The Daily Kos Elections Morning Digest is compiled by David Nir, Jeff Singer, Stephen Wolf, Carolyn Fiddler, and Matt Booker, with additional contributions from David Jarman, Steve Singiser, Daniel Donner, James Lambert, David Beard, and Arjun Jaikumar.
● New York: Two reform-minded challengers are leading incumbent district attorneys following New York’s Democratic primaries on Tuesday, though we’ll need to wait until the state tabulates its absentee ballots next week to know for sure who won.
In Westchester County just north of New York City, former federal prosecutor Mimi Rocah is outpacing District Attorney Anthony Scarpino by a wide 68-32 margin with 41,000 votes counted. Meanwhile, in Tompkins County upstate–;home of Ithaca, a major college town–;attorney Edward Kopko leads incumbent Matthew Van Houten 57-43 with 3,800 votes tallied.
As The Appeal explained before the primary, Scarpino has faced scrutiny over his handling of a scandal involving the police department in Mount Vernon, a suburb of 68,000 right on the Bronx border. Early last year, a Black member of the department, 12-year-veteran Murashea Bovell, provided Scarpino’s office with recordings of phone calls that featured an officer accusing one of his colleagues of framing innocent people and using excessive force.
However, no charges have been filed in the ensuing 16 months, and the investigation remains ongoing. Scarpino has argued that the tapes are “nothing but hearsay and uncorroborated” allegations. Rocah retorted, “Those recordings would have lit a fire in my office.”
Over in Tompkins County, Black Lives Matter activists organized protests against Van Houten after his office charged two Black Ithaca residents, Cadji Ferguson and Rose de Groat, over a 2018 incident in the city. The pair say that de Groat had been assaulted by a white man that neither of them knew, and that Ferguson had come to her defense. Both also say that they were forcefully arrested while police allowed de Groat’s attacker to go free. Footage from an officer’s body camera was later released showing the police tasing Ferguson.
Van Houten’s office charged the pair with assaulting an officer and resisting arrest. A judge ultimately dismissed the charges against de Groat, who was represented by Kopko, while another judge found Ferguson not guilty.
Please bookmark our litigation tracker for a complete compilation of the latest developments in every lawsuit regarding changes to election and voting procedures.
● Alabama: The 11th Circuit Court of Appeals has denied a request from Republican Gov. Kay Ivey and Republican Secretary of State John Merrill that it stay a lower court ruling earlier this month that made it easier for certain Alabama voters to cast absentee ballots.
That ruling, in a case supported by the NAACP, bars officials from enforcing a requirement that voters in three counties (including the state’s two largest) provide the signature of a notary or two witnesses when casting absentee ballots in Alabama’s July 14 primary. It also waived a requirement that absentee voters include a copy of their photo IDs for those 65 and older or with a disability. Both orders only apply to those who believe “it is impossible or unreasonable to safely satisfy” either requirement.
The 11th Circuit was particularly harsh toward the Republican defendants, who have also appealed the lower court’s decision (that appeal has not yet been adjudicated). Saying that Republicans had wrongly minimized the risk of leaving home to obtain witness signatures or photocopies, two judges wrote in a concurring opinion, “Sure, anyone may risk getting hit by a bus on the way to a polling station. But that doesn”;t mean we set up polling stations in the middle of the street.” The judges concluded that the defendants exhibited “a serious lack of understanding of or disregard for the science and facts involved here.”
● Arkansas: Three Arkansas voters have filed a lawsuit in state court asking that all voters be allowed to vote absentee in any election this year without an excuse. The plaintiffs also request that election officials be ordered to send absentee ballot applications to all voters and to pay for return postage for ballots. The attorneys for the plaintiffs have been involved with Democratic political campaigns and progressive ballot measures.
● Florida: Officials in Hillsborough and Pinellas counties, two populous neighboring counties in the Tampa Bay area, have sent mail ballot applications to all voters who haven’t previously requested a mail ballot, over 1 million in total. They join counterparts in Broward, Miami-Dade, and Palm Beach counties, who previously announced similar plans. Collectively, these five counties are home to 38% of Florida voters.
● Maine: Two civic organizations and a pair of voters have filed a lawsuit asking a state court to order Maine officials to take a number of steps to expand voting access for the state’s July 14 primary and the November general election. Among other things, the plaintiffs want the state to allow voters to register online; Maine is one of just a handful of states that does not offer online voter registration.
The suit also asks that officials be ordered to count any absentee ballots that are postmarked by Election Day and received within 10 days (currently, ballots must be received by Election Day). In addition, plaintiffs want the state to pay for postage on mail ballots and give voters an opportunity to correct any problems with their ballots after they’re received.
● New Mexico: Though conservative Democrats allied with Republicans to strip a provision from a new elections bill that would have sent every New Mexico voter a ballot for the November general election, the final legislation includes new procedures allowing for all-mail elections if the state’s top health official declares a state of emergency in any given county.
Democratic Secretary of State Maggie Toulouse Oliver and a bipartisan legislative panel would then have to agree on measures to address the emergency, which could include implementing curbside voting, closing polling places, or conducting elections by mail. Democratic Gov. Michelle Lujan Grisham will sign the bill soon, according to a spokesperson.
● Tennessee: The Tennessee Supreme Court has declined to stay a ruling by a lower court in a pair of consolidated cases that allows all voters to request absentee ballots during the pendency of the coronavirus pandemic while the Republican elected officials named as defendants pursue an appeal. The Supreme Court did grant Republicans’ request to hear their appeal on an expedited basis, allowing the defendants to bypass an intermediate appellate court.
● CO-Sen: The NRSC is out with another commercial that attacks former Gov. John Hickenlooper for being fined by the state Independent Ethics Commission after it found he had improperly allowed corporations to pay for his out-of-state trips.
Hickenlooper’s allies at Senate Majority PAC, meanwhile, are spending another $1.2 million on ads here, and its new spot ties GOP Sen. Cory Gardner to Donald Trump and defends Hickenlooper’s ethics. Neither commercial mentions former state House Speaker Andrew Romanoff, who is Hickenlooper’s opponent in next week’s Democratic primary.
Hickenlooper also picked up an endorsement this week from Bill Ritter, who preceded him as governor.
● KY-Sen: With 77,000 votes counted, state Rep. Charles Booker has taken a 44-40 edge over Marine veteran Amy McGrath in Tuesday’s Democratic primary to face Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell. Booker took the lead after Jefferson County, which is the state’s largest, reported its in-person votes, even though county officials previously said that they would not be releasing any numbers until next week.
We’re not expecting much action in the Ocean State this year, though. Democratic Sen. Jack Reed and Democratic Rep. David Cicilline don’t have any primary opposition, and they should have no trouble winning in November either. Democratic Rep. Jim Langevin does face an intra-party challenge in the 2nd District from Providence Board of Licenses Chairman Dylan Conley, who is the son of state Senate Finance Committee Chairman William Conley, but there’s no indication that the longtime incumbent is in any danger.
● TN-Sen: Rep. Chuck Fleischmann has endorsed former Ambassador to Japan Bill Hagerty in the August Republican primary. Hagerty, for his part, is also out with another commercial where he pledges to “hit China where it hurts” by bringing “manufacturing jobs back home.”
● Senate: We got an avalanche of Senate polls on Thursday from Arizona, Michigan, and North Carolina, and the results were all quite good for Team Blue:
AZ-Sen: Siena: Mark Kelly (D): 47, Martha McSally (R-inc): 38 (Biden 48-41)
AZ-Sen: Redfield & Wilton Strategies: Kelly (D): 49, McSally (R-inc): 34 (43-39 Biden)
MI-Sen: Siena: Gary Peters (D-inc): 41, John James (R): 31 (Biden 47-36)
MI-Sen: Redfield & Wilton Strategies: Peters (D-inc): 50, James (R): 32 (47-36 Biden)
MI-Sen: Hodas & Associates (R) for Restoration PAC: Peters (D-inc): 51, James (R): 38 (56-38 Biden) (May: 48-35 Peters)
NC-Sen: Siena: Cal Cunningham (D): 42. Thom Tillis (R-inc): 39 (49-40 Biden)
NC-Sen: Redfield & Wilton Strategies: Cunningham (D): 45, Tillis (R-inc): 36 (46-40 Biden)
Siena is once again polling on behalf of the New York Times, while Redfield & Wilton Strategies is a British firm that appears to be making its first foray into American electoral polling this year.
Hodas & Associates, meanwhile, is working for Restoration PAC, a group that has been airing ads in Michigan in support of Republican John James. Restoration PAC has been releasing monthly polls of Michigan, as well as Pennsylvania and Wisconsin, which is something we don’t think we’ve ever seen a super PAC do before. So far, though, all of its 2020 polls have found James down by at least 9 points.
This assortment of polls is pretty similar to the numbers we’ve seen in these three states. Very ominously for Team Red, Martha McSally has been down at least 9 points in every Arizona poll we’ve seen since March.
Redfield & Wilton’s North Carolina survey gives Cal Cunningham a considerably larger lead than what most firms have found, though an early May Civiqs poll for Daily Kos had him ahead by the same spread. The firm’s Michigan numbers are also the best numbers we’ve ever seen for Peters all year, though a recent EPIC-MRA survey had him leading by a similar margin.
● NC-Gov: Two new polls each find Democratic Gov. Roy Cooper well ahead of Republican Dan Forest, though by very different margins:
A recent survey from the Democratic firm Public Policy Polling had Cooper leading 50-41, which is closer to what Siena finds.
● NJ-05: Democratic Rep. Josh Gottheimer is out with a poll from TargetSmart that shows him leading Glen Rock Councilwoman Arati Kreibich 66-23 in the July 7 primary; we’re told the sample size is 400. Kreibich released a survey from Data for Progress in early June that had her down 64-17.
● NY-24: Navy veteran Francis Conole announced Thursday that he was conceding the Democratic primary to 2018 nominee Dana Balter. Balter currently leads 65-35 with 16,500 votes tallied, though the margin in this seat in the Syracuse area could shift once absentee ballots are counted next week. Balter will now get her rematch against Republican Rep. John Katko, who beat her 53-47 last cycle.
Katko is one of just three House Republicans defending a seat that Clinton carried, and he”;ll likely be a major Democratic target. Indeed, Katko”;s allies at the Congressional Leadership Fund have reserved $600,000 to defend him, while the Democratic group House Majority PAC has also booked time in the Syracuse media market (though some of that money could be used to aid Rep. Anthony Brindisi in the nearby 22nd District.)
However, Katko looks like he has the advantage in his second bout with Balter. This seat moved to the right from 57-41 to just 49-45 Clinton, and Katko defeated Balter even in the midst of the 2018 blue wave. Still, the incumbent could be in for a difficult race if Joe Biden carries this seat, especially if Donald Trump continues to be in poor shape heading into November. Daily Kos Elections rates this contest as Lean Republican.
● Portland, OR Mayor: Urban policy consultant Sarah Iannarone is out with a survey from the Democratic firm Public Policy Polling that shows her trailing Mayor Ted Wheeler just 33-32 in November. Wheeler outpaced Iannarone 49-24 in the May nonpartisan primary.
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