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This week in COVID-19 voting news

What it means for access to the ballot box during the pandemic
For Immediate Release

National

The COVID-19 pandemic has created a national poll worker shortage that could force municipalities to close polling stations. As we saw during the primaries, fewer polling places led to more unsafe crowding. In response, the federal Elections Assistance Commission, along with many other organizations, led a national poll worker recruitment day on Tuesday. 

Among recent reports that election results could “change” after election night, it’s important to remember that with increased vote by mail, we most likely won’t know the complete results the night of Nov. 3. Many mailed-in ballots will still need to be counted so vote tallies on election night should be treated more like early returns -- in other words, they’ll be clearly incomplete.

In addition to being a safe, socially distant way to vote, mail-in voting also protects against foreign interference. Cyber security experts from the Department of Homeland Security explained how the paper trail created by mail-in ballots provides a layer of insurance against hackers

Don't vote twice. It’s illegal.

Illinois

An Illinois county is planning on buying 250,000 pens as part of it’s safe voting plan. The county wants to have enough pens on hand so that no voters have to share a writing instrument. 

Maine

To help make safe, socially distant voting easier, Gov. Janet Mills issued an executive order last Thursday that would extend mail-in voter registration deadlines and allow municipalities to begin processing mail-in ballots up to seven days before the election. 

Massachusetts

Massachusetts held its first mostly mail-in voting election on Tuesday and saw record turnout for a primary. Experts credited recent election law changes, which overcame obstacles created by the pandemic, for the high turnout. The primary also gave the state a chance to test out new, safe voting protocols for in-person voting

Michigan

Recognizing that mail-in ballots not only take more time to transport but also to prepare and count than traditional ballots, city and county clerks in Michigan asked state lawmakers to pass legislation to allow them more time to prepare, open and sort mail-in ballots. 

Montana

Most counties in Montana have opted to hold all-mail elections this fall, continuing a trend from the 2018 midterms wherein 73 percent of voters voted by mail. The Republican National Committee, the Trump Campaign and other Republican groups responded by suing the state to block this expansion of mail-in voting.

New Jersey

Lawmakers passed a set of regulations aimed at helping the state run a safe, secure election this fall. The bills will ensure that November’s election will be mostly vote-by-mail. They also set standards for ballot drop boxes; create a cure process to allow voters to correct clerical errors with their ballots; and provide for a public education effort to help voters know about the changes and how to cast their ballots. 

Pennsylvania

Pennsylvania is racing against the clock to finalize its election procedures for this fall.  Currently, ongoing legislation and litigation are creating confusion for voters and elections administrators heading into the final months before the election.

Texas

The battle over mail-in voting in Texas continues. This week, Attorney General Ken Paxton sued Harris County (Houston) to stop the county from mailing absentee ballot request forms to all voters. Regardless of the ultimate result of this litigation, Texas will still be one of six states where only people with a specific excuse will be allowed to vote by mail.

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