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Lawsuits expected; how to track ballots

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An estimated 100 million ballots were already cast before the first poll sites opened on one of the most divisive and bizarre Election Days in modern history.

Mike Roman, President Donald Trump’s director of Election Day Operations, has organized an army of volunteers to monitor voting in Democratic-leaning areas on Tuesday. The Trump campaign claims to have enlisted 50,000 poll watchers, many of them registered through an “Army For Trump” website that asks his supporters to “enlist” in his reelection fight. The campaign has full-time staff in at least 11 battleground states to organize the effort.

Experts say that in addition to stirring up conspiracy theories, such efforts can be designed to discourage voters from turning out.

Some context: Without evidence, Trump has relentlessly cast doubt on the security of the election, particularly mail-in ballots. On Monday he warned that a Supreme Court decision allowing some absentee ballots to be received after Election Day in battleground Pennsylvania would prompt “rampant” cheating and “violence in the streets.”

Challenger Joe Biden has blasted Republican efforts as voter suppression.

“It’s time for Donald Trump to pack his bags and go home,” Biden told supporters in Pennsylvania.

There was some good news: Department of Homeland Security officials said Tuesday that there was no indication that foreign interference had compromised early voting and reaffirmed that the American election system was secure.

USA TODAY is keeping track of what’s happening as voters around the country cast ballots. Here are some important resources today:

Here is our promise to you: We’ll be monitoring polling places nationwide, correcting misinformation and providing accurate results. More from USA TODAY’s Editor-in-Chief Nicole Carroll.

Historic early voting: Numbers compiled by the U.S. Elections Project website show at least 99.6 million people have already voted. USA TODAY’s politics team has the latest updates from the campaign trail here.

Michigan’s Attorney General condemns efforts to mislead voters via robocalls

In multiple tweets Tuesday, Attorney General Dana Nessel cautioned voters against assorted misinformation campaigns surrounding Election Day. One text targeting voters in the Dearborn area, per the Washington Post, wrongly advises voters “intending on voting for Joe Biden” to vote for Trump — and vice versa — due to “ballot sensor issues.” A robocall being delivered to Flint-area voters falsely tells them “they should vote tomorrow” due to long lines in the area.

“No long lines and today is the last day to vote,” she wrote in the tweet. “Don’t believe the lies! Have your voice heard!”

Joshua Bote

Watchdog group fields intimidation, mask, technology complaints

The Lawyers’ Committee for Civil Rights Under Law, which has filed about 30 lawsuits to expand voting access this election season, detailed a series of hotline calls in the first few hours of voting today. Executive Director Kristen Clarke said the highest call volume was coming from Pennsylvania, Florida and Michigan, with Pennsylvania accounting for 15% of traffic. Many of the callers reported technology issues, people having trouble accessing poll sites, sites that opened late or voter ID and registration issues, Clarke said.

“We’ve also received complaints about voter intimidation and yelling about mask requirements,” she said.

Grace Hauck

Wolf dismisses Trump criticism over mail-in ballots

Pennsylvania Gov. Tom Wolf shrugged off menacing statements directed his way from President Donald Trump, saying Pennsylvanians “will not be intimidated. You can watch us count every vote and have a fair election.”

The president, outraged over state rules for mail-in ballots, used one of his last pitches to Pennsylvanians to sow doubt in the state’s democratic process. “Governor, please don’t cheat, because we’re all watching,” Trump said. “We’re all watching you, governor. We have a lot of eyes on the governor.”

As of early Tuesday morning, only one case of election fraud had been reported in Pennsylvania – a Republican man in Luzerne County tried to fill out a ballot for his dead mother.

Candy Woodall

Easy does it: How to avoid being overcome by election misinformation

Distortions and flat-out lies are expected to flow swiftly Tuesday and in the election’s aftermath as the misinformation age threatens to disrupt civil discourse and cause Americans to question the results. To avoid being fooled by misinformation – besides getting your news from this blog – is to take a mental step back during breaking news, experts say. Read more here.

“Be careful with making snap judgments based on information that is clearly a developing situation,” said Katy Byron, program manager of journalism nonprofit The Poynter Institute’s MediaWise, a fact-checking training organization. “The most misinformation that gets shared is during breaking news stories, developing stories – and the election and the results are that on steroids.”

Nathan Bomey

News from polling sites across the nation:

  • In Chicago, Rasul Freelin, a police sergeant, said he and his son Diata Freelin, 18, had no concerns about voter intimidation at the polls: “We lived in this community. I’ve been here for 20 years, so I felt very confident that it would be safe.”
  • In Pennsylvania, 300 people wrapped around the building and throughout a parking lot at a Doylestown senior center where polls opened about 15 minutes late because of technical issues.
  • In Washington, D.C., at the University of the District of Columbia, Kendra Washington, 37, said it felt compelled to vote in person. “I didn’t trust the mail-in voting process. I wanted to know that it would count. Mail gets lost, people throw away ballots, and I’ve had issues with mail in the past.”

North Carolina’s early voting smashes state record

Early and mail-in voting in North Carolina set a record of 4.57 million ballots locked in before Election Day dawned, a number already approaching the roughly 4.7 million ballots cast in the entire 2016 election. The state elections board will begin reporting unofficial results shortly after 7:30 p.m., and it expects at least 97% of all ballots will be reported Tuesday night.

Because of the logistics of collecting the ballots and delivering them to county election offices in rural areas, “we may be late into the night, but we will be as expeditious as we possibly can in those returns,” said Karen Brinson Bell, executive director of the N.C. State Board of Elections.

Brian Gordon and Paul Woolverton

Twitter labels Trump tweet ‘misleading’

Twitter posted a warning label on an election-eve tweet from President Donald Trump noting that his assertion that a recent Supreme Court decision could lead to problems in the election is misleading. Trump has repeatedly slammed a Supreme Court decision last week that will allow some absentee ballots to be received after Election Day in the battleground state of Pennsylvania. In a tweet Monday, Trump warned it would prompt “rampant” cheating and “violence in the streets.”

There is no evidence that either outcome is likely and the court’s decision was limited. The 4-4 decision allowed ballots that were postmarked by Election Day – or ballots with illegible postmarks – to be received through Nov. 6, three days after the election.

John Fritze and Courtney Subramanian

Ohio county overwhelmed by early voters forced to use paper pollbooks

Ohio’s Franklin County, home to the capital and largest city of Columbus, was compelled to use paper pollbooks for Election Day, a move that could make the voting process slower in Ohio’s largest county.

Electronic pollbooks allow poll workers to quickly check in voters at their precinct polling location, but problems uploading the most recent data overnight prompted the county Board of Elections to make the change.

An updated electronic file containing data about who voted early was too large because of the unprecedented level of early voting in Franklin County, officials said. A record number of absentee ballots and early votes were cast in Franklin County, where 53% of its 833,000 registered voters had cast ballots as of Monday evening.

Rick Rouan, The Columbus Dispatch

More news from polling sites across the nation:

  • In New York City, Ulysses Ware, 58, said he tried to get a ballot by mail, but he said it never came. He wasn’t too worried at the polling site in Brooklyn, though. The process was quick and safe, he said.
  • In Texas, Sister Socorro Arenas, 48, originally from Puebla, Mexico, has lived in the U.S. for 20 years. “I have been thinking about what is best for El Paso and the United States,” she said. “I voted for Biden.” But George Chavez, 42, said was a lifelong Democrat before he voted for Trump in 2016 and he plans to vote Trump again Tuesday.

Extremist groups threaten to disrupt polling sites

President Donald Trump, who has falsely claimed voter fraud is widespread, has called for an army of poll watchers to ensure the election is fair. Right-wing extremist groups have signaled they plan to heed the call. Left-wing groups have vowed to confront people they believe are engaged in voter suppression.

Extremist groups are planning actions in key states, including Michigan, Pennsylvania and Wisconsin, according to the Institute for Research and Education on Human Rights, which has been tracking extremists on social media.

The leader of a right-wing extremist group in Georgia said he has “troops” ready to descend on polling places if he hears reports of voter fraud.

“We’re going in undercover to start with,” Justin Thayer said. “We don’t want to intimidate anyone, and we’re not aligned with any political party, but if we do discover fraud, we have guys on standby, and if we need to shut down a precinct, we will.”

Donovan Slack and Will Carless

Was my ballot counted? There’s a link to track your vote

Only 19 states have a process requiring election officials to notify voters if problems occur with their ballots and offer an opportunity to fix them, according to Votingrightslab.org.

But 47 states and the District of Columbia have portals that allow voters to track the status of their ballot, the National Vote at Home Institute reports. In the majority of states, all voters have access to a statewide ballot tracking system.

Entering your name, address, date of birth and other details into the portal will allow you to see the status of the ballot. Here is how to track a ballot in your state.

Clash between marchers, police in North Carolina prompts lawsuit

The constitutional rights of pre-Election Day protesters must be protected from the Alamance County Sheriff’s department and the police department in Graham, North Carolina, a lawsuit filed in federal court claims. Marchers and voters clashed with police Saturday, after sheriff’s deputies used pepper spray to break up a demonstration that planned to lead voters to the polls on the last day of early voting. Police said they were attempting to clear streets for traffic.

“The assault on peaceful demonstrators in Graham, North Carolina, shocks the conscience and is an astounding display of police violence perpetrated against Black people and other supporters in the final moments of the general election,” said Kristen Clarke, president and executive director of the Lawyers’ Committee for Civil Rights Under Law. “Racially motivated attacks on peaceful demonstrators are a grotesque form of voter intimidation and these acts of violence should have no place in our democracy.”

Two early-voting New Hampshire towns split between Trump, Biden

Two tiny New Hampshire communities that vote for president just after the stroke of midnight on Election Day cast their ballots – and split for their favorites. Dixville Notch cast five votes for former Vice President Joe Biden in a shutout for President Donald Trump. But in Millsfield, 12 miles to the south, Trump won 16 votes to Biden’s five.

Unlike past years, a crush of media couldn’t watch the results revealed because of concerns about having too many people inside because of the coronavirus pandemic. And a third community, Hart’s Location, decided against midnight voting this year because of the virus.

Chris Woodyard

Harris County, Texas, closes all but one drive-through vote centers

Harris County, Texas, is going to close nine of its 10 drive-through voting locations Tuesday despite having won a court victory on Monday that ensures almost 127,000 Houston-area votes will be counted, pending appeal.

County Clerk Chris Hollins tweeted that although he believes drive-through voting is “a safe and convenient option for Harris County voters,” he noted U.S. District Judge Andrew Hanen’s belief that the tents used for most of the voting locations do not qualify as buildings, as required to be polling places.

“I cannot in good faith encourage voters to cast their ballots in tents if that puts their votes at risk,” Hollins wrote. The only drive-through voting center will be the Toyota Center.

Illegal voting in battleground Wisconsin? It’s not a thing

Amid the nationwide paranoia over voting fraud, a study of illegal voting in Wisconsin determined that it pretty much just doesn’t happen. The Wisconsin Elections Commission identified 158 suspected cases referred to 46 county prosecutors from 2016 to 2018. Even if all of them were actually illegal votes, the number is a minute fraction of ballots cast.

The highest number of referrals came in the 2018 general election after the elections commission expanded its capability to detect fraud. The 58 suspected cases out of 2.7 million votes cast represents 0.002% of all votes, or about 1 in every 46,000. Most of the issues, it turned out, were from errors and not fraud.

“In case after case and time after time, allegations of material numbers of people intentionally committing vote fraud, they just don’t withstand any scrutiny,” said Kenneth Mayer, professor of American politics at the University of Wisconsin.

Eric Litke, Milwaukee Journal Sentinel

Election problems: What to keep in mind

This cheat sheet from Columbia Journalism Review offers tips for media organizations reporting on Election 2020 that are a good reminder of what to expect on Election Day.

  • Voting problems aren’t failures. They happen every year and, as CJR notes, hiccups such as voting machines not working or polling places opening late don’t mean anything is “rigged.”
  • Some problems, however, are significant. CJR recommends the media scrutinize areas that have a history of voter suppression or obstructing minority voters, calling out Georgia as a place to monitor.
  • Don’t expect a winner on Election Night. This year is different because mail-in ballots could be as high as 30%. Previously, that number was 3%-5%. It will take a while to tally.
  • Seriously, expect to wait. State vote certification deadlines differ and don’t have to be reported to the federal level until Dec. 8. Additionally, the Electoral College doesn’t meet until Dec. 14.

Headlines from elsewhere and resources on voting

☑️How to make sure your mail-in ballot is counted and not discarded.

🗳️ USA TODAY’s Voter Guide has everything you need on registering to vote, when your state begins voting and what the candidates think about the issues.

📧For updates to your inbox, subscribe to our daily On Politics newsletter.

Worried about voter suppression? Lawyers have election laws hotline

Nearly 24,000 lawyers are volunteering to help voters across the country navigate changes in what has become an unprecedented election cycle. Organizers of Election Protection, a national coalition of civil rights and voting rights groups, said the number of volunteers has quadrupled since the 2016 presidential election and the 2018 midterm elections. They’re bracing for even more calls as Election Day nears and in the days and weeks following.

The Election Protection hotline (866-OUR-VOTE) is available all year, but calls have ramped up in recent weeks as millions started casting ballots early in some states. The hotline has received more than 100,000 calls since July, averaging about 7,000 a day, organizers said. At this point in 2016, the group had fielded 21,000 calls since January of that year.

– Deborah Barfield Berry

Contributing: Grace Hauck in Chicago; Ryan Miller in New York, Joshua Bote and Kevin Johnson in Washington; Alan Gomez in Miami; Lauren Villagran, El Paso TimesAlso, The Associated Press

Lawsuits expected; how to track ballots

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