Tag Archive

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

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

Full Article: Confusion, long lines at some poll sites as eight U.S. states vote during coronavirus pandemic - Reuters.

California: Newsom orders new California in-person voting rules for November election | John Myers/Los Angeles Times

Gov. Gavin Newsom gave California counties permission on Wednesday to limit their in-person voting operations for the Nov. 3 election as protection against the spread of the coronavirus — but only if they also offer three days of early voting, a tradeoff some local officials said could be expensive and challenging. The decision, detailed in an executive order, came almost one month after Newsom instructed California counties to mail each of the state’s 20.6 million voters an absentee ballot for the upcoming election. In doing so, he noted that voting locations would still be provided, primarily for voters with disabilities and those seeking assistance in a language other than English. But Newsom’s earlier executive order, issued May 8, didn’t address where and when to set up voting sites, leaving elections officials in limbo on plans for the upcoming presidential election. The cost to implement the latest guidelines could be substantial, exceeding the federal dollars already earmarked for election assistance during the pandemic and further straining county government budgets stretched thin by public health and safety spending.

Full Article: Coronavirus: Newsom orders new November in-person voting rules - Los Angeles Times.

Michigan: Secretary of State wants $40M from feds to hold election during COVID-19 | Beth LeBlanc/The Detroit News

Michigan Secretary of State Jocelyn Benson told federal lawmakers Wednesday that the $11.2 million in CARES Act Funding appropriated to Michigan for election challenges posed by the coronavirus is not enough. Benson told the Subcommittee on the Constitution, Civil Rights and Civil Liberties of the U.S. House Committee on the Judiciary that she still needs roughly $40 million more to adjust election procedures in light of the COVID-19 pandemic. “Democracy can and will survive this pandemic, but we need your ongoing help,” the Detroit Democrat said. The testimony comes nearly two weeks after President Donald Trump threatened Michigan funding over Benson’s decision to mail absentee ballot applications to qualified Michigan voters ahead of the August and November elections. The state already allows voters to cast ballots by mail for any reason. Benson announced Tuesday that she will mail all of Michigan’s 7.7 million voters an absentee voter application, an effort first employed in the May 5 election to curb in-person voting amid the coronavirus pandemic.

Full Article: Benson wants $40M from feds to hold election during COVID-19.

Texas: Federal appeals court blocks expansion of mail voting in Texas during COVID-19 | James Barragán/Dallas Morning News

A federal appeals court on Thursday blocked the expansion of mail voting in Texas during COVID-19. A three-judge panel of the U.S. 5th Circuit Court of Appeals stayed a temporary injunction by District Judge Fred Biery of San Antonio that allowed people who lacked immunity to COVID-19 — essentially all Texans — the ability to vote by mail. The panel unanimously blocked that injunction until a full appeal is heard. The appeals court had previously put the lower court’s injunction on temporary pause. But Thursday’s order brought the expansion of mail voting in the state during COVID-19 to a full stop. The injunction is now blocked until further order of the appeals court. Attorney General Ken Paxton applauded the appeals court’s ruling in a statement. “Allowing universal mail-in ballots, which are particularly vulnerable to fraud, would only lead to greater election fraud and disenfranchise lawful voters,” he said. “The unanimous Fifth Circuit ruling puts a stop to this blatant violation of Texas law.”

Full Article: Federal appeals court blocks expansion of mail voting in Texas during COVID-19.

Australia: How will the ACT election be made safe amid the COVID-19 pandemic? | Dan Jervis-Bardy/The Canberra Times

Early voting should be expanded to allow this year’s territory election to be held safely amid the COVID-19 pandemic, the ACT Electoral Commission has recommended. The commission has been forced to reassess the planning for, and staging of, the October 17 ballot because of the disruptions caused by coronavirus. In a special report presented to Speaker Joy Burch on Thursday, the commission said that due to the uncertainty surrounding the virus, it had to be assumed that the threat of further outbreaks and social distancing restrictions would still exist during the election period. It said it urgently needed to settle on a model for conducting the ballot which mitigated health risks to the community and its staff, while ensuring the integrity of the electoral process. The commission examined six options for conducting the ballot, including moving to universal online or postal voting, delaying the election date or maintaining normal procedures.

Full Article: How will the ACT election be made safe amid the COVID-19 pandemic? | The Canberra Times | Canberra, ACT.

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

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

Full Article: Trump's Attacks on Vote-by-Mail Worry Some Election Officials | The Pew Charitable Trusts.

Tennessee: Judge: Virus mail voting guidelines ambiguous | Jonathan Mattise/Associated Press

A Tennessee judge on Wednesday said the state’s guidance about who can vote by mail due to the coronavirus is “very ambiguous,” and she cited “weighty proof” that other states have expanded to let all voters cast absentee ballots this year — something Tennessee officials say is not feasible. In a hearing via video conference due to the pandemic, Davidson County Chancellor Ellen Hobbs Lyle cast doubts on some of the state’s key arguments against two lawsuits that seek a by-mail voting option for all voters this year to curb the virus’ spread at the polls. Lyle also cautioned that whatever she orders needs to be “a practical, workable solution, or it will throw the election into chaos.” She raised particular concerns about costs for local governments. The judge plans to rule Thursday on whether to issue a temporary injunction to allow all voters to request absentee ballots in the Aug. 6 primary. A similar federal lawsuit is also pending. At one point, she cited a section of the state Constitution that says the right to vote “shall never be denied” to any person entitled to do so. “When I read that, it really resonated with me that what you’re saying is, ‘It’s better to deny the injunction even if the result is that people don’t vote,’” Lyle said. “That’s what you’re saying, that they don’t get to access that fundamental right that we all treasure under the Tennessee Constitution.”

Full Article: Tennessee judge: Virus by-mail voting guidelines ambiguous.

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

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

Full Article: Pandemic, Protests and Police: An Election Like No Other - The New York Times.

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

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

Full Article: 'Biggest threat to election security is the coronavirus,' security expert warns.

District of Columbia: Voters in D.C. primary face long lines, crowds at polls | Julie Zauzmer and Fenit Nirappil/The Washington Post

D.C. voters braved waits longer than four hours to cast ballots in a city primary election upended by coronavirus and demonstrations against police violence. The District attempted to shift to a mostly by-mail election to reduce the risk of spreading the virus. But many voters never received the absentee ballots they requested and the city shuttered most of its usual polling places, resulting in lines stretching for blocks. Results of the election were not available hours after polls closed at 8 p.m., to allow for the voters still waiting in line to cast their ballots. Initial results were not expected until early Wednesday. A 7 p.m. curfew the mayor imposed as protests continued to sweep the city halted public transportation and forced some voters to come up with alternative travel plans, and caused confusion when an officer improperly told voters lined up at a Georgetown-area polling place to go home. But residents said they were determined to exercise their voting rights in pivotal local council races and the presidential primary, with some citing the demonstrations against the police killing of George Floyd as inspiration.

Full Article: Tuesday's primary in D.C. is like no other - The Washington Post.

Iowa: Armed with face masks and hand sanitizer, voters cast their primary ballots | Ian Richardson/Des Moines Register

Jan Hall has been voting in person for more than six decades, and she wasn’t going to let a pandemic stop her from doing it again. The 85-year-old Des Moines resident was among a steady trickle of voters filing in and out of the South Side Senior Center on Tuesday morning, where approximately 120 people had cast their primary votes in the first two hours, slightly above poll workers’ expectations. “I like the idea of going to a polling place and writing my vote on a ballot and putting it in a machine and knowing that it’s being counted,” she said. “I’ve got my mask on. I’ll be fine.” Cloth masks were standard for many of those who entered the polling places Tuesday morning. Poll workers also wore masks or face shields. It’s one of many precautions taken to protect voters casting their ballots in person amid the coronavirus pandemic.

Full Article: Iowa primary election: Voters wear face masks as they cast ballots.

Pennsylvania: What Pennsylvania’s ‘Dry Run’ Election Could Reveal About November | Nick Corasaniti/The New York Times

Every weekend since Gov. Tom Wolf of Pennsylvania issued a statewide stay-at-home order, on April 1, millions of cellphones across the commonwealth have buzzed with text messages from the state Democrats, checking on the status of voters’ mail-in ballots. During that period, state Republicans called two million phones around the state to try to mobilize support, and the Republican National Committee sent applications for mail-in ballots to thousands of targeted voters there. With Pennsylvania holding an important primary election on Tuesday, both parties are also treating it as their biggest chance to stage a statewide “dry run” for organizing and voting before the November presidential vote in one of the nation’s more crucial battleground states. The parties are in new territory this election season — not only because of Covid-19 and the protests over George Floyd’s death, including in Philadelphia and Pittsburgh, but also because of a new law mandating that anyone who votes by mail in the primary will be sent a ballot for the November election. Party officials and affiliate groups are racing to ramp up and test their voter mobilization efforts, given that the race between President Trump and Joseph R. Biden Jr. this fall is likely to involve obstacles wrought by the coronavirus.

Full Article: What Pennsylvania’s ‘Dry Run’ Election Could Reveal About November - The New York Times.

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

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

Full Article: Coronavirus-Fueled Freeze on Citizen Oath Ceremonies Threatens Voter Registration for 2020 - WSJ.

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

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

Full Article: Some voters are scared coronavirus will stop them from casting ballot.

Tennessee: Secretary of State holding on to $55M for projects besides universal absentee voting | Sam Stockard/The Daily Memphian

The Secretary of State’s Office is sitting on $55 million, but it won’t be putting it toward universal absentee balloting, a policy neither Secretary Tre Hargett nor Gov. Bill Lee support. Through the CARES Act, the office has $9.58 million to deal with coronavirus issues and has put together a plan to cope with COVID-19 during the August and November elections. Most of the plan focuses on sanitary measures, social distancing, screening of poll workers and absentee balloting for anyone 60 and older. The state received $7.98 million from the federal CARES Act and put in another $1.6 million of its own money for a COVID plan. “We are spending every penny of those funds to administer the August and November elections,” Secretary of State spokeswoman Julia Bruck said. The state also has $10.2 million from earlier in the year and $35.4 million left from other federal grants intended for other investments but could be used for pandemic-related needs, according to Think Tennessee, a nonprofit think tank. Yet while Think Tennessee, Democratic lawmakers and a majority of Tennesseans believe the state should take steps to avoid voting crowds during the pandemic, the state balks at the idea.

Full Article: Tennessee Secretary of State’s Office is sitting on $55 million, but it won't be used for universal absentee voting. - The Daily Memphian.

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

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

Full Article: Mail ballot surge places Postal Service under spotlight | TheHill.

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

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

Full Article: USPS Faces Challenges With More Ballots Going In The Mail : NPR.

Indiana: Clerk warns state officials that thousands of mail-in ballots might not be counted; voters can still go to polls | Lesley Weidenbener/Indianapolis Business Journal

Thousands of voters in Marion County who planned to vote by mail in Tuesday’s election may not have the opportunity because they won’t receive their ballots in time, Marion County Clerk Myla Eldridge told state officials in a letter Thursday. In addition, some voters who mailed in their absentee ballots might not have them counted because they won’t reach the Clerk’s Office by a noon deadline on Election Day, Eldridge said in the memo to Secretary of State Connie Lawson and copied to Gov. Eric Holcomb and other local and state officials. Eldridge told state officials “it is not too late” to extend the deadline for receipt of mailed ballots. She implored the Indiana Election Commission to act. “What a shame it will be for voters and candidates if thousands of votes sit in stacks uncounted under these circumstances,” she wrote. Even without an extension, most voters have options. Those who did not receive a ballot or who fear their ballot won’t make back to the Clerk’s Office by a noon deadline on Election Day can still go to the polls in person to cast a vote or drop off their mail-in ballots. Eldridge said in her letter that COVID-19-related staffing issues and significant delays at the U.S. Postal Service have contributed to the county’s difficulty in processing 123,000 applications from residents who want to vote by mail. That’s 20 times the number of mail-in ballots voters requested during the 2016 primary election, the last time a presidential race was on the ballot.

Full Article: Clerk warns that thousands of mail-in ballots might not be counted; voters can still go to polls - Indianapolis Business Journal.

Missouri: ‘There’s no handbook for this.’ Tuesday’s election will test voter safety in pandemic | Crystal Thomas and Allison Kite/The Kansas City Star

The day before he buried his wife, Orville Amos limped into the Kansas City Election Board’s office to vote absentee. For 25 years, the 75-year-old Navy veteran was first in line at his precinct’s polling place to cast his ballot in person. That would earn him a sticker he could show off in the election authority offices, where his wife had worked for 23 years. The excitement Amos once felt about voting is gone now, eclipsed by grief over the death of his wife from lung cancer on March 25. And fear of the novel coronavirus. “You know we are in that age group where we are the target of this virus,” Amos said, clad in a white mask. “It’s intimidating to come out in public even to go to the grocery store.” Concerns about voter safety led Missouri Gov. Mike Parson to move the April 7 local elections to June 2. On ballots across the state will be city council races, school board contests and local sales tax levies for improvement projects. Most votes will be cast in-person, as Missouri does not have “no-excuse” absentee voting. Nor does it provide for early voting outside of its absentee process. There are six valid excuses to vote absentee, but fear of catching a potentially fatal disease for which there is no vaccine or treatment is not an official one. Election authorities have had to struggle to retrofit voting to the pandemic age. Where 115 polling places were once available in Kansas City, there are now 28. Many traditional sites—mostly churches and senior centers—have dropped out. A corps of about 1,200 volunteer election judges who initially signed up, many of them in the at-risk age range of 65-plus, is down to 400.

Full Article: June election will be test for pandemic preparation | The Kansas City Star.

Pennsylvania: State election officials see finish line in focus for primary | Julian Routh/Pittsburgh Post-Gazette

Tuesday will mark the end of a monthslong sprint by Pennsylvania officials to disease-proof the 2020 primary election in the face of COVID-19, and finally reveal the results of counties’ improvisational decision-making as some voters head to physical polling places and others — many others — wait for their mail-in ballots to be tallied. On ballots across Allegheny County, for example, are one contested Congressional primary, two state Senate races, 10 state House contests, a presidential primary — though technically uncontested — and an auditor general race featuring one of their own. But perhaps more important than who’s on the ballot this year is how that ballot’s administered, and whether voters are able to safely and efficiently exercise their right to vote. Though much of that will remain unknown until the end of Tuesday, it’s an undeniable fact that Pennsylvania received more mail-in ballots than most counties were prepared to process, and that voting will look different on Election Day for those who choose to vote in-person or missed the mail-in deadline. Pennsylvania’s 67 counties will arrive at this moment in history after about 80 days of fierce advocacy for vote-by-mail, an all-hands-on-deck bureaucratic blitz to process those ballots, and a scavenger hunt for state and federal resources that some experts allege wasn’t enough.

Full Article: State election officials see finish line in focus for primary | Pittsburgh Post-Gazette.