Shelby Watchilla leaned forward, her amber hair brushing against the plexiglass barrier, lowering her voice so that it was barely audible from behind her blue mask. “Listen, there’s nobody in the world who wants the truth out there more than I do,” she said.A kind-eyed woman in her mid-40s, Watchilla glanced around nervously. She nodded toward the cameras overhead and the employees glancing in our direction. “The investigation is technically ongoing,” she said, her tone equal parts caution and desperation. “I don’t know why. But I’m not allowed to talk until it’s over.”Three weeks earlier, Watchilla had been just another obscure civil servant. As the director of elections for Luzerne County, a federation of hill country hamlets in northeastern Pennsylvania, she was one of the thousands of local officials across America responsible for running elections. Watchilla, who had been on the job just under a year, circulated details on rules and regulations and deadlines; registered new voters; collected and counted ballots; and as a general matter did whatever necessary, in a year plagued by confusion and disinformation surrounding elections, to distinguish fact from fiction.
National: Six Republican Secretaries Of State Tried To Stop Facebook’s Effort To Register Millions Of Voters | Ryan Mac and Craig Silvermann/BuzzFeed
On Monday, Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg announced a major milestone for what he called “the largest voting information campaign in US history.” Launched in August with the goal of registering 4 million Americans to vote, Facebook claimed the effort garnered an estimated 4.4 million registrations across the company’s social media platforms, based on conversion rates the company calculated from “a few states it had partnered with.” “Voting is voice,” Zuckerberg wrote in a post to the company’s internal message board, specifically thanking Facebook’s civic engagement and civic integrity teams. What he didn’t mention, however, was the resistance the voting information campaign faced from Republican-led secretaries of state. In September, Facebook received a strongly worded letter signed by the secretaries of state of Alabama, Idaho, Kentucky, Louisiana, Mississippi, and West Virginia, asking the company to discontinue its Voting Information Center. It argued election officials alone are “legally and morally responsible to our citizens” and said Facebook has “no such accountability.” “While such goals may be laudable on their face, the reality is that the administration of elections is best left to the states,” read the letter, which was addressed to Zuckerberg. “The Voting Information Center is redundant and duplicative of what we, as chief election officials, have been doing for decades.” The six Republican secretaries of state warned that the voting information center could foster “misinformation and confusion.”
Rulings in a federal lawsuit over absentee voting laws in Alabama just weeks before the election could result in some absentee ballots not counting, depending on when voters sent them in. Under Alabama law, absentee ballots have to be witnessed by two adults or a notary to be counted. The lawsuit, filed by several organizations and individual voters last summer, contended that enforcing that requirement on voters at high risk of serious illness from COVID-19 because of age or medical condition violated their federal voting rights during the pandemic. The lawsuit also challenged other provisions, including a photo ID requirement and the state’s ban on curbside voting. On Sept. 30, U.S. District Judge Abdul Kallon ruled in favor of the organizations and individuals who filed the lawsuit. His ruling blocked the state from enforcing the witness requirement for voters who signed a statement saying they had a medical condition that put them at heightened risk from the virus. But on Oct. 13, the U.S. 11th Circuit Court of Appeals granted the request of state officials and issued a stay blocking part of Kallon’s order, a decision that put the witness requirement back in force.
Florida’s elections chief works to avoid becoming household name in 2020 vote count | Skyler Swisher/South Florida Sun-Sentinel
Laurel Lee has an IQ fitting of the challenge ahead of her — ensure that the presidential election in Florida runs smoothly and doesn’t become a punchline yet again for the nation’s comedians. As secretary of state, Lee serves as the state’s top elections official, working with independent supervisors of elections for each of Florida’s 67 counties. It’s a position that can be overlooked, but if something goes wrong in a high-stakes election, the secretary of state can quickly become a household name. In 2000, then-Secretary of State Katherine Harris emerged as one of the key players in the Bush v. Gore recount drama. Lee’s credentials include a law degree from the University of Florida, a stint as a judge in Hillsborough County and membership in Mensa, an organization open to people who score at the 98th percentile or above on IQ tests.
Georgia: Hacker Releases Hall County Election Data After Ransom Not Paid | Tawnell D. Hobbs/Wall Street Journal
A computer hacker who took over networks maintained by Hall County, Ga., escalated demands this week by publicly releasing election-related files after a ransom wasn’t paid, heightening concerns about the security of voting from cyberattacks. A website maintained by the hacker lists Hall County along with other hacked entities as those whose “time to pay is over,” according to a Wall Street Journal review of the hacker’s website. The Hall County files are labeled as “example files,” which typically are nonsensitive and used to encourage payment before a possible bigger rollout of often more-compromising information. The release of some of Hall County files came Tuesday, one week before the 2020 presidential election, in which election security has been a major focus. Recent polls show the race has tightened in Georgia, which was last won by a Democrat in 1992, and former Vice President Joe Biden, the Democratic nominee, made a campaign appearance there Tuesday.
Minnesota: At behest of Trump campaign official, Minneapolis police union calls for retired officers to act as ‘eyes and ears’ on Election Day | Libor Jany/Minneapolid Star Tribune
The Minneapolis police union put out a call this week for retired officers to help serve as “eyes and ears” at polling sites in “problem” areas across the city on Election Day, at the request of an attorney for President Donald Trump’s re-election campaign. The request was made by William Willingham, whose e-mail signature identifies him as a senior legal adviser and director of Election Day operations for the Trump campaign. In an e-mail Wednesday morning to Minneapolis Police Federation President Lt. Bob Kroll, Willingham asked the union president about recruiting 20 to 30 former officers to serve as “poll challengers” to work either a four- or eight-hour shift in a “problem area.” “Poll Challengers do not ‘stop’ people, per se, but act as our eyes and ears in the field and call our hotline to document fraud,” the e-mail read. “We don’t necessarily want our Poll Challengers to look intimidating, they cannot carry a weapon in the polls due to state law. … We just want people who won’t be afraid in rough neighborhoods or intimidating situations.” Kroll then passed on the request to federation members, saying “Please share, and e-mail me if you are willing to assist,” according to a copy obtained by the Star Tribune.
Kentucky secretary of state suggests making early voting permanent and other election ideas | Jack Brammer/Lexington Herald Leader
Kentucky Secretary of State Michael Adams suggested several changes Wednesday to how the state conducts elections, including permanent provisions for early voting and an online portal to request an absentee ballot. Adams, the state’s top elections official, made his comments in a speech to the 46th annual Kentucky Association of Counties Conference, which was held virtually. Adams, a Republican, and Democratic Gov. Andy Beshear made changes this year to the state’s primary election in June and the Nov. 3 general due to the coronavirus pandemic that is still raging.“With the election not yet concluded, it’s too soon to decide what reforms we ought to make permanent; but it’s not soon to start a conversation about how to improve our election system,” said Adams in his KACo speech.Kentucky should consider keeping early voting, he said.
Michigan: ’This is a voting right case’: Election officials appeal court ruling allowing guns at polls | Justin P. Hicks/MLive.com
Michigan’s attorney general and secretary of state are appealing a recent court ruling that struck down a ban on openly carrying firearms at all polling locations on election day. Dana Nessel and Jocelyn Benson submitted their appeal on Wednesday, Oct. 28, with an expedited relief request for 5 p.m. Thursday, Oct. 29. In the brief, they argued that the ban on open carry of firearms on Nov. 3 was to protect every Michigander’s right to vote. “Make no mistake. This is a voting rights case,” reads the opening line of the state’s brief to the Michigan Court of Appeals. On Oct. 16, Benson issued a directive instructing local clerks to ban the open carry of guns at all polling places on Nov. 3. The purpose of the ban, she said, was to protect voters from intimidation. But a group of Michigan gun groups sued to invalidate it. On Tuesday, Michigan Court of Claims Chief Judge Christopher Murray granted a preliminary injunction, overturning the ban and allowing open carry at most polling locations.
New Hampshire Secretary Of State Says 2020 Is ‘A Once In A Hundred Years Type of An Election’ | Casey McDermott/New Hampshire Public Radio
Secretary of State Bill Gardner has overseen New Hampshire elections for more than four decades and worked on voting policy in the Legislature several years before that — but even he’s never seen anything like 2020. “Here we are, a once in a hundred years type of an election,” Gardner told local election officials during a pre-election huddle Tuesday morning. “But we’ve at least known about it for enough time that we can all have prepared, like you all have.” Gardner’s office has taken extra steps beyond their normal training lineup to prepare pollworkers for what’s to come next week. They’ve hosted near-weekly meetings with local election officials since the summer, which have served as forums for questions and concerns on issues ranging from mail delivery to the use of Sharpie markers on absentee ballots. The state has also equipped local election officials with thousands of masks, jugs of hand sanitizer and single-use pens or pencils, in hopes of limiting transmission of COVID-19 at the polls on Election Day. “It was helpful that we had the primaries back in September, because no one knew for sure how that would all play out,” Gardner said Tuesday morning. “And that was sort of like the spring training, the brief preparation for what’s to come next week.”
North Carolina: Supreme Court allows state to extend deadline for receiving mail-in ballots, a defeat for GOP in key battleground | Robert Barnes/The Washington Post
The Supreme Court said Wednesday that it will not intervene before the election to stop Pennsylvania officials from receiving mail-in ballots up to three days after Election Day, refusing a Republican request that the high court expedite review of the issue.But the larger issue might not be settled. Three conservative justices indicated the votes ultimately might not be counted and signaled they would like to revisit the issue after the election.Pennsylvania proved vital to President Trump’s election four years ago and is once again considered a key battleground.New Justice Amy Coney Barrett did not participate in considering the request, the Supreme Court said, because of the need for a prompt resolution, and because she has not had time to fully review the legal arguments.The vote on the GOP request is not specified in the court’s short order.
Pennsylvania: Trump’s election day director is waging war on voting in Philadelphia | Nick Fiorellini/The Guardian
For decades before he worked for the president, Donald Trump’s director of election day operations has called out and made allegations of voter fraud by the Democratic party, building a lucrative career in the process. His name is Mike Roman, and this year he’s claiming an increase in mail ballots because of the coronavirus pandemic will allow Democrats to cheat and steal the election, despite little evidence. Roman is best known for promoting a video of apparent voter intimidation by the New Black Panthers outside a polling place in his home town of Philadelphia in 2008. Filed weeks before George W Bush left office, the justice department investigated the incident that was cited as evidence of Democrats seeking to influence the election. The case was later dropped because it lacked evidence. In the decade after, Roman stayed busy. He wrote about alleged election fraud for conservative websites like Breitbart News. He managed a research unit for the Koch network, did consulting work for various Republicans and oversaw poll watching for Trump’s 2016 campaign. These days he’s focused on peddling the same myth in his hometown of Philadelphia, a key city in the battleground of Pennsylvania that could determine the outcome of the election. Earlier this year, Roman visited battleground states and worked with local candidates and parties to recruit volunteers to monitor election sites. The Trump campaign hasn’t released information about the number of volunteer observers it has recruited in each state but claims it has established a 50,000-plus army of volunteers across an array of swing states.
Pennsylvania: Supreme Court Won’t Speed a Do-Over on Ballot Deadlines | Adam Liptak/The New York Times
The Supreme Court on Wednesday refused a plea from Pennsylvania Republicans to put their request to halt a three-day extension of the deadline for receiving absentee ballots on an extraordinarily fast track. The move meant that the court would not consider the case, which could have yielded a major ruling on voting procedure, until after Election Day. Justice Amy Coney Barrett, who joined the court on Tuesday and who might have broken an earlier deadlock in the case, did not cast a vote. A court spokeswoman said Justice Barrett “did not participate in the consideration of this motion because of the need for a prompt resolution of it and because she has not had time to fully review the parties’ filings.”The court’s brief order gave no reasons for declining to expedite consideration of the case. In a separate statement, Justice Samuel A. Alito Jr., joined by Justices Clarence Thomas and Neil M. Gorsuch, said the court may still consider the case after the election.
A judge ruled Wednesday that Virginia elections officials cannot count absentee ballots with missing postmarks unless they can confirm the date of mailing through a barcode, granting part of an injunction requested by a conservative legal group. The Public Interest Legal Foundation sued the Virginia Department of Elections and members of the Virginia State Board of Elections earlier this month, challenging a regulation that instructed local election officials to count absentee ballots with missing or illegible postmarks — as long as the ballots are received by noon on the Friday after Election Day, Nov. 3. The lawsuit alleged that the regulation violates a 2020 state election law that says absentee ballots postmarked by Nov. 3 and received by Nov. 6 will be counted. At issue was an instruction given to local election officials that says a ballot with an unreadable or missing postmark should still be counted if the voter signed and dated the security envelope used for absentee ballots by Election Day. A judge issued a split ruling, granting an injunction to bar enforcement of portions of the regulation that apply to ballots with missing postmarks, but denied an injunction to stop enforcement of the regulation as it applies to illegible postmarks.
Texas: Appeals court halts US judge’s ruling ordering masks at polls | Chuck Lindell/Austin American-Statesman
A San Antonio federal judge has ordered everyone who enters or works at a Texas polling place to wear a face covering as a pandemic safety precaution. Late Wednesday, however, a federal appeals court issued an informal stay blocking enforcement of the order while its judges consider a longer-term stay. The order by U.S. District Judge Jason Pulliam, appointed by President Donald Trump, voided an exemption for polling sites that Gov. Greg Abbott had included in his statewide mask mandate. The exemption, Pulliam ruled, violates the Voting Rights Act “because it creates a discriminatory burden on Black and Latino voters.” The pandemic has disproportionately affected minorities, placing them at higher risk of severe illness and death and forcing them to make “the unfortunate choice required between voting and minimizing their risk” of exposure under Abbott’s poll exemption, the judge wrote.
Wisconsin officials stress need for quick return of mail ballots in wake of Supreme Court ruling | Rosalind S. Helderman/The Washington Post
Election officials in Wisconsin are redoubling efforts to persuade voters to return their mail ballots as soon as possible after the Supreme Court ruled Monday night that ballots received after Election Day cannot be counted, no matter when they were mailed. As of Tuesday, voters in the key battleground state had returned more than 1.45 million of the 1.79 million absentee ballots they had requested so far — a return rate of more than 80 percent. But that means that nearly 327,000 absentee ballots had not yet been returned. And voters continue to request ballots — under state law, they have until 5 p.m. Thursday to seek one, a deadline state officials have warned is probably too late for voters to receive and return a ballot by mail before Election Day.
The nationwide shortage of poll workers has inspired a young generation of Americans to step up to the front lines of the election process. Through The Poll Hero Project, founded by a group of students at Princeton University, Denver East High School, and the University of Chicago, thousands of college and high school students are being recruited to serve as paid poll workers in the upcoming election. “Most poll workers are typically over the age of 60, so they are a lot more vulnerable to COVID-19. We’ve expanded nationally to try and recruit poll workers everywhere,” said 19-year-old Kai Tsurumaki, a student at Princeton University and co-founder of the Poll Hero Project. The project, which initially focused on federal funding for vote-by-mail efforts, shifted its mission to recruiting poll workers once the nationwide shortage became evident. Through their recruitment efforts and outreach, The Poll Hero Project estimates that they have been able to register over 32,500 poll workers.
´As voters head to the polls for the 2020 elections, the U.S. faces on-going security threats such as disinformation campaigns, data breaches, and ballot tampering in an effort by foreign adversaries to erode the integrity of the democratic process. Recent events from Russian and Iranian hackers stealing data to threaten and intimidate voters to Russian actors actively targeting state, local, and territorial networks demonstrate that elections rely on crucial technological tools to ensure process integrity, the disruption of which would have a debilitating impact on national security and society.Critical infrastructure (CI) provides essential services and is the backbone of the country’s economy, security, and health. From transportation enabling personal mobility and commerce, to electricity powering our homes and businesses, to telecommunications networks fostering global connectivity—particularly amid the pandemic—CI is the lynchpin to functioning social, economic, and political systems. While these systems have long been subject to threats from terrorism and natural disasters, cyberattacks represent among the most destabilizing and underappreciated risk. With the rapid digitalization of all facets of society and increasing dependence on information and communications technologies (ICT), attackers ranging from nation-states to hacktivists to organized criminal groups can identify vulnerabilities and infiltrate seemingly disparate systems to disrupt services and damage global society—all without a physical attack. As a designated CI subsector, election systems are vital to domestic and international security (see U.N. nonbinding consensus report A/70/174) and election security risks can threaten democracies worldwide.
One week away from the 2020 presidential election, the United States finds itself in almost the opposite predicament from four years ago: Far from ignoring foreign interference, we’re in danger of imagining more of it than exists — and that in itself could cause big problems. Adversaries from Russia to China to Iran are indeed assailing our democracy, a reality that should come as no surprise to anyone paying attention — but the good news is that this time, our government is paying attention. Influence operations on social media sites are getting caught before they can gain much ground. What the hack-and-leak experts have dreaded so far hasn’t happened; even if investigators do find a link between the Kremlin and the dubious Hunter Biden laptop story published by the New York Post, the tale hasn’t caught on because cautious mainstream media organizations haven’t let it and many American voters have grown warier. President Trump has refused even to acknowledge what happened last time around, yet that hasn’t stopped top security agencies from taking action. The Treasury Department has sanctioned multiple individuals who have attempted to meddle, including Ukrainian lawmaker Andriy Derkach for acting as a Russian agent to launder disinformation through U.S. sources discrediting former vice president Joe Biden; this step, in turn, empowered platforms like Google and Facebook to kick the criminals off their sites. The State Department has revoked the visas of similar actors. U.S. Cyber Command and the National Security Agency are preemptively keeping malicious botnets off the Web to prevent ransomware attacks and other nefariousness on Nov. 3.
National: Jeering sign-wavers. Caravans of honking trucks. Voter intimidation or free speech? | Abigail Hauslohner/The Washington Post
Jeering sign-wavers, caravans of honking trucks flying Trump 2020 flags, and charged political rhetoric — delivered via bullhorn at people waiting in line at polling sites — have become the increasingly common backdrop to early voting across the country, particularly in swing states like Florida and Pennsylvania. Some of the loud displays, often from supporters of President Trump and particularly frustrating to Democrats, have prompted local law enforcement agencies to station officers near polling places to keep the peace. In some locations, they have sparked allegations of voter intimidation and fears of tinderbox confrontations on the cusp of escalation in the run-up to Election Day next week. “I do think activities like that can be intimidating, and especially an activity where we have seen violence associated with Trump caravans,” said Lindsay Schubiner, the program director at the Western States Center, a progressive nonprofit focused on far-right extremism. The center is based in Portland, Ore., where a Trump supporter was killed on a public street in August when a self-described antifa adherent shot him after a Trump caravan spilled into a crowd of racial justice protesters.
National: One week out, election IT officials project calm, with caution | Benjamin Freed/StateScoop
For many, the final week leading up to Election Day will be spent doomscrolling through poll results, enduring wall-to-wall campaign ads during every television commercial break and nervously refreshing some number-crunching Electoral College forecast. But as Election Day draws near, the IT and cybersecurity officials backstopping their states’ voting processes are projecting much more calm than your Facebook feed or family group text. “The technical pieces are in place, the planning is in place,” said Jeff Franklin, the chief cybersecurity officer in the office of Iowa Secretary of State Paul Pate. “We’re checking the locks on the doors and that the windows are shut and walking through that checklist.” Within the election security community, if the 2018 midterms — the first nationwide vote since the federal government declared elections to be critical infrastructure — were the “dress rehearsal,” 2020 has been considered the “big show.” In just the past few weeks, U.S. officials, led by the FBI and the Cybersecurity and Infrastructure Security Agency, have pumped out multiple alerts, including warnings that a Russia-linked hacking group has breached state and local networks and blaming Iran for a string of threatening emails to voters. And while the overall level of malicious cyber activity appears to be down from 2016, other threats, like misinformation and disinformation, still abound.
National: The lowly DDoS attack is still a viable threat for undermining elections | Tim Starks/CyberScoop
Scenes like what happened to Florida’s voter registration site on Oct. 6 has played out over and over again: A system goes down, and questions fly. Was there a cyberattack, specifically a distributed denial-of-service (DDoS) attack meant to overwhelm a website site with traffic, knocking it offline? Could there have been too many legitimate visitors rushing to the site to beat the voter registration deadline — that surged past what the system could handle? Or, was it something weirder, as in this case, like pop singer Ariana Grande urging fans on Twitter to register to vote? Florida’s chief information officer eventually blamed misconfigured computer servers. The incident, though, was one of several over the course of the past month that exposed ongoing anxieties about how cyberattacks, accidental outages and other technical failures could upend a polling place, or even an election. Few, if any, election security experts would rank the relatively antiquated technique of DDoS attacks as one of the top couple threats, particularly compared to ransomware or disinformation. Still, the FBI and the Department of Homeland Security’s Cybersecurity and Infrastructure Security on Sept. 30 issued a warning about DDoS election threats. And Google, in an Oct. 16 report, said it was watching government-backed hacking groups build their abilities to conduct large-scale DDoS attacks in recent years.
National: U.S. Homeland Security agency faulted for election planning around potential violence | Raphael Satter and Christopher Bing/Reuters
The U.S. Department of Homeland Security’s watchdog body said on Tuesday that officials at its Cybersecurity and Infrastructure Security Agency had not adequately planned for potential violence at polling places and vote counting stations. The watchdog’s report, issued with a week to go before the Nov. 3, comes as the threat of violence has crept up the national agenda. Recent Reuters reporting has highlighted how everyone from retailers (here to social media companies here) has begun making contingency plans should the election turn chaotic or violent. The shift in attention comes after years of election-related anxiety revolving around the integrity of vote tallying machines and electronic poll books or the threat of foreign disinformation carried by social media. The DHS Office of the Inspector General noted that the department’s Cybersecurity and Infrastructure Security Agency – the DHS arm generally responsible for protecting U.S. infrastructure from digital and physical threats – offers an array of cybersecurity support to state and local governments.
National: Courts rule election money from Facebook founder will stay despite conservative attempts to reverse it | Joseph Marks/The Washington Post
Federal judges have so far declined to halt $400 million in grants to city and county election administrators from Mark Zuckerberg and Priscilla Chan, despite a conservative law firm’s efforts to overturn them. The grants from the Facebook founder and his wife, delivered by the nonprofit Center for Technology and Civic Life, are aimed at helping cash-strapped counties hire more poll workers, provide personal protective equipment and manage a surge in mail voting during the pandemic. Lawyers for the Thomas More Society don’t object to those goals, but they argued the grants were strategically awarded to boost voter turnout in urban centers and Democratic strongholds and to disadvantage Republicans. But federal judges have declined to halt the funding to counties in Wisconsin, Michigan, Pennsylvania, Texas, Iowa and South Carolina, saying they see no partisan tilt in the grants, which were also given to many rural and Republican counties. CTCL delivered the grants to more than 2,300 election departments using a formula that links funding to the district’s voting population. “The truth is that plaintiffs — like all residents of the counties — stand to benefit from the additional resources for safe and efficient voting provided by CTCL grants,” Judge Amos L. Mazzant III noted in denying an injunction on grants to counties that include the cities of Houston and Dallas.
Editorial: Kavanaugh has wild ideas about voting. They likely won’t matter on Election Day. | Richard L. Hasen/The Washington Post
Should we panic about Justice Brett M. Kavanaugh’s concurring opinion in the Wisconsin voting case that the Supreme Court decided Monday night? Does it mean that the Supreme Court is going to do something crazy that will hand the election to President Trump even if Joe Biden is ahead in the count?The short answer is that an intervention by the Supreme Court to decide the presidential election is still extremely unlikely — but if the extremely unlikely happens, there’s great reason to be worried about the court’s protection of voting rights and the integrity of the vote.As I have been watching all the election litigation as it works its way up and down the courts, I did not expect the Wisconsin ruling to be a major one. The Supreme Court had sent a consistent signal before deciding this case that federal courts should not be easing voting rules even during the pandemic and that there should be deference to state rules. A federal-district court had extended the deadline for the receipt of absentee ballots in Wisconsin because of delays in delivering mail during the pandemic, but the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Seventh Circuit, following the Supreme Court’s lead, reversed that order. Democrats and voting rights groups, inexplicably thinking they would do better before the voter-hostile Supreme Court, took the case up and lost Monday night.
Michigan judge halts Secretary of State Benson’s ban on open carry of guns at polling places | Beth LeBlanc/The Detroit Times
Michigan Court of Claims Judge Christopher Murray issued a preliminary injunction Tuesday that effectively halts Secretary of State Jocelyn Benson’s directive banning the open carry of guns near polling locations on Election Day. Attorney General Dana Nessel announced almost immediately after the decision was issued that her office would appeal to the Court of Appeals “as this issue is of significant public interest and importance to our election process.” The edict by Benson “smacks of an attempt at legislation” and lacks public input instead of following the regular rule-making process, Murray said during a Tuesday emergency hearing. Further, the state already has a law prohibiting voter intimidation, said Murray, an appointee of Republican former Gov. John Engler. “The Legislature has said: Here are the places you cannot carry a weapon,” Murray said during the hearing. “The secretary has expanded that. And so how is that in accordance with state law?”
A Minnesota Republican candidate’s bid to delay voting in his congressional race to February after the death of a third-party candidate was rejected Tuesday at the Supreme Court. Justice Neil Gorsuch, who handles emergency requests from the federal appeals court that oversees Minnesota, denied the request from Tyler Kistner. As is typical when the court acts on an emergency basis, Gorsuch did not say anything in denying the request. But he also didn’t ask Kistner’s opponent to respond in writing or refer the question to the full court, suggesting it wasn’t a close question. Kistner is running against Democrat Angie Craig, the incumbent, in the Nov. 3 race for Minnesota’s competitive 2nd District, which stretches south from St. Paul’s suburbs. “It’s unfortunate that Angie Craig is continuing to silence and disenfranchise thousands of her own constituents,” Kistner said in a statement. Craig said Kistner’s case has been before three different courts, and each court rejected it.
The New Mexico Supreme Court on Tuesday unanimously rejected a Republican-backed election lawsuit, even as the GOP moved forward with a second court challenge over absentee ballot protocols. With state election officials pushing early voting due to the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic, voting via absentee ballot has already hit unprecedented levels across New Mexico. A total of 265,739 absentee ballots had been cast statewide as of Tuesday morning – or about 44.8% of the roughly 593,000 votes cast in all. That deluge of absentee ballots has prompted lawsuits even before vote counting begins, especially since the state’s laws regarding absentee voting procedures were updated in 2019 and earlier this year. The petition denied Tuesday by three Supreme Court justices – the court’s two remaining justices had recused themselves – sought to guarantee that poll watchers could observe the initial verification of absentee ballots.
South Carolina judge rules that local election boards cannot reject ballots due to mismatched signatures | Michelle Liu/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 and must review and reprocess previously rejected ballots for the upcoming general election. The temporary injunction comes 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. U.S. District Judge Richard Gergel of Charleston wrote Tuesday that counties that wish to continue matching signatures on absentee ballots must seek approval of the court first. Voter outreach groups filed the lawsuit earlier this month, as the significant number of first-time absentee voters this election has brought due process issues to the forefront, said Christe McCoy-Lawrence, co-president of the League of Women Voters’ South Carolina chapter. The suit sought a permanent procedure for elections officials to notify voters and allow them to fix ballots with signature issues.
Tennessee: Shelby County election officials get eight new ballot scanners for absentee vote count | Bill Dries/Daily Memphian
The Shelby County Election Commission is getting eight new ballot scanners to assist in counting the large number of absentee ballots being cast locally in the presidential general election. The Tennessee Secretary of State’s office is providing a share of its federal CARES Act funding for the election hardware and technology, aimed at shortening what could be a long vote count election night following what could be a record overall turnout. Secretary of State Tre Hargett Tuesday, Oct. 27, confirmed to The Daily Memphian the arrangement worked out with the local election commission using federal CARES Act funding. “Shelby County had expressed the need for scanners to handle the larger-than-normal absentee ballot turnout,” Hargett said. “We have gone back to counties and said, ‘Look, if there is a need that you have at this time, there is CARES Act funding remaining.’ ” The Secretary of State’s office approved $47,800 specifically for elections to allow the Shelby County Election Commission to buy the scanners.