Electionland 2020: PA Voting, NYC Absentee Ballots, Legal Battles and More

Electionland 2020: PA Voting, NYC Absentee Ballots, Legal Battles and More

This article originally appeared on ProPublica.org, is a Pulitzer Prize-winning investigative newsroom. 

Vote by Mail News

  • The U.S. Postal Service stopped updating the national change of address system for three weeks in August, leaving more than 1.8 million records unprocessed in that period. In most states, the address database is used as a guide to keep voter rolls up-to-date. (TIME)
  • The New York City Board of Elections is reprinting and resending nearly 100,000 absentee ballots after voters in Brooklyn received the wrong return envelopes. If signed, the ballots inside would have been invalidated. The governor says that the city should only resend the envelopes, not the ballots. (Gothamist/WNYC, New York Daily News)
  • President Donald Trump’s campaign sent a letter to Republican members of county election boards in North Carolina, urging them to ignore a recent court decision that expands access to mail-in voting. “The Democrats are trying to undermine the election process through backroom shenanigans,” the letter read. (WRAL)
  • Some absentee voters in Illinois are jumping the gun and showing up at the polls for early voting before their ballots arrive in the mail. (WICS/WRSP, Chicago Tribune)
  • Iowa poll workers can start opening ballot envelopes on Oct. 31 to relieve pressure on Election Day, under a new emergency declaration from state lawmakers. (Des Moines Register)
  • Election workers in Michigan will get an extra 10 hours of prep time for opening envelopes, starting Nov. 2. (Detroit Free Press)
  • Kentucky officials are working on a standard ballot curing system so voters can fix mistakes on their absentee ballots this November. (WUKY)
  • Hundreds of North Carolina absentee ballots have already been sent back to voters because of missing witness information. (ABC News)
  • The pandemic-era shift to voting by mail is creating an “administrative nightmare” for election officials in New Mexico. (Santa Fe New Mexican)
  • More than 3,000 New Hampshire voters were locked out of tracking their ballots online because their birth years had defaulted to 1964 in a state database. (Concord Monitor)
  • New York state unveiled new absentee ballot envelopes featuring a large red “X” on the signature line, in response to problems reported in the June primary. (Gotham Gazette)
  • In Virginia, around 1,400 absentee voters received duplicate ballots as election workers rushed to fulfill requests. (Washington Post)
  • Some Charlotte, North Carolina-area voters are getting inundated with absentee ballot applications and mailing duplicate requests to their local elections offices. (13 News Now)
  • After a string of errors, Utah election officials are keeping a close eye on private vendors printing out absentee ballots. Democratic Party voters in one clerk’s county received GOP ballots and vice versa during the June primary. Now, the clerk said, “I’m in communication with [the printer] probably four or five times a day.” (Salt Lake Tribune)

Pandemic Voting

  • Some anxious Washington state voters have registered to vote or made change of address requests multiple times, which slows down the process. (Crosscut)
  • The Center for Public Integrity and Stateline released data for polling place locations across 30 states since 2012 to help journalists and advocates study voting accessibility. (Center for Public Integrity)
  • For 38 million Americans with disabilities, the pandemic has made voting more inaccessible, especially for people who need help filling out a physical ballot or using voting machines. (The New York Times)
  • A group started by NBA star LeBron James has signed up 10,000 people to volunteer as poll workers in Black districts around the country. (The New York Times)
  • Testing of Georgia’s new voting system has been halted temporarily while the state resolves issues with how candidates’ names are displayed on voting machine screens. (Georgia Public Broadcasting)
  • Jefferson County, Kentucky is moving forward with plans to expand the number of polling locations from 8 to 20. (Courier-Journal)
  • A New York state bill that would allow online voter registration is unlikely to pass in time for the general election. (Gotham Gazette)
  • The new county clerk in Harris County, Texas is on a mission to avoid long lines and other issues that hampered voting in the March primary. (Texas Monthly)
  • Milwaukee Republicans say that having mascots at early voting locations in sporting arenas constitutes illegal electioneering. (Milwaukee Journal-Sentinel)

What’s Happening With Elections in Pennsylvania

  • Pennsylvania’s voting website has experienced technical problems recently, preventing voters from registering and checking other election-related services. The secretary of state says there’s no “malicious activity” and that a team is working on a fix. (Penn Live)
  • Some voters in Western Pennsylvania reported problems getting through on the phone to local elections offices. (PostIndustrial)
  • A laptop and memory sticks used to program Philadelphia voting machines were stolen from a warehouse. The laptop was disabled remotely and did not have election material on it, an official said. (The Philadelphia Inquirer)
  • GOP state legislators are moving forward with a plan to investigate the presidential election, giving lawmakers “the authority to subpoena election officials, the U.S. postal service and examine aspects of the election, even while voting and counting are in process.” (The York Daily Record)
  • At the debate Tuesday night, Trump renewed his false claim that officials in Philadelphia threw observers out of a polling place. (Philadelphia Inquirer)
  • Luzerne County, Pa., officials say they acted quickly when they discovered that a temporary elections worker had improperly discarded nine mail-in ballots to cover up a mistake. But it was “wildly improper” for the Justice Department to announce an investigation into the matter, legal experts say. (Times Leader, The Washington Post)
  • Trump has used the discarded ballots in Pennsylvania, and the Justice Department’s investigation into them, to make unfounded claims about voter fraud. (CNN)

Private Funding for Election Administration

  • Facebook founder Mark Zuckerberg gave $300 million in grants to two organizations to be used for election administration, but a conservative group is suing to block the funding in Michigan, Minnesota, Pennsylvania and Wisconsin. (The New York Times)
  • Former California Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger offered grants to local elections officials in jurisdictions formerly covered by the Voting Rights Act. He’s already started giving out the funds, awarding a $250,000 grant to a Texas county, which also received a $1.8 million grant from the Center for Tech and Civic Life. (The Hill, TPR, Valley Morning Star)
  • New York City joined a host of other New York state municipalities seeking private grant funding to defray the cost of holding an election during a pandemic. (The Wall Street Journal)

The Latest on Misinformation

  • Ongoing court battles and misleading claims about mail-in ballot fraud seem to be taking a toll on voters. More said they’ll be casting ballots in person, in a recent poll. (NPR)
  • The FBI is investigating a Russian group posing as an independent media outlet to target right-wing social media users. (Reuters)
  • Right-leaning YouTube channels are spreading misinformation about mail-in voting, raising questions about the platform’s ability to enforce its own rules. (Media Matters)
  • An unverified video accusing Rep. Ilhan Omar of voter fraud was part of a “coordinated disinformation campaign,” researchers say. (The New York Times)
  • The White House lit into FBI Director Christopher Wray this week after he told a congressional panel there was no evidence of a coordinated national voter fraud effort, undercutting claims by the president. (Reuters)
  • Trump claimed without evidence this week that states cannot count mail-in and absentee ballots accurately, and also tweeted misleading information about Brooklyn’s mail ballot debacle. (Twitter)
  • Russia is spreading disinformation about mail-in voting in the U.S. as Trump continues to attack it, intelligence officials say. (The New York Times)

Election Legal Battles

  • Trump’s campaign has assembled a massive legal network to monitor the election and oversee the deluge of mail-in ballots expected this year. (Politico)
  • A top lawyer for the Trump campaign got his start working for Democrat Al Gore’s presidential campaign. (WFAE)
  • A review of 90 state and federal voting lawsuits has found judges are “broadly skeptical” of GOP arguments that mail voting should be limited due to fraud concerns. (Washington Post)

The Latest Lawsuits


Pink Ribbon Warriors

Pink Ribbon Warriors

Since 1985, the month of October has become known throughout the United States as Breast Cancer Awareness Month. During this annual health campaign, charities, hospitals, retailers and others commit to raising funds earmarked for programs that aim at discovering a cause and a cure for breast cancer. Many of these programs also focus on helping women learn what they can do to minimize their risk of ever developing breast cancer in the first place.

Which would you rather do—reduce your risk for breast cancer or race around hoping for a cure? Most women, quite sensibly, would rather reduce their risk for breast cancer as much as possible.  So what can you do to reduce your risk?  Well, there are at least six strategies that are known and proven to reduce the risk for breast cancer:  exercise regularly, maintain ideal body weight, avoid smoking, avoid alcohol, avoid oral contraceptives, and avoid hormone replacement therapy. Let’s take them one at a time. But before we dive into them, let’s first take a look at some important breast cancer facts as they relate to African American women.

According to the American Cancer Society (ACS), breast cancer is the most commonly diagnosed cancer among African American women and is the second most common cause of cancer death among African American women right behind lung cancer.

In addition, Breastcancer.org reveals on its website that while white women are slightly more likely to develop breast cancer than African American women, breast cancer is more common in African American women than white women in those under the age of 45. Research also indicates that Asian, Hispanic, and Native-American women have a lower risk of developing and dying from breast cancer than African American women. So, why is breast cancer so much more common — and deadly — among African American females?

Scientists are not certain why this is the case. Early studies suggested that African American women have, on average, fewer healthcare resources at their disposal. But further analysis shows that there is a distinctly more lethal form of breast cancer stalking black women. Until doctors can figure out precisely what is causing this different pattern of breast cancer in African American women, it just makes for them to use every means available to reduce their risk for breast cancer. So, while early diagnosis and treatment are important for improving survival from breast cancer, it is a wiser strategy to try to prevent the disease in the first place. And this leads us to the above-mentioned strategies.

Exercise, Exercise, Exercise

Moderate exercise, defined as 30 minutes of brisk walking four times per week, reduces the risk for breast cancer by 30 to 50 percent. A pair of tennis shoes is all you need. No pills; just walk! And if you are a breast cancer survivor, the same amount of exercise can reduce your risk of death by 50 percent. As far as I’m concerned, every woman newly diagnosed with breast cancer ought to be given a brand new pair of tennis shoes and told to use them regularly!

Find Your Fighting Weight

Maintaining ideal body weight is also important. Simply put, it is a matter of keeping extra body fat to a minimum. The reason this is beneficial is that estrogen — which is known to increase the risk for breast cancer — is manufactured in fat cells. So the more fat you carry around, the more estrogen you make. By maintaining ideal body weight, you reduce the amount of circulating estrogen and that will reduce your risk for breast cancer. Here’s a link you can use to calculate your ideal body weight.

Where There’s Smoke …

Steer clear of cigarettes because smoking definitely increases the risk for breast cancer; don’t let anyone tell you otherwise.  And it most definitely increases the risk of death from breast cancer in those women who do smoke. Although doctors haven’t quite figured out why smoking increases the risk of death in women with breast cancer, there is no doubt that it does.

Rethink That Drink

For reasons that are not entirely clear, but may be related to elevated estrogen levels associated with alcohol intake, drinking increases a woman’s risk for breast cancer. Even half a glass of wine per day increases one’s risk. I know, cardiologists are proclaiming the heart-healthy benefits of drinking red wine, but alcohol increases your risk for breast cancer. So I recommend women steer clear of it.

Other Risk Factors

Oral contraceptives and hormone replacement therapy are also known to increase the risk for breast cancer. As a matter of fact, the World Health Organization (WHO) declared them to be Group I carcinogens, which are substances or agents that are known to cause cancer in humans in 2007, as compared to other WHO categories in which the cancer link is either questionable to yet to be confirmed. Although the FDA has not yet included the WHO analysis in the package inserts for these medications, it would be wise to avoid the use of oral contraceptives and hormone replacement therapy if you want to reduce your risk for breast cancer.

The Good News

Now, here’s some very good news: the world’s first preventive breast cancer vaccine was developed at the Cleveland Clinic in 2010 and is awaiting funding to begin clinical trials to see if it is safe for use in women.  It is a very promising discovery, for the vaccine was 100 percent effective in preventing breast cancer in three different animal studies. The results were vetted by a panel of experts and published in the prestigious journal Nature Medicine in May 2010. The scientist who created the vaccine, Professor Vincent Tuohy, received the Cleveland Clinic’s Sonnes Innovation in Medicine Award that same year, and this year the vaccine has become the centerpiece of the Cleveland Clinic’s fund-raising efforts, a mark of the Clinic’s endorsement of Tuohy’s work.

In addition to this amazing development, Drs. Beatriz Pogo and James Holland, scientists working at the Mount Sinai School of Medicine in New York City, have found a virus that appears to be involved in 40-75 percent of breast cancer. They presented their results to the annual meeting of the San Antonio Breast Cancer Symposium in 2006–a very tough and demanding crowd of breast cancer experts. In fact, Pogo and Holland are just one step away from proving this virus causes breast cancer in women. Both of these areas of research, the virus and the vaccine, are now our best hope for ending breast cancer worldwide … just like we ended small pox and are ending polio.

But in the meantime, exercise regularly and maintain ideal body weight. And don’t drink alcohol, smoke, use oral contraceptives or hormone replacement therapy. Though nothing can guarantee you won’t get breast cancer, you’ll reduce your risk and be healthier for it.

Resources for the Fight

Visit the following websites for additional information and resources:

1.    National Breast and Cervical Cancer Early Detection Program http://www.cdc.gov/cancer/nbccedp/screenings.htm
This is a government program created to help low-income, uninsured, and underinsured women gain access to breast cancer screenings and diagnostic services.

2.    Sisters Network Inc. (SNI)
SNI is a national organization that strives to educate African American women around the country about breast cancer, as well as provide support to survivors. Visit the website to locate a chapter near you.

3.    Are You Dense Inc.
Formed to educate the public about dense breast tissue, this organization espouses the value of adding screening ultrasounds to mammograms to increase detection of breast cancer. It also has a government relations affiliate, Are You Dense Advocacy, which aims at helping more women have access to an early breast cancer diagnosis and helps them find out what their state is doing to facilitate this. — By Shelley Bacote