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Electionland 2020: Mail Ballot Challenges, Election Security, New Legislation and More

This week’s headlines on election funding, lawsuits, and the president’s latest comments on voting.

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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The Latest on Vote by Mail

  • A Postal Service audit found that more than 1 million ballots were sent late to voters during this year’s primary elections. (The New York Times)
  • There are a number of common mistakes that lead to mail ballots getting thrown out, including signature problems and not providing additional documentation. (Business Insider)
  • Sixteen states allow voters to request mail ballots so close to Election Day that voters risk not having enough time to send the ballot back. (The New York Times)
  • Wisconsin is implementing changes to its vote by mail procedures to try to prevent a repeat of the state’s chaotic primary. (Wisconsin Watch)
  • In Florida’s Volusia County, almost 1,300 primary ballots didn’t make it to election authorities by the deadline to be counted, despite getting postmarked in time. (News 13)
  • Michigan authorities denounced a robocall that spread misinformation about absentee voting. (Detroit Free Press)
  • About one in nine active Georgia voters has already requested a mail-in ballot for the presidential election. (Georgia Public Broadcasting)

Enfranchisement News

  • Since 2016, a number of states have extended suffrage to citizens with felony convictions, but those voters often face obstacles to register. (Stateline)
  • Florida has spent more than $1.7 million in taxpayer funds – and owes hundreds of thousands more – to hire private lawyers to defend a law that curtails felon voting rights. (CBS Miami)
  • Inaccurate state records and a complex process for determining fines owed are preventing some Florida felons from voting. A Florida law firm is raising funds to help pay off felons’ debts. (CBS News, News Service of Florida)
  • In some states, new voter registrations are declining, likely as a result of COVID-related closures and social distancing measures. In Nevada, new registrations “fell off a cliff” when DMVs closed. (Center for Election Innovation and Research, The Nevada Independent)
  • Naturalization application backlogs continue to impede would-be new citizens from being able to vote. (The Washington Post)
  • Ohio’s secretary of state announced a campaign to register new voters and recruit poll workers at barber shops and salons. (WDTN)

Election Funding

  • California will pay a consulting firm $35 million for a voter education campaign. (Sacramento Bee)
  • Mark Zuckerberg and his wife Priscilla Chan gave $300 million to two civic organizations that will provide funding for election infrastructure. (Vox)
  • Philadelphia will receive a $10 million grant to spend on election infrastructure from one of those organizations. (The Philadelphia Inquirer, CBS Philly)

Election Security Headlines

  • The Office of the Director of National Intelligence will no longer brief federal lawmakers in person on foreign efforts at election interference. (NPR)
  • In the wake of misinformation that went viral this week, government officials said there is no evidence that state voter databases were breached this year. (NBC News)
  • Florida spent nearly $15 million in federal grants on election security improvements, including securing the voter database, buying e-pollbooks and improving physical security of ballots. (Tallahassee Democrat)

The Trump Administration on Voting

  • The president made unfounded claims that election workers will miscount mail ballots. (NBC News)
  • Trump suggested that North Carolina voters should attempt to vote twice, by mail and in person, which is a crime. Questioned about the president’s comment, Attorney General Bill Barr claimed he didn’t know about the laws of a particular state. (NBC News, Newsweek)
  • Barr reiterated a claim, once again without proof, that a foreign country could interfere with mail voting. Just last week, the FBI said there’s no evidence of Trump’s claims of mail ballot fraud by foreign powers. He also justified the president’s suggestion of sending law enforcement to the polls. (Business Insider, Politico)
  • The Trump campaign spent hundreds of thousands of dollars on Facebook ads over the past week to promote vote by mail, after previously spending on ads to criticize mail voting. (The New York Times)
  • The director of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention sent a letter to governors urging them to ensure that vaccine distribution sites are operational by November 1, concerning some observers about political motivations. But it’s unclear if a vaccine will be ready that soon. (McClatchy)

Election Policy Changes

  • Alaska: Civil rights group petitioned the governor not to enforce the state’s witness requirement rule on mail ballots. (Alaska Public Media)
  • Idaho: The governor signed a bill to allow election authorities to start processing mail ballots seven days before the election and changed the deadline for absentee ballots to be sent to voters. (Idaho Statesman, KTVB)
  • New Hampshire: The state attorney general said a GOP absentee ballot application mailer violated state law, and ordered the party to stop sending the mailer. (NH Public Radio)
  • New Jersey: The governor signed a series of election bills to set up drop boxes, establish a cure process for rejected absentee ballots and extend ballot receipt deadlines. (Patch)
  • New York: Lawmakers are pushing legislation to set up mail ballot drop boxes, but it may be too late for the November election. (WXXI, Times Union)
  • Ohio: Legislators passed a bill to limit state officials’ power to change election plans. (
  • Oklahoma: The state extended an executive emergency declaration that will allow voters to cast an absentee ballot without a notary signature. (CNHI News Oklahoma)
  • Pennsylvania: The House passed a bill along party lines making changes to mail-in voting processing and ballot request timelines. (AP)
  • South Carolina: The Senate unanimously voted to allow all registered voters to cast an absentee ballot in the upcoming election, but witness signature requirements remained in place. (The State)
  • Virginia: The General Assembly approved bills to set up ballot drop boxes and satellite voting sites and to remove witness requirements for absentee voting. (Daily Press, The Washington Post)
  • National: Senator Jeff Merkley introduced legislation to address the nationwide poll worker shortage. (

The Latest Election Lawsuits

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