National: Elections officials scramble for options as coronavirus worries mount | Elise Viebeck /The Washington Post

Elections officials have stocked up on hand sanitizer and disinfecting wipes. Many are urging voters to cast absentee ballots or vote early to avoid crowds. But as the coronavirus pandemic worsens, local and state officials are scrambling to identify other options if public health leaders ultimately determine that there are risks to visiting polling places — an assessment that could change the basic mechanics of running an election midstream in a presidential campaign year. “If you’re talking about something on that level, then we’re clearly facing a crisis and not just an emergency, and public health and safety will have to dictate whatever we do,” said Ohio Secretary of State Frank LaRose, who said he would follow the advice of public health officials and law enforcement. “One of the very few things that would take precedent over a free and fair election is public health and safety, right?” LaRose said, adding that such a move would be a last resort. The spiraling covid-19 pandemic that has shaken the global economy and upended millions of Americans’ routines in the past month has emerged in the past week as a unique and unprecedented challenge for elections officials already grappling with a range of threats such as online disinformation and security vulnerabilities. While many jurisdictions have emergency plans in cases of natural disasters or power grid failures, there has been little planning for a health pandemic that could keep the public quarantined inside their homes, experts said.

National: Coronavirus threatens to pose an unprecedented challenge to the 2020 elections | Isaac Stanley-Becker and Elise Viebeck/The Washington Post

When asked what kept him up at night, Ben Wikler, who is responsible for delivering a must-win state in November as chairman of the Wisconsin Democratic Party, used to answer, “unknown unknowns.” He no longer has to wonder what such a risk might look like. Presidential campaigns, parties and state election officials are scrambling to heed health warnings while safeguarding the democratic process against a growing coronavirus epidemic whose scope is difficult to predict. Their planning has included advising voters not to lick their mail-in ballots, relocating polling places away from senior living communities, and weighing whether to move forward with plans to bring tens of thousands of visitors from around the world to Milwaukee and Charlotte for the planned Democratic and Republican summer conventions, respectively. Former vice president Joe Biden’s digital staff was envisioning options for virtual campaigning if sweeping changes were necessary. Sen. Bernie Sanders’s campaign already has an elaborate streaming operation, which it said it could tap in the event that campaigning is curtailed. Already, both campaigns have been providing hand sanitizer at events. Over the weekend, the AFL-CIO, the nation’s largest federation of unions, canceled a presidential forum scheduled for Thursday in Orlando, where Biden and Sanders (I-Vt.), the leading contenders for the Democratic nomination, had been scheduled to appear. It was the first such cancellation to have been attributed to the coronavirus’s spread.

Editorials: Another reason to worry: Coronavirus could upend our election | Greg Sargent/The Washington Post

As if there weren’t enough to worry about already, it’s becoming clear that coronavirus could wreak untold havoc in an area that’s only beginning to garner attention: our coming presidential election. This is already happening in a very visible way: Joe Biden and Bernie Sanders both canceled their election-night rallies on Tuesday, citing fears of coronavirus’s spread. Vice President Pence, too, announced that future rallies by President Trump will be decided on a “day-to-day basis.” But there’s a less visible way the disease could shake up our politics. And Sen. Ron Wyden (D-Ore.), who is often focused on election security issues, is sounding the alarm about it, by proposing $500 million in federal funding to help states prepare for voting disruptions caused by coronavirus. Wyden has also filed legislation to make it possible for all Americans to vote by mail if necessary:

Wyden’s bill would give all Americans the right to vote by mail if 25 percent of states declared an emergency related to the coronavirus outbreak. The bill also would require state and local officials to prepare for possible coronavirus disruptions and to offer prepaid envelopes with self-sealing flaps to minimize the risk of contagion from voters’ licking envelopes.

All states allow vote by mail in certain circumstances, and this trend has been advancing here and there. But what Wyden is envisioning is something much broader: a federal mandate that states make this option fully available, if one quarter of them declare an emergency requiring it.

North Carolina: Elections agency works to avoid late-night result changes, ineligible felon voters | News & Observer

State election officials say they’re taking steps to avoid some problems seen during November’s election by improving procedures for publishing vote counts and removing active felons from voter rolls. State Board of Elections executive director Kim Strach provided her post-election report to an N.C. House committee Thursday, highlighting some of the upgrades in the works. One Election Night problem was the late counting of early votes in Durham County. Because of difficulties reading the memory cards on voting machines, the county didn’t add early voting totals to online records until nearly midnight – even though the state’s website indicated that most of the county was finished reporting totals.