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

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

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

New From ProPublica

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

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

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

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

Stories From Electionland Partners

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

Vote by Mail News

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

Voting Challenges This Week

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

The Latest on Poll Security

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

Misinformation on Voting

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

The Latest Lawsuits

 

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

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

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

New From ProPublica

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

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

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

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

Stories From Electionland Partners

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

Vote by Mail News

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

Voting Challenges This Week

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

The Latest on Poll Security

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

Misinformation on Voting

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

The Latest Lawsuits

 

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

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


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

New From ProPublica

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

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

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

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

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

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

Your Guide to Voting in Illinois

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

Vote by Mail News

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

Election Website Issues

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

In-Person Voting

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

The Latest on Misinformation

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

The Latest Lawsuits

 

Electionland 2020: 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

 

Royce West helped flip Dallas County for Democrats in 2006. Could he flip Texas in 2020?

Royce West helped flip Dallas County for Democrats in 2006. Could he flip Texas in 2020?

State Sen. Royce West, D-Dallas, is hoping his decades of experience at the Texas Capitol set him apart in the 2020 Democratic primary for U.S. Senate. Photo credit: Miguel Gutierrez Jr./The Texas Tribune

Royce West helped flip Dallas County for Democrats in 2006. Could he flip Texas in 2020?” was first published by The Texas Tribune, a nonprofit, nonpartisan media organization that informs Texans — and engages with them — about public policy, politics, government and statewide issues.


Royce West was not on the ballot in 2006, the year Democrats swept Dallas County and wrested a GOP stronghold into Democrats’ firm grip. But the longtime state senator still earned a spot onstage at the Adam’s Mark Hotel for the victory party, memorably mimicking a Johnny Carson golf swing and serving as hype man for the members of his party who joined him that night in elected office.

“All these Democrats,” he told winning candidates late that night, as favorable returns poured in, “they are fired up.”

And when a reporter turned to him, he summed it up nicely.

“Democrats have long been on the outside looking in,” West told The Dallas Morning News. “We now have the leadership of this county.”

Thirteen years ago, West was a pivotal player in a campaign to flip Dallas County the same way his party now hopes to flip Texas. This year, West aims to be on the ballot himself if the big swing comes, competing against Republican incumbent U.S. Sen. John Cornyn, who is expected to easily win his own primary. But first, West, the elder statesman in a crowded field with no clear front-runner, has to make it through the March 3 primary.

In 2006, West helped engineer a turnout machine that capitalized on demographic changes to the county, propelling Democrats to victory with the support of black and Hispanic voters. That strategy became a model for flipping other Texas districts and will undergird the Democratic approach in 2020. As he sprints toward this year’s primary, with early voting starting Feb. 18, the 27-year state senator said he’s looking back to 2006 for “the formula that it takes in order to get it done.”

“Look at Dallas County, and Harris County, which just turned blue. You’ve gotta be able to put together coalitions,” he said. “That’s the lesson that I’ve learned.”

“Power broker”

The first clues that Dallas County might be ripe for a turnover came in 2004.

George W. Bush beat John Kerry there by nearly 10,000 votes, and Republican candidates for Railroad Commission and Texas Supreme Court won the county. But on the same election night, Dallas Democrat Lupe Valdez shocked the nation by becoming the first openly gay Hispanic woman elected sheriff in the United States. And more Democrats than Republicans pulled the straight-party lever to vote for every candidate on the party’s slate.

A small group of Democrats gathered at West’s law office and began to sketch plans, recalled Domingo Garcia, a former state representative from the area who is now the national president of League of United Latin American Citizens. (LULAC is neutral in the race.) Demographic shifts were benefitting Democrats as white people moved out of the county and black and Hispanic families moved in. The Democratic vote in the county had increased 2 points every election cycle since 1998, the party’s statisticians reported. If Democrats in 2006 could turn out unprecedented numbers of voters of color and build coalitions with white Democrats, they could seize control of the county.

According to interviews with five of the operation’s key players, West was a critical leader of the coordinated campaign, a “trusted messenger” to African American communities both inside and outside his South Dallas district, and a major credibility booster to donors who might otherwise have been skeptical of the effort’s viability. He went on the radio, appeared in television ads, attended church with the Democratic nominee for governor and sponsored fish fries.

“Royce had been an elected official in the area for a long time,” said Matt Angle, a Democratic operative who worked on the campaign. “He did enough work on television, got on the radio enough, that his voice had influence on African American voters beyond the boundaries of his district.”

After 5 p.m., West’s law office and others’ offices turned into phone banks. Volunteers stayed on the lines until 9 p.m., as Garcia recalled. They dialed up “people who had never been called before,” Garcia said — part of an effort to expand the Democratic base. Dozens of judicial candidates pooled resources to fund the campaign.

It was West’s idea, Garcia said, to bus voters straight from church to the polls — an effort that shot up turnout in African American and Hispanic communities on an early voting “Super Sunday.”

West spent thousands of his own campaign funds on a race he was not competing in. When donors were skeptical — could Dallas County ever go blue? — he vouched for the effort, securing crucial dollars.

And West, allies said, was determined to get out the vote in his own district — critical work that many politicians are unwilling to take on when their own seats are not at stake.

“If Royce West’s district did not turn out, we would not have gotten over the line. That’s a fact,” said Jane Hamilton, a Democratic consultant who led the effort.

The result: A Democrat, Jim Foster, won the county’s chief executive job; Dallas elected its first black district attorney, Democrat Craig Watkins, who wept before he took the stage on election night. Dozens of Democrats won benches from Republican judges. And West gained credibility as a political leader.

“He became the power broker of Dallas County,” Garcia said. “Everybody who was running statewide or countywide knew that they had to make a stop at Sen. West’s office. And his support could make you or break you in a countywide race.”

Photos COPYRIGHT Bob Daemmrich 1997, 1999, 2001. All rights reserved. Sen. Royce West in action at the Texas Senate. Year is shown in the file name. Talking with left to right, Rick Perry, Royce West, Teel Bivins and Troy Fraser.

Photos COPYRIGHT Bob Daemmrich 1997, 1999, 2001. All rights reserved.Sen. Royce West in action at the Texas Senate. Year is shown in the file name. Talking with left to right, Rick Perry, Royce West, Teel Bivins and Troy Fraser. Bob Daemmrich/BDP, Inc.

Photos COPYRIGHT Bob Daemmrich 1997, 1999, 2001. All rights reserved. Sen. Royce West in action at the Texas Senate. Year is shown in the file name. Talking with Sen. Florence Shapiro.

Photos COPYRIGHT Bob Daemmrich 1997, 1999, 2001. All rights reserved.Sen. Royce West in action at the Texas Senate. Year is shown in the file name. Talking with Sen. Florence Shapiro. Bob Daemmrich/BDP, Inc.

Photos COPYRIGHT Bob Daemmrich 1997, 1999, 2001. All rights reserved. Sen. Royce West in action at the Texas Senate. Year is shown in the file name. Praying with Sen. Carlos Truan and Rodney Ellis and Irma Rangel. Mario Gallegos on the left.

Photos COPYRIGHT Bob Daemmrich 1997, 1999, 2001. All rights reserved.Sen. Royce West in action at the Texas Senate. Year is shown in the file name. Praying with Sen. Carlos Truan and Rodney Ellis and Irma Rangel. Mario Gallegos on the left. Bob Daemmrich/BDP, Inc.

Coalition builder

Now the North Texas kingmaker is leaning on those relationships and that record as he competes in his most difficult political fight in decades, battling 11 opponents for a chance to take on Cornyn. West’s team hopes name recognition and support in the Dallas area will get him to the May 26 runoff election, when the top two vote-getters from March’s primary will compete for the party’s nomination.

Coalition building defined West’s long political career. He has the endorsement of all but one of his Democratic Senate colleagues, as well as Houston Mayor Sylvester Turner, who backed West as the “best choice not just for Houston, but for Texas” over a Houston City Council member and a former Houston congressman.

“My path is to make sure, No. 1, I unify African American and Latino voters in the state of Texas,” West said, harkening back to the approach that won his county in 2006. He cited an endorsement from the Texas Tejano Democrats and his top vote-getter status in a recent statewide poll conducted by the Texas Coalition of Black Democrats as evidence that he’s done that.

At the Texas Capitol, West muscled through funding for a new University of North Texas campus in South Dallas, the first public university in the area. He takes pride in a 2009 law that offers stipends to family members who take in children who would otherwise grow up in foster care and a measure establishing dash camera requirements for police officers.

All, he said, required building bipartisan coalitions in a GOP-dominated Legislature where Democrats’ priorities tend to flounder.

West’s challenge will be communicating those legislative achievements to the many voters who pay little attention to the Legislature. West, 67, is a moderate consensus builder at a time when some Texas Democrats want flame-throwers, and an elder statesman when many in his party are eager for new blood. He does not support a Green New Deal or mandatory gun buyback programs.

West said he is “not that person” who “throws bombs and hand grenades 24/7.”

“I’m more focused on getting things done,” he said. “No Democrat can win in Texas without being center-left.”

Polls show West toward the front of a still-shifting pack, though many primary voters remain undecided. He finished the most recent campaign finance reporting period with $526,000 cash on hand. That put him behind just one candidate, combat veteran MJ Hegar, who has positioned herself as the candidate to beat with a high-profile endorsement from the Democratic Senatorial Campaign Committee.

West has often faced scrutiny for his business dealings. As an attorney in Dallas, West has made millions in legal fees representing public entities, including the school districts of Houston, Dallas and Crowley and the cities of Houston and Fort Worth, The Texas Tribune reported in September. In the Texas Senate, he is a leading Democrat on the education committee.

West insisted that his stature as a state senator does not make it easier to secure lucrative clients and said there are no conflicts of interest between his public office and private business.

For now, West is busy crisscrossing the state, including stops in rural areas that rarely hear from Democrats. If he is to win in November, the independent and moderate Republican voters he seeks to bring out will form an important part of his coalition.

But first, he needs to secure Democratic support broad and deep enough to propel him to victory statewide for the first time.

Garcia said the senator’s chances are good.

“If he gets to the runoff, I think he’s the nominee,” Garcia said. “If he’s able to consolidate his North Texas base and expand into other urban areas like Houston, Austin and San Antonio, then I think he will lock it up.”

Disclosure: The University of North Texas has been a financial supporter of The Texas Tribune, a nonprofit, nonpartisan news organization that is funded in part by donations from members, foundations and corporate sponsors. Financial supporters play no role in the Tribune’s journalism. Find a complete list of them here.

This article originally appeared in The Texas Tribune at https://www.texastribune.org/2020/02/13/royce-west-democrat-us-senate-flip-texas-coalition/.

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