Editorials: The ‘voter fraud’ fraud | Steve Mulroy/The Hill

Many states have moved toward voting by mail for the 2020 elections due to pandemic concerns, leaving only seven states lacking this option for all voters. Members of Congress have called for national legislation for a vote-by-mail option for federal elections this year, which would cover the remaining states. President Trump and some other Republicans have resisted, arguing that mail voting risks election fraud. There’s little empirical evidence to back up this fraud claim, but there have been enough instances of absentee ballot fraud over the years to make it worth a look. Evidence for the pro-vote-by-mail side may come from an unlikely source: A database of fraud cases maintained by a conservative think tank that raises alarms over voter fraud and is decidedly not in the pro-mail ballot camp. Its data suggests that mail ballot related fraud is actually more common in states that restrict absentee voting than in other states. The Heritage Foundation is an established conservative think tank. It has long raised the alarm about the perceived dangers of voter fraud, most notably as a justification for strict voter photo identification laws for in-person voting. But they have also spoken out against mail-in voting, suggesting, among several complaints, that it raises an unacceptable risk of fraud.

Editorials: Trump’s Attacks on the Post Office Threaten Democracy | David H. Gans and Rebecca Damante/Constitutional Accountability Center

In the weeks since the coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic hit the United States, President Trump has waged war on one of our nation’s oldest institutions: the United States Postal Service (USPS). For example, earlier this month, the President threatened to veto a coronavirus relief package if it included emergency funding for USPS. And this is not the first time the President has attacked this important federal institution; he has also called the Post Office Amazon’s “Delivery Boy” and accused USPS of becoming “dumber and poorer.” Trump’s attacks come at a time when we need the Post Office most—our ability to hold elections in November and to fulfill our constitutional obligation to hold a national census depends on it. The Post Office has a long history dating back to the founding era.  It is one of a handful of institutions that is directly mentioned in the Constitution’s text.  Although our national charter left many details to be filled in, the Framers recognized that a postal system would be essential to unify the nation and encourage the spread of ideas across distant states.

Editorials: The Simplest Way to Avoid a Wisconsin-Style Fiasco on Election Day | Edward B. Foley and Steven Huefner/Politico

The fiasco surrounding Wisconsin’s April 7 primary election is still fresh: In the middle of a viral pandemic, crowded, in-person voting took place despite the governor’s stay-at-home order, while tens of thousands of voters did not receive absentee ballots in time to cast eligible votes by mail. Two election eve judicial decisions added to the confusion. Unfortunately, the November elections are at risk of looking similar. With coronavirus likely to remain a threat for months, some form of voting by mail, including in states historically unfamiliar with high rates of absentee voting, will be a public health necessity. But one issue with mail-in ballots, whether a state uses them just for absentee voters or for the entire election, is that they need to be postmarked or delivered to a polling station no later than Election Day. If local election offices can’t handle the increased demand for absentee ballots and voters don’t receive their ballots in time to cast them by Election Day, those voters are disenfranchised. And that, in turn, could lead to heated, possibly prolonged disputes about election outcomes. But there’s a fairly straightforward way Wisconsin could have avoided its mess—and the rest of the country could do so in the fall. In fact, this solution already exists, albeit in a limited context.

Editorials: Wisconsin Voters Faced an Impossible Choice. It Shouldn’t Happen Again. | The New York Times

It was as gratifying as it was unexpected to watch Wisconsin’s Republican lawmakers — who have repeatedly ignored if not erased the political voices of their own constituents — take a drubbing at the hands of the voters themselves. The state’s Republican leadership insisted on holding an election in the middle of a pandemic and a statewide stay-at-home order, knowing that the dilemma it posed would hit minorities and other Democratic-leaning voters hardest. Yet Republicans still lost in the state’s marquee race. When the ballots were counted and the official results were reported on Monday, Jill Karofsky, the Democratic candidate for a seat on the state’s Supreme Court, had comfortably beaten her Trump-endorsed opponent, the incumbent, Justice Daniel Kelly. Defying the pleas of voters, poll workers, public-health officials, the Democratic governor and Democratic lawmakers, Republican legislators forced Wisconsinites to make a choice between protecting their health and casting their ballot.

Editorials: Why the Supreme Court made Wisconsin vote during the coronavirus crisis | Austin Sarat/The Conversation

When Wisconsin voters had to brave the coronavirus pandemic to vote in their state’s April 7 election, it was the latest phase of a nearly 60-year legal and political fight over who can vote in the U.S. Wearing masks and gloves, Wisconsin residents who voted in person were met by election officials in similar attire. That was new. But it wasn’t new that voters found hundreds of polling places closed and therefore had to wait in line for hours. A U.S. Supreme Court decision just the day before had ordered Wisconsin to hold its in-person election without delay, not allowing extra time for voters to cast their ballots by mail. Critics called the decision one of “raw partisanship,” “an ominous harbinger for what the Court might allow in November in the general election” – and even a “death threat” aimed at voters. As someone who has long studied the complex intersections of law and politics, I saw the ruling as the latest episode in the fight over the franchise and one of a series of decisions under Chief Justice John Roberts that have rejected efforts to protect or extend voting rights.

Editorials: Trump Wants 50 Wisconsins on Election Day | Jamelle Bouie/The New York Times

The voting debacle in Wisconsin on Tuesday was further evidence of an incontrovertible reality in American politics: The Republican Party does not believe in free and fair elections, where free means equal access to the ballot and fair means equitable rules and neutral procedures. Here’s what happened. Last week, once it was clear that coronavirus would make in-person voting unsafe, Gov. Tony Evers, a Democrat, convened a session of the Wisconsin Legislature to find a solution. The Republican majority leader gaveled the chamber in and just as quickly gaveled it out. There would be no session and thus no solution. Republicans wanted to hold the election as is, endangering the lives of voters who went to the polls in the midst of a pandemic. When, on Monday, Evers issued an executive order to push the election to June and give officials time to implement universal vote-by-mail, it was immediately overturned by the conservative majority of the state Supreme Court.

Editorials: On the Wisconsin Primary, the Supreme Court Failed Us | Linda Greenhouse/The New York Times

The Supreme Court just met its first test of the coronavirus era. It failed, spectacularly. I was hoping not to have to write those sentences. All day Monday, I kept refreshing my computer’s link to the court’s website. I was anxious to see how the justices would respond to the urgent request from the Republican National Committee and Wisconsin’s Republican-controlled Legislature to stop the state from counting absentee ballots postmarked not by Tuesday’s election but during the following few days. A federal district judge, noting that Wisconsin’s election apparatus was overwhelmed by the “avalanche of absentee ballots” sought by voters afraid to show up at crowded polling places, had ordered the extra time last Thursday, with the full support of the state’s election officials. Was I the only one left in suspense on Monday, holding out hope that the five Republican-appointed Supreme Court justices would put partisanship aside and let the District Court order stand? In early evening, the answer landed with a thud. No, they would not.

Editorials: Trump is wrong about the dangers of absentee ballots | Richard L. Hasen/The Washington Post

President Trump has recently come out against expanding voting by mail, despite the fact that he regularly votes by mail himself. He tweeted that it has “Tremendous potential for voter fraud and, for whatever reason, doesn’t work out well for Republicans.” Given that expanded mail-in voting is going to be an inevitable piece of the November election because of the coronavirus pandemic, it is important that Americans understand what risks come from voting by mail and what can be done about those risks before November, so that voters can have confidence that the election can be fairly conducted, in part, through mail-in balloting. To begin with, election fraud has been rare in this country for decades. Impersonation fraud, where one person shows up at the polling place claiming to be a voter who died or moved, is practically nonexistent, yet it has formed the excuse for some Republican-led states to pass strict voter-identification laws that many Democrats believe are motivated by a desire to deter their likely voters.

Editorials: We run elections in Arizona. An all-mail option for 2020 wouldn’t ruin the process | Virginia Ross and Lisa Marra/Arizona Republic

On April 2, an opinion piece by Rep. Shawnna Bolick (“All-mail voting would only compromise the integrity of elections”) included inaccurate and often misleading information about ballot-by-mail elections. As election professionals, we are committed to ensuring that the rest of the elections in 2020 are accurate, secure and safe for voters, anticipating the COVID-19 pandemic could continue requirements around social distancing for the remainder of the year. On behalf of the Arizona Recorders Association and the Election Officials of Arizona, we believe it is crucial that the Legislature extend our ability to hold ballot-by-mail elections for state and federal elections, a practice already authorized for jurisdictional elections. It is the best way to ensure Arizona voters are safe during this pandemic and have the certainty of the continuity of our democracy. We are requesting this change only for 2020, during this unprecedented pandemic.

Editorials: How Republicans are using the coronavirus to suppress votes | Richard L. Hasen/Los Angeles Times

Even in a pandemic, some Republicans are looking to suppress the vote for partisan political advantage. But the biggest power plays may come in November, and they could threaten our democracy. With most of the country under a stay-at-home order, in-peson voting right now is perilous. We don’t know what the situation will be like in November, but vote-by-mail is one way to help ensure that millions of Americans will be able to vote safely. Yet, across the country, some Republican legislators and leaders are opposing efforts to make voting safe and widespread. In Wisconsin, Republican legislators have refused to postpone Tuesday’s scheduled primary despite the serious health risk posed by in-person voting. Some have suggested Wisconsin Republicans are happy to have depressed turnout to help a Republican-backed state Supreme Court candidate win election. On Friday, Gov. Tony Evers, a Democrat, called the Legislature into special session on Saturday to consider an election delay and shift to a mostly vote-by-mail election. But the Republicans immediately rejected any change to the election. In Georgia, Republican state House Speaker David Ralston has opposed sending absentee ballots to every Georgia voter for the upcoming primary, claiming that such a change “will be extremely devastating to Republicans and conservatives in Georgia. Every registered voter is going to get one of these. … This will certainly drive up turnout.”

Editorials: Governor Evers is right. With coronavirus raging in Wisconsin, it is no time to have an in-person election. | Milwaukee Journal Sentinel

Gov. Tony Evers called the bluff of Republican leaders in the Legislature in a move more akin to poker than the governor’s favored game of euchre — and he made the right move to protect the health of Wisconsin voters and poll workers. Evers wants to convert Tuesday’s Wisconsin primary election to vote-by-mail and extend balloting until May 19. That would keep the election on track and keep people safe during a public health emergency. But so far Senate Majority Leader Scott Fitzgerald, R-Juneau, and Assembly Speaker Robin Vos, R-Rochester, don’t seem to care if the lives of Wisconsin voters are at risk. On Saturday afternoon, the chambers they lead gaveled in the special session called by Evers to change the election and quickly adjourned until Monday without acting. Voting by mail — and not in person — is the only responsible way to conduct an election as the coronavirus tears across Wisconsin. Evers insists  his emergency powers do not give him the ability to make such changes himself. Evers should test those powers if the Legislature continues to do nothing on Monday.

Editorials: The Dangers of Moving All of Democracy Online | Marion Fourcade and Henry Farrell/WIRED

Governments around the world are struggling to deal with the public health and economic challenges of coronavirus. While many have pointed to how authoritarian regimes exacerbated the pandemic, we’ve so far paid dangerously little attention to coronavirus’s challenge to democracy. In a democracy, citizens need to be able to vote, politicians to deliberate, and people to move about, meet, and act collectively. Democratic politics is a mixture of mass involvement and endless meetings. All this is hard when people can be infected with a potentially deadly virus if someone simply coughs nearby. The obvious answer might seem to be to move democracy to the internet, but some parts of democracy translate badly to an online world, while others are already being undermined by emergency powers (for example, Hungary’s parliament just passed a law that allows the prime minister to rule by decree) and by the rise of digital surveillance. If people have to vote in person, they might catch coronavirus from queuing, pressing buttons, or handing ballots to election officials. No wonder 14 US presidential primaries have been postponed so far. But not postponing elections in the midst of the crisis has been just as controversial, since the resulting vote is likely to see a dramatic reduction in turnout (as did France’s first round municipal elections, and as is feared in the Polish presidential election this May).

Editorials: One Texas official has power to protect voters from coronavirus before November. She just has to use it. Now. | Houston Chronicle

Remember the last time you voted? If you’re like many Texans, you queued outside your polling place, maybe chatted with fellow voters while you waited. As you reached the end of the line, poll workers stood nearby to answer any questions and you handed over your ID. You then stepped over to use an electronic voting machine, just like hundreds of other voters before you that day and hundreds more afterward. Imagine if you had to do that now. The coronavirus outbreak has upended our way of life, and our elections are not immune. Gov. Greg Abbott has postponed the primary runoffs until July 14, hoping that the current crisis will have abated, but according to experts, even if the virus is seasonal and we can anticipate relative safety in the summer, it is expected to return in the fall — just in time for Election Day. No one should be expected to choose between protecting their health and exercising their right to vote. Abbott has resisted calls to explore other options beyond delaying the runoffs, so it falls to Secretary of State Ruth Hughs — as the chief elections officer in Texas — to take the lead, making sure we are prepared and have the needed resources.

Editorials: States need billions to ensure safe elections | Katie Hobbs and Kim Wyman/CNN

Over the weekend, New York joined Delaware and Pennsylvania as the latest states to move their primaries to June in light of the coronavirus pandemic. Meanwhile, the territory of Puerto Rico, which had already moved its primary to late April, now finds itself less than a month away from holding an election, pending another postponement. While a few weeks may seem like an eternity in the midst of a pandemic whose impact is growing by the hour, it leaves little time for state officials to implement emergency plans to administer fair, free and accurate elections in this crisis. These postponements have created concerns that the November general election could be delayed. This is not a good option. Delaying would create confusion by upending the one Election Day that Americans have collectively observed since 1845. Instead, we should invest our time over the next several months toward preparing for November and addressing the problem the coronavirus has made quite apparent: Not all states have the resources to adapt to an environment that discourages social contact. As such, they need significant funding to help them successfully and safely conduct elections. As part of a $2 trillion historic package to boost our health care system and provide financial relief to households and businesses, Congress provided a small down payment to our democracy with $400 million allocated to protecting our elections. But states need billions, not millions, to ensure secure voting.

Editorials: The November election is going to be a nightmare | Paul Waldman/The Washington Post

President Trump has a unique propensity to blurt out what others will only imply, and on “Fox & Friends,” the president offered a revealing lament about the proposals House Democrats had made for the rescue package that eventually passed. “The things they had in there were crazy,” he said. “They had things — levels of voting that, if you ever agreed to it, you’d never have a Republican elected in this country again.” That may be an exaggeration, but what is clear is that the November elections could be an absolute mess, not just in how difficult it could be to vote but in determining a winner as well. The Democratic proposal Trump was referencing would have given money to states to aid in conducting this year’s elections, which have been complicated so severely by the coronavirus pandemic. In addition to the funding, it would have required that states make mail-in voting available to everyone (right now many states require you to have an excuse they consider valid to vote absentee) and in the case of a national emergency, mail ballots to every registered voter. Because of Republican objections, those requirements didn’t make it into the final bill. It did include $400 million in funding to help states prepare for November. That will help, but it’s unlikely to be enough, as states will have to scramble to print more mail ballots and pay for postage, create more dropoff locations, hire people to process ballots, create online registration systems, and inform the public of the changes. The Brennan Center estimates that shoring up the election system in the wake of the coronavirus will cost $2 billion.

Editorials: What Happens in November if One Side Doesn’t Accept the Election Results? How the coronavirus could contribute to a 2020 election meltdown. Richard L. Hasen/Slate

The November 2020 presidential election won’t be run perfectly—we have never had a perfect election conducted in this country or elsewhere—but the unique challenges posed by the coronavirus pandemic add special stress to what was already going to be a difficult election and underline the need to ensure that it is run in a way that maximizes both voter access and integrity. Even before the current crisis, I had been deeply concerned about the chances of a 2020 “election meltdown,” in which the 47 percent or more of the population on the losing side would not accept the results as legitimate. I am even more worried now because of the changes and shortcuts that will be necessary to successfully run November’s tally amid a pandemic. Here is what we need to do to minimize the chances of a November meltdown.

Editorials: Amid coronavirus, give clerks support to conduct the November election | Tina Barton, Kammi Foote and Paddy McGuire/Detroit Free Press

COVID-19 comes 102 years after the Spanish Flu epidemic that coincided with 1918 midterm elections, during Woodrow Wilson’s second term as president. Technology and the political climate have changed drastically in the last century, but protective measures such as quarantines, are eerily similar to today. In 1918, our country managed to hold its November election during a pandemic, suspending quarantines to do so, but it wasn’t without great cost to the health and safety of our nation. We election officials have confidence that we can hold the November 2020 presidential election if this pandemic continues, but we are going to need to act quickly, and without partisanship, if we are going to be successful in that endeavor. Today, more than ever before, local and state election officials across this country have the capacity to provide safe and transparent elections to all voters. We are calling on Congress and States to act now to provide the funding and local autonomy needed to protect the sanctity of this November’s election.

Editorials: We know how much it will cost to safeguard voting from effects of the pandemic. Congress approved only one-fifth of that. | Wendy Weiser and Lawrence Norden/Politico

Federal lawmakers have reached a bipartisan agreement for a $2 trillion stimulus package aimed at ameliorating the public health and economic crises wreaked by the coronavirus. But in one critical respect, the deal is a colossal failure: it includes less than one-fifth of what is needed retrofit our voting systems for a nationwide pandemic in time for the November election. Unless Congress remedies this failure quickly, the coronavirus will add our democracy to its casualties. Don’t be lulled into complacency by the fact that there are seven months until November. The country needs to start making significant changes to our national election infrastructure now, or else it will be nearly impossible to hold a safe and fair election in the fall. Election officials across the country must have the funding to begin the enormous project before them. A bipartisan group of over 50 state and local election officials toldcongressional leaders this week that they face “unprecedented challenges” in carrying out their responsibility to “protect every voter and every vote.” To ensure a safe and secure election during the pandemic, these essential workers must receive significant financial assistance — immediately.

Editorials: It’s time for Connecticut to allow voting by mail | Denise Merrill/Hartford Courant

In Connecticut, we pride ourselves on ensuring that every citizen has the opportunity to make their voice heard, whether it be in town meetings, at the ballot box, or in referenda that many towns hold every year. Despite that legacy, we have fallen behind most states in one crucial area: making it easy for registered voters to actually cast their ballots. Forty-one states allow their voters to mail in a ballot without a reason, vote early in a polling place or both. Five states conduct all of their elections by mail, and California, Pennsylvania and others are moving in that direction by allowing permanent mail-in voting status. Connecticut stands with Missouri, Kentucky, Mississippi, Alabama, South Carolina, New Hampshire and Rhode Island as the only states in the country that won’t let voters vote before Election Day and won’t let them vote by mail without an excuse. And of those states, we have the ignominious distinction of having the most restrictive absentee ballot laws in the country. The argument for flexibility in voting methods isn’t that Connecticut is behind most other states, although we are, or that it would make it more convenient for voters to vote, although it would — the argument right now is that we are in a public health emergency, and our inflexibility is threatening our democracy.

Editorials: We Must Vote in November. This Is How to Ensure That We Can. | Bob Bauer, Ben Ginsberg and Nathaniel Persily/The New York Times

Voters should not have to choose between casting a ballot and risking their health. They should not have to endure confusion over the location of polling places or the availability of vote-by-mail. Yet voters might face exactly those problems in November if we do not act now to protect the election from Covid-19. To safeguard the inclusivity and legitimacy of our elections, the federal government should provide resources that states should use in a credible, bipartisan fashion. We must act now. Elections — American democracy itself — should not be among the pandemic’s victims. We’ve done something like this before. Roughly seven years ago, we led a bipartisan commission set up by President Barack Obama. There had been significant problems with the operation of the electoral process in 2012, and our task was to suggest possible solutions. Two of us (Mr. Bauer and Mr. Ginsberg) were co-chairs and the other (Mr. Persily) was the senior research director. As part of our broad charge, and in light of Hurricane Sandy, we looked at the challenges posed by natural disasters. Our recommendations on these and other election administrative issues were well received by election administrators across the country, of both parties. We also noted where more progress was urgently needed.

Editorials: If coronavirus doesn’t end us, electronic voting just might | Robert Abele/Los Angeles Times

Though the November 2020 election has probably never felt farther away, it doesn’t mean we shouldn’t be thinking about how we’re going to protect its integrity and ensure that this vital aspect of democracy runs smoothly. Then again, considering what we’ve learned about Russian interference in 2016 and beyond, and how routinely voting issues crop up every cycle, what if America is already behind the eight ball on that front as well? That’s the scary scenario rolled out over 90 minutes in the HBO documentary “Kill Chain: The Cyber War on America’s Elections” from filmmakers Simon Ardizzone, Russell Michaels and Sarah Teale, which says that electronic voting is still woefully unsafe from bad actors, be they nations or loners. Distraction viewing, this admittedly isn’t. The trio behind “Kill Chain” have tackled this story before, in the 2006 documentary “Hacking Democracy,” which centered on vulnerabilities in the Diebold e-voting machines that had risen to prominence in the 2000 and 2004 elections. In that film, Finnish computer security expert Harri Hursti demonstrated how easy it was to get into a Diebold system to change votes. Diebold is no more — it was bought by another company, which was then subsumed by a bigger voting machine outfit — but Hursti is still around, his knowledge of election security problems even greater, so it’s not surprising that the filmmakers have made him their tour guide for the 2.0 version of their techno-cautious crusade. At the core of the movie’s warning is that an electronic voting machine is always penetrable — something most readily proved in a scene at the annual hacker convention Def Con, in which Hursti instructs assembled participants to try to sabotage the voting machines provided, which they then do. That the main companies behind these products are tight-lipped about their security, and breaches around the country are sometimes kept from the public, doesn’t inspire confidence.

Editorials: Congress has to immunize Election Day against fear of coronavirus | Los Angeles Times

In the days, weeks and months ahead, we can expect all sorts of dramatic disruptions as a result of the coronavirus sweeping the nation and the world. But one that Americans absolutely must begin thinking about and planning for right now is the threat the virus poses to our democratic process in a year in which voters will choose a president, a third of the U.S. Senate and the entire House of Representatives. Several states have already postponed presidential primaries. Bernie Sanders and Joe Biden, and President Trump as well, are already rethinking what it even means to campaign at a moment in time when voters can’t come out to rallies, debates must be held virtually, and all discussion of issues from foreign policy to climate change to homelessness are subordinated to the one great concern on everyone’s mind. Obviously — but shockingly nevertheless — there is also speculation that this summer’s party political conventions might have to be canceled or drastically scaled back. But there is one political event that will and must go on as scheduled: the Nov. 3 general election. While prognostications about the spread — or hopefully the containment — of the pandemic are risky, it isn’t too early for Congress and state election officials to begin planning for an election that might have to be conducted under plague conditions. The goal must be to ensure that fear of contracting COVID-19 (or transmitting it to others) won’t cause participation in the election to plummet. Even if, as we all hope, self-isolation and social distancing are no longer necessary in November, lingering concerns about contamination could easily depress turnout at traditional polling places.

Editorials: The Vote Must Go On – Don’t let the coronavirus undermine America’s election | Ken Harbaugh/The Atlantic

A few days ago, a friend sent me a video intended to recruit military veterans to “protect our right to vote.” The group behind it has an appalling record of voter intimidation, and is one of a growing number preparing to influence this year’s election through the strategic deployment of “poll watchers.” The video’s narrator spoke about his time in Iraq providing security during a tense election. “We had snipers across the whole city protecting polling booths,” he said. Then he issued this ominous call to arms: “My brothers and I were willing to shed our blood … So I’m asking you as Americans to take involvement in this vote … Military, vets, first responders, we’re asking for your support.” I came to expect paramilitary vigilantes stalking polling places when I served overseas. I never imagined it could happen at home. But in the midst of the COVID-19 pandemic, suddenly the most far-fetched scenarios seem plausible. State governments around the country have imposed lockdowns on their residents. The U.S. Department of Justice has proposed suspending certain constitutional guarantees. And during the most important political contest of our lives, elections have been totally upended, as in Ohio, where I live, and where Republican Governor Mike DeWine delayed the primary. The decision came about chaotically, delivered the night before the election in open defiance of a court order. But as poorly executed as the governor’s decision was, I agreed with the rationale behind it. Ohioans will have their chance to vote. Holding the election as scheduled, with transmission rates of COVID-19 still accelerating, posed too great a risk. In this case, acting out of fear made sense.

Editorials: Coronavirus could prompt the U.S. to finally improve its voting system | Carl P. Leubsdorf/Dallas Morning News

Long before the coronavirus outbreak, the American voting system was in trouble. The evidence: the long lines and delayed counts that beset states and localities struggling to cope with the country’s growing electorate. But perhaps the current crisis will finally create sufficient concern to do something about it. So far, nine states and territories have delayed primary elections in hopes the virus will ebb sufficiently to enable voters to go safely to polling places and perform their duty as American citizens. The situation has prompted a series of ad hoc proposals. In Wisconsin, the Democratic National Committee filed a lawsuit to extend last week’s registration deadline for the state’s April 7 primary. And in Ohio, Gov. Mike DeWine cited health concerns as he abruptly suspended voting on the eve of last week’s primary, a questionable act in even a time of troubles. But if we are to avoid repetitions of this kind of unilateral, undemocratic action, as well as repeated court challenges and a possible electoral disaster in November, far more sweeping steps need to be taken. The goal should be to enable the voting machinery to function in an election that might produce so large a turnout it overwhelms the system, even if current health concerns decline.

Editorials: Preparing for November’s election must be a national priority | Dan Lips and Sean Roberts/The Hill

The coronavirus pandemic is testing our nation’s resolve and already disrupting our way of life. But we can’t afford to let it disrupt the November election. Six states have already postponed their primaries. More will likely follow in the weeks and months ahead. With a risk that the pandemic will continue through November, the hard work to plan for the election must begin now. The American people deserve a national bipartisan effort — including leadership from the policy and technology communities — to ensure the integrity and continuity of American democracy. The good news is that this important work was underway long before the pandemic. Since 2016, national and state leaders have prioritized strengthening the security and integrity of U.S. elections with bipartisan engagement from the Obama and Trump administrations. Congress has invested more than $800 million in new funding for state and local election systems over the past two years.

Editorials: Coronavirus Imperils November Election Unless Democrats Act Now | Francis Wilkinson/Bloomberg

With little but uncertainty ahead, Congress and the states must mobilize immediately to shift the nation to a largely vote-by-mail system by November. There are two obstacles to that goal — one practical, one political. Lurking behind both is the fear that President Donald Trump will seek to disrupt the vote to maintain power, and that Republicans and right-wing media will help him succeed. The practical problems with voting in the midst of a pandemic are evident. Poll workers are often elderly — precisely the people who are most at risk. Some poll workers in states voting in the primary March 17 simply didn’t show up. Due to years of underfunding and neglect, even after Russian interference in 2016, election infrastructure in many states is substandard. Many states are not currently equipped to manage large-scale vote by mail. All states will send absentee ballots to voters who request one. But only five states have transitioned to all-mail elections. Others have a hodgepodge of regulations governing vote-by-mail. And when millions of votes are involved, questions about ballot design, who qualifies as actively registered, how to forward ballots when residents change address and even postage costs become more complicated. Fraud is also a more legitimate (if still limited) concern when ballots are mailed.

Editorials: Ten Recommendations to Ensure a Healthy and Trustworthy 2020 Election | Nathaniel Persily, Charles Stewart, III/Lawfare

It is quickly becoming apparent that the COVID-19 pandemic will fundamentally change the 2020 election. The government’s response to the crisis will affect voters’ perceptions of candidates, to be sure—but the pandemic will also affect whether and how citizens vote in the primaries and the general election. As state and local officials try to navigate an unprecedented situation, their response to the pandemic has been uneven and uncertain. This past week has provided ample evidence that states are in need of reliable plans to carry out elections without interruption in the face of the unfolding medical crisis. Ohio Governor Mike DeWine caused alarm when he decided to postpone the presidential primary the day before it was scheduled to occur. DeWine’s action may have been justified on public health grounds, but it illustrated the confusion that can arise when states are caught between opening polling places and endangering the health of citizens. Meanwhile, the governor of Arizona and the director of elections for Maricopa County fought over whether the county could send out mail-in ballots even to voters who have not requested them. Their battle illustrates that without a definitive statewide plan, state and local election officials can be locked in litigation when they should be cooperating to face serious challenges to the continuity of elections. Despite the challenge presented by COVID-19, the 2020 elections must go forward. The elections to be held on Nov. 3 are not optional. They cannot be postponed, even if dangers to public health remain as great as they are likely to get over the next few weeks. The nation must act now to ensure that there will be no doubt, regardless of the spread of infection, that the elections will be conducted on schedule and that they will be free and fair.

Editorials: It’s Time to Protect the 2020 Election, Too | The New York Times

There is no good time for a pandemic to hit. Still, it’s hard to imagine a more vulnerable moment than the one we find ourselves in, only months before some 130 million Americans expected to head to the polls to vote for the next president and thousands of other officeholders. The outcome of the November election could shape the contours of American politics and government for decades. Right now, most people are rightly preoccupied with the immediate impacts of the coronavirus on public health and the national economy. But a functioning democracy requires elections that are free, fair, accurate and on time, even during a global health crisis. It is almost certain that the 2020 election won’t look like any we’ve seen before. Assuming the coronavirus outbreak persists into the fall, it will pose unprecedented challenges to holding a nationwide vote, the most obvious of which is the need to keep people physically separated. For tens of millions of Americans, the traditional visit to the local polling site on Election Day may not be an option. Several states have already postponed their primaries for this reason. That may be the right call for the time being, but it won’t work for the general election in November, the date of which is prescribed by federal law, and which is followed soon after by the constitutionally mandated inauguration of the next president on Jan. 20. The most practical fix is to make voting by mail a clear and free option for every eligible voter in the country. This means, at a minimum: printing tens of millions of mail-in ballots and envelopes; ensuring that all registered voters receive one automatically, can request a replacement if they don’t, and can return it by Election Day; and finally, having the human and technological resources, like ballot scanners, available to count those votes quickly and accurately.

Editorials: We Can’t Let Coronavirus Postpone Elections | Jon Meacham/The New York Times

Darkness reigned. It was 1864, and the nation was split into two warring camps. Casualties rose steadily — previously unimaginable numbers, ultimately reaching about 750,000 dead — and fighting continued throughout the year. Gen. George McClellan, the Democratic nominee, posed a genuine threat to a second term for Abraham Lincoln. McClellan promised a quick, negotiated end to the war; a Lincoln defeat would have led to a permanently divided nation and the preservation of slavery in the Southern states.  The fate of the war, the future of the Republic, the nature of the American experiment: Everything hung in the balance. And to preserve that experiment, Lincoln insisted that the presidential election go forward. The president was fully prepared to lose the election and, according to due constitutional form, to surrender power the following March. In August 1864, in a private note, he wrote, “This morning, as for some days past, it seems exceedingly probable that this Administration will not be re-elected.” But he would accept the verdict of the voters. Here was an incumbent president, the commander in chief of a nation facing a sustained armed rebellion, unilaterally subsuming his own ambitions and his own priorities to the very constitutional order currently under siege.

Editorials: Postponing An Election: Prudent or Bad Precedent? | Michael Thorning/Bipartisan Policy Center

A key principle of an election’s legitimacy is that the public knows when, where, and how the election will take place and that it is widely accessible to qualified voters. Unfortunately, the COVID-19 pandemic has struck in the middle of various election contests and states now confront difficult, last-minute questions about how or when to run their planned elections. There are unprecedented and difficult decisions to make. Should elections move forward as planned or be postponed until the virus is more under control? Should they go on only with absentee voting and no in-person voting? Arizona, Florida, Illinois, and Ohio faced precisely these decisions in the lead up to their primary elections this week. Postponing an election, especially a primary, does not have to be a legitimacy crisis, but there are certain steps states should take to avoid doing so imprudently. For most of the country, voting involves showing up to sometimes crowded polling places, waiting in line, sharing the use of technology and pens, and generally being closer than six feet from groups of more than 10 people at a time. This is a nightmare for the social distancing necessary to flatten the curve and reduce the spread of the novel coronavirus.