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: 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.