Minnesota Senator Amy Klobuchar has teamed up with former Georgia House Minority Leader and gubernatorial candidate Stacey Abrams, now chair of Fair Fight Action, in a new video promoting efforts to expand voting-by-mail and early voting ahead of the November general election. Klobuchar and Abrams team up to promote vote-by-mail, other expansions:

The roughly three minute video, which features Klobuchar and Abrams separately, largely focuses on issues of voting safety during the coronavirus pandemic and ask people to sign a petition to support expanding vote-by-mail.

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Klobuchar pointed to recent concerns about Wisconsin’s primary last week, held at a time when statewide shut-downs and social distancing measures are critical, according to public health officials.

As we saw in Wisconsin, voters were faced with things that should not happen in the United States of America,” Klobuchar says in the video. “Everything about it was wrong. People should not have to decide between their own health and their own right to vote. We can do both, we can protect people’s health, and we can allow them to vote.”

Klobuchar is a lead sponsor of legislation [the Natural Disaster and Emergency Ballot Act of 2020] introduced last month seeking to protect voting rights during the coronavirus pandemic by implementing vote-by-mail and expanding early voting nationwide for November.  Abrams, a former Georgia House Democratic Leader, is also the founder and chair of Fair Fight Action, which works to promote fair elections in Georgia and around the country and encourages voter participation.

Klobuchar and Wyden’s bill calls for funding to be given to the states so they can expand voting, keep  polls open 20 days in advance, ensure no-excuse mail-in voting and train a “new generation of poll workers.”

“Voting by mail is easy, secure, and the healthiest and safest way to cast your ballot,” Abrams says in the video. “You can vote by mail while you are socially distancing and stay at home. Just as we adapt to new norms to protect ourselves and our loved ones, we must also adapt to how we conduct our elections.”

“Republicans and Democrats can certainly agree that we must be prepared in November,” she says. “We need the resources now to help states conduct elections and expand vote by mail. The stakes are too high in this election, and we must get
this done.”

Former first lady Michelle Obama’s organization “When We All Vote” formally announced support for Klobuchar’s vote-by-mail bill on Monday.

“When We All Vote recently announced its support for the Natural Disaster and Emergency Ballot Act of 2020, which represents the organization’s first time supporting federal legislation,” the press release said. “The reforms in the bill are aligned with When We All Vote’s three voting principles.”

Klobuchar tweeted her thanks to Obama for supporting her bill, saying, “During a time of crisis, we must protect the right to vote AND Americans’ health. Let’s pass this bill.”

The partnership of Klobuchar and Abrams comes amid speculation that both could be considered by apparent Democratic presidential nominee Joe Biden as his running mate for the fall.

The same week that President Trump told the public voting by mail is “corrupt” and “RIPE for FRAUD,” his own party leaders across the country are aggressively urging their voters to cast ballots by mail, GOP officials confirm. In addition, Republican officeholders in at least 16 states that do not have all-mail elections are encouraging people to vote absentee during the coronavirus pandemic, according to a tally by The Washington Post. GOP pushes voting by mail — with restrictions — while Trump attacks it as ‘corrupt’:

Among them are the Republican governors or secretaries of state in Georgia, Ohio, New Hampshire and Iowa, who announced in recent days that they would take steps to encourage widespread voting by mail in upcoming elections.

Their moves come after decades in which Republicans have encouraged their voters to take advantage of absentee ballot rules, running sophisticated mail programs that targeted GOP supporters most likely to vote from home.

Republicans have a long history of persuading their voters to cast ballots by mail. Haley Barbour, the former RNC chairman and Mississippi governor, said the party’s vote-by-mail operation “long predated” his tenure at the party’s helm, from 1993 to 1997.

This has been true in Arizona for decades. Democrats have only in recent elections caught up to the Republican Party’s early mail-in ballot advantage. Now almost 80% of Arizona voters choose to vote early by mail-in ballot. So what, now mail voting is corrupt and fraudulent when it no longer is the advantage that Republicans have always enjoyed in elections?

The apparent conflict between Trump’s attacks on mail-in voting and his party’s long embrace of the tactic comes as the health crisis has spurred Democrats and civil rights groups to push to loosen restrictions on mail voting in many jurisdictions.

Republican officials say there is no dissonance between the president’s rhetoric and what’s happening on the ground. They say Trump opposes all-mail elections in which every registered voter is sent a ballot by mail[.]

“There is a very obvious difference between requesting an absentee ballot when you will be unable to vote in person versus automatically mailing every registered voter a ballot,” said Trump campaign spokesman Tim Murtaugh. “Sending everyone a ballot opens up wide possibilities for ballots to be intercepted, for ballots to be stolen from mailboxes, or for vote harvesting to occur.”

There has been no evidence of fraud in Arizona’s elections despite the hysterical claims made by Republicans as an excuse for losing an election, as if it is unimaginable that a Republican could ever lose a race in Arizona. The times they are a changin’.

Experts said that mail balloting creates a risk of fraud by loosening the chain of custody of ballots, but they noted that such episodes are rare. The most prominent recent example came in a 2018 congressional race in North Carolina, when a GOP operative was charged with felonies as part of a ballot-tampering operation that is still under investigation.

And most of the prosecutions for “double-voting” by “snowbirds” in Arizona have been Republican voters, by the way.

States with extensive mail-balloting systems have enacted safeguards such as signature requirements that make such fraud virtually nonexistent, according to Republican and Democratic election officials.

Five states currently conduct all elections entirely by mail – Colorado, Hawaii, Oregon, Washington and Utah – without any significant evidence of fraud. And The Most Important 2020 States Already Have Vote by Mail:

All six of the swing states that both sides see as the most probable tipping points allow their residents to vote by mail for any reason, and there’s virtually no chance that any of them will retrench their existing laws this year. That means that, however much Trump rages, the legal structure is in place for a mail-voting surge in those decisive states: Florida, North Carolina, and Arizona in the Sun Belt and Michigan, Pennsylvania, and Wisconsin in the Rust Belt.

Such an increase “is going to happen” in states across the country this year, says Wendy Weiser, the director of the Democracy Program at the Brennan Center for Justice. “The president can’t prevent it from happening, his protestations notwithstanding. Voters are going to choose that option, and jurisdictions are going to need to make that option widely available in order to protect public health and administer their elections.”

Democrats and civil rights advocates say Trump and his party are trying to undermine confidence in voting by mail and suppress turnout even as they encourage their own voters with well-oiled mail operations.

They say that some of the restrictions Republicans want in place will have a disproportionate effect on minority communities and young people — an intentional effort, they say, to suppress turnout among people who tend to vote for Democrats.

* * *

In the face of the novel coronavirus, Republican officials in many states are now loosening some of those restrictions. In West Virginia, Idaho, South Dakota and Nebraska, for example, GOP election officials are proactively mailing registered voters absentee ballot request forms.

“Basically, if you feel more comfortable voting absentee because of the outbreak or your inability or nervousness about just appearing in person to vote, you can vote absentee and obtain an absentee ballot,” said New Hampshire Gov. Chris Sununu as he announced Thursday that the state will allow voters to cite the virus as an excuse to cast a mail-in ballot in November.

Democrats and some voting experts say some Republican officials are finding ways to curtail mail-in voting to their benefit.

* * *

In Georgia, Secretary of State Brad Raffensberger announced last month that he would send a mail ballot application to every active voter rather than to all registered voters. The plan was developed in coordination with Trump’s reelection committee, according to a campaign official. A Raffensberger spokesman noted that inactive voters include those who have moved away or whose addresses are inaccurate.

That approach means applications will not go to those who have not voted or responded to official election contacts in five years. That will exclude about 300,000 of Georgia’s 7.2 million voters, according to state data. Of those, 24 percent are 30 and under and 40 percent are nonwhite.

“It’s a way to try to shape the electorate,” McDonald said.

* * *

Lauren Groh-Wargo, the former campaign manager for 2018 Democratic gubernatorial contender Stacey Abrams, said such efforts are likely to intimidate voters and suppress participation in mail balloting.

“They’re talking about criminalizing a mismatched signature,” said Groh-Wargo, who now leads the Abrams-founded voting-rights group, Fair Fight Action. “This is why voter suppression is so insidious. You knock on 10 people’s doors in a neighborhood because their signature didn’t match. Nothing will likely come of it, but in the meantime, people get charged with misdemeanors or felonies, and it spreads virally that voting by mail is risky.”

* * *

The parties are also sharply divided about whether to federally mandate uniform vote-by-mail standards for all the states — a proposal championed by Sen. Amy Klobuchar (D-Minn.). In an interview, Klobuchar said that at the very least Congress must come up with more money to help states avoid chaos as millions more Americans prepare to vote by mail.

“You have a number of Democratic and Republican elected officials across the country, and there are exceptions of course, that want to do vote by mail,” Klobuchar said. “And they want funding for vote by mail.”

But GOP officials have resisted any funding that comes with requirements about how to run a vote-by-mail program, citing the potential for fraud [without providing any evidence].

The partisan tensions were on full display Thursday during a conference call organized by Klobuchar for the media to hear from eight secretaries of state.

Two Republicans — Kyle Ardoin of Louisiana and Mac Warner of West Virginia — voiced concerns that a ramp-up of universal voting by mail would make their states vulnerable to election fraud.

“You have to trust those local officials who say, ‘I don’t want to expand opportunities for misuse of the election process,’ ” Warner said. “And we’ve got that situation here in West Virginia. I don’t want any of the buying of votes. I don’t want assistance made easier for people to allow others to help them vote, and so forth.”

That drew a blistering rebuke from Colorado Secretary of State Jena Griswold, a Democrat who called her state’s all-mail election system “the securest in the nation.”

New Mexico Secretary of State Maggie Toulouse Oliver urged election administrators to avoid such arguments, saying they only serve to further divide Americans and undermine faith in elections.

“This is not the time or place for us to be breaking down among each other along partisan lines,” she said.

Much of the debate centers on the risk of ballot harvesting, which is illegal in many states [including Arizona].

* * *

Marc Elias, who is leading Democratic Party efforts in court to roll back restrictions on voting by mail, acknowledged that third-party ballot collection is among the DNC’s goals. The party is also seeking free postage, the opportunity for voters to fix a rejected ballot, and rule changes in states that require ballots to be received by Election Day to instead allow them to be postmarked by that day.

Elias said the election is likely to be won or lost on the margins, meaning those kinds of rules will matter. Postage, for instance, becomes an issue for lower-income voters or young people unaccustomed to using the mail. The right to fix a ballot for a missing or mismatched signature is important to guard against unfair practices or untrained poll workers, he said.

Democrats have sued over these rules, winning in Florida and securing a settlement in Georgia to assure the right for a ballot “cure.” Elias said he is preparing litigation in a number of additional states now that mail balloting is likely to become more popular.

State Democrats have already filed suit in Texas, where voters must have a reason such as disability, age or travel to vote by mail, and where Gov. Greg Abbott (R) has resisted calls to expand mail balloting.

Here in Arizona, I posted earlier, Democrats challenge ‘ballot order bias’ in several states – Arizona case developments. On December 3, the plaintiffs filed this scathing criticism of the Arizona Secretary of State for requesting a delay of 90 days in the case. Arizona Democrats File Scathing Response to Secretary of State’s Request for a 3-Month Delay in Lawsuit over Ballot Order. The brief recounts the history of several other election law litigation in Arizona, and says the state has a pattern of trying to stall such cases. The brief also asked the court not to grant the 3-month delay. On January 31, the Arizona Secretary of State filed this reply brief. The state continues to insist that all lawsuits of this type are procedurally flawed, and therefore the brief doesn’t discuss evidence. The state maintains that if partisan gerrymandering doesn’t violate the U.S. Constitution, ballot order laws that favor one particular party can’t be unconstitutional either. Arizona Files Brief in Democratic Party Lawsuit on Ballot Order.

There was a preliminary injunction hearing held in early March. Mecinas v Hobbs, 2:19cv-5547 (Judge Diane J Humetewa).




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