Headlines, trainings, new reports and more
Fri. May 22, 2020

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Here's your newsletter this week. Thanks for reading!

Webinars and Trainings

  • Thanks to everyone who came to this week's webinar on vote by mail! Is there a particular topic you're interested in for a future webinar? Please let me know!

  • Hearken is holding a series of trainings to help newsrooms with election reporting, including a track on election security. They are currently accepting applications for the training cohorts starting in June, and space is limited. Learn more and apply here.

The White House on Vote By Mail

After Michigan's secretary of state announced Wednesday that absentee ballot applications would be sent to all registered voters, President Donald Trump tweeted, falsely,  that the state was sending ballots to all voters, and claimed it was illegal and would lead to fraud. He later deleted the tweet and sent a new one, still claiming fraud. Trump made a similar charge about Nevada, and threatened to hold up funding to both states.

Later in the day, the White House press secretary incorrectly cited our reporting as proof of bipartisan consensus on vote by mail fraud. Here's how our reporter responded.

Georgia's Primary Kicks Off

  • In person early voting for the state's primary began in Georgia this week. Social distancing is being enforced at polling places, and in some locations, voters wait in their cars until it's their turn to vote. Some counties are experiencing long lines. (Daily Tribune News

  • What in-person voting looks like: "Wait in your car until your group is called. Stand on the painted circle so you don't get too close to other voters in line. (Please) Wear a mask. Everything you touch will be sanitized." (Macon.com)

  • Absentee ballot applications were sent to all of the state's voters, and around 400,000 have submitted their ballots already. (Atlanta Journal-Constitution)

  • In one county, two election workers tested positive for coronavirus, forcing the elections supervisor to send her staff home. (GPB News)

Election News Grab Bag

  • A Republican campaign aims to recruit 50,000 volunteers in 15 states to monitor polling places and challenge voters during the general election. (The New York Times)

  • Two groups trying to register Floridians to vote have caused confusion and anger as already registered voters received official-looking mailings. The mailings, a Broward County election official said, have targeted the deceased, minors, and even pets. (Sun Sentinel)

  • "Drive-through" voting is happening in several states, including Utah and Virginia. (KUER, WJHL)

  • Mississippi is considering moving all counties to paper ballots for the general election. (WLOX)

  • Two Pennsylvania counties sent out erroneous instructions with mail ballots. (Citizens Voice, Philadelphia Inquirer)

  • Nevada approved a $1 million contract with a third-party company to provide a "full service voter education marketing campaign" for the state's upcoming mail primary. (Record Courier)

Vote by Mail News

  • Missouri's secretary of state said he doesn't support a new bill to expand vote by mail because it doesn't include a provision for voter ID. But the legislature passed the bill anyway, and now it's headed to the governor's desk. (Kansas City Star, STL Today)

  • Almost 3,000 Wisconsin absentee ballots were not sent and another 1,600 weren't processed due to "computer glitches and mailing problems" during the primary. About 14,000 ballots were rejected due to insufficient witness certification. (Milwaukee Journal-Sentinel, Shawn Johnson)

  • A Minnesota-based vendor failed to send hundreds of thousands of ballots to Baltimore voters, and the burden has fallen to the USPS to expedite the shipments in time. (Baltimore Sun)

  • Alaska is not moving to entirely vote by mail for its August primary, but will promote absentee and early voting. (KTVA)

  • A South Carolina state senate candidate is sending campaign text messages saying he doesn't support vote by mail, but encourages voters to request an absentee ballot. (Sam Stein)

Sounding Off on Vote by Mail

  • Senate candidate and former attorney general Jeff Sessions encouraged voters concerned about coronavirus to vote absentee, but also said: "It would be really an erosion of that great, classical idea that Americans gather on a certain day and cast their ballots. It also opens up the situation to massive fraud in ways we've never seen before. It will be a colossal disaster. It would be passed over my dead body in the Senate." (NBC15)

  • Kentucky's GOP secretary of state, on claims of voter fraud involving vote by mail: "It's partly on me because I talked about it in my campaign. But it's my job now to calm people's fears." (NPR)

  • An Illinois county clerk: "Anyone with an ounce of sense knows it makes more sense to vote by mail. But the presidential general election is going to be overwhelming and it's going to stretch our budget and capacity to the limit." (Herald & Review)

  • A Georgia voter who cast a ballot at a polling place this week: "I don't feel confident with absentee ballots, so I came out to vote in person." (Atlanta Journal-Constitution)

  • A Republican Pennsylvania voter, about vote by mail: "Most Trump supporters are like me - we trust Trump but no one else. When I see Democrats pushing it, I know there must be a sinister reason for it." (Reuters)

New Election Reports

  • The National Bureau of Economic Research conducted an analysis on Wisconsin's primary and found "a statistically and economically significant association between in-person voting and the spread of COVID-19 two to three weeks after the election."

  • The Bipartisan Policy Center released recommendations for shifting to vote by mail for the November general election.

  • The Alliance for Securing Democracy and the Bipartisan Policy Center published a paper on 20 ways to secure the election, which includes hiring more cybersecurity staff.

  • The University of Pittsburgh's Institute for Cyber Law, Policy and Security released an action plan for Pennsylvania's general election, with recommendations for vote by mail, polling place preparation, voter education and contingency planning.

  • The American Press Institute published lessons learned from Wisconsin's primary based on discussions with local journalists.

The Latest in Election Lawsuits

  • First, the Texas Supreme Court temporarily blocked the state's expansion of vote by mail, and then a federal judge ruled  that all voters qualify for mail ballots. But then a federal appeals court put the expansion on hold, again. An amicus brief filed by medical workers said in-person voting would increase infections and that sanitation at polling places would be insufficient to prevent transmission. (Texas Tribune, Dallas Morning News, Alexa Ura)

  • Advocacy groups are suing Wisconsin to demand a series of measures ahead of the state primary and general election, including hiring more poll workers and sending absentee ballot applications to all registered voters. (Milwaukee Journal-Sentinel)

  • Pennsylvania's Supreme Court dismissed a lawsuit that would oblige election officials to count mail ballots received within a week after the primary or general election. (AP)

  • Voters in Minnesota are suing the state over witness requirements on absentee ballots. (Star Tribune)

  • Tennessee officials say fear of contracting coronavirus is not a valid excuse to vote by mail, but the ACLU is suing the state over this rule. (Associated Press, The Commercial Appeal)

  • A lawsuit could prevent New Jersey from expanding online voting after it piloted a program to let disabled voters cast a ballot online. And a coalition of voting rights groups are suing the Garden State over its reportedly flawed signature match system, which has allegedly led officials to throw out thousands of votes. (The Fulcrum, NJ.com)

  • A lawsuit against Missouri to allow all voters to cast an absentee ballot was appealed to the state's Supreme Court. (AP)

  • A Montana judge temporarily halted a law that restricts efforts to collect ballots, which tribal groups say disenfranchises Native Americans. (Courthouse News)


Rachel Glickhouse

Partner Manager, ProPublica

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