Vote at Home | Weekly Roundup September 14, 2020

Beth Hladick
Director, Research & Outreach
Unite America

South Carolina is poised to become the latest state to permit no-excuse absentee voting, leaving just five states (IN, LA, MS, TX, and TN) requiring an excuse to VAH this November. Typically in SC, just 5% of votes are cast by mail — a percentage that could increase tenfold this election. Also this week, a federal judge in Louisiana loosened excuse-required policy if voters are quarantining, COVID positive, or at greater risk because they are caring for someone who fits those criteria. In neighboring Mississippi, the opposite happened: the state Supreme Court ruled state law does not allow no-excuse voting due to COVID vulnerability. 

When will we know who wins the November election? The LA Times reports it will likely depend on key absentee ballot policy in a handful of states. More news and state policy changes in battleground states this week: 

  • Today, a Michigan state judge ruled absentee ballots postmarked before Election Day can be counted if they arrive two weeks after the polls close. Additionally, the Michigan Senate passed a bill to allow clerks to start processing absentee ballots the day before the election. Processing does not mean counting or tabulating, rather just removing ballots from their outside envelopes and readying them for tabulation. 
  • Ballots will be mailed to more than 1 million voters in Georgia next week. Here’s when all states will mail out absentee ballots
  • Ohio won’t permit postage-paid envelopes for absentee voters this fall, despite SOS LaRose’s plan to purchase $3M in stamps (with federal funding) for absentee ballot envelopes. See the Fulcrum’s map on which states will cover postage this fall.
  • In the Pennsylvania primary, 20,000 absentee ballots were not counted because they arrived too late or the envelopes weren’t signed. The rejection rate, albeit small, is still significant given Trump’s narrow margin of victory in PA in 2016 (44,000 votes). Politico covers a similar story in Florida’s primary. 

A federal judge temporarily blocked USPS operational changes amid concerns about election mail slowdowns. The decision is a win for the 14 states (CO, CT, IL, MD, MI, MN, NV, NM, OR, RI, VT, VA, WA, and WI) who originally filed the complaint back in mid- August, which argued the USPS acted outside of its authority in making operational changes without seeking an opinion from the agency’s Regulatory Commission (an independent agency with broad power to review policies and performance). Meanwhile, NYT is tracking whether the mail is getting slower. 

Yesterday, Colorado settled a lawsuit with the USPS over flyers mailed to voters, which the SOS said contained misleading information. SOS Jenna Griswold (D) sued the agency, arguing the mailer would confuse and disenfranchise voters in her state. According to OH SOS Frank LaRose (R), the ongoing blame game between the USPS and state election officials has the potential to foment further distrust in the election process and results: “If we tell Americans that elections are a big mess, then they’re going to start to believe that and not want to participate,” Mr. LaRose said in an interview this week. “If I had one call to my fellow elected officials, it’s: Let’s be more responsible with the way that we talk about elections.”

ICYMI, last week Republican Benjamin Ginsberg, who has practiced election law for 38 years, authored a WaPo op-ed explaining why President Trump and the Republican Party’s election rhetoric looks like “transactional hypocrisy.” “These are painful conclusions for me to reach,” Ginsberg writes. “Calling elections 'fraudulent’ and results ‘rigged’ with almost nonexistent evidence is antithetical to being the ‘rule of law’ party.”

New polling, tracking, and resources out this week: 

  • According to an Economist/YouGov poll out this week, 30% of Americans have “a great deal” or “quite a bit” of confidence that the 2020 election will be held fairly. 31% of Americans have “only a little” or no confidence that the 2020 presidential election will be held fairly. 
  • NVAHI’s ballot tracking in each state (see map @ bottom)
  • Maps from the Fulcrum on which states can get a head start on counting mailed-in ballots
  • NCSL blog on how states keep people from voting twice
  • WaPo’s How to vote in your state 
  • USA Today’s resource on when early and mail voting begins in every state
  • The National Task Force on Election Crises provides resources for the media and an election roadmap (page four on the presidential election process is worth a read) to help inform reporting before, during, and after the election. 
  • Also for journalists, Election SOS offers training and resources for journalists to connect them to best practices, resources and support around election coverage. 

Up Next: Tuesday, September 22 is National Voter Registration Day.

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