National updates (41)

Disabled Voters Face Obstacles at Polls

Most of us take for granted that when we go to vote, we’ll be able to cast our own ballots. But for disabled people, there’s no such guarantee.

Rob Kerney assumed he would be able to vote in private for the first time Tuesday. Because he is blind, Kerney needs to use audio voting equipment or have someone else help him mark his ballot. When he went to vote in Vanderburgh County, Indiana, a poll worker gave him some bad news: His polling place didn’t have the correct headphones to use with their audio voting machine.

Jennifer LaFleur, The Center for Investigative Reporting

Voters Encounter Problems, But Not The Ones Most Feared

For all of the ways the 2016 presidential election was extraordinary — particularly Donald Trump’s repeated assertion that the vote was being “rigged” — the actual balloting on Tuesday was largely without serious incident.

“Despite expectations this would be an unusual election, this election largely played out as previous presidential elections,” said David Becker, the executive director of The Center for Election Innovation & Research. “Sporadic problems here and there, but election officials were remarkably well-prepared and this resulted in a largely smooth Election Day.”

Derek Willis

What We Don’t Know: The Full Effect Of Voter Suppression and Voter ID Laws

As we and others have extensively documented, voters are facing a range of barriers this election, from shuttered polling places and long lines to new, stringent voter ID laws, largely pushed through by Republicans and disproportionately affecting minority voters.

As journalist Ari Berman, who covers the voting rights beat, pointed out today, this is the first presidential election in half a century without the full protections of the Voting Rights Act. The 2013 Supreme Court ruling Shelby County v. Holder invalidated federal oversight of states with a history of voting discrimination.

But quantifying exactly how much the changes have depressed turnout is nearly impossible.

Justin Elliott

Yep, If You’re in Line, You Get to Vote

The proper and fair administration of elections has been a molten-hot issue in 2016, but there is one thing that Trump-ites, Clinton-ites and experts of every stripe agree on.

It’s this: If you’re on line at a polling place at the time it’s supposed to close on Election Day, you get to vote. Doesn’t matter how long it takes. Doesn’t matter how long the line is. You. Get. To. Vote.

“I’m not aware of any place that doesn’t do it that way on Election Day,” said Tammy Patrick, a former federal compliance officer for the Maricopa County Elections Department in Arizona who advises Electionland.

This year, some state elections officials have been putting the word out on social media to reinforce this is what’s what.

Despite the clarity of the laws and rules on this point, there nonetheless manages to be controversy about it each time another election rolls around. Case in point: Republican nominee Donald Trump has filed a lawsuit in Nevada contending that, in early voting on Friday, some people got on line after the polls were supposed to close. (An initial hearing went against Trump. The case is ongoing.)

Patrick said states sometimes may handle early voting differently on this point. But on Election Day, there’s not much gray area on this one.

Robin Fields

Google's Heat Map of Voting Problems

As Election Day 2016 unfolds, the contours of the nation’s voting concerns are emerging via internet searches, with long lines most on the minds of Georgia voters and intimidation most preoccupying those in Pennsylvania and Washington, D.C., Google Trend data shows.

Google, an Electionland partner, is capturing not just searches of specific terms like “voter intimidation” but lots of other terms that show people are focused on voting problems. (Because, they’re Google.)

Here is a real-time map of what Google is seeing:

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Bursts of blue reflect places where searchers are seeking information about provisional ballots. Arizona, Ohio and California had the highest interest in this topic, three to four times the national average. Splotches of pink mark areas complaining of broken voting machines, the biggest and brightest in Rhode Island and Pennsylvania.

Search interest about lines peaked at around 7 a.m. in Georgia, soon after polls opened, reaching almost five times the national average.

Google can also look deeper into state-level data to find localities where search interest in an issue is particularly intense. The city where interest in voter intimidation was highest? Pittsfield Charter Township, Michigan.

There are 3 billion Google searches on a typical day. Election Day is not typical, this year especially – election-related searches are 500 percent higher than they were for the same period in 2012, Google said.

Robin Fields

Undercover Political Operative James O’Keefe Posts Video of Totally Legal Voting Activity

James O’Keefe, the political operative known for posting unreliable, often deceptively edited videos of undercover interactions, just tweeted a new clip of him in Philadelphia “tailing a pastor’s bus that’s bussing people to the polls”:

O’Keefe, who runs the group Project Veritas and has promised to track purported voter fraud, added in his tweet: “#VeritasIsEverywhere & we will catch your #VoterFraud.”

Here’s the thing: Busing citizens to the polls is perfectly legal.

“There are no rules — federal, state, or otherwise — that prohibit giving a voter assistance by giving them a ride to the polls,” said John Powers of the Lawyers’ Committee for Civil Rights Under Law.

Powers points out that, as you’d expect, this is actually quite common.

O’Keefe also says in the video clip that “we’re gonna be releasing video here today showing some people doing some improper things, bussing some people around. Maybe they shouldn’t be doing it. Stay tuned.”

Have a voting problem or see irregularities? Text us at 69866 or submit a report here.

Justin Elliott

An Essential Item for Paper Balloting: Pens

Of all of the problems facing voters today, we didn’t anticipate “lack of pens” being one of them, but here we are. We’re getting reports from multiple states of voters showing up to cast paper ballots only to learn poll workers neglected to stock up on writing implements.

Voters have reported having to use their own pens to fill out ballots, or having to pass pens between voting booths.

Lance Crawford, a voter from Garden City, said he voted at 7 a.m. at the local Henry Ruff School. In Michigan, you have to fill out a form before you are given a ballot. Voters were provided with eight, dull pencils that were impossible to use, he said. “I told the guy standing there that if people had better pencils the process would be faster, and he said ‘Oh, well, I don’t even know if we have a pencil sharpener,’” he said. When he finally got to fill out his ballot — a process he said took 45 minutes in total — there were no black pens to fill in the bubbles. “They were looking for pens. It was a cluster — very disorganized,” he said. “They were definitely ill prepared.”

He wasn’t the only one:

This isn’t a sweeping problem, certainly. But if you are lacking pens at your polling place, let us know.

Jessica Huseman

Eric Trump Deletes Illegal Ballot Picture — After We Pointed it Out

Who says Twitter doesn’t lead to change? Eric Trump, son of Donald Trump, deleted a picture of his ballot this morning after Electionland pointed out that ballot pictures are illegal in the state of New York, where he voted. He has deleted his tweet, but not before our tweet was retweeted more than 900 times:

Here’s his original tweet:

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But, like Justin Timberlake’s mild brush with ballot selfie law this one is not likely to result in any actual legal action.

For what it’s worth, posting pictures like this continues to be illegal because of concerns over ballot privacy. In theory, someone could buy your vote or otherwise coerce you into voting for a specific candidate, and ask you to take a picture of it to prove it. Regardless of pressure, if you live in New York please do not tweet pictures of your ballot. If you live elsewhere, check this handy guide to see if you can post a ballot selfie.

Jessica Huseman

Why You Might Have To Vote a Provisional Ballot

When Christopher Jones went to vote this morning in Wake County, North Carolina, his name wasn’t in the poll book at the precinct where he has cast a ballot for the past decade. The county’s online voter lookup still had him registered to vote, but his address was listed as being in a different city that he had never lived at. “Somehow in their system I was moved though that never really happened,” he wrote in an email to ProPublica.

Jones ended up casting a provisional ballot, which is the fallback option when there’s some kind of administrative error. And there are many scenarios in which provisional ballots are used.

In Hidalgo County, Texas, bad weather knocked out power at voting locations in South Middle School this morning, according to the county elections department. “Voters will vote on provisional ballot,” the department tweeted.

In states with voter ID requirements, voters who show up at polling locations without proper identification can also vote provisionally. So can voters who go to the wrong place or who do not appear on voter rolls but believe they are eligible.

Created after the 2000 election, provisional ballots are called “affidavit ballots” in some jurisdictions, because they can require a voter’s signature or other documentation to validate. Searches about provisional ballots are among the more common election-related ones today, according to Google.

Provisional ballots are counted differently than normal in-person voting ballots in the sense that they can require additional evidence. There are no uniform standards for counting provisional ballots nationwide, but all provisional ballots are processed for counting. That typically happens after other voters are tallied, since another reason that people cast provisional ballots is if there is a record of that person already voting in the election.

Derek Willis

Latest Source of Voter ID Misinformation: Urban Outfitters

We’ve now seen several instances of false information about voting requirements spreading on social media and elsewhere. The latest example doesn’t come from political tricksters or alt-right Twitter trolls, but rather Urban Outfitters, the millenial-oriented retailer known for graphic tees and vintage-inspired accessories.

Yesterday afternoon, the company tweeted an Election Day “handy guide for your reference” to its 1 million Twitter followers, offering a free “I Voted” button at stores while supplies last.

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The guide is full of false information. Under a subhead titled “Requirements,” the guide says that Americans going to the polls need a “voter’s registration card” as well as an ID.

That’s not true.

In fact, no states require a voter registration card to vote. Some, but not all, states now require ID to vote. (Some states accept voter registration cards as a form of ID.)

Here is an actually correct guide to voting requirements and information in your state.

When we contacted Urban Outfitters this morning, they said in a statement that it will be correcting its voter guide “immediately.”

Urban Outfitters is no stranger to political controversy. Here’s a rundown from the Washington Post.

Update, 8:30 a.m. ET: Urban Outfitters has deleted its tweet from yesterday and updated its guide.

Update, 11 a.m. ET: Urban Outfitters sent along this statement: “This blog post was written by a member of our content team who made a mistake in researching the voting requirements. When this error was brought to our attention, we immediately updated the post to not only correct the information but also included an additional link for state-by-state voter ID requirements for readers to reference. We are deeply sorry for any confusion this error may have caused. In the future, we will be installing more stringent fact-checking procedures to ensure these types of error do not happen.”

Have a voting problem or see irregularities? Text us at 69866 or submit a report here

Justin Elliott

The Good and Very Bad Reasons for Long Lines on Election Day

The polls are open, and if past elections are any indication, voters will stand in line to vote, some for long periods of time. This isn’t always a sign of a trouble.

Researchers who study the issue broadly place long lines in two categories: a sign of problems at polling places or a sign of voter enthusiasm. Both can apply.

Average Wait Time for Election Day Voters in 2012

Source: "Waiting in Line to Vote," Charles Stewart III and Stephen Ansolabehere

But the impact of a long line can be powerful: It can discourage people from voting, even though in most cases voters in line at the time that polls close can cast a ballot. To make things more complicated, long lines have not been evenly distributed across states or even within them. So in a single county, different voters can have very different experiences.

One factor at polling places is the number of voting machines available for use. Think of a fast food restaurant — if there is a single register open, you’re more likely to wait to be served. Multiple voting machines (and polling place workers to speed the process) make it easier for more voters to complete their ballots.

The number of voting machines and polling workers varies because elections are mostly organized and funded by local government. There is no clear demographic profile of places that tend to have longer lines to vote, but “neighborhoods that have high minority populations tend to experience long waiting times for all voters in that neighborhood, regardless of the race of individual voters,” according to a 2013 paper by political scientists Charles Stewart III of MIT and Stephen Ansolabehere of Harvard.

A presidential commission recommended in 2014 that voters should wait no longer than 30 minutes to vote. We know that voters in some places will wait longer. If you are in a very long line, you can let us know by texting ELECTIONLAND to 69866.

Derek Willis

Double Voting is Extremely Rare, and One Solution Might Be Worse

If you show up to vote on Nov. 8, what are the chances that someone with the same name and date of birth is doing the same in another state? New research suggests that this happened about 30,000 times nationwide in 2012, or about 0.02 percent of votes cast, but it’s not clear how many were actually double votes by the same person.

This scenario, which apparently happened to me in the last presidential election, is often cited as evidence for the widespread existence of voter fraud, but a new study published last week found that many of the apparent double votes likely didn’t occur but were the result of incorrectly marking people as having voted when they didn’t.

The findings “dispel some of the more frivolous anecdotes of rampant voter fraud,” write the researchers, who are from Harvard University, Stanford University, the University of Pennsylvania and Microsoft Research.

The potential for double voting usually arises when people move from one state to another or buy a second home in a different state and then register to vote there, while not canceling their original registration. Using national voter file data compiled by TargetSmart, a Democratic firm, the researchers found more than 2.8 million pairs of 2012 voting records where two people shared a first name, last name and date of birth. Some of these cases actually represent two different people who have these traits in common.

The researchers developed a statistical model to estimate that 30,000 of the 2.8 million pairs were likely be the same person recorded as voting twice. But because post-election audits often find errors in poll books — for example, people who did not actually vote being marked as if they did — it’s possible that very few or no actual double votes were cast.

Double voting has been enough of a concern that many states participate in the Interstate Crosscheck Program, which is led by Kris Kobach, the Kansas Secretary of State. States upload their voter files, which are then checked for possible duplicate records that could be used for purging voters who have moved or for investigating potential voter fraud cases.

But using data from Iowa, researchers conclude that purging voters based on matching individual records based on name and date of birth would remove about 200 valid registration records for every one registration used to cast a double vote in another state. “This suggests the policies necessary to stop the relatively small number of double votes that do occur would put many more legitimate votes in jeopardy,” they wrote.

Derek Willis

Federal Judge Issues Restraining Order Against Trump Campaign, Roger Stone

A federal judge in Ohio has issued a restraining order barring Donald Trump’s campaign and Roger Stone’s Stop the Steal organization from intimidating voters or engaging in false “exit polling” efforts on Election Day. The ruling comes after a two-hour hearing in which lawyers from the Democratic Party of Ohio pressed the Trump campaign to defend the candidate’s repeated statements about voter fraud, and his calls for his supporters to watch the polls in “certain areas.”

Jessica Huseman

Freed From Federal Oversight, Southern States Slash Number of Polling Places

Voters in states formerly covered by Section 5 of the Voting Rights Act will have at least 868 fewer polling locations at which to cast ballots on Nov. 8, according to a new study by the Leadership Conference on Civil and Human Rights, a civil rights group that supports protections for minority voters.

The report found a “widespread effort to close polling places” in some of the states previously covered under Section 5, which was invalidated by a 2013 Supreme Court decision in Shelby County v. Holder. The decision allowed states to change voting laws without approval by the federal government.

Derek Willis

Twitter Takes Down False Claims Clinton Supporters Can Vote From Home, But There Are Many More

Twitter accounts have been tweeting out false voting information directed at Hillary Clinton supporters since early voting began. These tweets tell Clinton supporters they can “vote from home” by texting their vote in or voting on line. All of them are false, but Twitter seems to be having a problem cleaning up the tweets.

Jessica Huseman

Latino Voters Face Long Lines in Texas, Florida

This post was co-published with Univision. Lea en español.

Long lines are one of the main problems that affect Latino voters, and Electionland is finding evidence of that this year during early voting.

In 2012, more than half a million voters were unable to cast a ballot because of lines, and studies show that voters in precincts with more minorities tend to face longer wait times. For example, in Florida, Latino voters faced the longest wait times – more than black and white voters, election administration experts Daniel Smith and Michael Herron found.

Lawyer Wilfredo Ruíz told Electionland that he waited nearly an hour at the Tamarac Public Library in Broward County, Florida on Oct. 24.

Grecia Jalomo voted for the first time in Austin, Texas on Oct. 24 and had to wait in line with more than 100 people, she wrote on Twitter. She told Electionland she waited more than an hour to cast her ballot.

Cristina Zuñiga of Duncanville, Texas, tweeted that she waited about an hour or so to vote.

Long lines discourage people from voting and undermine confidence in the electoral system, according to Massachusetts Institute of Technology professor Charles Stewart. In one study, he estimated the economic cost to voters of waiting in line to vote is some $500 million. In 2012, Hispanic voters waited an average of 19 minutes in line, compared to 12 for whites, he found.

Claudia Báez for ProPublica and Rachel Glickhouse, Univision

‘That’s Not What I Said’: TMZ Falsely Reports Concerns of Election Officials

Yesterday TMZ posted an article declaring voter fraud to be “a real concern”. (Yes, that TMZ.) Here’s how the story begins:

NBC, ABC, CBS, CNN and most blogs are trying to convince you there is virtually NO EVIDENCE of voter fraud, so Trump’s fears are bogus … but we drilled down and some officials who run the voting systems around the country are VERY worried about fraudulent voting.

But here’s the thing: Two of the three election officials the story cites told us TMZ attributes things to them they did not say, and that they have no concerns whatsoever about the possibility of voter fraud.

Jessica Huseman

No, George Soros Does NOT Own Voting Machines.

Here’s a fun new election conspiracy theory. A series of fringe right-wing blogs and some more prominent places like The Daily Caller have reported that George Soros has “deep ties” to, or even owns, a voting machine company that’s going to be used during the election — and that he might use the machines to rig votes.

The rumor has gotten enough air that one citizen created a White House petition asking “George Soros owned voting machines” to be removed. Almost 60,000 people have signed it.

The truth: Soros does not own voting machines, does not own any portion of the voting machine company, oh, and these machines are not even being used during the presidential election.

Jessica Huseman

Roger Stone’s Plan to ‘Watch’ Polling Places, Explained

Once or twice a week, we’ll be posting Q&As with experts answering voting questions and concerns.

First up: The Guardian has reported that a supporter of Republican Presidential Candidate Donald Trump is planning to conduct his own exit polling on Election Day, in hopes that he and a team of volunteers might be able to catch “rigged” results.

The effort is led by Roger Stone, one of Trump’s loopiest supporters. He has identified 600 precincts in nine blue cities (all with heavy minority populations): Cleveland, Detroit, Philadelphia, Las Vegas, Milwaukee, Fort Lauderdale, Charlotte, Richmond and Fayetteville. All, coincidentally, are in swing states. Stone told the Guardian the exit polling will be done by 1,300 volunteers from the independent Citizens for Trump. The former Nixon advisor said his methodology was “designed by professionals,” though Stone didn’t tell The Guardian who those professionals were.

Jessica Huseman

Early Voting Starts Today in Five States. Here’s What You Need to Know.

Happy Monday! It’s a big day for early voting, with five states opening up polling stations to allow worm-getters to cast their ballots.

To figure out what’s on that ballot, you can type the following secret code in Google: “What is on my ballot” (really!). You can use the trick for “Where do I vote.” (Google is our partner on Electionland. But come on, that’s seriously useful.)

Here’s some other stuff you should know:

Arkansas

Officials here are expecting record turnout for early voting. So you may want to prepare for lines, especially on the first day when excitement is in the air. While local news recommends you bring photo ID, state law actually does not require it. If you’ve voted before, you do not have to present an ID to vote at all. If you are voting for the first time, any government-issued ID will do, as will a bill, bank statement, or government document that shows your name and address.

Colorado

Ballots have been out for quite some time in Colorado, as it is a vote-by-mail state. While thousands have already mailed their ballots in early, in-person early voting centers open today. If you look up your voting location, you’ll see that there are a number of different places you can vote. Workers there will print off your appropriate ballot on command! How handy. You can also drop off your ballot at any of those locations.

Florida

While early voting starts today in much of the state, it actually differs by county. Because, Florida. Voting hours also differ by location. Florida does require you to bring ID, but it does not have to be a government issued ID or even a photo ID. Student IDs and debit or credit cards are accepted. Find the full list here. If you don’t have ID but are still registered, you can vote provisionally and your ballot will be counted so long as your signature matches.

Massachusetts

This is the first year Massachusetts has offered early voting. Cities and towns have set their own locations and hours, so make sure you check before you head out. You might be asked to show ID if it is your first federal election in the state, if you’re an inactive voter, or, actually, if the poll worker just decides they need to see one. They must have a reasonable suspicion something is amiss, but that’s not well defined.

Texas

A record number of Texans have registered to vote, and many will be voting early. So, it’s a good thing that many areas are drastically increasing the number of polling locations. Dallas County, for example, has doubled the number of locations over 2012. Texas’ once-strict voter ID law was struck down over the summer, and the state adopted far softer requirements. While an ID will be requested, Texans without one can fill out a sworn statement and instead provide a one of a number of unofficial forms of ID. See the list here.

Jessica Huseman

A Poll Worker Explains Why the Process Isn’t Rigged

Donald Trump has been claiming for days that the election is “rigged” and that mass fraud is not only possible, it’s already happening. A quite different perspective came a few weeks ago in a post by Arizona poll worker Sarah Harrison. She explains the reasons the system isn’t rigged:

Polling places aren’t neutral because of law enforcement or government presence — though the Department of Elections does structure and oversee the process. Instead, voting spaces are kept neutral by other citizens, everyday people who agree to staff precincts. There is a small stipend involved, but given the long hours, money isn’t a huge motivator. Most poll clerks and inspectors are, essentially, volunteers. Other countries — Mexico, for example — compel citizens to staff the polls through a random lottery much like jury duty. The U.S. manages to find thousands of citizens freely willing to sit for hours and facilitate the process.

She concludes:

When Donald Trump and others insinuate the process is “rigged,” they aren’t really talking about the process; they’re talking about the outcome. Though it seems contradictory, running a polling place has nothing to do with the results, and everything to do with protecting a fair and open process. The “poll worker mission” is simple and very clear: to protect voter rights, serve voters with respect, and offer assistance. “On Election Day,” my manual instructed, “You will take an oath to perform your duties to the best of your ability.” In a time as politically polarized as this current election cycle, when everyone has an opinion to share, poll workers promise to put aside their political views for a single day and help people cast their ballots.

The piece was published by Zócalo Public Square, a website affiliated with Arizona State University. Read the full piece here.

Jessica Huseman

Trial Tracker Update: Georgia, North Carolina, Kansas and Ohio

A veritable superfecta of court decisions related to elections were handed down today:

Georgia: A federal judge just denied a request by the ACLU to force Georgia to extend its registration deadline for the counties affected by Hurricane Matthew.

North Carolina: An appeals court panel denied the Democratic Party’s motion to extend voter registration due to Hurricane Matthew.

Kansas: A three-judge panel issued a unanimous opinion that allows Kansans to vote without providing proof of U.S. citizenship. “There can be no dispute that the right to vote is a constitutionally protected fundamental right,” the court wrote.

Ohio: A judge ruled that 2016 ballots that would have been purged under Ohio’s process had to be counted, and instructed the state to put out guidance telling voters that their ballots would be counted if certain conditions were met.

More in our Trial Tracker.

Sarah Smith

Where Are Donald Trump’s Poll Watchers?

GOP Presidential Candidate Donald Trump has transfixed and alarmed observers by calling for supporters to sign up to watch for vote “rigging.” But as The New York Times reports this morning there’s no sign that Trump supporters have signed up to do so in any significant numbers.

“Like much else about his campaign, his call to ‘get everybody to go out and watch’ the polls seems to be a Potemkin effort, with little or no organization behind it,” writes reporter Trip Gabriel. Election officials in battleground states tell the Times that sign ups to be certified poll watchers are essentially equal those in 2012. True the Vote, a right-leaning group dedicated to policing voter fraud, reports that sign-ups for its online training course are also the same as 2012 – about 200 people a day.

It’s unclear if these numbers will remain the same. Only yesterday, Trump hired GOP operative and Breitbart contributor Mike Roman as his head of “election protection.”

Roman is supposed to be in charge of turning volunteers who signed up through the Trump campaign’s website into official poll watchers. But the election is in three weeks, and time is running out. Rules for poll watchers – who can be one, where they must be registered, how many are allowed per polling location, when they have to register with the state, etc. – vary dramatically by state and even by county. It would be an extensive undertaking to go about registering hundreds (much less thousands) of poll watchers under varying regulations in only three weeks.

“If in fact you are talking about an orchestrated official observation effort, I would say the time of it is running out,” Tammy Patrick, a fellow at the Bipartisan Policy Center and an Electionland advisor, told me. If Trump has no interest in being part of the official poll watching system, he could organize this effort up to and even on Election Day. But most states don’t let folks just roll up to a polling site and interrogate whomever they like or stand watch in a way that might intimidate voters.

“It’s going to be, I think, probably eye opening to individuals showing up thinking they can just show up, walk in and watch,” she said. “The rule of law will override their efforts if they choose not to comply.”

Right now it’s pretty unclear what Trump’s plan is. Todd Abrajano, spokesman for Trump’s Missouri campaign, told the Kansas City Star that they’d be following official rules: The names they collect will be handed over to the state Republican party, which will train volunteers and direct them to local election officials to be stationed at polling places.

“We’re not trying to just send people in to hang out in polling places,” Abrajano told the Star. “These will be official and trained election observers.”

I called the St. Louis Board of Elections Commissioners, who told me they have received no names for poll watchers from either party yet, but that they do not anticipate having any more than last year. He told me that in 2012, there was a Republican and a Democratic poll watcher at every single precinct. Because that is the maximum allowed by law, there can’t be any more than that this year.

Jessica Huseman

Poll Workers Bracing for Violence

In most years, poll workers are worried about long lines and folks showing up who aren’t in the roll books. But this year they are worried about something worse, something that we haven’t seen on Election Day in decades: violence.

NPR’s Pam Fessler reported this morning that poll workers across the country are preparing for the worst come Nov. 8. They are on pins and needles after the firebombing of the Republican Party’s headquarters in Orange County, N.C., and aren’t being made more comfortable by the heavy rhetoric of this campaign.

Fessler spoke to Matt Masterson, a member of the U.S. Election Assistance Commission, who said almost every jurisdiction has a plan to deal with emergencies – many of which were reinforced after Sept. 11, which occurred on a primary election day in New York City. He believes these plans are getting some attention as poll workers prepare for the presidential vote.

Concerns over GOP candidate Donald Trump’s inflammatory remarks on vote rigging, and his racially-charged statements on the need to check for voters’ identification has, for weeks, created concerns over violence.

“We’re going to watch Pennsylvania. Go down to certain areas and watch and study to make sure other people don’t come in and vote five times,” said Trump at a Pennsylvania campaign even in August. His “certain areas” remark was widely understood to mean predominantly black neighborhoods in Philadelphia that vote heavily Democratic.

Slate’s Jamelle Bouie wrote a widely shared column in which he said Trump’s words were creating a “time bomb” for violence.

“These rhetorical time bombs, in other words, could be the catalyst for actual intimidation and violence, before and after Election Day. And if that violence and intimidation strikes, it will be against the chief targets of Trump’s campaign: people of color,” he wrote.

Jessica Huseman

Rigged Election Warnings May Be Backfiring for Trump Campaign

There are signs that Donald Trump’s repeated warnings of a rigged election may be backfiring for the campaign. A blog post by an election researcher says Trump might be helping Democrats.

Charles Stewart III, professor of political science at MIT and noted elections expert, recently published polling evidence to suggest that, at a local level, Republicans’ belief regarding whether their vote will count has remained virtually unchanged from 2012, while Democrats have grown more confident - much more confident. A massive 23 points more confident.

“Donald Trump’s complaints about a ‘rigged’ electoral system most clearly reminded his strongest supporters of what they already believed. It is much less clear that Republicans who were not already convinced of the corruption of the election system have now had a change of heart,” Stewart writes. “The second conclusion is that Trump’s charges appear to have counter-mobilized Democratic opinion in novel ways. Democrats have come to the defense of vote counting, not only in their own back yards, but even in other people’s back yards.”

Jessica Huseman

Trump Hires Controversial Figure to Oversee “Election Protection” Efforts

It didn’t seem like even his staff was taking Donald Trump’s cries of election rigging seriously, but today the campaign took steps to show he means business. They have hired Mike Roman — a controversial Republican most known for spreading the video of the New Black Panthers apparently intimidating voters outside a polling place in 2008 — to oversee poll-watching efforts.

The candidate has gone on a Twitter rampage in the last several days, repeatedly insisting that there is mass voter fraud despite no evidence to support that claim. Since the release of the 2008 video, GOP groups have continually used it as evidence that the Left is responsible for intimidating voters.

Jessica Huseman

Trump Campaign Excluded from Alaska Voter Guide after Missing Deadline

Trump’s Alaska team never turned in the biographical information and statement necessary to be included in Alaska’s voter guide. The Hill reports that the state’s director of elections tried to warn Republican officials about it, including the Republican National Committee, Speaker Paul Ryan and Tucker Babcock, the chairman of the Alaska GOP, but no one responded.

Alaska Dispatch News reported that the Trump campaign’s Alaska public relations contact is a former state representative who did time for bribery.

Jessica Huseman

Trump Alleges Widespread Voter Fraud on Twitter

This morning, Republican presidential candidate Donald J. Trump took to twitter to allege widespread voter fraud:

The day before, he tweeted something very similar:

The first tweet came only hours after Indiana Gov. Mike Pence made a Sunday appearance on Meet the Press, saying that his ticket would “absolutely accept the results of the election.” The second came only minutes after campaign manager Kellyanne Conway told CNN that Trump’s frequent claims that the election is “rigged” referred to a biased mainstream media and not voter fraud.

While the Trump campaign figures out how to get on the same page, rest assured that in-person voter fraud is incredibly rare. Bigly:

  • This study found only 31 instances of credible voter fraud in over 1 billion ballots cast.
  • A Brennan Center study found only a tiny fraction of alleged voter fraud was actually legitimate.
  • A national study found no credible evidence to suggest that voter impersonation was a problem.
  • A two-year, $250,000 investigation in Iowa found 117 possible instances of voter fraud. Of those, only six led to criminal convictions.

Jessica Huseman

Group Helps Israeli Expats Vote Absentee — or Do They?

There are about 200,000 registered U.S. voters living in Israel right now, and all are eligible to vote by absentee ballot. A nonprofit group called IVoteIsrael popped up to help this sometimes confusing process along.

But whether they’re actually being helpful is the subject of some debate.

IVoteIsrael collects ballots from voters at drop boxes across the country — from bake shops to private residences — and offers help for absentee voters with questions about the process.

Here’s their peppy explainer video:

But there may be trouble in paradise. The Jerusalem Post reports that several people have complained that IVoteIsrael has “flubbed” the absentee voting process, failing to mail in their ballots by the requested deadline. Angry voters have taken to a private Facebook group to lodge complaints.

“Calling my local voting board this close to the election and them telling me that they haven’t received anything hasn’t inspired confidence in iVoteIsrael. Next election, I think I’ll register myself and not trust it to an external organization,” Steven Slivnick, a Israel resident from Illinois, said in a post published by The Jerusalem Post.

Officials at IVoteIsrael dismissed the concerns in an interview with the Jerusalem Post, saying that a small minority of ballots were lost in the mail.

Jessica Huseman

Early Voting Update

More than 756,000 votes have already been cast in November’s election, with more to come in the weeks before Election Day. Most of those ballots have been returned via the mail, as in-person early voting has just started. In Iowa, at least 117,000 mailed ballots have already been returned to election offices, according to Michael McDonald, a University of Florida political science professor who tracks voter turnout. The data doesn’t indicate voter preference, just how many ballots were returned.

Early and in-person absentee voting is underway in nine states, and this week will see seven more begin some form of pre-election day voting. In Florida, where early voting doesn’t begin until Oct. 29, more than 2.6 million voters have requested absentee ballots already, although less than 200,000 have been returned. More than 46,000 voters in Minnesota have cast ballots through Oct. 6, about 17 percent of the total that did so before election day in 2012.

Because the process of early and absentee voting varies from state to state, we’ll get more information from some states sooner, while others won’t start reporting pre-election activity until later in October.

Derek Willis

One Reason U.S. Election Administration is so Complex

One of the reasons that election administration in the U.S. is so complex and, at times, chaotic, is that the system was designed to be decentralized. The following is from a committee report for the 2002 Help America Vote Act.

The dispersal of responsibility for election administration has made it impossible for a single centrally controlled authority to dictate how elections will be run, and thereby be able to control the outcome. This leaves the power and responsibility for running elections where it should be, in the hands of the citizens of this country. Local control has the further added benefit of allowing for flexibility, so that local authorities can tailor their procedures to meet the demands of disparate and unique communities. Further by leaving the responsibility for election administration in the hands of local authorities, if a problem arises, the citizens who live within their jurisdictions know whom to hold accountable. The local authorities who bear the responsibility cannot now, and should not in the future be able to, point the finger of blame at some distant, unaccountable, centralized bureaucracy.

That quote is from a letter send last week by congressional leaders urging states to be vigilant about hackers attacking election systems

Scott Klein

I Voted

Yesterday our friends (and Electionland partners!) at WNYC wrote about the bumpy start to early absentee voting in New York City.

New York does not have early voting, so voters who will be out of the city on Election Day have to either request a mail-in absentee ballot or cast an in-person absentee ballot. Voting offices in NYC are supposed to print ballots on demand (so as to not waste paper), but some offices didn’t get the message. When in-person absentee voting started Friday, some voters were told that the ballots hadn’t arrived.

But one superhero citizen, Joel Berg, told WNYC he would not be deterred. “For me, I will come back when they are ready if I have to crawl with concrete on my legs in a snowstorm facing lightning,” said Berg, the CEO of a nonprofit group called Hunger Free America. “I will vote.”

Go Joel.

But Electionland is happy to report that at least the Manhattan election office is running smoothly as of today. Because we’ll be locked in our newsroom starting at 5am on Election Day, fellow Electionland/ProPublica staffer Sarah Smith and I dutifully cast our early absentee ballots today. The whole process took about 15 minutes (and we got stickers)!

Jessica Huseman's sticker, now proudly displayed in her cubical. (Jessica Huseman/ProPublica)

Jessica Huseman

Deadlines, Deadlines, Deadlines

Today is the deadline for citizens in Arizona and Hawaii to register to vote in November’s election. Fourteen more states have their deadlines tomorrow, including Florida, Georgia, Ohio, Pennsylvania, Michigan and Indiana.

In Florida, Democrats filed suit against Governor Rick Scott on Sunday, seeking to extend the deadline to Oct. 18 due to the impact of Hurricane Matthew on the state. Tens of thousands of Floridians were without power on Monday morning.

The deadline in Missouri, which has competitive races for U.S. Senate and governor, falls on Oct. 12, with a handful of states’ deadlines coming later in the week. Find your state, and its registration procedures and deadlines.

Derek Willis

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About Electionland

There is no act more central to a democracy than voting. Electionland is a project that will cover access to the ballot and problems that prevent people from exercising their right to vote during the 2016 election.

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