Florida Criminals Voting, Election Websites, Department of Justice Policies and more – ProPublica


Electionland 2020: Florida Criminals Vote, Election Websites, DOJ Politics & More

This week’s headlines on wearing masks at the polls, ongoing litigation and misinformation.

New from ProPublica

Florida gutting landmark law leaves few criminals likely to vote

State officials do not know how many criminals are registered or eligible to vote. So we did our own analysis and found that only a very small percentage of them will be able to vote this election. Some could be prosecuted if they do. Read the Tampa Bay Times and ProPublica article.

DOJ frees federal prosecutors to take action that could interfere with election, weakening long-standing policy

In an internal announcement, the Justice Department created an exception to a decades-old policy designed to prevent prosecutors from taking overt investigative steps that could affect the outcome of the vote. Read the story.

Justice Department may have violated Attorney General Barr’s own policy brief

In a May memo, the attorney general reminded Justice Department prosecutors to avoid partisan politics. Then an American lawyer in Pennsylvania announced an election inquiry that had partisan overtones. Read the story.

Your guide to voting in Illinois

Everything you need to know about local election deadlines, what the pandemic has changed, and vote to make it count. Read the story.

Vote by mail

  • The Postal Service is reporting some of its worst mail delays since operations stalled in July and August, according to internal documents filed in federal court. On-time delivery of first-class mail – which includes postal ballots and other election materials – fell 4.5% over a two-week period this fall, but magazine and marketing mail deliveries were not affected. The USPS did not explain the disparity. (CNN)
  • Texas Gov. Greg Abbott has issued an order that will limit the places for depositing mail-in ballots to one per county. Observers supporting the polls will also be allowed to monitor these sites, Abbott said, in an effort to “ensure greater transparency.” (Texas Tribune)
  • After losing a lawsuit, the Ohio secretary of state said counties can now each install more than one ballot box, but new ballot boxes can only be placed at the county seat of elections. (Cincinnati Applicant)
  • A printing house in Rochester, New York, defended its political leanings and accused a computer glitch of improperly printing the return envelopes of ballots for thousands of voters in Brooklyn and Long Island. (Rochester Democrat & Chronicle, The city)
  • The North Carolina Board of Elections is asking voters to ignore more than 11,000 ballot requests that were pre-populated with incorrect information and sent in by a third-party vendor. (WBTV)
  • Thousands of voters in Gwinnett County, Ga., Are waiting longer than usual for their mail-in ballots after the county expanded its envelopes as part of a court settlement. Envelopes now have a larger font and clearer instructions, but they take longer to process. (Atlanta Newspaper Incorporation)
  • The Volusia County, Florida chief of elections said it was perfectly legal to seal ballot envelopes with duct tape, after some first-time mail voters struggled with the duct tape. (Daytona Beach News-Journal)
  • But the Cottage Grove, Wisconsin, clerk warned the taped envelopes could be flagged as suspicious or fraudulent. A state election spokesperson clarified that this generally applies to ballots that have clearly been reopened and then sealed. (Herald-Independent)
  • Michigan election officials will be allowed to begin preparing ballots on the morning of Nov. 2, before the official count on election day. (WNDU)
  • Voters in the remote community of Torrey, Utah, are trying to figure out how to vote in the state’s mail-order election after their only post office closes. (Spectrum)
  • More than 25 states use “signature matching” to verify ballots against existing registration files and prevent fraud. But even when multiple judges or software are deployed, results can vary widely. An election expert said consistency is key. (The New York Times)

Election website issues

  • The Pennsylvania polling site went down for more than 40 hours this weekend. (Philadelphia Investigator)
  • One-third of electoral websites in Kansas and Missouri counties are not secure, according to an analysis by The Beacon. (Lighthouse)
  • Technological failures in Florida’s online voter registration tool frustrated people trying to register to vote. The website crashed on the last day to register for the November 3 election. State officials blamed an improperly configured computer server for the problem. (Miami Herald, PA)
  • Florida officials have responded by extending the registration deadline by one day, while an advocacy group has filed a lawsuit to give voters more time. (WMFE, Tallahassee Democrat)

Voting in person

  • On Monday, Detroit opened 23 satellite centers for early voting, as well as seven mail-order boxes, after problems with its August primary. (WZXY)
  • As the GOP prepares to deploy 50,000 carefully trained election volunteers, the president’s rhetoric continues to raise concerns about voter intimidation. The Republican effort reportedly stationed monitors at traditional polling stations alongside early voting sites and ballot boxes. (The New York Times, Reuters)
  • Election administrators, law enforcement and federal officials are increasingly concerned about the possibility of disruption, and even violence, on Election Day. (The New York Times, The Washington Post)
  • Georgetown Law has created fact sheets on each state’s laws regarding private militias and what to do if they are in a polling station or in a registration campaign. The Giffords Law Center has published a state-by-state guide to laws relating to voter intimidation and the carrying of firearms in polling stations (Georgetown Law, Giffords Law Center)
  • Iowa unveiled an updated voter registration form that reflects an August executive order that restored voting rights for thousands of criminals in the state. (Register of Monks)
  • In Milwaukee, Wisconsin, libraries serve as early voting sites, house ballot boxes, and offer voters a place to get help registering, requesting a mail ballot and more. (Milwaukee Journal Sentinel)
  • At least 33 states are asking voters to wear masks at the polls this year and are wondering how to react when voters refuse. (ABC News)
  • For voters who refuse to wear a mask inside their polling station, Connecticut plans to offer a curbside option. (The Middletown Press)
  • The Broward County, Florida commission is urging its election supervisor to separate unmasked voters. (Sentinel of the Sun)

The latest information on disinformation

  • President Donald Trump’s baseless comments about corruption at the polls in Philadelphia prompted city officials to brace for possible voter intimidation on election day. (Philadelphia Investigator)
  • Almost all of the claims about postal voting made by Trump in the first presidential debate were partially or totally inaccurate, according to a fact check by CNN. (CNN)
  • False beliefs about voter fraud are largely fueled by conservative political elites and mass media who repeat Trump’s claims, without presenting them as disinformation, according to a new discussion paper. (Berkman Klein Center)
  • The Michigan Secretary of State has asked the state attorney general to investigate a GOP press release making allegations about an unlocked ballot box, saying the party was spreading disinformation. (Detroit News)
  • The Alabama Secretary of State has asked voters to ignore direct mail from a third-party group in Texas telling them they are not registered to vote. (AL.com)
  • Officials in Pope County, Arkansas, have warned voters to be wary of a phone scam asking people for their Social Security numbers in order to receive a mail ballot. (Arkansas Democrats Gazette)
  • Two Tory agents have been charged with felonies over robocalls aimed at dissuading Detroit residents in predominantly black areas from voting by mail. (Associated press)

The last trials

Any newsroom can apply to be part of Electionland. We are looking for newsrooms – especially local newsrooms – that will dedicate resources to covering voting issues in the 2020 election. Journalists on radio, television, online and in print are all encouraged to apply. Register here.


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