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The State of Reform
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Download Unite America's free report analyzing the impact of four key political reforms.
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Gov. Gretchen Whitmer asked for the new Michigan law allowing poll workers to start opening mailed ballots ahead of Election Day.

Partisan twists in four key states help keep ballot rules in limbo

The end of a week that brought the country within 40 days of the election included a smorgasbord of legal developments underscoring how the rules governing the coming surge of mailed votes are far from finalized.

The Republican lieutenant governor asked the Justice Department to investigate North Carolina's brand new easements on absentee voting. A federal appeals court revived witness requirements on ballots mailed in South Carolina. Philadelphia's top election official asked Pennsylvania to scratch at the last minute a requirement for returning such ballots inside secrecy envelopes. And Michigan decided to give local clerks a small head start on processing absentee ballots.

The series of moves Thursday were the latest in the pitched partisan battle over mail-in voting. The first two reflect the Republican effort to make the rules tougher, while the other two reflect the Democratic view that those rules should be simpler.

These are the details:

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Trump's allies push tiny suspicions of vote fraud in two swing states

The number of votes being investigated for fraud has surged this week — by 47 ballots.

Inquiries were revealed Thursday by the Justice Department, which said it was probing the fate of nine discarded mailed-in ballots in Pennsylvania, and the Republican attorney general in Texas, who unveiled indictments in a case of 38 people pretending to be disabled so they could vote absentee.

The probes show just how assiduously allies of President Trump are working to find and publicize cheating with mailed votes, a scheme the president maintains is so massive that it's about to rob him of an otherwise assured second term.

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Big Picture
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President Trump refused Wednesday to say there would be a peaceful transition of power if he loses the election.

GOP pushback doesn't end suspicions about Trump and a peaceful transition

President Trump's most recent refusal to commit to accepting the results of the election propelled several other prominent Republicans on Thursday to insist there will be a peaceful end to one administration and start of another come January, no matter who wins in November.

"There will be an orderly transition just as there has been every four years since 1792," vowed Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, who like the others in the party who spoke out still declined to identify Trump's alarming equivocation by name.

Beyond that, one of Trump's most overt threats yet to subvert a bedrock aspect of American democracy, should he lose in November, drew a whole range of responses and raised all manner of so-far unanswerable questions.

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These 34 states are making voting easier, if only for this fall

Voting in the presidential election ends in 40 days, and states are still making adjustments to their rules and procedures.

The coronavirus pandemic, along with a wave of litigation from voting rights groups and Democrats, has resulted in 34 states deciding to make it easier to cast a ballot this fall — either voluntarily or as the result of a lawsuit. Most of the changes encourage voting by mail and ease the rules governing the completion and tabulation of absentee ballots.

More developments are virtually certain. Many will be prompted by fresh judicial rulings, or appeals upholding or reversing voting easements now in place. And appeals in some of those cases could reach the Supreme Court in the final days before Nov. 3.

But here are the current plans in the two-thirds of states where the rules have already been altered this year:

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