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.

Pennsylvania: Philadelphia’s new ExpressVote XL voting machines under scrutiny in Tuesday’s elections | Julia Harte/Reuters

When Pennsylvania holds primary elections on Tuesday, some election security advocates will be watching closely to see if more than 2,000 new voting machines acquired last year by Philadelphia and two other counties perform without glitches. Philadelphia and Northampton counties first used the new “ExpressVote XL” machines in last November’s local elections and will deploy them again in the presidential nominating contests and local races on Tuesday. A third county, Cumberland, will use the machines for the first time. Their first widespread use in 2019 in Pennsylvania was marred by miscounted vote tallies in Northampton, a politically divided county in eastern Pennsylvania. Some ExpressVote XL machines incorrectly recorded votes for several candidates in the November election, prompting the county to count backup paper receipts to identify the correct winners, according to Maudeania Hornik, chair of the Northampton Election Commission. The manufacturer of the ExpressVote XL equipment said in a December press conference that some of Northampton’s 320 machines “were configured improperly at our factory prior to delivery to Northampton County.” The manufacturer told the county as many as 30% of the machines were affected, Hornik said. Problems with at least 366 ExpressVote XL machines also arose in Philadelphia, according to public records exclusively obtained by Reuters. The city last year replaced its old voting equipment with a new fleet of 3,750 ExpressVote XL machines. Reuters could not ascertain how many of those machines were deployed in the November 2019 election there.

National: As Trump attacks voting by mail, GOP builds 2020 strategy around limiting its expansion | Amy Gardner, Shawn Boburg and Josh Dawsey/The Washington Post

President Trump’s persistent attacks on mail-in voting have fueled an unprecedented effort by conservatives to limit expansion of the practice before the November election, with tens of millions of dollars planned for lawsuits and advertising aimed at restricting who receives ballots and who remains on the voter rolls. The strategy, embraced by Trump’s reelection campaign, the Republican National Committee and an array of independent conservative groups, reflects the recognition by both parties that voting rules could decide the outcome of the 2020 White House race amid the electoral challenges posed by the coronavirus pandemic. Helping drive the effort is William Consovoy, a veteran Supreme Court litigator who also serves as one of Trump’s personal lawyers. Consovoy’s Virginia-based law firm is handling a battery of legal actions on behalf of the RNC, several state GOPs and an independent group called the Honest Election­­­­­­­­­­­­­­­­­­­­­­­­­­­s Project, which is connected to a Trump adviser. The legal firepower and direct involvement of the national party reflect a major escalation in the conservative battle over voter fraud and voting rights, which until this year had primarily been waged by lesser-known groups with far fewer resources. The tactics of those organizations are now being embraced by new players with connections to influential figures in the president’s orbit. Thanks in part to Trump’s focus on the topic and his assertion that widespread mail balloting would harm Republicans, claims about the high risks of voter fraud have become central to the GOP’s 2020 playbook.

National: Voting by Mail to Face Biggest Test Since Pandemic Started | Alexa Corse/Wall Street Journal

Voting by mail will face its biggest test since the onset of the coronavirus pandemic when seven states and Washington, D.C., hold primaries Tuesday. All eight locales have encouraged residents to vote by mail, even as President Trump has criticized mail voting in recent tweets. Some states delayed their primaries due to the pandemic, then scrambled to change procedures and put personnel in place to process an expected surge in mailed ballots. Tuesday’s presidential primaries—in Indiana, Maryland, Montana, New Mexico, Pennsylvania, Rhode Island, South Dakota and Washington, D.C.—offer little suspense since each political party already has a presumptive nominee. But state and local races are on ballots. And the voting will be an early test of how states might attempt to conduct elections if the virus remains a threat through the November general election. Five states—Colorado, Hawaii, Oregon, Washington and Utah—conducted elections primarily by mail before the pandemic, with options for in-person voting and ballot drop-off sites as well. Last-minute court rulings and partisan fighting spread confusion leading up to Wisconsin’s primary in April, and there were delays for absentee ballots and hour-plus waits at a reduced number of polling places in Milwaukee.

National: Attorney General William Barr floats an implausible theory that foreign countries could interfere in the 2020 election by mass producing ‘counterfeit ballots’ | Grace Panetta/Business Insider

Attorney General William Barr floated a highly implausible theory that foreign adversaries will try to interfere in the 2020 election by making and sending out “counterfeit ballots” to voters. In an interview with The New York Times magazine published on Monday, Barr said the idea was “one of the issues that I’m real worried about,” claiming that “there are a number of foreign countries that could easily make counterfeit ballots, put names on them, send them in. And it’d be very hard to sort out what’s happening.” Barr’s comments come as President Donald Trump spreads conspiracies and misinformation about mail-in ballots just five months to go before election day. The social media platform Twitter recently labeled some of the president’s tweets about voting by mail as misleading. As states have moved over the past few months to increase absentee and mail-in voting, Trump – who voted by mail himself in Florida earlier this year – has falsely claimed that an expansion of absentee and mail-in voting will lead to massive fraud and corruption (rates of fraud are very low), that expanding mail-in ballot hurts Republicans (it confers no partisan advantage to either side), and on Friday, even raised a baseless conspiracy that children in California will go around stealing ballots out of mailboxes and forging them.

National: Coronavirus-Fueled Freeze on Citizen Oath Ceremonies Threatens Voter Registration for 2020 | Michelle Hackman and Eliza Collins/Wall Street Journal

A swelling backlog and extended wait times to become a U.S. citizen, compounded by a slowdown due to the coronavirus pandemic, threaten to leave hundreds of thousands of potential voters on the sidelines of the November election. The issue has drawn bipartisan concern in recent weeks since U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services closed its offices in March in response to the pandemic and canceled citizenship oath ceremonies, the public events that are the final step in the process, nationwide. Approximately 130,000 people who would have become citizens at these ceremonies are waiting for the events to restart, according to a Wall Street Journal calculation based on USCIS annual data. They are part of a larger backlog of permanent residents waiting to have their citizenship applications processed and unable to complete required in-person interviews. That group totaled about 650,000 people at the end of 2019. USCIS estimated in December, months before the pandemic, that their wait times would average about eight months, compared with less than six months at the end of 2015. Randy Capps, director of research for U.S. programs at the nonpartisan Migration Policy Institute, said that means most of the permanent residents who applied for citizenship at the start of this year likely won’t complete the process in time to register to vote.

National: Republicans Fear Trump’s Criticism of Mail Voting Will Hurt Them | Trip Gabriel/The New York Times

President Trump has relentlessly attacked mail voting, calling it a free-for-all for cheating and a Democratic scheme to rig elections. None of the charges are true. But as eight states and the District of Columbia vote on Tuesday in the biggest Election Day since the coronavirus forced a pause in the primary calendar, it is clear that Mr. Trump’s message has sunk in deeply with Republicans, who have shunned mail ballots. Republican officials and strategists warned that if a wide partisan gap over mail voting continues in November, Republicans could be at a disadvantage, an unintended repercussion of the president’s fear-mongering about mail ballots that could hurt his party’s chances, including his own. In Pennsylvania, Iowa, Indiana and New Mexico, all states voting on Tuesday that broadly extended the option to vote by mail this year, a higher share of Democrats than Republicans have embraced mail-in ballots. “If the Republicans aren’t playing the same game, if we’re saying we don’t believe in mail-in voting and are not going to advocate it,” said Lee Snover, the Republican chair of Northampton County in Pennsylvania, “we could be way behind.”

National: Some voters are scared coronavirus will stop them from casting ballot | Yelena Dzhanova/CNBC

Erica Friedle had not missed a vote in seven years. Then came the coronavirus pandemic. Friedle told CNBC she didn’t receive her absentee ballot for April’s Wisconsin presidential primary. And now she fears that a lack of preparation by state officials and the continued threat of the disease might force her to sit out the upcoming November election in the swing state. As health officials predict that the pandemic might last into the fall, many states are beginning to plan for the likelihood of people opting to vote by mail instead of showing up in person, where the risk of contracting and spreading the coronavirus is greater. For some people, the coronavirus has made voting a nerve-wracking action. Some Americans and voting rights groups are concerned that the pandemic is forcing voters to choose between avoiding contact with people to stay healthy and exercising their right to vote. Come November, these concerns might linger. “Are people going to want to stay in line to vote? Are people going to be requesting absentee ballots? Do people even have the technology to request a ballot online?” Friedle asked, listing out some of her immediate worries in an interview with CNBC. “There are so many unknowns right now.”

National: Americans doubt elections as Trump discredits voting systems | Evan Halper/Los Angeles Times

The diatribes are as unnerving and unrelenting as they are untrue: An incumbent president warning that the nation’s voting systems are cauldrons for fraud and ripe for rigging, seemingly setting the groundwork to discredit the results should he lose in November. But while such rhetoric lacks precedent in the Oval Office, scholars say it’s a familiar playbook that President Trump is using — and one that has already had a malignant impact on public trust in American democracy. Trump’s repeated warnings of mass robbing of ballots from mailboxes, rampant forgery and flocks of illegal immigrants being permitted to hijack elections have been debunked by voting officials across party lines. Nevertheless, evidence increasingly shows that Americans are losing faith in the integrity of the nation’s elections, putting the U.S. in unaccustomed company. “I have only ever thought about these things before in an authoritarian setting,” said Andrea Kendall-Taylor, a former senior intelligence officer who led the U.S. government’s strategic analysis on Russia and is now a senior fellow at the Center for a New American Security, a Washington think tank. “Now the same indicators are relevant here.”

District of Columbia: Voters report difficulty getting mail-in ballots for Tuesday primary | Julie Zauzmer/The Washington Post

As the District attempts to carry out a primary election on Tuesday like none before — one in which officials, mindful of the coronavirus pandemic, have shrunk the number of Election Day voting locations and urged residents to instead vote by mail — the D.C. Board of Elections resorted over the weekend to an unusual personalized approach. Staff members drove around the District hand-delivering ballots to some voters at their homes. The tour of the city with cars full of ballots was just one more unexpected event in a primary election that the Board of Elections has struggled to manage. Some Washingtonians have complained that the process of obtaining a mail-in ballot has been difficult or impossible for them — and the idea of voting in person during a pandemic is fraught. The Board of Elections has received absentee ballot requests from 92,093 residents — approaching the number of total voters in the 2016 Democratic primary. As of Sunday, 37,000 ballots have been mailed back, said Rachel Coll, a spokeswoman for the Board of Elections. Voters have until Tuesday to mail in their ballots, which will be counted if they are received within seven days of the election. Those who haven’t yet voted by mail or during early voting can vote in person Tuesday at one of the 20 voting centers set up in place of the usual polls at 143 precincts.

Georgia: Absentee ballots delayed and polls close as Georgia primary approaches | Mark Niesse/The Atlanta Journal-Constitution

Tens of thousands of Georgia voters hadn’t yet received their absentee ballots Monday as precincts continued to close, narrowing options for voters to safely cast ballots in the state’s June 9 primary. The secretary of state’s office might ask the National Guard to help voters at precincts on election day if too many poll workers quit because they fear catching the coronavirus.The obstacles facing both absentee and in-person voters just eight days before the primary create the potential for long lines on election day and absentee ballots arriving too late to be counted. Election officials said they’re working to ensure that absentee ballots are delivered in time, though voters might have to return them in drop boxes rather than put them in the mail. Absentee ballots will be counted only if they’re received by county election offices by 7 p.m. June 9. “It’s definitely a tight time frame,” said Gabriel Sterling, the implementation manager for the secretary of state’s office. “The good thing is we have drop boxes in every metro county. It’s the safest option if you want to make sure your ballot is going to get there, or you can vote in person.”

Maryland: Baltimore elections office closes early on the eve of Tuesday’s primary amid protests | Emily Opilo/Baltimore Sun

The Baltimore Board of Elections closed early on the eve of the state’s primary amid concerns about safety at its office, which is near where protests were centered over the weekend. The elections office in the 400 block of East Fayette Street closed at 3 p.m. Monday, according to a tweet from the city board. Also, a ballot drop-off box outside was locked shut at 1 p.m.. Director Armstead Jones said Monday morning he was concerned about his staff going in and out of the office amid protests. The office was already closed to walk-in visits, due to the COVID-19 pandemic, but was still allowing voters to make appointments to come in. “I can’t have my people jeopardized,” Jones said. “We’re right there at City Hall.” Monday marked the fourth consecutive day of demonstrations in Baltimore over the death of George Floyd on Memorial Day in Minneapolis. Floyd, a black man, died after a white police officer knelt on his neck for several minutes while arresting him. Captured on video, the arrest has sparked nationwide protests against police brutality.

Minnesota: Protest goes online in Minneapolis as city, police websites hit by cyberattacks | Joseph Marks/The Washington Post

The clash is now online in Minneapolis. Cyberattacks struck city government and law enforcement computers as mass anger over the killing of George Floyd, a black man who died after a Minneapolis police officer pressed his knee into his neck, led to major protests there. The operation, known as a denial of service attack, rendered websites for Minneapolis police and some city agencies inaccessible for hours by overwhelming them with a flood of web traffic. A similar attack struck state computer systems but was less effective. The attacks demonstrate how hacker activists who are willing to skirt the law can frequently amplify protests against police and government. The sometimes-violent protests and clashes with police led to thousands of arrests in cities across the nation, including Washington and Atlanta. “When a police website goes down, that’s flashy and it communicates something emotional,” M.R. Sauter, an assistant professor at the University of Maryland who wrote a 2014 book about denial of service attacks and digital activism, told me. “This is a type of protest theater, which is what a lot of street [protest] actions are. It’s just online.” Sauter acknowledged that while some digital activism can go too far – and end up limiting the free flow of information to the public or impede police work – the Minneapolis attack was more acceptable because it communicated public anger at the police and local officials without seriously endangering anyone.

Nevada: The Politicalization Of Nevada’s Mail-In Primary | Paul Boger/KUNR

It’s been roughly two-and-a-half months since Governor Steve Sisolak issued stay-at-home orders to reduce the spread of the novel coronavirus, and if you’re anything like me, small daily chores have recently become a lifeline—a helpful way to keep the days straight and kill a little time. One of those chores is checking the mail. Mostly, it’s the same old’ stuff, bills and junk. An occasional package gets delivered from time to time, but recently something new appeared—a ballot. This month, election officials in Nevada sent out ballots to the more than 1.4 million active registered voters in the state as part of the ongoing effort to prevent the spread of COVID-19. But that comes with a price. First, the fiscal impact. Elections are expensive. Typically, Nevada’s 17 counties spend roughly $2-3 million combined on an election. This primary? About $4.5 million according to Wayne Thorley, the deputy secretary for elections. He’s essentially the guy who oversees Nevada’s whole electoral process. Thorley says a lot of that money will come from federal grants; most of it going to pay for printing and postage.

Pennsylvania: Governor extends 2020 primary election mail ballot deadlines for Philadelphia, five other counties | Jonathan Lai,/Philadelphia Inquirer

Voters in Philadelphia, Pittsburgh, and certain other parts of Pennsylvania will have an additional week for elections officials to receive their primary mail ballots if they are sent on Tuesday, officials said Monday. Pennsylvania Gov. Tom Wolf initially suggested he had extended the deadline for the entire state. The current deadline requires elections officials to have received mail ballots by 8 p.m. on Tuesday, when polls close. “The count will continue for seven days after tomorrow,” Wolf said Monday, as days of civil unrest and violent clashes over the death of George Floyd in Minneapolis had officials scrambling to conduct Tuesday’s election safely. “I can’t do anything about the election day, but I am extending the time to actually get votes in,” Wolf said at a news conference in Philadelphia. “So if you vote and the vote gets in by next Tuesday… it’ll count. An extra seven days.” But Wolf apparently misspoke. His executive order, which allows mail ballots to be counted if they are postmarked by Tuesday and received within a week, will apply only to Philadelphia and Delaware, Montgomery, Allegheny, Dauphin, and Erie Counties. “The civil disturbances in these affected counties have created one or more barriers to voters returning their ballots,” the order said, “including travel and public transportation disruptions, road closures and blockages, lack of access to ballot drop boxes, alteration of mobile ballot collection schedules, evacuations of buildings, and curfews.”

Pennsylvania: Philadelphia scrambles to prepare for primary amid George Floyd protests, coronavirus | Jonathan Lai/Philadelphia Inquirer

Philadelphia election officials scrambled Monday to figure out how to conduct an already difficult election during widespread civil unrest. “We are concerned about the civil unrest activity as it continues to occur, but we hope that tomorrow the voters will be able to get to the polls and exercise their right to vote,” said Lisa Deeley, chair of the Board of City Commissioners. “I mean, there is no greater form of protest or letting your voice be heard than going to vote on election day.” The commissioners, the three elected officials who run the city’s elections, relocated staff and about 30,000 ballots from their offices in City Hall this weekend as protesters set fire to cars outside and smashed windows. The demonstrations demanding accountability for the killing of George Floyd in Minneapolis and broader calls for racial and social justice have led to sometimes violent confrontations with police, damage to property, and looting. On Sunday, the National Guard was brought into the city to help maintain order. No mail ballots were affected during the protests, said Nick Custodio, deputy commissioner under Deeley, and elections staffers are now working from their satellite office at Delaware Avenue and Spring Garden Street, where much of the logistical work of running elections takes place anyway.

Tennessee: Secretary of State holding on to $55M for projects besides universal absentee voting | Sam Stockard/The Daily Memphian

The Secretary of State’s Office is sitting on $55 million, but it won’t be putting it toward universal absentee balloting, a policy neither Secretary Tre Hargett nor Gov. Bill Lee support. Through the CARES Act, the office has $9.58 million to deal with coronavirus issues and has put together a plan to cope with COVID-19 during the August and November elections. Most of the plan focuses on sanitary measures, social distancing, screening of poll workers and absentee balloting for anyone 60 and older. The state received $7.98 million from the federal CARES Act and put in another $1.6 million of its own money for a COVID plan. “We are spending every penny of those funds to administer the August and November elections,” Secretary of State spokeswoman Julia Bruck said. The state also has $10.2 million from earlier in the year and $35.4 million left from other federal grants intended for other investments but could be used for pandemic-related needs, according to Think Tennessee, a nonprofit think tank. Yet while Think Tennessee, Democratic lawmakers and a majority of Tennesseans believe the state should take steps to avoid voting crowds during the pandemic, the state balks at the idea.

Tennessee: In Midst of COVID-19 Pandemic, Plaintiff Sues to Challenge Tennessee’s Vote-By-Mail Procedures | Junaid Odubeko, Mike Stephens, Richard W.F. Swor/Bradley

Heading into this year, 2020 was set to be one of the most interesting and consequential elections in recent history. However, the 2020 election cycle has been upended by the spread of the deadly COVID-19 virus. Voters standing in line close to each other, handling ballots, and using touchscreens could make for a dangerous environment for transmission of the virus. Election officials and policymakers are giving full attention to mitigation strategies, including voting by mail. In Tennessee, Governor Bill Lee and Secretary of State Tre Hargett have announced their intention to hold the August election like any other year, rebuffing the expansion of absentee or mail-in voting. Currently, a voter can only receive an absentee ballot if they fall in one of the enumerated categories in Tennessee Code § 2-6-201. These nine categories include people who are living outside of the county, people observing a religious holiday, and people who are over the age of 65 or are unable to appear at their polling place because they are hospitalized, ill, or disabled.

Texas: Wichita County buys additional voting equipment in case of increased mail-in ballots | Claire Kowalick/Wichita Falls Times Record News

Wichita County is planning to have additional equipment in place in case there are any changes to elections due to the COVID-19 situation. The Commissioners Court approved Monday the purchase of a Hart Intercivic Ballot Now Printer and a Kodak i660 Central Scanner with software and monitor for $62,675. The expenditure will come of the of the general contingency fund, but the purchase could be fully or partially reimbursed through the Helping America Vote Act (HAVA). HAVA was passed by the United States Congress in 2002 to improve the voting process and voter access after issues came up in the 2000 election. The program aims to update and upgrade voting equipment, have statewide voter registration databases, provide voter identification and administrative complaint procedures, and provide provisional voting. While elections offices have been working for years to make these changes, the upcoming election has the additional challenge of the coronavirus. There has been discussion at the national and state levels to expand mail-in voting to lessen the chance of exposure to COVID-19, especially for the elderly or other vulnerable populations.

Russia: Despite rising virus cases, Putin sets July 1 for vote to extend his rule for years | Vladimir Isachenkov/Associated Press

Russian President Vladimir Putin on Monday set a July 1 date for a nationwide vote on constitutional amendments allowing him to extend his rule until 2036, even as the nation is continuing to record high numbers of new coronavirus cases. Speaking during a live video call with top officials, Putin insisted that the pace of the outbreak has slowed down, allowing the nation to safely hold the vote. If approved, the constitutional amendments would allow Putin to spend another 12 years in power after his current term ends in 2024. The Russian leader argued that Russia will have 30 days before the vote to take additional efforts to control contagion and make the ballot fully safe. The vote was postponed from April 22 due to the pandemic. “We have fulfilled the main task — to prevent the explosive negative development of the situation,” Putin said. “It allows us to return to normal life as the situation is gradually stabilizing.” Officials reported to Putin that voters will have a chance to cast ballots in the six days before July 1 to reduce crowds and increase safety amid the pandemic. They said they would distribute free masks, gloves and pens at polling stations, adding that voting would be held outdoors in many areas to make it even safer.

Georgia: Case files discredit Kemp’s accusation that Democrats tried to hack Georgia election | Mark NiesseJack Gillum/The Atlanta Journal-Constitution and ProPublica

It was a stunning accusation: Two days before the 2018 election for Georgia governor, Republican Brian Kemp used his power as secretary of state to open an investigation into what he called a “failed hacking attempt” of voter registration systems involving the Democratic Party. But newly released case files from the Georgia Bureau of Investigation reveal that there was no such hacking attempt. The evidence from the closed investigation indicates that Kemp’s office mistook planned security tests and a warning about potential election security holes for malicious hacking. Kemp then wrongly accused his political opponents just before Election Day — a high-profile salvo that drew national media attention in one of the most closely watched races of 2018. “The investigation by the GBI revealed no evidence of damage to (the secretary of state’s office’s) network or computers, and no evidence of theft, damage, or loss of data,” according to a March 2 memo from a senior assistant attorney general recommending that the case be closed.