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Electionland 2020: June Super Tuesday, Trump’s Voter Registration, Election Bills and More

This week’s headlines on elections in ten states and D.C., ongoing polarization over vote by mail and public health measures to protect voters.

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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June Super Tuesday

On Tuesday, in the midst of a pandemic and civil unrest, primary elections were held in Indiana, Iowa, Maryland, Montana, New Mexico, Pennsylvania, Rhode Island, South Dakota and Washington, D.C., plus local elections in Mississippi and Missouri. In several cities like Philadelphia, Providence and D.C., curfews overlapped with voting hours, causing confusion.

Plus, a pattern emerged: Some voters who showed up at the polls only went because their absentee ballots never arrived, with such reports coming out of Indiana, Maryland, D.C. and Pennsylvania. In D.C., some election officials allowed voters who didn’t receive ballots to submit their votes by email, a method not recommended by security experts. In Maryland, one district reportedly sent out the wrong mail ballots. There were even calls for Maryland and D.C. election officials to resign.

Pennsylvania, which used new machines, experienced far fewer technical issues than last year, though one Philadelphia suburb had ballots that were too big for the scanners. In Allegheny County, some voters had completed absentee ballots returned to their homes instead of the elections office. Confusion and long lines arose from poll consolidation, particularly in Philadelphia. And while measures were in place to try to protect public health, such as enforced social distancing, there were reports of poll workers at one Lehigh County site who refused to wear personal protective equipment and of poll workers at a Philadelphia site who had to bring their own.

The Latest on Vote by Mail

  • President Donald Trump continued to talk and tweet about vote by mail, claiming without proof that it would lead to “massive fraud and abuse.” This week, a public records request revealed that Trump originally tried to register to vote in Florida, claiming his legal residence was in Washington, D.C. (The Washington Post)

  • Attorney General William Barr said in a New York Times Magazine interview that “one of the issues that I’m real worried about” is a foreign operation to mail in fake ballots. Experts say that’s virtually impossible. (New York Times Magazine, The Washington Post)

  • A Reuters/Ipsos poll found that half of Republicans were confident their mail ballot would be counted, compared with three-quarters of Democrats. Overall, nearly 60% of Americans think their state should expand mail voting. (Reuters)

  • Some Republican officials and strategists worry that the president’s attacks on vote by mail could hurt GOP candidates. (The New York Times)

  • Mail ballot signature requirements vary by state, as some require a witness signature or notarization in addition to the voter’s signature. (NPR)

  • “I can tell you porch pirates aren’t stealing my absentee ballot. They’re stealing my Amazon package hoping there’s something good in there,” said Nancy Miller, political science professor at the University of Dayton. (Columbus Dispatch)

  • “It feels much more that you’re out there doing it,” a Baltimore voter said about why she came to the polls instead of casting her absentee ballot. “Mail-in should be for people who are physically unable to come out and vote. ... People fought for us to be able to vote. It’s our right.” (The Baltimore Sun)

States Expanding Vote by Mail

  • California’s governor issued an executive order that allows counties to limit in-person voting for the general election because of public health concerns — as long as they offer three days of early voting. (The Los Angeles Times)

  • In the week before Pennsylvania’s primary, Republicans made up just 29% of absentee ballot requests. (The Philadelphia Inquirer)

  • Nevada is holding its first all-mail election for the state primary in June, after only 9% of voters cast absentee ballots in 2018. (The Washington Post)

  • Following the primary with a mail voting option, Indiana’s governor and secretary of state wouldn’t say if mail voting will be available during the general election. (The Times of Northwest Indiana)

Georgia’s June 9 Primary

  • More Republicans than Democrats have requested absentee ballots. (WABE)

  • Stacy Abrams launched an initiative to track mail voting problems during the primary. (CBS)

  • The relocation of more than 10% of polling places because of the pandemic — plus poll closures statewide due to a lack of federal oversight — could lead to lines and crowding during the primary. (GPB News)

Coronavirus Voting Impacts

  • The Texas secretary of state issued an eight-page recommendation of health protocols ahead of elections in July, including that voters bring their own masks and pencils and take advantage of “curbside voting.” (The Texas Tribune)

  • Some counties in Iowa allowed for drive-thru and curbside voting, and several counties in Missouri and Iowa offered voters single-use pens in order to protect against the coronavirus. (Missouri Information Corps, Des Moines Register)

  • Because of fewer poll workers and locations withdrawing as poll sites, South Carolina is experiencing large consolidation of polling sites for its June 9 primary, which could cause confusion on Election Day. (The Greenville News)

  • Texas Democrats plan to use Zoom to deputize volunteers to conduct voter registration drives, once it’s safe to do so. (The Guardian)

  • The Native American Rights Fund issued a report warning of the challenges Native American voters will face in the pandemic, including spotty or no internet service to register online, limited access to mailboxes and other challenges with vote by mail. (The Associated Press)

  • During the 1918 flu pandemic, rural communities were hit hard by the illness following in-person voting, according to a historian. (NBC News)

The Latest Election Lawsuits

  • Alabama: Several advocacy groups are suing the state alleging it isn’t protecting voters’ health under its current voting rules. Absentee voting requires sending a copy of ID and getting the ballot notarized or signed by two witnesses. (WFSA)

  • Kansas: The attorney general said the state will ask the Supreme Court to rule on its voter registration law, which requires proof of citizenship to vote and was struck down in 2018. (The Wichita Eagle)

  • Nevada: A judge declined to block the state’s mail-in primary at the request of a conservative group. (The Associated Press)

  • Pennsylvania: Judicial Watch is suing Pennsylvania over its voter rolls, following similar suits in North Carolina and Maryland. In another suit, a judge ordered the state to allow visually impaired voters to use a new voting method for the primary. (The Intercept, PA Post)

  • Texas: The state government owes around $6.8 million in court fees for its court battles over voter ID, a judge ruled. (The Texas Tribune)

  • Wisconsin: The state Supreme Court agreed to hear a case that could potentially remove more than 100,000 people from the voter rolls. (WPR)

  • National: The law firm of one of Trump’s personal lawyers is handling a series of GOP-linked lawsuits targeting mail voting and voter rolls. (The Washington Post)

Election Legislation News

  • North Carolina’s House approved bipartisan legislation to make it easier to vote by mail and to provide funding for absentee voting. The bill is expected to pass the Senate. (News & Observer)

  • Ohio’s Legislature advanced a bill to authorize the secretary of state to use federal funds to send mail ballots to all registered voters and removed language that could have prevented early voting. (Cleveland.com)

  • Republican Tennessee state legislators blocked a bill that would have allowed mail-in ballots for anyone afraid to vote in person because of the pandemic. (News 4)

  • Since 2018, six states expanded voting rights to people with felony convictions, but challenges to access remain, especially because of coronavirus. (The Appeal)

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Electionland is a coalition of newsrooms around the country that are covering misinformation, cybersecurity, and problems that prevent eligible voters from casting their ballots during the 2020 elections.

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