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.


--
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.


--
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.

--
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.



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



--
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.


--
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.


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



--
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.


--
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.

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



--
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.


--
The letter to Raffensperger will be archived here.


--
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.


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


--
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.


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



--
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.


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