National: Security Flaws in US Online Voting System Raises Alarm Over Potential Vote Manipulation | Byron Muhlberg/CPO Magazine

As the 2020 US presidential election draws nearer, concern is beginning to mount over the potential threat of vote manipulation. Alarm over vote manipulation was once again raised after OmniBallot, an online voting system, was found to be riddled with a host of security risks according to the findings of a recent research paper by Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) and the University of Michigan computer scientists. The research paper, which hit the press on June 7, revealed that OmniBallot’s designer Democracy Live leaves the ballots that it processes susceptible to vote manipulation. What’s more, the researchers found that Democracy Live actively collects sensitive voter information and does not ensure adequate protection of the information while online. As a result, according to the paper, the online voting system runs the risk of providing easy pickings for sophisticated cybercriminals—especially those using ransomware—one that is only exacerbated by the fact that no technology currently exists to mitigate the risks in question.

National: Klobuchar: Trump’s opposition to expanded mail-in voting is a ‘blatant effort to suppress the vote’ | Rebecca Klar/The Hill

Sen. Amy Klobuchar (D-Minn.) called President Trump’s opposition to expanding access to vote-by-mail amid the coronavirus pandemic a “blatant effort to suppress the vote.” Klobuchar accused Trump of trying to scare voters with unsubstantiated claims that more mail-in voting would lead to widespread fraud in an effort to aid his bid for reelection in November. “He said it himself. I would love to break news on your show that I had some special thing, but he has said that the vote by mail is going to hurt him in his election,” Klobuchar said Wednesday in an interview with The Hill’s Steve Clemons. “So what does he do, which is his typical playbook? He then claims that it’s fraudulent to scare people in a blatant effort to suppress the vote,” she added. Trump has railed against mail-in voting, as Democrats have pushed to expand the option amid the coronavirus pandemic. Klobuchar pushed back on the president’s claims. “He says it is fraudulent, yet if you look at a state like Oregon, which is nearly 100 percent vote by mail … the fraud rate is like 0.0000001 percent or something like that. It’s crazy,” she said.

National: Trump and Barr say mail-in voting will lead to fraud. Experts say that’s not true | Caitlin Huey-Burns and Adam Brewster/CBS

As election officials from both parties are scaling up their vote by mail operations ahead of November’s election, the president and the attorney general are making unverified claims that foreign actors could tamper with those ballots. In an interview with Fox News on Sunday, Attorney General Bill Barr said mail-in voting “absolutely opens the floodgates to fraud” and claimed that “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.” It was the second time this month Barr had speculated about election fraud in November. In an interview with the New York Times, the attorney general said a number of foreign countries “could easily make counterfeit ballots, put names on them, send them in.” In a string of tweets on Monday, President Trump followed suit, claiming the 2020 election would be “rigged” because “millions of mail-in ballots will be printed by foreign countries.” The comments have baffled election officials and experts who say a complicated and detailed set of safeguards in place are expressly designed to detect and prevent such interference. “You would have to reproduce the entire election administration apparatus somewhere in the middle of Siberia,” says Charles Stewart, the founding director of the Election Lab at Massachusetts Institute of Technology.

National: A Winner on Election Day in November? Don’t Count on It | Shane Goldmacher/The New York Times

The cliffhanger elections on Tuesday night in Kentucky and New York didn’t just leave the candidates and voters in a state of suspended animation wondering who had won. Election officials, lawyers and political strategists in both parties said the lack of results was a bracing preview of what could come after the polls close in November: No clear and immediate winner in the presidential race. With the coronavirus pandemic swelling the number of mailed-in ballots to historic highs across the nation, the process of vote-counting has become more unwieldy, and election administrators are straining to keep up and deliver timely results. The jumble of election rules and deadlines by state, including in presidential battlegrounds like Pennsylvania and Wisconsin, all but ensure that the victor in a close race won’t be known on Nov. 3. And top election officials are warning that if the race between Donald J. Trump and Joseph R. Biden Jr. is anything but a blowout, the public and the politicians need to recalibrate expectations for when the 2020 campaign will come to a decisive conclusion.

National: ‘Too early to call’: why it’s unlikely we’ll have a winner on US election night | Sam Levine/The Guardian

As Kentucky voters wait to see which Democrat will challenge Mitch McConnell this fall, Americans are quickly realizing there’s a new normal for elections during the pandemic: we’re not going to know the winner on election night. Over the last few months, states across the US have seen record numbers of their voters cast their votes by mail as states expand and encourage its use during Covid-19. It’s a change that means election officials are going to need more time to count votes as ballots flood election offices on election day and afterwards – some states count ballots postmarked by election day if they arrive in the days after the election. There are worries about how the US will react to delayed results during November’s hotly contested presidential election. Americans are used to the spectacle of election night – anchors on major networks breathlessly analyze and call races and the evening culminates in a late night speech from victorious candidates. That’s very unlikely to happen this year – Americans are going to be waiting a while to find out whether or not Donald Trump will be president for another four years.

Voting Blogs: Safely opening PDFs received by e-mail (or fax?!) | Andrew Appel/Freedom to Tinker

Many election administrators in U.S. states and counties need to receive and open PDF files from voters. Some of these administrators receive these PDFs as e-mail attachments. These may be filled-out voter registration forms, or even voted ballots from UOCAVA (overseas and military) voters. We all know that malware can lurk in e-mail attachments; how can those election officials protect themselves from being hacked? Internet return of voted ballots is inherently insecure; that’s a separate issue and I’ll discuss it below. For now, how can one safely open a PDF attachment? I discussed this question with Dan Guido, cybersecurity consultant and CEO of The safe way to view a PDF is inside the Chrome or Firefox browser. Printing a PDF directly from Chrome (or Firefox) to your printer is reasonably safe. The unsafe way to view a PDF is with your favorite PDF-viewer app such as Adobe Reader. The reason is simple: Google (for Chrome) and Mozilla (for Firefox) have put enormous effort into making their PDF viewers safe, putting them inside a “sandbox” that the hackers can’t get out of — and they’ve largely succeeded.

Georgia: Questioning State Elections Officials, Lawmakers Express Concerns Over November Vote | Emil Moffatt/WABE

Five million Georgians are expected to vote in November, an election that will come less than five months after the state experienced a bumpy primary. Amid a global health pandemic, the state rolled out its new voting system statewide for the first time on June 9. The result: many voters had to wait in lines for hours as poll workers – some of them brand new – sorted out technical problems. “We think the most important thing, obviously is training, training and re-training,” said Secretary of State Brad Raffensperger as he spoke in front of the House Governmental Affairs Committee. “And having more techs [technical support personnel] in there so that any issues that do pop up can be really handled expeditiously so that we have an improved result in November.” Raffensperger pledged to have technical support at every precinct in November, something that wasn’t there in June. Tuesday’s meeting started an hour late because House members were still across the street voting on a hate crimes bill which had been passed by the Senate just a short time before. And when the meeting started, Raffensperger made only a brief statement and took a handful of questions, citing other obligations. That didn’t sit well with House Minority Leader Bob Trammell, who said he wanted to hear more from the state’s top election’s official. “I would point out that voters often waited in line for hours, and the secretary was here for 20 minutes,” said Trammell.

Georgia: Republican Lawmakers Advance Bid to Ban Automatic Absentee Ballot Mailings | Kayla Goggin/Courthouse News

Georgia lawmakers advanced legislation Wednesday which would ban election officials from mailing absentee ballot request forms unless a voter requests one. The measure is part of Senate Bill 463, which also loosens restrictions on ballot signature-matching requirements and provides for the division of large precincts under certain conditions. The bill could receive a vote in the Georgia House before the Legislature ends its current session Friday. If the measure passes and is signed by Republican Governor Brian Kemp, it could take effect before the November general election. If passed, the bill would prevent Georgia election officials from repeating a large-scale absentee voting effort undertaken by Republican Secretary of State Brad Raffensperger prior to the primary election. Raffensperger mailed ballot request forms to 6.9 million registered voters ahead of the primary to encourage voting by mail in light of the coronavirus pandemic. The effort led to increased voter turnout, particularly among Democrats.

Indiana: Judge orders Secretary of State to produce documents on voting-machine security | John Russell/Indianapolis Business Journal

A Marion County Superior Court judge has ordered Indiana Secretary of State Connie Lawson to produce documents to back up her claim that the public should not see emails and other communications about the reliability and security of voting machines because they could jeopardize cyberterrorism security. Judge Heather Welch ruled Tuesday that Lawson did not provide adequate justification for withholding the materials and ordered her to produce some of the documents for inspection in chambers. In a 27-page ruling, the judge ordered Lawson to submit the materials that she had withheld based on the counterterrorism exception so that she may examine them in private. A spokesman for Lawson declined comment on Wednesday. The matter arose after a national group of cybersecurity experts sued Lawson last year, saying she has refused to turn over emails and other communications about the reliability and security of voting machines, despite numerous requests.

Kentucky: ‘A substantial challenge’: What Kentucky, New York tell us about voting in a pandemic come November | Joey Garrison/USA Today

NBA star Lebron James slammed Kentucky’s plan to cut voting sites from 3,700 to 200 “systemic racism and oppression.” Stacey Abrams called it “voter suppression.” So did Hillary Clinton, declaring it’s time to restore the Voting Rights Act. But the dire forecasts ahead of Kentucky’s state primary Tuesday – warnings of severely long lines and disaster certain to come – didn’t materialize. In fact, some critics quickly changed their tune after recognizing that Kentucky sacrificed in-person voting sites for a robust vote-by-mail program that allowed anyone to vote absentee from home amid the coronavirus pandemic. In a sharp reversal from her message the day before, Clinton tweeted “kudos” Tuesday night to Democratic Kentucky Gov. Andy Beshear for making it “easy for every (Kentuckian) to vote” through no-excuse mail-in voting and early voting. An estimated 1.1 million Kentuckians voted in the primary – a record for a Kentucky primary – including 75% through mail-in ballots in a state where typically only 2% vote absentee. Kentucky is now getting widely lauded for its election performance. Still, vote-by-mail advocates aren’t ready to crown the Bluegrass State the perfect model for voting in a pandemic during the November general election.

Kentucky: Lexington candidate had to convince election officials dogs ate her primary ballot |Associated Press

A Kentucky woman was allowed to vote after convincing the board of elections that her dogs ate her and her husband’s absentee ballots. Christine Stanley, a 34-year-old Lexington health care attorney, voted in the Democratic primary at Kroger Field but only after getting out of line and going before the board of elections. After showing the board evidence, including “lots of bite marks, drool and dirt,” she and her husband were allowed to vote, and Stanley said she voted for herself for the Urban County Council seat she is seeking, for Charles Booker in the Democratic primary to challenge Republican Sen. Mitch McConnell and for Democrat Josh Hicks to run against Republican Rep. Andy Barr. Stanley, who is Black, said race didn’t really play a part in her choice of Booker.

Minnesota: Secretary of State Simon waives witness rule for primary absentee ballots | Tim Pugmire/MPR

Minnesota Secretary of State Steve Simon is waiving the state’s absentee voting witness requirement for the August 11 primary election. Simon, a Democrat, made the call after a district court judge signed off last week on a proposed settlement for a lawsuit challenging the rule. However, a federal judge hearing a similar but separate lawsuit this week did not accept the agreement. Early voting for the primary begins Friday. Simon said he will follow the state court. “The ruling yesterday does not affect last week’s primary state court ruling that this arrangement and this settlement agreement is fair, it’s adequate, it’s reasonable, it’s in the public interest,” Simon said. “We’re bound by that ruling. We can’t choose not to abide by the ruling.”

New York: COVID-19 forced New York to vote by mail. Participation went through the roof | Jon Campbell/Gannett

First COVID-19 forced New York to shut down businesses and tell residents to stay home. Then it forced an experiment in democracy. With infection rates climbing, Gov. Andrew Cuomo and state health officials decided in March to rely heavily on voting by mail for June’s school budget votes and primary elections, encouraging New York voters to cast their ballot from their home rather than congregating in close proximity at a polling place. The results so far? Voter participation appears to be soaring, a not-so-insignificant feat for a state that has long struggled to get people to the polls. “It did not surprise us because you’re making voting more accessible,” said Dave Albert, spokesman for the state School Boards Association. “Theoretically, you wouldn’t need to leave your house to vote.”

Pennsylvania: A Philadelphia poll watcher got coronavirus, but the city isn’t notifying voters | Emily Previti/PAPost and Katie Meyer/WHYY

A Philadelphia woman who spent the entire June 2 primary as a poll watcher tested positive for COVID-19 10 days later. It’s unclear whether she contracted the virus at the polls. But thanks to a contact tracing program the city says isn’t fully staffed, the vast majority of voters and election workers who were at that polling place haven’t been notified that they may have been exposed. The situation also calls into question whether election and health officials across Pennsylvania are prepared to respond to potential coronavirus exposure at the polls. Andrea Johnson, a Democratic committeewoman, says she’s been vigilant during the pandemic, working from home as a paralegal and wearing a mask on the occasions she’s gone outside. But on June 2, she spent the day at the polls at Andrew Hamilton School in West Philadelphia. Johnson says she disclosed that information to contact tracers working for the city health department. She says she also provided a list of eight people — all voters and poll workers whose names she knew — who she’d come in close contact with in the days leading up to her positive diagnosis. She confirmed that city health officials contacted those eight people, but said she thinks contact tracing efforts ended there.

South Carolina: Democrats prep more lawsuits as Legislature punts on absentee voting expansion amid pandemic | Palmetto Politics | Jamie Lovegrove/Post and Courier

South Carolina Democrats are planning to file more lawsuits challenging the state’s absentee voting limitations during the coronavirus pandemic after lawmakers declined to expand ballot options for the general election during their brief legislative session this week. Republican leaders said they would consider taking action when they return in September if the pandemic is still at large, as health officials expect. They said they wanted to limit their brief time in the Statehouse this week to distributing federal funds for coronavirus relief. Democratic lawmakers questioned the decision to wait. “Why put off until tomorrow what we could do today?” asked state Rep. Justin Bamberg, D-Bamberg. House members voted down two proposed amendments Wednesday to the coronavirus relief package that would have expanded absentee voting for November, largely along party lines.

Tennessee: State Supreme Court keeps mail voting expansion amid appeal | Jonathan Mattise/Associated Press

The Tennessee Supreme Court ruled Wednesday that it will not block a judge’s order offering a by-mail voting option to all eligible voters during the coronavirus pandemic while the state continues to appeal. The Tennessee high court did agree with the state’s wish to fast-track the appeal without a lower appellate court considering it. But a majority of justices voted against stopping the absentee voting expansion pending appeal, dealing a blow to the state’s efforts to unravel the expansion as the Aug. 6 primary approaches. Voters are able to apply for absentee ballots through July 30. The primary election will be headlined by a contested Republican race for an open U.S. Senate seat. State election officials have opposed the expansion, instead recommending preparations as though all 1.4 million registered voters 60 and older will cast mail-in ballots in the primary. Historically, Tennessee has historically seen less than 2.5% of votes cast by mail, the state has said.

Texas: Straight-ticket voting lawsuit tossed by federal court | Alexa Ura/The Texas Tribune

A federal judge on Wednesday threw out Democrats’ effort to reinstate the straight-ticket voting option in Texas. Siding with the state, U.S. District Judge Marina Garcia Marmolejo found that Democrats lacked standing to challenge Texas Republicans’ decision to kill straight-ticket voting ahead of the November general election. The judge dismissed the federal lawsuit after ruling that Democrats’ claims of the electoral fallout that could come from eliminating straight-ticket voting were too speculative. The Texas Democratic Party — joined by the chair of the Webb County Democratic Party and the Democratic campaign arms of the U.S. Senate and House — filed the lawsuit in March on the heels of Super Tuesday voting that left some Texans waiting for hours to cast their ballots. They claimed the elimination of straight-ticket voting is unconstitutional and intentionally discriminatory because the longer lines and waiting times it is expected to cause would be disproportionately felt at polling places that serve Hispanic and Black voters.

Wisconsin: Study: Poll closings, COVID-19 fears, kept many Milwaukee voters away | Dee Hall, Wisconsin Center for Investigative Journalism

Significant numbers of Milwaukee voters were dissuaded from voting on April 7 by the sharp reduction in polling places and the threat of the COVID-19 pandemic — with the biggest effects seen among Black voters, according to a new study. Researchers from the Brennan Center for Justice say their study is the first to measure the impact of the pandemic on voting behavior. The study found that Milwaukee’s decision to close all but five of its 182 polling places reduced voting among non-Black voters in Milwaukee by 8.5 percentage points, and that COVID-19 may have further reduced turnout by 1.4 percentage points. That would mean the overall reduction in turnout among non-Black voters was 9.9 percentage points. Black voters experienced more severe effects: Poll closures reduced their turnout by an estimated 10.2 percentage points, while other mechanisms — including fear of contracting COVID-19 — lowered turnout by an additional 5.7 percentage points. Those factors combined to depress Black voter turnout by 15.9 percentage points, the researchers estimated. Overall, turnout in the city for the election — which determined a hotly contested Wisconsin Supreme Court race and the state’s Democratic nominee for president — was 32%, according to the Milwaukee Election Commission. The Brennan Center study raises concerns about disenfranchisement in November, especially among Black residents, as voters choose the president and members of Congress and the Wisconsin Legislature. And it raises fresh doubt about how well states like Wisconsin, which does not have a tradition of widespread absentee balloting, will ensure that all residents can vote in November without exposing themselves to a deadly disease.

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.