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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

Even under normal circumstances, elections are filled with intricate logistics. But COVID-19 has made the process even more complicated. This great summary shows just how much has changed since the pandemic began. 

Managing an election during an all-out public health crisis is being made more difficult because key administrators are all not on the same page. Notably,the United States Postal Service appears to be increasingly uncooperative, recently sending out information about voting by mail that was inaccurate for many states

Meanwhile, for voters living abroad, changes to USPS services and other pandemic-related disruptions are raising questions about whether they will be able to vote at all.

While we still don’t know what election day will look like, we do know that a shift toward more mail-in voting will change how and when votes are counted. And, based on the primaries, we should expect comprehensive counting to take a while. Fortunately, voters are beginning to realize this and get comfortable with the idea that we likely won’t know the results of the election on Nov. 3.

Arizona

Arizona voters who forget to sign their absentee ballots will have up to five days after the November elections to correct the mistake. Arizona already had a cure process that allowed voters five days to correct a mismatched signature.

Colorado

Ballot tracking software, which was already in use in Denver County, will be available statewide this November. As a result, all Colorado voters will be able to track their ballots digitally for the upcoming election. 

Kentucky

Absentee ballots for voters in Fayette County will be delayed. An employee at the county clerk’s office tested positive for COVID-19, causing the office, which is in charge of mailing out absentee ballots, to shut down. This is another example of how vulnerable our election systems are due to the COVID-19 pandemic.

Louisiana

On Wednesday, a federal judge ruled that Louisiana must expand access to absentee voting to people quarantining, at higher risk of death due to underlying health conditions, or caring for a person who is quarantining or at higher risk. The ruling also held that the state must offer 10 days of early voting from Oct. 16 to Oct. 27. 

Ohio

A state judge ruled that county elections officials may set up multiple dropboxes for collecting absentee ballots. The holding overruled Ohio Secretary of State Frank LaRose, who had determined that state law only allowed one dropbox per county. The state has indicated that they may appeal the ruling.

Pennsylvania

Pennsylvania was unable to send out ballots on time due to ongoing litigation about whether or not the Green Party should be allowed on the ballot. On Thursday, the state’s supreme court resolved the case, ruling that the Green Party would not be allowed on the ballot

In a separate ruling, the court extended the deadline by which ballots must be received in order to count. Ballots must now be postmarked by election day and arrive before 5 p.m. the Friday after election day. 

Finally, state officials have instructed county elections administrators that they cannot discard a ballot just because the signature on it doesn’t match the voter's signature on file. The instruction prevents a lawsuit from moving forward that was seeking to force the state to institute a cure process that would have allowed voters to correct such a discrepancy.

Rhode Island

Rhode Island will send absentee ballot applications to all active, registered voters. Additionally, Gov. Gina Raimondo has authorized the state’s National Guard to help process mail-in ballots in light of the expected increase in absentee voting.

South Carolina

South Carolina joined 44 other states in allowing anyone to vote absentee. The state legislature passed a bill that will expand access to absentee voting to all South Carolinians for the 2020 election. The decision allows anyone to vote absentee during a state of emergency, which is currently declared because of COVID-19. 

Wisconsin

In a bipartisan decision, the Wisconsin Supreme Court ruled that the Green Party will not be allowed on November’s ballot. The Green Party was left off the ballot due to errors in their filing with the state board of elections. The decision cleared the way for already printed absentee ballots to be sent to voters on Sept. 17.  

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U.S. PIRG, the federation of state Public Interest Research Groups, is a consumer group that stands up to powerful interests whenever they threaten our health and safety, our financial security, or our right to fully participate in our democratic society.

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U.S. PIRG is part of The Public Interest Network, which operates and supports organizations committed to a shared vision of a better world and a strategic approach to social change.