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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.

Wrong Ballots in Florida

Dozens of voters in Lake County, Florida, were sent the wrong vote-by-mail ballots by local officials, according to WFTV, a local television station. Some residents of the Royal Harbor neighborhood were sent ballots for races in the nearby town of Sorrento, which is in a different congressional district and has different local government races. The county's supervisor of elections told the TV station that the incorrect ballots would be replaced.

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

Trump Warns Crowd About Voter Fraud (Again)

Florida Democrats Win Bid to Extend Voter Registration Deadline in Wake of Hurricane Matthew

Democratic campaign lawyer Marc Elias has emerged victorious in his initial battle with Florida Gov. Rick Scott, who refused to extend the state's voter registration deadline in the wake of Hurricane Matthew. On Monday, a Florida federal court extended voter registration to Oct. 12 - one day past the state's original deadline.

The governor was immediately accused of playing politics when he declined to extend the deadline. Voting experts pointed to historical data showing that the last days of voter registration heavily favored minority and Democratic voters. As to the accusation the court was similarly politically motivated, Justice Mark E. Walker responded, "Poppycock. This case is about the right of aspiring eligible voters to register and to have their votes counted. Nothing could be more fundamental to our democracy."

The rest of the decision isn't nearly as colorful, but you can read it here anyway: Florida Democratic Party v. Richard Scott

Record Registration

Total voter registration in the U.S. has passed 197 million people, according to Democratic voter data firm TargetSmart, which estimates that it could reach the 200 million mark by Nov. 8. Some states, such as Minnesota, Nevada and Ohio, have already passed their 2012 registration totals.

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.

Voting Has Started, and Electionland Is on the Case

Election Day is still a month away, but some Americans are already casting ballots. About 20 states and the District of Columbia have early voting programs, several of which have already begun. It’s estimated that about one-third of the country will have voted by the time polls open on Nov. 8.

Which Voters Show Up When States Allow Early Voting?

According to the National Conference of State Legislatures, 37 states now offer voters some way to cast ballots early and avoid lining up at the polls on Election Day.

These options are popular. About one-third of voters made use of them in the 2012 election.

But so-called “convenience voting” remains controversial: In some states, various types of early balloting has been challenged on grounds that it opens the door to fraud, though there’s been little evidence that such fraud is taking place.

Monitoring the Vote With Electionland

There is no more essential act in a democracy than voting. But making sure that the balloting is open to all and efficiently administered has been, at best, a low priority for many state legislatures, a victim of misplaced priorities and, at times, political gamesmanship.

2016 Election Lawsuit Tracker: The New Election Laws and the Suits Challenging Them

Courts are scrambling to rule on state election laws in time for the elections being held later this year. We’re keeping track of their decisions.

About Electionland

ProPublica’s Electionland project covers problems that prevent eligible voters from casting their ballots during the 2020 elections. Our coalition of newsrooms around the country are investigating issues related to voter registration, pandemic-related changes to voting, the shift to vote-by-mail, cybersecurity, voter education, misinformation, and more.

Questions? Read our FAQ.

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