Census Tweaks Its 2020 Count Plans Due To The Pandemic

Voting rights primer
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The Census Bureau is continuing to adjust its operations in light of the coronavirus outbreak. On Saturday, the Bureau announced it was extending its freeze on in-person operations until at least April 15, after previously delaying them until April 1. Here are some of the other tweaks COVID-19 has forced the Bureau to make to its survey plans, via a chart created by NALEO:

  • The deadline for self-response to the survey has been extended from the end of July to mid-August.
  • Its initial round of non-response follow up has been pushed back until at least May 7.
  • The Mobile Questionnaire Assistance program won’t begin until at least mid-April, a delay from the original plan to launch the program at the end of March.

Lawsuit Seeks To Loosen WI’s Mail-In Ballot Requirements: As the pandemic ushers in a major expansion of absentee voting, voting rights advocates have sued Wisconsin to relax one of the requirements the state’s imposes on mail-in ballots. Specifically, Wisconsin mandates that absentee voters get a witness to sign their mail-in ballots. A lawsuit filed Tuesday by the League of Women Voters of Wisconsin alleges that this requirement places a major obstacle on people who live alone, especially older people or those with medical conditions that keep them homebound. Those concerns are only exacerbated by the need to self-isolate during the COVID-19, the League said.

Delaware, Rhode Island Postpone Primaries: Add Delaware and Rhode Island to the list of states that have delayed their presidential primaries due to the outbreak. The states’ primary will now take place on June 2, instead of April 28, Delaware Gov. John Carney (D) and Rhode Island Gov. Gina Raimondo (D) both announced last week.

Intra-GOP Clash Erupts Over Mail-In Voting Expansion In Ohio: Ohio’s GOP legislature passed a bill expanding absentee voting in the state, but not without adding some obstacles that have drawn the criticism of voting rights advocates and even Republican secretary of state Frank LaRose. Under the proposal put forth by LaRose, the state would have automatically sent out postage-paid applications for absentee ballots to all registered voters who had not voted in the primary yet. Instead, however, the bill passed by lawmakers will have LaRose’s office designing and sending out postcards making voters aware of the option to vote absentee. The voters would then need to obtain a ballot application by either printing the application out themselves or requesting that their local election officials send them one. LaRose and others have raised concerns that the extra steps — which also include the voter getting postage for her absentee ballot application — will make it extremely difficult to turn around the entire process in time for the new April 27 primary deadline.

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