Elections During COVID-19: 50-State Legal Resources
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 and other public health protections 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. Since the spring, some jurisdictions have postponed elections, whereas others have expanded access to mail-in ballots and/or taken other steps.
The federal response to the impact of the coronavirus outbreak on the 2020 election cycle 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 have requested 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 and cover other increased election expenses associated with the pandemic. 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. 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 almost entirely by mail. Other states have historically made 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 have 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 largely 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. It is important to be aware that rules and procedures associated with absentee voting and voting by mail are the subject of ongoing litigation in several states, and that changes are occurring rapidly in this area.
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.
- District of Columbia
- New Hampshire
- New Jersey
- New Mexico
- New York
- North Carolina
- North Dakota
- Rhode Island
- South Carolina
- South Dakota
- West Virginia
- Election Date Changes: The March 31, 2020 primary runoff was held on July 14, 2020.
- Voting Procedure Changes: Alabama Secretary of State John Merrill has stated that coronavirus concerns will be an adequate basis for absentee voting in the November general election. Voters who want to exercise this option must mark a box stating that a physical illness or infirmity prevents them from going to the polls. The deadline to apply for an absentee ballot for the November election is October 29, although Merrill recommends applying as soon as possible. Ballots must be returned by November 2.
- Debated Issues: A federal judge temporarily suspended or limited some of Alabama’s voting rules, including a ban on curbside voting and provisions related to the photo ID and witness requirements for absentee voting. The photo ID and witness requirements were reinstated on appeal, but the curbside voting ban remained suspended as ordered by the lower court.
- Election Date Changes: The Democratic Party of Alaska canceled the April 4, 2020 presidential preference primary and conducted it by mail due to coronavirus concerns.
- Voting Procedure Changes: Alaska will use the normal voting process for the general election in November 2020. Absentee voting and early voting are encouraged. Absentee ballot applications will be distributed to all voters who are 65 or older. Additional safety measures, including social distancing, will be implemented at voting locations.
- Debated Issues: The Disability Law Center of Alaska, the Native Peoples Action Community Fund, and the Alaska Public Interest Research Group have joined other parties in a lawsuit seeking to have absentee ballot applications automatically mailed to all qualified Alaska voters. Alaska State Representative Matt Claman previously endorsed this view in a letter. The plaintiffs’ motion for a preliminary injunction has been denied, but they have appealed. Meanwhile, a state court judge has temporarily suspended the witness requirement for absentee ballots in the 2020 general election. The Alaska Supreme Court affirmed this ruling.
- Election Date Changes: N/A
- Voting Procedure Changes: Most Arizona voters use absentee voting by signing up for the Permanent Early Voting List. Options for in-person voting have been reduced, and social distancing measures will be in place to limit the spread of COVID-19.
- Debated Issues: The Arizona Democratic Party and other plaintiffs have sued to challenge the state rule that does not allow voters to cure the absence of a signature on a mail-in ballot that is otherwise valid. The court granted a preliminary and permanent injunction, which would allow voters to provide their signatures until 5 PM on the fifth business day after the election, but this injunction has been stayed on appeal. Meanwhile, an individual voter has sued a county in Arizona to challenge its ban on curbside voting. A motion for a preliminary injunction has been filed. Members of the Navajo Nation have sued to challenge the Arizona law requiring rejection of any ballots received after 7 PM on Election Day, regardless of when they were postmarked. A motion for a preliminary injunction in this case has been denied, but that ruling has been appealed.
Meanwhile, the Arizona Public Integrity Alliance has sued in state court to challenge certain vote-by-mail ballot instructions. A motion for a preliminary injunction in this case was denied. The Maricopa County Recorder has asked a state court to issue a declaratory judgment supporting its policy of allowing special election boards to provide video assistance with absentee ballots to voters with disabilities. A judge in another case extended the voter registration deadline from October 5 to October 23. The Ninth Circuit stayed the extension, but voters who had already registered during the extended period were allowed to remain registered.
- Election Date Changes: N/A
- Voting Procedure Changes: Arkansas Governor Asa Hutchinson has announced that all voters will be allowed to vote by absentee ballot in the November 2020 general election based on coronavirus concerns. The Arkansas State Board of Election Commissioners is encouraging voters to wear a face mask if they will vote in person, but counties cannot restrict access to polling centers based on health screening or lack of a mask.
- Debated Issues: The League of Women Voters of Arkansas has joined individual voters in asking a federal court to strike down a rule that absentee ballots must be rejected if a signature or other information is missing or does not match the information provided on the voter’s absentee ballot, without informing the voter and giving them an opportunity to address the issue after Election Day.
- Election Date Changes: N/A
- Voting Procedure Changes: Due to coronavirus concerns, Governor Gavin Newsom has issued an executive order and signed a law that will provide mail-in ballots to every voter in the November 2020 general election. Governor Newsom issued another executive order requiring each county to provide three days of in-person early voting starting on the Saturday before Election Day and to provide at least one voting location per 10,000 voters. Ballot drop-box locations must be made available between October 6 and November 3. A California law passed in August allows counties to consolidate polling places in the November election and change certain other procedures.
- Debated Issues: A group of voters has sued to challenge the certification of presidential primary results in San Joaquin County prior to the deadline for curing signature defects, in addition to seeking reforms to voting procedures for the November election. Also, two state legislators sued in state court to challenge Governor Newsom’s executive order providing mail-in ballots.
- Election Date Changes: N/A
- Voting Procedure Changes: All Colorado voters automatically receive mail-in ballots. County clerks may close voting service and polling sites due to suspicion of coronavirus 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 by Governor Ned Lamont, the April 28, 2020 presidential preference primary election was rescheduled to August 11, 2020.
- 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 the November 2020 general election. Under a state law that was passed in July, any Connecticut voter will be able to vote by absentee ballot based on fear of exposure to the coronavirus. Meanwhile, Merrill has devised protocols to make in-person voting as safe as possible in light of COVID-19.
- Election Date Changes: Pursuant to an order by Governor John Carney, the April 28, 2020 presidential preference primary was held on July 7, 2020. A handful of local elections were also ordered to be postponed until after May 15, 2020.
- Voting Procedure Changes: Under a state law that was passed in July, all qualified Delaware voters can vote by mail in all 2020 elections, and absentee ballot request forms will be mailed to all registered voters ahead of the November election. In order to accommodate the anticipated increase in absentee voting, the Delaware Department of Elections can begin counting absentee ballots 10 calendar days before the election, instead of waiting until the Friday before the election. Voting centers are expected to implement social distancing protocols and provide rules for masks.
- Debated Issues: The League of Women Voters of Delaware has sued in state court to challenge a rule that absentee ballots must be received by 8 PM on Election Day. Meanwhile, the Republican State Committee of Delaware has sued in state court to challenge the July law discussed above.
District of Columbia
- Election Date Changes: N/A
- Voting Procedure Changes: The District of Columbia Board of Elections is encouraging voters to vote by mail in the November 2020 election due to COVID-19, and it will mail a ballot to each registered voter. The Board of Elections is developing safety protocols for voting centers, which will open for early voting on October 27, 2020.
- Debated Issues: The NAACP has sued to challenge changes to US Postal Service practices that have affected how election mail is handled. Individual voters have filed a similar lawsuit, arguing that delays in delivering ballots suppress the right to vote. Also, Vote Forward and other plaintiffs have sued to challenge various USPS policies, as well as the decommissioning of many mail sorting machines. Preliminary injunctions have been granted in the latter two cases, barring USPS from enforcing a policy that discourages late or extra trips between facilities and requiring USPS to authorize all overtime necessary to ensure the timely delivery of election mail.
- Election Date Changes: N/A
- Voting Procedure Changes: Florida officials encourage voting early and voting by mail in light of coronavirus concerns, but still offer in-person voting. Secretary of State Laurel Lee has issued two orders allowing candidates to submit qualifying documents electronically. Governor Ron DeSantis also has issued an executive order that allows elections supervisors to start processing mail-in ballots earlier than usual in the November 2020 election.
- Debated Issues: A settlement in a lawsuit filed by several voting rights groups required Florida officials to set up best practices for mail-in voting and promote awareness among voters of their options, including mail-in and early voting.
- Election Date Changes: Secretary of State Brad Raffensperger postponed the statewide and presidential primaries to June 9, 2020. The primary runoff election was rescheduled for August 11.
- Voting Procedure Changes: Voters can request mail-in ballots for each election in the 2020 election cycle, but mail-in ballot applications will not be sent out automatically for the November election. Secretary Raffensperger is encouraging absentee voting, however, 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 several lawsuits challenging various voting procedures. In one case, the trial court judge denied the plaintiffs’ request for an order requiring the state to pay postage for mail-in ballots, but this denial has been appealed. The New Georgia Project is seeking to suspend certain rules related to absentee ballots during the COVID-19 pandemic, such as a prepaid postage requirement, a voter assistance ban, and a ballot receipt deadline. The judge in that case extended the receipt deadline for absentee ballots to 7 PM on November 6, as long as they are postmarked by November 3. However, an appellate court reinstated the standard deadline. Another federal judge has reduced the petition signature requirement for independent and minor-party candidates to 70 percent of the standard threshold.
- Election Date Changes: To limit the spread of COVID-19, the Hawaii Democratic Party canceled in-person voting for its presidential preference primary election and allowed voting to proceed by mail until May 22, 2020.
- Voting Procedure Changes: Hawaii sends mail-in ballots to all registered voters automatically, but it still provides options for in-person voting at voter service centers.
- Debated Issues: An independent candidate has sued to challenge the vote-by-mail program and increase the number of in-person polling places, among other demands. Meanwhile, Equally American has joined a group of voters in challenging rules that allow former Hawaii residents to vote by absentee ballot if they reside outside the US or in the Northern Mariana Islands or other insular territories, but not if they reside in Guam, Puerto Rico, the US Virgin Islands, or American Samoa.
- Election Date Changes: N/A
- Voting Procedure Changes: The primary election in May 2020 was conducted entirely by mail due to coronavirus concerns, but a similar process has not been implemented for the November general election. However, any registered voter in Idaho can apply for an absentee ballot and vote by mail.
- Election Date Changes: N/A
- Voting Procedure Changes: Illinois currently offers no-excuse voting by mail. In preparation for the November 2020 election, the Illinois legislature has passed a law that requires 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 sent a notice by September 15, 2020 to people who have received an application but have not returned it. Election Day will be a state holiday, and early voting hours at permanent polling places will be expanded. Governor J.B. Pritzker has 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 related to the coronavirus.
- 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. 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. Also, the Cook County Republican Party has sued Governor Pritzker and other government defendants to challenge the vote-by-mail law discussed above. A preliminary injunction has been denied in that case. An individual voter has sued on behalf of a class of voters to prevent the USPS from removing or dismantling Delivery Bar Code Sorting Machines in Chicago and beyond.
- Election Date Changes: Pursuant to an executive order by Governor Eric Holcomb, Indiana’s May 5, 2020 primary election was rescheduled to June 2, 2020 due to coronavirus concerns.
- Voting Procedure Changes: Indiana has not implemented no-excuse absentee voting.
- Debated Issues: A class action lawsuit has been filed against Indiana election officials to seek, among other things, a ruling requiring the state to permit no-excuse voting by mail for all Indiana voters in the November 2020 election. A preliminary injunction has been denied in this case. Common Cause Indiana also has filed multiple lawsuits to challenge rules for in-person voting hours and the absentee ballot deadlines. Injunctions suspending these rules were granted in each case. The injunction related to the absentee ballot deadlines extended the postmark and receipt deadlines for absentee ballots to November 3 and November 13, respectively. However, this injunction has been stayed, reinstating the initial deadlines. The other injunction has been appealed as well.
- 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: Secretary Pate has announced that Iowa will automatically send absentee ballot applications to all active registered voters in advance of the November general election. Under a law passed in June, the Secretary of State was required to seek legislative approval before taking this step. Iowa generally offers no-excuse absentee voting. County officials are not allowed to decrease the number of voting centers by more than 35 percent. Pursuant to an emergency directive by Secretary Pate, counties may begin counting absentee ballots on October 31, 2020.
- Debated Issues: The Democratic Senatorial Campaign Committee and other plaintiffs sued in state court to challenge a decision by state election officials to distribute only blank absentee ballot request forms for the November election. The lower court stayed the enforcement of this policy, but the Iowa Supreme Court has stayed the lower court’s order. Previously, the Republican National Committee had obtained injunctions in state courts preventing county election officials from sending absentee ballot request forms with pre-populated information, in violation of the state directive.
The League of United Latin American Citizens of Iowa is also suing in state court to challenge a recent law that does not allow election officials to fill in missing information on an absentee ballot application with information in the voter registration database. A motion for a temporary injunction has been denied in this case. LULAC also is suing to challenge limitations on ballot drop box locations in Secretary Pate’s official guidance.
- Election Date Changes: N/A
- Voting Procedure Changes: Kansas generally allows for no-excuse or “advance” voting by mail. Elections cannot be conducted solely using mail-in ballots, although the Secretary of State holds the authority to change voting procedures in emergencies when normal voting is impossible. The deadline to request a mail-in ballot for the November 2020 election is October 27.
- Election Date Changes: Due to the coronavirus emergency, Kentucky Secretary of State Michael Adams postponed the Kentucky primary election to June 23, 2020.
- Voting Procedure Changes: Any Kentucky voter will be allowed to vote by absentee ballot in the November 2020 election if they are concerned about contracting or spreading COVID-19.
- Debated Issues: Certain voters who are at high risk of contracting the coronavirus have filed a lawsuit in state court to challenge the photo ID requirement and the excuse-based restrictions on absentee voting.
- Election Date Changes: Pursuant to a proclamation by Governor John Bel Edwards, the Louisiana presidential preference primary election was postponed to July 11, 2020. Municipal elections that initially were scheduled to be held on July 25, 2020 were postponed to August 15, 2020.
- Voting Procedure Changes: The emergency election plan provided by Secretary of State Kyle Ardoin offers enhanced opportunities to vote by mail in the November election. Any registered voter who tests positive for COVID-19 during or after the early voting period, but before Election Day, can request an absentee ballot by using the “hospitalization” excuse.
- Debated Issues: The NAACP, the Power Coalition for Equity and Justice, and three individual voters filed a lawsuit in federal court in Baton Rouge, seeking to expand absentee voting and the early voting period in the November election. The court issued a preliminary injunction that requires election authorities to make the same COVID-19 absentee ballot application available to Louisiana voters in the November election that was used in the July election. The application offers reasons for requesting an absentee ballot that are specific to the coronavirus.
- 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.
- Voting Procedure Changes: Governor Mills signed an executive order that allows all Maine voters to vote in the November 2020 election by placing absentee ballots in external drop boxes until 5 PM on the second business day before Election Day. The executive order also extended the mail-in voter registration deadline to October 19, limited occupancy of polling places to 50 people, and allowed election clerks to start processing ballots earlier than usual.
- Debated Issues: The Alliance for Retired Americans and several other plaintiffs are suing in state court to challenge various requirements related to the absentee voting process, including prepaid postage, photo ID, ballot receipt deadline, and voter assistance rules. Four blind voters have challenged the requirement that voters using absentee ballots must complete paper ballots and submit them by mail or hand delivery.
- Election Date Changes: Due to the COVID-19 emergency, Governor Larry Hogan postponed the Maryland primary election to June 2, 2020.
- Voting Procedure Changes: Governor Hogan has ordered the Maryland State Board of Elections to send absentee ballot applications automatically to all qualified voters in the November general election. Early voting, absentee voting, and voting at off-peak times are encouraged. However, all normal voting options remain available. The Maryland Board of Elections will conduct early voting between October 26 and November 2. Over 120 drop boxes for absentee ballots will be available statewide. Governor Hogan has approved a plan to replace precinct polling places with centralized voting centers.
- Debated Issues: A federal judge has approved an agreement to reduce the nomination petition signature requirement for unaffiliated candidates by 50 percent. A settlement in another case reduced the petition signature requirement for obtaining party status for the Green and Libertarian Parties by 50 percent. Meanwhile, various civil rights organizations have sued to challenge recent changes to USPS policies that affect the delivery of election materials.
- Election Date Changes: In response to the coronavirus outbreak, Governor Charlie Baker signed a law allowing municipalities to postpone certain elections, while the Massachusetts General Court postponed four special state legislative elections.
- Voting Procedure Changes: Under a law passed in July, all qualified voters can vote by mail in the November general election. Massachusetts Secretary of State William Galvin will send mail-in ballots to all voters. The law also has extended the early voting period for the election. However, all polling places will remain open as usual on Election Day.
- Election Date Changes: N/A
- Voting Procedure Changes: Due to the coronavirus emergency, Secretary of State Jocelyn Benson arranged to mail absentee ballot applications to all voters for the November 2020 general election.
- Debated Issues: In response to a lawsuit brought by an LGBTQ+ rights group, a judge in the Michigan Court of Claims added 69 days to the 180-day circulation window for collecting signatures for ballot petitions, although other signature requirements remain in place. Meanwhile, three Michigan voters have sued in the Court of Claims to challenge Secretary Benson’s decision to mail absentee ballot applications to all voters. Their claims were dismissed, and the dismissal was affirmed on appeal, but they are seeking to appeal to the Michigan Supreme Court. Similarly, an individual voter has sued in federal court to challenge the distribution of unsolicited absentee ballot applications to all registered voters. Another individual voter has brought a parallel lawsuit against Detroit election officials. The court dismissed or stayed this voter’s claims, but the dismissal has been appealed.
The Michigan Alliance for Retired Americans and other plaintiffs sued in the Court of Claims to challenge restrictions on the right to vote by mail. The Court of Claims has issued an injunction that requires valid ballots to be counted if they are postmarked by the day before Election Day and received within 14 days of Election Day. Also, voters may receive assistance with casting absentee ballots from any person between 5 PM on the Friday before Election Day and the close of polls on Election Day. A group of individual voters have sued Secretary Benson for failing to appeal this injunction. Meanwhile, the Election Integrity Fund has joined an individual voter in challenging an online tool for requesting absentee ballots that does not require actual signatures. The Republican National Committee and the Michigan Republican Party also are asking the Court of Claims to declare the enforceability of laws prohibiting third parties from assisting voters with returning absentee ballots and requiring that mailed absentee ballots not received by 8 PM on Election Day must be rejected.
- Election Date Changes: N/A
- Voting Procedure Changes: Qualified Minnesota voters can receive an absentee ballot for any reason in the November 2020 election. Minnesota Secretary of State Steve Simon has agreed to suspend the witness signature requirement for absentee ballots. Pursuant to a consent decree in a lawsuit, the postmark deadline for absentee ballots in the general election is Election Day, and the receipt deadline is one week later.
- Debated Issues: The Minnesota Voters Alliance and Republican legislators have filed a lawsuit to challenge the Minnesota face mask mandate as it applies to polling places. The court rejected their request for an injunction, but they have appealed. The League of Women Voters of Minnesota Education Fund and other plaintiffs have sued to challenge the witness requirement for absentee ballots, but this lawsuit will not be resolved until 2021. Two Republican presidential elector nominees are challenging Secretary Simon’s agreement on the deadlines for absentee ballots. Their request for a preliminary injunction has been denied, but they have appealed.
- 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: Under a law passed in July, anyone who is under a quarantine ordered by their doctor, or who is caring for a dependent under such a quarantine, can vote by absentee ballot in the November 2020 election. Absentee ballots must be postmarked by November 3 and received by November 8. Meanwhile, Mississippi Secretary of State Michael Watson has announced that Mississippi will implement coronavirus precautions for in-person voting. These will include sanitation stations and personal protective equipment for election workers.
- Debated Issues: Several individual voters sued in state court to challenge the excuse requirement that limits the availability of absentee voting. This initially resulted in a court order expanding eligibility for absentee voting, but the Mississippi Supreme Court reversed this order and restored standard absentee voting rules. Meanwhile, the League of Women Voters of Mississippi has joined various organizations and individuals in challenging several requirements and procedures related to absentee voting, such as the notarization requirement and the lack of opportunity to cure faulty signature matching in absentee ballots. A motion for a preliminary injunction was filed but withdrawn.
- Election Date Changes: Governor Mike Parson postponed municipal elections that were scheduled for April 7, 2020 to June 2, 2020. The August 4, 2020 primary election took place as scheduled.
- Voting Procedure Changes: On June 4, 2020, Governor Parson signed SB 631 into law, which included a number of election modifications due to the coronavirus pandemic, including: (1) voters in at-risk categories for contracting or transmitting COVID-19 (including anyone age 65 or older) are eligible to vote by absentee ballot without obtaining notarization, and (2) all Missouri voters will be eligible to vote by a “mail-in ballot” (a new option that is distinct from the existing absentee voting option) with notarization of the ballot envelope. State law requires absentee ballots to be notarized for free. However, SB 631 did not authorize free notarization for mail-in ballots. The Missouri Secretary of State has published on its website a list of notaries who have volunteered to provide this service at no cost.
- Debated Issues: On October 9, 2020, US District Court Judge Brian C. Wimes issued a ruling that would have allowed voters to return mail-in ballots in all the same ways that absentee ballots can be returned (such as returning them in person to election authorities rather than via the mail). Secretary of State Jay Ashcroft has appealed this ruling to the Eighth Circuit Court of Appeals, and Judge Wimes has suspended his ruling in the interim.
- Election Date Changes: N/A
- Voting Procedure Changes: Pursuant to a directive by Governor Steve Bullock, all Montana counties decided to conduct the June 2, 2020 primary election entirely by mail. On August 6, 2020, Governor Bullock issued a directive for the November 3, 2020 general election that contained the following provisions related to the coronavirus: (1) counties may choose to send out mail-in ballots and expand early voting for the November 3, 2020 general election; (2) counties are encouraged to publicize available voting options and to work with nonprofit organizations to ensure that all Montanans have access to a ballot, whether in person, early, or by mail; and (3) all counties must establish, implement, and enforce social distancing policies at polling locations, designated drop-off locations, or other public-facing portions of facilities involved in voting.
- Debated Issues: On September 25, 2020, Montana District Court Judge Jessica T. Fehr ruled that the Ballot Interference Protection Act (BIPA), which placed various limits on ballot collection, is unconstitutional and struck down this law. In a separate case, the Montana Supreme Court issued a ruling against the BIPA and prohibited its enforcement for the November 3, 2020 general election.
- Election Date Changes: N/A
- Voting Procedure Changes: In Nebraska, any registered voter may request an early voting (absentee) ballot without providing a reason. In response to the coronavirus pandemic, all eligible Nebraska residents were mailed early voting ballot applications for the May 12, 2020 primary election. On August 19, 2020, Secretary of State Bob Evnen announced that the state will mail an early voting ballot application for the November 3, 2020 general election to every registered voter whose county did not already do so.
- Election Date Changes: N/A
- Voting Procedure Changes: On August 3, 2020, Governor Steve Sisolak signed Assembly Bill 4 (AB4), which contained many changes to voting procedures that apply during a statewide disaster or state of emergency declaration, such as for the coronavirus pandemic. These changes include: (1) a requirement that all active registered voters (with limited exceptions) receive a mail-in ballot, (2) a requirement that each county or city clerk have at least one ballot drop box where mail-in ballots can be delivered during the period for early voting and on Election Day, and (3) requirements regarding the number of in-person locations for early voting and Election Day voting.
- Election Date Changes: N/A
- Voting Procedure Changes: Pursuant to a memo issued by Secretary of State William Gardner and Attorney General Gordon MacDonald, any person eligible to vote in the September 8, 2020 primary election or the November 3, 2020 general election can request an absentee ballot due to coronavirus concerns. New Hampshire residents who are eligible to vote can register remotely. On July 17, 2020, Governor Chris Sununu signed House Bill 1266 into law, which makes temporary modifications to the absentee voter registration, absentee ballot application, and absentee voting processes in response to the coronavirus pandemic. These changes include: (1) adding concern for COVID-19 as a reason for requesting an absentee voter registration affidavit or requesting an absentee ballot, (2) allowing voters to request an absentee ballot for both the September 8, 2020 primary election and the November 3, 2020 general election on one application, and (3) providing the Secretary of State with flexibility in determining requirements for polling places.
- Debated Issues: On July 28, 2020, a ruling from the US District Court for the District of New Hampshire ordered a 35% reduction in the number of nomination papers signed by registered voters that would be required for the Libertarian Party’s candidates to appear on the November 3, 2020 general election ballot. As a result of a lawsuit filed by Disability Rights Center-New Hampshire, the New Hampshire Secretary of State has established an absentee registration process and voting system accessible for those who are blind or have print disabilities for the September 8, 2020 and November 3, 2020 elections. On October 2, 2020, New Hampshire Superior Court Judge N. William Delker issued a ruling requiring the New Hampshire Secretary of State to provide a method for voters to apply for an absentee voter registration form from the Secretary of State’s office.
- Election Date Changes: Governor Phil Murphy has issued executive orders postponing a number of elections. The primary election was rescheduled to July 7, 2020, and any election scheduled between July 7, 2020 and November 3, 2020 has been postponed until the November 3, 2020 general election.
- Voting Procedure Changes: The state has enabled candidates and ballot measure supporters to gather and submit required signatures electronically during the coronavirus pandemic. The July 7, 2020 election was conducted primarily by mail, although each municipality was required to provide at least one in-person voting location. On August 28, 2020, Governor Murphy signed three pieces of legislation that affect procedures for the November 3, 2020 general election. Some elements of these new laws had previously been included in executive orders issued by Governor Murphy. Provisions of these new laws include: (1) establishing that the November 3, 2020 general election will be primarily vote-by-mail and requiring that all active, registered voters receive a vote-by-mail ballot with prepaid return postage, (2) requiring county boards of elections to establish ballot drop boxes in each county at least 45 days before this and future elections, (3) requiring each county to have a minimum of one polling place open in each municipality, (4) closing all public primary and secondary schools to in-person instruction on November 3, 2020 to facilitate their use as polling places, (5) outlining procedures to allow a voter to fix issues with their submitted mail-in ballot that would cause it not to be counted, and (6) extending the deadline for counting mail-in ballots that have a postmark date before or of the day of the election from 48 hours after the polls close to 144 hours. (For the November 3, 2020 election, this extends the deadline to November 9, 2020.)
- Debated Issues: A lawsuit was filed by parties including the League of Women Voters of New Jersey that challenged New Jersey’s signature match system, in which mail-in ballots are only counted if election officials determine that a voter’s signature on their ballot matches the signature on their ballot application or voter registration form. As a result of this lawsuit, an agreement was reached whereby voters who cast mail-in ballots in the state’s July 7, 2020 primary election were notified of ballot issues and given the opportunity to fix them.
- Election Date Changes: N/A
- Voting Procedure Changes: On June 26, 2020, Governor Michelle Lujan Grisham signed Senate Bill 4 (SB4), which is intended to mitigate the potential impact of the coronavirus pandemic on the November 3, 2020 general election. Provisions of SB4 include: (1) county clerks can automatically mail applications for absentee ballots to all voters, (2) the Secretary of Health and Secretary of State can require additional provisions for voting-by-mail if necessary due to public health considerations, and (3) protections for polling places located on Indian nation, tribal, or pueblo land.
- Election Date Changes: In response to the coronavirus pandemic, Governor Andrew Cuomo issued an executive order postponing the presidential preference primary to June 23, 2020. 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 cancelled the Democratic presidential preference primary, but it was reinstated after a legal challenge and took place on the rescheduled date.
- Voting Procedure Changes: Governor Cuomo issued executive orders allowing all voters to use absentee ballots in the June 23, 2020 election and providing that absentee ballot applications be sent to all eligible New York voters. Petition signature requirements for candidates have been reduced, and the signature-gathering process was suspended for a period of time. On August 20, 2020, Governor Cuomo signed into law three pieces of legislation that affect voting procedures for the November 3, 2020 general election. Provisions of these new laws include: (1) giving voters the right to request an absentee ballot due to risk of contracting or spreading a disease (such as COVID-19) that may cause illness to the voter or to other members of the public, and (2) allowing absentee ballots that are postmarked on Election Day to be counted if received no later than seven days following the election. (Previously, ballots with a postmark were eligible to be counted if postmarked no later than the day before the election.) Governor Cuomo has issued subsequent executive orders with provisions that affect the November 3, 2020 election, including requiring boards of elections to develop a plan to allow registered voters to submit a completed absentee ballot at a board of elections, early voting location, or Election Day voting location, without needing to wait in line with in-person voters. On September 2, 2020, the New York State Board of Elections launched a new website to allow registered voters to apply online for an absentee ballot.
- Debated Issues: As a result of a lawsuit filed on May 22, 2020 by Disability Rights Advocates and other parties, the New York State Board of Elections established an accessible absentee ballot application process for people with disabilities for the June 23, 2020 primary election and has implemented enhancements for the November 3, 2020 general election. As a result of a legal challenge, the New York State Board of Elections agreed to issue instructions to local boards of elections for the November 3, 2020 general election regarding informing a voter if there is an issue with their absentee ballot that would cause it not to be counted and providing the voter with an opportunity to address the issue. In another case, on September 21, 2020, US District Court Judge Victor Marrero issued a ruling requiring that the US Postal Service (USPS) take action to ensure the timely delivery of absentee ballots for the November 3, 2020 general election. Follow-up from this ruling has included the USPS issuing a Guidance Memorandum with operational instructions to ensure that election mail is the USPS’ top priority.
- Election Date Changes: The Republican primary runoff for the Eleventh Congressional District was postponed to June 23, 2020 due to the coronavirus pandemic.
- Voting Procedure Changes: On June 12, 2020, Governor Roy Cooper signed House Bill 1169, which instituted a number of changes for 2020 elections, including: (1) for the November 3, 2020 general election, reducing the number of witnesses required for casting an absentee ballot from two to one; and (2) for all remaining elections in 2020, allowing for completed absentee ballot request forms to be emailed or faxed to county boards of elections. On July 17, 2020, Karen Brinson Bell, Executive Director of the State Board of Elections, issued an emergency order making additional changes relating to the November 3, 2020 general election. These include requirements that: (1) all county boards of elections must open each early voting site for at least 10 hours on the weekends of October 17-18 and October 24-25, 2020, (2) each county board must open at least one early voting site per 20,000 registered voters in the county (with limited exceptions), and (3) all county boards must take significant steps to protect the health of voters and poll workers through measures such as providing for social distancing at voting sites, frequently sanitizing common surfaces, and requiring elections officials to wear face coverings.
- Debated Issues: A lawsuit was filed in May 2020 by parties including Democracy North Carolina and the League of Women Voters of North Carolina that challenged many aspects of North Carolina’s voting and election laws. Action has been taken by the state to address some of the concerns raised, such as reducing the number of witnesses required for casting an absentee ballot from two to one. On August 4, 2020, US District Court Judge William L. Osteen issued an order in this case that granted relief on some of the claims, including prohibiting local boards of election from rejecting mail-in ballots without notifying the voter and providing the voter with due process to remedy certain errors. Subsequent to this ruling, to settle a separate legal challenge, the State Board of Elections issued new rules pertaining to absentee voting in the November 3, 2020 general election. These new rules have been the subject of extensive litigation in state and federal court. On October 19, 2020, as a result of a ruling by the North Carolina Court of Appeals and an agreement reached by parties involved in these disputes, rules issued by the State Board of Elections can proceed regarding the process for voters to fix absentee ballot errors and allowing mail-in ballots to be counted if they are received by 5:00 pm on November 12 and postmarked on or before November 3, 2020.
- Election Date Changes: N/A
- 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 was conducted entirely by mail. All eligible voters received a ballot application in the mail. In-person voting will be available for the November 3, 2020 general election.
- Debated Issues: On June 3, 2020, a federal judge ruled that North Dakota’s process for absentee ballot verification must include a notification and remedy method for voters whose ballots are identified for rejection due to signature mismatch. This ruling applied to the June 9, 2020 election and the November 3, 2020 general election. A final judgment in this case was issued on August 28, 2020 that outlined procedures to be implemented by county auditors in the November 3, 2020 and future elections that provide voters with notice and an opportunity to respond when a ballot is identified as containing a signature mismatch.
- Election Date Changes: On March 27, 2020, Governor Mike DeWine signed House Bill 197 (HB 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 in light of coronavirus concerns.
- Voting Procedure Changes: As referenced above, HB 197 had the effect of changing the state’s primary election to an all-mail vote (in-person voting was available in limited cases). Secretary of State Frank LaRose has issued a number of directives during the course of the coronavirus pandemic that detail procedures for the November 3, 2020 general election, including: (1) there will be a statewide mailing of absentee ballot applications, (2) if a board of elections receives an absentee ballot application that does not contain all of the required information, the board must promptly notify the voter of the additional information required to be provided by the voter to complete the application, (3) early in-person absentee voting and in-person Election Day voting will be available, (4) curbside voting must be available to any voter who is physically unable to enter a polling location or concerned about entering a polling location, (5) any polling site currently at a residential senior citizen facility or health care facility must be relocated, and (6) boards of elections must assist voters who are confined to a senior residential facility or health care facility with voting. In addition, as a result of two directives by Secretary LaRose, all county boards of elections are required to accept absentee ballots 24/7 via secure receptacles at their offices (dropboxes), and election officials are able to collect completed absentee ballots outside the county board of elections at drive-through ballot drop-offs. Secretary LaRose has also published guidance for boards of elections to promote public health in the November 3, 2020 general election.
- Debated Issues: There has been significant litigation surrounding Ohio’s election procedures. In particular, there have been recent legal challenges to the absentee ballot dropbox framework outlined by Secretary LaRose, but the Secretary’s framework currently remains in place.
- 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 was no change to the statewide primary and special elections scheduled for June 30, 2020.
- Voting Procedure Changes: Oklahoma voters do not need an excuse to vote by mail absentee ballot. Senate Bill 210, which was signed into law 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 this legislation apply if a state of emergency declared by the governor related to the COVID-19 pandemic is in effect 45 days prior to a scheduled election, or is declared within 45 days of the election. These procedures will be in effect for the November 3, 2020 election. Senate Bill 1779, which was signed into law on May 21, 2020, included several provisions requested by state election officials to improve the administration of elections during the coronavirus pandemic, including: (1) allowing county election boards to combine polling places (only as a last resort) if a polling place location becomes unavailable for voting and/or in the event of a poll worker shortage, and (2) requiring the State Election Board Secretary to develop protocols for social distancing and disinfecting for in-person voting sites. Public health protocols for polling places have been developed and published.
- Debated Issues: On May 4, 2020, the Oklahoma Supreme Court struck down the requirement that absentee ballots must be notarized; however, this requirement was reinstated by the enactment of Senate Bill 210 (with exceptions related to COVID-19).
- Election Date Changes: N/A
- Voting Procedure Changes: Voting in Oregon is conducted exclusively by mail. No stamp is required to return a mail-in ballot. For the May 19, 2020 primary election, some ballot dropbox locations were closed due to the coronavirus pandemic. Voters can use an online tool provided by the Oregon Secretary of State to locate an available dropbox for the November 3, 2020 general election.
- 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. In addition, Governor Wolf issued an executive order that extended the deadline for the receipt of absentee ballots to June 9, 2020 in Allegheny, Dauphin, Delaware, Erie, Montgomery and Philadelphia Counties under certain circumstances.
- Voting Procedure Changes: All voters are now eligible to vote by mail as a result of legislation passed in 2019. Senate Bill 422 provided for additional changes for the 2020 primary election due to the coronavirus outbreak, including allowing counties to temporarily consolidate polling places without court approval. On July 31, 2020, Secretary of the Commonwealth Kathy Boockvar announced that the state will provide funding for postage so that all eligible voters can return their mail-in and absentee ballots at no cost for the November 3, 2020 general election.
- Debated Issues: As a result of a legal challenge, the Pennsylvania Department of State provided an accessible voting option for blind voters for the June primary, and will be implementing an improved accessible voting system for the November 3, 2020 election as well as future elections. In a separate matter, as a result of a lawsuit filed by the League of Women Voters of Pennsylvania and other parties, Secretary Boockvar issued guidance on September 11, 2020 to county boards of elections, standardizing how they examine absentee and mail-in ballot return envelopes. On September 17, 2020, the Pennsylvania Supreme Court issued a ruling that affected a number of procedures for the November 3, 2020 general election, including: (1) allowing county boards of elections to accept hand-delivered mail-in ballots at locations (such as dropboxes) other than their office addresses, (2) determining that mail-in ballots that are returned without the secrecy envelope are invalid, and (3) allowing absentee and mail-in ballots to be counted if they are received by 5:00 pm on November 6 if they are postmarked by 8:00 pm on Election Day. (Ballots received by this deadline that lack a postmark or other proof of mailing, or for which the postmark or other proof of mailing is illegible, will be presumed to have been mailed by Election Day unless a preponderance of the evidence demonstrates that they were mailed after Election Day.) On October 19, 2020, the US Supreme Court declined to intervene in an appeal on the absentee and mail-in voting deadline portion of this ruling, thus allowing it to stand.
On September 28, 2020, US District Court Judge Gerald Austin McHugh issued a ruling in another legal case, requiring that the US Postal Service take action (including halting the implementation of certain operational changes announced earlier in the year) to ensure the timely delivery of mail, including mail for the November 3, 2020 general election. There have been subsequent clarifications of this ruling, and the case is ongoing.
- 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 due to the coronavirus pandemic.
- Voting Procedure Changes: This executive order also stated that voting for the June 2, 2020 primary should be conducted predominantly by mail. The state mailed all registered Rhode Island voters a mail-in ballot application for this election. On September 11, 2020, Secretary of State Nellie M. Gorbea announced that her office will send all active registered voters a mail ballot application for the November 3, 2020 general election and Board of Elections member Jennie Johnson announced that secure mail ballot drop boxes will be placed throughout the state. In 2020, Rhode Island voters have a new option to vote in-person prior to Election Day. For the November 3, 2020 general election this in-person early voting period is October 14-November 2.
- Debated Issues: As a result of a lawsuit filed by the ACLU and other parties, a consent decree was approved by US District Court Judge Mary S. McElroy, in which Rhode Island agreed to eliminate witness/notary requirements for voting by mail in the September 8, 2020 primary and November 3, 2020 general elections. This decision faced legal challenges up to the US Supreme Court, which let it stand.
- Election Date Changes: The June 9, 2020 statewide primaries and June 23, 2020 runoffs took place as scheduled. A series of local elections scheduled for March, April, and May were rescheduled to July 14, 2020 due to the coronavirus pandemic.
- Voting Procedure Changes: On May 13, 2020, Governor Henry McMaster signed legislation that allowed all voters to request an absentee ballot for the June primaries and runoffs. On May 25, 2020, US District Court Judge J. Michelle Childs issued an order that eliminated the witness requirement for absentee voting for the June primaries and runoffs. On September 16, 2020, Governor McMaster signed H 5305, a bill allowing all voters to vote by absentee for the November 3, 2020 general election.
- Debated Issues: As a result of a legal challenge, the South Carolina State Election Commission will provide prepaid postage on all mail absentee ballot return envelopes for the November 3, 2020 general election. After a series of court decisions, culminating in a ruling by the US Supreme Court on October 5, 2020, the state’s witness signature requirement for absentee ballots was restored for the November 3, 2020 general election. Absentee ballots received by county officials through October 7, 2020 will be counted, whether or not they had a witness signature.
- Election Date Changes: On March 31, 2020, Governor Kristi Noem signed House Bill 1298, which allowed 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 moved their elections to coincide with the state’s primary election, which took place on June 2, 2020.
- Voting Procedure Changes: Due to coronavirus concerns, the Secretary of State mailed absentee ballot applications to all registered voters (with some exceptions) for the June 2, 2020 primary election. In-person voting was offered for this election, but adjustments were made to polling locations to protect voter health, including social distancing procedures and enhanced cleaning. For the November 3, 2020 general election, the absentee voting period began on September 18, 2020. A voter must submit an absentee ballot application form to their county auditor to receive an absentee ballot for this election. Public health protocols will be implemented for in-person voting.
- Election Date Changes: The August 6, 2020 primary election took place as scheduled.
- Voting Procedure Changes: On August 5, 2020, the Tennessee Supreme Court vacated a temporary injunction entered by the Davidson County Chancery Court that allowed all Tennessee voters to request an absentee ballot for 2020 elections during the coronavirus pandemic (which had been implemented for the August primary election). With this ruling, the state’s absentee voting eligibility requirements were restored and will apply for the November 3, 2020 general election. Those eligible for absentee voting include everyone who is 60 years of age or older, people who have underlying medical or health conditions that render them more susceptible to contracting COVID-19 or at greater risk should they contract it, and people who care for or reside with persons who have underlying medical or health conditions that in their determination render them more susceptible to contracting COVID-19 or at greater risk should they contract it. Safety measures were implemented at polling places for the August 6, 2020 primary election and will be in place for the November 3, 2020 general election, including making hand sanitizer available, signage to promote social distancing, and masks for election workers.
- Debated Issues: On September 9, 2020, US District Court Judge Eli Richardson issued a ruling that suspended enforcement of a law that required first-time voters to vote in person. With this ruling, first-time voters can vote by mail in the November 3, 2020 general election if they meet one of the state’s legal requirements to vote by mail.
- Election Date Changes: On March 18, 2020, Governor Greg Abbott issued a proclamation that allowed local governments to postpone elections scheduled for May 2, 2020 to November 3, 2020. Follow-up guidance sent on April 2, 2020 by Elections Division Director Keith Ingram indicated that such elections must be moved. The runoff primary election and the special election for Texas State Senate District 14 were postponed until July 14, 2020.
- Voting Procedure Changes: In Texas, voters can generally only vote by mail if they have a qualifying reason, such as being ill or disabled. On July 27, 2020, Governor Abbott issued a proclamation that modified procedures for the November 3, 2020 general election, including: (1) extending the period for early in-person voting in the November 3, 2020 general election so that it begins on October 13, 2020 instead of October 19, 2020, and (2) allowing vote by mail ballots to be returned in person prior to Election Day. On October 1, 2020, Governor Abbott issued a proclamation that modified portions of the July 27 proclamation. Changes instituted in this new proclamation included limiting counties to offering only one location for the in-person return of vote by mail ballots. Election officials have published detailed health protocols for voters and elections, which include urging voters to bring hand sanitizer, wear masks, and bring their own marking devices when they come to voting sites.
- Debated Issues: On September 8, 2020, US District Court Judge Orlando L. Garcia issued a ruling providing greater protections for voters in the November 3, 2020 election on the issue of signature mismatch on mail-in ballots. On October 19, 2020, the Fifth Circuit Court of Appeals issued a decision that halted the implementation of this ruling while further legal challenges proceed. There has been additional litigation surrounding election procedures in Texas. In particular, there have been recent legal challenges to the limit of one location per county for the in-person return of vote by mail ballots that is contained in Governor Abbott’s October 1, 2020 proclamation, but this limit currently remains in effect.
- Election Date Changes: N/A
- Voting Procedure Changes: Utah is a state that mails ballots to all registered voters and voting is done primarily by mail. On April 22, 2020, Governor Gary Herbert signed House Bill 3006, which contained a number of provisions related to the June 30, 2020 primary election, including requiring that the primary election be conducted exclusively by mail (with limited exceptions, including for San Juan County). Governor Herbert has also issued executive orders allowing candidates and referendum sponsors to distribute petitions electronically and for voters to return physically signed petitions by electronic means during the state of emergency. On August 31, 2020, Governor Gary Herbert signed Senate Bill 6007, which contained provisions related to the November 3, 2020 general election including: (1) requiring that safety protocols be issued to protect the health and safety of voters and government employees in the conduct of the election, (2) requiring that options be offered in each county for in-person voting on Election Day and during early voting, and (3) requiring that an accessible voting option be made available to voters who have a disability and who are unable to vote by mail.
- Election Date Changes: There was no change to the date of the August 11, 2020 primary election, but Secretary of State Jim Condos issued a directive that allowed municipal elections to be postponed due to coronavirus concerns.
- Voting Procedure Changes: Bill H.681, which was signed into law by Governor Phil Scott on March 30, 2020, includes a series of temporary changes to Vermont’s elections law, such as the waiving of candidate petition signature gathering requirements for the August 11, 2020 primary election and November 3, 2020 general election. On July 2, 2020, Bill S.348 became law, which allows mail-in voting for the November general election to take place at the discretion of the Secretary of State. On July 20, 2020, the Vermont Secretary of State issued a directive detailing a number of modifications for the upcoming elections, including a provision that for the November 3, 2020 general election a ballot will be mailed to every active voter on the statewide voter checklist. In-person voting will also be available, with public health protocols.
- 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 was rescheduled to June 23, 2020.
- Voting Procedure Changes: On April 12, 2020, Governor Ralph Northam signed multiple pieces of election-related legislation, which authorized changes including: (1) allowing early voting 45 days prior to an election without a stated excuse, (2) removing the requirement that voters show a photo ID prior to casting a ballot, and (3) making Election Day a state holiday. A court ruling reduced the petition signature requirements for independent and minor party candidates for federal office and extended the filing deadline for independent and minor party candidates for the US Senate and US House of Representatives to August 1, 2020. Governor Northam signed legislation on September 4, 2020 which authorized changes for the November 3, 2020 general election including: (1) requiring that in certain circumstances, voters are to be notified if there are problems with their absentee ballot and given an opportunity to remedy them, (2) providing prepaid return postage for all absentee ballots, and (3) provisions related to the establishment and operation of ballot drop-off locations.
- Debated Issues: As a result of a legal challenge, Virginia temporarily suspended its witness signature requirement for absentee voting for voters who believe they may not safely have a witness present while completing their ballot. Agreements were reached in this case for the June primary and November general election. As a result of a separate legal challenge, Virginia will provide print disabled voters with an accessible method of receiving and casting an absentee ballot in the November 3, 2020 general election. After Virginia’s online voter registration system was not operational for a period of time on the final day of registration (October 13, 2020), a court ruling extended the registration deadline to October 15, 2020.
- Election Date Changes: The Washington state primary election took place as scheduled on August 4, 2020.
- Voting Procedure Changes: There have been no changes to procedures for voting in Washington, which is conducted exclusively by mail.
- Debated Issues: On August 18, 2020, a coalition of 14 states, led by the state of Washington, filed a lawsuit in federal court challenging a number of operational changes at the US Postal Service (USPS) that could affect the November 3, 2020 general election. On September 17, 2020, US District Court Judge Stanley A. Bastian issued a nationwide preliminary injunction against the USPS. Provisions of this injunction included: (1) requiring the USPS to cease continued implementation or enforcement of policy changes announced in July 2020 that have slowed mail delivery, and (2) requiring the USPS to not deviate from its long-standing policy of treating election mail with First Class Mail delivery standards (regardless of the paid class). An order to clarify portions of this injunction was issued on October 2, 2020.
- Election Date Changes: Governor Jim Justice issued an executive order that moved the date of the state’s primary election from May 12, 2020 to June 9, 2020 due to the COVID-19 pandemic.
- Voting Procedure Changes: Voters will be able to cast a ballot in person or absentee (by mail) in the November 3, 2020 general election. As of August 11, 2020, voters can use a new online Absentee Ballot Application Portal to request an absentee ballot. Voters who are unable to access the portal may request an absentee ballot application form by contacting their county clerk. The West Virginia Department of Health & Human Resources has released public health guidelines for election workers and voters for the November 3, 2020 general election.
- Election Date Changes: N/A
- Voting Procedure Changes: The Wisconsin Election Commission mailed information packets to 2.6 million registered voters in early September that outlined the options for voting in the November 3, 2020 general election, which are: (1) voting at the polls on November 3, (2) voting absentee in their city, village or town clerk’s office starting October 20, or (3) voting absentee by mail. Voters seeking to vote absentee by mail are encouraged to request their ballot online at the MyVote Wisconsin website. In-person polling places will have safety protocols, including social distancing.
- Debated Issues: On October 8, 2020, the Seventh Circuit Court of Appeals issued a ruling that suspended a lower court ruling that would have instituted a number of changes for the November 3, 2020 general election, including extending the deadline for the receipt of mailed ballots from Election Day to November 9 if the ballots are postmarked on or before November 3. This ruling is being appealed to the US Supreme Court.
- Election Date Changes: N/A
- Voting Procedure Changes: Wyoming’s primary took place as scheduled on August 18, 2020. Secretary of State Ed Buchanan has launched a “VoteSafely Wyoming” campaign to educate voters on their options for casting a ballot in 2020 during the coronavirus pandemic. Public health measures at polling places include social distancing and providing poll workers with personal protective equipment. On September 18, 2020, Secretary Buchanan outlined procedures for voters who are, or who will be, in quarantine through Election Day.
COVID-19 Legal Center Contents