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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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Michigan, which held its presidential primary in March, is expecting a surge in mail-in ballots in November.

Suit to ease Michigan voting dies, but new ones born in three other states

Michigan's top court has decided not to weigh in on one of the emerging big issues of the November election: whether absentee ballots delayed in the mail should still count.

The state Supreme Court decision means that Michigan, like most of the presidential battlegrounds and 33 states altogether, will only open and tabulate envelopes that have landed at election offices by the time polls close on Election Day. As a result, the franchise may be denied to millions nationwide unless the beleaguered Postal Service is able to keep up with the coming torrent of mailed-in ballots.

Friday's decision was part of the latest flurry of legal developments over voting rights — including a lawsuit, similar to the one in Michigan, to make Indiana count late-arriving ballots, along with two fresh suits to relax absentee voting rules in Ohio and a bid to force South Carolina to make elections safer for people vulnerable to the coronavirus.

These are the details:

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Poll workers in Bloomington, Ind., wear face shields and hand gloves as precautions against Covid-19 during Tuesday's primary votting.

Tuesday’s voting delivers big warnings about readiness for fall

Major worries expressed by election officials and good-government groups all came true on the biggest day of voting since the coronavirus pandemic shut down much of the country: absentee ballots that were never delivered, long lines for those who voted in person and results that have not been fully tabulated a day later.

At the same time, records were broken Tuesday in several states for turnout in a primary, with citizens seemingly determined to cast their ballots despite the extraordinary circumstance of holding elections during both a deadly pandemic and a time of violent civil unrest.

The principal takeaway is that plenty of work needs to be completed and improvements made in just five months, or else the country may not be able to conduct a safe and reliable presidential election — and potentially one with record turnout.

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Indiana primary

Indiana holds its presidential and state primary elections (postponed from May 5).

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Who can use mail-in ballots, like these 2018 midterm ballots in California, has become the subject of legal challenges in many states.

Latest absentee voting rights tally: 1 win, 2 fresh legal fights

State by state, the future of absentee ballots — who may cast them, when they're due and what other obstacles should be lowered — continues to be the dominant story about how well the democratic process is prepared to meet the coronavirus pandemic.

Monday brought the latest federal lawsuits challenging restrictions to voting by mail — in both Indiana and Florida, the most populous swing state — but also a significant legal victory in Oklahoma for those hoping to expand voting from home.

The cumulative impact of the increasingly partisan debate nationwide, with Democrats vigorously pushing vote-by-mail and Republicans largely resisting it, will be central to determining how many people vote this year despite the public health crisis. This is vitally important not only in the presidential contest, where turnout could be the deciding factor, but also in the 46 states with primaries to come because so many were delayed in the face of stay-at-home restrictions.

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