Florida failed to spend $10 million for election security, COVID protection | Jeffrey Schweers/Tallahassee Democrat

With days to go, Florida has failed to spend more than $10 million designated for election security, COVID-19 protection at the polls and a surge in mailed ballots. A large piece of that pie is $3.5 million that Secretary of State Laurel Lee requested from the Legislature earlier this year for the state’s 67 county supervisors of elections to shore up their systems. The counties didn’t ask for that money. And it remains unspent, sitting in a state account as “unbudgeted reserve.” Another chunk of pie left on the plate is $6 million in CARES Act funds that 19 counties decided not to take advantage of, which could be used to make polling places safer for voters and hire extra people to count mail-in ballots. As the state’s top election official, Lee insists Florida is ready. “Florida is very well situated to proceed to our November election,” Lee said. Lee said the same thing about making sure the online voter registration system could handle the onslaught of new applicants. But it crashed on the last day people were allowed to apply to vote, forcing Lee to extend the deadline and sparking a legal challenge to extend it further.

Full Article: Florida failed to spend $10 million for election security, COVID protection

Texas: Appeals court halts US judge’s ruling ordering masks at polls | Chuck Lindell/Austin American-Statesman

A San Antonio federal judge has ordered everyone who enters or works at a Texas polling place to wear a face covering as a pandemic safety precaution. Late Wednesday, however, a federal appeals court issued an informal stay blocking enforcement of the order while its judges consider a longer-term stay. The order by U.S. District Judge Jason Pulliam, appointed by President Donald Trump, voided an exemption for polling sites that Gov. Greg Abbott had included in his statewide mask mandate. The exemption, Pulliam ruled, violates the Voting Rights Act “because it creates a discriminatory burden on Black and Latino voters.” The pandemic has disproportionately affected minorities, placing them at higher risk of severe illness and death and forcing them to make “the unfortunate choice required between voting and minimizing their risk” of exposure under Abbott’s poll exemption, the judge wrote.

Full Article: Appeals court halts US judge’s ruling ordering masks at Texas polls

National: Coronavirus cases are surging again. These states have refused to loosen rules on who can vote by mail. | Elise Viebeck and Arelis R. Hernández/The Washington Post

Coronavirus cases are rising again in Texas, but most voters fearful of infection are not allowed to cast ballots by mail. For the limited number who qualify with a separate excuse, Republican Gov. Greg Abbott restricted drop-off locations to one per county. And when the Democratic stronghold of Harris County took steps to make voting easier, GOP leaders sued local officials. Texas is one of five red states that emerged as conspicuous holdouts this year as the rest of the country rushed to loosen voting rules because of the coronavirus pandemic. Most of the roughly 30 million registered voters who live there, and in Indiana, Louisiana, Mississippi and Tennessee have no choice but to cast ballots in person this fall, even as the rate of coronavirus in the United States approaches its third peak. The situation underscores how the nation’s decentralized election systems and Republican opposition to mail voting this year are translating into vastly different voting experiences for Americans, depending on where they live. Legal challenges to the voting limits have foundered in some courts, rejected by a federal judiciary that has shifted rightward under President Trump.

National: Trump can’t postpone the election, but officials worry he and the GOP could starve it | Evan Halper/Los Angeles Times

The elections chief in the Detroit suburb of Rochester Hills, Mich., a competitive softball player in her younger days, feels like she’s been pushed back into the batting cage. This time, nobody is giving Tina Barton a bat. “It is like I am just standing there without anything to hit the balls back,” Barton said. “Every day I step in, and something new is coming at me at high speed.” Poll workers quitting. A churn of court decisions throwing election rules into tumult. A COVID-19 outbreak at City Hall that could sideline her department at a critical moment. The viral pandemic has put the nation’s election system under a level of stress with little precedent. And, although figures in both parties rejected President Trump’s suggestion of postponing the November election when he flirted with the idea Thursday, they haven’t provided the money that officials like Barton need to get ready for it. The House months ago approved $3.6 billion to aid local and state elections officials in dealing with an expected flood of mail-in ballots this fall, something that threatens to overwhelm elections officials in states where voting by mail is a relative novelty. The money has stalled in the Republican-controlled Senate — part of the larger stalemate over a new round of help for people and businesses devastated by the economic impact of the pandemic.

Maryland: Hogan’s voting plan sparks revolt among Maryland election judges | Erin Cox/The Washington Post

When Maryland Gov. Larry Hogan announced an all-of-the-above strategy to conduct “a normal” election in November, he cast it as a decision to maximize voter access during the coronavirus pandemic. A massive backlash ensued. Over the past three weeks, the custodians of hundreds of traditional polling precincts have said they will refuse to host voters, or conditioned participating on the government paying to deep-clean and sanitize their churches or community centers. Thousands of veteran election judges have dropped out, many of them retirees whose age or health conditions put them at high risk of deadly complications if they contract the coronavirus. “I will not volunteer for an unnecessary suicide mission,” said Rebecca Wilson, 67, a chief election judge from Prince George’s County who has been a poll worker for 18 years. As of Friday, even after 1,000 state workers took Hogan up on the offer of two days paid leave in exchange for staffing the polls in November, roughly a third of Maryland’s 27,000 election judge jobs remained vacant. It is another example of the deadly pandemic weaving uncertainty though the presidential election process. As President Trump faces bipartisan rebuke for suggesting the election be delayed and undermining mail-in voting, Hogan is under withering criticism — and facing open revolt — from rank-and-file poll workers in his state.

Maryland: Local election officials look at slashing number of polling places due to election judge shortage | Emily Opilo and Talia Richman/Baltimore Sun

Howard County Election Director Guy Mickley’s numbers already didn’t look good. Within a day, they grew bleaker. Mickley started Monday with 491 people signed on to serve as election judges Nov. 3, about a third of what he needed. By the time the county election board met at 4 p.m., that number had dropped by 12. Judges were calling to pull back their pledges to participate, he explained, as the coronavirus pandemic waged on. “We are not going to recruit 700 people. It’s not going to happen,” Mickley told the election board. “We cannot sustain 90 individual polling places with judges like this.” Moments later, the board unanimously approved Mickley’s proposal to slash the number of polling places in Howard to 35. Local elections directors across the state face the same problem as they grapple with how to implement Republican Gov. Larry Hogan’s decision for the state to hold a traditional election this fall. Hogan’s July 8 announcement directed elections officials to open all polling places, as well as early voting locations. He also ordered elections officials to mail all voters applications to request absentee ballots.

National: With November Approaching, Election Officials Still Face Safety, Security Fears | Pam Fessler/NPR

With about 100 days left before the general election, officials are simultaneously trying to prepare for two very different types of voting, while facing two unprecedented threats to safety and security. It’s a juggling act that has voters, political parties and officials anxious about how smoothly November’s voting will go. “Doubt is our enemy,” U.S. Sen. Angus King, an independent from Maine, said at a Senate hearing Wednesday on what Congress can do to ensure public confidence in this year’s election results. The pandemic has already caused massive disruptions. Most states greatly expanded mail-in voting in the primaries to address voters’ health concerns. Those changes are expected — for the most part — to continue this fall. But many states also want to make in-person voting widely available to avoid overloading the mail-in system in what’s expected to be a high-turnout election. Maryland is a case in point. The state sent mail-in ballots to every registered voter for its June primary and drastically cut the number of in-person polling sites. But that resulted in long lines at the few sites that were open. At the same time, there were delays and mix-ups with mail-in ballots. Gov. Larry Hogan now wants all polling sites open in November while still encouraging Marylanders to vote early or by mail if they can.

National: Senators Weigh Spending More to Help States Prepare for Election | Tim Ryan/Courthouse News

With the 2020 election looming and the coronavirus pandemic continuing to rage across the country, senators and state election officials debated the need Wednesday for more federal dollars to help states conduct voting safely. “We all know that the counties and the states are suffering badly, so I think that it would be a correct statement to say that they need additional financial help,” Rick Stream, the Republican director of elections in St. Louis County, Mo., told the Senate Rules and Administration Committee. The coronavirus pandemic coincided with primaries in many states, sending elections officials scrambling for ways to conduct voting safely. Many states turned to vote by mail, but long wait times were still common at overwhelmed in-person polling places. Changes to voting procedures have spawned waves of lawsuits and bitter partisan fights. Republicans have raised concerns about the security of mail-in ballots, most vocally President Donald Trump, who has claimed without evidence that mail-in ballots lead to voter fraud. Democrats and voting rights groups, meanwhile, have said not having widespread vote-by-mail during the pandemic will threaten the right to vote, particularly for minority and lower-income voters who could face long lines and risk having to choose between being exposed to coronavirus and casting a ballot. As part of the massive coronavirus response package that became law at the end of March, Congress set aside $400 million in grants for states to use in the 2020 election cycle. Lawmakers are now working out the details of another relief package, leading to renewed calls for another round of election support funding for states. But exactly what that funding will look like remains unclear.

Texas: In-person voting rules during pandemic challenged in lawsuit | Alexa Ura/The Texas Tribune

Opening a new front in the legal wars over voting during the coronavirus pandemic, two civil rights organizations and two Texas voters argue that the state’s rules for in-person voting won’t work this year and are asking a federal judge to require substantial changes. In a wide-ranging federal lawsuit filed Thursday in San Antonio, Mi Familia Vota, the Texas NAACP and the voters claim the state’s current polling place procedures — including rules for early voting, the likelihood of long lines and Gov. Greg Abbott’s decision to not require voters to wear masks — place an unconstitutional burden on voters while the virus remains in circulation. That burden will be particularly high for Black and Latino voters whose communities have been disproportionately affected by the virus, the lawsuit argues. “The Texas 2020 elections will put voters at risk of transmitting or being infected with the coronavirus. But the risk will not be shared equally,” the lawsuit reads. “Some voters will be able to vote easily by mail. Others will not. Some will have easy access to early voting locations. Others will not. “And some will be able to vote quickly on Election Day by a hand-marked paper ballot handled by a single poll worker, or on a properly disinfected machine. Others will have to wait for hours at understaffed locations, without the option to vote on a hand-marked paper ballot, forced to vote on a machine used by dozens or hundreds of voters, which should, but might not, be properly disinfected after each use, much less protected from aerosolized particles from the last voter’s breathing in the same space.”

Editorials: America has to count on more than prayer in the case of close election | Edward Foley/The Hill

Many of us remember the 2000 election and the time of doubt between November and the concession of Al Gore after his Supreme Court defeat in December. None of us were alive for the even more controversial 1876 election. The results were unresolved for months until Congress declared Rutherford Hayes the winner only days before the inauguration. We all hope this year ends up nothing like either of those precedents. But there is an increasing chance that the results of the 2020 election could remain uncertain for weeks because of delays in counting mailed ballots in the midst of the coronavirus. What can our leaders in the government do now to avoid a bad repeat of those calamitous precedents? One answer is to say the prayer of election administrators that the results are a landslide. If the early returns are so lopsided that uncounted ballots will not make a difference in the end, the networks may be able to call an unofficial winner that night. However, realism forces us to recognize that the race could be close enough with the volume of uncounted ballots to prevent a typical Election Day call, with the race going into overtime. At that point the prayer for a landslide fails. What happens then? In this regard, it is worth comparing the 1884 election and 1916 election, on the one hand, with the 1876 election and 2000 election, on the other. No one thinks of 1884 and 1916 as years when the election for president was disputed, and that is the critical point. In both years, however, the results remained unsettled for two weeks, yet the losing side ultimately accepted the final count to be the official choice of the people.

National: What It’s Been Like to Vote in 2020 So Far | Evan Nicole Brown/The New York Times

Over the past five months, people have waited in all sorts of lines to vote: some bent around stuccoed store corners, some curving through city parks, others spaced six feet apart. On Tuesday, voters in Alabama, Texas and Maine went to the polls in primary and runoff contests for one of the final election days before Election Day on Nov. 3. The coronavirus crisis has upended every aspect of life in 2020, including how people vote. More than a dozen states postponed elections, some more than once, as they scrambled to figure out how to safely conduct voting in the midst of a pandemic. But even before the virus took hold in the United States, caucuses didn’t go according to plan, and high turnout meant long lines in some states on Super Tuesday. How much of a hassle it is to vote is generally a matter of design, not accident, according to Carol Anderson, the author of “One Person, No Vote” and a professor of African-American studies at Emory University. “Long lines are deliberate, because they deal with the allocation of resources,” Professor Anderson said. She said it’s frustrating to see long lines reported in the news media as evidence of voter enthusiasm: “What they really show is government ineptness. And oftentimes a deliberate deployment of not enough resources in minority communities.” Here is a look at what it was like to vote in 2020.

Ohio: Elections boards getting $23M from feds, but is it enough for pandemic-plagued vote? | Rick Rouan/The Columbus Dispatch

Ohio’s 88 local boards of elections are getting nearly $23 million in federal relief in 2020, but they say more is needed to help pull off the general election amid the pandemic. Ohio Secretary of State Frank LaRose is channeling another $11.7 million in federal funding to the county boards to manage security for the November general election. The latest batch of money is on top of $11.2 million in federal coronavirus relief funding directed to the county boards last week. But with only 111 days left before Election Day, and in-person voting and absentee balloting to start a month earlier, the boards still are strapped for resources. In May, the Ohio Association of Election Officials sent a letter to Sens. Sherrod Brown and Rob Portman urging them to support more funding for elections in a future coronavirus stimulus package. “We’re still actively lobbying members of Congress to get additional federal money distributed,” said Aaron Ockerman, the association’s executive director.

National: These are the top things officials say they need to run November’s elections | oseph Marks/The Washington Post

More money, better and earlier planning by political leaders – and a big dose of bipartisan cooperation. Those are some of the top-line items state and local election officials are seeking as they scramble to prepare for November’s general election. The officials were summoned by the Election Assistance Commission, a federal body that helps guide best practices for elections, to pore over the good, the bad and the ugly from more than three months of primaries since the coronavirus pandemic struck in March. They described elections that were completely revamped in a matter of weeks and massive shortages of poll workers, since many were not willing or able to risk their health by showing up on Election Day. The percentage of absentee voters climbed to 10 and even 20 times their typical levels in many states. The public hearing was among just a handful of instances when election officials from different states will gather before November, in hopes the lessons learned will help the general election run more smoothly. “It’s difficult to plan for this election [because] we always look back on history,” Sherry L. Poland, director of elections for Hamilton County, Ohio, told commissioners. “For presidential elections, you look back on past presidential elections …We have no history to go back to of conducting an election during a pandemic.”

Missouri: State gives $4.5 million in federal funding to local election authorities | Alisa Nelson/Missourinet

The state has given about $4.5 million in federal money to Missouri’s 116 local election authorities. During a visit with reporters this week in Jefferson City, Secretary of State Jay Ashcroft says he hopes the money will help poll workers. “We made sure that everyone got at least $20,000, so that even our smallest jurisdictions had enough to really make a difference. One of the things that I’ve suggested, probably suggested it so many times that the election authorities are tired of me mentioning it, is that they should use a portion of those funds to increase their poll worker pay,” he says. Ashcroft, a Republican, has said during other occasions that the poll worker job is intense. Polls are open from 6 a.m. to 7 p.m. the day of elections. Workers have to be there before the doors open and they stay after polls close to count ballots and to do other tasks.

New Hampshire: Memo outlines poll precautions for September primary, November general election | Casey McDermott/NHPR

New Hampshire’s pollworkers will be outfitted with masks, face shields, gloves and gowns for the September primary and November general election — but local officials will need to reuse some of those items, including face masks, in both elections, according to new guidance from the Secretary of State. Gallon-sized jugs of hand sanitizer will also be distributed as part of these Election Day safety supply kits — with a word of caution. “Hand sanitizing before or while handling a ballot risks getting the ballot wet,” the Secretary of State’s office said, instead advising officials to offer sanitizer to voters as they exit the polling place. “Wet ballots can jam in the ballot counting device.” This and other advice was included in a new memo, which was sent to local election officials July 6 and shared with NHPR, outlining the state’s plans for distributing protective gear across the hundreds of municipalities who are ultimately responsible for running the voting process this fall.

Ohio: Coronavirus could prompt poll worker shortage, long Election Day lines in Ohio this November | Andrew J. Tobias/Cleveland Plain Dealer

The coronavirus pandemic could lead to some polling places being closed and create longer lines for the ones that remain open, making it harder for Ohioans to cast their vote this November, according to voting advocates and elections officials. The problem starts with poll workers. Ohio law requires four poll workers per location, two from each party, adding up to around 35,000 in total. But elections officials for months have described challenges in getting commitments from poll workers, who tend to be older and therefore more susceptible to getting seriously ill from COVID-19. Secretary of State Frank LaRose, a Republican, has ordered local boards of elections to inventory their poll worker commitments by Aug. 1 and, if necessary, make contingency plans if there’s a shortage that forces them to close polling places. He’s also promoting early voting to help reduce Election Day lines, although his efforts to expand Ohio’s existing early voting laws have failed to gain traction in Ohio’s Republican-controlled legislature. “Normally, there are 4,000 polling places around the state. My hope is we can open all of those this November. But the hard reality is, if we don’t recruit enough poll workers, we won’t be able to,” LaRose said.

Texas: Two counties cut voting locations as workers quit over coronavirus | Alexa Ura/The Texas Tribune

A lack of workers willing to run polling sites as Texas continues to report record coronavirus infections is forcing election officials in two major counties to scale back plans for the July 14 primary runoff elections. Citing a drop-off spurred by fear of the virus, Bexar County, the state’s fourth largest, is expected to close at least eight of its planned 226 voting locations for next Tuesday, according to County Judge Nelson Wolff. In Tarrant County, the third largest, election officials learned Thursday that the local Republican and Democratic parties had agreed to shutter two of 173 sites planned for election day voting after the parties were unable to find election judges to run the polling places. Although poll workers are generally being provided with protective gear, Gov. Greg Abbott’s decision to not require voters to wear masks when they show up at polling locations is driving some poll workers away, Wolff said. “There is protection for them in terms of what they try to do, but anybody can walk in without a mask,” Wolff said Wednesday evening during his daily coronavirus-related briefing. “The governor did not cover elections, and so they don’t want to work. Quite frankly, I don’t blame them.”

Singapore: Singaporeans vote in snap election under coronavirus cloud | Al Jazeera

Singaporeans started voting in a snap on Friday election with the ruling People’s Action Party (PAP) looking to shore up its dominant position on the island it has governed since independence in 1965. Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong called the election on June 24, saying the PAP, which had 83 of the 89 seats in the last parliament, needed a fresh mandate in order to take Singapore through the economic fallout caused by the coronavirus pandemic. “Do not undermine a system that has served you well,” the 68-year-old said on the campaign trail. Many of the earliest voters were the elderly, who were advised to vote when polling stations opened at 8am (00:00 GMT) under strict conditions imposed as a result of the coronavirus. Everyone is required to wear masks, and voters are expected to spend no more than five minutes in a polling station, where they must scan their identity cards, sanitise their hands and put on disposable gloves before receiving a ballot paper. Singapore has 2.65 million eligible voters.

National: State and local officials beg Congress to send more election funds ahead of November | Maggie Miller/The Hill

Top state and local election officials on Wednesday begged Congress to appropriate more election funding ahead of November to address COVID-19 challenges. Congress sent $400 million to states to address COVID-19 election concerns as part of the stimulus package signed into law by President Trump in March, called the Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security (CARES) Act. Election officials testified during an Election Assistance Commission (EAC) summit on Wednesday that those funds were running out. “It’s looking like I spent close to 60 percent of my CARES Act funding on the primary election,” Jared Dearing, the executive director of the Kentucky State Board of Elections, testified. “To put that in context, we are expecting turnout to go from 30 percent, which was a record high for a primary election, to as much as 70 percent.” Dearing noted that only around 2 percent of ballots in Kentucky are typically cast through mail-in voting, but that number increased to 75 percent during the COVID-19 pandemic, a change he said would require further funds to address. “Where we procure these funds and how much this is going to cost is incredibly concerning,” Dearing said. Iowa Secretary of State Paul Pate (R) also testified in favor of the federal government sending more funds, but argued the funds should be sent with fewer strings attached. “Clearly we welcome more resources, the goal here is we want more stable and consistent funding, because we have COVID, we may be facing COVID in the next elections,” Pate said.

National: Prospect of chaos in November grows as coronavirus cases rise and Trump escalates attacks on voting | Abby Phillip/CNN

The rickety, decentralized election system that has been a hallmark of American life is facing its most significant test yet under the combined pressure of a worsening coronavirus pandemic and President Donald Trump’s determination to undermine faith in the voting system. In November, this year’s presidential election could be unlike anything the country has seen in at least 20 years, when the results of the 2000 election hinged on paper ballots and hanging chads. As Trump’s poll numbers have flagged this summer, he has increasingly resorted to baseless allegations of widespread cheating and claims that Democrats will corrupt the result of the election through mail-in voting. And as coronavirus cases continue to rise across the country, the need for alternatives to in-person voting is becoming more urgent by the day. Republicans and Democrats are now preparing for a pitched legal battle over which votes will count and when they should be counted. States are struggling to retrofit their voting process to meet the needs of voters concerned about risking their lives to cast their ballot. And primary elections held so far this summer indicate that November could bring historic turnout, albeit via mail-in ballots — and correspondingly, a lengthy wait for election results.

Ohio: Early voting, coronavirus forcing election boards to plan early | Bonnie Meibers/Dayton Daily News

Ohio Secretary of State Frank LaRose sent a readiness plan for the November 2020 election to area counties, mandating they recruit more poll workers, get personal protective equipment and relocate polling locations for vulnerable populations, among other points. The Secretary of State’s Office will provide each county board of elections a block grant from the CARES Act. The amount will be determined by the number of registered voters in each county. No county will get less than $25,000. The CARES grant will be disbursed to each county in single up-front, lump sum amount. Each county board of elections is required to use this funding to implement the requirements of the directive given by LaRose’s office. Jan Kelly, director of the Montgomery County Board of Elections, said Montgomery County will get about $433,000 to implement the various points in the directive. “We are very grateful to have the extra funds to procure the extra staff and supplies we’re going to need for this very, very special election,” Kelly said.

National: Election Experts Warn of November Disaster | Matt Vasilogambros/Stateline

After a presidential primary season plagued by long lines, confusion over mail-in voting and malfunctioning equipment, election experts are increasingly concerned about the resiliency of American democracy in the face of a global pandemic. With four months until the presidential election, the litany of unresolved issues could block some voters from casting ballots and lead many citizens to distrust the outcome of one of the most pivotal races of their lifetimes. There is widespread concern among voting activists, experts and elections officials that it will take further federal investment in local election systems, massive voter education campaigns and election administrators’ ingenuity to prevent a disaster come November. “The coronavirus has really laid bare the cracks in our system,” said Myrna Pérez, director of the Brennan Center’s Voting Rights and Elections Program. Even before the pandemic, Richard L. Hasen, a professor of law and political science at the University of California, Irvine, said he was worried about the state of U.S. elections. He warned in his recent book Election Meltdown about the effects that misinformation, administrative incompetence and voter suppression efforts would have on the 2020 presidential election.

National: Voting rules changed quickly for the primaries. But the battle over how Americans will cast ballots in the fall is just heating up. | Elise Viebeck/The Washington Post

When the novel coronavirus pandemic collided with this year’s primaries, states across the country raced to temporarily adjust voting procedures to make it safer for people to cast their ballots. But efforts to set rules for the general election are now locked in more intractable fights, fueled by deepening polarization around voting practices and a torrent of litigation aimed at shaping how ballots are cast and counted. While the vast majority of voters were permitted to cast absentee ballots during the primaries, only about 10 states so far have announced that they will make voting by mail easier for November, raising fears that Election Day could be marked by long lines and unsafe conditions at polling locations if the health crisis persists. With Republican governors under pressure from President Trump not to expand voting by mail and many legislatures adjourned for the year or deadlocked along party lines, changes in the coming months are likely to come through court decisions. Legal battles in about two dozen states are now poised to shape the details of how roughly 130 million registered voters are able to cast ballots in upcoming contests, with more than 60 lawsuits related to absentee voting and other rules wending their way through the courts, according to a tally by The Washington Post.

National: In new guidance, CDC recommends alternatives in addition to in-person voting to avoid spreading coronavirus | Michelle Ye Hee Lee/The Washington Post

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention is recommending that voters consider alternatives to casting their ballots in person during upcoming elections, as states expand absentee and early voting options for November amid fears of spreading the coronavirus. The guidance was issued with little fanfare on June 22 and suggested that state and local election officials take steps to minimize crowds at voting locations, including offering “alternative voting methods.” President Trump has repeatedly claimed without evidence that one popular alternative — mail-in ballots — promotes widespread voter fraud. Voters who want to cast ballots in person should consider showing up at off-peak times, bringing their own black ink pens or touch-screen pens for voting machines, and washing their hands before entering and after leaving the polling location, the guidance said. Workers and voters alike, it said, should wear face coverings. The guidance aims to help voters, poll workers and election officials take precautions to minimize the spread of the virus, which has already disrupted some primary elections this year and could be a source of turmoil in the upcoming presidential election. The guidance is now being circulated by the Election Assistance Commission (EAC), an independent federal agency, and congressional leaders. Senate Democrats on Tuesday drew attention to the guidelines, noting that they had been requesting such a resource since May.

Alabama: ACLU joins lawsuit over Alabama voting amid COVID-19 pandemic | Eddie Burkhalter/Alabama Political Reporter

The American Civil Liberties Union and its Alabama chapter have joined in a lawsuit attempting to make it easier for some voters to cast their ballot during the COVID-19 pandemic. The American Civil Liberties Union and ACLU of Alabama joined in the lawsuit filed in May by the NAACP Legal Defense and Educational Fund, Southern Poverty Law Center and Alabama Disabilities Advocacy Program against Gov. Kay Ivey and Secretary of State John Merrill. The U.S. Supreme Court in a 5-4 decision last week blocked U.S. District Judge Abdul Kallon’s order that would have allowed curbside voting statewide and waived certain absentee ballot requirements for voters in at least Jefferson, Mobile and Lee Counties. The lawsuit was filed on behalf of several voters who are at greater risk from complications or death due to COVID-19.

New York: One Small Vote for Lockport, NY, One Giant Lesson for 2020 America | Jim Shultz/The New York Review of Books

The great debate over voting by mail has begun. President Trump has blasted it as an invitation to widespread fraud. He tweeted in June, “IT WILL BE THE SCANDAL OF OUR TIMES!” and has warned that Democrats plan to distribute ballots to undocumented immigrants, and that foreign governments will flood our mailboxes with false ballots. On the Democratic side, Senator Amy Klobuchar, taking stock of a potential new spike of Covid-19 infections just in time for November’s presidential vote, has declared: “In a democracy, no one should be forced to choose between health and the right to vote.” April’s Wisconsin primary already offered a chilling look at what happens when going to the polls runs into a pandemic. More than seven thousand poll workers refused to work because they feared getting sick, leaving thousands of mask-clad voters standing in line for hours. On the other hand, absentee balloting leapt from 140,000 voters in 2016 to more than a million in this election—but not without glitches that left almost ten thousand voters without the ballots they had legally requested. This November’s presidential election will certainly be the most heated and consequential in a generation. What we cannot afford is for that election also to become a democratic farce amid the ravages of a pandemic. In the rising national debate over voting by mail, somewhere between the claims of fraud on one side and of panacea on the other, lies a tricky middle ground called reality: What would a nationwide election-by-mail really look like? What bumps in the road should we prepare for?

Virginia: Elections Board Extends Filing Deadline for House Hopefuls | Brad Kutner/Courthouse News

The Virginia Board of Elections voted to extend a campaign filing deadline for several congressional candidates Tuesday afternoon, citing confusion caused by postponed conventions and primaries. “These requirements give certainty to the election calendar and give legitimacy to the election process,” Board of Elections Chair Robert Brink said in a meeting conducted virtually due to the coronavirus pandemic. “After the deadline everyone knows who the candidates will be… but we’re not getting legitimacy or certainty.” As with every other election around the country, the outbreak of Covid-19 was linked to the mix-up. Between an executive order from Governor Ralph Northam and an order from a Richmond City judge, conventions and primary dates were pushed back to accommodate virus-related concerns. They did not, however, change the deadlines for ballot paperwork as defined by state law. Still, a 2-1 majority of the state elections board won the day after hearing from the public and candidates during the nearly hour-long hearing, voting to give candidates 10 more days to file.

National: Virus vs. voting: Behind the high-risk presidential primary elections | Katie Pyzyk/Smart Cities Dive

Milwaukee voters stood just inches apart in lines that stretched for blocks outside of voting centers on April 7, all waiting to cast ballots in the state’s presidential primary. On a typical Election Day, passersby wouldn’t bat an eye at this scene. But on this Election Day — and every that has passed since early March — the prevalence of COVID-19 has raised health and safety concerns that leave some voters weighing the value of health versus that of participating in the democratic process. The proximity of Milwaukee’s voters followed Wisconsin Gov. Tony Evers’ last-minute attempt to postpone the primary, as other states had done. The effort was blocked by the state Supreme Court, and as a result, only 3% of Milwaukee’s polling sites opened to serve a population of nearly 600,000. Norman Ornstein, resident scholar at the think tank American Enterprise Institute, told Smart Cities Dive there are many states with leaders who are “either ignoring the risks or deliberately trying to tilt the balance to suppress voters.” “We’ve seen that in Wisconsin, and I think we’re going to see it in other places as well,” he said.

Arkansas: Virus OK as excuse for voting absentee in Arkansas, Governor says | John Moritz/Arkansas Democrat Gazette

Any Arkansans who fear going to the polls this fall during the coronavirus pandemic can use their concerns as an excuse to vote absentee, Gov. Asa Hutchinson said Thursday. The governor, who had not previously committed to expanding the use of mail-in or absentee ballots during the election, made the announcement alongside the chairmen of the state’s Republican and Democratic parties, as well as Secretary of State John Thurston. Arkansas law allows voters to request absentee ballots if they will be “unavoidably absent” on Election Day or if they have illnesses or physical disabilities. Thurston said last week in a news release that he believed the law will allow voters to choose whether to vote absentee during the pandemic, an interpretation with which Hutchinson said he concurred. “They just simply have a concern, a fear of going to the polling place because of the covid-19, that’s enough of a reason” to vote absentee, Hutchinson said.

Kentucky: Coronavirus threatened to make a mess of Kentucky’s primary. It could be a model instead. | Zach Montellaro/Politico

Coronavirus has upended elections around the country since the pandemic landed in America, and last month, it was feared Kentucky would be the next disaster. National figures from Hillary Clinton to LeBron James warned of impending calamity in the state, focusing on a dramatic decrease in polling places, especially in Louisville. But after the votes came in, Kentucky earned measured praise from voting rights advocates for how it largely sidestepped the missing ballots, long lines and other problems faced by many states amid coronavirus. The Democratic governor and Republican secretary of state reached bipartisan agreement on a massive expansion of absentee voting, leading to the highest primary turnout in Kentucky since the hard-fought 2008 presidential primary. Now, voting rights experts say other states should be reaching out to Kentucky for advice, as a potential blueprint for scaling up pandemic-safe voting for the November elections. “I think Kentucky could be a model for states that have not done a lot of absentee voting prior, or they’ve had excuse absentee, in terms of scalability,” said Amber McReynolds, chief executive officer of the National Vote At Home Institute and a former elections director in Denver, Colo., when the state instituted one of the broadest vote-by-mail programs in the country. Just over 1 million Kentuckians voted in the primary despite the pandemic, the highest primary turnout in the state in 12 years. Roughly 75 percent of the votes were cast via absentee ballot, said Secretary of State Michael Adams. Kentucky’s size means the changes they made won’t be as easy to scale in some states, especially in a general election scenario, but the primary also went much better than other states’ so far this year.