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Electionland 2020: Inside the EAC, Poll Worker Woes, Cybersecurity and More

This week’s headlines on in-person voting mask rules, absentee voting eligibility, New York’s ballot problems and more.

This article is part of Electionland, ProPublica’s collaborative reporting project covering problems that prevent eligible voters from casting their ballots during the 2020 elections. Sign up to receive updates about our voting coverage and more each week.

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Voting During a Pandemic

  • An Alabama poll worker who worked during last week’s runoff has been hospitalized with COVID-19; the state did not require voters to wear masks to vote. At least three poll workers in Texas’ McLennan County tested positive for coronavirus after working the polls; one is hospitalized. One worker estimated between 10 and 15% of voters weren’t wearing masks; the state exempted polling places from its mask mandate. (WBRC, Waco Tribune-Herald)

  • The Kansas secretary of state said voters won’t be turned away for not wearing a mask to the polls during the state primary. The governors of Michigan and Tennessee said masks would be encouraged, but not required, to vote in upcoming elections. (Kansas.com, Detroit Free Press, Knoxville News Sentinel)

  • During Geogia’s prrimary, the majority of the polling places that stayed open late were in majority non-white communities. (GPB News)

  • The current housing crisis and a coming wave of evictions could disrupt access to the ballot; displaced voters will have to register to vote at their new address. (Fast Company)

Preparing for In-Person Voting in the Fall

  • Poll worker shortages are a problem across the country; officials in Connecticut, Kentucky, Michigan, Minnesota and Tennessee have recently sounded the alarm. (NBC Connecticut, WLKY, WXYZ, KSTP, WKNO)

  • The Nevada secretary of state says she doesn’t have the funds to run an all-mail election in the fall, and plans to return to in-person voting. (Las Vegas Review Journal)

  • North Carolina’s top elections official issued an order requiring a minimum number of early voting sites across the state. The order also says poll workers will have to wear masks, but voters won’t. (Associated Press)

  • Maryland election officials and advocates are critical of the governor’s plan for the general election to be held primarily in-person; the Baltimore election director called it a “setup for failure.” The governor said the plan offers flexibility to voters, and blamed the debate on “partisan politics.” (Baltimore Sun)

  • With limited access to mail voting, Mississippi will rely heavily on in-person voting. Legislators went against the secretary of state’s proposal to expand mail voting, and also decided against giving election workers hazard pay. (Clarion Ledger)

  • The pandemic could dampen college student turnout in California this fall. (KQED)

  • Because of the pandemic, more than 300,000 immigrants may not become citizens in time to vote, including 5,000 in Arizona. (The Arizona Republic)

Vote by Mail News

  • At least 76% of U.S. voters will be eligible to cast a mail ballot in the fall, according to a new analysis. (The Washington Post)

  • Per a Pew survey, about two-thirds of Americans believe voters should be able to vote absentee or early without a documented excuse. A new ABC News/Washington Post poll found that 49% of Americans think mail voting is susceptible to fraud. (Pew Research, ABC News)

  • The Brookings Institution rated each state on its current vote by mail systems; only six states and the District of Columbia received an A rating. (Brookings)

  • The Iowa secretary of state will send absentee ballot applications to all registered voters for the general election. (CBS2 Iowa)

  • The Tennessee secretary of state said he opposes drop boxes for absentee ballots, claiming they posed a security issue. (AP)

  • The governor of West Virginia said that widespread vote by mail would be unlikely in the fall. (WV Metro News)

  • The D.C. Board of Elections agreed to send all registered voters a mail ballot ahead of the November election. (DCist)

  • President Donald Trump continued his unfounded attacks on mail voting, and worried Republican officials are reportedly asking his campaign to convince him to change his tune. (CNN)

Mail Voting Problems

  • Five Senate Democrats wrote a letter to the postmaster general asking him to explain the USPS’ plan to manage a huge increase in mail ballots. (Vox)

  • New York’s potentially high mail ballot rejection rate during the primary doesn’t bode well for the fall. Three weeks after the primary votes were still being counted, with no running count of vote totals. (The Intercept, Vice News, The New York Times)

  • New York City passed legislation in 2016 to create an online tracking system for absentee ballots, but the board of elections never implemented it. (Gotham Gazette)

  • A caveat in Tennessee’s voting law could prevent those who live in nursing homes and long-term care homes from voting absentee. (The Tennessean, ABC10)

  • Alaska Republicans sent out 22,000 absentee ballot applications with incorrect information prefilled on the forms. (Anchorage Daily News)

  • Vote by mail is worsening partisan rifts among officials in Michigan. (MLive)

  • Facebook said it would label posts from all presidential candidates about mail voting, regardless of whether the posts contain misinformation. (Axios)

Election Law News

  • Alabama: Voters won’t need an excuse to vote absentee in the fall, though they will need to provide ID and witness signatures. (WHNT, Sam Levine)

  • Georgia: State agencies have done little to clarify rules about voting eligibility for ex-felons who haven’t paid all their fines. If they don’t get the necessary paperwork in order to register to vote or cast a ballot, they risk prosecution. (WABE)

  • Idaho: The county clerk from the state’s most populous county wants the legislature to hold a special session to consider election legislation before the fall. (KTVB)

  • Kentucky: The secretary of state is working on cleaning up the voter rolls to remove deceased and nonresident voters. (WTVQ)

  • Michigan: Lawmakers aim to hold an urgent hearing on legislation that would allow clerks to start processing ballots before Election Day. (WILX)

  • Mississippi: The governor signed a bill that allows voters to cast an absentee ballot if a doctor asked them to quarantine or if they’re caring for someone under quarantine. (Daily Journal)

  • New York: Legislators reached a deal on automatic voter registration. (NY1)

  • Rhode Island: Lawmakers passed a bill that asks the secretary of state to send all qualified voters a mail ballot in the fall and waive mail ballot witness requirements. (Providence Journal)

The Latest From The Courts

  • Alabama: A federal appeals court upheld the state’s voter ID law, ruling that it is not racially discriminatory. (AP)

  • Alaska: Advocacy groups sued over the decision to send out absentee ballots to registered voters over age 65, excluding younger voters. (SitNews)

  • Arkansas: In a lawsuit over absentee voting, a circuit judge gave plaintiffs a week to prove they’d be harmed by the state’s mail voting practices. (Arkansas Democrat Gazette)

  • Connecticut: Two judges rejected a challenge to the state’s decision to send absentee ballots to all eligible voters. (CourtHouse News, Hartford Courant)

  • Florida: Parties reached a settlement over the state’s mail voting procedures. In another case, a judge refused to issue an injunction to order Miami to open more early voting sites. (Tampa Bay Times, CBSMiami)

  • Maine: Visually impaired voters sued the state over the accessibility of absentee ballots. (Maine Public Radio)

  • Michigan: An appeals court upheld the state’s identification rules for registering to vote. The ACLU sued Flint over how the city is processing absentee ballot applications. (Detroit Free Press, Michigan Radio)

  • New York: Candidates and voters filed a lawsuit after the state threw out thousands of ballots due to postmark problems. (Gothamist/WNYC)

  • North Carolina: A prosecutor doubled charges against a Black North Carolina woman who voted while on probation in 2016 and says she didn’t know she was ineligible. (The Guardian)

  • Tennessee: A judge upheld the state’s vote by mail laws for the state primary, but said he would consider whether to block them for the general election. A lawsuit was filed to enfranchise felons who were convicted in another state. (AP, AP)

  • Texas: In a lawsuit, civil rights groups asked the state to change in-person voting to protect voters’ health and prevent disenfranchisement. (Texas Tribune)

  • National: The Supreme Court’s recent decisions not to intervene in voting rights cases have concerned some experts. Nationwide, at least 151 election lawsuits have been filed through July 15. (The New York Times, USA Today)

Election News From Washington

  • Congressman and civil rights leader John Lewis passed away at age 80 last week. After his death, House Democrats plan to reveal new voting legislation that would restore parts of the Voting Rights Act, one of Lewis’ legacies. (The New York Times, The Hill)

  • The Senate Rules and Administration Committee held a hearing on elections yesterday as senators consider whether to provide states more funding for the general election. (CourtHouse News)

  • President Trump wouldn’t say if he’ll accept this year’s election results, falsely claiming the mail voting will “rig” the election. His comment alarmed experts, who warned of a potential post-election crisis. (The Washington Post, CNN)

  • “What the president is doing is willfully and wantonly undermining confidence in the most basic democratic process we have,” William A. Galston, chair of the Brookings Institution’s Governance Studies Program, told the Post. (The Washington Post)

  • Matt Masterson, a senior adviser at DHS’s Cybersecurity and Infrastructure Security Agency, warned that some city and county election officials have “been sharing passwords over email or default passwords are being used.” (State Scoop)

  • More than 30 states have asked the National Guard to provide cybersecurity help for the election. (WVIK)

Any newsroom can apply to be part of Electionland. We’re looking for newsrooms — especially local newsrooms — that will be dedicating resources to covering voting problems during the 2020 election. Radio, TV, online and print reporters are all encouraged to apply. Sign up here.

About Electionland

ProPublica’s Electionland project covers problems that prevent eligible voters from casting their ballots during the 2020 elections. Our coalition of newsrooms around the country are investigating issues related to voter registration, pandemic-related changes to voting, the shift to vote-by-mail, cybersecurity, voter education, misinformation, and more.

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