This article originally appeared on ProPublica.com, a Pulitzer Prize-winning investigative newsroom.
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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)
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
Several state election officials said a nationwide mailer from the US Postal Service offering generic voting guidance would confuse voters in their states. The mailer urged voters to request a mail-in ballot “at least 15 days before Election Day.” (Reuters)
A judge in Colorado temporarily blocked distribution of the mailer. (Denver Post)
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)
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)
Amid two crises – the pandemic and the national reckoning sparked by the killing of George Floyd – there have been anguished calls for Americans to come together across lines of race and partisanship. Change would come, a USA Today contributor wrote, only “when we become sensitized to the distress of our neighbors.”
Empathy born of intimacy was the prepandemic solution to the nation’s fractured political landscape. If Americans could simply get to know one another, to share stories and appreciate each other’s struggles, civic leaders argued, we would develop a sense of understanding and empathy that would extend beyond the single encounter.
Science bears out the idea that intimacy can make people more understanding of others.
A venerable tradition of social psychological research shows that people who interact with members of a stigmatized group may change their opinion of the whole group. The original research by Gordon Allport suggested that contact between members of different groups worked by giving people knowledge of the other group. But later studies found instead that it increased their empathy and willingness to take the other’s perspective.
That’s why a growing industry of professional facilitators champion carefully structured conversations as key to solving workplace conflicts, community development disputes, Americans’ political disengagement and racial division.
As partisan political divides became vitriolic, civic leaders brought ordinary people together to talk. You could join people from the left and right at a Make America Dinner Again event or a Better Angels workshop, where “you can actually become friends and colleagues with people you don’t agree with.”
Joan Blades, who created the online political advocacy group MoveOn.Org in 1997, seemed to have her finger on the pulse again when she launched Living Room Conversations in 2011. Small groups would host conversations across partisan lines.
“By the time you get to the topic you’ve chosen to discuss, you’re thinking, ‘I like this person or these people,’” Blades promised.
By the end of the 2010s, these were the terms for building unity: personal conversations in intimate settings that would produce friendship across gulfs of difference.
Commonalities and differences
The pandemic made the idea of living room conversations with anyone outside one’s household sadly unrealistic. But it may not have been the solution people were looking for in the first place.
Initiatives that bring together members of different groups, researchers have shown, are less effective in reducing prejudice when the groups participating are unequal in power and status – say, Black Americans and white ones.
Dominant group members tend to insist on talking about their commonalities with members of the disadvantaged group. That’s frustrating for the latter, who more often want to talk about their differences and, indeed, their inequalities.
Taking the perspective of someone different, moreover, works to diminish the prejudices of members of dominant groups but not those of members of disadvantaged groups. Research also shows that when people are asked to take the perspective of a person who fits a stereotype, they negatively stereotype that person even more than if they had not been asked to do so. Asking a Democrat to put herself in the shoes of a MAGA hat-wearing Republican, in other words, may backfire.
Nor does empathy always overcome political beliefs.
A recent study from the University of Houston found that people who are naturally empathetic are more likely to feel anger toward those in the opposite party and feel pleasure when they suffer. Empathy tends to be biased toward one’s own group, so it may fuel political polarization rather than counter it.
Naturally empathetic people are also more likely to suppress their feelings of compassion when those feelings conflict with their ideological views, becoming less compassionate as a result. In one study, subjects who had individualistic beliefs opposed government welfare programs even after reading a story about a man in financial need, but individualists who were naturally empathetic opposed welfare even more strongly after reading the story.
Friendship isn’t necessary
Since dialogue initiatives are voluntary, they probably attract people who are already predisposed to wanting to find connection across difference. And no one has figured out how a friendly meeting between Democratic and Republican voters, or even a hundred such meetings, can have a discernible effect on political polarization that is national in scope.
Certainly, participants who change their minds may share their new opinions with others in their circle, creating a ripple effect of goodwill. But dialogue initiatives may also crowd out ways of tackling political divisions that are likely to have wider impact.
Americans committed to living in a functioning democracy could demand that national political representatives, not ordinary citizens, sit down together to find common ground across difference. Or they could work to bring back some version of the Fairness Doctrine, a federal policy once endorsed both by both the conservative National Rifle Association and the liberal American Civil Liberties Union, that required television channels to air diverse points of view. Or people could rally to demand that Congress pass legislation like gun control that overwhelming majorities of Americans across the political spectrum want – working across party lines to win policy, not become friends.
Treating friendship as a prerequisite to cooperation also misses the fact that people have long worked together for the common good on the basis of relationships that do not resemble the intimacy of friends.
The protests after George Floyd’s death, for example, introduced many white Americans to the idea of allyship. Allies – whether white anti-racists and/or straight people or men – commit to listening more than talking and to taking direction from people without the privilege they enjoy. Allies don’t require intimate connection as the price for their involvement. They recognize that intimacy has often served to keep relationships unequal, and that is exactly what they want to change.
It is not just movement activists who expose the limits of intimacy for building unity. Black participants in the interracial dialogues political scientist Katherine Cramer studied were frustrated when they described what it was like to be discriminated against and white participants responded with their own stories about how they had never treated their Black friends any differently than their white ones.
But when participants ignored their facilitator’s plea to “dialogue, not debate,” and challenged each other on the evidence for their claims, the white participants, in particular, were stopped from sliding by with bromides about how “under the skin, we’re all the same.” It was the confrontational exchanges that led participants to recognize their real differences while still building a relationship.
Hundreds of Thousands of Nursing Home Residents May Not Be Able to Vote in November Because of the Pandemic
Renowned inventor Walter Hutchins has voted in every presidential election since 1952. This year, as many states stopped sending teams to help seniors vote, his nursing home was on coronavirus lockdown and his streak was in jeopardy. Read the story.
Over the weekend, he made false claims about mail ballot drop boxes. (BuzzFeed News)
Trump continued attacks on mail voting while speaking at the RNC, and on Twitter. (Rev, Twitter)
Politico obtained audio from a conversation Trump had in 2017 in which he said that low Black voter turnout benefited him. (Politico)
The Latest on USPS
Postmaster General Louis DeJoy testified before Congress on Friday and Monday, and said postal workers would prioritize election mail ahead of other first-class mail. He said he was not trying to sabotage the election. (The Washington Post, News Hour, The New York Times)
Democrats claim DeJoy was chosen to run the Postal Service in a “highly irregular” process. (Politico)
The House of Representatives passed a bill that would provide $25 billion to the Postal Service and reverse the agency’s recent cost-cutting measures. (NPR)
On Tuesday, New York’s attorney general filed a lawsuit against the president and DeJoy over changes to the Postal Service, joined by New Jersey, Hawaii, New York City and San Francisco. (Reuters)
Pro sports teams are offering up their arenas as election super centers for fall voting. (Politico)
A new group called Black Coaches United aims to convince colleges to use their stadiums for voting centers on Election Day. (ESPN)
A Florida professor developed an app that uses a ticketing system to help reduce lines at polling places and allow voters to social distance. (4News)
A Rhode Island doctor founded an organization to help people vote who are hospitalized before the election in November. (Boston Globe)
A Missouri organization teamed up with coffee shops and restaurants to give voters easier access to notaries to sign-off on mail ballots. (KCUR)
A physicist in Maryland developed an air filtration device that he hopes can be used to make in-person voting safer at polling places in the fall. (Baltimore Sun)
A nonprofit initiative called Drag Out the Vote is recruiting drag stars to work as poll workers and election observers, and to get out the vote among the LGBTQ community. (SFist)
An athletes’ collective headed by LeBron James is planning a multimillion dollar project to ensure there are enough poll workers in Black electoral districts. (The New York Times)
Carnegie Mellon professors compiled and mapped data in swing states to identify where in-person voting bottlenecks could occur. (WESA)
The cast of “West Wing” is reuniting for an HBO special to encourage people to vote. (Reuters)
The August 11 announcement that Joe Biden, the Democratic party’s candidate for the presidency of the United States, had chosen Senator Kamala Harris as his running mate, has sent waves of celebration throughout the Caribbean.
Harris’ father, an economist and professor emeritus at Stanford University, was born in Jamaica when it was still under British rule — and although she identifies as American, Caribbean netizens still claim her as a descendant of the region. So, too, do Caribbean people of Indian descent, as Harris’ mother, a breast cancer scientist, was born in Madras, India.
From Trinidad and Tobago, writer Ira Mathur, herself of Indian descent, felt that the choice allowed “so many of us [to] see ourselves represented.” She wrote on Facebook:
From Madras and Jamaica with love to America […] from the West Indies to South Asia we couldn’t feel prouder or have more hope for a Trump shattered America.
In a piece for CNN, writer Fredreka Schouten contemplated what the move meant for “islanders” like herself:
I, too, am from the Caribbean […] but descended from people who came from all over what the late Barbadian poet Kamau Brathwaite once called ‘a whole underground continent of thought and feeling and history.’
We carry the archipelago within us, looking and listening, always, for bits of what we left behind […] the habit — a preoccupation, really — with detecting the Caribbean heritage in the people around us.
To the nation, Shirley Chisholm represents the first Black woman elected to Congress and the first to pursue a major-party nomination for the presidency. To me, she’s also the daughter of a seamstress from Barbados and a factory worker who came from Guyana. Colin Powell, the first African American to serve as Secretary of State? His parents hailed from Jamaica. Former Attorney General Eric Holder, Barbados roots. […]
Harris, who made a run last year for the Democratic nomination, has navigated public life as a Black woman in America.
That’s not to say she doesn’t embrace all of who she is.
Whether or not the Democrats emerge triumphant come November, Harris has already made history by becoming the first Black and South Asian American woman candidate for a well established political party.
Many social media users suspected Harris would be Biden’s vice-presidential pick, and although most were pleased with the choice, they also understood that it wasn’t a straightforward one.
Renee Cummings, a Trinidad-born criminologist and artificial intelligence (AI) strategist who lives in New York, noted:
She has the experience and she has the look and she has the energy that [Biden] doesn’t have but she also has a lot of baggage when it comes to black and brown men and the criminal justice system. But they must have worked out their strategy and messaging moving forward. She also represents ‘law and order’ and someone who was ‘tough on crime’ and ‘incarcerated a lot of black and brown men’ and they may be seeing that as a good counterbalance for the Trump campaign. She probably polled well among non people of color. She also has a white husband. So the aesthetic works politically. She’s also a very intelligent woman, articulate, and very savvy and will make a good VP. But she’s also half Jamaican so a big moment for Caribbean people in America.
She summarised her thoughts by saying Harris is “great for diversity,” adding:
She is also the daughter of immigrants and represents the promise of America pre-Trump’s attack on immigration. She ticks a lot of boxes.
I completely underestimated the enthusiasm & emotion Kamala’s selection would inspire… how much it would mean to so many. The usual corners of grumbling… but heart full from seeing how happy, proud, energised this is making people. ❤️🙏🏽
Jamaican social media users also found Harris to be a unifying force, and a firm vote of confidence came from Wayne A. I. Frederick, the Trinidad-born president of Howard University, Harris’ alma mater. Posting a photograph of himself and Harris at a graduation ceremony, Frederick said on Facebook:
Today is an extraordinary moment in the history of America and of Howard University. Senator Kamala Harris’ selection as the Democratic vice presidential candidate represents a milestone opportunity for our democracy to acknowledge the leadership Black women have always exhibited, but has too often been ignored. […] As Senator Harris embarks upon this new chapter in her life, and in our country’s history, she is poised to break two glass ceilings in our society with one fell swoop of her Howard hammer!
Harris’ unique experience as a multiethnic child of immigrant parents who were very involved in the activist movements of the 1960s — she was part of the second class of students to be desegregated through busing — undoubtedly helped shape her identity and worldview. In her announcement post on Facebook, she said:
My mom and dad, like so many other immigrants, came to this country for an education. My mother from India and my dad from Jamaica. And the Civil Rights movement of the 1960s brought them together. Some of my earliest memories are from that time: My parents being attacked by police with hoses, fleeing for safety, with me strapped tightly in my stroller.
That spirit of activism is why my mother, Shyamala, would always tell my sister and me, ‘Don’t just sit around and complain about things. Do something.’
That’s why I became a District Attorney and fought to fix a broken system from within. Why I served as California’s Attorney General. Why I’m proud to represent my state as a U.S. Senator. And it’s why, today, I’m humbled to be joining Joe Biden in the battle to defeat Donald Trump and build a country that lives up to our values of truth, equality, and justice.
Not everyone bought into her explanation. One Twitter user suggested that Harris once used her Jamaican heritage “to uphold an anti-Jamaican stereotype for unaccumulated relatability a broader white audience”. He is referring to a radio interview in which Harris joked about smoking marijuana, after which her father publicly distanced himself from her statement.
Harris’ record of incarcerating high numbers of people of colour is also proving problematic for some, and while there have been opinion pieces that declare the Biden/Harris combo as “disastrous,” some have also deemed it “wise.”
Former Jamaican prime minister P.J. Patterson, a classmate of Harris’ father, noted the ways in which she has grown:
She has been incisive, she goes to the heart of the issue that has to be resolved, particularly at this time when the US itself is going through severe challenges — including, but not confined to, matters pertaining to race. It is good to have someone on the ticket who can look at that and who has ethnic origins.
Who knows what will happen in the months ahead. But for the islanders keeping score — always reconstructing that continent of islands, if only in our minds — Harris will remain the first daughter of the West Indies on a major-party presidential ticket.
Geraldine Ferraro was the first female vice-presidential candidate on a major party ticket, in 1984. In 2008, Alaska’s then-governor Sarah Palin was Republican John McCain’s running mate.
Before Harris was picked as Biden’s running mate, she was his competitor for the Democratic presidential nomination. She is one of many Black American women who have aimed for the highest office in the land despite great odds.
Hands that once picked cotton
African Americans have endured many hurdles to political power in the United States, among them slavery, Jim Crow and disenfranchisement.
As a political science professor, I address issues like these in my government and minority politics classes. But I also teach my students that Black women have a history of political ambition and achievement. As the Rev. Jesse Jackson Sr. said in 1984 about the progress Black voters made last century, “Hands that once picked cotton will now pick a president.”
Harris is also of Indian descent, making her place on the ticket a meaningful first for two communities of color.
‘Unsuitable’ for the job?
Kamala Harris is a registered Democrat who served as California’s attorney general and later one of the state’s U.S. senators. But, historically, most Black female presidential candidates have run as independents.
In 1968, 38-year-old Charlene Mitchell of Ohio became the first Black woman to run for president, as a communist. Like many other African Americans born in the 1930s, Mitchell joined the Communist Party because of its emphasis on racial and gender equality. Black female communists fought Jim Crow, lynchings and unfair labor practices for men and women of all races.
Other independent Black female presidential candidates have been community organizer Margaret Wright, who ran on the People’s Party ticket in 1976; Isabell Masters, a teacher who created her own third party, called Looking Back and ran in 1984, 1992 and 2004; and teacher Monica Moorehead of the Workers World Party ticket, who ran in 1996, 2000 and 2016.
Only one Black woman has ever pursued the Republican nomination: Angel Joy Charvis, a religious conservative from Florida, who wanted to use her 1999 candidacy to “to recruit a new breed of Republican.”
Unbought and unbossed
These Black female presidential candidates were little known. But as the first Black female member of Congress, Shirley Chisholm had years of experience in public office and a national reputation when she became the first Black American and the first woman to seek the Democratic presidential nomination in 1972. Chisholm’s campaign slogan: “Unbought and Unbossed.”
She became the target of vehement sexism. One New York Times article from June 1972 described her appearance as, “[Not] beautiful. Her face is bony and angular, her nose wide and flat, her eyes small almost to beadiness, her neck and limbs scrawny. Her protruding teeth probably account in part for her noticeable lisp.”
As a vice president for two terms who had a major role in governing under Barack Obama, Joe Biden knows what the office entails. He has now selected a woman who he believes can not only help him win the election but also to govern if he is elected. It is a watershed moment for African Americans, Asian Americans and women who’ve so long been excluded from so many aspects of politics.