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Elections May Have to Change During the Coronavirus Outbreak. Here’s How.

Empty voting stations at a Florida precinct during Tuesday’s primary. Polling volunteers say that in-person turnout is down at most locations due to fears of the COVID-19 virus. (Zack Wittman for the Washington Post)

As the novel coronavirus spreads through the U.S. during presidential primaries, election and government officials are scrambling to figure out how to allow voters to cast their ballots safely ― or postpone primaries altogether. Managing in-person voting during an unprecedented pandemic has forced authorities to overcome new virus-related hurdles: providing sufficient cleaning supplies to polling places, moving polling places out of nursing homes and ensuring there are enough poll workers.

There’s also a huge open question: If the virus continues to infect large numbers of people, how can the general election take place safely this fall?

We’ve Reported on Elections for Years. Here’s How Reporters Can Hold Officials Accountable.

Californians vote using new touch-screen machines on Super Tuesday, March 3, in Los Angeles. (Melina Mara/The Washington Post via Getty Images)

As part of our Electionland project, we work with journalists around the country to provide reporting resources about voting rights, election security and election-related misinformation. We’ve put together a series of tips and ideas about how local reporters can tackle election reporting well ahead of the general election.

Some Election-Related Websites Still Run on Vulnerable Software Older Than Many High Schoolers

Diego Patiño, special to ProPublica

The Richmond, Virginia, website that tells people where to vote and publishes election results runs on a 17-year-old operating system. Software used by election-related sites in Johnston County, North Carolina, and the town of Barnstable, Massachusetts, had reached its expiration date, making security updates no longer available.

Republican National Committee Obscured How Much It Pays Its Chief of Staff

President Donald Trump at the 2018 Republican National Committee winter meeting at the Trump International Hotel in Washington. The RNC has covered costs or made payments that are personally beneficial to the president. (Mandel Ngan/AFP via Getty Images)

Amid the record-breaking flows of cash, the RNC is giving lucrative consulting work to a select group of political operatives with Trump campaign ties.

The Iowa Caucuses App Had Another Problem: It Could Have Been Hacked

Precinct captain Carl Voss of Des Moines, Iowa, shows the IowaReporterApp on his phone. (Nati Harnik/AP)

A glitch in the smartphone app used to count and report votes from individual precincts continues to delay results from Monday’s Iowa caucuses. But a closer look shows that the app had a potentially graver problem that apparently did not come into play: its vulnerability to hacking.

Iowa’s Lesson: Political Parties Are Not as Good as Government Officials at Counting Votes

Mackenzie Mcilmail awaiting results of the Iowa caucuses at a Bernie Sanders campaign event Monday in Des Moines. (Salwan Georges/The Washington Post via Getty Images)

Here’s the takeaway from the Iowa fiasco: Beware of caucuses run by political parties. But don’t panic about the integrity of most primaries and the general election, which are run by state and county election administrators.

Help Us Cover the Election With Electionland 2020

Erin Lefevre for ProPublica

ProPublica is relaunching its collaborative project for a third time to cover voting during this crucial election year. We’re recruiting newsroom partners.

Kansas Abandons Technology Trumpeted by Kris Kobach, Trump’s Onetime Voter Fraud Czar

Former Kansas Secretary of State Kris Kobach. (Thad Allton/The Topeka Capital-Journal via AP)

A system supposedly meant to root out voter fraud was beset by security and accuracy issues.

ProPublica’s Collaborative Data Journalism Guide

Learn tips and best practices on how to set up and run a collaborative reporting project.

Working Together Better: Our Guide to Collaborative Data Journalism

Linley Sanders, left, and Kerem Inal consult during Electionland, a project to monitor voting problems in real time, on Nov. 6, 2018, at the CUNY Graduate School of Journalism. (Erin Lefevre for ProPublica)

We’ve learned a lot about how to make large-scale collaborations around datasets work, and today we’re giving away all of our secrets.

New York City’s Early Voting Plan Will Favor White, Affluent Voters, Advocacy Groups Say

A polling station in Brooklyn, New York. (Xinhua/Wang Ying via Getty Images)

An analysis from three advocacy groups has found that New York City’s plan for early voting for the 2020 national elections is grossly inadequate and, as designed, will favor white, affluent voters.

Facebook and Twitter Turned to TurboVote to Drive Registrations. Officials Want Them to Turn Away.

In 2018, Facebook and Twitter decided to play a role in helping people register to vote in what promised to be a momentous midterm election. To do so, the social media platforms directed users almost exclusively to a website called TurboVote, run by a nonprofit organization known as Democracy Works. TurboVote was launched in 2012, and it promised to streamline voter registration and remind people to cast ballots on Election Day.

Evidently, things did not go seamlessly.

What We Learned From Collecting 100,000 Targeted Facebook Ads

Since we launched our Facebook Political Ad Collector project in fall 2017, more than 16,000 people have participated in it. They all agreed to install a browser plug-in that anonymously sent us the ads they see when they browse Facebook. We used that data to understand and report on how political messaging on Facebook works, and how the system is being gamed to manipulate the public discourse.

Election Day Was Filled With Frustrations, Claims of Mischief and Glimmers of Hope

A handful of states had ballot measures aimed at making it easier for people to vote or designed to take some of the politics out of how the country’s electoral districts are drawn up. (Chris Lee/St. Louis Post-Dispatch via AP)

Election Day in America brought its familiar mix of misery and allegations of mischief: Aging voting machines crashed; rain-soaked citizens stood in endless lines; laws that many regarded as attempts to suppress turnout among people of color led to both confusion at the polls and angry calls for recounts and investigations.

Aging Machines, Crowds, Humidity: Problems at the Polls Were Mundane but Widespread

People wait in line at a polling station in Miami, Florida, late on Election Day. (Rhona Wise/AFP/Getty Images)

If the defining risk of Election Day 2016 was a foreign meddling, 2018’s seems to have been a domestic overload. High turnout across the country threw existing problems — aging machines, poorly trained poll workers and a hot political landscape — into sharp relief.

Florida Election Brings High Turnout, Some Voting Snags

Turnout strained election locations across the state but did not appear to overwhelm them. Voters experienced a smattering of problems throughout the state, including issues with voting machines and unnecessary provisional ballot use.

Missouri Changed Voter ID Requirements, Citing Confusion. Yet on Election Day, There Was Confusion.

Stuart Wood, from Stockton, Missouri, votes in Stockton on Tuesday, Nov. 6. (Charlie Riedel/AP Photo)

Voters in Missouri faced confused poll workers as they went to vote on Tuesday, with many reporting they were turned away for not having valid photo identification. The confusion was a result of an October court ruling that allowed Missourians to cast ballots with a range of forms of identification.

What Went Wrong at New York City Polling Places? It Was Something in the Air. Literally.

Voters wait in the line to cast their votes in the midterm election in Manhattan on Tuesday, Nov. 6. (Atilgan Ozdil/Anadolu Agency/Getty Images)

The post-mortem on what went wrong at polling places across New York City on Election Day won’t be done for days, if not weeks. Across the city — from Brooklyn to Manhattan to the Bronx — ballot scanners jammed and malfunctioned, sowing chaos at polling places.

But preliminarily, it looks like one of those rare occasions where election officials can plausibly blame the weather, at least in part.

These Voters Had to Wait for Hours: “It Felt Like a Type of Disenfranchisement”

Voters stand in line at a polling location in Las Vegas, Nevada, on Tuesday, Nov. 6. (Bridget Bennett/Bloomberg via Getty Images))

Melanie Taylor arrived at her polling place in a Charleston, South Carolina, church at 7:30 a.m., only to find more than 100 people in line ahead of her. Some of them had already been waiting since 6:15. The voting site was using a computerized login for the first time, and the system was down.

Voters Get Texts With Incorrect Election Information

Text messages received by a slew of voters — from organizations like Vote.org, EveryTown for Gun Safety and TurboVote — reportedly included incomplete or incorrect information on where and when to vote.

About Electionland

Electionland is a coalition of newsrooms around the country that are covering misinformation, cybersecurity, and problems that prevent eligible voters from casting their ballots during the 2020 elections.

Questions? Read our FAQ.

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