Americans have started to cast their votes in unprecedented numbers in an election unlike any other: from COVID-19 restrictions to attacks on mail-in voting and even the legitimacy of the electoral system, America’s democratic process in 2020 might be one the most tumultuous, and defining, in generations.
All of these issues are taking different shapes at the local level, and our Report for America corps members are there to report on them and provide their communities with the news they need to make an informed choice.
Here’s a daily curated selection of some of the best stories our corps members are publishing:
November 6, 2020
BISMARCK, N.D. – ‘Why Trump’s 2020 dominance in North Dakota signals long road for state Democrats | The Dickinson Press’ Adam Willis for The Dickinson Press
President Donald Trump’s sustained appeal in North Dakota was clear early on election night, dashing Democratic hopes that the toll of the coronavirus would sway voters. Even more voters cast a ballot for the president in the state than in 2016, and Republicans expanded their majority in the state legislature. The state voted for Trump over Biden by a wider margin than all but three states, collecting 65% of the vote compared to 32% for Biden.
One political science professor says the results should not come as a surprise because North Dakotans generally approved of Trump’s handling of the pandemic. And to a longtime political observer and columnist, the pandemic may have even helped Trump, giving him more room for his populist appeal.
MILWAUKEE – ‘No, Wisconsin Didn’t Have More Votes Than Registered Voters’ Maddie Burakoff for Spectrum Milwaukee
Did Wisconsin have more ballots than registered voters? The short answer is no, reports Maddie Burakoff. After flipping blue for Joe Biden, state election officials were quick to discredit misinformation that began to spread across social media of a discrepancy between ballots and the number of people who registered. In fact, Wisconsin Elections Commission data showed that there were 3.68 million active registered voters as of Nov. 1, and, independently, unofficial vote tallies indicated some 3.3 million votes were cast.
AUSTIN, Texas – ‘US Postal Service found 815 ballots in Texas facility sweeps’ Acacia Coronado for the Associated Press
According to the U.S. Postal Service, 815 mail-in ballots were found in Texas mail processing facilities delivered to county officials between Tuesday and Wednesday. The U.S. Postal Service was ordered by a U.S. district judge to search its facilities Wednesday for mail-in ballots and to report the number found and what steps were taken to deliver them by the state’s voter receipt deadline. Texas mailed absentee ballots must be postmarked by Nov. 3 and delivered by Nov. 4 at 5 p.m.
This order came after a similar one on Tuesday in which a U.S. district judge ordered USPS to sweep processing plants in 12 U.S. districts, including Houston, for missing mail-in ballots. The postal service failed to meet the deadline.
SPOKANE, Wash. – ‘Trump looks to Supreme Court as path to victory narrows. Election law experts say that’s unlikely to work’ Orion Donovan-Smith for The Spokesman-Review
President Donald Trump suggested he would seek the help of the Supreme Court to secure a second term and filed lawsuits in three pivotal states after falsely declaring victory as the final ballots are still being counted. With the confirmation of Supreme Court Justice Amy Coney Barrett ensuring a conservative majority for years to come, Democrats have worried that she could tip the balance in the president’s favor if the decision reaches the court. But election law experts said it was unlikely the election decision would reach the justices unless it could affect a number of votes that would be decisive for a state’s winner of the Electoral College.
November 5, 2020
SACRAMENTO, Calif. – Affirmative action push in Proposition 16 fails to win over California voters Kimberly Bojórquez for the Sacramento Bee
Californians voted against Proposition 16 on Tuesday, which sought to bring back affirmative action by repealing the 1996 proposition that bans considering race and gender in public hiring, college admissions and contracting. Democratic officials argued Proposition 16 would create equal footing among Latinos and Black Americans, and increase racial and gender representation in higher education and the workforce. Opponents called the proposition discriminatory, arguing that diverse communities in California have already made strides in representation since the 1996 ban.
Lawmakers and advocates of the initiative said there wasn’t enough public opinion groundwork done for the proposition to pass, and that the issue got lost on the ballot.
COLUMBIA, S.C. – ‘SC’s 1st elected female sheriff vows to reshape agency’ Michelle Liu for the Associated Press
Kristin Graziano became South Carolina’s first elected female sheriff Tuesday in Charleston County, following a campaign where she promised to reform the local law enforcement agency to build community trust and diversify the department. Graziano said she will end a federal partnership with U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement, ask the county council to downsize the department’s $80 million budget and ban chokeholds and no-knock warrants.
Positioning herself as a reformer on policing issues, Graziano criticized Republican incumbent Al Cannon for using “aggressive and provoking tactics” against protesters responding to the killing of George Floyd. “It’s irresponsible for us not to take responsibility and address inequities,” Graziano said. “That’s what I believed before it happened, and that’s what I believe to this day.”
DETROIT, Mich. – ‘No, Joe Biden did not magically ‘find’ votes in Michigan’ Clara Hendrickson and Kristi Tanner for Detroit Free Press
Conservative commentator Matt Mackowiak tweeted two election maps Wednesday that showed Democratic candidate Joe Biden received 100% of newly counted votes in Michigan during a results update. President Donald Trump retweeted the maps, and later added: “They are working hard to make up 500,000 vote advantage in Pennsylvania disappear — ASAP. Likewise, Michigan and others!”
There is no evidence that Michigan election officials are tampering with votes, and the maps shared by Mackowiak came from Decision Desk HQ, who had quickly announced the data in the second map was incorrect due to a clerical error and promptly corrected it. Mackowiak acknowledged the posts were inaccurate, and deleted the tweet. That day, Michigan Secretary of State Jocelyn Benson pointed to the use of using false graphics to delegitimize the election outcome, saying “What we’ve said this entire election cycle is that we have to be mindful of posts made on social media.”
OKLAHOMA CITY, Okla. – ‘How Oklahoma Voted Against Criminal Justice Reform Proposed In State Question 805’ Keaton Ross and Jesse Howe for Oklahoma Watch
Oklahoma voters rejected State Question 805 Tuesday, a ballot initiative campaigned by criminal justice reform advocates that would have prevented courts from imposing longer sentences on people with no prior conviction of a violent felony. Opponents of the initiative argued it would have made it difficult to punish repeat offenders of serious crimes not listed as a violent felony, though supporters argued that courts would still be able to take prior criminal history into account and impose maximum sentences on repeat offenders.
The Yes on 805 group generated more than $8 million in contributions from July through September, while Oklahomans United Against 805 only raised $133,400 over the same period, but found widespread support from elected officials and law enforcement groups.
November 4, 2020
DETROIT, Mich. – ‘What comes after Nov. 3? Here’s what could happen if Michigan’s results are contested’ Clara Hendrickson for Detroit Free Press
As the last votes are tallied in Michigan, the focus shifts now to whether election results will be contested in the state or in other parts of the country. Holes in election law could present problems for an undisputed transition of power, as President Donald Trump has raised threats to challenge results.
Michigan election law has a straightforward process for appointing electors and convening its Electoral College, which does not involve the Legislature. Still, various disputes, such as what does and does not qualify an absentee ballot to be counted, could arise in the state now that voting is over. Late Wednesday, the Trump campaign said that they filed a lawsuit to stop the counting of ballots.
AUSTIN, Texas – ‘News Guide: Trump wins Texas after Democrats eyed inroads’ Acacia Coronado for the Associated Press
President Donald Trump won Texas’ 38 electoral votes Tuesday, after the country’s most reliable red state had a chance of turning blue for the first time in nearly two decades. The 10 million ballots cast in Texas before Election Day surpassed the total number of votes from the 2016 general election, and suggested the state could flip Democrat. Despite Democrats’ hopes, the GOP’s grip remains on Texas, and in-person voting remained its main voting method since Texas did not dramatically expand mail-in voting due to COVID-19, like the majority of the country.
JACKSON, Miss. – ‘Mississippi U.S. reps keep seats, medical marijuana passes’ Leah Willingham for the Associated Press
Mississippi voters reelected all four of its current U.S. House members Tuesday – three republicans and one democrat – as well as three justices to the state Supreme Court. The winner of the race between Justice Kenny Griffis and Court of Appeals Judge Latrice Westbrooks, who would be the first Black woman on the Mississippi Supreme Court, has yet to be decided.
The state also voted in favor of legalizing medical marijuana, and eliminating a Reconstruction-era electoral college provision in races for governor and other offices, which was originally written so that the white ruling class had the final say in who holds office.
SANTA ANA, Calif. – ‘Elections Officials and DA Investigate Alleged “Fake” Vote Center in Westminster’ Brandon Pho for Voice of OC
The Orange County District Attorney and Registrar of Voters announced Tuesday they were investigating an allegedly fraudulent vote center in Westminster. The location was filmed and posted to social media, showing canopies in front of Westminster City Councilwoman Kimberly Ho’s skin care products store, a hand-drawn sign advertising the site as a voting location and what looked like torn up mail-in ballot envelopes inside a box. Ho’s skin care store is not on the Registrar of Voters’ official list of vote centers, and Orange County DA and Registrar of Voter officials responded to the site once Democratic activists reached out after visiting the location.
Under California law, campaigns are allowed to accept ballots from people as long as they commit to deliver them to the local Registrar of Voters within 72 hours, a practice that has generated controversy.
November 2, 2020
AKRON, Ohio – ‘Akron college student fears lost vote after mailed absentee ballot goes missing’ Seyma Bayram for the Akron Beacon Journal
Summit County, Ohio native Jordan Dawson is frustrated that she hasn’t received her absentee ballot yet, despite being mailed out on Oct. 10. Neither Dawson nor the county’s Board of Elections Chairman Bill Rich knows what is causing the delay, but Rich reported that if voters haven’t received their ballots weeks after they’ve been processed, the only other cause is the U.S. Postal Service delays.
The county’s Board of Elections has received other reports from voters missing ballots, but the board has no way of tracking the delivery to and from voters, and the U.S. Postal Service is not sharing data, according to Rich.
SACRAMENTO, Calif. – ‘These Gen Z Latinos are casting a ballot for the first time. What’s on their minds?’ Kimberly Bojórquez for the Sacramento Bee
There are an estimated 2.4 million eligible Latino voters between ages 18-34 in California, and as of Oct. 26, about 325,601 of this cohort have turned in their ballots early, according to vice president of Political Data Inc. Paul Mitchell. This generation is casting their ballots in an election unlike any other, as the COVID-19 pandemic has disproportionately impacted Latino communities.
Bojórquez spoke to five young first-time Latino voters to discover more about why they’re voting, with reasons stemming from unhappiness with Donald Trump, job growth and a civic responsibility.
FORT WORTH, Texas – ‘These DFW cities hold ‘the power’ to turn Texas blue, Beto O’Rourke tells volunteers’ Kailey Broussard for the Fort Worth Star-Telegram
Former Texas Representative Beto O’Rourke urged North Texans on Saturday to vote, stating that this presidential election will be determined by North Texas voters, and Democrats have the best chance in over 20 years to flip the state House blue and give Democratic candidate Joe Biden an edge in electoral college votes.
Arlington and Fort Worth were O’Rourke’s first canvassing stops on Saturday, as part of his latest effort to get people to the polls through his advocacy group Powered by People. Event organizers screened volunteers through temperature checks and screening questions, and asked them to stay in their vehicles.
LANSING, Mich. – ‘Michigan clerks prepare for Tuesday’s election’ Anna Liz Nichols for the Associated Press
More Michigan residents are voting absentee than ever before due to changes made in 2018 to voter laws and health concerns about COVID-19. Over 2.6 million voters have turned in their ballots, but the state is still waiting on almost 700,000 more to be returned.
Lansing City Clerk Chris Swope said he’s finding it easy to let voters know within 48 hours if something is wrong with their absentee ballot, doing it within a few hours so it can be corrected and counted. Still, Michigan Secretary of State Jocelyn Benson is urging voters to drop off their ballots in-person to ensure mail delays don’t cause ballots to not be counted.
October 30, 2020
MINNEAPOLIS – ‘‘Power is the number of voters you have’: Minnesota’s growing Muslim population expands political reach through organizing, activism—and winning.’ Hibah Ansari for the Sahan Journal
Muslims have mobilized in Minnesota—from voting to actually running for office— in new and sophisticated ways that hope to harness their power and have their voices heard. “Muslim political organizers want real political participation—not just friendly mosque visits with the old political establishment,” reports Hibah Ansari.
SALEM, Ore. – ‘More than half of Oregon voters have cast ballots’ Sara Cline for the Associated Press
Oregon is breaking election participation records. With less than a week to go until Election Day, more than half of the registered voters in the state have already cast their ballots, a trend that mirrors the activity in the rest of the country: “As of Sunday, more than 58 million ballots have been cast across the country. Americans’ rush to vote is leading election experts to predict that a record 150 million votes may be cast and turnout rates could be higher than in any presidential election since 1908,” reports Sara Cline.
COLUMBIA, S.C. – ‘Judge: SC cannot reject ballots due to mismatched signatures’ Michelle Liu for the Associated Press
A federal judge in South Carolina ruled Tuesday that local election boards cannot reject voters’ absentee ballots on the basis of mismatched signatures after a recent survey by the South Carolina State Election Commission discovered a handful of county election boards were conducting signature matching on ballots, though the state has no laws, rules or regulations on the practice, reports Michelle Liu.
DENVER, Colo. – ‘Colorado AG says landlord engaged in voter intimidation’ Patty Nieberg for the Associated Press
“Colorado’s attorney general’s office has issued a cease-and-desist letter to the co-owner of a mobile home park who distributed a notice to tenants saying their rent could double if Democrat Joe Biden wins the presidential election,” reports Patty Nieberg.
October 29, 2020
MIAMI, Fla. – ‘Group led by Haitians, including Abner Louima, helps residents to vote’ Samuel Bojarski for The Haitian Times
The Haitian Powerhouse, a newly-formed volunteer group in Miami, opened a space inside a storefront to answer questions from voters, read through ballot measures in Creole, provide transportation to polling stations and hand out Biden-Harris yard signs. The Powerhouse aims to get out the vote among Haitian-Americans and other community members in the vicinity, including Spanish-speaking Latinx community and lower-income Black Americans. In busy days, say the volunteers, they might help 30 or more voters.
MOSINEE, Wis. – ‘Vice President Mike Pence shuns quarantine, rallies Trump crowd at Central Wisconsin Airport in Mosinee’ Renee Hickman for the Wausau Daily Herald
Vice President Mike Pence spoke at Donald Trump’s campaign rally Wednesday at Central Wisconsin Airport in Mosinee, despite CDC advisories suggestion for him to quarantine due to several of his top aides contracting COVID-19. About 300 people gathered at the rally, having temperature checks and masks provided by campaign staff, though many removed their masks after the event began. Pence focused primarily on agriculture and trade and manufacturing, and received applause when he spoke about the administration’s anti-abortion policies, the conservative judges Trump has appointed and, in reference to the current racial justice protests, a pledge that a second-term Trump administration would “back the blue for four more years.”
Trump and Democratic candidate Joe Biden both announced campaign visits to Wisconsin on Friday; Trump will be at Austin Straubel International Airport in Green Bay, while Biden has not announced a location.
BILLINGS, Mont. – ‘Majority Of Absentee Ballots Already Returned In Montana’ Kevin Trevellyan for Yellowstone Public Radio
More than 440,000 absentee ballots in Montana had been submitted as of Wednesday afternoon, according to the secretary of state’s office, representing almost 68 percent of all ballots sent to voters this year. Already, county elections officials have received more than 75% of the total votes cast during the 2016 presidential election.
Montana State University political scientist Eric Raile says voter turnout could be boosted by voters’ strong views about the COVID-19 pandemic, and that the final turnout tally will depend largely on young and independent voters.
- Related: For Yellowstone Public Radio, Trevellyan reports Montana counties will begin preparing absentee ballots for counting starting today, thanks to a law passed in 2019 that allows county staff to start processing ballots up to three business days before Election Day. Missoula County Elections Administrator Bradley Seaman reported that his department has already received over two thirds of the ballots it sent out, and that this extra time to count “will be critical to getting timely and accurate results.”
SANTA ANA, Calif. – ‘How to Adjust Voter Access When Wildfires Interrupt Your Local Election’ Brandon Pho for Voice of OC
Orange County wildfires erupted Monday, resulting in the closure of two ballot drop-off boxes due to their proximity to danger zones. A pop-up voting site at the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints was also canceled Wednesday because of its location in a voluntary evacuation area.
The closure of ballot boxes has come as Orange County residents are returning their mail ballots at an “unheard of” rate, according to the county’s Registrar of Voters Neal Kelley. Registrar data shows more than 683,000 voters already cast their ballot as of Wednesday. Kelley reported that the major challenge is figuring out where new vote centers near those hazard zone areas are going to go. The switched locations should be announced online starting Oct. 30, according to the Registrar’s website.
October 28, 2020
CHARLOTTE, N.C. – ‘Breaking Down Latino Voter Registration And Turnout Gaps In North Carolina’ Laura Brache for WFAE 90.7
North Carolina is home to nearly one million Latinos, but only about one in three are eligible to vote, according to the Pew Research Center. Of those, about a third haven’t registered. The Latin American Coalition in Charlotte is making efforts to get Latinos to register and vote, by connecting with the population personally, and providing resources for childcare so they can wait in lines to vote, and resources that allow them to take hours out of their workday.
More than 225,000 Latinos are registered to vote this year in North Carolina, a 37% increase from 2016’s 164,000 registered. Still, that potentially leaves around 113,000 of that population’s voters whose voices won’t be heard at the polls.
MILWAUKEE, Wis. – ‘‘2016 was the wake-up call’:’ Black voters in Milwaukee turn out for early voting after turnout decline 4 years ago’ Sarah Volpenhein for the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel
In Wednesday’s early voting line on Milwaukee’s north side, resident Brian Diggs explained how the 2016 election made people realize the importance of their vote. In the last general election, citywide turnout dropped from around 70% in 2012, to roughly 61% of voting-age residents, declining by much more in majority-Black neighborhoods. This year, the Democratic Party is hoping for a big turnout in Milwaukee, especially on the north side, where Black voters mostly side with Democrats. The push is for early absentee voting, and as of Monday, almost 113,000 of the nearly 152,000 ballots requested have been returned.
The Milwaukee Journal Sentinel talks with Black voters over the first days of early voting, many of whom seemed more motivated by voting Trump out rather than Joe Biden’s candidacy. Claire Assana, who stood in line with Diggs, said she’s not thrilled about her options, but in regard to voting, “It’s more of a civic duty.”
LEXINGTON, Ky. – ‘Trump promised to revive KY coal. He didn’t, but he’s still expected to win ‘huge.’’ Liz Moomey and Bill Estep for the Lexington Herald Leader
President Donald Trump did not save coal jobs in Eastern Kentucky as he vowed to in the 2016 election, capitalizing on the region’s desperation, but that broken promise will not hurt his chances of winning those coal counties in the upcoming election, according to local officials and political observers in the region. Many Kentucky residents still give Trump credit for his efforts to revive the coal industry, and local officials said many voters in Kentucky coal country see Democratic candidate Joe Biden as far less friendly to the industry.
Regardless of coal, several local officials said most Eastern Kentucky voters will remain supporting Trump because they are conservative, and closer to him, politically, than to Biden on many issues. Trumps support for gun rights, opposition to abortion and alliance with Christian evangelicals resonate with many voters in the region.
CARSON CITY, Nev. – ‘Trump campaign sues in Nevada to stop Vegas-area vote count’ Ken Ritter and Sam Metz for the Associated Press
The Trump campaign and Nevada Republicans filed a lawsuit Friday asking to stop the count of Clark County mail-in ballots, due to claims that observers haven’t been allowed close enough to workers and machines at the vote-counting center to determine whether ballots should be rejected. The lawsuit accuses Clark County Registrar of Voters Joe Gloria of failing to get proper approval for his plan to accommodate observers, and seeks to stop the ballot count until proper procedures are put in place. Judge James Wilson in Carson City scheduled a hearing for Wednesday.
Nevada Democrats called the lawsuit an effort to suppress votes in the state’s most diverse, Democratic-leaning county, that has more than 70% of the nearly 1.75 million active voters in the state.