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Electionland 2020: Polling Place Safety, Misinformation, Mask Issues and More

This week’s headlines on Pennsylvania mail-in voting, in-person voting in Georgia, and voting lawsuits.

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New from ProPublica

Pennsylvania’s New Vote-by-Mail Law Expands Access for Everyone Except the Poor

In America’s poorest big city, language barriers, unstable housing and lack of internet access make voting by mail difficult. So low-income Philadelphia residents will be voting in person, if at all. Read the story from ProPublica and The Philadelphia Inquirer.

A Nonprofit With Ties to Democrats Is Sending Out Millions of Ballot Applications. Election Officials Wish It Would Stop.

Election officials say a flood of mailers from the Center for Voter Information has contained mistakes and confused voters at a time when states are racing to expand vote by mail. Read the story.

How to Vote During a Pandemic

From coronavirus to vote-by-mail, the 2020 election is shaping up to be confusing. Here’s how to figure out what the heck is going on this year and what you can do to participate in our democracy. Read the story.

A Guide to In-Person Voting vs. Mail-In Voting

In 2020, every state’s voting process has changed in response to the coronavirus. Regardless of whether you plan to vote in person or by mail, there are many things to consider. Here are some of the most important. Read the story.

How to Spot (and Fight) Election Misinformation Misinformation and disinformation, especially online, continue to play a huge role in the 2020 election. Learn more about the types of false information you’re likely to come across this year — and how you can help fight it. Read the story.

Why Do Nonwhite Georgia Voters Have to Wait in Line for Hours? Their Numbers Have Soared, and Their Polling Places Have Dwindled.

The state’s voter rolls have grown by nearly 2 million since the U.S. Supreme Court gutted the Voting Rights Act in 2013, but polling locations have been cut by almost 10%, with Metro Atlanta hit particularly hard. Read the story from ProPublica and GPB.

Spanish Translations

We’ve begun translating our election stories into Spanish, and they’re available to republish.

New from Electionland Partners

  • Shouting Matches, Partisan Rallies, Guns At Polling Places: Tensions High At Early-Voting Sites (The Washington Post)
  • With DMVs Closed And Backlogged, People Who Want to Vote Are Struggling Even To Register (Talking Points Memo)
  • Monona County Officials Working To Remove Military-Style Truck With Campaign Flags From Voting Site (Iowa Public Radio)
  • Man Says His Signature Changes Due To Learning Disability, And His Ballot Has Been Rejected Because Of It (CBS Chicago)
  • Who Do You Trust To Turn In Your Ballot? (KMTV)
  • New Haven ‘No. 1 in Complaints’ About Absentee Ballots, Voters, Officials Demand Answers (CTInsider)
  • Officials: Safeguards In Place For Delayed Mail-in Ballots (The Norman Transcript)
  • Mendham GOP Tells Voters They Can’t Vote In Person. That’s Not True (NorthJersey.com)
  • What To Do If You Haven’t Received Your NJ Mail-in Ballot For The 2020 Election (NorthJersey.com)
  • Gov2Go Mobile App Sends Miami Users Wrong Election Day Date (The Miami Herald)
  • When Pennsylvania Voter Mindy Bence Opened Her Mail-in Ballot Packet, There Was A Problem: Her Return Envelopes Had Arrived Already Sealed Shut. (Electionland)

The Latest on Misinformation

  • U.S. intelligence officials said they traced a wave of threatening emails sent to Democratic voters in several states back to Iran. The emails, which claimed to be from the far-right group the Proud Boys, instructed voters in at least four states to change their party affiliations and cast ballots for Trump, “or we will come after you.” Officials warned that Russian operatives also have access to voter information and may use it in the coming days. (Washington Post, NPR)
  • Arizona’s secretary of state is taking to Twitter to dispel misinformation about the security of mail-in voting. (KTAR)
  • The election administrator for El Paso County, Texas, said a Facebook post that falsely claims ballots can be thrown out if poll workers mark them in any way has spread “like wildfire.” Texas law requires that ballots be initialed by election judges. (KTSM)
  • False reports of voter intimidation at two ballot drop boxes in Denver, Colorado, circulated online this week, but security camera footage showed nothing inappropriate. (The Denver Post)
  • Election officials in Montgomery County, Maryland, had “a very terrible day” investigating and then debunking a video that went viral this week with a false claim of fraud by an election worker. (The Washington Post)
  • There has been a spike in misinformation targeting Latino voters in Florida, officials say. (Sun Sentinel)

Vote by Mail News

  • Officials in Los Angeles are investigating a fire inside an official ballot drop box. (The Guardian)
  • California will permit the state Republican Party to keep its own ballot collection boxes, with safeguards. (Politico)
  • Advocacy groups are scrambling to help voters fix ballot mistakes in time. And while some ballots are badly designed, there are ways to make sure your vote can still count. (NPR, Washington Post)
  • North Carolina will begin reaching out to voters about 10,000 deficient absentee ballots that have been in legal limbo. (Associated Press)
  • Voters are complaining about responsiveness from a swamped Texas secretary of state’s office. (Texas Tribune)
  • A technical glitch led to more than 1,000 Pennsylvania voters receiving two absentee ballots, but the state says only one will be counted. (WHYY)
  • A group led by retired military leaders says the election shouldn’t be declared until every military absentee ballot is counted. (Military Times)
  • A printing mistake caused ink splotches and marks on ballots in Montana. (NBC Montana)
  • A printing vendor in Ohio made a mistake that resulted in voters finding return envelopes to an address in Missouri. (Zanesville Times Recorder)
  • A bar code error on return envelopes in two New Mexico counties would have mailed ballots back to individual voters. (Taos News)
  • A swamped printing company in Ohio has been unable to meet the demand from election agencies. A number of counties are switching vendors. (New York Times, Cleveland.com)
  • There’s little oversight in Ohio over the private printing vendors that are responsible for ballot and voter purging mistakes. (Columbus Dispatch)
  • Lehigh County sent out an erroneous email telling people who had already voted that their ballots were on the way. (Allentown Morning Call)
  • Pennsylvania voters who change their minds about voting absentee will have to bring their ballots to the polls if they want to vote in person. (KDKA)
  • Problems have been reported with New Jersey’s and Virginia’s mail-in ballot trackers. (NJ.com, WJHL)
  • Voters are worried about pens bleeding through the paper of their ballot. (New Hampshire Public Radio)

Pandemic Voting

  • At least 45 million people have voted as of Oct. 22, and more than 21 million people have already voted in battleground states. (U.S. Elections Project, The Washington Post)
  • Ohio Governor Mike DeWine says poll workers cannot force voters to wear masks, despite a statewide mask mandate and a recent spike in cases of COVID-19. (Cleveland.com)
  • White House pandemic expert Dr. Anthony Fauci said he’s planning to vote in person on Nov. 3, adding that it should be safe with the proper precautions. (Yahoo! News, CNBC)
  • Maricopa County, Arizona, received more than 20,000 poll worker applications just over the past month, after predictions that COVID-19 would cause a shortage. (Arizona Republic)
  • Bannock County, Idaho, will not require masks at the polls for voters, election officials, or poll workers, as part of a “personal choice” policy. (Idaho Falls Post-Register)
  • In Fort Lauderdale, Florida, four maskless voters were allowed to cast their ballots during early voting, despite a county mask mandate. The voters said they had medical reasons for violating the order. (Sun Sentinel)
  • Indiana’s secretary of state is facing pushback from county clerks who refuse to enforce a statewide mask mandate at the polls. “I won’t be part of any government overreach,” said one clerk in rural Fountain County. (Lafayette Journal Courier)
  • County clerks in Kansas are coming up with their own policies on mask use. The state spent nearly $1.3 million on personal protective equipment for election workers, but there is no mandate on how to use it. (Associated Press)
  • Two poll workers in Denton County, Texas, walked off the job after the lead worker at their voting site refused to wear a mask. (NBCDFW)
  • A voter in Fort Smith, Arkansas, was turned away twice for not using a face covering, even though Arkansas hasn’t extended its mask mandate to polling sites. The voter said he had a respiratory issue, but also told a reporter he was “tired of giving up my rights.” (KFSM)
  • A judge in Galveston County, Texas, has ordered a $1,000 fine against any poll worker who turns away voters for not wearing masks. (KPRC)
  • Election officials in Sacramento and San Joaquin counties are coming up with alternatives for voters who refuse to wear masks, including take-home ballots and designated polling areas away from other voters and staff. (CBS Sacramento)
  • A terminally ill man in Michigan raced the clock to cast a ballot in the 2020 election. (Washington Post)
  • A Memphis, Tennessee, poll worker was fired for turning away voters in “I Can’t Breathe” and “Black Lives Matter” shirts. State law only bans items that feature political parties or the names of candidates. (NBC News)

News on Poll Safety

  • Michigan’s secretary of state banned the open carry of guns at polling places on Election Day. (Fox 17)
  • The Florida department of state told local election administrators that they must staff ballot drop boxes outside of early voting sites. (News Service of Florida)
  • A Miami police officer will be disciplined for entering an early voting site while in full uniform and wearing a Trump face mask. (Miami Herald)
  • A former GOP lawmaker in North Carolina was charged with assaulting an election worker at an early voting site. (News & Observer)
  • Some voters complained about a Trump rally held near a voting site and ballot drop box in Nevada. (ABC 10)
  • A New Mexico clerk reported a convoy of Trump supporters near a polling place for possible voter intimidation. (KRQE)
  • Florida police are investigating a case of possible voter intimidation outside an early voting site involving two men who claimed to work for a security company; one of whom was allegedly armed. The Pinellas County Sheriff says it will station officers outside of early voting sites. (WFTS, Tampa Bay Times)
  • New Jersey legislators are considering a bill to limit law enforcement at polling places. (NJ Spotlight)

Enfranchising Felon Voters

  • State officials in Florida have asked counties to remove felons who owe court fees or fines from their rolls, but county officials say they won’t have time before Nov. 3. (Tampa Bay Times)
  • Some fear that Florida’s request that counties purge some ineligible voters and place guards at mail ballot drop boxes could discourage or confuse voters. (The Washington Post)
  • The language on Iowa’s voter registration form has left some felons whose rights were restored earlier this year unsure about whether they can vote and how to register, even after the state updated the form. (KCRG)

The Latest Lawsuits

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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.

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