As the coronavirus pandemic has grown, an urgent focus on keeping voting safe and accessible during the 2020 election cycle has emerged at all levels of government. With most states continuing to implement social distancing or stay at home orders in some form due to COVID-19, federal, state, and local election officials across the country have been evaluating voting procedures and election dates to determine what modifications are needed to keep voters and poll workers safe while ensuring that people can still exercise their right to vote. Some jurisdictions have postponed elections, whereas others have expanded access to mail-in ballots and/or taken other steps.
Thus far the federal response has primarily taken the form of funding made available to the states through the Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security (CARES) Act. Specifically, when this law took effect in late March 2020, it allocated $400 million in supplemental Help America Vote Act (HAVA) funds for states to use to pay for things like increased voting by mail and absentee voting, as well as personal protective equipment for poll workers. A hurdle to accessing this aid is that states must provide 20% in matching funds, despite having lost significant revenue in most cases due to COVID-19. Some federal legislators are asking to have the matching funds requirement eliminated, and lawmakers are also advocating for measures that would make additional money available to the states to expand voting by mail. In terms of the November 3, 2020 general election date, this can only be moved with Congressional approval, among other things, making a postponement unlikely.
Officials have been assessing similar options at the state level, where 2020 presidential primary, statewide, and local elections are ongoing. A number of jurisdictions have already embraced absentee voting or voting by mail to varying degrees, with states such as Colorado and Washington leading the movement in terms of conducting elections entirely or almost entirely by mail. Other states make absentee voting and voting by mail more difficult to access by mandating that voters meet certain requirements (such as being ill or out of town) in order to vote by mail, and having a notary be present when they sign their ballot.
In states already moving in the direction of increased voting by mail, the coronavirus outbreak has served to accelerate those efforts, with officials often keeping established election dates in place or extending the time during which mail-in ballots can be returned. In other states, officials have implemented a variety of responses, such as temporarily relaxing the requirements to access mail-in ballots or rescheduling elections. Further, while some states have made decisions that will apply to primary elections as well as the general presidential election, many have yet to make a determination as to what modifications may be needed in November.
Click on each state below to learn more about each jurisdiction’s current response to COVID-19 concerns in the context of the 2020 election cycle.
Election Date Changes: The March 31, 2020 primary runoff has been postponed until July 14, 2020.
Voting Procedure Changes: Alabama Secretary of State John Merrill has issued guidance clarifying that the state’s stringent absentee voting requirements can be conformed to the need of voters to remain at home during the coronavirus pandemic if those who are concerned about contracting or spreading the virus indicate that they can’t come to the polls due to “physical illness or infirmity.” Registered voters must apply for absentee ballots by July 9, 2020 and hand-deliver or postmark them by July 13, 2020. Merrill also has stated that Alabama will not permit direct mail-in voting.
Debated Issues: A lawsuit was filed May 1, 2020 challenging some of Alabama’s additional rules for voting by mail, such as including a photocopy of the voter’s ID, and that the voter must sign their absentee ballot before a notary and two witnesses in light of COVID-19 restrictions. Legislation also has been introduced in the Alabama State Legislature to allow no-excuse absentee voting, though it is not expected to pass the Republican-controlled Senate.
Election Date Changes: The Democratic Party of Alaska announced that it was canceling its in-person April 4, 2020 presidential preference primary election and opted to conduct the election by mail due to coronavirus concerns. No other changes to election dates have been announced.
Voting Procedure Changes: Alaska Lieutenant Governor Kevin Meyer has stated that Alaska will conduct its primary election on August 18, 2020 by using the normal voting process, even if COVID-19 cases increase. Absentee voting and early voting are encouraged. Additional safety measures, including social distancing, will be implemented at voting locations. The state will use the normal voting process for the general election in November as well. (The Alaska legislature passed a law allowing the state to conduct elections entirely by mail during the coronavirus outbreak, but Meyer chose not to use this option.)
Election Date Changes: State officials declined to delay the March 17, 2020 presidential preference primary election.
Voting Procedure Changes: N/A
Debated Issues: In response to an emergency motion by the state Attorney General, a state judge ruled that the Maricopa County Recorder could not mail ballots to all voters for the March 17, 2020 primary, which he had declared his intention to do in order to ensure voters’ ability to safely cast their ballots during the COVID-19 pandemic.
Voting Procedure Changes: Arkansas is one of the more restrictive states in terms of allowing access to absentee voting. In general, in order to cast an absentee ballot, voters must be unavoidably absent from their polling place, or unable to vote in person due to illness or physical disability. In light of the coronavirus outbreak, Governor Asa Hutchinson suspended these rules for the March 31, 2020 primary election, though it is unknown whether a similar no-excuse absentee ballot will be available in the November 2020 general election.
Debated Issues: An Arkansas federal judge denied a request to extend by 10 days the deadline by which primary election absentee ballots needed to have been received in order to ensure that the increased number of absentee ballots submitted due to COVID-19 were counted. A lawsuit has also been filed against Secretary of State John Thurston asking that the number of signatures required for Independent candidates to be placed on the November 3, 2020 election ballot be reduced in light of the pandemic, or alternatively that Independent candidates be granted ballot access in November.
Voting Procedure Changes: Due to coronavirus concerns, Governor Gavin Newsom has issued an executive order to provide mail-in ballots to every voter in the November 2020 general election. Governor Newsom previously issued an executive order to provide all mail-in voting for an April 7, 2020 local recall election, as well as two special elections scheduled for May 12, 2020.
Debated Issues: Legislation also has been introduced that would allow for all-mail voting in the November 2020 general election. The California Republican Party has sued California officials, seeking a declaration regarding the legality of the practice of “ballot harvesting,” or allowing campaign workers or party volunteers to collect mail-in ballots from voters and submit them to polling places, in light of the shelter in place order. More recently, the California Republican Party has joined the Republican National Committee and the National Republican Congressional Committee in suing Newsom over the executive order to provide all mail-in voting for the November presidential election.
Voting Procedure Changes: All Colorado voters automatically receive mail-in ballots. Moreover, county clerks may close voting service and polling sites due to suspicion of COVID-19 contamination without getting approval from the Colorado Secretary of State, although they must notify the Secretary of State as soon as possible.
Election Date Changes: Pursuant to an executive order from Governor Ned Lamont, the April 28, 2020 presidential preference primary election was rescheduled to August 11, 2020. Pursuant to another executive order, any Connecticut voter will be able to vote remotely based on fear of exposure to the coronavirus.
Voting Procedure Changes: Secretary of State Denise Merrill has announced a plan to send a mail-in ballot application to every registered voter in Connecticut ahead of both the August 2020 primary election and the November 2020 general election. Her plan for the next two elections also includes protocols to make in-person voting as safe as possible in light of COVID-19.
Election Date Changes: Pursuant to an order from Governor John Carney, the April 28, 2020 presidential preference primary has been rescheduled to July 7, 2020. A handful of local elections were also ordered to be postponed until after May 15, 2020.
Voting Procedure Changes: The Governor has expanded access to absentee voting for the July 7, 2020 primary election and any other upcoming primary or special elections by broadening the definition of “sick or physically disabled,” which is one of the standard qualifications for absentee voting in Delaware, to include voters who choose to vote absentee to prevent exposure to and the community spread of coronavirus. In order to accommodate the anticipated increase in absentee voting, the Delaware Department of Elections can also begin counting absentee ballots 10 calendar days before the election, instead of waiting until the Friday before the election.
Debated Issues: State lawmakers are working to accelerate the passage of proposed legislation that would allow any qualified voter to vote by mail in primary, general, and special federal elections.
Voting Procedure Changes: For the June 2, 2020 primary and June 16, 2020 special election, the District of Columbia Board of Elections is encouraging voters to vote by mail due to COVID-19. The usual 144 voting precincts will be closed, though 20 vote centers (expanded from 15) will open early on May 22, 2020, and will remain open through June 2, 2020 for the primary election. Vote centers will open June 12, 2020 and remain open through election day for the June 16, 2020 special election.
Voting Procedure Changes: In the presidential preference primary election that occurred on March 17, 2020, Florida officials encouraged voting early and voting by mail in light of coronavirus concerns, but still offered in-person voting. Secretary of State Laurel Lee has since issued two orders allowing candidates to submit qualifying documents electronically.
Debated Issues: Two lawsuits have been filed against Florida Governor Ron DeSantis, along with state and local election officials, challenging several of the state’s current election procedures. Among other things, the plaintiffs seek to make voting by mail more equally accessible for Florida’s upcoming August 18, 2020 and November 3, 2020 elections in light of COVID-19 concerns by requiring vote-by-mail ballots to have prepaid postage, and to require that vote-by-mail ballots postmarked by election day and received up to 10 days after election day be counted. More recently, three Florida residents have sued Secretary of State Lee and Leon County Supervisor of Elections Mark Earley, seeking to make vote-by-mail the default option for Florida voters.
Election Date Changes: Secretary of State Brad Raffensperger has announced that the statewide and presidential primaries have been postponed to June 9, 2020. The voter registration deadline was pushed back to May 11, 2020, and early voting began May 18, 2020. The primary runoff election has also been pushed back to August 11, 2020. Secretary Raffensperger had previously postponed the presidential primary to May 19, 2020, when it would have occurred simultaneously with the state primary, but both election dates are now delayed due to COVID-19.
Voting Procedure Changes: Secretary Raffensperger’s office had announced that they would send mail-in ballot applications to all active voters in advance of the May 19, 2020 election, which has now been rescheduled to June 9, 2020. Voters may still send in any ballots they received for the May 19, 2020 election even though the election date has changed. Further, voters who are over the age of 65 or disabled can use this application to request mail-in ballots for all elections in the 2020 election cycle; others will need to request a mail-in ballot for each election. Secretary Raffensperger is encouraging absentee voting and has assisted with providing personal protective equipment for voting sites, including face masks and hand sanitizer.
Debated Issues: Secretary Raffensperger and other election officials are facing lawsuits seeking outcomes including the removal of the requirement that voters pay for postage on mail-in ballots, and that the June 9, 2020 election be postponed for an additional three weeks to allow for operational changes that plaintiffs argue will increase voting access and safety in light of coronavirus concerns.
Election Date Changes: To limit the spread of COVID-19, the Hawaii Democratic Party canceled in-person voting for its presidential preference primary election originally scheduled for April 4, 2020, allowing voting only by mail until May 22, 2020.
Voting Procedure Changes: Voters participating in the Democratic Party presidential preference primary originally scheduled for April 4, 2020 have until May 22, 2020 to send their ballots in by mail; in-person voting was canceled. In general, Hawaii already sends mail-in ballots to all registered voters, but also provides options for in-person voting. No changes have been announced with regard to future elections.
Voting Procedure Changes: Pursuant to a proclamation from Governor Brad Little, the May 19, 2020 primary election will be conducted entirely by mail due to coronavirus concerns. The state government will be sending mail-in ballot requests to all registered voters, and voters can also go online to request their ballots. Voters must have requested ballots by May 26, 2020, and ballots must be received by June 2, 2020.
Voting Procedure Changes: No changes to voting procedures have been ordered as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic, as Illinois currently offers no-excuse voting by mail. However, Governor J.B. Pritzker issued an executive order exempting candidates for statewide office from filing statements of economic interest during and for 30 days after the period of his disaster proclamation. Also, the Illinois legislature has passed a bill that would require local election offices to mail or email vote-by-mail ballot applications to all voters who cast a ballot in 2018, 2019, or 2020, and to voters who registered or changed addresses after the March 2020 primary. The Illinois Secretary of State would send a notice by September 15, 2020 to people who have received an application but have not returned it. Governor Pritzker supports the bill and is expected to sign it.
Debated Issues: A federal judge in Illinois has issued a ruling allowing candidates to gather signatures electronically and reducing the number of required signatures to 10 percent of the previous threshold, as well as extending the candidate filing deadline to August 7, 2020. Offices for which Green and Libertarian party candidates secured ballot access in 2016 and 2018 will qualify to be placed on the 2020 general election ballot.
Election Date Changes: Pursuant to an executive order from Governor Eric Holcomb, Indiana’s May 5, 2020 primary election was rescheduled to June 2, 2020 due to coronavirus concerns.
Voting Procedure Changes: The Indiana Election Commission has temporarily suspended vote-by-mail restrictions to allow all voters to vote by mail in the June 2, 2020 election. All deadlines corresponding to the election were also postponed by 28 days. The deadline to request an absentee-by-mail ballot is May 21, 2020. In-person absentee voting is allowed from May 26, 2020 to June 1, 2020. Voting sites will take COVID-19 precautions, such as providing hand sanitizer stations, imposing social distancing, and supplying personal protective equipment to election workers. No changes have been made thus far with regard to the November 3, 2020 election.
Debated Issues: A class action lawsuit has been filed against Indiana election officials seeking, among other things, a ruling requiring the state to permit no-excuse voting by mail for all Indiana voters in the November 3, 2020 election.
Election Date Changes: Iowa Secretary of State Paul Pate postponed three municipal elections until July 7, 2020 in light of the COVID-19 outbreak.
Voting Procedure Changes: Iowa has extended the absentee voting period for the June 2, 2020 primary election by opening it 40 days prior to the election (on April 23, 2020), instead of 29 days before. Secretary Pate also announced that Iowa would send absentee ballot applications to all active registered voters in advance of the June 2, 2020 primary, and prepaid postage would be included. Iowa generally offers no-excuse absentee voting.
Voting Procedure Changes: The Kansas Democratic Party decided that its May 2, 2020 presidential preference primary election would be conducted entirely by mail to prevent the spread of coronavirus. Ballots with prepaid return postage were mailed to all registered Democrats; ballots could also be requested online until April 24, 2020. Though no changes have been announced for the August 4, 2020 primary election or the November 3, 2020 election, Kansas does allow no-excuse or “advance” voting by mail.
Election Date Changes: Due to the coronavirus emergency, Kentucky Secretary of State Michael Adams has postponed the Kentucky primary election to June 23, 2020. The postponement is based on Kentucky Revised Statutes Section 39A.100, under which elections may be postponed for up to 35 days during a state of emergency that affects all or part of the election area.
Voting Procedure Changes: Pursuant to an executive order by Governor Andy Beshear, all Kentucky residents must vote by mail in the primary election if possible. The Kentucky State Board of Elections will create a secure online portal, through which voters can ask for absentee ballots to be mailed to them. The Board of Elections also will send a postcard to each registered voter to inform them that they can vote by mail and describe the process. For situations in which direct voting is necessary, in-person absentee voting will begin on June 8, 2020, and these voters will be prioritized by appointment. Kentucky Secretary of State Michael Adams has announced that fewer voting locations will be available. The Board of Elections will provide personal protective equipment and sanitization materials to clerks and poll workers. Contact between voters and between poll workers and voters will be limited.
Election Date Changes: Pursuant to a proclamation by Governor John Bel Edwards, the Louisiana presidential preference primary election has been postponed to July 11, 2020. Moreover, the absentee ballot request deadline has been extended to July 7, 2020 for most voters, and the deadline to return absentee ballots has been extended to July 10, 2020 for most voters. Municipal elections that initially were scheduled to be held on July 25, 2020 have been postponed to August 15, 2020. The absentee ballot request deadline for these elections has been extended to August 11, 2020 for most voters, and the deadline to return absentee ballots has been extended to August 14, 2020 for most voters.
Voting Procedure Changes: The emergency election plan provided by Secretary of State Kyle Ardoin offers enhanced opportunities to vote by mail. Louisiana voters will be able to access an absentee ballot if they are at high risk because of serious medical conditions, they are subject to a medically necessary quarantine or isolation order, they have been advised to self-quarantine by a health care provider, they are experiencing symptoms of COVID-19 and seeking a medical diagnosis, or they are caring for someone who is subject to a quarantine order or has been advised to self-quarantine.
Debated Issues: The League of Women Voters of Louisiana has filed a lawsuit in a federal court in Baton Rouge, seeking to expand the ability of Louisiana voters to cast ballots by mail. The lawsuit urges the court to allow voters to ask for a mail-in absentee ballot for any reason for the 2020 elections, to allow voters to mail in ballots without a witness signature, and to notify voters and allow them to amend defects in their ballots without requiring them to appear in person. An additional lawsuit filed by four Louisiana residents, the Power Coalition for Equity and Justice, and the NAACP seeks an expansion to mail-in voting and enhanced safety precautions for in-person voting, claiming that the emergency election plan creates undue burdens on the right to vote.
Election Date Changes: In response to the coronavirus pandemic, Governor Janet Mills issued an executive order postponing the Maine primary election to July 14, 2020. The absentee ballot application deadline also has been extended to July 14, 2020. Unaffiliated candidates can file their petitions with the Maine Secretary of State until July 1, 2020.
Voting Procedure Changes: Pursuant to the executive order, applications for absentee ballots may be made by mail or in person without specifying a reason. Maine Secretary of State Matt Dunlap has urged Maine residents to vote by using absentee ballots. The Secretary of State’s office will work with municipalities on developing safety measures for in-person voting.
Election Date Changes: Due to the COVID-19 emergency, Governor Larry Hogan issued a proclamation postponing the Maryland primary election to June 2, 2020.
Voting Procedure Changes: Another proclamation by Governor Hogan ordered election officials to conduct the primary election mostly by mail. All eligible voters will be mailed absentee ballots with prepaid postage, and ballots can be dropped off during early voting periods or on election day. However, each county must have at least one center for in-person voting, which can accommodate voters who cannot vote by mail. Meanwhile, the Maryland State Board of Elections has authorized limited in-person voting in the special election for Maryland’s Seventh Congressional District. In-person voting is allowed only for people who cannot vote by mail.
Election Date Changes: In response to the coronavirus outbreak, Governor Charlie Baker signed a law that authorizes municipalities to postpone elections that were scheduled to take place before May 30, 2020 to a date no later than June 30, 2020. The Massachusetts General Court postponed four special state legislative elections that were scheduled to occur on March 31, 2020 to May 19, 2020 (the Second Hampshire & Hampden District and the Plymouth & Barnstable District) and to June 2, 2020 (the Third Bristol District and the Thirty-seventh Middlesex District). Moreover, the Massachusetts Supreme Judicial Court extended candidate filing deadlines for district elections to May 5, 2020 and for county elections to June 2, 2020. Candidate petition signature requirements have been halved, and candidates may collect signatures electronically.
Voting Procedure Changes: For elections held no later than June 30, 2020, absentee voting eligibility extends to all Massachusetts residents who are taking precautions related to COVID-19 in response to a declared state of emergency, or based on guidance by a medical professional, a local or state health official, or any other civil authority.
Debated Issues: The Massachusetts legislature is considering a bill that would require the Secretary of State’s office to mail absentee ballots to all Massachusetts registered voters before the November 2020 election. Hospitalization, quarantine, or isolation related to COVID-19 would be considered a qualifying disability under the Massachusetts Constitution that would allow voters to receive absentee ballots by mail. Another bill under consideration would provide mail-in ballots to voters registered with a party at least 18 days before a state election, in addition to providing personal protective equipment to election workers and making Election Day a holiday.
Election Date Changes: None, but Judge Terrence Berg of the US District Court for the Eastern District of Michigan extended filing deadlines for candidates in the August 2020 primary election to May 8, 2020. Judge Berg also halved petition signature requirements and ordered election officials to develop a process for collecting and submitting signatures electronically. He denied the state’s request to stay this ruling.
Voting Procedure Changes: Due to the coronavirus emergency, Secretary of State Jocelyn Benson arranged to mail absentee ballot applications to all voters for the 2020 elections.
Debated Issues: Fair and Equal Michigan, an LGBT rights group, has filed a lawsuit related to the petition signature requirement to qualify for the November 2020 ballot. The lawsuit asks the court to reduce the signature requirement or waive the 180-day circulation window. The Michigan League of Women Voters also has filed a lawsuit related to absentee voting requirements, which it alleges are not strictly enforced, such that absentee ballots might not be properly counted.
Debated Issues: To ease safety concerns during the coronavirus outbreak, Elections Subcommittee Chair Raymond Dehn has proposed a mail-in voting bill in the Minnesota Legislature for the primary election in August 2020 and the general election in November 2020. This would involve automatically mailing ballots to all registered voters. However, Elections Committee Chair Mary Kiffmeyer and other Republican lawmakers oppose the bill and can block it, due to a Republican majority in the Minnesota Senate. In addition, a bipartisan group of legislators is developing another bill, which would respond to the COVID-19 emergency by opening more polls, improving sanitation at voting places, and encouraging more voters to sign up for absentee ballots. Meanwhile, the Minnesota Alliance for Retired Americans Educational Fund has filed a lawsuit to stop the state from enforcing the witness signature requirement on mail-in ballots and to ask the state to adopt a postmark deadline for these ballots. The League of Women Voters of Minnesota Education Fund also has filed a lawsuit to challenge the witness signature requirement.
Election Date Changes: In response to the COVID-19 emergency, Governor Tate Reeves postponed the Republican primary runoff election for the Second Congressional District to June 23, 2020.
Voting Procedure Changes: Mississippi Secretary of State Michael Watson has announced that Mississippi will implement COVID-19 precautions for the November 2020 election. These will include sanitation stations and personal protective equipment for election workers. Mississippi may move all counties to paper ballots if this is possible. The Secretary of State has urged the legislature to expand early voting options, but he does not plan to implement a vote-by-mail system.
Election Date Changes: Due to COVID-19 concerns, Governor Mike Parson has postponed municipal elections that were scheduled for April 7, 2020 to June 2, 2020.
Voting Procedure Changes: The Missouri legislature recently passed a bill that would explicitly allow Missouri residents to vote by mail in the 2020 elections if they are 65 or older, if they live in a nursing home, if their immune system is compromised, or if they have certain conditions that increase their risk of COVID-19 complications, including chronic lung disease, moderate to severe asthma, heart conditions, diabetes, kidney disease, and liver disease. Under this proposed law, moreover, a Missouri resident who does not fit into any of these categories can vote by mail if their ballot is notarized.
Debated Issues: The ACLU and the Missouri Voter Protection Coalition have filed a lawsuit to compel the state to allow all eligible Missouri residents to vote by mail in upcoming elections. The lawsuit argues that the Missouri law on absentee voting should be interpreted to cover situations in which people fear leaving their homes during a public health emergency. A Cole County circuit court judge dismissed the case, but the ACLU has appealed to the Missouri Supreme Court.
Voting Procedure Changes: Pursuant to a directive by Governor Steve Bullock, all Montana counties have decided to conduct elections on June 2, 2020 entirely by mail. All ballots were scheduled to be mailed by May 8, 2020.
Debated Issues: John Meyer, a prospective independent candidate for Attorney General, has sued the Montana Secretary of State and the Gallatin County election administrator in Gallatin County District Court. The lawsuit argues that electronic signatures on candidate petitions should be accepted during the COVID-19 emergency. Meanwhile, the Montana Democratic Party and the Democratic Senatorial Campaign Committee have filed a lawsuit asking for the deadline for mailed ballots to be received by county elections offices to be extended from June 2 to June 8, as long as ballots are postmarked by Election Day.
Voting Procedure Changes: In response to the COVID-19 outbreak, Governor Pete Ricketts and Secretary of State Bob Evnen determined that all eligible Nebraska residents would receive absentee ballot applications by mail prior to the primary election on May 12, 2020. In-person voting locations will remain open.
Voting Procedure Changes: Due to COVID-19 concerns, Secretary of State Barbara Cegavske has decided that all voting will be conducted by mail in the primary election on June 9, 2020. All eligible Nevada residents will automatically receive absentee ballots, which they can return to election officials in person or by mail in postage-prepaid envelopes. The ballots must be returned by June 9, 2020. However, each county in Nevada will provide at least one in-person polling location.
Debated Issues: A group seeking to block the plan to automatically distribute absentee ballots to all voters sued election officials, arguing that this would result in election fraud. Judge Miranda Du of the US District Court for the District of Nevada rejected this claim. Meanwhile, the Nevada Democratic Party and national organizations affiliated with the Democratic Party have filed a lawsuit seeking changes to the plan. These would include providing additional in-person voting sites, sending absentee ballots to inactive voters, and suspending certain election law provisions.
Voting Procedure Changes: Pursuant to a memo issued by Secretary of State William Gardner and Attorney General Gordon MacDonald, any eligible New Hampshire voter in the primary election on September 8, 2020 or the general election on November 3, 2020 can ask for an absentee ballot due to COVID-19 concerns. New Hampshire residents who are eligible to vote can register remotely.
Election Date Changes: Due to concerns surrounding the coronavirus, Governor Phil Murphy has issued an executive order postponing the statewide primary election to July 7, 2020. Any other elections that were scheduled to be held between May 13, 2020 and July 7, 2020 also have been postponed to July 7, 2020. Unaffiliated candidates for non-presidential offices can submit petitions until July 7, 2020. School board elections that had been scheduled for April 21, 2020 were postponed to May 12, 2020, as were certain municipal elections initially scheduled for March.
Voting Procedure Changes: No in-person voting was permitted for the May 12, 2020 elections, which was conducted entirely by mail. Candidates in the May 12, 2020 elections and later elections have been permitted to collect petition signatures electronically and submit their petitions online. The July 7, 2020 election also will be conducted primarily by mail, although each municipality will provide at least one in-person voting location, where social distancing measures will apply.
Election Date Changes: In response to the COVID-19 emergency, Governor Andrew Cuomo issued an executive order postponing the presidential preference primary to June 23, 2020, which is the date on which primary elections for state, local, and congressional offices had been scheduled. Certain special elections that had been scheduled for the same date as the original presidential preference primary also were rescheduled to June 23, 2020. The New York State Board of Elections then canceled the Democratic presidential preference primary, but it may be reinstated (see below).
Voting Procedure Changes: Governor Cuomo issued another executive order allowing all voters to use absentee ballots in the June 23, 2020 election. An ensuing executive order provided that absentee ballot applications must be sent to all eligible New York voters automatically. Also, petition signature requirements for primary candidates have been reduced, and the signature-gathering process has been suspended.
Debated Issues: Former presidential candidate Andrew Yang filed a lawsuit after the Democratic presidential preference primary was canceled. He and other plaintiffs argued that this decision unconstitutionally deprived voters of the right to cast ballots for their preferred candidate, according to their political beliefs. On May 5, 2020, Judge Analisa Torres of the US District Court for the Southern District of New York ruled in favor of the plaintiffs, ordering the Democratic presidential preference primary to proceed.
Election Date Changes: The Executive Director of the North Carolina State Board of Elections, Karen Brinson Bell, has announced that the Republican primary runoff for the Eleventh Congressional District is postponed to June 23, 2020.
Voting Procedure Changes: The Board of Elections has proposed several changes to election rules and procedures, which would remain in effect beyond the coronavirus emergency. Some of the proposed changes include expanding options for absentee ballot requests, creating an online portal for absentee ballot requests, providing prepaid postage for ballots submitted by mail, modifying ballot counting procedures, and removing the requirement that two witnesses or a notary sign a ballot.
Debated Issues: Seven North Carolina voters, supported by two advocacy organizations, have filed a lawsuit against the state and the Board of Elections. They seek to remove the witness requirement mentioned above, while also changing rules regarding prepaid postage, signature verification, and the absentee ballot receipt deadline. Democracy North Carolina and the League of Women Voters of North Carolina also have filed a lawsuit challenging the witness requirement and certain other procedural rules. Meanwhile, the North Carolina legislature is considering a bipartisan bill that would reduce the number of witnesses from two to one, allow registered voters to request absentee ballots online or by email or fax, and allow more time to verify the legitimacy of mail-in ballots with defects.
Voting Procedure Changes: Governor Doug Burgum issued an executive order in March 2020 that allowed any county to choose voting by mail as the only voting method for the June 9, 2020 primary election due to the coronavirus pandemic. All 53 counties chose this approach, so voting in the June 9, 2020 primary will be conducted entirely by mail. All eligible voters will receive a ballot application in the mail from the North Dakota Secretary of State’s Office. Voters can contact their county auditors if they did not receive an application by May 11, 2020.
Election Date Changes: On March 27, 2020 Governor Mike DeWine signed House Bill 197, which had the effect of changing the state’s primary election, originally scheduled for March 17, 2020, to an all-mail vote with a deadline of April 28, 2020.
Voting Procedure Changes: As referenced above, House Bill 197 had the effect of changing the state’s primary election to an all-mail vote (in-person voting was available in limited cases), with a deadline of April 28, 2020. All mail-in ballots needed to be postmarked by April 27, 2020 and received by May 8, 2020.
Debated Issues: There has been extensive controversy, including litigation, surrounding Ohio’s 2020 primary election. The voting plan outlined in House Bill 197 faced legal challenges, but was upheld by US District Judge Michael Watson. Discussions are in progress regarding modifying election procedures due to COVID-19 for the November general election. Meanwhile, the federal Sixth Circuit Court of Appeals has stayed (temporarily reversed) a ruling by a federal district court that extended the signature deadline for ballot petitions and permitted electronic signatures.
Election Date Changes: On March 18, 2020 Oklahoma State Election Board Secretary Paul Ziriax declared an election emergency for local elections being held in 74 countries on April 7, 2020, which allowed these elections to be rescheduled. There is no change to the statewide primary and special elections scheduled for June 30, 2020.
Voting Procedure Changes: Senate Bill 210, which was signed into law by Governor Kevin Stitt on May 7, 2020, contains new procedures for elections being held during 2020, including allowing voters to submit a copy of their ID or voter ID card with a mail-in ballot instead of being required to have their signature notarized. The new procedures outlined in the legislation apply if a state of emergency has been declared by the governor related to the coronavirus pandemic 45 days prior to a scheduled election, or is declared within 45 days of the election.
Debated Issues: The Oklahoma Democratic Party and the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee have filed suit to challenge the requirement that mail-in ballots be notarized, have a witness, or have a photo ID.
Election Date Changes: No change to the May 19, 2020 primary election.
Voting Procedure Changes: Voting in Oregon is conducted exclusively by mail. Voters who did not receive a ballot packet by May 8, 2020 for the primary election can contact their county elections office. No stamp is required to return a mail-in ballot. Some ballot dropbox locations are closed because of COVID-19, but voters can use an online tool to locate one that is available.
Election Date Changes: On March 27, 2020, Governor Tom Wolf signed Senate Bill 422, which postponed the state’s primary election to June 2, 2020.
Voting Procedure Changes: Senate Bill 422 provided for additional changes for the primary election due to the coronavirus outbreak, including allowing counties to temporarily consolidate polling places without court approval.
Debated Issues: On April 22, 2020 the Pennsylvania Alliance for Retired Americans and four of its members filed a lawsuit in the Pennsylvania Commonwealth Court seeking changes in the state’s voting procedures, including waiving absentee ballot requirements due to the pandemic.
Election Date Changes: Rhode Island Governor Gina Raimondo issued an executive order that postponed Rhode Island's presidential preference primary from April 28, 2020 to June 2, 2020.
Voting Procedure Changes: This executive order also stated that voting for the June 2, 2020 primary should be conducted predominantly by mail. The state will mail all registered Rhode Island voters a ballot application.
Debated Issues: The Rhode Island Republican Party submitted comments to the Rhode Island Board of Elections expressing their concerns and legal arguments regarding the expanded vote-by-mail efforts and questioning the Governor’s legal authority to move the date of the primary election. Meanwhile, the Rhode Island Political Cooperative has urged the legislature to suspend ballot signature requirements for the 2020 elections.
Election Date Changes: The June 9, 2020 statewide primaries and June 23, 2020 runoffs are set to proceed as scheduled. All local elections scheduled for March and April were postponed until after May 1, 2020 due to COVID-19 (new dates to be announced). Local elections scheduled for May 5 and May 12, 2020 have also been postponed (new dates to be announced).
Voting Procedure Changes: Voting options remain unchanged for the June 9, 2020 statewide primaries and June 23, 2020 runoffs, but voters are urged to vote absentee. A federal judge has struck down the witness signature requirement for absentee ballots in these elections, although this ruling may be appealed.
Debated Issues: On April 22, 2020 the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee and South Carolina Democratic Party filed a lawsuit in the South Carolina Supreme Court seeking to expand absentee voting access for the South Carolina primary election on June 9, 2020 and the November 2020 general election.
Election Date Changes: Legislation was signed in April 2020 that allows local governments to move elections that were scheduled from April 14, 2020 through May 26, 2020 to any Tuesday in June 2020. With this flexibility, many have chosen to move their elections to coincide with the state’s primary election, which is scheduled for June 2, 2020.
Voting Procedure Changes: Due to coronavirus concerns, the Secretary of State has mailed absentee ballot applications to all registered voters (with some exceptions) for the June 2, 2020 primary election. Absentee voting began April 17, 2020 and the last day to register to vote in this election May 18, 2020. In-person voting will still be offered for this election, but adjustments will be made to polling locations to protect voter health, including social distancing procedures and enhanced cleaning.
Voting Procedure Changes: Beginning May 8, 2020, eligible Tennesseans could request a ballot to vote absentee by mail for the August 6, 2020 state and federal primary and county general election. However, Tennessee officials have stated that it would be impossible for all voters to vote by mail in the 2020 elections, and fear of exposure to the coronavirus is not a qualifying reason to vote by mail. COVID-19 precautions implemented at voting sites will include hand sanitizer, floor markings for social distancing, and masks for election workers.
Debated Issues: A lawsuit was filed in the US District Court for the Middle District of Tennessee on May 1, 2020 against Secretary of State Tre Hargett, State Coordinator of Elections Mark Goins, and Shelby County District Attorney General Amy Weirich to expand access to absentee voting.
Election Date Changes: Governor Greg Abbott issued a proclamation postponing the runoff primary election until July 14, 2020 (the same date as the special election for Texas State Senate District 14).
Voting Procedure Changes: In Texas, voters can generally only vote by mail if they have a qualifying reason, such as being ill, disabled, or out of town. On April 17, 2020 a state trial court judge issued a temporary injunction that would allow voters concerned about contracting or spreading COVID-19 to use the disability category of eligibility to request a mail-in ballot. It is expected that this ruling will be appealed. Meanwhile, state officials urge voters to bring hand sanitizer, wear masks, and bring their own marking devices (such as pencils) when they come to voting sites. Voters are encouraged to use curbside voting if they have symptoms of COVID-19.
Debated Issues: There are significant disputes regarding the scope of mail-in voting in Texas. Lawsuits have been filed by the Texas Democratic Party in federal and state courts advocating for expansions to mail-in voting. As referenced above, the court ruling that would allow all voters to request a mail-in ballot during the pandemic is expected to be appealed, particularly given that the Texas Attorney General has taken the position that fear of contracting the coronavirus is not a “disability” that would qualify someone to vote by mail.
Voting Procedure Changes: The enactment of House Bill 3006 outlines a number of procedures for the primary election on June 30, 2020 in all Utah counties except San Juan County, including: (1) The election will be conducted by mail; (2) in-person early voting will not be available; (3) counties may offer limited drive-up voting on election day, but regular polling places on election day will not be available; (4) the voter registration deadline is June 19, 2020, and voter registration on election day is not available; and (5) if your county offers limited drive-up voting on election day, the county clerk may cancel drive-up voting based on public health concerns and voters will be required to vote by mail. Voters with a disability should contact their country clerk’s office for accomodations. In addition, Governor Gary Herbert issued executive orders that allow candidates and referendum sponsors to distribute petitions electronically and for voters to return physically signed petitions by electronic means in light of the coronavirus pandemic.
Election Date Changes: There is no change to the date of the August 11, 2020 primary election, but Secretary of State Jim Condos has issued a directive in agreement with Governor Phil Scott that allows municipal elections to be postponed due to COVID-19 concerns.
Voting Procedure Changes: Bill H.681, which was passed by the legislature and signed into law by the Governor on March 30, 2020, includes a series of temporary changes to Vermont’s elections law, including the waiving of candidate petition signature gathering requirements for the August statewide primary election and November general election. This law also creates emergency powers to allow the Secretary of State, with the agreement of the Governor, to enact the necessary measures to enable Vermonters to vote safely during the coronavirus crisis. Examples of such measures could include mailing ballots to every registered voter or moving polling locations.
Debated Issues: The Senate Government Operations Committee has proposed a bill that would remove the Governor’s authority over how to conduct elections during 2020, leaving that authority exclusively with the Secretary of State. Condos has stated that he wants to mail general election ballots to all registered voters, while the Governor has been less receptive to that plan.
Election Date Changes: The general and special elections originally scheduled for May 5, 2020 were rescheduled to May 19, 2020. The primary election scheduled for June 9, 2020 has been rescheduled to June 23, 2020.
Voting Procedure Changes: Governor Ralph Northam encouraged voters to vote absentee by mail if their municipality was holding a general or special election on May 19, 2020. The witness requirement for absentee voting has been removed for the June 23, 2020 primary.
Debated Issues: On May 5, 2020, a federal court approved a partial settlement that eliminates the state’s witness requirement for absentee voting for voters who believe their health would be at risk due to COVID-19 if forced to comply. The agreement pertains to the June 23, 2020 primary; the case is still pending regarding all elections in 2020 that may be affected by the pandemic, including the November 3, 2020 election. More recently, a group of voters has filed a lawsuit arguing that the state cannot allow voters to use the coronavirus as an excuse to vote by mail.
Election Date Changes: No change to the August 4, 2020 primary election date.
Voting Procedure Changes: Voting in Washington is conducted exclusively by mail.
Debated Issues: Secretary of State Kim Wyman asked Governor Jay Inslee to cancel the April 28, 2020 special election due to concerns related to coronavirus, but the Governor allowed the election to proceed.
Election Date Changes: Governor Jim Justice has issued an executive order that moves the date of the state’s primary election from May 12, 2020 to June 9, 2020 because of COVID-19.
Voting Procedure Changes: All registered voters will receive absentee voter applications and can vote by mail in the June 9, 2020 primary election. Voters will continue to have four all options available to vote in this election: (1) absentee; (2) in-person early voting; (3) in-person election day voting; and (4) electronic voting for special populations, including those with disabilities and overseas military personnel.
Election Date Changes: The state’s primary election took place as scheduled on April 7, 2020.
Voting Procedure Changes: N/A
Debated Issues: There were many legal challenges pertaining to the April 7, 2020 primary election. Wisconsin Governor Tony Evers issued an executive order on April 6, 2020 to postpone in-person voting and extend the deadline for receiving mail-in ballots due to coronavirus concerns, but this order was overturned later in the day by the Wisconsin Supreme Court and the election took place on April 7 as originally scheduled. Another series of legal challenges culminated in a ruling by the US Supreme Court on April 6, 2020 that rejected a lower court ruling that had extended absentee voting deadlines for this election.
Debated Issues: Polling places will be reduced, and in-person absentee voting (pre-Election Day voting) will be expanded. Curbside voting will be available at voting centers to voters with special needs. Social distancing and sanitation protocols will be in effect.