Partisan Fight Looms Over Voting By Mail
Democrats, Republicans in Congress sharply differ over expanding mail balloting in November to ease coronavirus fears at polls. Partisan Fight Looms Over Voting By Mail
Six months out from Election Day, Republicans and Democrats in Congress are headed for a showdown over expanding voting by mail, with Americans set to converge on the polls when experts say the coronavirus could remain a health threat.
Democrats point to images of masked voters waiting in long lines to cast ballots in Wisconsin’s April 7 primary to argue that reducing in-person voting is crucial to public health. Wisconsin’s public health department says at least 52 people tested positive for Covid-19 after voting in person or working at a polling location on primary day, though several of those people reported multiple possible exposures.
“Voting by mail is central to this in any event, but at the time of the coronavirus, very essential,” said House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D., Calif.) in a recent MSNBC interview.
House Democrats are proposing $4 billion to enact a slew of policies that range from requiring states to enable online and same-day voter registration, to mandating prepaid postage on mail-in ballots, to a nationwide minimum of 15 consecutive days of early voting. Senate Democrats have proposed a similar, $3.6 billion plan.
But congressional Republicans oppose the plans, saying such funding should take a back seat to more urgent coronavirus aid and that the federal government shouldn’t encroach on voting procedures, which traditionally are a state matter.
House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy (R., Calif.) last week was quick to brush off the idea of sending any money to states for mail-in voting in November, even without any policy mandates. Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R., Ky.) said he would oppose what he describes as the “federalization” of elections, although he hasn’t ruled out additional funds if needed.
“The federal government is not going to take over the way we do elections,” Mr. McConnell said in a recent interview. “They’re done at the state and local level and every state is different. They’re fully capable of doing that, as they have for many years.”
President Trump, who is set to face presumptive Democratic nominee Joe Biden in November, tweeted earlier this month that mail-in absentee ballots were acceptable for those who can’t make it to the polls, but that all-mail elections are “RIPE FOR FRAUD.”
Absentee-voter fraud exists, but independent researchers have found it to be very rare.
Democrats generally prefer expanding voting options and believe that mail-in voting would make voting more convenient, while several Republican-led state legislatures have tightened voting regulations in recent years, citing fraud concerns.
Research isn’t definitive on which party mail-in voting helps. A new study by Stanford researchers found that switching to a vote-by-mail system didn’t appear to affect either party’s vote share or turnout, and only increased overall turnout by roughly 2 percentage points. The study examined California, Utah and Washington, which staggered the rollout of vote-by-mail, and compared counties that switched to ones that hadn’t yet within the same state.
A recent Wall Street Journal poll found that 67% of voters favor a mail-in voting option for all voters this November. But views were sharply divided by party, with 82% of Democrats and 61% of independents backing the change, compared with 31% of Republicans.
It isn’t yet clear how hard a line Mrs. Pelosi plans to take on mail-in voting. When asked at a press conference Friday whether she would agree to the next relief package if it didn’t include language to bolster voting by mail, Mrs. Pelosi stopped short of saying that the issue was nonnegotiable for House Democrats. “I don’t intend to negotiate while I’m in this room,” she told reporters.
Secretaries of state from both parties say they need more funding from Congress to run elections safely during the pandemic. But some are wary of federal requirements for how the money is spent, arguing each state has specific needs. The bipartisan National Association of Secretaries of State has asked Congress for “flexible funding.”
Five states already vote almost entirely by mail, ranging from strongly Democratic Hawaii to more conservative Utah. By contrast, 16 states require certain reasons for allowing voters to cast an absentee ballot. Some of those states are easing those rules due to the pandemic.
Indiana and Delaware, for instance, said coronavirus concerns qualify as a reason to cast an absentee ballot by mail in their primaries. On Friday, Kentucky’s Democratic governor and Republican secretary of state released a plan to expand absentee voting and limit the number of polling sites for the state’s June 23 primary because of coronavirus concerns.
So far, the changes have focused on spring and summer elections, but election officials say they would need several months to prepare mail-in voting systems for the November election, such as by obtaining specialized ballot-counting scanners and mailing supplies.
Sen. Ron Wyden (D., Ore.), a longtime advocate for expanding mail-in voting, said Republican local and state elected officials are breaking with party leaders on the need for mail-in voting.
“At some point very soon,” Mr. Wyden said, “we’re going to make sure Kevin McCarthy and Mitch McConnell are faced with a choice: Are they going to put their political turf above the safety of voters at home?”
A leading supporter of mail-in voting is Republican Kim Wyman, the secretary of state in Washington state, which holds vote-by-mail elections. But she cautions that the switch is a heavy lift logistically. “Overall, it was a 15-year transition from polls to mail,” she told reporters earlier this month.
In Ohio, Republican Gov. Mike DeWine canceled in-person voting on the eve of the March election, citing virus concerns, and extended absentee balloting until this week. The abrupt shift caused a surge in absentee ballots and concerns about mailing delays, as the ballots had to be postmarked by Monday or returned in-person by 7:30 p.m. Tuesday, a day when limited in-person voting also was available.
Some Republican state officials make a distinction between mail-in absentee ballots, which a voter must proactively request, and all-mail elections, in which a ballot is automatically mailed to every registered voter.
Iowa Secretary of State Paul Pate is encouraging absentee voting amid the pandemic, and pointed out that voters in the state must provide an ID to request an absentee ballot. “In Iowa, we’re not doing what you call vote-by-mail where everyone just gets mailed a blank ballot, like a blank check,” said Mr. Pate, a Republican.
Trump Upbraids Michigan, Nevada For Easing Vote by Mail
President threatens to withhold funding from the states for plans to mail out absentee-ballot applications.
President Trump stepped up his criticism of voting by mail, threatening to withhold federal funds from Michigan and Nevada for their efforts to expand mail-in voting to address health concerns over the coronavirus pandemic.
Addressing Michigan, Mr. Trump tweeted Wednesday: “This was done illegally and without authorization by a rogue Secretary of State. I will ask to hold up funding to Michigan if they want to go down this Voter Fraud path!”
He also inaccurately said the state was sending out absentee ballots, rather than applications, before later on Wednesday deleting that tweet and correcting the error in another one.
The president didn’t provide further details on the funding he was referring to and the White House didn’t immediately respond to a request for comment. His declaration came ahead of his planned visit to Michigan on Thursday and amid repeated clashes with Democratic Gov. Gretchen Whitmer over how best to respond to the coronavirus.
Mr. Trump also issued a similar threat against Nevada, which plans to hold its June primary mostly by mail.
“State of Nevada “thinks” that they can send out illegal vote by mail ballots, creating a great Voter Fraud scenario for the State and the U.S. They can’t! If they do, “I think” I can hold up funds to the State. Sorry, but you must not cheat in elections,” he tweeted.
In response, Nevada Gov. Steve Sisolak, a Democrat, tweeted: “For the President to threaten federal funding in the midst of a pandemic over a state exercising its authority to run elections in a safe and legal manner is inappropriate and outrageous.”
Mr. Trump has often threatened to withhold funds from cities or states over policy differences without following through. It wasn’t immediately clear what funds he could hold up. The recent stimulus funding designed to provide states with coronavirus support is already law.
Michigan’s Secretary of State Jocelyn Benson, a Democrat, said Tuesday that absentee-ballot applications would go to all the state’s 7.7 million registered voters ahead of its August primary and November general elections.
“By mailing applications, we have ensured that no Michigander has to choose between their health and their right to vote.” Ms. Benson said in a statement.
All Michigan voters have the right to vote by mail and can request an absentee ballot without providing a reason. The secretary of state said that of the 7.7 million registered voters, 1.3 million are on the permanent absentee list and get an application from their local clerk ahead of every election, and some jurisdictions are mailing applications to all local registered voters.
“The Michigan Department of State’s Bureau of Elections has ensured all remaining registered voters receive an application,” Ms. Benson said.
Mr. Trump has previously claimed voting by mail allows for fraud. While researchers have found rare instances of absentee-voter fraud, studies show it isn’t widespread.
Ms. Benson responded to Mr. Trump’s initial tweet on Twitter, noting that he inaccurately said the state was sending out ballots as opposed to ballot applications and that Georgia, Iowa, Nebraska and West Virginia—which have Republican secretaries of state—all recently chose to automatically send such applications to voters.
“Applications are mailed nearly every election cycle by both major parties and countless advocacy and nonpartisan organizations,” a spokesman for the Michigan Department of State said in response to Mr. Trump’s tweet. “Just like them, we have full authority to mail applications to ensure voters know they have the right to vote safely by mail.”
Coronavirus-related funding for elections is being distributed to states by the U.S. Election Assistance Commission, a federal agency with bipartisan leadership.
Michigan has already received its share of that funding, which was nearly $11.3 million, said Jake Rollow, the Michigan Department of State spokesman, adding the state is planning to spend $4.5 million of that money on mailing ballot applications.
Mr. Trump narrowly captured Michigan by just under 11,000 votes in 2016. It was one of a number of rust-belt states that helped deliver him the White House, but is viewed as a tough state for him to hold in 2020.
Mr. Trump’s criticism of the state came as thousands of residents of several cities in central Michigan were ordered to evacuate as rising floodwaters overwhelmed two dams near Midland, a city of 43,000 on the Tittabawassee River. Gov. Whitmer declared a state of emergency Tuesday evening.
The president tweeted Wednesday that his team was closely following the situation. He said: “Stay SAFE and listen to local officials. Our brave First Responders are once again stepping up to serve their fellow citizens, THANK YOU!”
Voting by Mail to Face Biggest Test Since Pandemic Started
The seven states holding primaries and Washington, D.C., encouraged residents to vote by mail, and they are expecting a surge of mailed ballots.
Voting by mail will face its biggest test since the onset of the coronavirus pandemic when seven states and Washington, D.C., hold primaries Tuesday.
All eight locales have encouraged residents to vote by mail, even as President Trump has criticized mail voting in recent tweets. Some states delayed their primaries due to the pandemic, then scrambled to change procedures and put personnel in place to process an expected surge in mailed ballots.
Tuesday’s presidential primaries—in Indiana, Maryland, Montana, New Mexico, Pennsylvania, Rhode Island, South Dakota and Washington, D.C.—offer little suspense since each political party already has a presumptive nominee. But state and local races are on ballots. And the voting will be an early test of how states might attempt to conduct elections if the virus remains a threat through the November general election.
Five states—Colorado, Hawaii, Oregon, Washington and Utah—conducted elections primarily by mail before the pandemic, with options for in-person voting and ballot drop-off sites as well.
I certainly think that mail-in ballots are here to stay, and we’ll be dealing with a higher number in November.
— Kenneth Lawrence
Last-minute court rulings and partisan fighting spread confusion leading up to Wisconsin’s primary in April, and there were delays for absentee ballots and hour-plus waits at a reduced number of polling places in Milwaukee.
States voting Tuesday have taken varied approaches. Indiana announced that it would temporarily allow any voter to request an absentee ballot without a specific reason. Maryland pledged to send all voters a ballot, skipping the application process. And states are grappling with how to safely open at least some in-person polling sites.
Many local officials said they saw a flood of ballot requests. A Pennsylvania law passed last year allows any registered voter to vote by mail, but the pandemic created a surge of requests that outstripped officials’ expectations. More than 1.8 million voters have applied for a mail ballot, more than 18 times the number in the 2016 primary election.
Jeff Greenburg, the election director in Mercer County, Pa., said Wisconsin’s experience underscored for him the logistical challenges of a sudden shift to voting by mail. To prepare, the county signed a contract with a third-party mailing vendor to help with mail-in ballots, and his staff of about five people has worked 12-hour days to process ballot requests, Mr. Greenburg said. “It’s been nothing short of insanity.”
Kenneth Lawrence, a Democrat who is chairman of the Montgomery County, Pa., Board of Elections, said in an interview last month that he worried some voters wouldn’t get their ballots in time. “We’ll see how many ballots come in after June 2 that can’t count,” he said.
Officials in states including Pennsylvania, Indiana and New Mexico also have said that results may be released more slowly, particularly for any close races, because it is expected to take longer to count a large number of mail-in ballots.
“My nightmare in November is that you’re waiting to get Montgomery County’s results, to get Pennsylvania’s results,” said Mr. Lawrence. “I certainly think that mail-in ballots are here to stay, and we’ll be dealing with a higher number in November.”
In Indiana, counties have hired additional staff or reassigned them to help with processing mail-in ballots and planned for more counting locations on Election Day, said Ian Hauer, a spokesman for Indiana’s secretary of state.
Congress recently passed legislation offering $400 million in federal grants to states to help with coronavirus-related election needs. Multiple states, including Indiana and Maryland, said they were spending at least part of that money on protective gear and hand sanitizer for in-person polling sites, educating voters about voting by mail, and reimbursing counties for expenses such as purchasing ballot drop-off boxes.
House Democrats are pushing for an additional $3.6 billion to expand mail-in voting and other changes ahead of November. Some Republicans are open to extending more funding, though they say it should be up to states to determine their election procedures.
In Georgia, which moved its primary twice and will vote June 9, Secretary of State Brad Raffensperger, a Republican, mailed absentee ballot applications to all 6.9 million active registered voters.
More than 1.5 million Georgia voters have requested an absentee ballot. State officials estimate that as many as half of all voters will vote absentee, compared with 5% to 7% in a normal year.
Still, some early in-person voters have encountered long wait times, which officials in Georgia’s Cobb County and Fulton County attributed to social-distancing measures and shortages of volunteer poll workers due to the pandemic.
“If a significant number of people vote in person, there will be a line,” said Richard Barron, Fulton County’s director of registration and elections.
He urged residents to vote absentee. If they choose to go in person, he added: “Out of respect for poll workers and other people in line, I would encourage people to wear face masks.”
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Fundstrat’s Tom Lee: Bitcoin Pullback Is Healthy, Fewer Searches Аre Good (#GotBitcoin?)
Bitcoin Lightning Nodes Are Snatching Funds From Bad Actors (#GotBitcoin?)
The Provident Bank Now Offers Deposit Services For Crypto-Related Entities (#GotBitcoin?)
Bitcoin Could Help Stop News Censorship From Space (#GotBitcoin?)
US Sanctions On Iran Crypto Mining — Inevitable Or Impossible? (#GotBitcoin?)
US Lawmaker Reintroduces ‘Safe Harbor’ Crypto Tax Bill In Congress (#GotBitcoin?)
EU Central Bank Won’t Add Bitcoin To Reserves — Says It’s Not A Currency (#GotBitcoin?)
The Miami Dolphins Now Accept Bitcoin And Litecoin Crypt-Currency Payments (#GotBitcoin?)
Trump Bashes Bitcoin And Alt-Right Is Mad As Hell (#GotBitcoin?)
Goldman Sachs Ramps Up Development Of New Secret Crypto Project (#GotBitcoin?)
Blockchain And AI Bond, Explained (#GotBitcoin?)
Grayscale Bitcoin Trust Outperformed Indexes In First Half Of 2019 (#GotBitcoin?)
XRP Is The Worst Performing Major Crypto Of 2019 (GotBitcoin?)
Bitcoin Back Near $12K As BTC Shorters Lose $44 Million In One Morning (#GotBitcoin?)
As Deutsche Bank Axes 18K Jobs, Bitcoin Offers A ‘Plan ฿”: VanEck Exec (#GotBitcoin?)
Argentina Drives Global LocalBitcoins Volume To Highest Since November (#GotBitcoin?)
‘I Would Buy’ Bitcoin If Growth Continues — Investment Legend Mobius (#GotBitcoin?)
Lawmakers Push For New Bitcoin Rules (#GotBitcoin?)
Facebook’s Libra Is Bad For African Americans (#GotBitcoin?)
Crypto Firm Charity Announces Alliance To Support Feminine Health (#GotBitcoin?)
Canadian Startup Wants To Upgrade Millions Of ATMs To Sell Bitcoin (#GotBitcoin?)
Trump Says US ‘Should Match’ China’s Money Printing Game (#GotBitcoin?)
Casa Launches Lightning Node Mobile App For Bitcoin Newbies (#GotBitcoin?)
Bitcoin Rally Fuels Market In Crypto Derivatives (#GotBitcoin?)
World’s First Zero-Fiat ‘Bitcoin Bond’ Now Available On Bloomberg Terminal (#GotBitcoin?)
Buying Bitcoin Has Been Profitable 98.2% Of The Days Since Creation (#GotBitcoin?)
Another Crypto Exchange Receives License For Crypto Futures
From ‘Ponzi’ To ‘We’re Working On It’ — BIS Chief Reverses Stance On Crypto (#GotBitcoin?)
These Are The Cities Googling ‘Bitcoin’ As Interest Hits 17-Month High (#GotBitcoin?)
Venezuelan Explains How Bitcoin Saves His Family (#GotBitcoin?)
Quantum Computing Vs. Blockchain: Impact On Cryptography
This Fund Is Riding Bitcoin To Top (#GotBitcoin?)
Bitcoin’s Surge Leaves Smaller Digital Currencies In The Dust (#GotBitcoin?)
Bitcoin Exchange Hits $1 Trillion In Trading Volume (#GotBitcoin?)
Bitcoin Breaks $200 Billion Market Cap For The First Time In 17 Months (#GotBitcoin?)
You Can Now Make State Tax Payments In Bitcoin (#GotBitcoin?)
Religious Organizations Make Ideal Places To Mine Bitcoin (#GotBitcoin?)
Goldman Sacs And JP Morgan Chase Finally Concede To Crypto-Currencies (#GotBitcoin?)
Bitcoin Heading For Fifth Month Of Gains Despite Price Correction (#GotBitcoin?)
Breez Reveals Lightning-Powered Bitcoin Payments App For IPhone (#GotBitcoin?)
Big Four Auditing Firm PwC Releases Cryptocurrency Auditing Software (#GotBitcoin?)
Amazon-Owned Twitch Quietly Brings Back Bitcoin Payments (#GotBitcoin?)
JPMorgan Will Pilot ‘JPM Coin’ Stablecoin By End Of 2019: Report (#GotBitcoin?)
Is There A Big Short In Bitcoin? (#GotBitcoin?)
Coinbase Hit With Outage As Bitcoin Price Drops $1.8K In 15 Minutes
Samourai Wallet Releases Privacy-Enhancing CoinJoin Feature (#GotBitcoin?)
There Are Now More Than 5,000 Bitcoin ATMs Around The World (#GotBitcoin?)
You Can Now Get Bitcoin Rewards When Booking At Hotels.Com (#GotBitcoin?)
North America’s Largest Solar Bitcoin Mining Farm Coming To California (#GotBitcoin?)
Bitcoin On Track For Best Second Quarter Price Gain On Record (#GotBitcoin?)
Bitcoin Hash Rate Climbs To New Record High Boosting Network Security (#GotBitcoin?)
Bitcoin Exceeds 1Million Active Addresses While Coinbase Custodies $1.3B In Assets
Why Bitcoin’s Price Suddenly Surged Back $5K (#GotBitcoin?)
Bitcoin’s Lightning Comes To Apple Smartwatches With New App (#GotBitcoin?)
E-Trade To Offer Crypto Trading (#GotBitcoin)
US Rapper Lil Pump Starts Accepting Bitcoin Via Lightning Network On Merchandise Store (#GotBitcoin?)
Bitfinex Used Tether Reserves To Mask Missing $850 Million, Probe Finds (#GotBitcoin?)
21-Year-Old Jailed For 10 Years After Stealing $7.5M In Crypto By Hacking Cell Phones (#GotBitcoin?)
You Can Now Shop With Bitcoin On Amazon Using Lightning (#GotBitcoin?)
Afghanistan, Tunisia To Issue Sovereign Bonds In Bitcoin, Bright Future Ahead (#GotBitcoin?)
Crypto Faithful Say Blockchain Can Remake Securities Market Machinery (#GotBitcoin?)
Disney In Talks To Acquire The Owner Of Crypto Exchanges Bitstamp And Korbit (#GotBitcoin?)
Crypto Exchange Gemini Rolls Out Native Wallet Support For SegWit Bitcoin Addresses (#GotBitcoin?)
Binance Delists Bitcoin SV, CEO Calls Craig Wright A ‘Fraud’ (#GotBitcoin?)
Bitcoin Outperforms Nasdaq 100, S&P 500, Grows Whopping 37% In 2019 (#GotBitcoin?)
Bitcoin Passes A Milestone 400 Million Transactions (#GotBitcoin?)
Future Returns: Why Investors May Want To Consider Bitcoin Now (#GotBitcoin?)
Next Bitcoin Core Release To Finally Connect Hardware Wallets To Full Nodes (#GotBitcoin?)
Major Crypto-Currency Exchanges Use Lloyd’s Of London, A Registered Insurance Broker (#GotBitcoin?)
How Bitcoin Can Prevent Fraud And Chargebacks (#GotBitcoin?)
Why Bitcoin’s Price Suddenly Surged Back $5K (#GotBitcoin?)
Zebpay Becomes First Exchange To Add Lightning Payments For All Users (#GotBitcoin?)
Coinbase’s New Customer Incentive: Interest Payments, With A Crypto Twist (#GotBitcoin?)
The Best Bitcoin Debit (Cashback) Cards Of 2019 (#GotBitcoin?)
Real Estate Brokerages Now Accepting Bitcoin (#GotBitcoin?)
Ernst & Young Introduces Tax Tool For Reporting Cryptocurrencies (#GotBitcoin?)
Recession Is Looming, or Not. Here’s How To Know (#GotBitcoin?)
How Will Bitcoin Behave During A Recession? (#GotBitcoin?)
Many U.S. Financial Officers Think a Recession Will Hit Next Year (#GotBitcoin?)
Definite Signs of An Imminent Recession (#GotBitcoin?)
What A Recession Could Mean for Women’s Unemployment (#GotBitcoin?)
Investors Run Out of Options As Bitcoin, Stocks, Bonds, Oil Cave To Recession Fears (#GotBitcoin?)
Goldman Is Looking To Reduce “Marcus” Lending Goal On Credit (Recession) Caution (#GotBitcoin?)
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