National: Voting rules changed quickly for the primaries. But the battle over how Americans will cast ballots in the fall is just heating up. | Elise Viebeck/The Washington Post

When the novel coronavirus pandemic collided with this year’s primaries, states across the country raced to temporarily adjust voting procedures to make it safer for people to cast their ballots. But efforts to set rules for the general election are now locked in more intractable fights, fueled by deepening polarization around voting practices and a torrent of litigation aimed at shaping how ballots are cast and counted. While the vast majority of voters were permitted to cast absentee ballots during the primaries, only about 10 states so far have announced that they will make voting by mail easier for November, raising fears that Election Day could be marked by long lines and unsafe conditions at polling locations if the health crisis persists. With Republican governors under pressure from President Trump not to expand voting by mail and many legislatures adjourned for the year or deadlocked along party lines, changes in the coming months are likely to come through court decisions. Legal battles in about two dozen states are now poised to shape the details of how roughly 130 million registered voters are able to cast ballots in upcoming contests, with more than 60 lawsuits related to absentee voting and other rules wending their way through the courts, according to a tally by The Washington Post.

National: In new guidance, CDC recommends alternatives in addition to in-person voting to avoid spreading coronavirus | Michelle Ye Hee Lee/The Washington Post

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention is recommending that voters consider alternatives to casting their ballots in person during upcoming elections, as states expand absentee and early voting options for November amid fears of spreading the coronavirus. The guidance was issued with little fanfare on June 22 and suggested that state and local election officials take steps to minimize crowds at voting locations, including offering “alternative voting methods.” President Trump has repeatedly claimed without evidence that one popular alternative — mail-in ballots — promotes widespread voter fraud. Voters who want to cast ballots in person should consider showing up at off-peak times, bringing their own black ink pens or touch-screen pens for voting machines, and washing their hands before entering and after leaving the polling location, the guidance said. Workers and voters alike, it said, should wear face coverings. The guidance aims to help voters, poll workers and election officials take precautions to minimize the spread of the virus, which has already disrupted some primary elections this year and could be a source of turmoil in the upcoming presidential election. The guidance is now being circulated by the Election Assistance Commission (EAC), an independent federal agency, and congressional leaders. Senate Democrats on Tuesday drew attention to the guidelines, noting that they had been requesting such a resource since May.

National: Trump’s attacks on mail voting are turning Republicans off absentee ballots | Amy Gardner and Josh Dawsey/The Washington Post

President Trump’s relentless attacks on the security of mail voting are driving suspicion among GOP voters toward absentee ballots — a dynamic alarming Republican strategists, who say it could undercut their own candidates, including Trump himself. In several primaries this spring, Democratic voters have embraced mail ballots in far larger numbers than Republicans during a campaign season defined by the coronavirus pandemic. And when they urge their supporters to vote by mail, GOP campaigns around the country are hearing from more and more Republican voters who say they do not trust absentee ballots, according to multiple strategists. In one particularly vivid example, a group of Michigan voters held a public burning of their absentee ballot applications last month. The growing Republican antagonism toward voting by mail comes even as the Trump campaign is launching a major absentee-ballot program in every competitive state, according to multiple campaign advisers — a delicate balancing act, considering what one strategist described as the president’s “imprecision” on the subject. “It’s very concerning for Republicans,” said a top party operative, who like several others interviewed spoke on the condition of anonymity to avoid drawing Trump’s ire. “I guarantee our Republican Senate candidates are having it drilled into them that they cannot accept this. They have to have sophisticated mail programs. If we don’t adapt, we won’t win.”

National: As November Looms, So Does the Most Litigious Election Ever | Michael Wines/The New York Times

Four months before Election Day, a barrage of court rulings and lawsuits has turned one of the most divisive elections in memory into one that is on track to be the most litigated ever. With voting amid a pandemic as the backdrop, at stake are dozens of lawsuits around the country that will determine how easy — or hard — it will be to cast a ballot. Justin Levitt, an election scholar and associate dean at Loyola Law School in Los Angeles, is tracking nearly 130 pandemic-related election lawsuits. The firm of Marc Elias, a lawyer who frequently represents the Democratic Party, is pursuing more than 35 voting rights cases, a number he calls an order of magnitude greater than in the past. The Republican National Committee, which pledged this spring to spend at least $20 million fighting attempts to loosen voting rules, boasts of filing or intervening in 19 suits to date. In his book “Election Meltdown,” Richard L. Hasen, a legal scholar at the University of California-Irvine, calculated that election-related litigation nearly tripled on average between 1996 and 2018. In an interview, Mr. Hasen said 2020 is on track to become the most litigated election season ever. Perhaps the most sweeping ruling occurred on Wednesday, when a federal appeals court blocked a lower-court ruling that would have restored voting rights to about 774,000 impoverished Floridians with felony records. On Thursday, the Supreme Court voted along ideological lines to block, at least for now, a loosening of Alabama’s strict absentee ballot requirements in a runoff election on July 14.

Alabama: ACLU joins lawsuit over Alabama voting amid COVID-19 pandemic | Eddie Burkhalter/Alabama Political Reporter

The American Civil Liberties Union and its Alabama chapter have joined in a lawsuit attempting to make it easier for some voters to cast their ballot during the COVID-19 pandemic. The American Civil Liberties Union and ACLU of Alabama joined in the lawsuit filed in May by the NAACP Legal Defense and Educational Fund, Southern Poverty Law Center and Alabama Disabilities Advocacy Program against Gov. Kay Ivey and Secretary of State John Merrill. The U.S. Supreme Court in a 5-4 decision last week blocked U.S. District Judge Abdul Kallon’s order that would have allowed curbside voting statewide and waived certain absentee ballot requirements for voters in at least Jefferson, Mobile and Lee Counties. The lawsuit was filed on behalf of several voters who are at greater risk from complications or death due to COVID-19.

Arkansas: Absentee vote lawsuit moot, Thurston says; he calls virus fear accepted reason to skip going to polls | John Lynch/Arkansas Democrat Gazette

Arkansas Secretary of State John Thurston says a lawsuit over absentee balloting during the covid-19 pandemic is unnecessary now that he’s acknowledged that fear of infection is justification for voters to cast ballots by mail or by drop-off. Three voters in their 70s, two with health issues, sued the Republican, the state’s top election official, two weeks ago, calling on Pulaski County Circuit Judge Wendell Griffen to order Thurston to allow absentee voting under the standards set by a 1985 Arkansas Supreme Court holding. The three, Olly Neal Jr., a retired Arkansas Court of Appeals judge; Democrat Susan Inman, a former state elections director who unsuccessfully challenged Thurston; and Jan Baker, a lawyer who led the Disability Rights Center of Arkansas for more than 18 years, stated in court filings that they are suing because election authorities appear to be following a more restrictive standard for mail-in and drop-in voting than established by the high court 35 years ago. They stated they are afraid of catching the coronavirus if they are forced to go to the polls to vote, like Arkansas law requires.

Kentucky: Kentuckians sue to keep primary election’s absentee voting option in place for fall | Morgan Watkins/Louisville Courier Journal

Four Kentuckians are suing in an attempt to secure a court ruling requiring the absentee voting process Kentucky implemented for the June primary to be used in this fall’s general election, too. The new lawsuit also asks for a court order prohibiting the enforcement of Senate Bill 2 while Gov. Andy Beshear’s open-ended COVID-19 state of emergency remains in effect. The controversial bill, approved this year by the state legislature, requires voters to show photo identification to cast a ballot. Margaret Sterne, 65, and Helen LeMaster, 84, of Calloway County, as well as Fred Mozenter, 72, and Debra Graner, 69, of Franklin County, are plaintiffs in the case. The lawsuit says they all have health conditions that put them at risk of becoming severely ill from the coronavirus if they catch it.

Maryland: Local Elections Officials Reject Proposal to Require Applications for Mail-in Ballots | Bennett Leckrone/Maryland Matters

While Republican members of the Maryland State Board of Elections prefer mailing ballot applications to voters for the November election, local election officials say doing so could be costly and confusing for voters. Instead, David Garreis, the president of the Maryland Association of Election Officials, urged Gov. Lawrence J. Hogan Jr. (R) in a Monday letter to adopt universal mail-in ballots for voters this fall. “We cannot overstate the devastating consequences likely to result if the State of Maryland does not plan now to mail every voter a ballot for the 2020 Presidential General Election,” Garreis, the deputy director of the Anne Arundel County Board of Elections, wrote to Hogan, state Elections Administrator Linda H. Lamone and state Board of Elections Chairman Michael R. Cogan. He also urged Hogan to make a decision on how to conduct the November election by no later than the end of this week. State Board of Elections members were split along party lines over how to conduct the November election when they delivered their report on the state’s June 2 primary to Hogan last week.

Massachusetts: Mail-in Voting Law Slams Into Dispute Over Postage Costs | Chris Van Buskirk/WGBH

Disagreements over funding to mail ballot applications for the upcoming election cycle spilled into the public eye Tuesday after the state’s top election official and election reform advocates differed on the permissible use of federal money. Gov. Charlie Baker signed legislation into law Monday that directs Secretary of State William Galvin to send mail-in voting applications by July 15 in order to give voters time to request a ballot for the Sept. 1 primary elections, fill it out, and mail it back in. Crafted in response to the COVID-19 pandemic, advocates and state officials have pointed to the new law as a way to help voters participate in the upcoming election cycle without putting themselves at risk for COVID-19. “We had hoped to do it by that date. The legislation calls for it. But the Legislature has not sent the money. We can’t pay for the postage. We can’t pay for the printing until we have the postal permit. We can’t buy the permit until we get the money,” Galvin told reporters Tuesday outside the State House. The point of contention centers on whether guidance from the Election Assistance Commission allows for states to use federal funds through the CARES Act to mail applications to voters for early or absentee ballots. There were nearly 4.6 million registered voters in Massachusetts as of February.

Montana: Judge blocks Montana from enforcing absentee ballot law | Associated Press

A Montana judge issued a ruling Tuesday that blocks the state from enforcing a voter-approved law that restricts the collection of absentee ballots during elections. Tuesday’s ruling from District Judge Jessica Fehr came after the Billings-based judge temporarily halted the Ballot Interference Protection Act two weeks before the June primary election. The law passed by voter referendum in 2018 limits one person to turning in a maximum of six absentee ballots. Fehr wrote the law would “significantly suppress vote turnout by disproportionately harming rural communities.” She said Native Americans in rural tribes across the seven Indian reservation located in Montana would be particularly harmed.

New Jersey: State Takes Steps to Protect Primary’s Vote-by-Mail Ballots | Alexa Corse/Wall Street Journal

New Jersey officials sought to tamp down concerns ahead of the state’s primary voting Tuesday, after criminal charges over alleged mail-ballot fraud marred a local election in Paterson, N.J. State officials emphasized that voter fraud is rare and said measures are being taken to protect mail-in ballots. The primary is being conducted mostly by mail and was delayed from its original date of June 2 because of the coronavirus pandemic. Security measures include verifying mail voters’ signatures against voter-registration records, cross-checking lists of mail and in-person voters to ensure no one votes twice, allowing voters to drop off their ballots at their county board of election in case they don’t trust the mail, and encouraging voters to alert officials if they notice anything suspicious, said New Jersey secretary-of-state spokeswoman Alicia D’Alessandro. Several counties also said that they placed their ballot drop-off boxes under security-camera surveillance. The state is voting in the presidential races and in down-ballot contests, including a Democratic primary to challenge U.S. Rep. Jeff Van Drew, who switched parties and became a Republican last year. The scrutiny comes after New Jersey’s attorney general announced voting-fraud charges in June against four men—including two winning candidates—over allegations involving mail-in ballots during a nonpartisan May election in Paterson, a solidly Democratic city. Those two candidates are registered Democrats, according to the local county clerk’s office. Several of the charges related to alleged improper collection of mail-in ballots from other voters.

New York: One Small Vote for Lockport, NY, One Giant Lesson for 2020 America | Jim Shultz/The New York Review of Books

The great debate over voting by mail has begun. President Trump has blasted it as an invitation to widespread fraud. He tweeted in June, “IT WILL BE THE SCANDAL OF OUR TIMES!” and has warned that Democrats plan to distribute ballots to undocumented immigrants, and that foreign governments will flood our mailboxes with false ballots. On the Democratic side, Senator Amy Klobuchar, taking stock of a potential new spike of Covid-19 infections just in time for November’s presidential vote, has declared: “In a democracy, no one should be forced to choose between health and the right to vote.” April’s Wisconsin primary already offered a chilling look at what happens when going to the polls runs into a pandemic. More than seven thousand poll workers refused to work because they feared getting sick, leaving thousands of mask-clad voters standing in line for hours. On the other hand, absentee balloting leapt from 140,000 voters in 2016 to more than a million in this election—but not without glitches that left almost ten thousand voters without the ballots they had legally requested. This November’s presidential election will certainly be the most heated and consequential in a generation. What we cannot afford is for that election also to become a democratic farce amid the ravages of a pandemic. In the rising national debate over voting by mail, somewhere between the claims of fraud on one side and of panacea on the other, lies a tricky middle ground called reality: What would a nationwide election-by-mail really look like? What bumps in the road should we prepare for?

Virginia: Elections Board Extends Filing Deadline for House Hopefuls | Brad Kutner/Courthouse News

The Virginia Board of Elections voted to extend a campaign filing deadline for several congressional candidates Tuesday afternoon, citing confusion caused by postponed conventions and primaries. “These requirements give certainty to the election calendar and give legitimacy to the election process,” Board of Elections Chair Robert Brink said in a meeting conducted virtually due to the coronavirus pandemic. “After the deadline everyone knows who the candidates will be… but we’re not getting legitimacy or certainty.” As with every other election around the country, the outbreak of Covid-19 was linked to the mix-up. Between an executive order from Governor Ralph Northam and an order from a Richmond City judge, conventions and primary dates were pushed back to accommodate virus-related concerns. They did not, however, change the deadlines for ballot paperwork as defined by state law. Still, a 2-1 majority of the state elections board won the day after hearing from the public and candidates during the nearly hour-long hearing, voting to give candidates 10 more days to file.

Wisconsin: Appeals court reverses Wisconsin voting restrictions rulings | Todd Richmond/Associated Press

A federal appeals court panel upheld a host of Republican-authored voting restrictions in Wisconsin on Monday, handing conservatives a significant win in a pair of lawsuits just months before residents in the battleground state cast their ballots for president. The three-judge panel —all Republican appointees— found that the state can restrict early voting hours and restored a requirement that people must live in a district for 28 days, not 10, before they can vote. The panel also said emailing and faxing absentee ballots is unconstitutional. The state’s photo ID requirement for voters wasn’t in question, although the panel did find that expired student IDs are acceptable at the polls. The court blocked an option to allow people to vote without an ID if they show an affidavit saying they tried to obtain one. Judge Frank Easterbrook, who wrote the opinion, noted that the restrictions don’t burden people in the state, where voters still enjoy more ways to register, long poll hours on Election Day and absentee voting options than in other states. “Wisconsin has lots of rules that make voting easier,” Easterbrook wrote. “These facts matter when assessing challenges to a handful of rules that make voting harder.”

National: Supreme Court says states may require presidential electors to support popular-vote winner | Robert Barnes/The Washington Post

The Supreme Court ruled unanimously Monday that states may require presidential electors to support the winner of the popular vote and punish or replace those who don’t, settling a disputed issue in advance of this fall’s election. Justice Elena Kagan wrote for the court, and settled the disputed “faithless elector” issue before it affected the coming presidential contest. The Washington state law at issue “reflects a tradition more than two centuries old,” she wrote. “In that practice, electors are not free agents; they are to vote for the candidate whom the state’s voters have chosen.” Lower courts had split on the issue, with one saying the Constitution forbids dictating how such officials cast their ballots. Both red and blue states urged the justices to settle the matter in advance of the “white hot” glare of the 2020 election. They said they feared a handful of independent-minded members of the electoral college deciding the next president. The court considered cases from the state of Washington and Colorado. Washington moved to fine Peter Bret Chiafalo and two others $1,000 after they voted for Colin Powell when the electoral college convened after the 2016 election. They had pledged to vote for Hillary Clinton, who won the state’s popular vote.

National: Younger Americans embrace mail-in voting, if they can figure out how | Amanda Golden/NBC

Engagement among young voters is higher this year than it was in the 2016 and 2018 elections, and they’re enthusiastic about voting by mail in November, but access to information about registration and how to vote during the coronavirus pandemic could be an issue, a new poll shows. The poll by the nonpartisan Center for Information and Research on Civic Learning & Engagement, or CIRCLE, found that 83 percent of young voters said they believe young people have the power to change the country, with 60 percent feeling they’re part of a movement that will vote to express its views and 79 percent saying the pandemic has helped them realize that politics affect their lives. But the survey also highlighted the challenges to participating in the election because it’s being held during a national health crisis and young voters aren’t getting clear and accurate information about online registration and mail-in voting. A third said they didn’t know whether they could register to vote online in their states. Among those who said they did know, 25 percent were incorrect. In addition, only 24 percent of those polled had voted by mail before.

National: Conservative groups sue to make pandemic voting even harder | Nicholas Stephanopoulos/Slate

Until recently, litigation about voting during the COVID-19 crisis followed a predictable pattern. Voters would complain about states’ restrictive regulations, conservatives would rush to the laws’ defense, and courts would referee the disputes. Powerhouse right-wing lawyers, however, have now opened a troubling new front in the voting wars. They now claim that it’s unconstitutional for states to make it easier to vote while the pandemic rages. Relaxations of voting rules supposedly give rise to fraudulent votes that impermissibly dilute the ballots cast by law-abiding citizens. This novel argument should—but probably won’t—be laughed out of court. As it spreads across the country, it threatens to put states in an impossible position: exposed to liability not just if they ignore, but also if they try to alleviate, the pandemic’s effects on the electoral process. Before this new breed of cases began appearing, most suits about voting during the pandemic had the same setup. Some existing electoral regulation—an eligibility limit for voting absentee, say, or a requirement that mail-in ballots be notarized—would prevent certain people from voting. So they would go to court alleging an excessive burden on their constitutionally protected right to vote. In response, some state official would argue that the policy served an important interest, most often the prevention of fraud. In April, the Supreme Court decided one of the many such cases, involving the rules for absentee voting in Wisconsin’s primary election.

National: Senate Democrats urge Pompeo to ensure Americans living overseas can vote in November | Maggie Miller/The Hill

A group of Senate Democrats led by Sens. Amy Klobuchar (Minn.), Ron Wyden (Ore.), and Bob Menendez (N.J.) are urging the State Department to take steps to ensure military personnel and other Americans living overseas are able to vote in the November general election. In a letter to Secretary of State Mike Pompeo sent last week, the group of more than a dozen senators asked for details on the agency’s plan to ensure all Americans living overseas were able to receive and send back absentee ballots in the midst of the COVID-19 pandemic. “The pandemic continues to restrict travel and mail service in many countries around the world,” the senators wrote. “Without proper planning, this could jeopardize the ability for Americans overseas, including U.S. service members and diplomats, to vote in the November election.” They pointed to concerns around U.S. embassies and consulates, normally responsible for assisting with the voting process for those living overseas, not being fully staffed during the pandemic. The senators also questioned whether embassies were planning voting information campaigns, and what the process was for those living near embassies and consulates to drop off their ballots. “We recognize that there may be conditions in individual countries that are beyond the control of U.S. officials that could make voting more difficult, but we must take steps now to attempt to overcome those challenges,” the Democrats wrote.

National: Virus vs. voting: Behind the high-risk presidential primary elections | Katie Pyzyk/Smart Cities Dive

Milwaukee voters stood just inches apart in lines that stretched for blocks outside of voting centers on April 7, all waiting to cast ballots in the state’s presidential primary. On a typical Election Day, passersby wouldn’t bat an eye at this scene. But on this Election Day — and every that has passed since early March — the prevalence of COVID-19 has raised health and safety concerns that leave some voters weighing the value of health versus that of participating in the democratic process. The proximity of Milwaukee’s voters followed Wisconsin Gov. Tony Evers’ last-minute attempt to postpone the primary, as other states had done. The effort was blocked by the state Supreme Court, and as a result, only 3% of Milwaukee’s polling sites opened to serve a population of nearly 600,000. Norman Ornstein, resident scholar at the think tank American Enterprise Institute, told Smart Cities Dive there are many states with leaders who are “either ignoring the risks or deliberately trying to tilt the balance to suppress voters.” “We’ve seen that in Wisconsin, and I think we’re going to see it in other places as well,” he said.

Arkansas: Virus OK as excuse for voting absentee in Arkansas, Governor says | John Moritz/Arkansas Democrat Gazette

Any Arkansans who fear going to the polls this fall during the coronavirus pandemic can use their concerns as an excuse to vote absentee, Gov. Asa Hutchinson said Thursday. The governor, who had not previously committed to expanding the use of mail-in or absentee ballots during the election, made the announcement alongside the chairmen of the state’s Republican and Democratic parties, as well as Secretary of State John Thurston. Arkansas law allows voters to request absentee ballots if they will be “unavoidably absent” on Election Day or if they have illnesses or physical disabilities. Thurston said last week in a news release that he believed the law will allow voters to choose whether to vote absentee during the pandemic, an interpretation with which Hutchinson said he concurred. “They just simply have a concern, a fear of going to the polling place because of the covid-19, that’s enough of a reason” to vote absentee, Hutchinson said.

Delaware: Vote by mail coming for fall elections; advocate reports confusion over presidential primary options | Sophia Schmidt/Delaware First Media

Gov. John Carney signed the vote by mail legislation Wednesday. It allows all voters to return their ballots by mail without a traditional absentee excuse through the end of this year. Under the legislation, the State Election Commissioner must mail an application to receive a mail-in ballot to every qualified, registered voter sixty days before the election. Each voter must then complete and return the application. They will then receive a ballot, envelope and instructions, to be returned by mail. No ballots can be tabulated until Election Day. Voters will still have the option to vote in person. Carney said at a virtual bill signing he sees the mail-in option as “critically important” for the elections this fall. State Rep. Valerie Longhurst sponsored the legislation in an effort to help Delawareans vote safely despite COVID-19. “This just makes it easier because we don’t know what’s going to happen in November with this pandemic, and we’re just thinking ahead and being proactive instead of being reactive,” she said in an interview Tuesday.

Georgia: Old voting machines mothballed at port, saving tax money | Mark Niesse/The Atlanta Journal-Constitution

Georgia’s old voting computers will be moved to a government warehouse at the Port of Savannah, saving taxpayers about $432,000 a year in storage costs. U.S. District Judge Amy Totenberg recently approved the agreement, which resolves concerns about the expense of preserving 30,000 voting touchscreens for an election security lawsuit. Plaintiffs in the case want to inspect the computers to find out whether they were infected by viruses or malware. The 18-year-old computers, which recorded votes electronically, were replaced this year by a voting system that uses new touchscreens and also prints out paper ballots. The Georgia Ports Authority will store the obsolete equipment, which would fill 48 semi-trailers, at no ongoing cost to the state. The government will pay to transport the computers from rented warehouses to the port.

Kentucky: Coronavirus threatened to make a mess of Kentucky’s primary. It could be a model instead. | Zach Montellaro/Politico

Coronavirus has upended elections around the country since the pandemic landed in America, and last month, it was feared Kentucky would be the next disaster. National figures from Hillary Clinton to LeBron James warned of impending calamity in the state, focusing on a dramatic decrease in polling places, especially in Louisville. But after the votes came in, Kentucky earned measured praise from voting rights advocates for how it largely sidestepped the missing ballots, long lines and other problems faced by many states amid coronavirus. The Democratic governor and Republican secretary of state reached bipartisan agreement on a massive expansion of absentee voting, leading to the highest primary turnout in Kentucky since the hard-fought 2008 presidential primary. Now, voting rights experts say other states should be reaching out to Kentucky for advice, as a potential blueprint for scaling up pandemic-safe voting for the November elections. “I think Kentucky could be a model for states that have not done a lot of absentee voting prior, or they’ve had excuse absentee, in terms of scalability,” said Amber McReynolds, chief executive officer of the National Vote At Home Institute and a former elections director in Denver, Colo., when the state instituted one of the broadest vote-by-mail programs in the country. Just over 1 million Kentuckians voted in the primary despite the pandemic, the highest primary turnout in the state in 12 years. Roughly 75 percent of the votes were cast via absentee ballot, said Secretary of State Michael Adams. Kentucky’s size means the changes they made won’t be as easy to scale in some states, especially in a general election scenario, but the primary also went much better than other states’ so far this year.

Massachusetts: Voters will get applications to vote by mail now that voting reform bill is law | Steph Solis/MassLive

Massachusetts Gov. Charlie Baker signed a bill that will allow residents to submit mail-in ballots to cast their votes in the state primary and general election because of the coronavirus pandemic. The $8 million voting reform bill allows people to vote by mail in a general election without needing to designate any reason the Sept. 1 primary and Nov. 3 general elections, a first for Massachusetts. But the expanded vote-by-mail provisions aren’t permanent: the measures expire Dec. 31. The voting law also allows early in-person voting for the state primary for the first time. Early voting for the state primary will take place between Aug. 22 and Aug. 28. For the general election, early voting runs from Oct. 17 and 30, making polling places available for two weekends. Secretary of State William Galvin’s office must must mail out applications to households by July 15 so voters can decide if they want to vote by mail for the primary. He must also mail out vote-by-mail applications for the general election by Sept. 14. The secretary’s office would have to conduct a public awareness campaign.

Ohio: Elections boards must email or call absentee voters who don’t provide identifying information | Rick Rouan/The Columbus Dispatch

Ohio elections officials must email or call voters who haven’t provided all the necessary information on absentee ballots for the general election in November, not just send them a notice in the mail. As the state prepares for a surge in voting by mail because of the COVID-19 pandemic, Ohio Secretary of State Frank LaRose issued a directive Monday outlining that and other steps that the local boards of elections must take for the fall election. The secretary of state’s office will send absentee ballot applications to about 8 million registered voters in the state, and LaRose has said Ohio could see an unprecedented number of votes cast by mail. The state conducted its primary almost entirely through the mail after polls were shut down hours before they were set to open March 17 to prevent the virus from spreading. Instead, the primary ran through late April, with most voters required to cast absentee ballots. State lawmakers so far have preserved in-person voting, with LaRose’s support, but lingering fears about spreading the coronavirus are expected to drive more Ohioans to cast absentee ballots.

Pennsylvania: 2020 election lawsuits could shape who votes and how ballots are counted | Jonathan Lai/Philadelphia Inquirer

With four months until November’s election, a flurry of lawsuits in state and federal courts is seeking to change election rules in Pennsylvania and dozens of other states around the country. They could shape how people cast their ballots and whether those votes are counted. The latest salvo landed this week when the Trump campaign and Republican National Committee filed a federal lawsuit challenging Pennsylvania’s use of mail ballot drop boxes, its procedures for counting mail ballots, and restrictions on poll watchers. It marked a shift, with the GOP on offense in the state for the first time this election cycle instead of defending against Democratic and progressive groups’ legal challenges. That and other lawsuits are part of a national fight unfolding, particularly across swing states such as Pennsylvania, where small margins could decide who wins the presidency in November. And the fight comes amid the coronavirus pandemic, which has made voting more complicated than normal. “We are seeing a surge in litigation,” said Wendy R. Weiser, head of the Democracy Program at the Brennan Center for Justice at New York University. “There’s been an increasing number of lawsuits around election administration and voting rights across the country.”

Vermont: Debate continues over mail-in voting | Pandemic 2020 | Keith Whitcomb Jr./Rutland Herald

While registered voters in Vermont likely will be mailed ballots for the General Election in November, the practice remains the subject of debate. Secretary of State Jim Condos stated in an email Monday that his office is working with town clerks on a directive that will be issued shortly — one that will create the process for mailing a ballot to every active registered voter for the General Election in November. Voters still can show up in person at the polls or use the existing absentee voting system. “The only major change we are planning for regarding the 2020 November General Election is the pro-active mailing of ballots to every active registered voter,” Condos stated. “Challenged voters will not be mailed a ballot, and would need to affirm their eligibility to register to vote with their Town Clerk, and request their ballot, vote early at the Clerk’s office, or vote at the polls on Election Day.” Changes to the voting process are being considered in states across the country in response to the COVID-19 pandemic. In Vermont, Democrats and Republicans have been debating the issue in heated exchanges.

Wisconsin: Five largest cities awarded $6.3 million in effort to make elections safer amid coronavirus pandemic | Mary Spicuzza/Milwaukee Journal Sentinel

Wisconsin’s five largest cities are being awarded more than $6 million to help administer this year’s elections during the coronavirus pandemic. The cities of Milwaukee, Madison, Green Bay, Racine and Kenosha are set to receive a combined $6.3 million in grants from the nonprofit Center for Tech and Civic Life. The funding for the “Wisconsin Safe Voting Plan” comes as the state is expected to play a key role in this year’s presidential election. It also comes after some people in Milwaukee and Green Bay waited in line — sometimes for several hours — to vote in the state’s April election, and delayed or missing mail-in ballots frustrated people around the state. The grant aims to help election officials administer safe elections despite budget gaps that have worsened during the ongoing pandemic, and will be used to help the cities open voting sites, set up drive-thru and drop box locations, provide personal protective equipment (PPE) for poll workers and recruit and train poll workers. The grants have been approved by the nonprofit and will soon be awarded to the municipalities. Some of the cities require the Common Council to accept the grants. In Milwaukee, that vote could come as soon as tomorrow.

California: Smooth Vote-by-Mail Elections in Colorado, Utah Provide Model for California | Guy Marzorati/KQED

The primaries conducted in Colorado and Utah this week played out like a California election official’s dream: Record turnout. Voting centers without lines. And a robust election workforce with ample protective gear. “We were able to set a record turnout for a state primary, even during the pandemic,” said Colorado Secretary of State Jena Griswold. The smooth administration of two largely vote-by-mail elections this week provides a model for California, where officials are preparing to send every voter a mail ballot in the fall. The smooth administration of two largely vote-by-mail elections this week provides a model for California, where officials are preparing to send every voter a mail ballot in the fall. Roughly three-quarters of California voters already receive a ballot in the mail. But with the spread of COVID-19 threatening the safety of in-person voting in November, Gov. Gavin Newsom and legislators from both parties have moved to expand options for voters to cast their ballot at home.

Florida: Lawsuit seeks to force Florida counties to preserve digital ballot images | Allison Ross/Tampa Bay Times

A national nonprofit that advocates for election security has spearheaded a lawsuit against Florida Secretary of State Laurel Lee and several county elections officials in an attempt to force them to preserve images of ballots that are made when paper ballots are scanned into voting machines. The lawsuit, filed late Wednesday in Leon County Circuit Court, asks that the state issue instructions in time for the Aug. 18 primary election to require all county supervisors of elections to capture and preserve the images. The group of plaintiffs includes the Florida Democratic Party, three state legislators who are up for re-election and Dan Helm, a Democrat running for Pinellas County supervisor of elections. Other voters are also plaintiffs, including Susan Pynchon, executive director of the Florida Fair Elections Coalition. The suit names Lee, who oversees the state’e elections system, as a defendant, along with the state’s director of the division of elections and the supervisors of elections in Hillsborough, Pinellas, Broward, Orange, Lee, Duval, Palm Beach and Miami-Dade counties.