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Electionland 2020: USPS Mailers, Pandemic Voting, Get Out the Vote Efforts and More

This week’s headlines on making a voting plan, the mail ballot supply chain and election litigation.

This article is part of Electionland. Sign up for ProPublica’s User’s Guide to Democracy, a series of personalized emails that help you understand the upcoming election, from who’s on your ballot to how to cast your vote.

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Vote by Mail News

  • Although the cost of postage for mail-in ballots varies by state, a USPS spokeswoman said any ballots with insufficient or unpaid postage will still be delivered, with the cost charged to local elections boards. (USA Today)

  • A study of 2018 mail ballots in three California counties found that the rejection rate for voters age 18-24 was three times higher than the counties’ overall rejection rates. (KQED)

  • California Sunday went behind the scenes at companies in the mail voting supply chain. (California Sunday)

  • Maryland’s ballot vendor reportedly quit after printing had already begun, but the state has found another vendor to fill the gap. (The Baltimore Sun)

  • NPR mapped how mail ballot rules vary across the country. (NPR)

  • Some overseas voters are panicking about voting from abroad by mail this year. (USA Today)

  • Some voters reported errors with Detroit’s third-party absentee ballot tracker during the primary. (Detour Detroit)

  • North Carolina voter hotlines are getting a lot of questions about how to vote by mail. (Voting Booth)

  • California and Oregon voters who have been displaced from their homes by fires must take steps in order to vote by mail from a new or temporary address. (San Francisco Chronicle, The Oregonian)

  • Third-party registration forms and ballot application mailers are causing confusion among some Florida and Montana voters. (Miami Herald, NBC Montana)

  • During Pennsylvania’s primary, around 20,000 mail-in ballots weren’t counted, either because they were returned after the deadline or because they didn’t have a voter signature. (NBC Philadelphia)

  • Because of changes made to absentee ballot envelopes and other policy changes, a lower rate of Georgia mail ballots were rejected during the primary than during the 2018 general election. (Atlanta Journal-Constitution)

Mail-In Voting Policies

  • Pennsylvania’s Department of State told counties that they cannot throw out absentee ballots over signature match problems. (Morning Call)

  • Pennsylvania couldn’t start sending out absentee ballots Monday due to legal disputes. (CNN)

  • Ohio’s Controlling Board voted against funding prepaid postage on absentee ballots. (Columbus Dispatch)

  • Michigan, Pennsylvania and Wisconsin are among battleground states where local election officials aren’t allowed to start processing mail ballots until Election Day. (Politico)

  • The Michigan Senate approved a bill to allow clerks to begin processing absentee ballots the day before the election. The legislature is considering other policy changes that would affect this year’s election. (Detroit Free Press, MLive)

  • Only some Michigan counties are paying for pre-paid postage on absentee ballots. (Lansing State Journal)

  • Thanks to a court decision, first-time Tennessee voters will be able to vote by mail. (News Channel 9)

  • South Carolina’s governor signed a bill to allow no-excuse absentee voting during the upcoming election. (AP)

  • New York state says it doesn’t have the necessary funding to provide pre-paid postage for absentee ballots. (North Country Public Radio)

USPS Absentee Voting Mailers

  • Several state election officials said a nationwide mailer from the US Postal Service offering generic voting guidance would confuse voters in their states. The mailer urged voters to request a mail-in ballot “at least 15 days before Election Day.” (Reuters)

  • A judge in Colorado temporarily blocked distribution of the mailer. (Denver Post)

Voting in a Pandemic

  • Missouri’s secretary of state is encouraging people to vote in person, contradicting the state’s health department recommendations to avoid crowds on Election Day. (The Beacon)

  • One Missouri county, which is not requiring election workers to wear face masks, sent an email to poll workers telling them they must keep a mask at hand or on one ear and “may act surprised” and “apologize as you put the mask on” if questioned by a voter. (KMOV)

  • More than 8,000 volunteers have applied for just 1,100 spots to serve as election judges in Denver, Colorado, but the local election commission says they’re still short of Republican applicants. (Colorado Politics)

  • States are hoping to learn from this year’s primary election mistakes to avoid long lines, confusion and delays over mail-in ballots and minimize rejected ballots in November. (PBS Newshour)

  • About 14% of California eligible voters said they were worried about contracting COVID while voting, with African Americans and voters with disabilities among the most concerned, according to a new study of California voter messaging amid the pandemic. (USC Center for Inclusive Democracy)

Enfranchisement News

  • College campuses are normally an important venue for mobilizing young voters, but advocates and voting groups say they’re still struggling to figure out how to reach students scattered across the country by the pandemic. (McDowell News, The Guardian)

  • Former NFL quarterback Michael Vick said it wasn’t until he got involved with Lebron James’ voting rights project that he was able to reinstate his own right to vote after serving a prison sentence. “I didn’t understand or know that I could vote...it took until this campaign [to find out] that I did have rights to vote,” Vick said. (Sports Illustrated)

  • A new Arizona policy will allow prospective voters with nontraditional addresses, particularly Native people in rural tribal communities, to register to vote online with digital location codes. (Cronkite News)

  • North Carolina Attorney General Josh Stein said the state’s elections board won’t stop the enforcement of a court ruling that would allow more convicted felons to vote this fall. (Associated Press)

  • North Carolina elections officials are trying to identify and contact nearly 5,000 people with felony convictions whose right to vote could be restored by a court ruling. (Carolina Public Press)

  • Advocates working to register prison inmates to vote are worried USPS cuts could threaten ballot access for hundreds of thousands of eligible inmates, whose right to vote hinges on reliable mail. (The Guardian)

  • Some advocates are concerned there hasn’t been enough outreach to Kentucky felons after their voting rights were restored. (Spectrum News)

  • Two Texas congressional representatives are questioning why 20 Houston-area Post Offices reportedly threw out or refused to distribute voter registration cards to patrons. (KHOU)

  • While homeless people often face major barriers to voting, advocates in Washington, D.C. are registering homeless individuals and helping them participate in November’s election. (Washington Post)

  • More than 400,000 people have registered to vote through a new Snapchat feature. (The Verge)

Disinformation on Voting

  • Attorney General William Barr attacked mail-in ballots again, claiming without evidence that they’re more vulnerable to coercion than in-person voting. In an interview, Barr suggested fraudulent ballots favorable to Democrats would be “discovered” on Election Day. (The Hill, Chicago Tribune)

  • Twitter and Facebook flagged President Donald Trump’s posts telling North Carolina voters to vote by mail early and subsequently visit the polls on Election Day. The head of the state’s election board said the president’s comments could cause unnecessarily long lines during the pandemic. (GPB)

  • Twitter is expanding the types of voting-related content it will label or remove to include “false or misleading information intended to undermine public confidence.” (Forbes)

  • Trump told a crowd in Nevada he will “negotiate” a third term and claimed without proof that Democrats will “rig the election.” (Slate)

  • Connecticut’s Secretary of State has hired an expert to thwart online disinformation campaigns targeting the election. (CT Mirror)

  • The Chicago Tribune debunks election season misinformation for Illinois voters, including false claims that voting is available by text message and that voter information is being sold online. (Chicago Tribune)

Creative Approaches to Getting Out the Vote

  • Live Nation announced an initiative to try to convert concert venues into voting centers around the country. (Rolling Stone)

  • Fashion designers launched a new voter registration campaign, which will also debut at New York Fashion Week. (Harper’s Bazaar)

  • Kentucky is offering lawyers continuing education credits if they serve as poll workers. (WTVQ)

  • An El Paso church is registering people to vote at food distribution sites. (KTSM)

  • Dancers and choreographers in St. Louis are encouraging people to vote through a series of commissioned dance videos. (St. Louis Public Radio)

  • TikTok creators are launching a “Tok the Vote” voter registration campaign. (CNN)

  • Facebook kicked off a poll worker recruitment drive that will appear on users’ news feeds. (Techcrunch)

The Latest Lawsuits

  • News on lawsuits involving mailing absentee ballots in Wisconsin.

  • News about litigation over absentee ballot rules in Arizona and Missouri.

  • News on litigation involving absentee voter eligibility in Texas.

  • News about felon voting lawsuits in Florida.

  • News about in-person voting litigation in Georgia.

  • News about mail-in ballot drop box litigation in Ohio.

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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