The Voting News

National: Coronavirus contingency plans may also pose election security challenges | Joseph Marks/The Washington Post

Coronavirus is dealing election officials across the country a serious curveball even as they strain to keep the 2020 contests secure against another threat: Russian hacking. Officials are now forced to contemplate contingency plans to potentially overhaul their voting systems so Americans can still cast their ballots in a pandemic – and still ensure the process is secure. “Cybersecurity of elections is still a very real concern, so we have to walk and chew gum at the same time,” Lawrence Norden, director of the Election Reform Program at New York University’s Brennan Center for Justice, told me. “We need to make big changes to ensure everyone can vote safely while we still have our eyes on the issue of cybersecurity.” One major option surfacing now is surging vote-by-mail programs so citizens can avoid the polls. Democratic National Committee Chairman Tom Perez called for states to shift to widespread mail-in voting “wherever practicable” on MSNBC last night. “That’s how you can solve the problem,” he said. But this route could create security problems of its own, election experts warned — especially if it’s implemented in a tight time frame. For example, officials would have to put safeguards in place to ensure mailed-in ballots are secure throughout their journey to election offices and to prevent U.S. adversaries or those seeking to tamper with the vote from sending in phony ballots to sow confusion. They’d also have to guard against misinformation related to the vote-by-mail process and figure out how to deliver ballots to people without street addresses. There’s also a heightened concern about people coercing friends and family members to vote for particular candidates with write-in ballots because the voters aren’t entering a private booth or cubicle to cast their votes.

Full Article: The Cybersecurity 202: Coronavirus contingency plans may also pose election security challenges - The Washington Post.

National: Voting by Mail Is the Hot New Idea. Is There Time to Make It Work? | Nick Corasaniti and Stephanie Saul/The New York Times

In Wisconsin, Democrats sued elections officials to extend voting deadlines. In Rhode Island, the secretary of state wants all 788,000 registered voters to receive absentee ballot applications. In Maryland, a special election to replace the late Representative Elijah E. Cummings will be conducted entirely by mail. As the coronavirus outbreak upends daily life and tears at the social fabric of the country, states are rapidly searching for ways to protect the most sacred institution in a democracy: voting. With gatherings of people suddenly presenting an imminent health threat, state officials and voting rights activists have begun calling for an enormous expansion of voting by mail — for both the remaining Democratic presidential primary race and, planning for the worst-case scenario, the general election in November.

Full Article: Voting by Mail Is the Hot New Idea. Is There Time to Make It Work? - The New York Times.

National: Senators Klobuchar and Wyden introduce bill to promote mail-in voting amid coronavirus crisis | Maggie Miller/The Hill

A group of Democratic senators led by Sens. Amy Klobuchar (D-Minn.) and Ron Wyden (D-Ore.) introduced legislation on Wednesday to promote mail-in and early voting to decrease the spread of the coronavirus. The Natural Disaster and Emergency Ballot Act (NDEBA) would ensure voters have 20 days of early voting in all states, require that all mail-in ballots submitted during 21 days leading to an election be counted, and ensure that all voters have the option to request absentee ballots. The legislation would also provide $3 million to the Election Assistance Commission (EAC) to begin implementing some of the bill’s requirements, along with reimbursing states for doing the same. Both Klobuchar and Wyden pointed to recently delayed primaries in Ohio, Kentucky, Louisiana, Georgia, and Maryland because of coronavirus fears in emphasizing the need to utilize mail-in ballots. In-person voting dropped in Florida, Arizona and Illinois on Tuesday, when the states held their primaries.

Full Article: Democrats introduce bill to promote mail-in voting amid coronavirus crisis | TheHill.

National: States urged to clarify election procedures during pandemic | Benjamin Freed/StateScoop

As the ongoing coronavirus pandemic scrambles how states will administer long-scheduled elections for presidential primaries and local races, one election-security expert says that officials need to do a better job of clarifying who has the authority to reschedule or change the formats of upcoming votes. “Things voters deserve to have is a clear set of authorities, a clear set of guidelines,” said Chris DeLuzio of the University of Pittsburgh Institute for Cyber Law, Policy and Security. Already, five states — Louisiana, Georgia, Kentucky, Ohio and Maryland — have delayed their primary elections from March and April until June, amid fears that drawing people out to polling places could sully efforts to mitigate the spread of the coronavirus and the COVID-19 disease it causes. In four of the states, governors or secretaries of state had the authority to delay elections. In Ohio, which was scheduled to hold its primary Tuesday, the vote was only called off at the last minute when the state health director ordered polling places closed, after a judge rejected a lawsuit by Gov. Mike DeWine and Secretary of State Frank LaRose to push the election back. “Ohio’s a cautionary tale,” DeLuzio told StateScoop. Clearly identifying who can order an election to be rescheduled, he added, “should be memorialized in the election code so there’s never a question whether something can be properly done.”

Full Article: States urged to clarify election procedures during pandemic.

National: Coronavirus has already disrupted the election. Some states are looking to vote by mail as a solution. | Kevin Collier/NBC

As the coronavirus leaves voters fearing polling places, states that don’t already allow everyone to mail their ballot are trying to figure out how to do so. Federal law requires that states provide some sort of means for members of the military and citizens abroad to cast their votes. While a majority of states also offer “no excuse” absentee ballots, meaning anyone can request one, more than a dozen do not. In most cases, the state’s chief election official doesn’t have the power to single-handedly implement voting by mail, and even if they could, that means a new host of logistical hurdles. “We’re looking at all of our options right now,” one Texas state official, who was not authorized to comment on the matter publicly, said on the condition of anonymity. “We don’t know what exactly we’re going to end up doing. There’s the legal end of it, which you’ve got the governor’s disaster declaration that helps, and we’ve got to figure out where that ends and a court order begins.” “The realistic problem is infrastructure,” the official said. “The counties just aren’t set for big volumes of voting by mail.”

Full Article: Coronavirus has already disrupted the election. Some states are looking to vote by mail as a solution..

National: Nationwide drive to safeguard voting intensifies as coronavirus spreads | Isaac Stanley-Becker and Amy Gardner/The Washington Post

Elections officials and party leaders faced deepening dilemmas on Wednesday about how to carry out the most fundamental democratic exercise — voting — in the face of the spread of the novel coronavirus. Additional states delayed contests scheduled for the spring, while Democratic Party leaders stepped up their calls for states to adopt emergency measures to ensure access to the polls as officials pushed to limit the size of public gatherings. The Democratic National Committee and the Wisconsin Democratic Party sought a solution in federal court, suing Wisconsin elections commissioners to get an emergency judgment extending Wednesday’s deadline to register to vote electronically and by mail and lifting requirements that absentee ballots be received by Election Day. The national party is confronting vexing questions about its projected timeline for concluding the presidential nominating contest and putting forward a candidate at its July convention. While former vice president Joe Biden extended his dominant lead with wins in Tuesday’s three primary races, Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.) declined to bow out of the race immediately. The effort to develop voting contingencies took on new urgency as the three contests that unfolded on Tuesday showcased what experts described as unprecedented challenges involved in conducting in-person voting during a public-health emergency.

Full Article: Nationwide drive to safeguard voting intensifies as coronavirus spreads - The Washington Post.

National: Elections amid coronavirus: How officials aim to keep voters safe | Alfred Ng/CNET

The coronavirus outbreak has put much of the US out of service, shutting down schools, stores and sports events for the foreseeable future. With several crucial primaries coming up in the US presidential race, election officials need to figure out how to get the vote out while handling a public health crisis. On Monday, we got a sign of just how fluid the situation is, as Ohio planned to postpone its primary, a day ahead of scheduled voting. Three other states — Arizona, Florida and Illinois — are forging ahead with their primaries Tuesday. It was just on Friday that election officials for those states issued a group statement saying they planned to keep the primaries going, despite the outbreak. Several of those states are considered battleground states for the presidency. “They voted during the Civil War. We’re going to vote,” Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis said at a press conference Friday. That was two days before the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention on Sunday urged against gatherings of more than 50 people throughout the next eight weeks. Then on Monday afternoon, President Donald Trump advised against gatherings of more than 10 people. At around the same time, Ohio Gov.Mike DeWine announced that he planned to postpone the state’s primary to June 2.

Full Article: Elections amid coronavirus: How officials aim to keep voters safe - CNET.

National: These 2020 primary voters face extra hurdles in pandemic | Patricia Beall and Mark Nichols/USA Today

Terriayna Spillman, 19, has been waiting to vote for a presidential candidate since she was in elementary school. The day after Tuesday primaries, the African-American college student is still waiting. In Florida and Ohio, poll closures and other disruptions prompted by coronavirus threatened  certain voting groups more than others, according to interviews and data analysis by USA Today. Among those most at risk: young voters, senior citizens, minorities and people in low income communities. In Florida, precincts inside assisted living facilities were closed by the dozens, affecting both older residents and nearby voters who cast ballots there. As the state’s colleges emptied, students registered in the county where they live nine months of the year while attending school were sent home to other counties or states without voting. “I watched my mom, my grandparents, when Obama was running and went to his rallies,” said Spillman from her family’s Lake County, Florida home. “I could not wait until it was my turn.”

Full Article: These 2020 primary voters face extra hurdles in pandemic.

National: Coronavirus Putting US Cyber Vulnerabilities in the Crosshairs | Jeff Seldin/Voice of America

The race to slow the spread of the coronavirus in the United States is placing an unprecedented burden on the country’s cyber infrastructure, potentially making it as vulnerable as it has ever been. At issue are the U.S. government agencies, thousands of businesses and millions of Americans, who suddenly have been forced to telework and rely on the security of their internet connections and good cyber hygiene, to keep businesses and services running. The result, some officials warn, is an opening for anyone who would like to strike a virtual blow. “We’re mindful that our adversaries often see opportunity in situations like these,” a U.S. official told VOA on the condition of anonymity, given the sensitive nature of the subject. Both the FBI and private cybersecurity firms warn the assault is already well underway.  “We’re seeing a significant amount of threat in email, leveraging social engineering at scale to do a variety of attacks,” said Sherrod DeGrippo, senior director of threat research and detection at Proofpoint. Some of the emails are designed to look like they are coming from legitimate agencies such as the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) or the World Health Organization (WHO), using fear of the coronavirus to get a recipient to click on a malicious attachment or link.

Full Article: Coronavirus Putting US Cyber Vulnerabilities in the Crosshairs | Voice of America - English.

National: Facing coronavirus pandemic, US confronts cyberattacks | ABC

The United States, already dealing with the coronavirus pandemic, is also being targeted for cyberattacks and foreign disinformation campaigns, as federal officials feared. Multiple sources confirmed to ABC News in recent days that both the efforts that slowed computer systems at the Health and Human Services Department Sunday night and the weekend rash of bogus text messages warning a national quarantine is imminent were the products of foreign actors or components of foreign governments or entities connected to them. “We are seeing multiple disinformation campaigns right now,” said one federal official briefed on the situation. The two types of cyber incidents are different, but both are aimed at sowing panic in the American population and feeding distrust in government, according to intelligence officials. Federal officials said the two most likely perpetrators are Russia and China, two nations with the sophistication, skill and desire to carry out such campaigns against the U.S. In the case of the HHS incident, officials said outsiders deployed automated users — called bots — to target the public-facing computer system. A source familiar with the investigation into the incident told ABC News that it is thought to be either a widespread campaign to scan HHS systems for vulnerabilities, or possibly a “clumsy” attempt to paralyze public online systems with a flood of visitors, something called distributed denial of service, or DDOS.

Full Article: Facing coronavirus pandemic, US confronts cyberattacks - ABC News.

National: Poll Workers Didn’t Show Up at Some Primary Election Precincts on Tuesday Because of COVID-19 Concerns, Limiting People’s Ability to Vote | Madeleine Carlisle/Time

When Julie Snyder of Delray Beach, Fla., first tried to cast her vote Tuesday in the Democratic presidential primary, she was unable to do so because one of the election supervisors had not arrived to her polling location at the city’s Emmanuel Catholic Church. “I’m just really frustrated. I don’t know what to do,” the 59-year-old told TIME on Tuesday morning, adding that while she waited for the election worker to arrive she saw multiple other people try to vote and leave. Snyder says she had wrestled with whether to vote on Tuesday at all, after self-isolating for over a week, but decided that she had to because this election is too crucial “given what is going on in this world.” She says she was able to vote later that day once a neighbor texted her that the location had opened. Three states — Florida, Arizona and Illinois — held their presidential primaries on Tuesday amid the coronavirus pandemic; in all three, poll workers did not show up to some locations, making it difficult for many to vote. (The states had added extra precautions, such as sending cleaning supplies and gloves, to help protect the health of voters and workers.) In Ohio, which was also scheduled to hold its primary on Tuesday, officials canceled voting and declared a public health emergency mere hours before polls were meant to open.

Full Article: Some Florida and Illinois Poll Workers Did Show Up on Tuesday | Time.

Editorials: The virus means we’ll be voting by mail. But that won’t be easy. | Marc Elias/The Washington Post

Barriers to voting can take many forms. Sometimes those barriers make voting harder, as in reduced polling hours or restrictive photo-ID laws. Other times, they are administrative practices, such as unnecessary voter-roll purges. Yet, some of the most difficult barriers to overcome can be those caused by events entirely unrelated to voting. Sept. 11, 2001, was Election Day in New York City. In the hours following the attacks, Gov. George Pataki (R) canceled the elections, all votes were voided, and new primaries were held two weeks later. When Hurricane Sandy struck the East Coast a week before the 2012 election, New Jersey allowed some voters to vote by email and fax. Hurricane Michael in 2018 caused Florida to waive various early voting restrictions to ensure citizens of eight counties could cast their ballots. None of these disasters, devastating as they were, posed the same threat that the novel coronavirus does for the 2020 election. Unlike prior events, the virus poses a health risk to voters in every state, city, town and village in the country. Not only will voters not want to wait in line and file into schoolrooms in proximity to others, but election workers — many of whom are elderly — also may not eagerly sign up to staff polling places where they will come in contact with hundreds of strangers in a single day.

Full Article: The virus means we’ll be voting by mail. But that won’t be easy. - The Washington Post.

Alabama: Gov. Kay Ivey postpones March 31 runoff because of coronavirus | Mike Cason/AL.com

Gov. Kay Ivey has postponed the March 31 primary runoff because of the coronavirus pandemic until July 14. Ivey cited the risk to voters and poll workers in making the decision to delay the March 31 runoff. “We would be taking a human health risk just by having people stand in line waiting to vote,” the governor said. “I’m also aware that our faithful poll workers are often retired and among those who have the highest risk of the disease.” Ivey made the announcement in a press conference this morning with Alabama Secretary of State John Merrill and Attorney General Steve Marshall. New dates for pre-election deadlines, such as sending in absentee ballots are being announced. The governor announced her decision one day after Marshall issued an opinion that she had the authority to postpone the election under the state’s Emergency Management Act. Marshall issued the opinion after a request from Merrill.

Full Article: Gov. Kay Ivey postpones March 31 runoff because of coronavirus - al.com.

Arizona: Elections chief seeks move toward all-mail elections | Jonathan J. Cooper/Associated Press

Arizona’s top election official asked lawmakers Wednesday to let counties run elections entirely by mail later this year if it’s necessary to protect election workers and voters from the coronavirus outbreak. As public health officials recommend increasing restrictions on social interactions, Democratic Secretary of State Katie Hobbs said the state needs to “prepare now for any eventuality.” About 80 percent of Arizonans have voted by mail in recent elections. “It is vital we build more flexibility into the law, even if only on a temporary basis,” Hobbs wrote to legislative leaders. Her request comes a day after thousands of voters cast a ballot in the Democratic presidential primary amid extra sanitation precautions. Some voters wore masks and gloves and took pains to maintain the recommended six feet of separation between people, while poll workers were instructed to regularly clean surfaces.

Full Article: Arizona elections chief seeks move toward all-mail elections.

California: Counties looking at all-mail elections | John Wildermuth/San Francisco Chronicle

A planned Palo Alto school election has fallen victim to the coronavirus, and a pair of May elections elsewhere will force California officials to decide whether safety or tradition will rule the day when it comes to voting during a pandemic. The Palo Alto Unified School District decided Tuesday night to postpone an all-mail special election May 5 on whether to extend a $15 million annual parcel tax. “We are filing papers to withdraw our May election proposal,” Superintendent Don Austin said in an email. “We will evaluate the situation when conditions are no longer in an emergency state.” All-mail elections, however, are a possibility for two Southern California elections scheduled for May 12. Registrars are trying to decide whether to go that route, a call that elections officials around the country must make as the pandemic spreads. In the 25th Congressional District race in Los Angeles and Ventura counties, Democrat Christy Smith and Republican Mike Garcia are running to fill out the term of Democrat Katie Hill, who resigned in November. Balloting was slated to follow California’s new vote center model, where all registered voters receive ballots in the mail, but are also allowed to use vote centers staffed by county election workers. That’s now in question, said Mike Sanchez, a spokesman for the Los Angeles County registrar.
Full Article: Coronavirus and voting: California counties looking at all-mail elections - SFChronicle.com.

Delaware: State to move ahead with primary after Maryland postponed same date | Sarah Gamard/Delaware News Journal

Delaware election officials and the Governor’s Office said Wednesday that the state still plans to move ahead with its April 28 primary after Maryland rescheduled its primary originally set for the same date. “We’re continuing to monitor the situation at this point and plan to proceed as scheduled,” said Delaware Elections Commissioner Anthony Albence, adding that his department doesn’t have the legal authority to cancel or postpone an election. The decision is ultimately up to Gov. John Carney, with guidance from Delaware Division of Public Health officials and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, according to the governor’s spokesman Jonathan Starkey. “We’re planning to allow voting to move forward, until the guidance from our health experts makes clear that we cannot hold an election due to public health risk,” Starkey wrote in a text on Wednesday.

Full Article: Delaware to move ahead with primary after Maryland postponed same date.

Maryland: Election rights advocates call for Maryland to send ballots by mail in June primary | Emily Opilo/Baltimore Sun

Several groups advocating for election rights delivered a letter to Maryland Gov. Larry Hogan on Wednesday urging him to offer widespread voting by mail in the June primary and to establish a voting rights task force. The letter, signed by Common Cause Maryland, the League of Women Voters of Maryland, Maryland Public Interest Research Group and the American Civil Liberties Union of Maryland calls for the state to conduct its primary by mail. Hogan, a Republican, announced Tuesday that he was delaying the state’s April 28 primary until June 2 in response to the new coronavirus, which as of Wednesday had sickened at least 85 Marylanders. A special general election to select someone to fill the remainder of the late Elijah Cummings’ congressional seat remains scheduled for April 28, but will be conducted by mail-only balloting. The groups behind the letter said they were encouraged by Hogan’s emergency measures in response to the virus, but said they remained concerned about the safety of poll workers and voters even in a delayed primary. Maryland’s poll workers, most of whom are senior citizens and at higher risk if they contract the virus, are likely to stay home, leaving polls understaffed, the letter stated.

Full Article: Election rights advocates call for Maryland to send ballots by mail in June primary - Baltimore Sun.

Missouri: Governor pushes April elections to June as coronavirus precaution | Jack Suntrup and Mark Schlinkmann/St. Louis Post-Dispatch

Gov. Mike Parson signed an executive order Wednesday moving the date of local government elections from April 7 to June 2. “Given the growing concern surrounding COVID-19 and the large number of people elections attract, postponing Missouri’s municipal elections is a necessary step to help combat the spread of the virus and protect the health and safety of Missouri voters,” Parson said in a statement. Parson acted as many local election officials across the state, including in the St. Louis area, were already planning to go to court to try to move the April election to June 2. On Wednesday morning, in fact, Lincoln County in the St. Louis area and 42 counties in western and central Missouri filed petitions with state appeals courts asking for such a switch. Moreover, officials in St. Charles, Jefferson, Franklin and Warren counties had said they were planning to do the same. Under Missouri law, election dates can be shifted by state appeals court panels if a disaster prevents one from being held.

Full Article: Missouri Gov. Mike Parson pushes April elections to June as coronavirus precaution | Political Fix | stltoday.com.

Montana: Officials advocate for voting by mail as COVID-19 calls election processes into question | Tom Lutey/Billings Gazette

Shifting to a mail-ballot only primary might be the safest option for Montana counties, said State Senate President Scott Sales, who is asking Gov. Steve Bullock to apply emergency powers to make it possible. Sales, a Bozeman Republican, said mail ballots would protect from coronavirus Montana seniors who are not only reliable voters, but who also staff polling stations as volunteers. Sales is also one of six GOP candidates for secretary of state, which oversees elections. “The people who come to vote on election day are my age or older, They’re the older generation. They’re the most reliable voters and our election judges and the people who work at the polls are even older than that,” Sales said. “They’re typically in their 70s and 80s. And whether you think this thing is going to get a lot of legs, or not, that is the most vulnerable segment of our society, those folks in that age group.” Sales made his pitch for a primary mail election on Monday. Tuesday, state Sen. Democrat Bryce Bennett, who is also a secretary of state candidate, called for Bullock to make a mail-ballot primary happen.  The decision whether to switch to an all-mail primary should be up to individual counties, Sales said, but the governor would have to apply emergency powers to give counties the option. Sales said he spoke to Bullock, a Democrat, about the decision after consulting with legislators and county-level election officials.

Full Article: Montana officials advocate for voting by mail as COVID-19 calls election processes into question | 406 Politics | billingsgazette.com.

Pennsylvania: Postponing the 2020 Primary over coronavirus is complicated | Julia Terruso and Jonathan Lai/Philadelphia Inquirer

Everyday life is suspended. Democracy is not. And now it’s on officials to figure out how to keep it going as pandemic strikes during a presidential election year. During a public health crisis that has upended every corner of life in America, who has the power to change an election? Pennsylvania is now grappling with the question. Pennsylvania’s primary election date is set by state law — in presidential years, for the fourth Tuesday in April — and the U.S. Constitution gives state legislatures and Congress the power to set the “times, places, and manners” of federal elections. A postponement would be virtually unassailable if the state House and Senate passed a bill to amend the election code and the governor signed it. “That would be best,” said Adam Bonin, a Democratic election lawyer in Philadelphia. “This is fundamental American constitutionalism, that we are happiest and the system is best when all the branches have the opportunity to weigh in on a question.”

Full Article: Postponing the 2020 Pa. primary over coronavirus is complicated.