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Electionland 2020: NJ Primary, CDC Election Guidance, Fall Voting Plans and More

This week’s headlines on pandemic voting measures, vote by mail problems, and election funding.

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.

Delaware and New Jersey Primaries This Week

  • Absentee voting in Delaware was 11 times higher than in 2016. About half of Democratic voters voted by mail, while less than 30% of Republican voters did. (Delaware Public Media)

  • New Jersey’s primary was held largely by mail; most voters who showed up to the polls had to vote with a provisional ballot. In one county, a snafu resulted in the post office returning mail ballots to some voters. (The New York Times, New Jersey Globe)

  • After charges of absentee voting fraud in Paterson, New Jersey, state officials said they were taking measures to ensure ballot security. (The Wall Street Journal)

  • New Jersey briefly shut down its polling place finder website after it was discovered that it was providing inaccurate information to some users. (NJ.com)

  • Voting rights for some 83,000 ex-felons were restored in New Jersey this year. (The Guardian)

Voting During a Pandemic

  • The CDC quietly issued guidance recommending voters seek “alternative methods” to in-person voting. The guidance recommends voters who do go to the polls bring their own pen, wear a mask, wash their hands and go at an off-peak time. (The Washington Post)

  • The Election Assistance Commission held a virtual hearing with election officials from six states to discuss lessons from holding primaries during the pandemic. Officials on the call asked for more federal funding due to increased costs. (EAC, The Hill)

  • With just four months to go before the presidential election, more federal funding and large-scale voter education campaigns are needed, experts say. (Stateline)

  • Election administrators are getting creative with ways to protect voters from touching machines at polling places, using straws, popsicle sticks and finger cots, among other things. (Wyoming News Now, The Tennessean, James Barragan)

  • The New Hampshire secretary of state outlined the state’s plan for distributing personal protective equipment and other health-related supplies to polling places, warning that local officials will have to reuse some PPE items in two elections. (NHPR)

  • State and local officials in Ohio asked private companies to give employees the day off to work at the polls on Election Day as part of the Partners in Democracy program. (Local 12)

  • Fourteen senators sent a letter to the Department of Justice asking how it will ensure Native voters won’t be disenfranchised during the pandemic. (KULR8)

  • Progressive groups are exploring creative ways to register voters given diminished opportunities for in-person drives. (Los Angeles Times)

Vote by Mail News

  • In the fall, Ohio election officials must contact absentee voters by phone or email if they haven’t provided all of the necessary identification information on their absentee ballot. The requirement is part of the secretary of state’s newly released plan to hold safe elections in November. (The Columbus Dispatch)

  • The five largest cities in Wisconsin won more than $6 million in combined funding from a nonprofit to administer the election in November. (Milwaukee Journal-Sentinel)

  • A poll in Montana found that two-thirds of voters would rather vote by mail than in person. (Explore Big Sky)

  • Several Senate Democrats sent a letter to the secretary of state asking him for plans to ensure military and overseas voters will be able to vote in November, given COVID-related mail and travel problems. (The Hill)

  • Some smaller Iowa counties don’t have the funds to automatically send absentee voting applications to all voters. (KCRG)

  • Democrats have far outpaced Republicans in absentee ballot requests in Maine ahead of the state primary. (Bangor Daily News)

  • Some experts say that removing witness signature requirements could help prevent rare cases of vote by mail fraud. (Reuters)

  • GOP strategists say that the president’s attacks are sowing distrust of voting by mail among Republican voters, even as the Trump campaign is launching absentee ballot campaigns in competitive states. (The Washington Post)

  • The Republican National Committee ran robocalls from Trump’s daughter-in-law saying vote by mail could be done “safely and securely.” (CNN)

Mail Ballot Problems

  • Most mail ballots rejections are because of a signature problem, a lack of a signature, or arriving past the deadline. With a huge increase in absentee ballot use, this could be a problem during the general election. (The Guardian)

  • More than 11,000 mail ballots were rejected during Georgia’s primary because they arrived after the deadline. (GPB News)

  • After the primary, almost 4.5% of absentee ballots in Kentucky’s Jefferson County were rejected; the majority were returned with no signature. In Fayette County, the majority of ballots were rejected due to envelope problems. (WLKY, Courier-Journal)

  • In New York, a missing postmark may lead to some ballots not getting counted. Despite pleas for the governor to take action, the administration has not. (Gothamist)

  • Although Massachusetts passed legislation to expand mail voting, the state is grappling with a funding issue for postage of absentee ballots. (WGBH)

Governors and Legislatures Changing Voting Rules

  • Arkansas: The governor said anyone can vote absentee in the general election if they have a coronavirus-related health concern. (5 News)

  • District of Columbia: The D.C. Council passed legislation enabling D.C. residents in jails and prisons to vote absentee. (The Washington Post)

  • Maryland: The governor ordered election officials to hold regular in-person voting in the fall, and to send an absentee ballot application to voters. The plan doesn’t include ballot drop boxes, which proved successful during other elections this year. Some local election officials want the governor to send all registered voters an absentee ballot in the fall. (Baltimore Sun, Maryland Matters, WBAL)

  • Massachusetts: The governor signed a voting bill into law which will expand early and mail voting. (WBUR)

  • New York: Lawmakers are considering a bill that would let voters track their mail ballots and would require officials to provide an explanation and cure process for rejected absentee ballots. (Gotham Gazette)

  • National: House Democrats earmarked half a billion dollars for election security in the latest appropropriations bill. (The Hill)

The Latest in Election Lawsuits

  • Alabama: The Supreme Court blocked a lower-court ruling that would have made it easier to vote using an absentee ballot during the July runoff election. The appeals court had written that the state had “serious lack of understanding of or disregard for the science and facts involved here.” (NPR, Sam Levine)

  • Florida: A group of Florida voters and civil rights groups asked the Supreme Court to intervene in the legal battle over ex-felon voting. (Scotus Blog)

  • Indiana: Voting rights groups asked to overturn a law that prevents individual voters from asking courts to extend voting hours. (AP)

  • Kentucky: Several voters are suing the state to demand absentee voting during the fall election. (Courier Journal)

  • Montana: A judge blocked a law that imposes restrictions on ballot collection; plaintiffs say the legislation harms Native American voters. (CourtHouse News)

  • New Hampshire: Visually impaired voters are suing the state over its absentee voting system, arguing it’s not accessible to blind and disabled voters. (AP)

  • New York: The League of Women Voters filed a lawsuit over the state’s approach to rejecting absentee ballots. Meanwhile, a group of Latino voters are suing Monroe County, accusing the county of failing to print all candidates on the ballot, lacking Spanish interpreters and poll workers not following safety measures. (Bloomberg, Rochester First)

  • National: The New York Times wrote that the upcoming election could be the “most litigious election ever.” (The New York Times)

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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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