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Photo: Ben McCanna/Portland Press Herald via Getty Images

The coronavirus could make it harder for some U.S. voters to cast ballots this year, but that threat can be a catalyst for election changes that have previously met partisan resistance, elections law expert Trevor Potter said in an interview with "Axios on HBO."

Why it matters: Congress and state and local elections officials are looking for ways to protect voters in remaining primaries and even the general election.

The big picture: Primaries can be changed easily, but not the Nov. 3 general election.

  • Arizona, Florida, Illinois and Ohio have primaries on March 17, with large populations of high-risk voters 65 and older.
  • Louisiana and Georgia will delay their primary elections.
  • Election officials are adjusting, from providing hand sanitizer at voting booths, to moving polls from senior centers to alternate locations, to expanding early, mail-in and drive-up voting.
  • Some state legislatures and governors may need to change laws or take other actions to provide more options.

What he's saying: "There's been a view that making it easier to vote, encouraging people to vote, somehow would help Democrats rather than Republicans," said Potter, who is president of the Campaign Legal Center and was Stephen Colbert's super PAC lawyer and a former chairman of the Federal Election Commission.

  • "I personally think that's about a 25-year-old view, and that if you look at the Trump election, there were many people who came out and said they were voting for Trump who were not normal voters. So increased turnout in some states helped the Trump campaign rather than the Democrats."
  • "There are allegations that in Republican red states, there is an attempt to suppress minority voters. And we've seen examples where laws were passed to make it harder to vote on Sundays or to require a particular form of voter ID that minorities might not have. And you can see there's a partisan element to that and a partisan dispute."
  • "Here, I think the good news is, it is not thought that this crisis hurts or helps voters of one party. So both parties ought to be able to get together on this and say we need to make it easier to vote in the face of this health crisis."
  • "There are plenty of elderly people in both parties."
  • "In this crisis, we move away from the 'is it going to help us or hurt them' mentality that you see in some of the barriers to voting. And instead, we have the possibility that it will hurt both parties in unpredictable ways. So both of them should be looking at how to make it easier to have a range of methods to vote on an election day in the middle of a public health crisis."

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The House voted 220 to 212 on Wednesday evening to pass a policing bill named for George Floyd, the Black man whose death in Minneapolis last year led to nationwide protests against police brutality and racial injustice.

Why it matters: The legislation overhauls qualified immunity for police officers, bans chokeholds at the federal level, prohibits no-knock warrants in federal drug cases and outlaws racial profiling.

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Republicans are demanding a full, 600-page bill reading — and painful, multi-hour "vote-a-rama" — as Democrats forge ahead with their plan to pass President Biden's $1.9 trillion COVID-19 relief package.

Why it matters: The procedural war is aimed at forcing Democrats to defend several parts the GOP considers unnecessary and partisan. While the process won't substantially impact the final version of the mammoth bill, it'll provide plenty of ammunition for future campaign messaging.

The new grifters: outrage profiteers

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As Republicans lost the Senate and narrowly missed retaking the House, millions of dollars in grassroots donations were diverted to a handful of 2020 congressional campaigns challenging high-profile Democrats that, realistically, were never going to succeed.

Why it matters: Call it the outrage-industrial complex. Slick fundraising consultants market candidates contesting some of their party’s most reviled opponents. Well-meaning donors pour money into dead-end campaigns instead of competitive contests. The only winner is the consultants.