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Electionland 2020: Trump on Vote by Mail, Poll Worker PPE, Naturalizations and More

This week’s headlines on Trump’s escalating attacks on vote by mail, the latest in election lawsuits, coronavirus impacts on in-person voting 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.

Trump’s Crusade Against Vote by Mail

In both his public appearances and on Twitter, President Donald Trump has continued to rail against mail voting, and has accused Democrats of trying to rig the election. This set off alarm bells among voting rights advocates and experts who believe the president is setting the stage to delegitimize the election if he loses. Then, this week, the president tweeted again about mail voting, and Twitter labeled his tweets with a message “Get the facts about mail-in ballots,” which linked to this fact-check page. After falsely accusing Twitter of interfering in the election and stifling free speech, Trump threatened “Big action to follow!” On Thursday, Trump signed an executive order that aims to limit the power of social media companies.

The Latest on Vote By Mail

  • “Wisconsin shows that you can’t adopt vote-by-mail overnight,” Nathaniel Persily, a Stanford law professor and the head of the Healthy Elections Project, told The New York Times Magazine. “It’s not as easy as people think. The boring stuff matters — the scut work of supply chain and logistics and management is crucial.” (The New York Times Magazine)

  • The Illinois legislature is debating a bill that would withhold election funds from local officials if they fail to implement the expansion of mail voting. (The Center Square)

  • Texas’ lieutenant governor said expanding vote by mail was a “scam by Democrats to steal the election” and claimed seniors are more at risk of dying in a car crash than from getting coronavirus at the polls. (Texas Tribune)

  • “The shortest line that I’ve seen so far is the one at your kitchen table when you have your absentee ballot and fill it out at your convenience,” said Georgia’s governor, urging voters to return their ballots on time during the state’s primary. (GBP News)

  • Wisconsin will send absentee ballot applications to all registered voters for the November election. (WPR)

  • Absentee ballot use has spiked in Pennsylvania, Indiana, New Mexico and DC ahead of the states’ June primaries. (Talking Points Memo)

  • A West Virginia mail carrier was charged with attempted election fraud for reportedly altering absentee ballot applications. The mail carrier claims he did it as a joke. (WHSV)

Coronavirus Voting Impacts

  • Unless the federal government begins holding citizenship ceremonies again, hundreds of thousands of potential voters will be ineligible come November. (The Washington Post)

  • Some Atlanta polling places are offering free coronavirus tests, while another Georgia county’s only early voting location closed after a voter tested positive for COVID-19. (Fox 5, GBP News)

  • A reduction in in-person voting sites is likely to negatively impact New Mexico’s Native voters. (NM In Depth)

  • Furloughed county employees and volunteers are helping Pennsylvania’s York County handle thousands of absentee ballot requests. (York Dispatch)

  • Voter registration, which often takes place in person, is tanking in the midst of a pandemic. (NPR)

  • The proposed VoteSafe Act bill in the Senate would provide $5 billion to facilitate early and absentee voting, as well as curbside voting. (WKSU)

A New Election Necessity: Personal Protective Equipment

  • While some states have employed the National Guard as poll workers, Indiana is using them to provide PPE to polling places. (WBOI)

  • Florida is requesting $20 million in federal aid for election preparation, and in Palm Beach county, most of the funds will be spent on PPE for poll workers and voters. (CBS 12)

  • Virginia officials say they’ll need “41,000 bottles of hand sanitizer, almost 600,000 pairs of gloves, 172,000 face masks and 45,000 face shields” for upcoming elections. (Virginia Mercury)

  • Rhode Island’s emergency management agency will provide PPE for poll workers, but election officials say they’ll also need hand sanitizer and masks for voters. (Providence Journal)

  • In one South Carolina county, voters will be given a swab or a glove to make their selections on a touch voting machine, and check-in stations will have “sneeze guards.” (Island Packet)

  • In one Indiana county, voters will be given “finger cots” so they don’t have to touch machines. (Journal Gazette)

The Latest on Election Lawsuits

  • Alabama: Requiring a witness signature on absentee ballots does not violate the Voting Rights Act, the Department of Justice argued in a brief for a lawsuit over the state’s absentee voting rules. (Montgomery Advertiser)

  • California: Republican groups are suing over the governor’s vote by mail plan. (Los Angeles Times)

  • Florida: A federal judge ruled that a state law requiring felons to pay fines before registering to vote is unconstitutional. The state plans to appeal. In another lawsuit, three citizens are suing the state to demand mail ballots for all registered voters. (Miami Herald, Tampa Bay Times, The Palm Beach Post)

  • Kentucky: Voting rights groups sued the state over its voter ID requirements. (WKYU)

  • Louisiana: A group of advocates and voters is suing over the state’s emergency election plan, which it says doesn’t protect voters. (The Advertiser)

  • Michigan: The League of Women Voters challenged the state’s requirement that absentee ballots must be returned by the evening of Election Day. (Detroit Free Press)

  • Montana: Ahead of the June primary, the state Supreme Court decided that absentee ballots must be received by 8pm on Election Day, rather than being postmarked by then. (MTPR)

  • New Jersey: In the wake of a lawsuit, the state won’t test out internet voting in its July primary. (Patch)

  • North Carolina: Voting rights advocacy groups are suing for changes to the voting process to protect voters’ health. (WRAL)

  • Pennsylvania: Visually impaired voters filed a lawsuit against the state alleging authorities aren’t providing them safe options to vote. (Penn Live)

  • South Carolina: The state Supreme Court dismissed a case to expand absentee voting. Meanwhile, a district court ruling says that voters won’t need a witness signature to vote absentee in the June primary. (Greenville News, WCNC)

  • Texas: The state Supreme Court ruled that lack of immunity to coronavirus does not qualify as a valid reason to request an absentee ballot. (Texas Tribune)

  • Virginia: A group of voters is suing the state over loosening restrictions on vote by mail during the pandemic. (Associated Press)

Election News Grab Bag

  • Researchers analyzed mail ballot data from Georgia’s 2018 general election and found “newly registered, young, female, and minority voters have rejection rates that are higher compared to their counterparts.” (Election Science)

  • The Florida Department of Law Enforcement said it found no evidence of widespread voter fraud during the 2018 election, after Trump repeatedly made unfounded charges to that end. (Politico)

  • A former Philadelphia elections judge was charged with election fraud for allegedly accepting bribes and stuffing ballot boxes during three primaries. (WHYY)

  • Senator Cory Booker introduced a bill that would create a “DemocracyCorps,” akin to AmeriCorps and the Peace Corps, in which thousands of recruits would help administer elections, operate as poll workers, register voters, and conduct voter education campaigns. (Government Executive)

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