National: Experts worry US elections even more vulnerable with COVID-19 | Maggie Miller/The Hill

Cybersecurity experts are increasingly worried that U.S. elections are growing even more vulnerable to outside interference because of the coronavirus pandemic. They say funds to prevent interference and ensure people can vote safely are running thin, despite the fact that Congress has passed $825 million in funding for election security since December. The chaos caused by COVID-19, which has forced states to delay or cancel primary elections and move toward allowing residents to vote absentee, has presented a new array of challenges for states that had already been focused on election security. “Certainly we are in an unprecedented time and these are unprecedented challenges, and these are challenges created at the intersection of these two issues,” said Benjamin Hovland, the chairman of the Election Assistance Commission (EAC). “The challenges of disinformation and misinformation is one of the biggest areas of concern.”

National: Pandemic-time elections expected to be much more expensive | Benjamin Freed/StateScoop

The $400 million in election assistance funds that Congress authorized in the March pandemic relief package would not even cover the costs of switching to predominately mail-in balloting in five states, much less all 50, according to a report published Thursday. The report, which was led by New York University’s Brennan Center for Justice, comes as state election officials resolve how to safely conduct elections during the coronavirus pandemic. The crisis has prompted several states where absentee ballots are rare to try converting to all-mail voting, an expensive project that typically takes states multiple election cycles to complete.  According to the report, the election funds received by the five states it examined — Georgia, Michigan, Missouri, Ohio and Pennsylvania — would not even amount to 20 percent of the funds needed by those states to expand mail-in and absentee ballots to all their voters this November. But with state and local budgets plunging as public-health measures wipe out tax revenue, a shortage of federal assistance could lead to more situations like the recent Wisconsin presidential primary, in which hundreds of polling places closed and turnout plunged after state lawmakers and courts refused to postpone in-person voting. At least 52 people who went to polling places during the April 7 primary have tested positive for COVID-19.

National: Report finds states need millions more in federal funding to hold elections this year | Maggie Miller/The Hill

Five key states will need millions more in federal funding in order to move forward with this year’s elections during the COVID-19 pandemic, new research released Thursday found. According to a report spearheaded by New York University’s Brennan Center for Justice, current federal election funds will cover less than 20 percent of the costs required for mail-in voting and other election changes in Ohio, Michigan, Pennsylvania, Georgia and Missouri. The report, which was also put together by the Alliance for Securing Democracy, the R Street Institute and the University of Pennsylvania’s Institute for Cyber Law, Policy, and Security, examined the impact of the $400 million in election funds sent to states as part of last month’s $2 trillion coronavirus stimulus bill. Georgia faces the biggest pitfall in funding, with the report finding that the $10.8 million the state received will only address around 10 percent of its election needs. This is primarily because mail-in voting has been historically low in the state, and now the state is funding the mailing of absentee ballot request forms to every registered voter.  The more than $11 million given to Michigan only covers 12 percent of their estimated election costs this year, while the $7.6 million Missouri received will only cover up to 13 percent of costs.  Ohio and Pennsylvania will fare slightly better, with the funding each state received able to cover between 16 and 18 percent of estimated election costs.

National: Election Officials Get Access to Microsoft Security Tools | Phil Goldstein/StateTech Magazine

Although the primary election season calendar has been thrown off-kilter, election cybersecurity concerns are still top of mind, and election security trainings have moved online. The threat landscape has not become any less complex for state and local election officials. In fact, one could argue the attention paid to countering the coronavirus pandemic is taking awareness and resources away from election security, making it even more important they be refocused on the ballot box. “Potential changes to the primary schedules of certain states, and the exploration of further mobile and mail voting options in the midst of coronavirus, has only piqued interest on the topic of election cybersecurity, and we look forward to continuing a bipartisan dialogue, state-by-state,” Justin Griffin, managing director of the University of Southern California’s Election Cybersecurity Initiative, tells Politico.

National: Vote safely by mail in November? Not so fast, say Republicans | Sam Levine/The Guardian

An explosive fight is emerging over whether Americans will be able to vote in November without risking their lives. It’s unclear how safe it will be to gather at the polls during the presidential election, but Donald Trump and other top Republicans have made it clear that they will oppose efforts to make it easier to vote by mail as an alternative. Both Republicans and Democrats have long utilized mail-in voting, and voters on both ends of the political spectrum overwhelmingly favor making it easier to do so in the election. But Trump’s opposition appears based on a thinly veiled political calculus: the fewer Americans who vote, the better the political prospects for the Republican party. “They had things, levels of voting, that if you’d ever agreed to it, you’d never have a Republican elected in this country again,” the president said in March, dismissing Democratic efforts to expand mail-in voting. That Republican estimation has been at the center of many of the hotly contested fights over voting rules in recent years. The party has generally favored restrictions on voting, such as voter ID, while Democrats have pushed to make it easier to cast a ballot.

National: Partisan Fight Looms Over Voting by Mail | Lindsay Wise and Alexa Corse/Wall Street Journal

Six months out from Election Day, Republicans and Democrats in Congress are headed for a showdown over expanding voting by mail, with Americans set to converge on the polls when experts say the coronavirus could remain a health threat. Democrats point to images of masked voters waiting in long lines to cast ballots in Wisconsin’s April 7 primary to argue that reducing in-person voting is crucial to public health. Wisconsin’s public health department says at least 52 people tested positive for Covid-19 after voting in person or working at a polling location on primary day, though several of those people reported multiple possible exposures. “Voting by mail is central to this in any event, but at the time of the coronavirus, very essential,” said House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D., Calif.) in a recent MSNBC interview. House Democrats are proposing $4 billion to enact a slew of policies that range from requiring states to enable online and same-day voter registration, to mandating prepaid postage on mail-in ballots, to a nationwide minimum of 15 consecutive days of early voting. Senate Democrats have proposed a similar, $3.6 billion plan.

National: Whether the Ballot You Mail Is Counted May Depend on Where You Vote | Ryan McCarthy/ProPublica

The April 6 guidance from the U.S. Supreme Court seemed final: Election officials in Wisconsin should only count absentee ballots postmarked on or before the next day’s voting. Then, in the days after the chaotic primary, thousands of ballots poured in with missing or illegible postmarks — an issue the court had not directly addressed. Throwing up its hands, the Wisconsin Elections Commission left it to local officials to decide if ballots had been mailed on time. The result was a troubling disparity. Janesville, longtime home of former Republican U.S. House Speaker Paul Ryan, received 65 ballots without postmarks after primary day, but before an April 13 deadline. “Consistent with the order from the U.S. Supreme Court,” Janesville officials rejected them all, according to City Clerk David Godek. In the village of Cambridge, outside Madison, Barbara Goeckner counted all five such ballots. After talking with postal supervisors, the deputy clerk said, she took into consideration that the U.S. Postal Service had reported widespread delays and delivery problems. “You had 1,854 municipal clerks each determining whether to count or not count,” Goeckner said. “Personally, I believe every vote should count.”

National: Postal Service Funding Shortfall Could Derail Vote-By-Mail Efforts During Pandemic | Paul Blumenthal/HuffPost

If Congress allows the U.S. Postal Service to fail ― as President Donald Trump seems willing to do ― the nation’s ability to hold free, fair elections would be at risk, as would millions of voters who would be forced to go to the polls during a pandemic if they wanted to exercise their rights. In the 2016 election, 33 million Americans voted through the mail, using either absentee, military or mail-in ballots. Every state anticipates a significant increase in mailed ballots due to the coronavirus pandemic, with anywhere from a doubling of vote-by-mail to a near 100% replacement of in-person voting. All of the states rely on the Postal Service to deliver and return those ballots. But the Postal Service projects that the drop in mail volume due to the pandemic could lead it to run out of funds in late summer or early fall. The independent agency is asking Congress for $75 billion in relief funding to keep it afloat, but faces resistance from Trump.

National: ‘The Nightmare Scenario’: How Coronavirus Could Make the 2020 Vote a Disaster | Zack Stanton/Politico

For a certain segment of the American electorate, the onset of the coronavirus pandemic birthed a 2020 nightmare scenario, with an embattled President Donald Trump delaying the November election. But the prospect that terrifies election experts isn’t the idea that Trump moves the election (something he lacks the power to do); it’s something altogether more plausible: Despite an ongoing pandemic, the 2020 election takes place as planned, and America is totally unprepared. The nightmare scenario goes something like this: Large numbers of voters become disenfranchised because they’re worried it’s not safe to vote and that participating makes it more likely they catch the coronavirus. Voter-registration efforts, almost always geared toward in-person sign-ups, bring in very few new voters; few states allow online voter registration, and relatively few first-time voters take part in the election. A surge of demand for absentee ballots overwhelms election administrators, who haven’t printed enough ballots. In some states, like Texas, where fear of coronavirus isn’t a valid reason to request an absentee ballot, turnout drops as Americans are forced to choose between voting in person (and risking contact with the coronavirus) or not voting at all.

National: America’s Elections Won’t Be the Same After 2020 | Russell Berman and Elaine Godfrey/The Atlantic

This year’s democratic presidential primary was tumultuous from beginning to end—starting with a record field of two dozen major candidates and ending in the middle of a pandemic. But its lasting legacy could be far more fundamental: The chaos of the 2020 election season could radically, even permanently, change how Americans vote. By November, a majority of the country—and possibly the overwhelming majority—could cast their ballot by mail for the first time. In the years to come, more and more voters will pick their candidates not by selecting one favorite, but by ranking several under a system designed to give people more choices and less chance for regret. And by 2024, the final vestiges of a 200-year-old tradition—caucuses—could be gone, buried for good by the debacle in Iowa that launched this year’s nominating process. “I have this very sinking feeling that life in America will never again quite be the same,” says Phil Keisling, the former Oregon secretary of state who oversaw elections when the state switched to a vote-by-mail system in 1998. “Election systems have to evolve too.”

National: Ohio’s mail-in ballot brouhaha: a sign of coming trouble? | Carrie Levine/Center for Public Integrity

Risha Mason, who wants to vote in Ohio’s primary on Tuesday, called the local elections office three times in recent weeks to request applications for absentee ballots for herself and her mother. But the applications never arrived. Mason lives in Sandusky, Ohio, a city on the shores of Lake Erie that, like the rest of the state, is largely shut down because of coronavirus-related stay-at-home directives. Finally, more than a week ago, Mason said she drove to the county elections office to obtain ballot applications. She then made another trip to return them to the dropbox at the elections office. As of Monday, Mason, a manufacturing technician, still hadn’t received the ballots. “It’s not like [the ballots] are coming from another town,” she said. “If they sent it out Monday, I should have gotten it Tuesday. And still nothing.” Mason’s situation isn’t unique. Voting advocates and Ohio election officials acknowledge that many Ohio residents may not receive by-mail ballots in time to cast them in Tuesday’s rescheduled vote, which includes presidential, congressional and state Supreme Court races. They’re also preparing for the possibility of lines at county election offices, the only places where in-person voting can take place. State officials have mandated that nearly all voters vote by mail.

National: Why are Republicans afraid of vote-by-mail? | Zack Christenson/Spectator USA

Republicans are afraid of voting by mail in November. So is President Trump — which could cost him the 2020 election. The days are ticking by on our way to the general election and our fight with COVID-19 continues to rage. It’s more and more likely that November will see more voting by mail than in any previous election. It’s not a matter of whether Trump wants it or ‘allows’ it: he really doesn’t have much say. Voting by mail has been here for years. All 50 states already have some form of vote-by-mail. Regulations vary, with some states permitting 100 percent vote-by-mail and others demanding proof that you’d be unable to vote in person. Most are somewhere in the middle: you only need to request your ballot be mailed to you and give some vague reasoning that isn’t really important. The current Republican position on vote by mail is a curious one. Republican candidates have long enjoyed an advantage when it comes to voting by mail. Generally, Republican voters tend to love absentee voting too. Older voters understand the absentee process and are more likely request their ballots ahead of time. Millennials and Gen-Z voters would be hard-pressed to find a stamp, let alone take the time to drop it into a mailbox — or even understand how.

National: Few States Are Prepared To Switch To Voting By Mail. That Could Make For A Messy Election. | Nathaniel Rakich/FiveThirtyEight

As with most aspects of our daily lives, the coronavirus pandemic has disrupted the administration of elections. Several states have already postponed primaries that were scheduled for this spring, and the few in-person elections that have taken place were marred by chaos. But with an election date of November 3 more or less set in stone, how can the general election be conducted safely if the pandemic is still raging in the fall? Many officials and voters alike think the solution is to conduct the election predominantly by mail — but that’s easier said than done. Converting to a vote-by-mail system is arduous and expensive, and most states simply aren’t set up to smoothly conduct a mail election with their present resources and laws. Currently, state laws on the use of mail voting are a patchwork quilt. Only five states regularly conduct mail elections by default: Colorado, Hawaii, Oregon, Utah and Washington. Three more, though, do allow counties to opt into mail voting, and nine more allow certain elections to be conducted by mail — although these are typically low-turnout, local elections, a far cry from the 2020 presidential race.

National: States Expand Internet Voting Experiments Amid Pandemic, Raising Security | Miles Parks/NPR

Election officials nationwide are preparing for what may the highest election turnout in modern history in the middle of a pandemic. In response, several states will be turning to a relatively new and untested form of internet-based voting to aid the voters who may have the most trouble getting to the polls. In the latest demonstration of the technology, Delaware will allow voters with disabilities to return their ballots electronically in its primary election next month, becoming the second U.S. state to do so. The decision comes despite grave warnings from the cybersecurity community that the technology doesn’t offer sufficient safeguards to protect the integrity of an election. NPR is the first to report the development, which has yet to be announced publicly. Both the state, and the Seattle-based company administering the technology, Democracy Live, confirmed the decision, although they dispute the term “internet voting” for the cloud-based system. Earlier this year, West Virginia passed a bill to allow the use of the technology for disabled voters, after becoming the first state to allow overseas and military voters to use an app to vote in the 2018 midterms. Delaware will also allow overseas and military voters to use the technology.

National: Weighing the Risks of Remote Voting Technology | Council on Foreign Relations

The spread of COVID-19 has raised serious questions about how Americans can vote without jeopardizing their health. The controversial Wisconsin primary held in early April, in which the state’s Supreme Court ordered election officials to proceed with in-person voting over the course of a single day, was plagued with long lines and crowding. This is exactly the opposite of the social distancing measures that have been put in place across the country to control the virus. Moreover, poor and minority communities in particular appear to have been confronted with a choice between voting and risking their health, essentially disenfranchising large groups of voters. While the option of voting at polling stations during the pandemic still seems to be on the table, some have suggested allowing people to vote remotely over the internet instead of casting their ballot in person. Policymakers may want to consider some forms of remote voting, such as vote-by-mail, but remote voting technology poses formidable security risks.

National: Infrastructure interdependence a threat to upcoming elections | Nicholas Cunningham/Atlantic Council

Election season approaches and the effects of Russian information operations are once again manifesting in our government. In February 2020, the New York Times reported that both Democrats and Republicans are already suspicious that the other side of the aisle is benefitting from Russian interference. However, we have overlooked other vulnerabilities in our elections amidst the threat of information operations. The numerous sectors of our critical infrastructure, to include the elections process, are interdependent on one another and a failure in one sector could result in the failure of another. For example, a power outage would significantly degrade the ability of a small municipality to conduct an election. Recent developments indicate that Russia could exploit the interdependent nature of our critical infrastructure to disrupt our elections via well-timed cyberattacks. How prepared are we to address election interference that goes beyond information operations?

National: Absentee voting: Voters face potential life-or-death choices in states with limited measures | Abby Phillip/CNN

Elections are a sacred ritual for Jeremy Rutledge and always have been. But for the first time in his life, the 49-year old minister of a historic Circular Congregational Church in Charleston, South Carolina, says that he is being forced to make what could be a life-or-death choice because of the risk Covid-19 poses to him. Rutledge, who lives with his wife and son, says he has for nearly 12 years suffered from a chronic autoimmune disorder that has caused scarring in his lungs. His doctors have warned him that a Covid-19 infection could be a death sentence. “I’ve always voted since I was old enough to vote — in every election,” Rutledge told CNN. “I never imagined that I would have to decide whether I wanted to vote or whether I wanted to live and be healthy.” “We’ve really had serious conversations,” he said. “All of my doctors are worried that if I contract the virus, I could die from it.”

National: Partisan battle erupts over US Postal Service as some look to mail-in ballots amid pandemic | Allison Pecorin/ABC

As some lawmakers have begun to advocate for the use of mail-in ballots as a means of safeguarding voters amid the coronavirus pandemic during the upcoming 2020 elections, a partisan battle has erupted in Washington over the future of the crippled U.S. Postal Service. Lawmakers were already facing challenging decisions about how to rescue the troubled agency, which is on the brink of insolvency in the midst of the global health crisis, but the ongoing debate over mail-in ballots has added a political dimension to an already complex problem. The stakes could not be higher. Rep. Gerry Connolly, a Democrat from Virginia who chairs the House subcommittee that oversees the U.S. Postal Service, told ABC News that if Congress does not approve more money for the agency, efforts to implement a nationwide vote-by-mail measure could be in jeopardy. “The whole point of this is to make it safe and effective, and I believe the post office is well equipped to do both,” Connolly said. “But it has to get an infusion of capital to ensure that that mission is smooth and uninterrupted.”

National: Pelosi says Democrats will push for vote by mail in next coronavirus relief package | Rebecca Shabad/NBC

House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, D-Calif., said Monday that Democrats will push for a vote-by-mail provision in Congress’ next coronavirus relief package. In an interview on MSNBC’s LIVE with Stephanie Ruhle, Pelosi said that it’s important to protect the “life of our democracy” as the coronavirus crisis continues. “In this next bill, we will be supporting vote by mail in a very important way — we think it’s a health issue at this point,” Pelosi said. Democrats have been for weeks pushing mail-in voting before May and June primary contests— over a dozen of which have been postponed or canceled because of the coronavirus— and as they look ahead to the November election.

National: Why a Data-Security Expert Fears U.S. Voting Will Be Hacked lexandra Wolfe/Wall Street Journal

In 2005, a concerned Florida election supervisor asked the Finnish data-security expert Harri Hursti to hack into one of the state’s commonly used voting machines to test its vulnerability. The verdict wasn’t reassuring. By modifying just a few lines of code on the machine’s memory card, Mr. Hursti says, he could change the results of a mock election. That same model, he adds, will be among those used in the 2020 elections. (A spokesperson for the machine’s vendor, Dominion Voting, says that these weaknesses were fixed in 2012, but Mr. Hursti says that he has tested the new version and found the updates insufficient.) Mr. Hursti has spent the past 15 years trying to draw attention to the weaknesses in America’s voting systems. Last month, he was featured in an HBO documentary called “Kill Chain: The Cyber War on America’s Elections,” about far-reaching security breaches in multiple U.S. elections that he says have gone unfixed. He warns that both the American political establishment and the public are far too complacent. “Once you understand how everything works, you understand how fragile everything is and how easy it is to lose this all,” Mr. Hursti says in the film.

National: ‘We’ve got to get going.’ States under pressure to plan for the general election amid a pandemic | Daniel Bush/PBS

The presidential election in November is still more than six months away, but states are already under pressure to start making preparations for holding a general election during a public health crisis, including expanding vote-by-mail systems in time to handle a potential spike in absentee ballots this fall. The primaries have offered a preview of possible problems in November, with court battles over voting rights and public health concerns over in-person voting underscoring the challenges of carrying out an election amid the coronavirus pandemic. Many states delayed primaries scheduled for this spring, but there is no serious discussion about seeking a change in the federal law to allow for the Nov. 3 general election to be moved to a later date. Barring a major unforeseen turn of events, the widespread assumption is that the presidential contest will go forward as planned. But while the general election is more than half a year away, states considering any changes in November need to start preparing now in order to have contingency plans ready in time for the fall, according to interviews with Democratic and Republican Party leaders, current government officials, former state officials in charge of elections, and others.

National: States rush to prepare for huge surge of mail voting | Zach Montellaro and Laura Barón-Lopez/Politico

A huge surge in voting by mail is coming whether states prepare for it or not — and without clear direction from the federal government, states are preparing to muscle through their own changes to get ready for the glut of mail ballots coming their way in November. Wisconsin’s conflict-ridden April 7 elections went off without the state government making any major policy changes to encourage absentee voting, but more than two-thirds of voters cast their votes via the mail anyway, many times higher than the 12 percent absentee voting rate in the spring 2016 election. The surge overwhelmed election officials, with some staff working 100 hour weeks to try to fill all the ballot requests and reports of the state’s system crashing under the intense workload. In the aftermath, election administrators in other states are moving quickly to avoid getting overwhelmed themselves. States that have already mastered massive vote-by-mail systems are serving as informal information clearinghouses for others, dispensing advice on everything from how to line up the best vendors for printing and distributing paper ballots to setting up drive-by or other drop-off points for voters who don’t want to rely on the U.S. Postal Service.

National: States’ election funding requests indicate numerous anticipated hurdles | Alisa Wiersema/ABC

The ongoing coronavirus pandemic has already thrown the 2020 primary season into disarray, but now with just over six months until November, the aftershocks of the spread of COVID-19 threaten to rock the general election, leaving states grappling with a slew of underlying logistical hurdles embedded in the administration of the voting process. Filings submitted by states and territories to the U.S. Elections Assistance Commission as part of the CARES Act–a $2 trillion economic stimulus package President Donald Trump signed into law last month– indicate that election officials are already scrambling to address inevitable changes ahead, but given the decentralized nature of U.S. elections, each state seems to be angling at different solutions to mitigate voting amid the pandemic. The outlined tactics include a myriad of issues including tangible solutions — like using the funds to purchase cleaning supplies and personal protective equipment for poll workers — to more nuanced endeavors, like bolstering vote-by-mail efforts and absentee voting procedures. Some states even specify plans to dedicate a portion of their granted funds to run communications campaigns aimed at educating Americans about any newly-implemented changes to the voting process.

National: Joe Biden Steps Up Warnings of Possible Trump Disruption of 2020 Election | Katie Glueck/The New York Times

For months, Joseph R. Biden Jr. has argued that under pressure and political duress, President Trump may pursue increasingly extreme measures to stay in power. In November, Mr. Biden said he feared that “as the walls close in on him he becomes more erratic. And I’m genuinely concerned about what he may do in order to try to hold on to the office.” In January, Mr. Biden fretted: “He still has another nine or 10 months. God knows what can happen.” And on Thursday, he added some urgency to his warnings, suggesting that Mr. Trump might try to delay or otherwise disrupt the election. “Mark my words, I think he is going to try to kick back the election somehow, come up with some rationale why it can’t be held,” Mr. Biden said at a fund-raiser, according to a news media pool report. Mr. Trump, he suggested, is “trying to let the word out that he’s going to do all he can to make it very hard for people to vote. That’s the only way he thinks he can possibly win.” It was an extraordinary claim for the presumptive Democratic nominee to make about an opponent, especially for Mr. Biden, a former vice president and Washington veteran who prides himself on civility and respect for American institutions, including and especially the presidency.

National: Voting machine manufacturers pushed to provide ways to sanitize products | Maggie Miller/The Hill

The top U.S. voting machine manufacturers are being pushed to produce videos and information on how their products can be sanitized to enable Americans to safely vote in-person during the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic. Six leading voting equipment manufacturers were sent a letter Thursday by nonprofit group Free Speech for People, which raised concerns that voting machines could become a “major disease vector” for spreading the coronavirus during upcoming primaries and the general election. As a result, the group asked the manufacturers to produce videos detailing how to properly clean voting equipment and post them online, along with allowing third-party groups to examine whether the steps to clean the equipment were effective and safe. “We make these requests because we are deeply concerned about the health risk that electronic voting machines pose to voters,” Free Speech for People wrote.

National: 2020 Was Already Expected to Be A Record Year for Election-Related Lawsuits—Then Coronavirus Happened | Alexandra Hutzler/Newsweek

The drive to expand vote-by-mail options amid the coronavirus pandemic has caused a major spike in lawsuits in what was already expected to be a banner year for election-related litigation. “Even before the virus hit, I was predicting that 2020 would see a record level of election-related litigation,” Richard Hasen, an election law expert at the University of California, Irvine, told Newsweek. “So it is not a surprise that the virus is spurring even more litigation, both over virus-related changes to election dates and procedures and also to litigate over the meaning of existing rules in light of the pandemic,” he added. In the past two months since the COVID-19 outbreak became a global health crisis, dozens of lawsuits related to the 2020 election have popped up around the country. In the past week alone, voting rights litigation has been filed in Texas, Georgia, Nevada, Pennsylvania and South Carolina.

National: Did we order enough envelopes? Vote-by-mail advocates worry time is running out to prepare | Kevin Collier/NBC

Some of the most ardent supporters of voting by mail have a warning: Time is running out to prepare for the November election. Officials who want to offer far more voters the option of mailing in their ballots are running out of time to make that option a reality, experts warned Wednesday during a livestreamed hearing hosted by the Election Assistance Commission, the federal agency tasked with giving states guidance on how to effectively conduct their elections. Panelists cautioned that while voting by mail can be a safe and effective option for many Americans, preparations to do so take substantial investments of time and money, made more difficult by the fact that most election officials are working from home because of the coronavirus pandemic. Scanning machines, ballots and even envelopes can become roadblocks if states do act soon enough. “I’m one of the biggest advocates for vote-by-mail and absentee voting,” said Kim Wyman, the secretary of state of Washington state, which is widely regarded as a leader in transitioning to a full vote-by-mail system.

National: EAC Commissioners urge immediate action to protect voting amid coronavirus | Mark Albert/KETV

Federal election leaders called an urgent hearing in Washington D.C. Wednesday to find out how to keep America’s elections safe from the coronavirus, and how to protect voting. At a hastily-called virtual hearing, the U.S. election assistance commission Wednesday focused on how elections in all states will be affected by the novel coronavirus pandemic sweeping…

National: ‘We can’t afford to wait’: coronavirus could shut out droves of new US voters | Sam Levine/The Guardian

In a typical election year, canvassers across the country would be beginning to fan out on street corners, college campuses, concerts and rallies to pepper Americans with a simple question: “Are you registered to vote?” This early work is critical to campaigns trying to build a support base for election day. But this year, the Covid-19 pandemic has made it nearly impossible to register new voters. Limited voter registration is most likely to affect young people, minority groups, and naturalized immigrants, groups projected to contribute to record-high turnout in November. Freezing them out is likely to benefit Republicans, who tend to see a more diverse and younger electorate as a threat. In Kentucky, where Mitch McConnell faces a closely-watched Senate re-election battle in November, just 504 people registered in March as Covid-19 restrictions went in to effect. By comparison, more than 7,200 voters registered the month before. Meanwhile, more states are turning to vote-by-mail amid the pandemic, relying on voter registration rolls to send out election materials. Those unable to register might not get their applications, or ballots, in time.

National: Senate panel backs assessment that Russia interfered in 2016 election | Mary Clare Jalonick and Eric Tucker/Associated Press

A bipartisan Senate report released Tuesday confirms the U.S. intelligence community’s conclusions that Russia interfered in the 2016 presidential election to sow chaos. Senators warned that it could happen again this presidential election year. The heavily redacted report from the Senate Intelligence Committee is part of the panel’s more than three-year investigation into the Russian interference. The intelligence agencies concluded in January 2017 that Russians had engaged in cyber-espionage and distributed messages through Russian-controlled propaganda outlets to undermine public faith in the democratic process, hurt Democratic candidate Hillary Clinton and help Donald Trump. President Trump has repeatedly questioned the assessment, which was also confirmed by former special counsel Robert Mueller in his report last year. Mueller concluded that Russian interference was “sweeping and systematic,” but he did not find a criminal conspiracy between Russia and the Trump campaign.