads, they are racing to promote absentee balloting among their own. In the process, some Republican officials have tried to draw a distinction between “absentee ballots,” which Trump claims are secure, and “mail ballots,” which he has repeatedly attacked. The terms are typically used interchangeably.

Editorials: What Happens When Trump Refuses to Accept an Electoral Loss? | Lawrence Douglas/LitHub

Trump’s tweet from Thursday should concern all Americans, regardless of political affiliation. We have never had a delayed presidential election in our history—not during the Civil War, not during the Second World War. The fact that Trump lacks the power to delay an election—only Congress could do that—provides cold comfort. The very idea that he would float the idea smacks of the kind of threat to peaceful succession that is the focus of my book. Imagine the following scenario: It’s November 3, 2020, election day. The most expensive—and nastiest—presidential race in US history is over. Turnout is light but only because the COVID-19 outbreak has led tens of millions to vote by absentee ballot. By the time polls close on the West Coast, the race remains too close to call. President Trump carries the crucial swing state of Ohio, keeping his chances of a second term alive. But shortly after midnight, CNN projects that Joe Biden has won Pennsylvania, giving him 283 electoral votes, 13 more than the 270 needed for victory. Wolf Blitzer announces that Biden has been elected the 46th president of the United States. The other major networks also declare Biden the winner, with one exception—Fox. At 2 am, Biden delivers a short speech to his jubilant supporters. He notes, to a chorus of boos, that President Trump has not yet called to congratulate him and expresses the hope that he will be hearing from the president shortly. His wait is in vain; the call never comes. And so begins a constitutional crisis of unprecedented gravity. Trump’s refusal to accept defeat is not possible or even probable—it is all but inevitable.

Editorials: How Has the Electoral College Survived for This Long? | Alexander Keyssar/The New York Times

As our revived national conversation on race has made clear, the legacies of slavery and white supremacy run wide and deep in American society and political life. One such legacy — which is particularly noteworthy in a presidential election season — has been the survival and preservation of the Electoral College, an institution that has been under fire for more than 200 years. Our complicated method of electing presidents has been the target of recurrent reform attempts since the early 19th century, and the politics of race and region have figured prominently in their defeat. It is, of course, no secret that slavery played a role in the original design of our presidential election system — although historians disagree about the centrality of that role. The notorious formula that gave states representation in Congress for three-fifths of their slaves was carried over into the allocation of electoral votes; the number of electoral votes granted to each state was (and remains) equivalent to that state’s representation in both branches of Congress. This constitutional design gave white Southerners disproportionate influence in the choice of presidents, an edge that could and did affect the outcome of elections. Not surprisingly, the slave states strenuously opposed any changes to the system that would diminish their advantage. In 1816, when a resolution calling for a national popular vote was introduced in Congress for the first time, it was derailed by the protestations of Southern senators. The slaveholding states “would lose the privilege the Constitution now allows them, of votes upon three-fifths of their population other than freemen,” objected William Wyatt Bibb of Georgia on the floor of the Senate. “It would be deeply injurious to them.”

Connecticut: Absentee voting expansion presents challenges for municipal governments | Sten Spinella/The Day

In response to the expansion of absentee voting provisions, municipal clerks in the region are dealing with an unprecedented amount of ballots and ballot applications this election cycle. The COVID-19 pandemic has forced town and city election officials to alter how they normally do business. Norwich Republican Registrar Dianne Slopak, for example, said the city has 10 people set up to count votes, though there are normally six to eight, depending on the election. She and other registrars have said they’re bracing for a delay in final election results. “We have no idea how long this will take,” Slopak said. “By law, we’re supposed to have preliminary results by midnight of the same day — that’s kind of crazy when you think about it. Registrars start working at 4 in the morning. You can imagine what condition we’re in by midnight. Ballot counters will be starting at about 10 in the morning.” Waterford Clerk David Campo, Groton Town Clerk Betsy Moukawsher, Montville Clerk Katie Sandberg and Slopak offered illustrative examples. In Waterford’s 2019 municipal election, 248 absentee ballots were issued. In its 2018 state election, 672 were issued. And in its 2018 state primary, 93 were issued. As of July 29, 1,853 were issued for the upcoming Aug. 11 primary alone. The number of absentee ballot requests for the Nov. 3 presidential election are expected to exceed that. 

Maryland: Hogan’s voting plan sparks revolt among Maryland election judges | Erin Cox/The Washington Post

When Maryland Gov. Larry Hogan announced an all-of-the-above strategy to conduct “a normal” election in November, he cast it as a decision to maximize voter access during the coronavirus pandemic. A massive backlash ensued. Over the past three weeks, the custodians of hundreds of traditional polling precincts have said they will refuse to host voters, or conditioned participating on the government paying to deep-clean and sanitize their churches or community centers. Thousands of veteran election judges have dropped out, many of them retirees whose age or health conditions put them at high risk of deadly complications if they contract the coronavirus. “I will not volunteer for an unnecessary suicide mission,” said Rebecca Wilson, 67, a chief election judge from Prince George’s County who has been a poll worker for 18 years. As of Friday, even after 1,000 state workers took Hogan up on the offer of two days paid leave in exchange for staffing the polls in November, roughly a third of Maryland’s 27,000 election judge jobs remained vacant. It is another example of the deadly pandemic weaving uncertainty though the presidential election process. As President Trump faces bipartisan rebuke for suggesting the election be delayed and undermining mail-in voting, Hogan is under withering criticism — and facing open revolt — from rank-and-file poll workers in his state.

Michigan: GOP intransigence in Michigan could lead to a chaotic presidential election | Jon Ward/Yahoo News

A top Michigan official warned on Wednesday that, unless the Republican-controlled state Legislature passes a law to speed up the reporting of election results, it would be responsible for a chaotic and destabilizing election this fall. “Continued inaction by lawmakers, when we need their support and partnership now more than ever, will equate to a dereliction of duty,” Michigan Secretary of State Jocelyn Benson said on a conference call with reporters. Benson, a Democrat, is the state’s top election official. She wants current laws changed in order to allow vote counters to be able to open mail-in and absentee ballots at least one day before Election Day. Benson said that if clerks are not enabled to start arranging the ballots for counting before Election Day, this will increase delays in reporting the results. For one thing, she said, “every single one of [the election officials] is already going to be dealing with several other issues” on the day of the election. “That will create a space to enable bad actors to falsely raise questions about the sanctity and security of our elections. That reality has implications not just for our voters but for the entire country,” she said.

Montana: Election Officials Back Option For All Mail Ballot General Election | MTPR

Officials in Montana’s second-most populated county support holding an all-mail ballot general election in November. Missoula County Elections Administrator Bradley Seaman says voting by mail is the logical choice amid a worsening coronavirus pandemic. “We’ve worked closely with the Board of County Commissioners and think having an all-mail election would be a beneficial way to help ensure great voter turnout, help provide the best services we can while keeping everybody safe,” Seaman said. Clerks and recorders recently requested Gov. Steve Bullock allow counties the option of conducting an all-mail ballot general election. Wednesday, Bullock said he’d make a decision by the counties’ recommended Aug. 10 deadline. County elections officials made a similar request to conduct the June 2 primary by mail to avoid crowding and increased exposure to the coronavirus. Bullock agreed and every county opted for all-mail ballot elections.

Nevada: Trump pledges lawsuit to block mail-in voting in Nevada | Quint Forgey and Matthew Choi/Politico

President Donald Trump plans to sue to stop Nevada from issuing mailed ballots to all active voters, he announced at a White House briefing on Monday. Trump had already threatened legal action earlier in the day, suggesting mailed ballots would make it impossible for Republicans to win there in the November general election. Nevada state lawmakers approved legislation on Sunday to automatically send mail-in ballots to voters. Gov. Stephen Sisolak of Nevada, a Democrat, is expected to sign the bill into law. Trump said he planned to have the lawsuit filed Tuesday. The president has aggressively advocated for in-person voting in recent months even as state-level election officials move to expand mail-in voting amid the nationwide outbreak of coronavirus, which many fear could be easily spread at polling places. He stopped short of saying he would issue an executive order in response to the push for more mail-in voting, though he said: “I have the right to do it. We haven’t gotten there yet. We’ll see what happens.” The president had already threatened legal action against Nevada in a tweet Monday morning in which he characterized the state’s Legislature as having partaken in a “coup” by passing the measure.

New York: Why the Botched New York City Primary Has Become the November Nightmare | Jesse McKinley/The New York Times

Election officials in New York City widely distributed mail-in ballots for the primary on June 23, which featured dozens of hard-fought races. The officials had hoped to make voting much easier, but they did not seem prepared for the response: more than 10 times the number of absentee ballots received in recent elections in the city. Now, nearly six weeks later, two closely watched congressional races remain undecided, and major delays in counting a deluge of 400,000 mail-in ballots and other problems are being cited as examples of the challenges facing the nation as it looks toward conducting the November general election during the pandemic. Gov. Andrew M. Cuomo and other officials are trading blame for the botched counting in the city, and the Postal Service is coming under criticism over whether it is equipped to handle the sharp increase in absentee ballots. Election lawyers said one area of concern in New York City was that mail-in ballots have prepaid return envelopes. The Postal Service apparently had difficulty processing some of them correctly and, as a result, an unknown number of votes — perhaps thousands — may have been wrongfully disqualified because of a lack of a postmark.

Ohio: Elections chief faces two new lawsuits 95 days out from the November general election | Laura Hancock/Cleveland Plain Dealer

Two new lawsuits were filed against Ohio Secretary of State Frank LaRose on Friday: One by the Ohio Democratic Party to allow online requests for absentee ballots and another by the League of Women Voters of Ohio over the practice of signature-matching when absentee ballots are requested. On Friday, it was 95 days until the Nov. 3 election. Ohio Democratic Party Chair David Pepper noted that this year is more unusual than typical election years. “Given the fact that we’re in a global pandemic and many Ohioans have to remain at home to prevent the spread of the coronavirus, many more voters will be casting absentee ballots this fall,” he said in a Friday morning call with reporters. LaRose, a Republican, criticized the suits as challenging security and trust in elections.

Tennessee: State shifts position on COVID-19 and absentee voting in arguments before Tennessee Supreme Court | Mariah Timms and Joel Ebert/Nashville Tennessean

The question of expanding absentee voting in Tennessee reached the state’s highest court Thursday as the Supreme Court heard oral arguments in the case. It comes on the last day to request a vote-by-mail ballot for the Aug. 6 primary, although officials have urged voters to act early as post office delivery times increase. An absentee ballot must be in the hands of officials by close of business on election day to count, and they must be submitted by mail. At issue is whether concern over the spread of COVID-19 is a valid excuse to receive an absentee ballot. A lower court ruled that it was and any registered voter could apply to receive a mail-in ballot. As a result, county election commissions have reported record numbers of applications. But the state appealed the decision, and the high court took the case directly. Its ruling will be an “incredibly important case for all Tennesseans,” Chief Justice Jeff Bivins said.

United Kingdom: Russians hacked Liam Fox’s personal email to get US-UK trade dossier | Dan Sabbagh/The Guardian

A personal email account belonging to Liam Fox, the former trade minister, was repeatedly hacked into by Russians who stole classified documents relating to US-UK trade talks, the Guardian understands. The security breaches last year, which are subject to an ongoing police investigation, pose serious questions for the Conservative MP who is currently the UK’s nominee to become director general of the World Trade Organization. Whitehall sources indicated the documents were hacked from a personal account rather than a parliamentary or ministerial one, prompting Labour to ask why Fox was using unsecured personal emails for government business. A spokesman for the former minister declined to comment and later stressed the Cabinet Office had not publicly confirmed which account was hacked. Downing Street and the Cabinet Office said it was inappropriate to comment further given that criminal inquiries were continuing. The stolen documents – a 451-page dossier of emails – ultimately ended up in the hands of Jeremy Corbyn during last winter’s election campaign after Russian actors tried to disseminate the material online.