Another State Delays Its Primary

Meanwhile, the AP takes a look at voting by mail
By Newser Editors and Wire Services
Posted Mar 19, 2020 2:00 PM CDT
Updated Mar 19, 2020 3:33 PM CDT
Just Switch to Vote-by-Mail? Not So Easy
A voter drops off a ballot for the Arizona Democratic presidential preference election Tuesday, March 17, 2020, in Phoenix.   (AP Photo/Ross D. Franklin)

Connecticut has become the seventh state to delay its primary due to the coronavirus pandemic; it was originally scheduled for April 28 but will now be held June 2, the Hill reports. Meanwhile, voting rights groups and the head of the Democratic National Committee want the states with remaining primary elections to offer voting by mail as a way to ensure that voters can safely cast their ballots amid the coronavirus outbreak. A quick and easy fix? Not always, the AP reports. For states that don’t already have vote-by-mail or that greatly restrict it, such a change could require amending state law. It also would require major changes to state and county voting and tabulating systems. Buying the equipment and software to track ballots and read the signatures on them could cost millions. And that’s not to mention deciding who pays for return postage—individual voters or taxpayers? Some state-by-state details:

  • So far, none of the other states postponing their primaries—Alabama, Georgia, Kentucky, Louisiana, Maryland, or Ohio—have said they will mail ballots statewide.
  • So far this year, one state has moved quickly to mail ballots statewide for the November general election. The top election official in Arizona, where about 80% of voting is already by mail, asked the Legislature on Wednesday to give counties permission to mail ballots to all registered voters.
  • Other states are being more limited in scope: Maryland postponed its primary but decided to hold next month's special congressional election by mail.
  • On Wednesday, West Virginia election officials said they would make fear of getting the coronavirus a valid excuse for getting an absentee ballot for its May 12 primary.
  • And the Democratic Party in Wyoming, which already was sending all its members ballots, has canceled the in-person portion of its presidential caucus.
  • Similarly, the Democratic caucuses and primaries in Alaska, Hawaii, and Kansas were already to be held largely by mail this spring.
  • A bill in Louisiana seeking to expand vote-by-mail was introduced even before the state's primary was pushed back, but it hasn’t received a legislative hearing and is opposed by the state’s top elections official.
  • Pennsylvania lawmakers eased absentee ballot rules last year, and now Democrats want to expand voting by mail. Republicans, who control the statehouse, have generally resisted voting changes, and it’s unclear if the virus crisis is enough to overcome concerns about the costs of greatly expanding vote-by-mail.
  • The ability to receive a ballot in the mail is greatly restricted in 16 states. Those states allow absentee ballots only for voters who give a valid reason to get one—and require they be requested for each election. Of those, Delaware and New York are phasing in no-excuse mail voting.
  • A half-dozen states already have or are implementing systems where all voters are mailed ballots. They can mail them back, drop them off at designated spots or choose to vote in person on Election Day. Oregon has been conducting elections that way since the 1990s. Since then, California, Colorado, Hawaii, Utah, and Washington have implemented or begun phasing in similar systems.

Opposition to voting by mail isn't unusual, typically because lawmakers or election officials believe it opens a pathway to voter fraud. In the absence of official action, some political and voting rights groups are vowing legal challenges. (See the AP for more on that.)

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