This year’s election is taking place during a year of historic events in the United States. The coronavirus pandemic continues to infect tens of thousands of Americans every day; unemployment remains at record-shattering highs; the largest racial justice protests since the 1960s continue in the wake of police killings of unarmed Black Americans; and climate change has unleashed scores of hurricanes, storms, floods, and historic wildfires from coast to coast.
And now, the country votes.
Early turnout numbers suggest that Americans are more eager to vote than ever. However, Republican politicians across the country have set up roadblocks to voting—demanding witnesses as voters sign absentee ballots; scaling down ballot dropoff locations in heavily populated districts; setting up illegal ballot collection points; devising naked ballot restrictions; and illegally threatening to send uncertified groups of poll watchers to election sites across the country.
COURIER Newsroom and its sister sites across the United States are monitoring active court cases that could expand or restrict voter access. We are also bringing you up-to-date information on where problems are arising as early voting gets underway and when Election Day starts. Bookmark this page and check back often—your vote this year matters more than it has ever before.
November 3, 2020 // 7:15 PM
Georgia’s election results may be delayed, after absentee ballot processing at State Farm Arena in Atlanta was delayed by four hours after a water pipe burst in a room.
No ballots were damaged, according to officials, but the county has only scanned about 86,000 of the more than 130,000 absentee ballots received, not including those ballots received today.
Full results from the county, which lean heavily Democratic, may not be reported until Friday. — Keya Vakil
NOVEMBER 3, 2020 // 6:05 PM
Voters in two Texas counties will have an extra hour to vote after technological glitches caused a roughly 90-minute delay in opening polling locations this morning.
Hidalgo County and Upshur County extended their voting deadlines until 8 p.m. Central time.
Despite those issues, voting in the state appeared to be proceeding smoothly on Tuesday. Texas already surpassed its 2016 turnout in early voting and is on track for record turnout, despite being the most difficult state in the nation to vote. The state could see as many as 12 million or more voters and the once-ruby red state is now considered a toss-up. If it flips blue, Texas would all but certainly hand Democratic candidate Joe Biden a decisive victory in the electoral college. — Keya Vakil
NOVEMBER 3, 2020 // 5:34 PM
The Trump campaign and the Nevada Republican Party on Tuesday filed a last-minute, desperate emergency motion asking the Nevada Supreme Court to stop the processing of some mail-in ballots in Clark County, the state’s largest county.
The campaign wants the court to prevent the county, which is home to about 70% of Nevada voters, from submitting ballots that have some sort of defect into the ballot counting machines and instead have observers monitor that process.
The campaign is also asking for the court to increase access for observers to monitor the processing of mail ballots to ensure that ballots are properly verified, arguing without evidence that the current system used to check signatures, which relies on artificial intelligence, could lead to fraud. Instead, Trump and GOP officials want humans to verify signatures, at least while they pursue their case.
The filing comes one day after a Nevada judge rejected a request from the Trump campaign and Nevada Republicans seeking to halt mail-in ballot counting in Clark County, which leans heavily Democratic. The GOP asked for more access to the ballot counting process and for the county to stop using an electronic ballot-sorting system. Their argument proved unsuccessful.
“There is no evidence that any vote that should lawfully be counted has or will not be counted. There is no evidence that any vote that lawfully should not be counted has or will be counted. There is no evidence that any election worker did anything outside of the law, policy, or procedures,” Carson City District Court Judge James Wilson said. — Keya Vakil
NOVEMBER 3, 2020 // 5:23 PM
A historically red state, Texas has seen record Democratic voter turnout in recent years, prompting hopes that Texas could finally turn blue. And with more Texans voting during early voting than in the total turnout for the 2016 general election, it’s likely going to be the closest presidential race the state has seen.
But some have argued that high voter turnout is simply a reflection of the expanded early voting period in Texas this year. As of now, the statistical analysis website FiveThirtyEight has Trump slightly favored to win Texas.
Still, the battle wages on. Texas, and Harris County specifically, have recently been in the news due to the GOP-led lawsuit aimed at tossing out nearly 127,000 votes that were cast at drive-thru polling sites in the largely Democratic county. However, only one of those drive-thru sites is open to voters today, as Harris County Clerk Chris Hollins feared votes from the other nine sites may be tossed out after the fact.
The newest election-related issue to come out of Texas is in Tarrant County, which encompasses the Fort Worth area west of Dallas, where officials are warning of coronavirus-related staffing shortages that could lead to vote-processing delays.
On the ground coverage in Texas is largely showing short voting lines, but given the record turnout, it may be awhile before we know what color Texas is this year. — Lara Grant
NOVEMBER 3, 2020 // 4:58 PM
The United States Postal Service failed to meet a deadline set by US district judge to sweep processing facilities across the country, including locations in six key swing states, and immediately deliver remaining mail ballots.
Judge Emmet G. Sullivan’s midday order instructed inspectors to survey facilities in central Pennsylvania, Philadelphia, Detroit, Atlanta, Houston, south Florida, Arizona, and a handful of other locations no later than 3 p.m. Eastern time. Inspectors were asked to file a status update certifying they complied with the order and that no ballots were left behind by no later than 4:30 p.m. Eastern.
In its update, the agency said it was unable to comply with the order. In explaining its failure, the USPS told The Hill‘s John Kruzel that there are “only one or two inspectors in any one facility, and thus they do not have the ability to personally scour the entire facility. Indeed, doing so would be impractical (given the size of that facility)…and would take them away from their other pressing election Mail- related responsibilities.”
The agency will have inspectors in the affected facilities “throughout the evening,” but many states included in the order have ballot return deadlines of tonight, meaning ballots not delivered by then could be invalidated.
Sullivan issued his order after the USPS said in court that about 300,000 ballots it received had not been scanned for delivery. But as VICE News reporter Aaron Gordon reported, this alone is not a reason to worry, because USPS has been pulling ballots out of the system in order to deliver them faster.
The order focused on postal districts that have struggled to deliver ballots on time in recent days, as well as states that will not count mail-in ballots received after Election Day. Sullivan’s ruling came in response to a lawsuit filed by groups such as Vote Forward, a voting rights organization, and Latino community organizations. — Keya Vakil
NOVEMBER 3, 2020 // 4:44 PM
Two polling locations in DeKalb County, Georgia will stay open past their original 7 p.m. closing times Tuesday after county election officials ordered an extension following technical issues earlier this morning.
The precinct at Valley Brook Baptist Church (1198 N. Valley Brook Road, Decatur) will stay open until 7:40 p.m, while the precinct at Obama Elementary School (3132 Clifton Church Road SE, Atlanta) will now be open until 7:45 p.m. Any voter in line at either location before the new deadlines will be allowed to cast their ballots.
DeKalb Superior Court Judge Courtney L. Johnson signed the petition extending voting hours, the Atlanta Journal-Constitution reported. According to the petition, both precincts “experienced time periods without voting due to an inability to operate the poll pads as designed, preventing voters from casting their ballots.”
Poll pads are the tablets used to check voters into their precincts.
“This extension was requested, in an abundance of caution, to ensure that all electors at the locations have the required full 12 hours of voting,” a press release said.
Elsewhere in the state, polling hours at Spoke Creek Elementary School in Cobb County will now be open an additional 20 minutes tonight, until 7:20 p.m. Eastern time. Hours at the Houston County Annex polling location in Houston County have also been extended to 7:40 p.m. Eastern time. — Keya Vakil
NOVEMBER 3, 2020 // 3:51 PM
Voters in North Carolina will have to wait a little longer tonight to learn the results from the state’s first batch of ballots, as the North Carolina State Board of Elections extended voting times at four precincts across three counties that experienced delays this morning. A polling place in Sampson County received the longest extension of 45 minutes, meaning that voting at that location will end at 8:15 p.m. instead of 7:30. As a result, the state will delay reporting results until that poll closes at 8:15.
The Board’s 3-2 vote to extend voting hours was issued along party lines, with Democrats in favor and Republicans opposed.
NOVEMBER 2, 2020 // 12:07 PM
President Trump continued to question the legitimacy of voting by mail and said he will send his lawyers to stop ballot counting after Election Day, even though legal military ballots and other absentee votes have traditionally been counted for weeks after the election.
During a campaign stop in North Carolina, Trump said he will send in his lawyers to fight any counting disputes that might arise after polls close on Election Day.
In recent weeks, Trump has fought to have ballots that are received after Election Day thrown out, even if they are postmarked before Nov. 3. He has whined about recent Supreme Court decisions that allow states like Pennsylvania and North Carolina to accept ballots that arrive soon after election day.
“I think it was a terrible decision for our country. And I think it was a very dangerous decision for our country,” Trump said. “Because you’re going to have one or two or three states, depending on how it ends up, where they’re tabulating ballots and the rest of the world is waiting to find out. And I think there’s great danger to it, and I think a lot of fraud and misuse can take place. I think it’s a terrible decision by the Supreme Court. A terrible decision.”
OCTOBER 30, 2020 // 11:30 AM
A three-judge panel of the 8th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals ruled Thursday that Minnesota absentee ballots arriving after Election Day should be separated from other ballots in case they are later invalidated by a final court order. The ruling doesn’t block Minnesota’s seven-day extension for counting absentee ballots outright, but puts the grace period in danger.
The ruling doesn’t impact ballots received by the time polls close on Election Day, but sets the stage for post-election litigation. The case was sent back to a lower court for more proceedings.
“What the court left unsettled was the question of whether, once and for all and finally, ballots will or won’t be counted if received after Tuesday, Nov. 3,” Minnesota Secretary of State Steve Simon said.
Given that lack of clarity, voters in Minnesota—and elsewhere around the United States—should no longer mail in their ballots. Ballots should be dropped off in person instead, due to ongoing court cases that Republicans are waging to suppress the vote, and regional delays in USPS delivery times.
“Just five days before election day, and Republicans surely heading for defeat at the polls, the Republican Party is responsible for potentially disenfranchising thousands of Minnesotans who were prepared to vote by mail in the coming days,” state party Chairman Ken Martin said. — Associated Press
OCTOBER 22, 2020 // UPDATED 6:10 PM EDT
Chief Justice John Roberts and the conservative wing of the Supreme Court ruled to stop counties in Alabama from offering curbside voting. The suit was brought by the NAACP and others who sought curbside voting options to help elderly and disabled voters. Voting indoors for them during the coronavirus pandemic could present higher risks than for others.
Deuel Ross, senior counsel for the NAACP Legal Defense and Educational Fund, which brought the lawsuit, said he was disappointed, noting that there is nothing in state or federal law that prohibits this “very common means of people being able to vote.”
“Over a third of Alabama voters are high-risk individuals who are more susceptible to death or serious illness from COVID-19, and the [Centers for Disease Control and Prevention] has recommended curbside voting as a means for people not to interact with other individuals,” Ross said in a telephone interview.
In her dissent, Justice Sonia Sotomayor noted: “This remedy respects both the right of voters with disabilities to vote safely and the State’s interest in orderly elections.” The Court’s majority did not offer a written opinion.
Curbside voting has also been an issue in Texas. However, the Texas 14th Court of Appeals threw out a lawsuit brought by Republicans seeking to restrict curbside, or drive-through, voting. State GOP officials appealed the case to the Texas Supreme Court, but the court rejected their appeal.
Curbside, or drive-through, voting are legal in Texas. However, according to the Texas Tribune, Republicans do not believe that the risk of contracting the coronavirus qualifies under that law. That assertion comes despite COVID-19 cases in Texas increasing by 16% over the last two-week period, according to the New York Times. —Kyle Valenta with additional reporting by the Associated Press
OCTOBER 20, 2020 // 11:30 AM EDT
SCOTUS Denies PA GOP’s Request to Stop Extended Mail-In Ballot Deadline. But It’s Not All Good News.
Yesterday, the United States Supreme Court allowed Pennsylvania to accept mail-in ballots for three days after Election Day, Nov. 3. In a split 4-4 decision, the Court’s lack of a majority opinion means that a ruling by the Pennsylvania State Supreme Court stands. The state Supreme Court ruled that mail-in ballots in Pennsylvania—a key state in the 2020 election—could be accepted until three days after Election Day. Republicans in Pennsylvania opposed the extended deadline. While on the surface the ruling expands enfranchisement in the state, there are fears that Judge Amy Coney Barrett’s confirmation to the Supreme Court could ultimately see the extension—and other efforts to expand the vote—curtailed if it’s brought before the Court again. READ MORE HERE.
OCTOBER 15, 2020 // 11:30 AM EDT
The Pennsylvania Elections Officials Making Sure Every Vote Counts
Keystone Newsroom’s Patrick Abdalla explains how election officials throughout Pennsylvania are working to make sure they don’t become the Florida of the 2020 election. It includes details on how officials in Bucks County, Allegheny County and Philadelphia are coordinating poll workers, educating voters on the state’s “naked ballots,” setting up secure drop boxes, and, in one office, wrangling a massive ballot sorting machine known as “The Dragon.” READ MORE HERE
OCTOBER 9, 2020 // 2:37 PM EDT
Texas Governor Sued for Closing Ballot Drop-Off Boxes
The Americano’s Araceli Cruz reports on a lawsuit against Texas Gov. Greg Abbott, who is limiting Texas counties to having only one ballot drop off location per county, meaning some voters will have to travel long distances to reach them. The League of United Latin American Citizens (LULAC) is bringing the suit, but the biggest problem is that early voting has already started in Texas. READ MORE HERE
SEPTEMBER 23, 2020 // 12:26 AM EDT
Virginia Election Officials Say Intimidation Will Be Punished
After a group supporting President Donald Trump held a raucous rally at a Fairfax, Virginia early voting location, elections officials told Dogwood, COURIER’s sister site in Virginia, that no voter should ever be afraid to cast a ballot. Several state and local officials went beyond that, Brian Carlton writes, saying that anyone who intimidates or harasses voters would be punished. READ MORE HERE
SEPTEMBER 15, 2020 // 10:12 AM EDT
Democratic Nominee Joe Biden and His Campaign Aren’t Leaving Anything to Chance
Democratic presidential nominee Joe Biden has built a legal dream team designed to ensure every legally cast vote is counted during the 2020 presidential election. Court cases over voting access and rights have cropped up all over the country, and dozens more are expected through (and possibly after) Election Day. The legal team Biden has assembled includes two former solicitors general, a former attorney general, and an Obama-era White House general counsel. READ MORE HERE