Climate Voting to Protect God’s Creation

Climate Voting to Protect God’s Creation

I have been incredibly heartened by a recent national poll of religious voters that showed 94% of Black Protestants believe that our responsibility to protect God’s Creation is an important reason to address climate. I am not surprised that Black people of faith feel this way for three important reasons.

First, as many of us know, Matthew 22:39 states: “You shall love your neighbor as yourself.” The core of this verse is about the need for empathy and community. Our community, which has been beaten down, degraded, minimized, and marginalized for over 400 years in America has survived because we look out for and care deeply about one another. Those traits of empathy and community also mean that we are able to see beyond ourselves to the wider world and recognize that our actions have degraded God’s Creation. The poll shows clearly, that as Black Americans, we demand action on Climate change because of our responsibility to protect the gift we have been given.

Second, Black Americans have been forced by circumstances to be able to address multiple traumas simultaneously. There has never been a time in our history in America where we didn’t have to deal with economic, cultural, educational, and political racism. Our ability to confront multiple crises is certainly evident in 2020. Fighting systemic racism in the criminal justice system that routinely and arbitrarily kills Black Americans, confronting a deadly pandemic that disproportionately affects Black communities, and facing an economic crisis unseen since the Great Depression is enough to break any people. And yet not only do we persist, but we are also able to hold our heads up and claim our responsibility to protect our planet.

Third, as climate change accelerates, it becomes clearer each day that those who will suffer first and most will be Black Americans. We know this because years of housing and economic policies made it so. Polluting factories are situated next to Black neighborhoods. We are forced to live in the most vulnerable and flood prone areas of coastal cities. It is no coincidence that during Hurricane Katrina, the Lower Ninth Ward flooded more and had more deaths than any area of the city. We know that we will face the brunt of the climate crisis, so it is understandable that we demand action.

As we face down a critical election, we are confronted with forces that hope to intimidate and discourage us from making our voices heard. As we have done for centuries, we will persist and fight back. Indeed, it is our duty to do so. Many of us will vote for leaders who believe in racial justice as opposed to racial discrimination. Others will vote to ensure that those who lead us will take science seriously in their efforts to curb this terrible pandemic. Still others will vote to create a more equitable society where people are paid a living wage for an honest day’s work. And some will vote to make sure that all Americans have access to quality healthcare as a right.

But what this recent poll also shows me is that many Americans, particularly Black Americans of faith, will also vote to take responsibility as guardians to the greatest gift that God has bestowed upon us.


The Rev. Dr Ambrose Carroll, Sr is founder of Green The Church, a sustainability initiative working to create a cadre of Black Church communities who are committed to green theology, promoting sustainable practices within their communities and helping to build economic & political change. He is also senior pastor at The Church by the Side of the Road in Berkeley, CA.

Electionland 2020: Polling Place Safety, Misinformation, Mask Issues and More

Electionland 2020: Polling Place Safety, Misinformation, Mask Issues and More

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

New from ProPublica

Pennsylvania’s New Vote-by-Mail Law Expands Access for Everyone Except the Poor

In America’s poorest big city, language barriers, unstable housing and lack of internet access make voting by mail difficult. So low-income Philadelphia residents will be voting in person, if at all. Read the story from ProPublica and The Philadelphia Inquirer.

A Nonprofit With Ties to Democrats Is Sending Out Millions of Ballot Applications. Election Officials Wish It Would Stop.

Election officials say a flood of mailers from the Center for Voter Information has contained mistakes and confused voters at a time when states are racing to expand vote by mail. Read the story.

How to Vote During a Pandemic

From coronavirus to vote-by-mail, the 2020 election is shaping up to be confusing. Here’s how to figure out what the heck is going on this year and what you can do to participate in our democracy. Read the story.

A Guide to In-Person Voting vs. Mail-In Voting

In 2020, every state’s voting process has changed in response to the coronavirus. Regardless of whether you plan to vote in person or by mail, there are many things to consider. Here are some of the most important. Read the story.

How to Spot (and Fight) Election Misinformation
Misinformation and disinformation, especially online, continue to play a huge role in the 2020 election. Learn more about the types of false information you’re likely to come across this year — and how you can help fight it. Read the story.

Why Do Nonwhite Georgia Voters Have to Wait in Line for Hours? Their Numbers Have Soared, and Their Polling Places Have Dwindled.

The state’s voter rolls have grown by nearly 2 million since the U.S. Supreme Court gutted the Voting Rights Act in 2013, but polling locations have been cut by almost 10%, with Metro Atlanta hit particularly hard. Read the story from ProPublica and GPB.

Spanish Translations

We’ve begun translating our election stories into Spanish, and they’re available to republish.

New from Electionland Partners

  • Shouting Matches, Partisan Rallies, Guns At Polling Places: Tensions High At Early-Voting Sites (The Washington Post)
  • With DMVs Closed And Backlogged, People Who Want to Vote Are Struggling Even To Register (Talking Points Memo)
  • Monona County Officials Working To Remove Military-Style Truck With Campaign Flags From Voting Site (Iowa Public Radio)
  • Man Says His Signature Changes Due To Learning Disability, And His Ballot Has Been Rejected Because Of It (CBS Chicago)
  • Who Do You Trust To Turn In Your Ballot? (KMTV)
  • New Haven ‘No. 1 in Complaints’ About Absentee Ballots, Voters, Officials Demand Answers (CTInsider)
  • Officials: Safeguards In Place For Delayed Mail-in Ballots (The Norman Transcript)
  • Mendham GOP Tells Voters They Can’t Vote In Person. That’s Not True (NorthJersey.com)
  • What To Do If You Haven’t Received Your NJ Mail-in Ballot For The 2020 Election (NorthJersey.com)
  • Gov2Go Mobile App Sends Miami Users Wrong Election Day Date (The Miami Herald)
  • When Pennsylvania Voter Mindy Bence Opened Her Mail-in Ballot Packet, There Was A Problem: Her Return Envelopes Had Arrived Already Sealed Shut. (Electionland)

The Latest on Misinformation

  • U.S. intelligence officials said they traced a wave of threatening emails sent to Democratic voters in several states back to Iran. The emails, which claimed to be from the far-right group the Proud Boys, instructed voters in at least four states to change their party affiliations and cast ballots for Trump, “or we will come after you.” Officials warned that Russian operatives also have access to voter information and may use it in the coming days. (Washington Post, NPR)
  • Arizona’s secretary of state is taking to Twitter to dispel misinformation about the security of mail-in voting. (KTAR)
  • The election administrator for El Paso County, Texas, said a Facebook post that falsely claims ballots can be thrown out if poll workers mark them in any way has spread “like wildfire.” Texas law requires that ballots be initialed by election judges. (KTSM)
  • False reports of voter intimidation at two ballot drop boxes in Denver, Colorado, circulated online this week, but security camera footage showed nothing inappropriate. (The Denver Post)
  • Election officials in Montgomery County, Maryland, had “a very terrible day” investigating and then debunking a video that went viral this week with a false claim of fraud by an election worker. (The Washington Post)
  • There has been a spike in misinformation targeting Latino voters in Florida, officials say. (Sun Sentinel)

Vote by Mail News

  • Officials in Los Angeles are investigating a fire inside an official ballot drop box. (The Guardian)
  • California will permit the state Republican Party to keep its own ballot collection boxes, with safeguards. (Politico)
  • Advocacy groups are scrambling to help voters fix ballot mistakes in time. And while some ballots are badly designed, there are ways to make sure your vote can still count. (NPR, Washington Post)
  • North Carolina will begin reaching out to voters about 10,000 deficient absentee ballots that have been in legal limbo. (Associated Press)
  • Voters are complaining about responsiveness from a swamped Texas secretary of state’s office. (Texas Tribune)
  • A technical glitch led to more than 1,000 Pennsylvania voters receiving two absentee ballots, but the state says only one will be counted. (WHYY)
  • A group led by retired military leaders says the election shouldn’t be declared until every military absentee ballot is counted. (Military Times)
  • A printing mistake caused ink splotches and marks on ballots in Montana. (NBC Montana)
  • A printing vendor in Ohio made a mistake that resulted in voters finding return envelopes to an address in Missouri. (Zanesville Times Recorder)
  • A bar code error on return envelopes in two New Mexico counties would have mailed ballots back to individual voters. (Taos News)
  • A swamped printing company in Ohio has been unable to meet the demand from election agencies. A number of counties are switching vendors. (New York Times, Cleveland.com)
  • There’s little oversight in Ohio over the private printing vendors that are responsible for ballot and voter purging mistakes. (Columbus Dispatch)
  • Lehigh County sent out an erroneous email telling people who had already voted that their ballots were on the way. (Allentown Morning Call)
  • Pennsylvania voters who change their minds about voting absentee will have to bring their ballots to the polls if they want to vote in person. (KDKA)
  • Problems have been reported with New Jersey’s and Virginia’s mail-in ballot trackers. (NJ.com, WJHL)
  • Voters are worried about pens bleeding through the paper of their ballot. (New Hampshire Public Radio)

Pandemic Voting

  • At least 45 million people have voted as of Oct. 22, and more than 21 million people have already voted in battleground states. (U.S. Elections Project, The Washington Post)
  • Ohio Governor Mike DeWine says poll workers cannot force voters to wear masks, despite a statewide mask mandate and a recent spike in cases of COVID-19. (Cleveland.com)
  • White House pandemic expert Dr. Anthony Fauci said he’s planning to vote in person on Nov. 3, adding that it should be safe with the proper precautions. (Yahoo! News, CNBC)
  • Maricopa County, Arizona, received more than 20,000 poll worker applications just over the past month, after predictions that COVID-19 would cause a shortage. (Arizona Republic)
  • Bannock County, Idaho, will not require masks at the polls for voters, election officials, or poll workers, as part of a “personal choice” policy. (Idaho Falls Post-Register)
  • In Fort Lauderdale, Florida, four maskless voters were allowed to cast their ballots during early voting, despite a county mask mandate. The voters said they had medical reasons for violating the order. (Sun Sentinel)
  • Indiana’s secretary of state is facing pushback from county clerks who refuse to enforce a statewide mask mandate at the polls. “I won’t be part of any government overreach,” said one clerk in rural Fountain County. (Lafayette Journal Courier)
  • County clerks in Kansas are coming up with their own policies on mask use. The state spent nearly $1.3 million on personal protective equipment for election workers, but there is no mandate on how to use it. (Associated Press)
  • Two poll workers in Denton County, Texas, walked off the job after the lead worker at their voting site refused to wear a mask. (NBCDFW)
  • A voter in Fort Smith, Arkansas, was turned away twice for not using a face covering, even though Arkansas hasn’t extended its mask mandate to polling sites. The voter said he had a respiratory issue, but also told a reporter he was “tired of giving up my rights.” (KFSM)
  • A judge in Galveston County, Texas, has ordered a $1,000 fine against any poll worker who turns away voters for not wearing masks. (KPRC)
  • Election officials in Sacramento and San Joaquin counties are coming up with alternatives for voters who refuse to wear masks, including take-home ballots and designated polling areas away from other voters and staff. (CBS Sacramento)
  • A terminally ill man in Michigan raced the clock to cast a ballot in the 2020 election. (Washington Post)
  • A Memphis, Tennessee, poll worker was fired for turning away voters in “I Can’t Breathe” and “Black Lives Matter” shirts. State law only bans items that feature political parties or the names of candidates. (NBC News)

News on Poll Safety

  • Michigan’s secretary of state banned the open carry of guns at polling places on Election Day. (Fox 17)
  • The Florida department of state told local election administrators that they must staff ballot drop boxes outside of early voting sites. (News Service of Florida)
  • A Miami police officer will be disciplined for entering an early voting site while in full uniform and wearing a Trump face mask. (Miami Herald)
  • A former GOP lawmaker in North Carolina was charged with assaulting an election worker at an early voting site. (News & Observer)
  • Some voters complained about a Trump rally held near a voting site and ballot drop box in Nevada. (ABC 10)
  • A New Mexico clerk reported a convoy of Trump supporters near a polling place for possible voter intimidation. (KRQE)
  • Florida police are investigating a case of possible voter intimidation outside an early voting site involving two men who claimed to work for a security company; one of whom was allegedly armed. The Pinellas County Sheriff says it will station officers outside of early voting sites. (WFTS, Tampa Bay Times)
  • New Jersey legislators are considering a bill to limit law enforcement at polling places. (NJ Spotlight)

Enfranchising Felon Voters

  • State officials in Florida have asked counties to remove felons who owe court fees or fines from their rolls, but county officials say they won’t have time before Nov. 3. (Tampa Bay Times)
  • Some fear that Florida’s request that counties purge some ineligible voters and place guards at mail ballot drop boxes could discourage or confuse voters. (The Washington Post)
  • The language on Iowa’s voter registration form has left some felons whose rights were restored earlier this year unsure about whether they can vote and how to register, even after the state updated the form. (KCRG)

The Latest Lawsuits

 

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

 

Stacey Abrams’ passion for voting began with her preacher parents

Stacey Abrams’ passion for voting began with her preacher parents

Stacey Abrams, the former Georgia House minority leader who lost a razor-thin race for governor in 2018, voted on Thursday (Oct. 15), driving her ballot to a local drop box.

Jeanine Abrams McLean, a former biologist at the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention who now helps her sister run the census advocacy group Fair Count, also took advantage of Georgia’s early voting, wearing her “Come to Your Census” T-shirt to her polling place in Tucker.

In an interview with Religion News Service, Stacey Abrams called it a coincidence that the siblings had cast their votes on the same day. The family’s pastor, the Rev. Ralph Thompson, said voting is ingrained in the Abramses. “The family is just a tight-knit cadre of people who understand that it is incumbent upon them to vote and to make a difference,” he said.

Thompson, whose predominantly Black Columbia Drive United Methodist Church in Decatur, Georgia, has a sign outside that says “Vote Early,” said the entire family has long viewed voting as “a sacred civil duty.”

Hundreds of people wait in line for early voting in Marietta, Georgia, Monday, Oct. 12, 2020. (AP Photo/Ron Harris, File)

When Abrams, 46, threw herself into her twin causes of protecting the right to vote and being counted in the census, most news stories attributed her efforts to her loss in the gubernatorial election by 50,000 votes to Brian Kemp, the state’s top elections official at the time.

Abrams, charging that Kemp suppressed votes, announced the formation of her voter access organization, Fair Fight, in her concession speech, along with her intention to sue Kemp for running what she alleged was an unfair election. (The suit is ongoing.)

But Abrams also connects voter protection and other civic activism to her family’s faith.

“My faith is central to the work that I do, in that I not only hold Christian values, but my faith tradition as a Methodist tells me that the most profound demonstration of our faith is service,” said Abrams.

Abrams and her siblings were raised by two United Methodist clergy, the Rev. Robert Abrams and the Rev. Carolyn Abrams, both now retired. Their parents trained them early in service, bringing them to work at soup kitchens and to boycott a local Shell gas station to protest its corporate owner’s connections to apartheid-era South Africa. McLean was an acolyte, or altar server, and Stacey Abrams said she “did double duty” as an usher and a choir member in the small church her family attended at the time.

The Rev. Carolyn Abrams, left, and the Rev. Robert Abrams, right, at Columbia Drive United Methodist Church in Decatur, Georgia. Photo courtesy of Ralph Thompson

“You look at Stacey, who’s doing public service with all of her advocacy,” said McLean, 38. “You look at Fair Count and the work that I’ve been able to do here, but even public service working in public health: My siblings are all doing some sort of work that has an impact on people’s lives because that’s just the way that we were taught. … The first place we learned to do that was in the church.”

The family has continued to pursue its commitment to public service through the church, using faith as a motivator to be engaged in politics. “I was raised to not only think about my faith as an activity, but to translate that into how I engage community,” said Abrams.

Earlier this year, Fair Count provided a “faith app” to dozens of congregations to help clergy text their members with census and church information. McLean envisions faith leaders encouraging congregants to get involved when new maps for redistricting are reviewed in their communities.

Apps that can be used on mobile phones make such information more available to disadvantaged communities, where cell phones are more widely available than broadband-dependent devices.

“What we’re trying to do is provide these resources, not only to help to make sure that there is long-term power building in faith communities in these vulnerable areas,” McLean said, “but also to just give people a lifeline so that they can continue to reach out and stay connected with their members.”

McLean worships at Thompson’s Columbia Drive Church in Decatur, along with her husband and two children and Robert and Carolyn Abrams. Stacey Abrams attends when her schedule allows and has been a speaker for special events and obliges her pastor’s impromptu invitations to make remarks.

Abrams’ four other siblings are Leslie Abrams Gardner, a U.S. District Court judge; Andrea Abrams, an anthropologist and an associate vice president for diversity affairs at Centre College in Kentucky; and two brothers, Richard Abrams, a Georgia social worker; and Walter Abrams, a detox tech at a California drug treatment facility.

All but Gardner joined McLean, Stacey Abrams and their parents on a Facebook “Abrams Family Reunion” as Fair Count held a virtual event to highlight census participation in the Magnolia State where they were raised.

Members of the Abrams family participate in a Facebook virtual event for Fair Count in Sept. 2020. Video screengrab

Voting activism and the Black church have long been mutually reinforcing, as churches historically provided a protected space to discuss politics and organize drives. The family has been that for the Abrams as well.

In a January speech to law students at Chapman University in California, Gardner recalled her grandmother’s story of being taught at her Mississippi church how to pass a written poll test, only to be refused the vote because she didn’t get the “right” answer when asked how many bubbles there were in a bar of soap.

“She told me she made sure once she finally got the right to vote that she exercised it on every occasion,” Gardner said. “As we celebrate the progress we’ve made, we must remain resolute to continue the fight for equal rights and equal justice under the law.”

The Abramses are helping to expand the focus on the vote to other areas they say are equally empowering. “There are three pillars of democracy — the census, voting and redistricting — and we want to make sure that communities that have been left out of all three of these conversations have their voices heard from now and into the future,” said McLean in an interview.

“I evaluated the census the same way I did the right to vote or the right to read,” said Robert Abrams on the Facebook event, sitting next to his wife. “Anything that anyone worked so hard to keep from you must be good.”

Stacey Abrams speaks to the congregation of Columbia Drive United Methodist Church in Decatur, Georgia. Photo courtesy of Ralph Thompson

Perhaps the most important link between Abrams and her church background, however, has been the resilience it has granted her to come back from seemingly overwhelming setbacks. The latest came Tuesday, when the Supreme Court decision ended the extended census count, a decision McLean called “jarring.”

“I hope my witness is always seen as one of perseverance,” said Abrams. “I may not have been the governor, but that didn’t absolve me of the responsibility that my faith tells me I hold, which is to ensure that the marginalized, the voiceless, the disadvantaged, are able to be heard and to be served.”

Religious messages have been a part of Abrams’ campaigns dating at least to her run for governor, when her “Boundless Belief” ad featured her recollections of the Saturdays of service observed in her parents’ home as a child and included footage of her holding hands around a dinner table with family members as an adult.

Speaking earlier this year at Brown Chapel African Methodist Episcopal Church in Selma, Alabama, Abrams referred to the biblical book of Isaiah’s discussion of faithful endurance when she spoke of civil rights marchers who fought and bled for the right to vote on Bloody Sunday in 1965.

John Lewis, far right, and fellow marchers cross the Edmund Pettus Bridge, on Bloody Sunday, March 7, 1965, in Selma, Alabama. © Alabama Department of Archives and History. Donated by Alabama Media Group. Photo by Tom Lankford, Birmingham News

“I’m the product of the Voting Rights Act, an act that was bought and paid for on Edmund Pettus Bridge with foot soldiers who had believed that they had the right to be there,” she said in footage of the event in “All In: The Fight for Democracy,” a 2020 documentary about barriers to voting.

“They stood up and they crossed the bridge. Those were the wings of the eagles that Isaiah talked about. It may have looked like feet crossing the bridge but that was flight.”

Political scientist Andra Gillespie at Emory University in Atlanta said it’s not unusual for Black politicians like Abrams to include faith in voter mobilization work. But her deep experience in congregational life gives Abrams a level of familiarity to draw on more than a few oft-heard Bible verses.

“She’s not going to go to the same places that everybody usually goes to because they only know a handful of Scripture,” said Gillespie, an expert on African Americans and politics. “She’s been around church her whole life, so, yeah, she’s fluent in the Bible.”

Abrams said she’s going to keep up her message despite the disappointments along the way.

“In this country, democracy is how we speak to those in power and how we determine who holds power,” she said. “And that’s my mission.”

This story was supported by the Solutions Journalism Network, a nonprofit organization dedicated to rigorous and compelling reporting about responses to social problems.

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