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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

Coronavirus cases are surging at the exact time millions of people are preparing to head to the polls. Since the spring, we’ve been calling for states to create more options for people to vote safely in the event of this exact scenario. Fortunately, many states have done just that, but sadly, some have not

For people voting in-person, either by choice or because it is the only available option, there are lessons to be learned from this spring’s elections, and guidelines are available for the safest and most pleasant possible in-person voting experience

Missouri

Missourians will not be allowed to return their absentee ballots in person. A federal appeals court upheld a state law that requires that absentee ballots must be returned via the U.S. Postal Service

New York

This has been the first presidential election in New York to feature early voting. The process has been so popular that early voting hours will be extended in the final weekend before Nov. 3.  

Spikes in COVID-19 infections have caused some parts of New York City to shut back down. Despite that, polling places in those “hot spots” will remain open on Election Day

North Carolina

In a 5-3 vote, the U.S. Supreme Court decided to leave in place North Carolina’s Nov. 12 deadline for receiving mail-in ballots. Ballots must still be postmarked on or before Election Day in order to count. 

Pennsylvania

Citing the lack of time before Election Day, the U.S. Supreme Court refused to hear an effort to roll back Pennsylvania’s Nov. 6 deadline for mail-in ballots. However, the court did reserve the right to revisit the case after Election Day. That decision could ultimately lead to a later ruling that could throw out ballots arriving after Nov. 3.

Tennessee

Voters with COVID-19 will be able to vote in person at specially designated sites in each county in Tennessee. 

Texas

In the midst of a spike in COVID-19 infections, county elections officials are working hard to create a safe environment for in-person voting. But at this point, their options are fairly limited. A recent  federal court of appeals ruling reiterated that voters in Texas will not be required to wear masks when casting their ballots. 

Virginia

In an effort to slow the spread of COVID-19, elections officials will offer masks to voters who arrive at the polls without one. People will be allowed to vote without a mask, but they may be encouraged to do so curbside or in a separate part of the polling place. 

Like in many other states, early voting has been very popular in Virginia. So much so that some counties are extending early voting hours

Wisconsin

On Monday, the U.S. Supreme Court rejected an effort to relax Wisconsin’s deadline for elections officials to receive absentee ballots. A previous ruling in a lower court had extended the deadline from Nov. 3 to Nov. 9. The original Election Day deadline will be in place for Tuesday’s election.

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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.