Electionland 2020: Absentee Vote Tracking, Drop Boxes, Poll Watchers and More

Electionland 2020: Absentee Vote Tracking, Drop Boxes, Poll Watchers and More

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

New From ProPublica

Millions of Mail-In Votes Have Already Been Cast in Battleground States. Track Their Progress Here.

ProPublica and The Guardian are tracking mail-in votes in battleground states — how many have been requested, how many have been returned and how many have been rejected. Read the story.

Pennsylvania’s Rejection of 372,000 Ballot Applications Bewilders Voters and Strains Election Staff

Most rejected applications were deemed duplicates because voters had unwittingly checked a request box during the primary. The administrative nightmare highlights the difficulty of ramping up mail-in voting on the fly. Read the story.

Stories From Electionland Partners

  • Washington Post: Long lines mark the first day of early voting in Georgia as voters flock to the polls.
  • News & Observer: Black voters more likely to be left in limbo by NC absentee ballot dispute.
  • Postindustrial: Some in PA remain confused over mail-in election process.
  • WFSU: Sealed Absentee Ballot Return Envelopes Spark Concern From Leon County Voters.
  • WESA: Postcards On Voting Cause Confusion Among Some Pennsylvanians.
  • WESA: Your Questions On Pennsylvania Voter Registration, Mail-In Ballots, And Voting In Person, Answered.
  • Washington Post: Early voting begins in Texas with high turnout, despite new legal developments on voting access.
  • NJ Spotlight News: Missing ballots, sealed envelopes — NJ’s first mail-in election sees glitches.
  • CBS2 Chicago: Cook County Acknowledges Backlog As Many Voters Get Message That System Can’t Verify Their Registration.
  • KJRH: Tulsa County voter gets replacement ballot after he thinks first one goes missing.
  • News & Observer: Worried that your mail-in ballot won’t count? Here’s what you need to know.

Vote by Mail News

  • California’s Republican Party admitted to placing unofficial ballot drop boxes at undisclosed locations around the state after reports emerged in Fresno, Los Angeles, and Orange counties. A state party spokesman claimed the boxes were legal under the state’s “ballot harvesting” law, which allows third parties to help take ballots to the polls. But in a cease-and-desist letter, California’s attorney general said the drop boxes were missing crucial security features and could leave the party vulnerable to charges of tampering. (CBS Sacramento)
  • Nearly half of the North Carolina ballots that have been flagged for errors and need to be “cured” belong to Black voters. But the cure process has been suspended as a legal battle over state voting law between Democrats and Republicans makes its way through the courts. (Washington Post)
  • Voters in seven states — including Virginia, New Hampshire and Pennsylvania — had already returned more absentee ballots as of this week than the states saw by the end of the 2016 election. (Wall Street Journal)
  • More than 80 million absentee ballots had already been requested nationwide as of October 14, but some critical states — including Pennsylvania and Wisconsin — won’t allow election workers to begin processing them all until Election Day, which could lead to delays in getting results. (New York Times)
  • Starting Monday, Denver voters could watch election workers process ballots live on a video stream at denvervotes.org. (Associated Press)
  • Across Pennsylvania, voters are experiencing a deluge of election-related mail and ballot applications sent by third-party groups. Some forms have been pre-filled with inaccurate information, prompting confused calls to already busy election offices. (WITF)
  • At a conservative conference in D.C. in August, speakers pushed back on mail-in voting, promoted ballot harvesting and worried about Democrats stealing the election. (The Washington Post)

Voting Challenges This Week

  • A federal judge extended Virginia’s voter registration deadline to Thursday, after online voter systems crashed on what was supposed to be the final day of registration. The Tuesday outage was caused by a severed fiber optic line, which crews accidentally cut while doing utility work. (WDBJ, Washington Post)
  • Nearly 29,000 people in Allegheny County, Pennsylvania, may have received the wrong ballot as the result of a printing error by an outside vendor. Voters’ names were matched to the wrong municipalities and voting districts, county officials said. New ballots will be issued the week of October 19. (WESA)
  • New Jersey voters are having trouble with the state’s online system for tracking their absentee ballots. Although the platform will technically accept three different identification numbers to help track down ballots, it won’t show a result unless users put in the exact ID they used to register to vote. (WNYC)
  • Two state lawmakers are pushing for a refund from the printing company that accidentally sent thousands of Brooklyn voters the wrong ballot return envelopes. New York City’s Board of Elections had awarded Phoenix Printing a no-bid, $4.6 million contract to print absentee ballots, which one assemblywoman slammed as a “sweetheart deal.” (The City)
  • About 1,000 voters in Delaware County, Ohio, received two absentee ballots in the mail due to a “computer glitch,” according to election officials. Voters are being contacted by phone and by mail to make sure they only use one ballot. (ABC 6)
  • More than 1,300 Charleston voters received incorrect absentee ballots; officials say new ballots will arrive within days. (The State)

The Latest on Poll Security

  • A private security firm is recruiting former Special Operations soldiers to guard polling places and businesses in Minnesota during the election, despite the objections of state and local officials. (The Washington Post)
  • Tens of thousands of volunteers have signed up for a GOP polling watching effort. Per Politico, poll watchers will “monitor everything from voting machines to the processing of ballots to checking voter identification,” but are not allowed to interact directly with voters. (Politico)
  • Election officials in central Florida are training for possible disruptions, or even violence, on Election Day. (Orlando Sentinel)
  • Republican lawmakers are pushing back on a North Carolina State Board of Elections memo that directed local officials not to station uniformed law enforcement officers at polling places. (The News & Observer)

Misinformation on Voting

  • New research shows that social media influencers are helping amplify misinformation on voting. (AP)
  • Officials in Alabama are investigating complaints of people going door-to-door, asking voters to sign blank absentee ballot applications and provide personal information. (Dothan Eagle)
  • Scammers are mimicking a ballot-tracking text message service. (NBC San Diego)
  • USPS officials say a surge of packages from Amazon’s annual Prime Day won’t interfere with delivering ballots. (CNN)
  • Experts are more worried about disinformation, not coronavirus or cybersecurity, derailing the election. (Roll Call)

The Latest Lawsuits

 

Electionland 2020: Florida Felon Voting, Election Websites, DOJ Policies and More

Electionland 2020: Florida Felon Voting, Election Websites, DOJ Policies and More


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

New From ProPublica

In Florida, the Gutting of a Landmark Law Leaves Few Felons Likely to Vote

State officials don’t know how many felons are registered or eligible to vote. So we did our own analysis and found only a very small percentage of them will be able to cast ballots this election. Some could face prosecution if they do. Read the story from The Tampa Bay Times and ProPublica.

DOJ Frees Federal Prosecutors to Take Steps That Could Interfere With Elections, Weakening Long-standing Policy

In an internal announcement, the Justice Department created an exception to a decadeslong policy meant to prevent prosecutors from taking overt investigative steps that might affect the outcome of the vote. Read the story.

The Justice Department May Have Violated Attorney General Barr’s Own Policy Memo

In a memo from May, the attorney general reminded Justice Dept. prosecutors to avoid partisan politics. Then a U.S. attorney in Pennsylvania announced an election investigation that had partisan overtones. Read the story.

Your Guide to Voting in Illinois

Everything you need to know about local election deadlines, what the pandemic has changed and casting your ballot so it counts. Read the story.

Vote by Mail News

  • The Postal Service is reporting some of its worst mail delays since operations bogged down in July and August, according to internal documents filed in federal court. The on-time delivery of first-class mail ― which includes absentee ballots and other election materials ― fell 4.5% over a two-week period this fall, but deliveries of magazines and marketing mail were not affected. USPS hasn’t explained the disparity. (CNN)
  • Texas Governor Greg Abbott issued an order that will limit drop-off locations for absentee ballots to just one per county. Partisan poll watchers will also be allowed to monitor those sites, Abbott said, in an effort to “ensure greater transparency.” (Texas Tribune)
  • After losing a court appeal, Ohio’s secretary of state said counties can now each install more than one ballot drop box, but the new boxes can only be placed at county election headquarters. (Cincinnati Enquirer)
  • A Rochester, N.Y. printing company defended its political leanings and blamed a computer glitch for misprinting ballot return envelopes for thousands of voters in Brooklyn and Long Island. (Rochester Democrat & Chronicle, The City)
  • North Carolina’s Board of Elections is telling voters to ignore more than 11,000 ballot applications that were pre-filled with incorrect information and mailed out by a third-party vendor. (WBTV)
  • Thousands of voters in Gwinnett County, Ga., are waiting longer than usual for their absentee ballots after the county enlarged its envelopes as part of a court settlement. The envelopes now feature larger font and clearer instructions, but take extra time to process. (Atlanta Journal Constitution)
  • The head of elections in Volusia County, Fla., said it’s perfectly legal to seal ballot envelopes with tape, after some first-time mail voters struggled with the adhesive strip. (Daytona Beach News-Journal)
  • But the town clerk in Cottage Grove, Wisconsin, warned that taped envelopes could be flagged as suspicious or fraudulent. A state elections spokesman clarified that usually applies to ballots that have clearly been reopened, then taped shut. (Herald-Independent)
  • Michigan election officials will be allowed to start prepping ballots on the morning of Nov. 2, ahead of the official count on Election Day. (WNDU)
  • Voters in the remote community of Torrey, Utah are trying to figure out how to cast ballots in the state’s mail-in election after their only post office shut down. (The Spectrum)
  • More than 25 states use “signature matching” in an effort to verify ballots against existing registration files and prevent fraud. But even when multiple judges or software programs are deployed, the results can vary widely. One elections expert said consistency is key. (The New York Times)

Election Website Issues

  • Pennsylvania’s voting website crashed for more than 40 hours this weekend. (Philadelphia Inquirer)
  • One third of county election websites in Kansas and Missouri are not secure, according to an analysis by The Beacon. (The Beacon)
  • Technology failures with Florida’s online voter registration tool has frustrated people trying to register to vote. The website crashed on the last day to register for the Nov. 3 election. State officials blamed a misconfigured computer server for the glitch. (Miami Herald, AP)
  • Florida officials responded by extending the registration deadline by one day, while an advocacy group filed a lawsuit to buy voters more time. (WMFE, Tallahassee Democrat)

In-Person Voting

  • On Monday, Detroit opened 23 satellite centers for early voting, plus seven absentee ballot drop boxes, after problems with its August primary. (WZXY)
  • As the GOP prepares to field 50,000 carefully trained election volunteers, the president’s rhetoric continues to raise concerns over voter intimidation. The Republican effort will reportedly station monitors at traditional polling places alongside early voting sites and ballot drop boxes. (The New York Times, Reuters)
  • Election administrators, law enforcement and federal officials are increasingly concerned about the possibility of disruptions, or even violence, on Election Day. (The New York Times, The Washington Post)
  • Georgetown Law created fact sheets on each state’s laws about private militia groups and what to do if they are at a polling place or registration drive. The Giffords Law Center has published a state-by-state guide to the laws around voter intimidation and having firearms at the polls (Georgetown Law, Giffords Law Center)
  • Iowa unveiled an updated voter registration form which reflects an August executive order that restored voting rights for thousands of felons in the state. (Des Moines Register)
  • In Milwaukee, Wisconsin, libraries are serving as early voting sites, hosting ballot drop boxes and providing a place for voters to get help registering, requesting an absentee ballot and more. (Milwaukee Journal Sentinel)
  • At least 33 states are asking voters to wear masks at the polls this year and are contending with how to respond when voters refuse. (ABC News)
  • For voters who decline to wear a mask inside their polling place, Connecticut plans to provide a curbside option. (The Middletown Press)
  • The Broward County, Florida, commission is urging its election supervisor to separate maskless voters. (Sun Sentinel)

The Latest on Misinformation

  • Unfounded comments by President Donald Trump about corruption at the polls in Philadelphia prompted city officials to prepare for possible voter intimidation on Election Day. (Philadelphia Inquirer)
  • Nearly every claim about mail-in voting made by Trump during the first presidential debate was partially or completely inaccurate, according to a fact check by CNN. (CNN)
  • False beliefs about election fraud are largely fueled by political elites and conservative-leaning mass media outlets repeating Trump’s claims, without framing it as disinformation, according to a new working paper. (Berkman Klein Center)
  • Michigan’s secretary of state asked the state’s attorney general to investigate a GOP press release making allegations about an unlocked ballot drop box, claiming the party is spreading misinformation. (Detroit News)
  • Alabama’s secretary of state told voters to ignore voting mailers from a third party group in Texas telling them that they’re not registered to vote. (AL.com)
  • Officials from Pope County, Arkansas warned voters to beware of a phone scam asking people for their social security number in order to receive a vote-by-mail ballot. (Arkansas Democrat Gazette)
  • Two conservative operatives were charged with felonies for robocalls aimed at dissuading Detroit residents in majority-Black areas from voting by mail. (Associated Press)

The Latest Lawsuits

 

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

 

Upset with elected officials after COVID-19 halted her business, woman registers people to vote

Upset with elected officials after COVID-19 halted her business, woman registers people to vote

Cassandra Wilson holds up a voter registration form and voter registration drive flyer in downtown Clarksdale days before her first drive.

CLARKSDALE — Frustrated by the response of elected officials after the pandemic slowed her business, Cassandra Wilson has used her down time for something she’d never done before: registering Delta residents to vote.

Wilson, the 35-year-old mother of three whose taxi and tourism business went from more than 50 rides a week before the pandemic to zero, was not qualified to receive COVID-19 relief funds.

She blamed the lack of federal, state and local government leadership to ensure the financial security for people in the Mississippi Delta, where the pandemic has heightened economic and health disparities.

“I felt like a lot of little people kind of got left out the loop,” Wilson said. “If you didn’t fall on the right end of the spectrum, you lost your house, you lost everything because of these big people who could not relate to everyday, average working people who were born into poverty. There are households around here with two full-time, 40-hour working people who are barely able to stay above water.”

She wanted to change how politicians’ decisions affected her life and those around her. So with the challenge of prohibitive voting laws and a deadly pandemic, she initiated the first step: registering people to vote.

In June, Wilson set up a tent and a table on a Clarksdale street with voter registration packets, snacks, pens, masks, and sanitizers laid across the tables. Whether residents walked up to register or drove through, each individual received masks and sanitizer. With her taxi business at a halt, she decided to drop registration packets off to others who could not attend the drive due to work, she said.

She took off from work at her other full-time job, sacrificing income to work on these voter registrations drives. With help from her 13-year-old daughter and 12-year-old niece, the trio has helped 20 people register to vote so far across three Delta towns: Lula, Friars Point and Clarksdale.

Wilson’s goal is to get 200 people registered ahead of the Oct. 5 registration deadline.

One challenge Wilson has experienced is a lack of education around government and the voting process prevents people from voting.

“I think this young lady was maybe like 22 years old and she asked me, ‘What is voting? Who do you vote for?’ and I love that,” Wilson said of a registrant at one of her drives. “(I said), ‘This is how you vote, this is why you vote’ … We have a lot of that in the Delta.”

More than 23,000 people reside in Coahoma County, which has about 15,000 eligible voters. But voter turnout has remained fairly low. For example, in the March primaries, only 23% of eligible voters cast a vote, according to data from the Circuit Clerk’s office.

Ray Sykes, chair of the Coahoma County Democratic Party, said he’s heard “no one is coming out” to the polls because community members fear going grocery shopping, church and gathering in large groups.

Despite this, he expects a record turnout, but he said it falls on the local leaders to get folks out.

“Elected officials have a duty to push the turnout,” Sykes said. “Pastors have a duty to get the public involved.”

Some Delta-based political leaders expressed more concern with getting people to the polls rather than voter registration, especially now during a pandemic.

“Everyone wants to press voter registration … which is great. I’m not knocking it. The real problem is getting people out to vote,” said David Rushing, chair of the Sunflower County Democratic Party. “We’re under-resourced, and the state is under-resourced.”

But Mississippi doesn’t make it easy for people to vote.

The state has some of the most restrictive voting laws in the nation, and is one of only six states which has not taken action to make voting safer during the pandemic. For instance, Mississippians must provide an excuse in order to vote early.

In July, Gov. Tate Reeves signed a bill into law stating people could only vote early during the pandemic for two reasons: if they are under a physician-imposed quarantine or providing care for a dependent under quarantine.

“It’s not the intent (of the legislation) to make it harder to vote,” Senate Elections Chair Jennifer Branning, R-Philadelphia, told Mississippi Today.

Currently, two lawsuits have been filed against state officials challenging Mississippi’s absentee voting requirements.

To register to vote, an individual must be 18 or older, a resident of Mississippi, and cannot be convicted of disenfranchising crimes. On Election Day, voters must present a Mississippi voter ID, according to the Secretary of State’s Office.

Pam Shaw, a longtime Democratic political strategist and president of P3 Strategies, said it should be incumbent on circuit clerks and county supervisors to create innovative and safer ways to do voting. She suggested creating curbside voting and expanding voting hours in the weeks prior to the election.

“You do it in a way that does not compromise staff of the clerk’s office and the people who come,” Shaw said. “If you say, five days before, or two weeks before, it gives them time. … It gets rid of all of the people who may be hesitant and eases the burden you’re going to have on Election Day.”

But by taking matters into her own hands — battling a public health crisis, small town politics and what many call modern-day voter suppression — Wilson said she hopes that her small efforts will make an impact during the upcoming election, even if just one person goes to the polls because of her work.

“I just want to see a better Clarksdale, want people to do better, especially African Americans,” Wilson said. “We don’t know how this election is going to go in November, but I can tell you one thing — it’s going to be very difficult for us to go to the polls the way we used to.”

This article first appeared on Mississippi Today and is republished here under a Creative Commons license.

Electionland 2020: USPS Mailers, Pandemic Voting, Get Out the Vote Efforts and More

Electionland 2020: USPS Mailers, Pandemic Voting, Get Out the Vote Efforts and More


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

New From ProPublica

No Democrats Allowed: A Conservative Lawyer Holds Secret Voter Fraud Meetings With State Election Officials

The Heritage Foundation’s Hans von Spakovsky, whose work about voting fraud has been discredited, has been conducting private meetings for Republicans only. Read the story.

ProPublica’s Pandemic Guide to Making Sure Your Vote Counts

Here’s what you can do now to be prepared for the 2020 election. Read the story.

Poorly Protected Postal Workers Are Catching COVID-19 by the Thousands. It’s One More Threat to Voting by Mail.

More than 50,000 workers have taken time off for virus-related reasons, slowing mail delivery. The Postal Service doesn’t test employees or check their temperatures, and its contact tracing is erratic. Read the story.

Vote by Mail News

  • Although the cost of postage for mail-in ballots varies by state, a USPS spokeswoman said any ballots with insufficient or unpaid postage will still be delivered, with the cost charged to local elections boards. (USA Today)
  • A study of 2018 mail ballots in three California counties found that the rejection rate for voters age 18-24 was three times higher than the counties’ overall rejection rates. (KQED)
  • California Sunday went behind the scenes at companies in the mail voting supply chain. (California Sunday)
  • Maryland’s ballot vendor reportedly quit after printing had already begun, but the state has found another vendor to fill the gap. (The Baltimore Sun)
  • NPR mapped how mail ballot rules vary across the country. (NPR)
  • Some overseas voters are panicking about voting from abroad by mail this year. (USA Today)
  • Some voters reported errors with Detroit’s third-party absentee ballot tracker during the primary. (Detour Detroit)
  • North Carolina voter hotlines are getting a lot of questions about how to vote by mail. (Voting Booth)
  • California and Oregon voters who have been displaced from their homes by fires must take steps in order to vote by mail from a new or temporary address. (San Francisco Chronicle, The Oregonian)
  • Third-party registration forms and ballot application mailers are causing confusion among some Florida and Montana voters. (Miami Herald, NBC Montana)
  • During Pennsylvania’s primary, around 20,000 mail-in ballots weren’t counted, either because they were returned after the deadline or because they didn’t have a voter signature. (NBC Philadelphia)
  • Because of changes made to absentee ballot envelopes and other policy changes, a lower rate of Georgia mail ballots were rejected during the primary than during the 2018 general election. (Atlanta Journal-Constitution)

Mail-In Voting Policies

  • Pennsylvania’s Department of State told counties that they cannot throw out absentee ballots over signature match problems. (Morning Call)
  • Pennsylvania couldn’t start sending out absentee ballots Monday due to legal disputes. (CNN)
  • Ohio’s Controlling Board voted against funding prepaid postage on absentee ballots. (Columbus Dispatch)
  • Michigan, Pennsylvania and Wisconsin are among battleground states where local election officials aren’t allowed to start processing mail ballots until Election Day. (Politico)
  • The Michigan Senate approved a bill to allow clerks to begin processing absentee ballots the day before the election. The legislature is considering other policy changes that would affect this year’s election. (Detroit Free Press, MLive)
  • Only some Michigan counties are paying for pre-paid postage on absentee ballots. (Lansing State Journal)
  • Thanks to a court decision, first-time Tennessee voters will be able to vote by mail. (News Channel 9)
  • South Carolina’s governor signed a bill to allow no-excuse absentee voting during the upcoming election. (AP)
  • New York state says it doesn’t have the necessary funding to provide pre-paid postage for absentee ballots. (North Country Public Radio)

USPS Absentee Voting Mailers

Voting in a Pandemic

  • Missouri’s secretary of state is encouraging people to vote in person, contradicting the state’s health department recommendations to avoid crowds on Election Day. (The Beacon)
  • One Missouri county, which is not requiring election workers to wear face masks, sent an email to poll workers telling them they must keep a mask at hand or on one ear and “may act surprised” and “apologize as you put the mask on” if questioned by a voter. (KMOV)
  • More than 8,000 volunteers have applied for just 1,100 spots to serve as election judges in Denver, Colorado, but the local election commission says they’re still short of Republican applicants. (Colorado Politics)
  • States are hoping to learn from this year’s primary election mistakes to avoid long lines, confusion and delays over mail-in ballots and minimize rejected ballots in November. (PBS Newshour)
  • About 14% of California eligible voters said they were worried about contracting COVID while voting, with African Americans and voters with disabilities among the most concerned, according to a new study of California voter messaging amid the pandemic. (USC Center for Inclusive Democracy)

Enfranchisement News

  • College campuses are normally an important venue for mobilizing young voters, but advocates and voting groups say they’re still struggling to figure out how to reach students scattered across the country by the pandemic. (McDowell News, The Guardian)
  • Former NFL quarterback Michael Vick said it wasn’t until he got involved with Lebron James’ voting rights project that he was able to reinstate his own right to vote after serving a prison sentence. “I didn’t understand or know that I could vote…it took until this campaign [to find out] that I did have rights to vote,” Vick said. (Sports Illustrated)
  • A new Arizona policy will allow prospective voters with nontraditional addresses, particularly Native people in rural tribal communities, to register to vote online with digital location codes. (Cronkite News)
  • North Carolina Attorney General Josh Stein said the state’s elections board won’t stop the enforcement of a court ruling that would allow more convicted felons to vote this fall. (Associated Press)
  • North Carolina elections officials are trying to identify and contact nearly 5,000 people with felony convictions whose right to vote could be restored by a court ruling. (Carolina Public Press)
  • Advocates working to register prison inmates to vote are worried USPS cuts could threaten ballot access for hundreds of thousands of eligible inmates, whose right to vote hinges on reliable mail. (The Guardian)
  • Some advocates are concerned there hasn’t been enough outreach to Kentucky felons after their voting rights were restored. (Spectrum News)
  • Two Texas congressional representatives are questioning why 20 Houston-area Post Offices reportedly threw out or refused to distribute voter registration cards to patrons. (KHOU)
  • While homeless people often face major barriers to voting, advocates in Washington, D.C. are registering homeless individuals and helping them participate in November’s election. (Washington Post)
  • More than 400,000 people have registered to vote through a new Snapchat feature. (The Verge)

Disinformation on Voting

  • Attorney General William Barr attacked mail-in ballots again, claiming without evidence that they’re more vulnerable to coercion than in-person voting. In an interview, Barr suggested fraudulent ballots favorable to Democrats would be “discovered” on Election Day. (The Hill, Chicago Tribune)
  • Twitter and Facebook flagged President Donald Trump’s posts telling North Carolina voters to vote by mail early and subsequently visit the polls on Election Day. The head of the state’s election board said the president’s comments could cause unnecessarily long lines during the pandemic. (GPB)
  • Twitter is expanding the types of voting-related content it will label or remove to include “false or misleading information intended to undermine public confidence.” (Forbes)
  • Trump told a crowd in Nevada he will “negotiate” a third term and claimed without proof that Democrats will “rig the election.” (Slate)
  • Connecticut’s Secretary of State has hired an expert to thwart online disinformation campaigns targeting the election. (CT Mirror)
  • The Chicago Tribune debunks election season misinformation for Illinois voters, including false claims that voting is available by text message and that voter information is being sold online. (Chicago Tribune)

Creative Approaches to Getting Out the Vote

  • Live Nation announced an initiative to try to convert concert venues into voting centers around the country. (Rolling Stone)
  • Fashion designers launched a new voter registration campaign, which will also debut at New York Fashion Week. (Harper’s Bazaar)
  • Kentucky is offering lawyers continuing education credits if they serve as poll workers. (WTVQ)
  • An El Paso church is registering people to vote at food distribution sites. (KTSM)
  • Dancers and choreographers in St. Louis are encouraging people to vote through a series of commissioned dance videos. (St. Louis Public Radio)
  • TikTok creators are launching a “Tok the Vote” voter registration campaign. (CNN)
  • Facebook kicked off a poll worker recruitment drive that will appear on users’ news feeds. (Techcrunch)

The Latest Lawsuits

  • News on lawsuits to expand mail-in voting in Louisiana, Montana and Vermont.
  • News about litigation over absentee ballot applications in Iowa, Michigan, Ohio and Texas.
  • News on lawsuits involving mailing absentee ballots in Wisconsin.
  • News about litigation over absentee ballot rules in Arizona and Missouri.
  • News on litigation involving absentee voter eligibility in Texas.
  • News about lawsuits over counting absentee ballots in Arizona and New Jersey.
  • News on lawsuits over voter ID in North Carolina.
  • News about felon voting lawsuits in Florida.
  • News about in-person voting litigation in Georgia.
  • News about mail-in ballot drop box litigation in Ohio.
  • News about voter registration litigation in South Dakota.

 

Electionland 2020: Nursing Home Voting, Election Guides, Creative Enfranchisement and More

Electionland 2020: Nursing Home Voting, Election Guides, Creative Enfranchisement and More

Black Conservatives Debate Black Liberals on American Politics (Extended Version)


The Latest Election News From ProPublica

Hundreds of Thousands of Nursing Home Residents May Not Be Able to Vote in November Because of the Pandemic

Renowned inventor Walter Hutchins has voted in every presidential election since 1952. This year, as many states stopped sending teams to help seniors vote, his nursing home was on coronavirus lockdown and his streak was in jeopardy. Read the story.

What to Know About Voting in 2020

Vote by Mail News

  • More than 550,000 mail ballots were rejected in this year’s presidential primaries, per a new analysis. (NPR)
  • University of Florida professor Michael McDonald is tracking mail ballot requests by party in several states. (Michael McDonald)
  • North Carolina is the first state to begin voting for president and has seen 10 times the number of absentee ballot requests as in the same period in 2016. (ABC News)
  • Democratic super PACs plan to spend more than $7 million on ads encouraging mail voting. (CNN)
  • Some Black and Latino voters are distrustful of mail voting, surveys show. (Politico)
  • Missouri spent tens of thousands of dollars on ballot drop boxes that won’t be used the fall. (KSN)

Trump’s Attacks on Voting

  • On Friday, Trump raised the possibility of sending law enforcement to polling places. (The Washington Post, Election Law Blog, CNN)
  • Over the weekend, he made false claims about mail ballot drop boxes. (BuzzFeed News)
  • Trump continued attacks on mail voting while speaking at the RNC, and on Twitter. (Rev, Twitter)
  • Politico obtained audio from a conversation Trump had in 2017 in which he said that low Black voter turnout benefited him. (Politico)

The Latest on USPS

  • Postmaster General Louis DeJoy testified before Congress on Friday and Monday, and said postal workers would prioritize election mail ahead of other first-class mail. He said he was not trying to sabotage the election. (The Washington Post, News Hour, The New York Times)
  • Democrats claim DeJoy was chosen to run the Postal Service in a “highly irregular” process. (Politico)
  • The House of Representatives passed a bill that would provide $25 billion to the Postal Service and reverse the agency’s recent cost-cutting measures. (NPR)
  • On Tuesday, New York’s attorney general filed a lawsuit against the president and DeJoy over changes to the Postal Service, joined by New Jersey, Hawaii, New York City and San Francisco. (Reuters)

Enfranchisement Innovations

  • Pro sports teams are offering up their arenas as election super centers for fall voting. (Politico)
  • A new group called Black Coaches United aims to convince colleges to use their stadiums for voting centers on Election Day. (ESPN)
  • A Florida professor developed an app that uses a ticketing system to help reduce lines at polling places and allow voters to social distance. (4News)
  • A Rhode Island doctor founded an organization to help people vote who are hospitalized before the election in November. (Boston Globe)
  • A Missouri organization teamed up with coffee shops and restaurants to give voters easier access to notaries to sign-off on mail ballots. (KCUR)
  • A physicist in Maryland developed an air filtration device that he hopes can be used to make in-person voting safer at polling places in the fall. (Baltimore Sun)
  • A nonprofit initiative called Drag Out the Vote is recruiting drag stars to work as poll workers and election observers, and to get out the vote among the LGBTQ community. (SFist)
  • An athletes’ collective headed by LeBron James is planning a multimillion dollar project to ensure there are enough poll workers in Black electoral districts. (The New York Times)
  • Carnegie Mellon professors compiled and mapped data in swing states to identify where in-person voting bottlenecks could occur. (WESA)
  • The cast of “West Wing” is reuniting for an HBO special to encourage people to vote. (Reuters)

Election Lawsuits