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: 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

 

Young Black Americans not sold on Biden, the Democrats or voting

Young Black Americans not sold on Biden, the Democrats or voting

Will young, Black Americans turn out to vote in November?
Probal Rashid/LightRocket via Getty Images

Most political analysts define “swing voters” as those who swing their support from one party to the other between election cycles – determining winners and losers in the process.

According to this conventional wisdom, the “swingiest” voters are working-class whites in the Midwest, who supposedly hold the keys to the White House.

Meanwhile, by contrast, pundits often portray Black Americans as an undifferentiated mass – loyal Democrat-supporting foot soldiers who will execute their mission for The Team on Tuesday as long as some preacher provides the right marching orders on Sunday.

If these depictions have not already expired, they are certainly growing stale. Having studied electoral trends for decades, we can tell you that those undecided voters of the past are an endangered species – in the Midwest and elsewhere. These days, the only choice that most Americans make – indeed, the choice that typically “swings” the election outcome — is whether to vote at all.

That brings us to the characterization of Black Americans as Democratic loyalists.

Our new survey of 1,215 African Americans in battleground states – Wisconsin, Pennsylvania, Michigan, Florida, North Carolina and Georgia – reveals that while those over 60 remain among the most reliable of Democratic voters, and those between 40-59 are still pretty locked in as well, those under 30 (whom we oversampled to comprise half of our sample) are anything but.

Bill Clinton and Al Gore at a Black Church service during the 1992 presidential campaign.
Black church members are seen as key to a candidate’s election victory; here, Governor Bill Clinton and Senator Al Gore attend service at the Olivet Baptist Church in Cleveland, Ohio during the Clinton-Gore 1992 campaign.
Joe Sohm/Visions of America/Universal Images Group via Getty Images

Not sold on Biden

Only 47% of those Black Americans under 30 years old that we surveyed plan to vote for the presumed Democratic presidential nominee, Joe Biden. That’s roughly the same percentage who have anything positive to say when asked what “one or two words come to mind” about the former vice president.

Cathy Cohen, a professor of political science at the University of Chicago who studies Black youths’ political views, summed up this attitude in a recent podcast: “They’ve seen the election of Black mayors, they’ve seen the election of the first Black president, and they’ve also seen that their lives have not changed.”

Not sold on voting

These young Black Americans may well sit things out in November, just as many of them did in 2016 when their behavior swung that election to Trump as much as anything else did.

In our poll, 31% of Black Americans under 30 say they probably won’t vote in this election. That may sound pretty good, given the average U.S. voter turnout of around 60% in recent elections.

But survey respondents of all stripes tend to wildly overestimate their intention to vote. Indeed, about half of our Black survey respondents under 30 say they don’t often vote because it “doesn’t make a difference,” providing a somewhat more realistic estimate of the percentage who will probably just stay home – and not search for a stamp to mail in their ballot, either.

And that number does not even take into account the turnout-depressing effects of voter suppression efforts taking place across the country, the pandemic or the heavy distrust of mail-in voting that young Black people tend to express. Only 64% of young people in our sample say they trust the state to report their vote accurately, and only 30% say they plan to take advantage of mail-in voting.

Joe Biden with a group of people at the Bethel AME Church in Wilmington, Delaware.
Biden is courting the Black vote – here, he’s at the Bethel AME Church in Wilmington, Delaware on June 1, 2020 – but fewer than half of young Black Americans surveyed in battleground states say they will vote for him.
Jim Watson/AFP via Getty Images

Not sold on the Democratic Party

Such cynicism on the part of young Black Americans is reflected in the lukewarm feelings they tend to have toward the Democratic Party more generally.

Only 47% of them say that the party is welcoming to Black Americans, and only 43% say they trust Democrats in Congress to do what’s best for the Black community. Perhaps most strikingly, unlike their older counterparts, only half of those under 30 view the Democrats as any better than the Republicans on these scores.

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In both the survey responses and in the focus groups we conducted of young Black Americans in these same states, we heard repeated frustration toward what they view as a Democratic Party that expects their vote but doesn’t really do anything to deserve it other than claim to be “less racist” than the alternative.

As one of our focus group respondents put it, “I think at the end of the day, they all have the same agenda.”

In short, it appears that for Black America, the future is not necessarily “blue.” Electorally speaking, it is not necessarily anything at all. Moving forward, young Black Americans may be the real “swing voters” in the only way that term really makes much sense anymore.The Conversation

David C. Barker, Professor of Government and Director of the Center for Congressional and Presidential Studies, American University School of Public Affairs and Sam Fulwood III, Fellow, Center for Congressional and Presidential Studies, American University

This article is republished from The Conversation under a Creative Commons license. Read the original article.

Welcome Back, Barack

Welcome Back, Barack

COMEBACK KID: President Barack Obama and Republican presidential nominee Mitt Romney sparred early and often during the second presidential debate on October 16, 2012, at Hofstra University in Hempstead, New York. After an uninspired first debate for President Obama, he came with renewed energy. (Photo: Stan Honda/Newscom)

President Barack Obama leaped back into the presidential campaign Tuesday, aggressively challenging rival Mitt Romney in a tense debate likely to reset the contest as it heads into the final weeks.

Obama was all the things he was not in his first faceoff with Romney — energetic, engaged, quick to defend his record and even quicker to tear into Romney. At points, he even jumped off his seat to challenge Romney.

Eager to score points from the opening minutes to the last, he cast Romney as an elitist who would help the rich, a chameleon who is all but lying to conceal his real agenda, a man whose scorn for the poor and working classes was revealed only in the secretly taped remarks in which Romney derided 47 percent of the country as freeloaders.

Romney gave as good as he got through most of the debate, reminding voters at every opportunity of the weak economy under four years of Obama’s leadership. He stumbled, however, at a turn over the attacks on U.S. diplomats in Libya, an unforced error that allowed Obama to score at what otherwise might have been a moment of vulnerability.

The 90-minute debate at Hofstra University in Hempstead, N.Y., likely helped Obama re-energize Democrats who were discouraged at his lackluster performance in the first debate, and sends the two rivals into their final clash Monday in Florida grappling for a breakout.

Most eyes were on Obama from the onset as he looked for ways stylistic and substantive to show voters he eagerly wants the job, and that Romney should not have it. In that first debate, he was passive at times, looking down at notes rather than making eye contact, and failing to raise such topics as Romney’s remarks about the 47 percent.

Obama worked throughout to tar Romney as a friend to the rich and powerful.

“His plan is to let the oil companies write the energy policies,” he said of Romney’s push for more energy production.

He lambasted Romney’s plan to cut taxes, saying they would necessarily force tax increases on the middle class.

“You’re going to be paying for it,” Obama said. “You can’t buy the sales pitch.”

Obama all but called Romney a liar.

“What Gov. Romney said just isn’t true,” he said of Romney’s comments on the auto industry.

“Very little of what Gov. Romney just said is true,” he said of Romney’s comments on energy.

Obama at times sat at the edge of his stool, rising quickly to physically challenge Romney face to face rather than waiting for Romney to finish and be seated.

Challenged by Romney the first time, Obama then walked away and faced the audience to answer a question. The second time Obama stood to confront him, Romney waved him back, “You’ll get your chance in a moment.”

When he wasn’t jumping out of his seat, Obama watched Romney intently.

He wasn’t Joe Biden, laughing or making hand gestures when the other guy was talking, as the vice president did in his debate last week with Republican Paul Ryan.

But Obama kept his eyes on his adversary, a noteworthy change from the first debate when he was often caught on camera looking down at his notes or away, giving voters the impression he was disinterested.

Romney refused to cede the stage, however, standing forward rather than returning to his seat while Obama spoke to the live audience in the town hall-style meeting.

Romney stayed on message most of the evening, hammering away at economic anxiety about lost jobs, rising poverty and shrinking paychecks.

“The president’s policies . . . haven’t put people to work,” he said.

“Middle-income families have been crushed,” he added.

Romney made a misstep, however, on the Obama administration’s response to the attack on the U.S. consulate in Libya.

Obama stated that he called the attack a terrorist act the next day, brushing aside suggestions that his administration spent weeks giving misleading accounts that instead blamed the attacks on a riotous response to anti-Muslim video.

Romney challenged Obama’s assertion.

“Check the transcript,” Obama interrupted, and moderator Candy Crowley noted that Obama did use the word in his day-after comment. “Say that a little louder, Candy,” a confident Obama said.

Later, during the closing statements, Obama was given the final word and used it to further distinguish the differences between himself and Romney. After touting his record, he went on to finally broach the topic of Romney’s infamous “47 percent” remarks from the secret video footage that had snarled Romney’s campaign weeks earlier. Many chided Obama for not bringing up the topic in the first debate. This time he not only brought it up but saved it as his concluding shot in a match that one suspects will restore his campaign’s mojo.

What did you think of the second debate? Did President Obama redeem himself enough to get back into a close presidential race? Share your comments below.

Story adapted from McClatchy Newspapers, © 2012 McClatchy Washington Bureau. Used by permission of Newscom. Additional reporting by UrbanFaith staff.