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Electionland 2020: Texas Votes, Voting Misinformation, Election Funding and More

This week's headlines on vote by mail surges, new election litigation, and mail ballot deadline problems.

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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“Outright Lies”: Voting Misinformation Flourishes on Facebook

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Announcing Four Electionland Reporting Project Grants

This year, the collaborative project will include four local reporting projects that ProPublica will fund and will co-publish with partners. Read more here.

Elections This Week

  • Louisiana held its presidential primary on Saturday. Nearly 100,00 voters sent in absentee ballots, though there were complaints that some voters never received their ballots. (WAFB)

  • Alabama held primary runoffs this week. More than 32,000 Alabama voters cast an absentee ballot. (WHNT)

  • The Alabama secretary of state said masks weren’t required to vote in person, and that his office would get involved if police tried to ticket unmasked voters entering polling places. (Alabama Political Reporter)

  • Maine held a state primary on Tuesday. More than 200,000 mail ballots were requested, about five times as many as in 2018. (Maine Public Broadcasting)

  • Runoff elections were held in Texas this week. The state’s governor exempted polling places from the state’s mask-wearing requirement. However, the state banned politically-themed face masks. The lack of a mask mandate and fear of coronavirus discouraged some poll workers from showing up. (KSAT, Texas Tribune)

  • Some Texas absentee voters said their ballots were returned to them by the post office. Disabled and older voters reported problems navigating vote by mail. (KUT, Texas Tribune)

  • Texas’ Dallas County had 200 fewer polling places due to the pandemic. (CBS DFW)

  • Velia Salinas, 95, has been an election judge for Texas’ Bexar County since 1948, but was told she couldn’t work during this election because of coronavirus risks. (The Rivard Report)

  • A Texas judge denied a COVID-positive nurse and her husband help getting emergency absentee ballots. She was only able to vote thanks to a last-minute doctor’s note and assistance from a voting rights group. (Texas Tribune)

  • After spending months in the hospital with coronavirus, a Texas man stopped to vote after he was discharged. (NBC DFW)

Voting During a Pandemic

  • The Georgia secretary of state’s office is trying to avoid repeating mistakes from the primary by recruiting more poll workers, hiring technical experts, and identifying where precincts should be added. (Atlanta Journal-Constitution)

  • Some Native American voters in New Mexico had trouble voting in the primary because of the pandemic. (Santa Fe New Mexican)

  • To enable safer in-person voting, election supervisors in Florida want to expand the early voting period, but the governor hasn’t approved the request. (WFSU)

  • Florida’s Palm Beach County will have 13 fewer polling places for upcoming elections since locations like churches have said they no longer want to host during the pandemic. The state’s election supervisor is trying to find new locations. (Palm Beach Post)

  • North Carolina officials are trying to avoid a poll worker shortage for the general election, recruiting students and unemployed workers, among others. (WUNC)

  • Some Ohio counties could be disproportionately affected by polling place closures due to the pandemic and a poll worker shortage. (Cleveland.com)

  • The Ohio secretary of state is partnering with craft breweries to register voters. (Columbus Dispatch)

Vote by Mail News

  • A record number of Georgia voters cast a ballot during the June primary, accounting for almost a third of the eligible electorate. Nearly half of those who cast a ballot voted by mail, and Democrats and Republicans voted absentee at the same rate. (Atlanta Journal-Constitution)

  • North Carolina election officials estimate around 40% of voters will vote by mail in the fall, which is 10 times the regular rate. (Charlotte Observer)

  • The Maryland attorney general criticized the governor’s fall election plan, saying that making voters go to the polls would have “devastating consequences.” While the state won’t automatically send out absentee ballots, it will send voters an absentee request form. (Baltimore Sun)

  • The president tweeted and spoke publicly about mail voting again, making a distinction between absentee voting and “mail-in voting” that doesn’t exist, experts say. (CNN)

  • Florida Republicans sent a mailer to voters promoting vote by mail, and included part of a tweet from the president about absentee ballots. But the mailer blurred the subsequent sentences in which Trump criticized mail voting. (Orlando Sentinel)

  • A senior Trump adviser who has spoken out against mail voting has voted by mail at least three times. (CNN)

  • Connecticut Republicans are launching a tip line to investigate mail voting fraud. (CT Mirror)

  • Ahead of the Kansas state primary, absentee ballot requests have more than quadrupled since 2018. (KSN)

  • More than half of Chicago voters are expected to cast a mail ballot in the fall. (WTTW)

  • Nebraska’s largest counties will send out postcards allowing voters to request a mail ballot for the November election. (Omaha World-Herald)

  • The Vermont secretary of state said he would not allow candidates to collect absentee ballots, and that he’d allow municipalities to start processing, though not counting, mail ballots up to 30 days before the election. (VT Digger)

  • Mailing ballots to deceased voters isn’t leading to voter fraud, experts say. (USA Today)

  • A Democratic super PAC will spend $24 million to encourage Black and Latino voters to cast an absentee ballot. (The Hill)

Mail Voting Problems

  • At least 65,000 ballots cast during U.S. primary elections held this year were rejected for arriving after the deadline. (NPR)

  • More than 100,000 mail ballots were rejected during California’s March primary. The most common problem was arriving after the deadline. (Associated Press)

  • The new postmaster general implemented operational changes that could lead to slower mail delivery, which could be a problem for vote by mail. (The Washington Post)

  • The U.S. Postal Service Office of the Inspector General found that hundreds of Wisconsin primary ballots went undelivered or uncounted because of postmark problems and delivery issues. (Milwaukee Journal-Sentinel)

  • In one New Jersey county, folds on some mail ballots caused the scanners to misread the ballots; workers are going back to check them individually. (The Press of Atlantic City)

  • More than 20% of absentee ballots have been invalidated in several parts of New York City due to signature and postmark problems. (NY1)

  • A new Gallup poll found that only a quarter of voters between ages 18 and 29 have voted by mail, and a third don’t know if they can register to vote online. (UPI)

  • GOP Congressman Steve Watkins, of Kansas, is facing felony charges after registering to vote and voting by mail using a UPS store address, which allowed him to vote in a narrow city council race. He says it was a mistake and that he later changed it to his residential address. (NPR)

  • Maryland seeks a new ballot printing vendor after problems with mail ballots during the primary. (Baltimore Sun)

What’s Happening With Election Funding

  • Election officials warn that budget shortfalls and rising costs mean more federal funding is needed before the fall. (Reuters)

  • Senate Rules Committee Chair Sen. Roy Blunt said he’d be willing to consider more federal funding for the fall election; the committee will hold a hearing on elections on July 22. (NPR)

  • Missouri distributed $4.5 million in federal funds to local election authorities, and the secretary of state said he hopes they use some of it to increase poll worker pay. (Missourinet)

  • Massachusetts is poised to earmark $5 million on elections in addition to more than $8 million in federal CARES Act funds. (WGBH)

  • After the primary meltdown, Milwaukee and Madison will increase poll worker pay; Milwaukee will also expand the number of polling sites. (Milwaukee Journal-Sentinel, WKOW)

Election Law News

  • Colorado: The governor signed legislation that will speed up the process for voters to receive absentee ballots or replace an existing one. (Colorado Politics)

  • Indiana: A new law will withdraw the state from the Electronic Registration Information Center, known as ERIC, which streamlines voter roll data. (The Republic)

  • Kentucky: The state’s voter ID law went into effect, even though there is litigation pending. (Courier-Journal)

  • Rhode Island: Democrats in the state House of Representatives support a bill to send all voters a mail ballot application in the fall. (WPRI)

The Latest on Voting Lawsuits

  • Florida: An appellate court hearing for Florida’s ex-felon voting rights case is scheduled for August 18, the same day as the state primary. The state asked the Supreme Court to keep a stay for the most recent ruling and on Thursday, the Supreme Court upheld the stay. (WTSP, Tampa Bay Times, USA Today)

  • Iowa: Two groups filed a lawsuit challenging a new law that prevents election administrators from adding missing information to absentee ballot requests. (Des Moines Register)

  • Massachusetts: Advocacy groups filed a lawsuit that claims the state’s timeline for distributing mail ballots won’t meet deadlines specified in new emergency legislation. (WBUR)

  • Michigan: An appeals court said the state does not have to count absentee ballots received after the polls close on Election Day, and said it’s up to the legislature to change the deadline. (AP)

  • Missouri: A judge denied an injunction that would have let voters cast an absentee ballot without having to get it notarized. (Jefferson City News-Tribune)

  • North Carolina: Voting rights groups are suing over the state’s witness requirement for absentee ballots. Also, Republicans filed a motion in another case, asking the courts to drop an injunction against the state’s voter ID law. (News & Observer, WRAL)

  • Pennsylvania: Following a GOP lawsuit, Democrats are suing to ease mail voting rules and to maintain the state’s current poll watcher requirement. (Philadelphia Inquirer)

  • South Carolina: In an agreement following a lawsuit, the South Carolina State Elections Commission will pay for postage on absentee ballots in the fall. (Associated Press)

  • Texas: A judge ruled against allowing quarantined Harris County voters who recently tested positive for coronavirus to vote online in the runoff election, citing security concerns. (The Houston Chronicle)

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.

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Portrait of Rachel Glickhouse

Rachel Glickhouse

Rachel Glickhouse is a journalist and the partner manager for the Electionland project.

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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