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National: Voting by mail: Why states will have a hard time setting it up | Amber Phillips /The Washington Post

The safest way to hold an election during the coronavirus pandemic is to not. But canceling elections, especially in a presidential year, isn’t an option. So 15 states have moved their primaries back to the summer, and nearly every state is considering how it can have more people vote in November by mail instead of in person. That means they could either expand absentee balloting while keeping fewer polling places open, or they could mail ballots to all voters. But easier said than done. Only five states have the ability to hold a statewide by-mail election, and it took them years to set it up and work out the kinks. The states considering it now have months, if that, which means they need to decide in the next few weeks whether to push for all-mail elections for November and hope it can be done. Here are the biggest hurdles to having more people vote by mail in November. The equipment that states have to conduct in-person elections won’t work for mail-in elections. The scanners many states have to count ballots in each polling places can’t handle counting ballots en masse from the whole county or state. The kind of scanner that can do that heavy work costs $500,000 to $1 million, said Wendy Underhill, an elections expert with the nonpartisan National Conference of State Legislatures.

Full Article: Voting by mail: Why states will have a hard time setting it up - The Washington Post.

National: The new coronavirus funding battle over the November election | Marianne Levine and Burgess Everett/Politico

Consensus is growing that Democrats and Republicans will soon hash out a new coronavirus emergency package in the coming weeks. But a major obstacle is emerging: the November election. Democrats are making a push to expand funding for vote-by-mail efforts in a fourth emergency rescue package, citing the need to help states prepare to hold elections during the coronavirus pandemic. It’s a public health issue, Democrats argue: That elections carried out as usual could spread the virus this fall. But new vote-by-mail funding is facing stern resistance from Senate Republicans and the Trump administration, who argue against imposing federal guidelines on states. The issue may be a sticking point to any relief package as the U.S. faces mass unemployment and a plummeting economy. “We are getting more and more bipartisan support from secretaries of states across the country,” said Sen. Amy Klobuchar (D-Minn.) in an interview, who is leading a bill with Sens. Ron Wyden (D-Ore.) and Chris Coons (D-Del.) to expand early voting as well as vote-by-mail. “In a worst case scenario communities may be facing the choice of either voting by mail or not voting at all,” added Wyden. “We’re already going in this direction and now we’re in the middle of a pandemic and I think this is a very different time.”

Full Article: The new coronavirus funding battle over the November election - POLITICO.

National: Democrats press Trump, GOP for funding for mail-in ballots | Maggie Miller/The Hill

Democrats and voting rights groups on Thursday pressed President Trump and Republicans to support more funding for elections this year, saying it was crucial to include money ensuring people could cast ballots as part of the next coronavirus stimulus package. Lawmakers and voting advocacy groups took part in what amounted to a sustained campaign calling for the country to ensure people could cast votes either in person or by mail despite the coronavirus crisis. Sens. Amy Klobuchar (D-Minn.) and Ron Wyden (D-Ore.) argued on one press call Thursday that at least $1.6 billion more was needed to guarantee Americans could vote in November. “This next month is critical for our democracy, I can’t think of another time when we faced something quite like this in terms of our limitations,” Klobuchar told reporters. “I think we can do this, I really do, we simply must make sure that people have the right to vote.”

Full Article: Democrats press Trump, GOP for funding for mail-in ballots | TheHill.

Iowa: Election officials pushing vote by mail for June primary | Erin Murphey/Sioux City Journal

There will be a June 2 primary election in Iowa, state and local elections officials pledge. But those officials are encouraging Iowa voters to submit their ballots early through the mail in order to sidestep voting in-person on Election Day while the state may still be dealing with the novel coronavirus pandemic. So serious is he about encouraging Iowans to vote by mail that Secretary of State Paul Pate, the state’s top elections official, plans to mail every registered Iowa voter an absentee ballot request form for the June primary. Pate even considered going to a 100 percent vote-by-mail election. He shelved that idea for the June primary, but it remains on the table for the November general election, if the virus is still spreading in Iowa this fall. “We’ve had to adapt,” Pate said. “It’s very fluid.” Iowa’s June 2 primary election features multiple competitive federal races. Five Democrats seek their party’s nomination in the state’s U.S. Senate race — the winner will face Republican incumbent U.S. Sen. Joni Ernst. In western Iowa’s 4th Congressional District, four Republicans are challenging incumbent Republican U.S. Rep. Steve King. And in eastern Iowa’s 2nd Congressional District, two Republicans seek the nomination in what will be an open-seat race in the fall.

Full Article: Iowa election officials pushing vote by mail for June primary | Iowa news |

National: Democrats Push for Voting by Mail Amid Coronavirus Pandemic | Lindsay Wise and Natalie Andrews/Wall Street Journal

Democrats are pushing for billions of dollars in federal funds to pay for expanded voting by mail this November, as presidential and congressional election deadlines approach and concerns heighten for the health of workers and voters at traditional polling places. House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D., Calif.) said Wednesday that she wants money for voting by mail to be included in the next stimulus package designed to combat the novel coronavirus, which the House might consider by the end of April. Dozens of states have issued stay-at-home orders, and while a number of health experts expect Covid-19, the illness caused by the coronavirus, to peak in the next several months, it is still expected to be a threat in the fall. “Vote by mail is so important to our democracy so that people have access to voting and not be deterred, especially by the admonition to stay home,” said Mrs. Pelosi. The $2.2 trillion coronavirus relief bill passed by Congress last week included $400 million for state and local election officials to address complications created by the virus. It didn’t mandate specific reforms or requirements for how that money can be spent. The Brennan Center for Justice, a nonpartisan think tank, estimates it will cost at least $2 billion for states to implement voting by mail and take other steps to ensure “free and fair” elections can go ahead.

Full Article: Democrats Push for Voting by Mail Amid Coronavirus Pandemic - WSJ.

Maryland: Confusion reigns supreme for voters, candidates in 7th District Congressional race complicated by coronavirus | Emily Opilo/Baltimore Sun

The governor and the candidates agreed. Despite the ever-tightening grip the new coronavirus continued taking on Maryland, the seat of the late U.S. Rep. Elijah Cummings had been unoccupied for too long — and at a critical time. That’s what led Republican Gov. Larry Hogan to announce last month that the special general election for the 7th Congressional District seat, vacant since Cummings’ death in October death, would proceed April 28. One big accommodation was made: Due to the impending public health crisis, voters would cast ballots only by mail for the first time in Maryland. Now, with less than a month remaining until that date, confusion abounds. Not until Wednesday did state officials say the mailing of ballots to voters was underway. Meanwhile, social distancing measures at a print shop inside a state prison scuttled plans to print postcards advising voters of the changes to the upcoming election. And decisions about the logistics of the special election day itself are still changing, delaying messaging from candidates that could be crucial for first-time mail-in voters. “It’s getting so confusing,” said Republican nominee Kimberly Klacik, who has been in regular contact with state election officials. “We don’t know what’s going on at the top.”

Full Article: Confusion reigns supreme for voters, candidates in 7th District Congressional race complicated by coronavirus - Baltimore Sun.

New Mexico: High court sets April 14 hearing on mail election | Dan McKay/Albuquerque Journal

The state Supreme Court wants to hear arguments on the legality of New Mexico legislators convening electronically – rather than in person – for a special session amid the coronavirus outbreak. The justices requested the information as they consider an emergency petition filed by 27 county clerks who want to shift the June 2 primary to an election by mail. The Supreme Court set an April 14 hearing on the issue. The court orders come after the state Republican Party and 29 legislators asked the justices Tuesday to reject the emergency petition, describing it as an improper push by state election officials to bypass the Legislature and craft a new election scheme, even with reasonable alternatives available to safeguard public health. The Republicans said Gov. Michelle Lujan Grisham could call a special session if changing the election code is necessary to protect public health. And without a session, the GOP argued, New Mexico could simply encourage voters to cast absentee ballots – a well-trusted system, they said, that provides better safeguards against fraudulent voting.

Full Article: High court sets April 14 hearing on mail election » Albuquerque Journal.

Ohio: Secretary of State preparing to mail vote-by-mail instructions for state’s delayed primary | Andrew J. Tobias/Cleveland Plain Dealer

The Ohio Secretary of State’s Office is preparing to mail nearly 8 million postcards informing voters how they can request a ballot for the state’s vote-by-mail wrap-up for its delayed primary election. The postcard, which is being sent to every registered voter in Ohio, should show up in the mail next week, according to Maggie Sheehan, a spokeswoman for Ohio Secretary of State Frank LaRose, the state’s top elections official. It lays out the rules for Ohio’s primary election, voting for which has been extended through April 28 after state officials canceled Election Day last month due to the coronavirus pandemic. There will be no in-person voting, with narrow exceptions for the homeless and disabled. Ohioans who already have voted will get the postcards, but don’t need to vote again. The postcard includes contact information for the voter’s county board of elections — which are mailing ballot applications to those who request them — as well as a step-by-step guide on how to print off an absentee ballot application through the Secretary of State’s website, Voters must complete the applications and either mail or deliver them to their county board of elections to then receive an empty ballot in the mail. It also lays out how voters can hand-write an application form if they’re unable to print one off or otherwise obtain one.

Full Article: Ohio Secretary of State preparing to mail vote-by-mail instructions for state’s delayed primary -

Pennsylvania: Coronavirus won’t delay primary again, Secretary of State Kathy Boockvar says | Jeremy Long/Reading Eagle

Pennsylvania Secretary of State Kathy Boockvar is confident the coronavirus will not force the state to move its primary election again. Gov. Tom Wolf signed a bill last week that moved the primary from April 28 to June 2 because of the COVID-19 pandemic. “I think we are in a good place to continue on June 2,” she said. Boockvar said the state has been planning and monitoring the situation daily. “None of us want to be in the position Ohio was where they were deciding, literally, the night before the election if they were going to hold the election the next day,” she said.Boockvar held a virtual press conference with the media Wednesday afternoon to give an update on the state’s election and licensing processes. The bill that Wolf signed last week to move the primary also gave counties flexibility in terms of staffing polling locations and moving polling locations.

Full Article: Coronavirus won't delay primary again, Pa. Secretary of State Kathy Boockvar says | Coronavirus |

National: Pelosi, state Democrats push for more funds for mail-in voting | Maggie Miller/The Hill

Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) and more than 50 state Democratic officials advocated strongly on Tuesday for Congress to give states more funding to support mail-in and absentee voting efforts as part of the next coronavirus stimulus bill.  “In terms of the elections, I think that we’ll probably be moving to vote by mail,” Pelosi said during an appearance on MSNBC’s “Morning Joe” on Tuesday. “That’s why we wanted to have more resources in this third bill that just was signed by the president to get those resources to the states to facilitate the reality of life that we are going to have to have more vote by mail.” The coronavirus stimulus package signed into law by President Trump last week included $400 million to allow states to adapt the upcoming primary and general elections during the coronavirus crisis. That amount was far lower than the $4 billion proposed by Pelosi as part of the House version of the stimulus bill, which also would have required states to send absentee ballots to every registered voter and expand early voting. The final coronavirus stimulus package did not include any requirements for how states must use the $400 million. Pelosi said on Monday that she was disappointed the stimulus did not include funding for the U.S. Postal Service to send ballots to Americans, and said she hoped public opinion would help to push Republicans to support more funding for elections in the next coronavirus stimulus bill.

Full Article: Pelosi, state Democrats push for more funds for mail-in voting | TheHill.

National: 16 States Restrict Access to Voting by Mail – How That Could Change 2020 Presidential Election During the Coronavirus Pandemic | Ashley Stockler/Newsweek

As the coronavirus pandemic heightens concerns about participation in November’s general election, advocates are calling on officials in the over one dozen states where voting by mail is heavily restricted to expand access to absentee ballots. According to research compiled by the National Vote at Home Institute, 16 states limit the distribution of absentee ballots—which can be mailed or otherwise delivered to the voter’s home—to residents who present a lawful excuse for avoiding in-person voting, such as planned travel or a disability. Of those states, five—West Virginia, Alabama, Indiana, Delaware and Massachusetts—have already waived these limitations for voters in upcoming primary and statewide elections because of public health concerns over the virus’ spread. The abilities of these and other states to expand vote-by-mail options come November are alternately limited by political will, state law or the state constitution.

Full Article: 16 States Restrict Access to Voting by Mail—How That Could Change 2020 Presidential Election During the Coronavirus Pandemic.

Georgia: Voters mailed absentee ballot request forms for May 19 Georgia primary | Mark Niesse/The Atlanta Journal-Constitution

Georgia election officials began mailing absentee ballot request forms Monday to the state’s 6.9 million active voters, making it easier for them to vote without having to show up in person. Voters who fill out and return the request forms will then be mailed a ballot for the May 19 primary, which includes candidates for president, Congress, the Georgia General Assembly and county offices.The mass mailing of absentee ballot request forms is an effort by Secretary of State Brad Raffensperger to encourage remote voting during the coronavirus pandemic. Georgia voters will also have the option of voting in person on election day and during three weeks of early voting starting April 27. Absentee ballot request forms will continue to be mailed through this week. Once voters return the forms to county election offices, ballots will be sent within three days.

Full Article: How to vote absentee in Georgia's primary election.

Indiana: ‘A logistical nightmare’: Local counties preparing for mail-in election | Max Lewis/WSBT

“A logistical nightmare” is how county clerks are describing Indiana’s now June primary. The state election commission made several changes after the primary was delayed, including allowing everyone to vote by mail. The coronavirus already caused Indiana’s primary to be moved from May 5th to June 2nd. But with expectations that social distancing will extend into early summer, the way we now vote is going to change. Our mailbox may be the new ballot box when Indiana votes at the beginning of June. The state’s election commission made major changes last week, one of the biggest is allowing everyone to vote by mail. Elkhart County Clerk Chris Anderson says the prospect of having the county’s around 50,000 registered voters all getting ballots in the mail will be a challenge.

Full Article: 'A logistical nightmare': Local counties preparing for mail-in election | WSBT.

Maryland: Legislative leaders call for in-person voting option for June 2 state primary | Emily Opilo and Pamela Wood/Baltimore Sun

The president of the Maryland Senate and the speaker of the state House called Tuesday on Gov. Larry Hogan to explore offering in-person voting as an option during the June primary, in spite of the new coronavirus outbreak. In a letter circulated to members of both chambers, Senate President Bill Ferguson and Speaker Adrienne A. Jones argued that voting is an essential activity, akin to the work of essential businesses that have remained open despite severe restrictions Hogan has implemented during the pandemic. “The state must explore potential options for in-person voting opportunities for a limited number of our citizens to ensure that we are demonstrating that democracy can still flourish in the midst of a public health emergency,” the Democratic leaders wrote. The letter comes as the state Board of Elections prepares to submit a plan to Hogan on the logistics of the June 2 primary, in which Marylanders will nominate candidates for president and the U.S. House. Baltimore voters will also nominate candidates for mayor, City Council president, comptroller and council seats. Earlier this month, Hogan issued an executive order postponing the primary from April 28 in response to the virus outbreak. At the same time, the Republican governor ordered the board to come up with a plan by Friday for how to carry out the rescheduled primary.

Full Article: Maryland’s legislative leaders call for in-person voting option for June 2 state primary - Baltimore Sun.

New Mexico: GOP files lawsuit to block mail-in primary election | Tony Raap/Santa Fe New Mexican

The state Republican Party filed a lawsuit Tuesday in the New Mexico Supreme Court that aims to block an effort by more than two dozen county clerks to conduct the June primary election by mail. The lawsuit contends a mail-in primary election offers no ballot security and could lead to voter fraud. “You cannot monitor votes in such a mail-in ballot election,” New Mexico Republican Party Chairman Steve Pearce said in a statement. “Many states that use this process can scan ballots for security, but New Mexico doesn’t have that technology.” The lawsuit comes a day after 27 New Mexico county clerks petitioned the state Supreme Court for an order to conduct the June 2 primary by mail to prevent the novel coronavirus from spreading further. The clerks said it would be impossible to carry out a normal election during the pandemic and that to do so would “violate their oath of office in order to protect the health and safety of their community.”

Full Article: New Mexico GOP files lawsuit to block mail-in primary election | Coronavirus |

Ohio: All-mail Ohio voting called challenging | David Skolnick/The Youngstown Vindicator

Election officials in Mahoning and Trumbull counties say it’s going to be challenging to have a virtually all-mail April 28 primary, but they don’t expect problems. “It will be tough,” said Stephanie Penrose, Trumbull County Board of Elections director. “Don’t get me wrong, it will be a heavy workload. But we’re going to get it done.” Thomas McCabe, deputy director of the Mahoning County Board of Elections, said: “It’s a very tight window, but we’ll make it work.” Both counties reported getting hundreds of telephone calls a day since Thursday, the day after the state Legislature voted to extend the primary from March 17 to April 28. “We’ve been getting a lot of requests for ballots and numerous calls,” Penrose said. “The Legislature’s decision has drummed up interest in the election.” Dr. Amy Acton, director of the Ohio Department of Health, canceled the March 17 in-person primary late the night before it was to be held at the request of Gov. Mike DeWine because of a public health concern about the COVID-19 pandemic. DeWine and Secretary of State Frank LaRose called for the primary to be June 2 with mail voting extended and plans for in-person voting June 2.

Full Article: All-mail Ohio voting called challenging | News, Sports, Jobs - The Vindicator.

National: The Postal Service, in trouble before covid-19, is fighting for its life | Joe Davidson/The Washington Post

The $2 trillion congressional coronavirus assistance package would provide badly needed relief for millions of Americans and businesses but little for one organization already in desperate financial health. The U.S. Postal Service has been in money trouble for years. Now, covid-19, the disease the virus causes, is forcing the quasi-governmental agency into a fight for its life. “What we’ve seen in the pandemic is the collapse of mail,” Rep. Gerald E. Connolly (D-Va.), chairman of the government operations subcommittee that oversees the Postal Service, said by phone. “While people are shipping packages, mail volume has collapsed.” Unless Congress acts quickly, the decline in mail because of covid-19 could soon close the constitutionally mandated mail service, according to Connolly and Rep. Carolyn B. Maloney (D-N.Y.), chairwoman of the full Committee on Oversight and Reform. They called the situation “a national emergency” as they proposed postal relief measures. “As a direct result of the coronavirus crisis, it has become clear that the Postal Service will not survive the summer without immediate assistance from Congress and the White House,” Maloney and Connolly wrote in a letter Tuesday to Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.). “Postal Service officials warn that, without immediate intervention, the precipitous drop off in mail use across the country due to the coronavirus pandemic could shutter the Postal Service’s doors as early as June.”

Full Article: The Postal Service, in trouble before covid-19, is fighting for its life - The Washington Post.

National: Stimulus package provides United States Postal System no funding, postal service could shutter by June 2020 amid coronavirus | Nicole Goodkind/Fortune

Fifty years ago, a postal worker strike halted mail delivery. The eight-day strike, carried out by 150,000 letter carriers across 30 cities, prompted then-President Richard Nixon to declare an emergency and send in the National Guard to deliver mail. “The United States Postal System is a vital element of our entire communications system. The poor depend heavily upon it for medical services and also for government assistance,” Nixon said in an address to the nation. “Veterans depend on it for their compensation checks. The elderly depend on it for their Social Security checks.” Today, the Postal Service is just as essential: It delivers about 1 million lifesaving medications each year and serves as the only delivery link to Americans living in rural areas. Working with other delivery services like UPS, the agency supports $1.7 trillion in sales and 7.3 million private sector workers year, and this year will prove essential to delivering the 2020 Census to citizens as well as any vote-by-mail initiatives. The USPS is the federal government’s most favorably viewed agency, with an approval rating of 90%. Yet once again, the USPS is in crisis mode.

Full Article: Stimulus package provides USPS no funding, postal service could shutter by June 2020 amid coronavirus | Fortune.

National: How Will We Vote? Outbreak Revives Debate on Mail-In Ballots | Nicholas Riccardi and Rachel La Corte/Associated Press

As the coronavirus pandemic knocks primary election after primary election off schedule, Democrats argue the outbreak shows the country needs to move toward one of their longtime goals — widespread voting by mail — to protect the November election. But Democrats’ hopes for using the crisis to expand voting by mail face firm Republican opposition, as well as significant logistical challenges. In some states, it would amount to a major revamp of their voting system just eight months before an election. Vote-by-mail boosters already lost the first round of the fight. Democrats tried and failed to insert a broad mandate expanding voting by mail in the stimulus bill, a proposal that could cost as much as $2 billion. Instead, the bill included $400 million to help states adjust elections however they see fit before November. But Democrats in Washington say they will keep pressing the issue, pointing to the increasing number of states that are shifting to mail-in voting for primaries as evidence that the time is right. A poll from the Pew Research Center released Monday found that about two-thirds of Americans would be uncomfortable voting at polling places during the outbreak. “Practically every single Tuesday, we see another state reacting to their inability to run their election in the middle of this incredible health care pandemic,” said Democratic Sen. Ron Wyden of Oregon, the first state to vote entirely through the mail. He called expanded mail voting “not even a close call.” Former Vice President Joe Biden, the leading Democratic presidential candidate, joined the push Sunday. “We should be looking to all-mail ballots across the board,” Biden said Sunday on NBC’s “Meet the Press.” “We should be beginning to plan that in each of our states.”

Full Article: How Will We Vote? Outbreak Revives Debate on Mail-In Ballots | Washington News | US News.

Idaho: May primary election won’t be delayed, but will go all-absentee | Betsy Z. Russell/Idaho Press

Idaho Secretary of State Lawerence Denney said Monday afternoon that the governor won’t be delaying the May 19 primary election, but it’ll go all-absentee due to the risk from coronavirus. “He is not going to delay it,” Denney told the Idaho Press. “We still have some things to iron out about exactly what we will be trying to do … and I can tell you we’re going to push very, very hard for as much absentee as we can, so that we don’t have people having to be in contact with each other.” Gov. Brad Little’s office confirmed this decision in a press release later that afternoon and said Little will issue a proclamation addressing the election in the coming days. The election will be conducted by mail, the governor’s announcement states, noting “the move is necessary after it became clear that sufficient polling places and poll workers could not be obtained for the election.” There were legal impediments to delaying the election for a month, as Denney had requested. “Personally, I don’t think it’s legally impossible, but there was a question whether he had the authority to delay it or not,” Denney explained. “By not delaying it, it takes one more potential challenge off the table.”

Full Article: Idaho's May primary election won't be delayed, but will go all-absentee | Local News |