National: Native voters struggle amid growing reliance on mail-in voting | Teresa Tomassoni/The Washington Post

Nicole Horseherder lives two miles away from her closest neighbor on the Navajo reservation in Black Mesa, Ariz. She has no mailbox and no street address. The nearest post office requires a 30-mile bumpy ride along unpaved dirt roads.So when Horseherder’s mail-in ballot had not arrived by mid-October, she was worried.“I was seriously thinking I’m not going to receive my ballot,” said Horseherder, who is 50 and head of the Navajo environmental justice nonprofit Tó Nizhóní Ání.Though her ballot eventually did arrive, Horseherder said she is still concerned about her vote being received and counted by Election Day, given coronavirus restrictions have increased reliance on mail-in ballots and exacerbated nationwide U.S. Postal Service delays. Her sentiments are shared by many Indigenous peoples and Native American rights advocates who say those living in isolated areas of reservations with limited transportation were not considered when many states expanded mail-in voting this election season to curb the spread of the novel coronavirus. “That shift to all vote-by-mail left Native Americans out of the conversation because vote-by-mail doesn’t work in Indian country,” said Jacqueline De León, an attorney for the Native American Rights Fund and an enrolled member of the Isleta Pueblo, a Native American tribe in New Mexico.

National: Voting Disinformation Surges In Election’s Final Weeks | Pam Fessler/NPR

Dirty tricks and disinformation have been used to intimidate and mislead voters for as long as there have been elections. But they have been especially pervasive this year as millions of Americans cast ballots in a chaotic and contentious election.This has led to stepped-up efforts by election officials and voter advocates to counter the disinformation so voters are not discouraged from turning out. “2020 has been a year like no other because not only have we seen a higher volume of online mis- and disinformation, we have also changed a lot of processes about our society, including the way we administer elections,” said Jesse Littlewood, who leads the Stopping Cyber Suppression program for Common Cause. His nonpartisan group has already identified close to 5,000 incidents this year. Littlewood noted that the shift to more mail-in voting because of the pandemic has opened the way for a whole new wave of disinformation. One of the most high-profile cases involved robocalls that went to tens of thousands of minority voters in Michigan, Pennsylvania, Ohio, Illinois and New York. The calls falsely claimed that voting by mail could be dangerous. “Mail-in voting sounds great,” a woman’s voice warned. “But did you know that if you vote by mail your personal information will be part of a public database that will be used by police departments to track down old warrants and be used by credit companies to collect outstanding debts?”

National: Russia Created an Election Disinformation Playbook. Here’s How Americans Evolved It. | Isabelle Niu, Kassie Bracken and Alexandra Eaton/The New York Times

A deluge of misinformation is hitting the U.S. elections, and this time election experts are more worried about it coming from Americans.Back in 2016, Kremlin-linked Russian trolls surprised social media companies with an online disinformation campaign. Russian trolls developed an effective playbook — they used a large network of fake accounts to spread incendiary political content to millions of Americans, took advantage of existing divisions in American society and sowed doubt about the election process. In the years since, the U.S. intelligence community, social media companies and the public have become aware of the threat of foreign disinformation campaigns. But America’s election information problem has evolved.“We see that playbook being used by political operatives in the U.S. and we see that same playbook being used by individuals in their basements who are angry and frustrated with life,” said Claire Wardle, the U.S. director of First Draft, a nonprofit organization focused on addressing misinformation and disinformation.Simply put, disinformation is a falsehood created with the intention to cause harm. Misinformation is also false, but created or shared without the intention to deceive others.

National: Russians Who Pose Election Threat Have Hacked Nuclear Plants and Power Grid | Nicole Perlroth/The New York Times

Cybersecurity officials watched with growing alarm in September as Russian state hackers started prowling around dozens of American state and local government computer systems just two months before the election. The act itself did not worry them so much — officials anticipated that the Russians who interfered in the 2016 election would be back — but the actor did. The group, known to researchers as “Dragonfly” or “Energetic Bear” for its hackings of the energy sector, was not involved in 2016 election hacking. But it has in the past five years breached the power grid, water treatment facilities and even nuclear power plants, including one in Kansas. It also hacked into Wi-Fi systems at San Francisco International Airport and at least two other West Coast airports in March in an apparent bid to find one unidentified traveler, a demonstration of the hackers’ power and resolve. September’s intrusions marked the first time that researchers caught the group, a unit of Russia’s Federal Security Service, or F.S.B., targeting states and counties. The timing of the attacks so close to the election and the potential for disruption set off concern inside private security firms, law enforcement and intelligence agencies.

California: How To Vote In A Pandemic When You’ve Lost Your Home In A Wildfire | Isabella Bloom and Marco Torrez/CalMatters

In August, as lightning strikes ignited fires around his Napa County home, Ian MacMillan escaped the flames with his wife, three kids and mother-in-law. A month later, when another wildfire roared through Northern California’s wine country, they had to flee their home again.“It sounded like a war zone,” MacMillan, 41, said. “The fire was blazing, the winds were bad and you could hear the propane tanks going off.” This time, their house didn’t make it.MacMillan spent the next few weeks attending to urgent matters, like finding a place to live. Now that he and his family are temporarily settled, however, he is planning to pick up his ballot at the post office where his mail is being held. “I’m crossing my fingers and hoping it’s there,” he said.California has tried to make it easier for residents to vote during the pandemic by sending a vote-by-mail ballot to every registered voter. But for MacMillan and thousands of others who have lost their homes to wildfires this year, mail-in voting poses a unique set of challenges. “Ballots, in some cases, were mailed when the fire was going on and may have been destroyed in their mailbox or in their homes,” said John Tuteur, the Napa County Registrar of Voters. Replacement ballots can be mailed outside of voters’ registered counties, even out of state, as long as they are requested by October 27.

Florida voting rights group combats threats over Trump | Lawrence Mower/Miami Herald

Florida Republicans’ request last month for police and the FBI to investigate a program to pay off felons’ court fees and fines hasn’t amounted to criminal charges or a formal probe.But it has created a “chilling effect” and sparked threats from white supremacists, according to Desmond Meade, executive director of the Florida Rights Restoration Coalition, which has raised tens of millions of dollars to pay off court fees and fines for felons over the last 18 months. Meade said Friday he’s hired lawyers and security experts to combat threats from people who now believe he and his organization are working to undermine President Donald Trump’s reelection. “White supremacist groups were encouraging people to go to our website and do nefarious things and trying to sabotage the site,” Meade said. He’s now trying to remind everyone that his organization is nonpartisan. In 2018, Meade and his group led the effort to overturn the state’s 150-year-old ban on felon voting, which was successful because it had support from both Republicans and Democrats. He has largely stayed out of the litigation over a law Republican Gov. Ron DeSantis signed last year requiring felons to pay off all court fees, fines and restitution to victims before being allowed to vote.

Georgia: In high-stakes election, State’s voting system vulnerable to cyberattack | Alan Judd/The Atlanta Journal-Constitution

Headed into one of the most consequential elections in the state’s history, Georgia’s new electronic voting system is vulnerable to cyberattacks that could undermine public confidence, create chaos at the polls or even manipulate the results on Election Day. Computer scientists, voting-rights activists, U.S. intelligence agencies and a federal judge have repeatedly warned of security deficiencies in Georgia’s system and in electronic voting in general. But state officials have dismissed their concerns as merely “opining on potential risks.”Instead, an investigation by The Atlanta Journal-Constitution shows, Secretary of State Brad Raffensperger’s office weakened the system’s defenses, disabling password protections on a key component that controls who is allowed to vote. In addition, days before early voting began on Oct. 12, Raffensperger’s office pushed out new software to each of the state’s 30,000 voting machines through hundreds of thumb drives that experts say are prone to infection with malware. And what state officials describe as a feature of the new system actually masks a vulnerability. Officials tell voters to verify their selections on a paper ballot before feeding it into an optical scanner. But the scanner doesn’t record the text that voters see; rather, it reads an unencrypted quick response, or QR, barcode that is indecipherable to the human eye. Either by tampering with individual voting machines or by infiltrating the state’s central elections server, hackers could systematically alter the barcodes to change votes.

Michigan; Gun groups sue Secretary of State for banning open carry at polls on Election Day | Taylor DesOrmeau/MLive

A trio of Michigan gun rights groups are suing Michigan Secretary of State Jocelyn Benson over her directive for local clerks to prohibit the open carry of firearms at the polls on Election Day.While Benson argues the ban is within her powers to make elections safe, the lawsuit in the Michigan Court of Claims argues it forces people to choose between their right to vote and their right to bear arms.“One must choose one right or the other, but not both,” plaintiffs argue in the lawsuit, if the ban stands. … Benson sent guidance on her directive to all clerk’s offices on Oct. 16. As Michigan’s chief election officer, state law says Benson has supervisory control over elections. Benson also cites MCL 168.31, saying she has the authority to issue policy directives for polling places. A separate law prohibits bribing, influencing, deterring or interrupting people from voting. None of the laws mention guns. “We want to recognize that the threat of open carrying of firearms can create a threatening environment through both visual and other ways,” Benson said earlier this week. Some law enforcement agencies have said they won’t enforce the directive in their polling places. Michigan State Police will enforce the ban in places where law enforcement can’t or won’t enforce it, Benson said.

Minnesota Attorney General Ellison wins assurance Atlas Aegis will not recruit or provide private security for elections | Red Lake Nation News

Minnesota Attorney General Keith Ellison announced today that his office has won a written assurance from Tennessee-based security company Atlas Aegis that it is not recruiting and will not recruit or provide private security at or near polling places in Minnesota in conjunction with the November 3 election. The company admits that its statements that it was doing so are incorrect. Attorney General Ellison announced on October 20 that his office had launched an investigation into Atlas Aegis.As part of the settlement, Atlas Aegis agrees not to provide any security services in Minnesota around the November 3 election; not to intimidate any voters in Minnesota; and to communicate through its channels that it was wrong to suggest it was recruiting security for “protection of election polls” in Minnesota. “Minnesotans should expect that our elections will run as safely, smoothly, and securely as they always have. One of the reasons is that my office and our partners are actively enforcing our laws against threatening, frightening, or intimidating voters,” Attorney General Ellison said. “I’m holding Atlas Aegis to account for their misstatements about recruiting security for polling places in Minnesota that potentially frightened Minnesota voters. They won’t be doing it again and will not be anywhere in Minnesota before, during, or after Election Day.”

Nevada judge denies GOP request to halt mail ballot counting in Clark County | Rory Appleton/Las Vegas Review-Journal

A Carson City judge Friday denied to halt ballot counting in Clark County in response to a lawsuit filed by Republicans that contends the county has violated state election law.The Nevada Republican Party and President Donald Trump’s re-election campaign filed the lawsuit against Clark County Registrar Joe Gloria and Nevada Secretary of State Barbara Cegavske on Friday.The lawsuit asked a judge to stop the counting and verification of mail ballots until the case could be heard.But Attorney General Aaron Ford, whose office defends Cegavske in litigation, tweeted Friday afternoon that his office had “defeated President Trump’s and Nevada GOP’s request for a temporary restraining order to stop the counting of the ballots.”

New Hampshire: Guns Will Be Allowed In Most Polling Places, But ‘Voter Intimidation Will Not Be Tolerated’ | Casey cDerott/New Hampshire Public Radio

The New Hampshire Attorney General’s office says state and local authorities can’t prevent people from bringing guns into polling places, even those located in school buildings — but they will be on alert to respond to anyone, armed or otherwise, who is interfering with someone else’s ability to vote. “We are not able to use any of our New Hampshire election laws to prohibit a voter from entering to vote if they have a firearm, and that includes if the polling place is a school,” Assistant Attorney General Nicholas Chong Yen, who leads the state’s Election Law Unit, during a call with local clerks earlier this week. This policy isn’t new, and state officials similarly said ahead of the 2016 elections that voters could not be barred from entering polling places because they’re carrying a gun. Some voters and pollworkers have voiced anxiety about firearms around polling places on Nov. 3, particularly after President Trump called on supporters “to go into the polls and watch very carefully.” New Hampshire is an “open carry” state, meaning gun owners can openly carry a loaded firearm without a license or permit. Since 2017, the state has also allowed any lawful gun owner to carry a concealed weapon. Officials in at least one other state, Michigan, recently announced plans to ban people from openly carrying firearms at polling places on Nov. 3, though the state is now facing a lawsuit over that policy.

New Mexico: Concerns about voter intimidation loom in election run-up | Bella Davis/Daily Lobo

Albuquerque resident Eleanor Chavez was driving by the 98th and Central early voting site on Saturday, Oct. 17 when she passed a caravan of flag-waving Trump supporters who drove through the parking lot. Hours later, she went back and saw a man with a Trump flag on the back of his truck yelling at voters before the police arrived. “Who does that? I’ve been voting for a hundred million years, and I’ve never seen anything like that,” Chavez said. Chavez said she was planning to vote that day but decided to wait because of the activity she observed, which she called “threatening.”According to an Albuquerque Police Department report, officers responded to a call about the same man Chavez observed. The presiding judge on site told an officer that she was afraid he was going to “shoot up” voters.Officers issued a criminal trespass notice against the man, who was identified in the police report as Isidro Casarez. The notice was issued not because Casarez intimidated voters, but because he was “acting disorderly” in the parking lot of a business. He had been parked in front of a T-Mobile store in the same shopping center as the polling site and refused to leave when an employee asked him to.The Bernalillo County district attorney’s office is investigating the Trump caravan incident, spokesperson Brandale Mills-Cox said.New Mexico election officials and local nonprofit organizations are taking a number of steps — like training hundreds of poll watchers and setting up a legal hotline — to prepare for the potential of more incidents like that of Oct. 17.

North Carolina GOP asks Supreme Court to roll back extra time for accepting mail-in ballots | Pete Williams/NBC

Republicans in the presidential battleground state of North Carolina asked the Supreme Court on Thursday to block lower court rulings that allowed six extra days to accept ballots sent by mail. The Trump campaign, the state and national Republican parties and Republican leaders of the state Legislature said decisions by North Carolina’s Board of Elections, upheld by federal courts, “pose an immediate threat to the integrity of the federal elections process.” The board changed the mail ballot deadline from Nov. 6, which the Legislature set in June, to Nov. 12. A federal district judge refused to block the change, and so did the 4th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals.

Pennsylvania Supreme Court rules that counties cannot reject mail ballots because of mismatched signatures | Angela Couloumbis/The Philadelphia Inquirer

Counties cannot reject mail-in and absentee ballots if a voter’s signature on the outer envelope does not match what’s on file, the Pennsylvania Supreme Court ruled Friday, making drawn-out challenges on Election Day less likely.In a 7-0 decision, the high court said there are no provisions in the state’s election code that specifically require counties to match voters’ signatures. And, the court noted, in writing the law, the legislature could have explicitly mandated signature matching but did not. “We decline to read a signature comparison requirement into the plain and unambiguous language of the election code,” the justices wrote in their decision.Friday’s ruling stemmed from a request earlier this month from Pennsylvania’s top election official, Kathy Boockvar, to bar county election officials from rejecting mail-in ballots solely on the basis of perceived differences in a voter’s signature. The decision is the latest in a crush of litigation in the weeks leading up to the Nov. 3 election, as Republicans and Democrats wage pitched battles over gray areas in Pennsylvania’s year-old law that greatly expanded the ability to vote by mail.

Texas order allowing counties to have multiple mail-in ballot drop off sites is upheld, but appeal will likely halt openings| Jolie McCullough/The Texas Tribune

A state appeals court has upheld a Travis County State district court order allowing Texas counties to have multiple drop-off locations for hand delivery of absentee ballots, undercutting Gov. Greg Abbott’s recent directive limiting counties to one drop-off site.But it remains unclear if the intermediate court’s decision will lead to the reopening of ballot drop-off locations that were shut down in Harris and Travis counties after Abbott’s order. Abbott and Texas Secretary of State Ruth Hughs planned to immediately appeal the ruling to the Texas Supreme Court to again block the order from taking effect, the attorney general’s office said.The lawsuit, filed in Travis County, is one of several state and federal court challenges to Abbott’s Oct. 1 order, which shut down three ballot drop-off locations in Travis County and 11 in Harris County and halted plans for more drop-offs in other counties. Last week, a federal appeals court upheld the Republican governor’s order under federal law, overturning a lower court’s ruling.

Texas Supreme Court stays order that had blocked Gov. Greg Abbott’s mail ballot drop-off limits | James Barragán/The Dallas Morning News

The Texas Supreme Court on Saturday stayed a lower court’s order that had blocked Gov. Greg Abbott’s order limiting counties to one mail ballot drop-off site. The decision followed a ruling Friday by Texas’ Austin-based Third Court of Appeals that had upheld a state judge’s order blocking Abbott’s order. The state had appealed the Third Court of Appeals order. The state Supreme Court was still reviewing whether to take further action in the case and ordered both sides to file their responses by 5 p.m. Monday. By then, there will be just more than one week left for voters to return their mail ballots in person to early voting clerks around the state. The case centers on whether local elected officials can accept mail ballots at satellite offices. Harris County had told voters it would accept such ballots at 11 of the early voting clerk’s annexes. Travis County and Fort Bend Counties also planned to offer multiple drop-off sites.

International election observers in the U.S. consider this year the most challenging ever | Carol Morello/The Washington Post

As the eyes of the world focus on the U.S. election, teams of international observers are heading out across the United States amid concerns about the vote’s integrity.For the ninth time, observers affiliated with the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe (OSCE) have come to the United States to watch over an election and recommend improvements, a mission little-noticed by most Americans.But the 2020 campaign is different.As fears rise about voter suppression, violence and a potentially contested outcome in the United States, the Europeans say they hope their efforts will help assure Americans the vote is legitimate.“This is one of the most important elections we have ever observed as the OSCE Parliamentary Assembly,” said Roberto Montella, secretary general of the group, which will dispatch 59 lawmakers and a staff of 16 to monitor voting in 10 states and the District of Columbia.

Voter Websites In California And Florida Could Be Vulnerable To Hacks, Report Finds | Dina Temple-Raston/NPR

Back in July, two cybersecurity firms sent the Department of Homeland Security a troubling report that described a possible vulnerability in the online voter registration systems in dozens of counties in California and Florida.The report, obtained by NPR, warned that flaws that might have allowed hackers to change a handful of voter registration files four years ago are still likely to exist in some places, and could be used again.A spokesperson for DHS’ Cybersecurity and Infrastructure Security Agency, or CISA, called the report “questionable” and “unverified,” and said the department “takes vulnerability reporting and remediation seriously.”The report comes, however, as Director of National Intelligence John Ratcliffe announced Wednesday that Russian and Iranian hackers had used some voter registration information in a bid to send misinformation to voters and sow discord ahead of the election. It is unclear if the voter registration websites the report identified as vulnerable were part of the hack Ratcliffe revealed.

National: 12 Cyber Threats That Could Wreak Havoc on the Election | Garrett M. Graff/WIRED

Wednesday night, at a brief, hastily arranged press conference at FBI headquarters, four top US national security officials announced solemnly that they had evidence that two foreign adversaries, Iran and Russia, had obtained US voter data and appeared to be trying to spread disinformation about the election.It was the latest—and most troubling—episode in a week that has seen near-daily events set off potential alarms about how the US will hold up on and approaching Election Day. In the final hours last Tuesday before the voter registration deadline in Virginia, an accidentally cut fiber-optic cable knocked out access to the state registration portal. The next morning, the New York Post published an odd, inconsistent, and poorly sourced story about Hunter Biden and the Ukrainian energy company Burisma that reeked of a ham-handed information operation. A day later came an extended outage of Twitter. Neither the Virginia cable cutting nor the Twitter outage was nefarious, though US officials continue to argue over the origins of the Burisma leaks.This week, voters in states like Alaska and Florida began reporting threatening emails, purportedly from the white supremacist group Proud Boys, saying that the targeted Democratic voters should support Donald Trump—or else. National security officials soon confirmed that the emails appeared to originate with Iran—a revelation that led to Wednesday’s press conference.FBI director Christopher Wray used the event to highlight how united and focused the nation’s security leadership is on protecting the election. “We are not going to let our guard down,” Wray said. Yet the emails and other episodes suggest that the presidential election is sure to be filled with more unexpected surprises and tense moments—and served as reminders of the myriad ways that the election could go wrong in the remaining weeks, days, and hours of the campaign.Interviews and conversations with numerous election, law enforcement, and intelligence personnel over the last year have highlighted a dozen specific scenarios that particularly worry them as Election Day nears. The concerns roughly break down into two categories: technical attacks on data or access and online information operations.

National: Election night marks the end of one phase of campaign 2020 – and the start of another | Drew DeSilver/Pew Research Center

On Nov. 3, millions of Americans will trek to their local polling places to cast their ballots for the next president. That evening, after the polls close, they’ll settle down in front of their televisions to watch the returns roll in from across the country. Sometime that night or early the next morning, the networks and wire services will call the race, and Americans will know whether President Donald Trump has won a second term or been ousted by former Vice President Joe Biden. Just about every statement in the previous paragraph is false, misleading or at best lacking important context. Over the years, Americans have gotten used to their election nights coming off like a well-produced game show, with the big reveal coming before bedtime (a few exceptions like the 2000 election notwithstanding). In truth, they’ve never been quite as simple or straightforward as they appeared. And this year, which has already upended so much of what Americans took for granted, seems poised to expose some of the wheezy 18th- and 19th-century mechanisms that still shape the way a president is elected in the 21st century. Here’s our guide to what happens after the polls close on election night. While you may remember some of the details from high school civics class, others were new even to us. Keeping them in mind may help you make sense of what promises to be an election night like no other.

National: House Democrats Renew Calls for Bill Giving Election Assistance Commission More Funding and Responsibility | Courtney Bublé/Government Executive

Following news from intelligence officials on Wednesday evening of foreign election interference attempts, several House lawmakers are renewing their calls for the Senate to take up their massive reform bill that would bolster the funding and responsibilities of the nation’s elections clearinghouse. Director of National Intelligence John Ratcliffe and FBI Director Christopher Wray gave an unexpected press briefing on Wednesday—13 days out from the election—in which they said that Iran and Russia obtained voter registration information in attempts to meddle in U.S. elections. They said that voting remains secure, but House lawmakers renewed the call for the Senate to take up their “2019 For the People Act,” which the chamber passed in March 2019 and has specific provisions to beef up the Election Assistance Commission. Elections in the United States are run by states and localities, but the EAC—along with the FBI, Justice Department and Homeland Security Department—support them and have increasingly done so after the Russian election interference attempts in the 2016 cycle.

National: Overseas voting in U.S. election could double as anxious Americans mail in their ballots | Elizabeth Palmer/CBS News

Nearly 3 million U.S. citizens living overseas are eligible to vote in this year’s presidential election. Already there are clear indications of a massive turnout from these expats, who are taking advantage of a long-established international absentee ballot system — but with some extra anxiety As CBS News senior international correspondent Elizabeth Palmer notes, Americans don’t even have to be on the planet Earth to cast their votes. U.S. astronaut Kate Rubins, who blasted off last week for the International Space Station, will cast her absentee ballot with a little help from NASA Mission Control.”I think it’s really important for everybody to vote, and if we can do it from space, then I believe folks can do it from the ground, too,” she said. The trend was already headed upward. According to official data from the U.S. Federal Voting Assistance Program, the 2018 midterm elections saw an increase of about 30% in ballots sent from Americans abroad.

‘A lot of chaos’: Trump’s rhetoric, a global pandemic and a tsunami of lawsuits complicate 2020 election | Kristine Phillips/USA Today

By Election Night of 1876, Democratic presidential candidate Samuel Tilden was just one electoral vote away from victory. But returns from four states that could still hand the presidency to his Republican opponent, Rutherford B. Hayes, were in question. Both candidates declared victory, and the dispute dragged on for months. Threats of a civil war loomed. Voter fraud and intimidation ran rampant. Congress was forced to create an electoral commission that would decide the presidency. Voting along party lines, it declared Hayes the winner by just one electoral vote. By the time the country finally had a president, inauguration was just two days away.”It was a violent time,” said Franita Tolson, an election law expert from the University of Southern California. More than 140 years later, the looming chaos of the 2020 presidential race – marred by threats both at home and abroad – harkens back to the ugliest, most antagonistic presidential election in U.S. history.

Alabama: Supreme Court Conservatives Agree With Alabama Conservatives: Voting Should Be Dangerous and Difficult, as the Founding Fathers Intended | Elliot Hannon/Slate

In an unsurprising twist, the state of Alabama has moved to make it harder to vote in next month’s election by prohibiting curbside voting. On Wednesday, the conservatives on the U.S. Supreme Court unsurprisingly agreed that forcing at-risk voters into the polling booth during a pandemic was how the Founding Fathers would have wanted it—you know, original intent and all. The Supreme Court’s conservatives ruled 5 to 3 on an emergency application to block a lower court decision that said counties in the state could offer curbside voting if they wanted to. The court sided with Alabama’s Republican secretary of state, John Merrill, who barred counties from allowing a form of contactless curbside voting that is being allowed in various forms across the country, including notoriously vote-suppressing states like Texas. “Some level of risk is inherent in life and in voting, pandemic or no,” Merrill argued.

Alabama law does not weigh in on curbside voting, and it’s a practice that some counties in the state have used in the past. When Merrill decided, at the height of the pandemic, to prohibit the practice of essentially dropping off your vote with an election worker, rather than waiting in line and doing the same act inside a fire station or elementary school, several Alabamians sued on the grounds that the prohibition violated the Americans With Disabilities Act by not providing a reasonable accommodation for vulnerable voters. Those voters are primarily elderly residents and those with health conditions that make them high-risk if they contract the coronavirus. Last month, a federal court agreed that a curbside accommodation—that was optional, not required—was reasonable.

California: ‘MAGA’ hats allowed but ‘Biden’ gear banned under in-person voting rules | John Myers/Los Angeles Times

California election rules prohibit clothing, signs and swag urging support for a specific candidate at polling places, but state officials have decided no such ban exists on items emblazoned with the slogan “Make America Great Again,” a mantra championed by President Trump. If there’s a distinction between a shirt bearing the name of Democratic presidential candidate Joe Biden and the ubiquitous hats featured prominently in Trump’s online store, it may be lost on voters come election day. “I want to make sure the public knows what the rules are,” said Kammi Foote, the registrar of voters in Inyo County. “I don’t want to be accused of favoritism allowing MAGA gear but telling people with a Biden/Harris mask to remove it. ”California has long differentiated between political slogans and what the law defines as “electioneering” — displaying information about a candidate or campaign — at a polling place or vote center. Last month, state elections officials made clear that gear bearing the Trump slogan would not be considered synonymous with showing support for the president’s reelection.

Louisiana: Emails show how election officials shut down website on National Voter Registration Day | David Hammer/WWL

In mid-August, Louisiana elections officials delayed the scheduled maintenance of the state’s voter registration website from Sept. 8 to Sept. 22, apparently never noticing the move would shut down the site for hours on National Voter Registration Day and cause a political firestorm.Nearly 300 pages of public Secretary of State’s Office emails obtained by WWL-TV through a public records request seem to indicate the scheduling snafu was an honest mistake by election officials who were focused on the Aug. 15 municipal elections and an especially challenging election season. “The 2020 election cycle presented unprecedented challenges to our state, including a global pandemic and two hurricanes,” Secretary of State spokesman Tyler Brey said. “Despite a strained staff, the July and August elections were conducted without incident or error, and the presidential election is being administered with the same level of excellence Louisiana voters have come to expect.” But Democrats expressed suspicion about the motives of the Republican secretary of state, Kyle Ardoin. GOP legislators had pressed Ardoin this summer to make his emergency election plan more restrictive in November than it had been for the primaries and municipal elections.

Michigan Secretary of State faces lawsuits over open carry ban at polls | Dave Boucher and Paul Egan/Detroit Free Press

Two lawsuits were filed Thursday seeking to nullify Michigan Secretary of State Jocelyn Benson’s recent directive to ban the open carry of guns at polling places and other sites on Election Day. Both suits were filed in the Michigan Court of Claims.One suit was filed by gun rights activist Thomas Lambert and three nonprofit organizations: Michigan Open Carry Inc., Michigan Gun Owners and the Michigan Coalition for Responsible Gun Owners. The other suit was filed by Robert Davis, a Wayne County activist and serial litigator. Recently, Benson sent a directive to local clerks stating the open carrying of firearms within 100 feet of a polling place, clerk’s office or absentee ballot counting site would be banned on Election Day. The directive specifically acknowledges those with a license to carry a concealed weapon must continue to follow the law and guidelines that apply to where they’re allowed to carry. In addition to Benson, the Lambert suit names as defendants Attorney General Dana Nessel and Joseph Gasper, director of the Michigan State Police.Benson’s “pronouncement directly conflicts with Michigan’s statutory scheme; makes an unsupported correlation between mere possession of a firearm and voter intimidation; and is conjured without any legal basis or authorization under Michigan law,” the Lambert suit alleges.

Michigan’s voter transportation ban upheld by federal appeals panel | Beth LeBlanc/The Detroit Times

A federal appeals court panel has upheld Michigan’s ban on transporting voters to the polls, overturning a Detroit federal district judge in the latest decision from a suit filed last year by a Democratic group seeking to invalidate the law. The voter-transportation law, which was challenged by the Priorities USA super political action committee, bans hiring transportation for a voter who is otherwise physically capable of walking. A violation is a misdemeanor in Michigan and punishable by up to 90 days in jail or a $500 fine.Michigan law also bans third parties from helping to deliver ballot applications unless the person is “affirmatively” asked to provide assistance.

North Carolina Attorney General calls Trump leading source of election misinformation | Benjamin Freed/StateScoop

As state election and law enforcement officials continue their efforts to push back against tides of misinformation and disinformation that can potentially undermine voters’ confidence, North Carolina Attorney General Josh Stein on Thursday laid much of the blame at the feet of President Donald Trump. Speaking on a conference call with reporters hosted by the nonprofit Voter Protection Project, Stein called out Trump’s suggestions to his supporters that they attempt to vote both by mail and in person, and that they swarm polling places on Election Day to act as “observers.” “There’s been people, namely the president, encouraging people to vote twice, which is illegal in North Carolina,” said Stein, a Democrat who is running for re-election himself. “For a leader to encourage people to commit crimes is a shame.” There is credence to Stein’s assessment of the president. A study this month by Harvard University’s Berkman Klein Center for Internet and Society named Trump as a leading source of misinformation about voting by mail, for which instances of fraud are exceedingly rare.