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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

During Tuesday’s debate, President Donald Trump repeated many of his favorite lies about voting by mail and election security. While his repeated statements don’t make them any more true, new polling shows they are having an effect, reducing the number of people who intend to vote by mail.

We noted last week that National Voter Registration Day (NVRD) was a big event across the country. We now know just how big. An estimated 1.5 million people registered to vote as part of the day, a new record for the event. The influx of registrations couldn’t come at a more crucial time as voter registration deadlines are fast approaching.

Americans with disabilities already faced difficulties when trying to exercise their right to vote.  The COVID-19 pandemic has significantly exacerbated those challenges

Indiana

Absentee voters in Indiana will have their ballots counted as long as they are postmarked by Nov. 3 and received by Nov. 13. A federal judge struck down the state’s 12 p.m, Election Day deadline for ballots to arrive as unduly burdensome to voters. 

Iowa

To ease the difficulty of counting what is likely to be an unprecedented number of mail-in ballots, county auditors will be allowed to start opening, but not counting, mail-in ballots the weekend before Election Day. 

Kentucky

State officials have not approved in-person voting plans yet in many counties in Kentucky. Fallout from the COVID-19 pandemic, including poll worker shortages, has forced counties to change both the location and quantity of in-person polling places. With only two weeks until in-person early voting begins, counties are running out of time to pull their plans together and get them approved. 

Michigan

State legislators passed a bill that gives elections officials in Michigan more time to process mail-in ballots. County clerks will now have an additional 10 hours to process ballots. 

Montana

Citing the uneven performance of the United States Postal Service, a Montana judge extended the deadline for returning mail-in ballots. All ballots postmarked by Election Day and received by the Monday after Nov. 3 will now be counted. 

New York

At a time of rising COVID-19 infection rates, the state’s Board of Elections (BOE) created another hurdle for Brooklynites to clear if they want to safely vote by mail this fall. The BOE sent out almost 100,000 mail-in ballots with incorrect return envelopes

Wisconsin

U.S. Sen. Ron Johnson says the state should allow election officials to start counting ballots prior to Election Day. As noted in this newsletter, states across the country are taking that same action to reduce the ballot-counting workload on Election Day. 

Wisconsin joined the growing number of states with court-mandated extended ballot return deadlines. The 7th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals ruled that Wisconsin ballots postmarked by election day and received by Nov. 9 must be counted

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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.