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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

A new report shows that the risk of getting COVID-19 from voting in person at a properly socially distanced polling place is relatively low. The problem is, too many communities are not ready or do not have the resources to run a safe election.

There have been more than 300 lawsuits related to election law and COVID-19. It’s been a lot to keep track of. Thankfully, the Healthy Elections Project, a project of Stanford University and MIT, has put together a convenient tracker of all these suits and their current statuses.

Alaska

Civil rights groups in Alaska sued the state over its requirement that all absentee ballots need to have two signatures, one from the voter and one from a witness. The groups argue that the law is dangerous for people trying to socially distance while also exercising their right to vote. 

Louisiana

Louisiana is one of very few states that has not made an emergency plan to help voters cast their ballots safely in the general election this fall. With the legislature, governor and secretary of state in partisan gridlock, a federal judge will hear a suit that would implement the same emergency measures the state used for this summer’s primary election. 

New York

One of the big questions for voters leading up to this summer’s primary was, “Where’s my ballot?” For this fall’s election, voters in New York City will be able to get that answer online via ballot tracking software the city’s Board of Elections recently adopted. 

North Carolina

The 2020 election has officially begun. In North Carolina, absentee ballots were mailed out at the end of last week. Voters can now cast votes everyday between now and November 3.

Ohio

Secretary of State Frank LaRose said that Ohio will announce the number of outstanding ballots as part of its election night reporting. In an election where unprecedented numbers of people are likely to vote by mail, this additional information will create a more accurate real-time picture of the results than data from polling places alone would provide.

Rhode Island

In another example of how mail-in ballots can take more time to count than traditional in-person, the results of the Sept. 8 primary are still being tabulated. While immediate results are nice, it is more important to count every vote and get the correct results.

Texas

A Texas judge ruled that elections officials must give voters a chance to correct their ballot before throwing it out for a mismatched signature. This process, known as a cure, helps to ensure voters are not disenfranchised if their signature has changed over time. Fifteen other states, including every state that runs mostly mail-in elections, already have a cure process.

In a separate lawsuit, a judge dismissed an effort to force the state to adopt stricter safety measures at polling places. Among other things, the lawsuit would have required one month of early voting, mandatory masks at all polling places and the expansion of curbside voting.

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