National: George Floyd protests created surge in voter registrations, groups say | Brian Schwartz/CNBC

Voter registrations, volunteer activity and donations for groups linked to Democratic causes are surging in the midst of protests following the death of George Floyd, according to voting advocacy groups. This surge in registrations could end up being one of the factors that helps tip the election between apparent Democratic nominee Joe Biden and President Donald Trump. The efforts are by groups including Latino voter registration organizations, Rock the Vote and one co-chaired by former first lady Michelle Obama. Latino voter registration groups in recent weeks have noticed an uptick in their communities mobilization to vote, particularly from younger voters. The leaders of these organizations said that many are registering after nationwide outrage directed at police brutality and the spread of the coronavirus pandemic, which has left over 100,000 dead and tens of millions jobless in the United States. Unemployment rates for Hispanic and black workers remained high at 17.6% and 16.8%, respectively, even after the nation added 2.5 million jobs last month.

National: Turnout surges after states expand mail-in voting | Max Greenwood/The Hill

States that moved to rapidly expand mail-in balloting amid the coronavirus pandemic are seeing some of their highest levels of voter turnout in years, even as President Trump looks to clamp down on such efforts. In at least four of the eight states that held primaries on Tuesday, turnout surpassed 2016 levels, with most of the votes being cast via mail, according to an analysis of election returns by The Hill. Each of those states took steps earlier this year to send absentee ballot applications to all of their registered voters. In Iowa, for instance, total turnout reached 24 percent, up from about 15 percent in the state’s 2016 primaries and its highest ever turnout for a primary. But more strikingly, of the roughly 524,000 votes cast, some 411,000 of them came from absentee ballots – a nearly 1,000 percent increase over 2016 levels. The high turnout could encourage more states to take similar steps ahead of the November general elections. Trump has resisted such efforts, even threatening last month to hold up federal funding to Michigan and Nevada over state election officials’ decisions to send mail-in ballot applications to registered voters.

National: Report highlights voting inequities in tribal communities | Felicia Fonseca/Associated Press

Native American voting rights advocates are cautioning against states moving to mail-in ballots without opportunities for tribal members to vote safely in person. In a wide-ranging report released Thursday, the Native American Rights Fund outlined the challenges that could arise: online registration hampered by spotty or no internet service, ballots delivered to rarely-checked Post Office boxes and turnout curbed by a general reluctance to vote by mail. “We’re all for increased vote by mail,” said Jacqueline De Leon, a staff attorney with the group and a member of Isleta Pueblo in New Mexico. “We’re absolutely against all vote by mail. If there are no in-person opportunities, then Native Americans will be disenfranchised because it will be impossible for some of them to cast a ballot.” A few states automatically mail ballots to every eligible voter. Others are drawing up plans to rely more heavily on a mail-in system for this year’s elections amid the coronavirus pandemic and with social distancing guidelines in mind. Native Americans are reluctant to embrace the system because of cultural, historical, socioeconomic and language barriers, and past experiences, the report said.

National: Chaos in primary elections offers troubling signs for November | Joseph Marks/The Washington Post

Sometimes-chaotic primary elections across eight states and the District of Columbia foreshadowed challenges that could undermine the security and legitimacy of the general election in November. There were signs of dangerous shortcuts and workarounds, especially in the District where officials couldn’t get mail-in ballots out to everyone who requested them and resorted to accepting emailed ballots. Security experts warn such ballots are highly vulnerable to hacking because voters can’t verify they were recorded accurately. That was the biggest security concern on a night that was also marked by hours-long lines for in-person voting, last-minute extensions for absentee voting, and anxiety about going to the polls during the coronavirus pandemic and nationwide protests against police violence, which prompted curfews in some places including Washington and Philadelphia. The good news was that Department of Homeland Security officials said they hadn’t seen any signs of cyberattacks or significant disinformation campaigns from Russia or elsewhere as of a midday briefing. But they warned that disinformation attacks in particular might take more time to identify. Overall, the day produced a middling report card for election officials, with one big note: Needs improvement before November.

National: Presidential Campaigns Targeted by Suspected Chinese, Iranian Hackers | Robert McMillan/Wall Street Journal

Campaign staffers working on the presidential campaigns of Donald Trump and Joe Biden have been targeted with online attacks coming from Iran and China respectively, Google said, in a sign that the meddling four years ago in the U.S. presidential election by Russia could be pursued more widely this time. Google said Thursday that the staffers were targeted with so-called phishing attacks that often are an attempt to gain access to online email accounts. They raise the specter of a repeat of the 2016 campaign, during which Russian hackers stole information from Democratic staffers and posted them online. While neither China nor Iran are thought to have previously engaged in the kind of hacking and public dumping of emails that disrupted Hillary Clinton’s presidential campaign four years ago, some cybersecurity experts believe that Russia’s success in 2016 may spur copycat activity. The fact that the attacks targeted campaign staff should put campaigns on alert for a possible attempt to hack and dump information, said Graham Brookie, director of the Atlantic Council’s Digital Forensic Research Lab. “It should be a major red flag.”

National: Senate panel approves legislation requiring campaigns to report foreign election help | Manu Raju and Jeremy Herb/CNN

The Senate Intelligence Committee quietly approved on Wednesday a measure that would require presidential campaigns to report offers of foreign election influence to federal authorities, a move taken in response to Russian election interference in 2016 and one that could draw the attention of President Donald Trump, committee sources say. Senate Republicans, however, are preparing to remove the provision from the bill when it heads to the Senate floor. The committee adopted the measure behind closed doors in a classified setting, adding it to the Intelligence Authorization Act, a bill setting policy for the intelligence community. The amendment was offered by Sen. Mark Warner of Virginia, the committee’s top Democrat and the author of the standalone legislation, and GOP Sen. Susan Collins of Maine. It passed 8-7, with Collins joining the panel’s seven Democrats.

National: Confusion, long lines at some poll sites as eight U.S. states vote during coronavirus pandemic | John Whitesides and Jarrett Renshaw/Reuters

Confusion, complaints of missing mail-in ballots and long lines at some polling centers marred primary elections on Tuesday in eight states and the District of Columbia, the biggest test yet of voting during the coronavirus outbreak. The most extensive balloting since the pandemic sparked lockdowns in mid-March served as a dry run for the Nov. 3 general election. It offered a glimpse of the challenges ahead on a national scale if that vote is conducted under a lingering threat from COVID-19. All of the states voting on Tuesday encouraged or expanded mail-in balloting as a safe alternative during the outbreak, and most sharply reduced the number of in-person polling places as officials struggled to recruit workers to run them. That led to record numbers of mail-in ballots requested and cast in many states, along with complaints over not receiving requested ballots and questions about where to vote after polling places were consolidated. Pennsylvania and three of the other states voting – Indiana, Maryland and Rhode Island – had delayed their nominating contests from earlier in the year to avoid the worst of the coronavirus outbreak that has killed more than 106,000 people in the United States. Iowa, Montana, New Mexico, South Dakota and the District of Columbia also voted on Tuesday.

National: Google: Biden and Trump campaigns targeted by separate spearphishing campaigns | Shannon Vavra/CyberScoop

Hackers linked with China and Iran have been sending malicious spearphishing emails to staff on Joe Biden and President Donald Trump’s campaigns respectively, according to a researcher with Google’s Threat Analysis Group. Chinese government-linked hackers have been targeting Biden’s staffers, whereas Iranian government-linked hackers have been targeting Trump’s campaign, according to Shane Huntley, the Director of Google’s Threat Analysis Group. There is no evidence that the hacking attempts have resulted in compromises, Huntley said. This is just the latest warning from security researchers and the U.S. intelligence community that foreign government-backed hackers are interested in targeting various U.S. presidential campaigns during the 2020 election cycle, in what is turning out to be a tumultuous year for American citizens amid economic turmoil, the coronavirus pandemic, and mass protests about racism. “The Trump campaign has been briefed that foreign actors unsuccessfully attempted to breach the technology of our staff,” the Trump campaign told CyberScoop in a statement. “We are vigilant about cybersecurity and do not discuss any of our precautions.”

National: Trump’s Attacks on Vote-by-Mail Worry Some Election Officials | Matt Vasilogambros/Stateline

There is growing concern among election officials and experts that the increasingly partisan debate around voting by mail could sow doubt in the results of the presidential election. For months, President Donald Trump has been one of the loudest opponents to vote by mail, which experts agree is a safe alternative to in-person voting during the novel coronavirus outbreak. There is little evidence it leads to voter fraud or benefits one party over another. “Mail-in ballots are a very dangerous thing,” Trump told reporters last month, despite evidence to the contrary. “They’re subject to massive fraud.” Trump has voted by mail several times, including in Florida’s primary earlier this year. By attacking mail-in voting with unsubstantiated claims, some officials and experts fear, the president’s outbursts could threaten the integrity of the general election by dissuading voters from participating and diminishing Americans’ trust in the legitimacy of the results. His narrative has consequences, said Marian Schneider, president of the election security nonprofit Verified Voting. It could lead to some Americans doubting the outcome of the November election, she said.

National: Pandemic, Protests and Police: An Election Like No Other | Reid J. Epstein and Nick Corasaniti/The New York Times

On the biggest day of voting since the coronavirus disrupted public life, Americans cast ballots in extraordinary circumstances on Tuesday, heading to the polls during a national health and economic crisis and amid the widespread protests and police deployments that have disrupted communities across the nation. The most high-profile race of the day produced a surprising result when Representative Steve King, the Iowa Republican who was ostracized by his party after questioning why white nationalism was offensive, lost his primary to Randy Feenstra, a state senator who had the tacit support of much of the state’s G.O.P. establishment. Mr. King is only the second congressional incumbent from either party to lose a bid for renomination in the 2020 primaries. The other was Representative Dan Lipinski of Illinois, a Democrat who lost a March primary to a more liberal challenger. But unlike Mr. Lipinski, Mr. King was defeated not because of his ideology but because his defense of white identity politics finally proved too toxic for his Republican colleagues to abide. In his campaign, Mr. Feenstra did not make an issue of Mr. King’s litany of racist remarks, but instead argued that his removal from House committees by Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy made Mr. King an ineffective congressman for Iowa.

National: Election officials contradict Barr’s assertion that counterfeit mail ballots produced by a foreign country are a ‘real’ worry | Amy Gardner/The Washington Post

Current and former election administrators said it would be virtually impossible for a foreign country to produce and mail in phony absentee ballots without detection, an issue Attorney General William P. Barr raised as a serious possibility in an interview published Monday. Barr told the New York Times Magazine that a foreign operation to mail in fake ballots was “one of the issues that I’m real worried about.” “We’ve been talking about how, in terms of foreign influence, there are a number of foreign countries that could easily make counterfeit ballots, put names on them, send them in,” Barr said. “And it’d be very hard to sort out what’s happening.” Barr did not offer any evidence of how such a scenario would take place. Elections officials in multiple states said it would be virtually impossible for a foreign government to achieve what Barr described. Judd Choate, the elections chief in Colorado, where nearly all voters cast ballots by mail, said “there is zero chance” it could happen in his state because of security precautions in place there.

National: CISA Official Sidesteps Controversy over Trump’s Voting Fraud Claims | Mariam Baksh/Nextgov

As lawmakers and election security experts try to counter President Trump’s assertion that voting by mail invites fraud, a senior official of the Cybersecurity and Infrastructure Security Agency dismissed the controversy as a “process” issue. “I mean, you got to keep in mind what our goal here is,” the senior CISA official said on a call with reporters today regarding the primary contests happening in eight states. “We’re supporting state and local officials as they implement their electoral, you know as they administer elections. We’re focused on the infrastructure, providing cybersecurity services to the infrastructure, back-end systems, on voting machines, those are all the things. The president’s concern is on the process side.” The official was answering a question about whether CISA was doing anything to publicly fact check May 26 tweets the president made claiming the use of mail-in ballots means “this will be a rigged election.” In an unprecedented move, Twitter labeled the tweets “misleading,” and noted their potential to sow confusion.  

National: ‘Biggest threat to election security is the coronavirus,’ security expert warns | Benjamin Freed/StateScoop

Although the rate of new infections appears to have slowed down in recent weeks, the COVID-19 pandemic remains the greatest challenge to ensuring that the 2020 presidential election runs accurately and securely, election security experts said Monday. Speaking on a webcast hosted by two members of the House Homeland Security Committee, Wendy Weiser of New York University’s Brennan Center for Law and Justice said election officials still need much more funding and support to make all the preparations for an election that will likely have to be conducted largely via mail, especially in states that have historically low rates of postal ballots. “By far the biggest threat to our election is the coronavirus,” Weiser said. “We are going to see substantial changes to how we run elections this year.” A potential preview of November is playing out Tuesday, with seven states and the District of Columbia holding their primary elections, including several that were delayed from March and April as the pandemic spread and kept voters cooped up under stay-at-home orders. In almost all those jurisdictions, election officials — Republican and Democratic — made efforts to expand their use of mail-in ballots.

National: ‘First Super Tuesday’ Of The COVID-19 Era: Voting Amid Protests, Pandemic | Miles Parks/NPR

Facing a pandemic that continues to spread through the United States and protests nationwide over the killing of another black man at the hands of police, voters headed to the polls Tuesday in more than half a dozen states. It’s a primary election date that was already going to be a challenge for election officials due to health concerns, even before nationwide unrest led to curfew orders in conflict with polling place hours in some places. In Washington, D.C., as well as the eight states voting Tuesday, the vast majority of ballots are expected to be mailed in. In Montana, for instance, election officials mailed every active registered voter a ballot. But the in-person voting options that are also required to be offered in many places create a unique problem. In Philadelphia, for instance, officials are trying to reassure voters they won’t be arrested for voting in the Pennsylvania primary if the city decides to extend a 6 p.m. curfew to Tuesday. Polling places will stay open in the city until 8 p.m. “Philly residents will not be arrested or prosecuted for going to or coming from voting tomorrow,” District Attorney Larry Krasner told NPR member station WHYY on Monday. “No curfew is going to interfere with any voter going to the polls. Please do not let these circumstances dissuade you.”

National: Mass upheaval and pandemic spell trouble for a megaday of primaries | Zach Montellaro/Politico

Holding an election in the middle of a once-in-a-century pandemic is tough. Holding an election as civil unrest sweeps across the country during that pandemic could be seriously problematic. Election officials will have to grapple with that challenge Tuesday, when voters in nine states and the District of Columbia vote by mail or head to the polls for primaries. Several cities set to hold an election have seen massive protests, at times spiraling into looting and violence. With widespread curfews keeping residents in their homes and some ballot-return locations shuttered, some voters could end up disenfranchised, voting rights activists warned. “We are particularly concerned about how the protests, and particularly the response to the protests, are going to affect voting,” said Suzanne Almeida, the interim executive director of Common Cause Pennsylvania. She cited two particular stress points: curfews and an increased police presence.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

National: As Trump rages, state officials quietly press forward with vote by mail | Kevin Collier/NBC

Judging solely by President Donald Trump’s recent diatribes, mail-in voting would seem to have become one of the nation’s most partisan flashpoints. But at the state level — where elections are actually administered — there’s little disagreement. Instead, most state officials are ignoring partisanship and quietly laying the groundwork for an effective, mail-heavy election, including in those states led by Republicans. “State election directors are aware of that conversation, but I think they’ve got their heads down,” said Ben Hovland, the chair of the federal Election Assistance Commission, which regularly videoconferences with state election chiefs and helps advise them in detail on how to deal with a surge of mailed ballots. “They focus on the job at hand. There’s more than enough to do without worrying about political fights that are taking place.” All but four states now offer every eligible voter the option to mail in their ballot, according to a new survey from the Open Source Election Technology Institute, a nonprofit that researches election technology. NBC News has collaborated with the institute since 2016 to monitor U.S. election-technology and voting issues. Of the states offering mail-in options, leadership is almost equally split: 24 have Democratic governors and 22 Republican.

National: Mail ballot surge places Postal Service under spotlight | Reid Wilson/The Hill

The coronavirus pandemic has pushed millions of voters to request their ballots by mail, a rapid increase that is likely to change the shape of the 2020 electorate and put incredible strain on an already limited United States Postal Service (USPS). Now, voting rights activists are raising questions about whether the Postal Service can handle the millions of ballots that will flood their processing centers in the days leading up to the presidential contest. The risk of errors, of voters who cannot receive ballots in time or ballots that do not reach elections administrators in time, could be cataclysmic. With the White House, the Senate and the House on the line, the prospects of finding a few tubs of ballots misplaced or overlooked could throw results of close races into question, adding to President Trump’s repeated efforts in recent days to delegitimize an election that has not yet taken place. The nightmare scenario has already played out twice this year. In a Supreme Court contest in Wisconsin in April, about 1,600 ballots were discovered the morning after Election Day in a mail processing facility in Chicago — 1,600 voters whose ballots did not count. Hundreds more who applied for absentee ballots did not receive them in time, according to a report by the state Board of Elections.

National: US Postal Service Faces Challenges With More Ballots Going In The Mail | Brian Naylor/NPR

Eight states and the District of Columbia are holding primary elections next week amid the coronavirus pandemic, and voters are expected to cast their ballots by mail in record numbers. It is likely to be a preview of what’s to come in the fall, and some worry whether the U.S. Postal Service is up to the challenge. A lot of people like the Postal Service; according to a recent Pew poll, 91% of Americans had a positive view, higher than any other branch of government. But it’s an agency with some big problems. To start, President Trump has called it a joke, demanded it raise its rates, and and made unfounded claims that mailed ballots will be “substantially fraudulent” and that mail boxes will be robbed.That’s  a false assertion, says Tammy Patrick, a senior adviser to the Democracy Fund. She tells NPR that voters need options like voting by mail during this pandemic. “For many, many people this year, it’s going to be to get their ballot delivered to them by the United States Postal Service,” she says. “Now, calling that into question, saying that people will be taking mail out of mailboxes — that’s just not going to happen.”

National: Ballot-Collection Battles, Split by Partisanship, Move Through Courts | Brent Kendall and Alexa Corse/Wall Street Journal

With more citizens looking to avoid in-person voting during the coronavirus pandemic, legal clashes are emerging over whether third parties should be allowed to help absentee voters by collecting and submitting their ballots. The cases, part of a broader battle over rules amid the public health crisis, break down along partisan lines. Democrats and their allies argue that collection can be a needed service for vulnerable voters who face difficulties navigating the system. Republicans say most voters can submit ballots on their own and describe collection practices by third parties as ballot harvesting, saying they are an invitation for fraud. “It is true there have been occasional ballot collection problems, the most prominent recently being North Carolina’s ninth congressional district in 2018, a legit scandal,” said Justin Levitt, a professor at Loyola Law School in Los Angeles. “It’s also true that during a pandemic time, ballot collection can be an absolute lifeline for some voters and save them from what would be a worrisome amount of exposure. Not everyone has reliable mail service right to their door.” Some amount of third-party assistance is permitted in a majority of states, though laws vary widely. In California, for example, ballot collection is broadly permissible, while other states, including Florida and Minnesota, cap the number of ballots any one agent can collect, which effectively limits large, organized campaigns to deliver ballots. Some states allow voters to have a relative, household member or caregiver submit their ballots, but not other third parties.

National: Voting rights, public health officials roll out guidelines to protect voters from COVID-19 | Maggie Miller/TheHill

A coalition of voting rights and public health groups on Thursday rolled out guidelines to help protect voters from catching and spreading COVID-19 while exercising their right to vote this year. The Healthy Voting Guidelines, rolled out initially for states holding primaries in June, are the product of the non-partisan coalition We Can Vote, and were drafted by groups including the American Public Health Association and the Center for Tech and Civic Life. According to the authors, the recommendations are the the nation’s first healthy voting guidelines, and details ways that voters can exercise their rights at the polls while taking steps to prevent the spread of COVID-19. The guidelines address both mail-in and in-person voting for more than a dozen states and the District of Columbia. Recommendations include wearing a mask and standing six feet apart from other voters if going to the polls in person, voting during less busy times and washing your hands after dropping off a mail-in ballot.

National: Trump’s Mail-In Voting Fraud Claims Draw Republican Critics | Shaun Courtney/Bloomberg

President Donald Trump‘s unsubstantiated claims that voting by mail will result in massive fraud in November has prompted worried protests from an increasing number of luminaries from within his own party. “It’s actually disappointing because it means you’re trying to sow the seeds of doubt in a process that has been so much a part of Americans’ history,” former Homeland Security Secretary and Pennsylvania Gov. Tom Ridge said about the president’s vote-by-mail tweets. “It flies in the face of what I think both parties should be focused in on, and that’s creating options that are safe and secure for all voters, particularly during the pandemic.” Ridge is the Republican face of VoteSafe, a bipartisan campaign to ensure that every U.S. state and territory has secure mail-in ballots and safe, in-person voting sites during the Covid-19 pandemic. The group, also led by former Michigan Gov. Jennifer Granholm, a Democrat, launched May 21. By politicizing access to voting for a perceived short-term political gain, Trump risks undermining one of the basic tenets of American democracy, Ridge and other former leaders of the Republican Party say.

National: Politicizing vote-by-mail efforts amid COVID-19 could disenfranchise some voters: Experts | Matthew Vann/ABC

Amid President Donald Trump’s charge that voting by mail is ripe with fraud potential, there are worries that such claims, in addition to the subsequent lawsuits that have followed, politicize state efforts to expand mail-in voting, and could cost some Americans a vital opportunity to have their votes counted. The Republican National Committee has intervened in legal battles across the country, including New Mexico, Michigan and Arizona to limit mail-in ballot expansions. In California, the RNC filed a lawsuit seeking to have Gov. Gavin Newsom’s executive order automatically issuing an absentee ballot by mail to every registered state voter, overturned and declared unlawful. “Democrats continue to use this pandemic as a ploy to implement their partisan election agenda, and Governor Newsom’s executive order is the latest direct assault on the integrity of our elections,” said Republican National Committee Chairwoman Ronna Romney McDaniel in a statement announcing the lawsuit. “Newsom’s illegal power grab is a recipe for disaster that would destroy the confidence Californians deserve to have in the security of their vote.”

National: Donald Trump is Waging War on Vote-By-Mail. The Facts Don’t Support It | Lissandra Villa/Time

Michigan Secretary of State Jocelyn Benson doesn’t follow the President of the United States on Twitter. She was sitting in her basement office eating breakfast May 20 when her staff called to inform her that Donald Trump had called Benson a “rogue Secretary of State,” accusing her of mailing ballots to Michigan voters (in fact, they were ballot applications) and suggesting (incorrectly) that vote by mail would lead to fraud. Oh, and he threatened to withhold funding from Michigan over the issue. (It’s unclear what funding he was referring to; the White House did not respond to a request for comment.) What stood out about the episode to Benson, a Democrat, wasn’t just how Trump had addressed her, the factual inaccuracies, or the threat tucked into his tweet. It was that she was hardly the only Secretary of State to take a step like this. States like Iowa, Georgia, Nebraska, and West Virginia—which Trump won in 2016, and which have Republican Secretaries of State—have taken similar actions in sending out applications for absentee ballots in the midst of the coronavirus pandemic, at least for their primaries.