Monday, April 6, 2020

UPDATED: US Supreme Court Decision Returns April 7 Absentee Deadline to Wisconsin Primary

Update (4/6/20 -- 7:30pm):
The US Supreme Court brought the Wisconsin presidential primary and spring election nearly back to square one on Monday evening, April 6. On the eve of the primary, the Court in a 5-4 decision reversed a US appeals court decision to uphold last week's district court ruling extending both the absentee request window and ballot deadline. The request window extension is now the only action taken not to be reversed. The deadline now, following the Supreme Court decision, will revert to tomorrow, Tuesday, April 7, the original primary day and deadline for absentee ballots to be due.


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Update (4/6/20 -- 7pm):

Originally updated under the title: "UPDATED: Wisconsin Supreme Court Reverses Evers's Executive Order to Suspend In-Person Voting"

The Wisconsin Supreme Court on Monday, April 6 reversed Governor Evers's executive order from earlier in the day. That order would have suspended in-person voting in the April 7 presidential primary and spring election and delayed it until June 9. But a challenge was nearly immediately brought by Republican leaders in the state legislature to the state Supreme Court. And the court in a vote along ideological lines decided 4-2 to reinstate in-person voting in an election that will affect membership on the court itself.

This reverts the process to one with in-person voting on April 7 in a limited number of locations with a limited number of poll workers (but with help from the national guard) and absentee voting that will end on Monday, April 13.


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Originally written under the title: "Governor Evers Executive Order Suspends In-Person Voting in Wisconsin Until June 9"


Wisconsin Governor Tony Evers (D) on Monday, April 6, issued executive order 74, suspending in-person voting on the eve of the presidential primary and spring election in the Badger state.

This is another step in the back and forth among not only the executive and legislative branches in the state of Wisconsin but the federal judiciary as well. Just within the last few days, Evers called a special session of the state legislature to shift to an all-mail vote (in which ballots would be due on May 19), the Republican-controlled state legislature respond by gaveling the Saturday session in and almost immediately out (rejecting those changes), a federal district court judge extend the absentee request window and deadline and an appeals court rejected challenges to that.

The order from Evers also calls another special session of the legislature for primary day, April 7 to consider the shift to June 9. Not only is in-person voting moved to June 9, but absentee ballot requests are allowed to continue as they customarily do in Wisconsin until the Thursday before the election date; Thursday, June 4 in this case.

Now, there are a couple of different avenues that this winding tale can take from here in the Badger state. The most immediate option is the one already signaled by Republican leaders in the legislature: challenge the executive order in state court. This brings in the state-level judiciary. If that challenge ultimately reverses the April 6 executive order, then the election will proceed as planned tomorrow with in-person voting under the threat of the coronavirus pandemic.

However, if that challenge is rejected by the state supreme court, then the next twist will likely be either in the federal courts or with the state legislature in an April 7 special session. While Evers's order pushes the primary back to June 9, the state legislature still retains the ability to alter that. But at that point, Republicans in control -- when the special session commences at 2pm on Tuesday -- would no longer have April 7 as an option. And they would additionally have to consider an Evers veto of any date that does not provide Wisconsin voters and poll workers enough cover from the coronavirus threat.

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For Democrats in the Badger state, this move does potentially introduce a time crunch into the delegate selection process. April county conventions and subsequent April and May district conventions (at which district delegates to the national convention were to have been chosen) have already been cancelled. The state convention on June 12-13 is still in the works, but that comes just a few days after a hypothetical June 9 primary conclusion. District delegates, as a back up, could be chosen at a state convention divided into district caucuses. Fortunately for Wisconsin Democrats, their delegate selection plan called for the Party Administrative Committee to select at-large and PLEO delegates on June 12, rather than the state convention itself. That can still occur, but would, again, fall just a few days after a June 9 primary. Of course, Wisconsin Democrats could shift that committee meeting to a slightly later date if necessary and that would likely be easier than moving an entire state convention -- either to a different date or to a remote format -- would be.

But the bottom line is that as long as the primary date remains uncertain, so too, does the path by which the delegate selection process will be completed.



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Governor Evers's executive order suspending April 7 in-person voting is archived here.



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Related Posts:
4/3/20: Federal Judge Pushes Absentee Deadline Back to April 13 for Wisconsin Primary

Saturday, April 4, 2020

Maryland Board of Elections Lands on Predominantly Vote-By-Mail Plan for June 2 Primary

With a Friday, April 3 deadline to report back to Governor Hogan's executive order request to plan for a June 2 presidential primary, the Maryland Board of Elections arrived at a series of conclusions after a week of back and forth.

After first signaling that it would recommend an all-mail ballot primary, the Board walked that back after it was pressured by voting rights and disabilities advocates. Voting access for those who need assistance casting a ballot or who do not receive ballots in the mail became the main hang up for those lobbying the Board and ultimately the Board itself.

Maryland will now follow the rough model outlined by the secretary of state in Rhode Island: providing for a "predominantly" vote-by-mail plan for the June 2 primary. The plan in the Old Line state now has a bit more meat on the bones. While the recommendation continues to call for all Maryland voters to receive a primary ballot, the state will now open at least one voting location (and no more than four) in each county. Those sites will only be opened for voting on primary day itself. Voters will additionally have the option of mailing their ballots back to the county or dropping them off in drop boxes at each of the county voting locations set up for in-person voting on June 2.

The recommendation now heads to Governor Hogan for his consideration under the guidelines in the executive order. He will have to sign off on the changes before they take effect.


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Related Posts:
Maryland Joins States Pushing Back Presidential Primaries on the Calendar

Maryland Board of Elections Will Recommend an All Vote-By-Mail Presidential Primary for June 2

Friday, April 3, 2020

Federal Judge Pushes Absentee Deadline Back to April 13 for Wisconsin Primary

In all the flurry of activity during the last three weeks shaking up the primary calendar, most of the decisions to move delegate selection events have either come from the executive and/or legislative branches. But in Wisconsin the judicial branch has gotten involved in the decision making as well.

Given the lack of action on that front from either the executive or legislative branches in the Badger state, a federal judge first ordered on Thursday, April 2 that the deadline to request absentee ballots be extended a day to Friday, April 3 and the deadline to submit those ballots pushed back to Monday, April 13. Then, in the face of some backlash from elections administrators in Wisconsin, the same judge -- US District Court Judge William Conley -- ordered that no results from in-person voting in the April 7 primary election be released until after the absentee ballots are due at 4pm on April 13.

This effectively moves the Wisconsin primary back six days on the 2020 presidential primary calendar. The contest there becomes like the former April 4 party-run primary states -- Alaska, Hawaii and Wyoming -- by shifting more toward vote-by-mail-focused elections with later deadlines.

None of this fundamentally affects the delegate selection process Democrats in the Badger state has laid out for the 2020 cycle. The coronavirus had already disrupted those plans. Both April 26 county conventions and the late April and early May district conventions have already been cancelled. Alternative plans for those events have not been made public, but would be necessary to building toward the state convention that is still scheduled at this time for June 12-13. In other words, while this court decision has no impact on the delegate selection process for Wisconsin Democrats, the coronavirus has.


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The Wisconsin primary change has been added to the 2020 FHQ presidential primary calendar.



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Related Posts:
4/6/20: Governor Evers Executive Order Suspends In-Person Voting Until June 9

DC Board of Elections Urging All District Voters to Request Absentee Ballots for June 2 Primary

As the calendar flipped from March to April, marking two months until the last major multi-state wave of primaries and caucuses, the Washington, DC Board of Elections began encouraging voters in the district to request absentee ballots ahead of the June 2 primary there.

This is a less proactive approach to alternative methods of voting in the wake of the coronavirus pandemic. Some states like Maryland have tentatively opted to mail all voters an absentee ballot, while other states like Nebraska and West Virginia have decided to mail application for absentee ballots to active voters. The DC encouragement is much less far-reaching at this point. That could change over time as June 2 approaches and the coronavirus situation evolves.


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DC Board of Elections vote-by-mail encouragement archived here.

Puerto Rico Democrats Indefinitely Postpone Presidential Primary

Puerto Rico Democratic Party President Charles Rodriguez on Thursday, April 2 announced that the newly scheduled April 26 presidential primary would be delayed indefinitely amid the growing threat posed by the coronavirus.

Late last month legislation to move the island territory's Democratic primary from the end of March to the end of April passed and was signed into law. But layered into that bill was a contingency to shift the primary later on the calendar if there was a need. The state elections commission was given the authority to make the change in consultation with the Democratic Party in Puerto Rico.

And it was that provision of the new law that was triggered by Rodriguez on Thursday, the same day that the Democratic National Convention was pushed back by more than a month. While that national party change may not exactly provide state-level actors like those in Puerto Rico some time, it does provide them some cover. And Puerto Rico Democrats are taking advantage of that. The indefinite postponement leaves hanging out there the scheduling of an election that was to have originally taken place on Sunday, March 29. But the mechanism in the new law allows the territorial party some time to assess the situation -- both with the pandemic and any additional decisions the national party makes on how it will treat states with primaries too late under national party rules -- and set a date that best protects public health and the Puerto Rico delegation to the national convention.

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FHQ has moved the Puerto Rico Democratic primary to "no date" on the 2020 presidential primary calendar.



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Related Posts:
3/25/20: Governor Vazquez's Signature Pushes Puerto Rico Democratic Presidential Primary Back a Month

3/19/20: Puerto Rico Legislation Would Shift Presidential Primary Back to April or Beyond

3/16/20: Puerto Rico Democrats Signal Presidential Primary Date Change

Thursday, April 2, 2020

Democrats Delay National Convention by Five Weeks

The Democratic National Committee on Thursday, April 2 opted to push back the start of the national convention in Milwaukee from July 13 to August 17 amid increasing time constraints, not to mention public health issues, place on the party over the coronavirus pandemic.

Now the Democratic convention will begin just a week before the Republican National Convention in Charlotte. That reverts the convention timing to the model that has been in place since the 2008 cycle.  2020 was to be a break in that one-week-apart model and a return to the month-apart model for national convention timing that had dominated the post-reform era. However, the coronavirus has changed those plans.

The five week delay in the convention is consistent with the movement of primaries that has occurred on the state level in the wake of the outbreak. Among the states that have shifted delegate selection events back, they have moved on average almost 38 days, a little more than five weeks. The nearly equivalent move by the national convention will allow those states and others stuck between a rock and a hard place in completing their delegate selection in a timely and efficient manner ahead of the new convention's commencement.

What this leaves unanswered is how the DNC Rules and Bylaws Committee will handle states that have moved beyond the June 9 deadline by which states are to have held their primaries and caucuses under DNC rules. The rules call for a 50 percent reduction in a state's delegation as a penalty. But the convention move signals even more that the party is more likely than not to grant some latitude to state parties on this front.

Wednesday, April 1, 2020

Chorus for an Even Later Georgia Presidential Primary Grows

Just last week, Georgia state House Speaker David Ralston (R) called on Secretary of State Brad Raffensperger to consider again pushing back the presidential primary (now consolidated with primaries for other offices) in the Peach state.

Now, that call has grown in number and volume. On Tuesday, March 31 in a letter to Raffensperger, the 11 members of the Republican Georgia delegation to Congress mostly echoed Ralston. That is "mostly echoed" because while the Georgia Republicans from Congress urged a date later than May 19 for the Peach state primary, the group did not specify a date as Ralston did. Perhaps, that lack of specificity on the date is attributable to the fact that Ralston's proposed new date -- June 23 -- would violate the national parties' rules on the timing of primaries and caucuses. A June 23 primary -- like those now in Kentucky and New York -- would be too late.

This may explain why the five Democrats in the Georgia congressional delegation did not sign on to the letter as well. If the end goal is a June 23 primary, then it would cost Georgia Democrats half of their delegation (should the DNC Rules and Bylaws Committee stick with the June 9 deadline and its attendant penalty).

But time will tell if, in fact, June 23 is the new target date for the Georgia primary.

This renewed call for an even later primary comes after Raffensperger moved the presidential primary to May 19 to be held concurrently with the primaries for other offices and after he also opted to mail all registered Georgia voters an absentee ballot application for the election.


UPDATE: Secretary Raffensperger responded to the growing number of voices calling for an even later Georgia primary by basically deferring to the Georgia General Assembly and the governor to make the change:
"'If the General Assembly and the Governor wants [sic] to move the primary to June or July, we will support them in that too,' said Secretary of State Brad Raffensperger."
The Georgia secretary of state was ceded the power to set the date of the presidential primary by the General Assembly and the governor in 2011. While that includes the ability to shift (and apparently re-shift) the presidential primary, it does not include the power to reschedule the primaries for other offices to which the presidential primary is now tethered.


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The letter to Raffensperger will be archived here.


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Related Posts:
Georgia Postpones Presidential Primary, Consolidates with May Primaries

Georgia Will Send Absentee Request Forms to All Active Voters for May 19 Primary

Georgia House Speaker Calls for Another Presidential Primary Move in the Peach State

Tuesday, March 31, 2020

Kansas Democrats Eliminate In-Person Voting in May 2 Party-Run Presidential Primary

The Kansas Democratic Party on Monday, March 30 made the decision to end in-person voting in its upcoming May 2 party-run primary.

That move comes less than two weeks after the party opted to push forward with their plans to carry out the election with both vote-by-mail and in-person voting. But Kansas Democrats arrived at the same conclusion other states with party-run contests recently have. Democrats in Alaska, Hawaii and Wyoming all chose to end their in-person voting on April 4 and completely lean on the mail-in option each had layered into their delegate selection plans from the start. That insurance policy -- the presence of and planning for a vote-by-mail system -- gave each state party something to fall back on given the threat the coronavirus now poses to in-person voting this spring.

Typically, state parties are at a disadvantage in implementing these types of party-run elections. Those parties just do not have the (funding) resources that state governments do. But in this case, careful planning ahead of time -- and in response to new DNC encouragements in Rule 2 to increase participation -- laid the groundwork for this unique alternative option. Now, states with primaries but no vote-by-mail infrastructure -- states like Delaware -- have had to change the dates of their primaries to hopefully shift out of the window of time in which the coronavirus may reach its peak.

But Kansas Democrats have not. They will press forward with plans to have an all-mail May 2 party-run primary. Voters will need to register as Democrats by April 7 in order to automatically be mailed a ballot for the race.

Voters already registered as Democrats were mailed a ballot on March 30, more newly registered voters have until April 7, and those who have not received a ballot by April 10 can still request a ballot until April 24.


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Kansas Democratic Party press release on ending in-person voting archived here.


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Related Posts:
Kansas Democrats Forge Ahead with May 2 Party-Run Presidential Primary, but...

Monday, March 30, 2020

DeWine Signs Legislation Scheduling Ohio Vote-By-Mail Presidential Primary for April 28

Governor Mike DeWine (R-OH) on Friday, March 27 signed into law HB 197, an omnibus bill with myriad responses to the coronavirus threat. Among the changes in the new law are alterations to the presidential primary in the Buckeye state: a predominantly vote-by-mail system in which voting will conclude on April 28.

For more details on those changes see this earlier post on the Ohio legislation.

While the vote-by-mail transition is noteworthy, this change has an influence on more than the primary itself. Secondary effects will potentially be felt in the delegate selection process.

However, Ohio Democrats are in something of an advantageous position on that front, at least compared to some other states. District delegate slates for each active candidate were selected in pre-primary caucuses back in January (the first selection event on the calendar). Which district delegate candidates on those slates fill slots allocated to candidates depends on the results of the primary. Democrats in Ohio already had a fairly mobile selection process for the selection of district delegates.

And even statewide delegate selection is somewhat insulated from the shift to April 28. The Ohio Democratic Party state executive committee -- not a broader state convention -- is set in the party's delegate selection plan to choose at-large and PLEO delegates in a meeting on May 9, after the new primary date. That likely will not have to change other than perhaps how the executive committee meets. That will more than likely be done remotely rather than in person now.

The only real hang up in the delegate selection plan that Ohio Democrats have laid out is the contingency for filling any district delegate slots allocated to candidates who failed to file a full slate of delegate candidates back in January. Those post-primary caucuses to fill those spots were originally set for April 16. That could still occur at that time -- operating much like the pre-primary caucuses in January did, but the insurance slating would occur before the primary results are in under that scenario. The intention was to allow candidates allocated delegates in the primary to fill those slots if they failed to do so during the January caucuses.

That may necessitate a move in those caucuses.

Then again, with the field narrowed to just two candidates (as of late March), there may now be less need for either Biden or Sanders to slate any additional district delegate candidates.


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Governor DeWine's new release on the bill signing is archived here.



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Related Posts:
Ohio Presidential Primary Postponed Until June 2

Ohio Legislature Unanimously Passes Bill to Transition to Absentee Vote-By-Mail in Presidential Primary

Sunday, March 29, 2020

Montana Governor Allows Counties the Discretion to Opt into Vote-By-Mail for June 2 Primary

Governor Steve Bullock (D-MT) on Wednesday, March 25 issued a directive aimed at the June 2 primary in the Treasure state as part of his evolving emergency declaration response to the coronavirus outbreak.

Unlike other states that have opted to go full vote-by-mail for upcoming presidential primaries, Bullock instead deferred to Montana county election officials to make the call on whether to do the same in their primary. Counties can opt in, but that comes with some strings attached.
  • County elections offices have to make (early in-person voting) ballots available to voters from May 4 through the end of the election on June 2. 
  • Counties that opt into the vote-by-mail system must also have mailed ballots to voters 25 days before the June 2 primary (on or before May 8). This is consistent with the regulations regarding absentee voting in the state. Montana voters retain the ability to request absentee ballots, but counties that have opted into the vote-by-mail system will send ballots to all register county voters. [If a voter in such a county votes both (early) in-person and via the mail ballot, then the mailed-in ballot will be void and the early in-person ballot will be counted.]
  • Those counties that opt in have to submit a written plan for how they will implement the changes to the Montana secretary of state.
Importantly, voters and the counties that opt in will also get financial relief on postage. Counties choosing to go the vote-by-mail route have to notify voters that no postage is required to submit a ballot. Additionally, counties may also seek reimbursement for postage costs from the state government.

Predominantly vote-by-mail systems have taken over in states with May contests (see Georgia, Nebraska and West Virginia, for example) and that is gradually expanding into the June primary states as well (see Maryland). But all states that have moved in that direction have also approached the process in different ways with some promoting vote-by-mail to others mailing out ballots directly to voters. But Montana has put a different spin on the process. Voters in counties that adopt the vote-by-mail option will be mailed ballots. So while there have been differences across states in this transition, now, in Montana, there will potentially be differences across counties within the state.


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Governor Bullock's executive order on the vote-by-mail deference to Montana counties is archived here.

Saturday, March 28, 2020

Cuomo Executive Order Confirms New York Presidential Primary Will Move to June 23

New York Governor Andrew Cuomo during a coronavirus press conference on Saturday, March 28 signaled that the New York presidential primary would move to June 23. His actions were not official at the time but Cuomo later in the evening issued an executive order postponing the April 28 presidential primary and rescheduling it for June 23.

New York now joins other Acela primary states -- Connecticut, Delaware, Maryland and Rhode Island -- in abandoning the late April primary date and doing so through executive emergency action. Pennsylvania also shifted away from April 28 but changed its primary date via the legislative process. Regardless of the path to change, New York becomes the last of six Acela primary states to leave behind what had been at the start of primary among the most delegate-rich states on the 2020 presidential primary calendar. Now, only Ohio's vote-by-mail primary -- new to the calendar position once legislation is signed -- will fall on April 28.

But back in New York, Cuomo's executive order  would seemingly end the legislative process that had been in the works. A pair of identical bills in each chamber of the New York Assembly, consolidating the presidential primary with those for other offices on June 23, best lined up with Cuomo's intentions but those and a competing bill to keep the primary on April 28 but to make the primary an all-absentee election all are ostensibly to be left by the wayside.

While this buys New York election administrators some time to implement the changes, it does put the state Democratic Party directly in the crosshairs of the Democratic National Committee. A June 23 primary runs afoul of the DNC rules on the timing of primaries and caucuses. The party sets a June 9 -- second Saturday in June -- deadline for conducting the first step in the delegate selection process.

And while the DNC has signaled that anything after June 9 breaks the rules, it is hard to imagine the national party not bending in the face of the unprecedented challenges the coronavirus has presented. However, June 23 is less than three weeks before the Democratic National Convention is set to gavel in, and that presents challenges in an of itself.


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Governor Cuomo's executive order postponing the presidential primary and rescheduling it for June 23 is archived here.



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Related Posts:
New York State Legislature Begins Working on Alternatives to April 28 Presidential Primary

Maryland Board of Elections Will Recommend an All Vote-By-Mail Presidential Primary for June 2

As part of Governor Larry Hogan's (R-MD) order to shift the Maryland presidential primary back five weeks to June 2, the state Board of Elections was to meet and confer on how best to implement that change given the fallout from the coronavirus threat.

In a remote meeting on Wednesday, March 25, the Maryland state Board of Elections decided in principle to have the now June 2 primary be conducted completely by mail based on the public health concerns around the virus. The board could not guarantee that it could protect poll workers who are increasingly less inclined to work the polls for early and election day in-person voting in even a delayed election.

Some members of the Board wanted to retain the in-person voting options just in case they could be carried out, but reserve the right to cancel those options later if the threat window remained open in the lead up to June 2.
“We could sit here and say the June 2 election will be vote by mail, it will have early voting options, it will have voting centers on Election Day — and the governor, the chief executive, could close everything down on May 30,” said Patrick Hogan, vice chairman of the board. 
“We could always drop the plan to have voting centers if the situation was getting worse," said board member Kelley Howells. "That would at least give us the option.” 
State elections staff members urged the board to make a final decision. If ballots are to be mailed to all voters, they should go out by the last week of April, said Nikki Charlson, deputy administrator for the Board of Elections. Instructions would have to be included with those ballots on how to return them, she said, and those should be in their final form when the ballots go out. 
“I appreciate that things are changing, but at some point we have to make a decision,” Charlson said.
It was Board staff that won out. Said staff will draft the proposal on a vote-by-mail election for the Board before April 2. The Board will then make a final decision charting out the course ahead -- likely adopting the plan -- and send it to the governor for his consideration by the April 3, the deadline laid out in his original executive order calling for the primary date change.

Maryland would join Rhode Island on June 2 as a state with an all-mail presidential primary. Ballots will be mailed to voters rather than applications for absentee ballots as in May states like Georgia, Nebraska and West Virginia. Those efforts can be contrasted with those in Indiana (June 2 primary), where no mailings are going out, but the excuse requirement in requesting absentee ballots has been waived.


Hat tip to Steve Kamp for passing news of this along to FHQ.


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Related Posts:
Maryland Joins States Pushing Back Presidential Primaries on the Calendar

Hawaii Democrats Push End of Vote-By-Mail in Party-Run Primary to May 22

A week after it had eliminated in-person voting at its party-run primary, the Hawaii Democratic Party announced changes to its delegate selection process in the face of the coronavirus pandemic.

On Friday, March 27, Hawaii Democrats laid out a revamped schedule for mailing out ballots to voters and for those voters to return the ballots. As the party revealed a week ago, the deadline to register to vote and enroll as a Democrat in the Aloha state was moved to the original date of in-person voting, April 4. Not included in that release was a plan for when and if the deadline to submit ballots would be extended as has been the case in former April 4 party-run primary states, Alaska and Wyoming. But by moving the deadline to enroll to April 4, Hawaii Democrats intimated as much.

And indeed that is the case. Hawaii Democrats will process the new enrollments and mail out ballots with the anticipated arrival in voters' hands on or around May 2. Those and other previously mailed-out ballots will now be due to the party by Friday, May 22. [This is the return deadline not the postmark deadline.] Results will then be tabulated and released by May 23.

The extension of Hawaii Democrats' deadline to submit their vote-by-mail ballots now shifts out of April another state and adds to what has become a predominantly all-mail May slate of contests in the Democratic nomination process.


The Hawaii Democratic Party extension of the vote-by-mail deadline has been added to the 2020 FHQ presidential primary calendar.


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Related Posts:
Hawaii Democrats Nix In-Person Voting in April Primary

Friday, March 27, 2020

Governor Wolf's Signature Sends Pennsylvania Primary Off to June 2

Pennsylvania Governor Tom Wolf (D) on Friday, March 27 signed into law several measures intended to better position the state to respond to the coronavirus outbreak. Among the bills signed was SB 422, legislation to postpone and reschedule the primary in the Keystone state for June 2.

Pennsylvania now joins four other states -- Connecticut, Delaware, Maryland and Rhode Island -- that were scheduled for the Acela primary on April 28, but have shifted back five weeks to ideally avoid the overlap of peak coronavirus spread and in-person primary election voting.

Pennsylvania will now be moved to June 2 on the 2020 FHQ presidential primary calendar.


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Governor Wolf's press release on the bill signings is archived here.



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Related posts:
Proposed Deal Would Shift Pennsylvania Primary to June 2

Amended Bill to Move Pennsylvania Primary to June 2 Passes House

Pennsylvania Primary Bill Passes State Senate, Heads to Governor

Nebraska Will Now Mail Absentee Ballot Applications to Every Voter Ahead of May 12 Primary

Nebraska joined the ranks of states turning toward absentee vote-by-mail as a response to the coronavirus pandemic's impact on the electoral process.

On Thursday, March 26, Nebraska Secretary of State Bob Evnen (R) announced that the state, through the secretary of state's office, or county elections officials would mail out to every voter in the Cornhusker state an application for an absentee ballot for the May 12 primary. This process is akin to those adopted in states like Georgia and West Virginia thus far. In-person early voting (April 13-May 11) and in-person election day voting remain in place, but all Nebraska voters will have the capacity to vote-by-mail if they so choose in order to avoid the further spread of the coronavirus.

Once applications are distributed, voters will then have until May 1 to request an absentee ballot. Although the application will be a hard copy that requires a physical signature, voters have the option of signing them and then either taking a picture of the form or scanning it, before returning it via email or fax. Mail and physical drop offs at the county offices are other options available to voters to submit their applications.

Requested ballots will begin being mailed out to voters on April 6. Voters will then have until election day -- May 12 at 8pm when polls close -- to have mail-in ballots returned to county elections administrators. The postmark of any mail-in ballot is immaterial. The ballot has to physically be into the county offices by the close of the polls on election day.



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Nebraska Secretary of State Evnen (R) statement archived here.

West Virginia Secretary of State Lays the Groundwork for a Predominantly Vote-By-Mail Primary on May 12

A week after he made the coronavirus threat a valid excuse for requesting an absentee ballot, West Virginia Secretary of State Mac Warner has announced that the state will help county elections officials with funding the mailing of absentee ballot applications to all Mountain state voters.

No, the date has not changed, but the way in which the May 12 primary (for presidential and other offices) is conducted will be. In-person early and in-person election day voting are still available options at this time, but all West Virginia voters will now have an alternative that will allow them to stay at home and still participate in the primary election.

There are now 46 days until the May 12 primary. In that window of time, the West Virginia secretary of state's office or local county elections officials will have to mail out absentee applications to all of the active voters in the state. One complicating factor on that front is that West Virginians still have until April 21 to register to vote in the upcoming primary. That may entail more than just one mass mailing of absentee applications.

After that voters have to fill out the application, return it via voter-paid postage to the county board and await the ballot's arrival. It is unclear whether voters can continue to use the online application that can be returned to the county board via email or fax and avoid paying postage with the mailed form. Regardless of the method, voters have until May 6 to submit their applications for an absentee ballot.

Once received, the ballot may be filled out and must be returned, postmarked by May 12 (primary election day) to be counted. That means that results will likely be slower in coming in and potentially undetermined until after election day.

West Virginia now joins a raft of other later-voting primary states in shifting in the direction of more widespread vote-by-mail systems in response to the coronavirus threat. The new West Virginia systems mimics the new protocols adopted in states like Georgia, where absentee applications are being mailed to all active voters. Ohio, on the other hand, is sending an informational mailing describing how voters can request an absentee ballot. That contrasts with a state like Alaska where the Democratic Party is allowing its party-run primary voters to download a ballot directly in order to participate.

This is an important point: States and state parties are dealing with the electoral impact the coronavirus presents, but are doing so in a wide range of ways. That will create uneven results for voters across states; more obstacles in some than in others.

Georgia House Speaker Calls for Another Presidential Primary Move in the Peach State

It is one thing to announce a change in electoral law or administration. It is another to effectively and efficiently implement those changes in a timely manner in normal times much less during a global pandemic.

FHQ raised this in the context of the Ohio decision to shift to a predominantly vote-by-mail system for a would-be April 28 presidential primary. In Ohio's case, that leaves the state and its election administrators on the state and local level with less than five weeks to carry everything out. That is no easy task.

But now, in Georgia, similar logistical concerns have been raised about the state's now May 19 presidential primary (which has been consolidated with a previously scheduled primary for other offices). Less than two weeks after Secretary of State Brad Raffensperger (R-GA) issued an order pushing the presidential primary back, calls are coming in from high places to again change the date of the primary election amid the coronavirus scare. Georgia House Speaker David Ralston (R), in a press release on Thursday, March 26, asked Raffensperger to move the primary to June 23, citing public health concerns of voters and poll works and other primary (non-presidential) moves across the South.

Moreover, Ralston raised the time crunch and the breadth of changes Raffensperger has announced with respect to how the May 19 primary will be conducted. While the speaker commended those actions -- shifting to a absentee vote-by-mail system -- Ralston also raised the need for "full and thorough legislative consideration before implementation." Georgia still has some time -- more than Ohio will have -- to send out absentee ballot request forms to all active voters in the Peach state, but getting those out, applications processed by state/local officials, ballots out and marked by voters, and then returned before May 19 -- just 53 days away -- is no small task.

Raffensperger has the authority to make these changes and press ahead -- the general assembly ceded that power in 2011 -- but Ralston's call begs for another set of eyes on the changes, a set of eyes in the legislative branch.


NOTE: A June 23 presidential primary date would violate the national parties' rules on the timing of delegate selection event. The deadline to hold primaries and caucuses is June 9 for the Democratic National Committee and June 13 for the Republican National Committee.


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Speaker Ralston's press release on a primary move to June 23 is archived here.


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Related Posts:
Georgia Postpones Presidential Primary, Consolidates with May Primaries

Georgia Will Send Absentee Request Forms to All Active Voters for May 19 Primary

Chorus for an Even Later Georgia Presidential Primary Grows

Thursday, March 26, 2020

Ohio Legislature Unanimously Passes Bill to Transition to Absentee Vote-By-Mail in Presidential Primary

The Ohio legislature on Wednesday, March 25 unanimously passed legislation mapping out a finish to the March 17 presidential primary that was postponed.

Both the Ohio state House and Senate made quick work of an omnibus bill -- HB 197 -- dealing with broader coronavirus concerns. And part of that was finalizing how to complete the March 17 presidential primary election. In the bill, the provisions with direct influence on the presidential primary call for...
  1. The bill voids of Secretary of State LaRose's (R) March 16 directive postponing the March 17 primary and moving it to June 2. That change is now nullified. 
  2. In its place will be an absentee voting system to handled almost completely by mail. [The only exceptions to that are those voters with disabilities, cannot receive mail at their address or have some other need for accommodations/in-person voting.]
  3. Voters who cast ballots either early or absentee ahead of the March 17 primary will have their votes counted. That total comes to 523,522 early or absentee votes with another 66,723 requested absentee ballots outstanding. That latter group can still submit their ballots and have them counted. 
  4. All voters who registered to vote before February 18, 2020 and who did not vote early or absentee can request an absentee ballot in lieu of any in-person voting. All registered Ohio voters will receive a postcard from the secretary of state informing them of the ways in which they can participate, including absentee vote-by-mail. 
  5. Any voter who registered after February 18 is ineligible to participate. In fact, the bill calls on county boards of elections not to process those registrations at this time. 
  6. Voters can request an absentee ballot by printing off their own copy or by contacting their county board of elections. Voters will be required to pay postage to return those absentee requests. Should those requests be deemed valid by county elections administrators, then valid application voters will be sent an absentee ballot with pre-paid postage for returning it. 
  7. The deadline for returning ballots is April 28, 2020, but if the ballot is postmarked by April 27, then they will be accepted until May 8, 2020
The office of the secretary of state estimates that postcard notifications will be delivered sometime during the second week of April meaning that voters prompted by the postcards will have between 16-22 days to print off an absentee request, mail it to the county board of elections (with voter-paid postage), wait for the absentee ballot to arrive by mail, and return the completed ballot (postmarked) by April 27. That is a lot to ask of voters -- a lot of changes to throw at them -- in such a short period of time.

But it will allow Ohio to complete the voting that started before the original March 17 primary in a manner that greatly reduces face-to-face contact between the voters themselves not to mention voters and poll workers, and thus, the risk of further spread of the coronavirus.

The bill is set to take effect immediately upon Governor DeWine's (R) signature.

Regardless, April 28 is now just 33 days away.


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Related Posts:
Ohio Presidential Primary Postponed Until June 2

Alaska Republicans Will Convene April State Convention Electronically

In response to the coronavirus pandemic, the Alaska Republican Party has called an audible on its state convention set to gavel in on April 3 and continue through April 4.

State party chair, Glenn Clary, announced that both the April 2 state central committee meeting and the state convention would meet electronically, canceling the in-person gathering planned to take place in Juneau. The state central committee in its meeting will select a slate of 29 delegates to the national convention that the state convention participants will vote on electronically on April 3.

Those 29 delegates will likely all be bound to President Trump. Alaska Republicans earlier became part of the group of Republican states that canceled delegate selection events for the 2020 cycle.


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Alaska Republican Party chair's press release archived here.


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Related Posts:
Alaska Democrats Extend Mail-In Voting Window, Cancel In-Person Voting

Indiana Elections Commission Authorizes No Excuse Absentee Voting in June 2 Primary

The Indiana Elections Commission on Wednesday, March 25 voted to allow for no excuse absentee voting in the now June 2 primary in the Hoosier state. While Indiana allows absentee voting, it has in the past been allowed only with an excuse.

But in the wake of the developing coronavirus pandemic and Governor Holcomb's response to it -- pushing back the primary by a month -- the state elections commission has eased that restriction. Voters will still have to file a request for an absentee ballot by May 21, 12 days before the primary and eight weeks from now. Although that deadline is 56 days off, efficiently processing absentee requests will hinge on whether the county election board is open. But voters will have until noon on June 2 to get their ballots in to the county to be counted.

At this time, early and in-person voting are still planned for the June 2 Indiana primary, but the state Elections Commission will have another meeting on April 22 to decide whether the election should shift to a completely vote-by-mail process.


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Related Posts:
Indiana Delays Presidential Primary, Moves to June 2

Pennsylvania Primary Bill Passes State Senate, Heads to Governor

On Wednesday, March 25, the bill to shift the date of the Pennsylvania primary continued its path through the legislative process. After an amended version passed the state House on Tuesday, SB 422 went back to the state Senate for considerations of the changes.

That consideration was quick on Wednesday afternoon. The state Senate Rules and Executive Nominations Committee unanimously concurred with the House changes -- altering the primary date to June 2 and relaxing some absentee voting regulations -- before passing the bill off to the Senate floor. There the bill's fate was much the same as it was in the House. Senate concurrence with the House changes was unanimous, the bill was signed by both chambers and then sent off to Governor Wolf.

The governor will likely act quickly on the legislation so planning for the change can continue.


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Related posts:
Proposed Deal Would Shift Pennsylvania Primary to June 2

Amended Bill to Move Pennsylvania Primary to June 2 Passes House

Wednesday, March 25, 2020

New York State Legislature Begins Working on Alternatives to April 28 Presidential Primary

Over the last few days the New York state assembly began work on an effort to plan for an alternative to its April 28 presidential primary amid the coronavirus threat. Thus far that has taken a couple of different forms.

The first is a bill -- A 10207 -- sponsored by 16 Democrats in the Assembly. It would keep the date on April 28 but move to an all absentee election. Voters would not be asked to submit any request for an absentee ballot. Instead, the local board of elections would send out ballots to voters at least 15 days before the late April primary. That would put a significant burden on local elections officials in a short window of time. April 13 -- 15 days before the planned primary on April 28 -- is less than three weeks away. Even with more time, a transition to an all-absentee process would be expensive and challenging for local elections officials. With a time crunch, it would likely be worse. And with New York the epicenter of the coronavirus spread and social distancing being stressed/enforced, it would be even more difficult.

While the absentee bill may not see the light of day due to implementation conflicts, the second set of bills may. There are identical bills -- one in the Assembly (A 10173) and one in the Senate (S 08108) -- that call for the April 28 New York primary to be consolidated with the primary for other offices on June 23. While that would certainly provide New York with a lot of time to get out from under the shadow of this coronavirus outbreak, it would put both state parties squarely in the crosshairs of national parties' rules. June 23 would come after the date on which the DNC requires states to have conducted delegate selection events (June 9) and also after a similar RNC deadline (June 13). That would make both state parties vulnerable to penalties associated with timing violations, a 50 percent reduction in the Democratic delegation and a more than 90 percent delegation reduction under the Republican super penalty.

The DNC Rules and Bylaws Committee has already issued a memo cautioning states about shifting to dates that fall outside of the window in which states are to hold delegate selection events. And this is not exactly overly harsh in the context of the coronavirus. Yes, the states need some more time, but the national committee also needs time to finalize the delegate selection process and prepare for a convention that will gavel in just around three weeks after any June 23 contest. That is a quick turnaround. And would represent one more loose thread in a sea of them as the coronavirus continues to affect electoral implementation in the context of the nomination process in both parties.

Carney Executive Order Moves Delaware Presidential Primary to June 2

On Tuesday, March 24, Governor John Carney (D-DE) amended his coronavirus emergency declaration to include a shift in the Delaware presidential primary. Like Connecticut, Maryland and Rhode Island before it, the presidential primary in the First state now moves back five weeks from April 28 to June 2.

Those four states' changes have left just New York and Pennsylvania on the fourth Tuesday in April date that all six states had occupied until the recent threat of the coronavirus began to wreak havoc with the 2020 primary calendar. Pennsylvania, too, is working on abandoning what is left of the former Acela primary in favor of a June 2 primary.

As with all of the other states that have changed their primary dates, the move changes when delegates are allocated, but potentially has a much greater impact on the sequence of the delegate selection process. Delaware is no exception.

Last week, on Monday, March 16, the Delaware Democratic Party altered the schedule for its state House district caucuses, the first step in the selection process. And although most of those district caucuses had been held and their work completed -- selecting delegates to subdivision caucuses (Delaware's "congressional districts") to be held May 9 -- the party over the weekend opted to postpone the remaining meetings. Remote and electronic meetings may be an option for Delaware Democrats, something other states have utilized in the early caucus stages of the selection process.

Regardless, some decisions will have to be made. A stoppage in the selection of subdivision delegates at state House caucuses affects the ultimate selection of district delegates on May 9 or whatever alternative date the state party might gravitate toward. And the selection of those delegates in turn influences the selection of statewide delegates. Those at-large and PLEO delegates to the national convention were also to have been selected on May 9 by a quorum of the very same district delegates also to have been selected on that date.

In essence, the pause button has been hit on the Delaware delegate selection process. And needless to say, with a new June 2 primary date, the selection will likely have to be adjusted anyway. The May 9 selection cannot go on as planned without the results of an April 28 primary. Slates of delegates could be chosen and filled later once allocated delegate slots are determined for each candidate, but it is more likely that Delaware Democrats will choose to conduct the selection process a bit later in the calendar, after the now June 2 primary.


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Governor Carney's press release on the executive order to move the primary is archived here.

Wyoming Democrats Shift Back Deadline to Have Mail-In Caucus Ballots in

A little more than a week after Wyoming Democrats eliminated in-person voting at its April 4 caucuses, the state party has again adjusted the voting in its 2020 delegate selection process. And again, the subtle change is aimed at easing participation in the process in the face of complications from the spread of the coronavirus. It buys Wyoming Democrats wanting to vote their presidential preferences a bit more time.

On Saturday, March 22, the Wyoming Democratic Party announced that it would mail ballots to any voters who had registered as Democrats from March 11-20 -- a ten day extension of that deadline -- and would additionally allow any Democratic voters a chance to request a ballot (replacement or otherwise) up until March 31. But beyond that, the state party also extended the deadline by which ballots must be received to Friday, April 17.

That gives voters who intend to participate a little less than two weeks to adjust to the changes the state party has made to the process and submit their ballots with their presidential preferences.

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Again, this does have some impact on the delegate selection process. Those county caucuses initially slated for April 4 have been eliminated (and were when the in-person voting was discontinued). Those events will now happen electronically between the end of the caucus/party-run primary voting and May 24 to elected delegates to the state convention.

Although it is not listed as an "important date" on the state party caucus webpage, the June 6 state convention remains a go for now. State convention delegates elected at county caucuses will be the ones who ultimately make the decisions on who fills any delegate slots allocated to candidates after the caucus results are finalized after April 17.



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Related Posts:
Wyoming Democrats Tweak Caucus Plan in the Face of Coronavirus Threat

Governor Vazquez's Signature Pushes Puerto Rico Democratic Presidential Primary Back a Month

Governor Wanda Vazquez (PR) on Saturday, March 21 signed into law S 488. The legislation shifts the Democratic presidential primary in the island territory back four weeks from March 29 to April 26 in the wake of the coronavirus pandemic. Additionally the legislation gives the Elections Commission in Puerto Rico the discretion -- in consultation with the Democratic Party on the island -- to change the date again should the coronavirus threat interfere with the April 26 primary.

If -- and it is a big if considering actions in other states in reaction to the coronavirus -- the April 26 Democratic primary proceeds as is now planned, then the effect on the delegate selection process would be minimal. The district delegates are directly elected on the primary ballot -- whenever that contest is scheduled -- and the statewide delegates are to be selected at the May 31 state convention. If the primary has to be moved back again, then that may conflict with the state convention. Beyond that, if the primary is moved again, then contingencies for rescheduling the state convention may also be necessary.

For now, however, Puerto Rico's Democratic primary has been shifted to April 26 on the 2020 FHQ presidential primary calendar.


--
Related Posts:
Puerto Rico Legislation Would Shift Presidential Primary Back to April or Beyond

Tuesday, March 24, 2020

Amended Bill to Move Pennsylvania Primary to June 2 Passes House

The Pennsylvania House on Tuesday, March 24 unanimously passed an amended version of SB 422.

The bill emerged from the State Government Committee on Monday, was amended on the floor to include an emergency date change for the general primary election, and was passed without controversy. The amended bill now heads back to the Pennsylvania Senate for its consideration of moving the primary from April 28 to June 2 over coronavirus concerns.

The newly amended bill, should it become law, would expire on July 3, 2020, reverting the Pennsylvania primary to its typical fourth Tuesday in April position for the 2024 cycle.

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Related posts:
Proposed Deal Would Shift Pennsylvania Primary to June 2

Pennsylvania Primary Bill Passes State Senate, Heads to Governor

Georgia Will Send Absentee Request Forms to All Active Voters for May 19 Primary

This is one way for Georgia to avoid the "just moved the primary but may need to move again" conundrum.

Just ten days after Georgia Secretary of State Brad Raffensperger (R) consolidated the March 24 presidential primary in the Peach state with the May 19 primaries for other offices -- a May date that has since seen Kentucky leave it -- he has made another move to avoid further potential community spread of the coronavirus. According to Mark Niesse of the Atlanta Journal-Constitution, Raffensperger has now subsequently announced that all active voters in the state of Georgia will be mailed absentee request forms that will allow them to request ballots and participate from afar in the May 19 primary.

There is no timetable yet for when request forms will be mailed, but voters will now have to submit those requests, await a ballot from the state to select their preferences for president and other offices and then return them (It will require the voter to add a 55 cent stamp.) before polls close on May 19 at 7pm. That is no shortage of administrative hurdles for the state -- processing request forms, mailing them out and taking in the ballots -- much less the new requirements this will impose on voters, those not exactly familiar with the absentee process and the deadlines associated with them.

Is two months (or just under) enough time for all of that? Time will tell. But this is a positive step to provide voters with an alternative to the early and in-person voting options that remain in place for May 19.


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Secretary Raffensperger's press release on the change is archived here.


--
Related Posts:
Georgia Postpones Presidential Primary, Consolidates with May Primaries

Georgia House Speaker Calls for Another Presidential Primary Move in the Peach State

Chorus for an Even Later Georgia Presidential Primary Grows

Alaska Democrats Extend Mail-In Voting Window, Cancel In-Person Voting

On Monday, March 23, the Alaska Democratic Party issued a press release announcing changes to the April party-run primary the state party planned on conducting. Like Hawaii and Wyoming, gone is the in-person voting component. And like those other two (formerly) April 4 states, a pre-planned mail-in option is in place to fill the void.

And in Alaska, that mail-in option is being enhanced. Already registered Democrats in the Last Frontier were mailed a ballot in March if they were registered by February 19. But now some additional accommodations have been announced to buttress that earlier alternative. First, the deadline to have vote-by-mail ballots in to the party -- originally today, March 24 -- has been extended to April 10, six days after to original in-person voting was to have concluded on April 4. Results will now be announced on Saturday, April 11, a week later than the original Alaska Democratic delegate selection plan.

Second, the state party is also posting online a downloadable PDF ballot that registered Democrats in the state can use once they have verified their registration. [It is a short ballot with a long list of instructions.]

Both moves are intended to replace the in-person voting opportunity now lost to the coronavirus pandemic.

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Importantly, the Alaska Democratic Party punted on any issues surrounding either the mid-April House district conventions and the May state convention. Those are still technically scheduled but the timing and process of each is being reviewed. State convention delegates elected at the House district conventions are the only ones eligible to be national convention delegates of any pledged variety. The state party will have to address how it will work around the possibility that any or all of those meetings will have to be canceled or held remotely.


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Alaska Democratic Party press release on changes archived here.

Hawaii Democrats Nix In-Person Voting in April Primary

The Hawaii Democratic Party on Friday, March 20 followed Wyoming Democrats' lead and cancelled the in-person voting component of their April 4 party-run presidential primary. The decision comes as gatherings both large and small come under increased restriction amid the rising threat of the coronavirus spread.

Ballots were mailed to all registered Democrats across the Aloha state, but another round will go out to those who are registered to vote and enrolled as Democrats by April 4, the original end to the voting phase of the process. But that "by April 4" implies that the deadline for submitting those mail-in ballots will be extended further in an effort to both increase participation, but also provide fair opportunities to vote to every Democrat in Hawaii who wants to. Those deadlines will be shared with the public when they are settled.

Among the other parts of the process that remain unresolved for Hawaii Democrats is the delegate selection process. District delegates were originally slated to be selected in congressional district caucuses at the May 23 state convention. But that convention has now been shifted to September, after the Democratic National Convention in July. That, in turn, means that the Hawaii Democratic Party will have to fundamentally reshape the way in which it had planned to select delegates in 2020. The party is in consultation with the DNC over how best to do that.

For now, Hawaii will remain on April 4 on the 2020 FHQ presidential primary calendar and will stay there until the Democratic Party in the Aloha state finalized mail-in deadlines.


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Hawaii Democratic Party's press release/email on primary changes archived here.

Monday, March 23, 2020

Rhode Island Primary Moves to June 2 Following Executive Order

Following the recommendation of the Rhode Island Board of Elections last week, Governor Gina Raimondo (D) issued on Monday, March 23 an executive order moving the Ocean state presidential primary from April 28 to June 2.

Rhode Island becomes the eighth state to move away from a pre-scheduled presidential primary in 2020 amid the coronavirus pandemic. It is the fourth state so far to land on June 2. Pending decisions in Ohio and Pennsylvania, potentially among others, June 2 now offers 489 delegates to the Democratic national convention in July.

Yes, this change only moves 26 pledged delegates back five weeks on the calendar, but it does have some impact on the delegate selection process. While the election of district delegates will be minimally affect -- all 18 of them are elected directly on the primary ballot -- something will have to give in the sequence for selecting the statewide delegates. At-large and PLEO delegates are due to be selected by the Rhode Island Democratic party state committee on May 17.

There are a handful of issues attendant to that date of selection. First of all, district delegates are typically selected before statewide delegates. To go ahead with the May 17 selection would mean that statewide delegates would be chosen before the district delegates on the now-June 2 primary ballot. Second, Rhode Island is in the fortunate position of having empowered the state committee rather than a state convention to select statewide delegates. It is easier to reschedule that meeting or have it remotely than to do either with a larger state convention.

However, the state committee will have a decision to make regarding statewide delegate selection. They could on the one hand press forward with the May 17 meeting and select for each of the active candidates slates of delegates for each of the eight statewide delegate positions and fill any allocated in the June 2 primary after its results are certified. Alternatively, they could push the meeting of the state committee back from May 17 to a calendar spot after the June 2 primary.

Regardless, Rhode Island Democrats will have some decisions to make in terms of how the delegate selection process will proceed. But at least it is in just one facet of the process -- statewide delegates -- rather than adjusting for the whole delegation.

Beyond that, the secretary of state will also be working with local elections officials to accommodate a "predominantly" mail-in primary, one that provides in-person options for those with disabilities (and any other need for accommodation) and mail-in options for everyone else.


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Secretary of State Nellie Gorbea's press release on the Rhode Island presidential primary change archived here.


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1 ConnecticutGeorgiaIndianaKentuckyLouisianaMaryland and Ohio all have moved from March or April dates to later May and June calendar positions.

Proposed Deal Would Shift Pennsylvania Primary to June 2

After some speculation last week about who ultimately had the authority to do so, it appears as if a deal has been hatched between the executive and legislative branches in Pennsylvania to move the commonwealth's primary from April 28 to June 2.

However, unlike a number of states that have reacted to the rapid spread of coronavirus, Pennsylvania will not act under any emergency powers vested in the executive branch.1 Instead, Pennsylvania decision-makers will follow an expedited course through the legislative process to make the date change.

The plan, as it stands now, is to take an existing elections bill (SB 422) -- one to create an election law advisory board in the Keystone state  -- and use that as a vehicle to make the change. While the bill has lain fallow in the state House since the early summer of 2019, it will be resurrected in the House State Government Committee on Monday, March 23, passed as is and then be sent to the floor of the House.

It is there on Tuesday that two amendments will be offered. One would push the date of the consolidated late April primary to June 2. But another would take the newly revamped and relaxed absentee voting law in the commonwealth and relax it even more. Restrictions on counting expanded absentee voting would be lifted, allowing a count to begin prior to polls closing in the primary election.

Together, the changes would allow for a later primary date ideally outside of the window of the maximum coronavirus threat with broader absentee voting that can be tabulated in a quicker more efficient manner as the primary voting comes to a close on June 2 (assuming the bill passes).

Once the bill makes it through the House, it will have to go back to the state Senate for reconsideration post-amendment. If those changes are agreed to in full, then the bill will head to Governor Tom Wolf's desk for his consideration.

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In terms of the practical implications this change would have on the broader delegate selection process for Democrats in Pennsylvania, the effect would be minimal. As in several other states, district delegate candidates appear and are elected on the primary ballot. That can happen on any date. And the selection of Pennsylvania's statewide delegates is set to occur on June 13. Even with the primary date change, those at-large and PLEO delegates would be selected after the primary and by the state Democratic committee rather than a state convention. Pennsylvania, then, would avoid some of the sorts of gatherings that are prohibited by state governments to stem the spread of the coronavirus. Instead, primary voters will have the option of voting directly for district delegates through a mail-in absentee process and have the state committee select (and potentially remotely) the statewide delegates.

Other than pushing the date change through the legislative process, Pennsylvania avoids some of the complications other states have had with respect to the delegate selection process.


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Related posts:
Amended Bill to Move Pennsylvania Primary to June 2 Passes House

Pennsylvania Primary Bill Passes State Senate, Heads to Governor


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1 Connecticut, Georgia, Indiana, Kentucky, Louisiana and Maryland have all seen governors and/or secretaries of state make these changes under emergency powers granted them.

Friday, March 20, 2020

Indiana Delays Presidential Primary, Moves to June 2

On Friday, March 20, Indiana became the latest state to shift back the date on which it will conduct its presidential primary in the face of the threat of coronavirus spread. Governor Eric Holcomb (R) issued an executive order to move the May 5 primary in the Hoosier state back four weeks to June 2.

The change not only buys the state some time to potentially avoid any further fallout from coronavirus, but to implement other elections changes that may increase the voters options and ease of voting. But while the date change buys some time on those fronts, it tightens the window for the process the Indiana Democratic Party has laid out for completing its delegate selection.

It was not just the presidential candidates that were to appear on the May 5 primary ballot. As a consolidated primary, the election also included nomination contests for other federal, state and local offices. Also on the ballot were to be state convention delegate candidates. State convention delegates elected on the May 5 ballot would then have have gone on to the June 13 state convention. In district caucuses there, national convention district delegates would be chosen. And a quorum of those district delegates would then choose PLEO and then at-large delegates.

All of that can still happen with a June 2 primary, but those 28 days now lost because of the primary move are 28 fewer days to certify the election results and credential state convention delegates to the proposed June 13 gathering. That, in turn, affects how, how quickly and when national convention delegates will be selected to the national convention.

These are the trade-offs state parties are having to deal with now, juggling public health concerns with the impact electoral changes have on the carefully laid delegate selection plans made well in advance. Indiana Democrats have to answer the time crunch issues from the change Governor Holcomb made today.


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March 20 press release from Governor Holcomb's office on the primary move archived here.



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Related Posts:
Indiana Elections Commission Authorizes No Excuse Absentee Voting in June 2 Primary

Kansas Democrats Forge Ahead with May 2 Party-Run Presidential Primary, but...

Kansas Democrats are not planning at the moment to make any changes to their Saturday, May 2 party-run primary.

And that is because, the party, like those in Hawaii and Wyoming has an insurance policy: mail-in voting. As in Hawaii and Wyoming, Kansas Democrats, too, had a pre-existing mail-in option in place as part of their original delegate selection plan. It was part of the the party's response to new Rule 2 encouragements to increase participation from the DNC for the 2020 cycle. That uniquely positions these states to lean on those mail-in options in lieu of in-person voting amid the coronavirus outbreak without having to change much about what they are doing.

Alaska also has a party-run primary with a mail-in option, but unlike Hawaii, Kansas and Wyoming, Alaska is not mailing out ballots to all registered Democrats in the state. Again, that uniquely positions the above trio of states to quickly and easily respond to the crisis. They were all already planning on mailing ballots to all Democrats in the state. Alaskans are not without that option. But Democrats in the Last Frontier have to request a ballot and have it postmarked by this coming Tuesday, March 24.

But for now in Kansas, Democrats are holding pat with their originally laid out delegate selection plan -- including in-person voting -- but are encouraging the use of the mail-in option.


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March 17 Kansas Democratic Party press release on party-run presidential primary archived here.



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Related Posts:
Kansas Democrats Eliminate In-Person Voting in May 2 Party-Run Presidential Primary