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The Count #18: Trump Gives Away Plan to Steal Election

The Count is a daily newsletter and live show from The Appeal and NowThis, focused on what happens in the scenario that the 2020 presidential race is too close to call on election night, if President Donald Trump makes good on his promise to not accept the election results, and what we can do in the 77 days between election day and the inauguration to uphold our democracy.

The Count #18: Trump Gives Away Plan to Steal Election

The Count is a daily newsletter and live show from The Appeal and NowThis, focused on what happens in the scenario that the 2020 presidential race is too close to call on election night, if President Donald Trump makes good on his promise to not accept the election results, and what we can do in the 77 days between election day and the inauguration to uphold our democracy.


Today, we’ll look at:

  • What President Donald Trump has recently said about trying to claim victory, or even steal, this election.
  • What you need to know about the battleground states as results start being released tonight.

If you were forwarded this newsletter and would like to subscribe, sign up here.


THE DAILY COUNTDOWN.

  • It’s finally election day.
  • 35 days until the deadline for all ballots to be counted.
  • 41 days until electoral college slates send their votes to Congress.
  • 64 days until Congress counts electoral college votes.
  • 78 days until inauguration day.

THE ELECTION DAY COUNTDOWN

  • 97 million votes were cast before polls opened this morning.
  • 70% of the number of total votes in 2016 have been cast before election day.
  • 4 battleground states hit more than 90% of their 2016 turnout just in early voting: Florida, Georgia, and North Carolina. Texas hit 108%.
  • 90% is Biden’s chance of winning, according to FiveThirtyEight.
  • 270 is the Electoral College number each candidate is trying to get to.

TRUMP GIVES AWAY HIS PLAN TO STEAL THE ELECTION

Election day is finally here. Yet before bleary-eyed, well-masked poll workers began flinging open the doors to polling places at 5 a.m. this morning, more than 97 million ballots had already been cast. Of those, nearly 62 million were mail-in ballots–which is roughly half the total number of votes cast in 2016.

That means this election would be unprecedented under any circumstances. But to add to it, the President of the United States and his allies have repeatedly signaled their intentions to declare victory early, discredit and legally challenge mail-in ballots in the courts, or, if necessary, select competing slates of electors for Trump to steal the election.

In the last week Trump made these plans clearer than ever before:

  • “The Election should end on November 3rd., not weeks later!” –Trump tweeted on Friday
  • “We should know the result of the election on Nov. 3. The evening of Nov. 3. That’s the way it’s been, and that’s the way it should be.” –Trump told a rally in Iowa on Sunday
  • “I think it’s terrible when we can’t know the results of an election on the night of the election … We’re going to go in the night of—as soon as the election is over—we’re going in with our lawyers.” — Trump told reporters on Sunday in North Carolina
  • “Hopefully, the few states remaining that want to take a lot of time after November 3 to count ballots, that won’t be allowed by the various courts,” Trump told reporters in Nevada last week.
  • Trump also told confidants that he’ll declare victory if he looks to be “ahead” tonight, three sources reportedly told Axios. Trump later denied this.

“Trump understands how everybody treats this election like the Super Bowl, every election like the Super Bowl. He understands that everybody wants to get a result on election night and he is going to exploit that desire.” –The Count co-host Alana Sivin

And Trump isn’t the only one.

  • We’ve previously reported how Steve Bannon, Trump’s former chief strategist, has said Trump will declare victory when he is “pretty far ahead” around 10 or 11 p.m. tonight.
  • Trump Senior campaign adviser Jason Miller falsely claimed on This Week with George Stephanopoulos that Trump will have an electoral college lead tonight “probably getting 280 electorals” and that Democrats are “going to try to steal it back after the election.” (To be clear: Electoral college votes aren’t cast until Dec. 14, and we won’t know the legitimate Elector count until all ballots have been counted in each state.)
  • Trump’s advisers are also hoping the race will be too close to call, allowing Trump to undermine the validity of mail-in ballots, according to The New York Times.

“What we’re really talking about here is the equivalent of a team claiming victory at halftime and then just refusing to play the second half.” –The Count co-host Emily Galvin-Almanza

Remember — Not even the Trump campaign expects the election to be over tonight. The campaign sent out a fundraising email on Friday to “keep fighting after Election Day” asking for weekly recurring giving until Dec. 14—the day the slate of Electoral College electors meet and governors send a certification to Congress. In justifying this, a campaign spokesperson told The New York Times the race is expected to be close and “it is possible that multiple states will require recounts.

Nate Silver, editor-in-chief of FiveThirtyEight, the website that puts Trump’s chance of winning at 10%, tweeted that, “[T]his is not something a campaign says if it thinks it has much chance of winning legitimately. I think Trump can win legitimately! (A 10% chance, per our model.) I am not sure if the Trump campaign does, though.”


STATES TO WATCH TONIGHT

Trump may look to be ahead tonight in what is being described as a “red mirage” because more Republicans are expected to vote today with ballots that will be counted quickly, while more Democrats used early and mail-in ballots which can take longer to count.

This gives Trump the incentive to try and discount as many mail-in ballots as possible, and declare victory before they can be adequately counted.

Here’s what to keep in mind as results begin arriving tonight:

  • ARIZONA — 
    • 2016 winner: Trump
    • Electoral College votes: 11
    • Mail-in ballots received: 2.4 million (924,000 Democrats, 914,000 Republicans)
    • Mail-in ballot processing: Upon receipt (counting begins 14 days early)
    • Expected results: Mostly tonight
  • FLORIDA — 
    • 2016 winner: Trump (flip from 2012)
    • Electoral College votes: 29
    • Mail-in ballots received: 4.6 million (2.1 million Democrats, 1.4 million Republicans)
    • Mail-in ballot processing: 22 days early
    • Expected results: Tonight (but it is Florida)
  • GEORGIA —
    • 2016 winner: Trump
    • Electoral College votes: 16
    • Mail-in ballots received: 1.2 million (split unknown)
    • Mail-in ballot processing: Upon receipt
    • Expected results: Majority by Nov. 4
  • MICHIGAN —
    • 2016 winner: Trump (flip from 2012)
    • Electoral College votes: 16
    • Mail-in ballots received: 2.8 million (split unknown)
    • Mail-in ballot processing: 1 day early (for large towns and cities)
    • Expected results: Nov. 6
  • NORTH CAROLINA —
    • 2016 winner: Trump
    • Electoral College votes: 15
    • Mail-in ballots received: 938,000 (425k Democrats, 191k)
    • Mail-in ballot processing: Fifth Tuesday before election day
    • Expected results: Vast majority tonight
  • PENNSYLVANIA — 
    • 2016 winner: Trump (flip)
    • Electoral College votes: 20
    • Mail-in ballots received: 2.4 million (1.5 million Democrats, 555,000 Republicans)
    • Mail-in ballot processing: Election day (some counties may begin day after)
    • Expected results: Vast majority by Nov. 6
  • TEXAS — 
    • 2016 winner: Trump
    • Electoral College votes: 38
    • Mail-in ballots received: 973,000 (split unknown)
    • Mail-in ballot processing: Upon receipt
    • Expected results: Majority tonight
  • WISCONSIN — 
    • 2016 winner: Trump (flip)
    • Electoral College votes: 10
    • Mail-in ballots received: 1.2 million (split unknown)
    • Mail-in ballot processing: Election day
    • Expected results: Late tonight or early Nov. 4

As The Count co-host Emily Galvin-Almanza said yesterday, tonight is “probably not going to be the decisive day you want it to be.”
“Yes we can dream about a decisive Biden lead in Florida, North Carolina, Texas those would be pretty decisive states. But that is the outside chance, that is not probably what’s going to happen.”

If, instead, it comes down to states like Pennsylvania, Michigan, and Wisconsin that don’t process mail-in ballots well before election day, “we’re in pretty big trouble,” The Count co-host Alana Sivin said.

WHAT WE ARE TRACKING

  • How TV networks are preparing for tonight with more caution than ever before. Meanwhile the Associated Press will continue its practice of only declaring, but never projecting, a winner when there’s no chance for a trailing candidate to catch up.
  • Twitter will add labels today to candidates’ tweets that declare victory before two news outlets have also called the same race.
  • Trump’s “army” of poll watchers never really materialized, probably because the task is too boring.
  • Nonwhite voters’ mail-in ballots are being rejected at higher rates than white voters in 11 states, including Florida and Georgia.
  • Texas’ 127,000 drive thru ballots will not be thrown out after a federal judge rejected an appeal from Republicans.
  • Exit polls can be misleading in an ordinary election, and changes to include early voters in the polling won’t help.
  • Asking voters who their friends and family will vote for, as an indication of who a voter will really support, significantly cuts into Biden’s national lead in polls.

The Count #17: Will Pennsylvania Decide the Election?

The Count is a daily newsletter and live show from The Appeal and NowThis, focused on what happens in the scenario that the 2020 presidential race is too close to call on election night, if President Donald Trump makes good on his promise to not accept the election results, and what we can do in the 77 days between election day and the inauguration to uphold our democracy.

The Count #17: Will Pennsylvania Decide the Election?

The Count is a daily newsletter and live show from The Appeal and NowThis, focused on what happens in the scenario that the 2020 presidential race is too close to call on election night, if President Donald Trump makes good on his promise to not accept the election results, and what we can do in the 77 days between election day and the inauguration to uphold our democracy.


Today, we’ll look at:

  • How Pennsylvania could decide the election.
  • What nightmare election scenarios could look like.

If you were forwarded this newsletter and would like to subscribe, sign up here.


THE DAILY COUNTDOWN.

  • 1 days until election day.
  • 36 days until the deadline for all ballots to be counted.
  • 42 days until electoral college slates send their votes to Congress.
  • 65 days until Congress counts electoral college votes.
  • 79 days until inauguration day.

WILL PENNSYLVANIA DECIDE?

When the polls close tomorrow, the race will begin with that magic number: 270 electoral college votes. Based on current polling, former Vice President Joe Biden has more paths to 270 than President Donald Trump, but for both candidates, the path to victory runs through Pennsylvania, Michigan, and Wisconsin.

These three states had been part of the Democrats “blue wall” until Trump won the trio in 2016. But Pennsylvania, where polling shows it’s a tighter race than in Michigan or Wisconsin, is set to be the most important of them all.

Pennsylvania (Largely) Decides:

  • TOP VOTES — Pennsylvania, along with Illinois, has the fifth most electoral college votes with 20 votes up for grabs. (California has the most with 55, followed by Texas with 38, and Florida and New York with 29 each.)
  • TIPPING POINT — Pennsylvania is the state that is “most likely to decide the election.” Democrats believe it will be their “tipping point” to 270, while Trump can hold onto his office if he loses Michigan and Wisconsin, but wins the rest of his 2016 states, including Pennsylvania.
  • BIDEN AHEAD — Biden is ahead in Pennsylvania polling by an average of 5.2% as of Friday, but according to FiveThirtyEight, a polling error equivalent to 2016 could mean the state goes to Trump.
  • GAME OF CHANCE — If Biden wins Pennsylvania, FiveThirtyEight forecasts he has a 98% chance of winning the election. If Trump were to take the state, the president’s chances increase to 64%.
  • NOT THE END — If Trump did win Pennsylvania, that would still leave Biden with more than a one-in-three chance at a win and several scenarios to reach 270.

So far, Pennsylvania has seen record early voting turnout after introducing no-excuse mail-in ballots last year, and voter registration in Philadelphia is at its highest level in nearly four decades. But early voting, compared to 2016, is actually at some of the lowest levels in key battleground states.

Election officials in several counties said they wouldn’t count mail-in ballots until after election day, which has received pushback from the secretary of state. One county said the vote at the polls was the “most important thing” on Nov. 3, while a board of elections chair in another county said reporting mail-in ballots first–which are expected to lean Democratic–could make results “look pretty skewed.”

Pennsylvania state Representative Joanne McClinton told The Count how the Republican legislature’s decision to block mail-in ballots from being processed ahead of election day has left counties to come up with their own rules.

“We have to make sure that we’re vigilant, that we’re ready, and that we’re not accepting any outcomes for our state–unless it’s such a disparity in the numbers that [one candidate is] more numbers ahead than there are uncounted ballots. That’s the only set of circumstances where we could trust an outcome on Tuesday night.”

 


UNPACKING NIGHTMARE ELECTION SCENARIOS

On Friday, Trump reiterated his–impossible–demand for election results to be finalized on election day.

“The Election should END on November 3rd,” Trump tweeted.

While casting ballots will certainly end, we’ve repeatedly covered how counting all the ballots on election night would be impossible: Election officials never finalize results on election night and it’s just not feasible for this year’s record-breaking 55 million mail-in ballots to all be counted by midnight on Nov. 3.

Sowing chaos and confusion to supersede the vote count:

  1. Trump’s insistence that results be announced on Tuesday night combined with the likely “red mirage” of Republican-leaning election day votes, has election officials concerned (and his allies concurring) that Trump will declare himself the winner before the clock strikes twelve.
  2. From there, Trump has already laid the groundwork to label as fraudulent the “blue shift” of Democratic-leaning mail-in ballots.
  3. The goal of these claims is to help stir public support for two paths to supersede the vote count: legal battles waged by Republicans to reject mail-in ballots and/or the appointment of competing slate of Trump electors by Republican state legislatures.

The success of this third stage of Trump’s plan to steal the election relies on public support — or at least lack of vocal opposition. This is why dozens of groups, representing millions of Americans, plan to take part in non-violent protests and civil disobedience if Trump refuses to accept election results or blocks the counting of votes.

There are serious concerns of violence:

  • LASER FOCUS — Franita Tolson, a vice dean and professor at the University of Southern California Gould School of Law and a fellow with The Justice Collaborative Institute, told The Count that if Congress needs to decide on competing electors, “the real fear people have is about the potential for violence. The potential for massive unrest, because all eyes will be on whatever state is at the center of the dispute.”

  • VIOLENCE EXPECTED — Three-quarters of voters say they’re concerned about violence on election day and in the days afterward. Stores are preparing for destruction, and the government has acknowledged the risk of domestic extremists targeting the “election itself … or the post-election period.
  • CONDITIONS RIPE — The current conditions in America–high levels of distrust and suspicion, increased polarization, and extreme groups threatening violence–“are ripe for conflict and maybe even violence,” global conflict experts have told NPR.
  • TRUMP’S ROLE — On top of all this, as a report from the International Crisis Group says, “Trump’s often incendiary rhetoric suggests he will more likely stoke than calm tensions.”
  • THE RESULT MAY NOT MATTER — But different experts say that even if there’s an immediate landslide win for either side, violence could still erupt. “The social problems are the gasoline. Trump is throwing matches,” George Mason University sociologist Jack Goldstone told Buzzfeed.

“The risk of unrest may ebb and flow as the final days of the campaign unfold, but it is almost certain to remain, and it will increase if either side forms the impression that the vote has been rigged,” the International Crisis Group report says.


WHAT WE ARE TRACKING

  • How could Trump steal the election? A new report takes you through a step-by-step.
  • This is the most litigated election in US history, and a new podcast episode looks at what role the courts may play in coming days.
  • Texas’ early voter turnout has surpassed its entire 2016 vote. By Friday it had hit 100.4%.
  • Texas’ competitiveness this year could, in part, come down to more Democratic-leaning voters moving to the state or moving to new housing developments in a different county.
  • Minnesota will put aside ballots it receives after 8 p.m. on election day, after an appeals court ruling. It is not yet known if these votes will be allowed to be counted.
  • Aside from mail-in ballots, a new record of millions of provisional ballots–that are counted after election day–is expected this year.
  • Asian American and Pacific Islander voters “could provide the margin of victory” in the country’s 10 most contested states.
  • Taylor Swift licensed her music for the first time to a political campaign. The song “Only the Young,” is the theme of California Representative Eric Swalwell’s latest ad.

The Count #16: Will The Youth Vote Sink Trump?

The Count is a daily newsletter and live show from The Appeal and NowThis, focused on what happens in the scenario that the 2020 presidential race is too close to call on election night, if President Donald Trump makes good on his promise to not accept the election results, and what we can do in the 77 days between election day and the inauguration to uphold our democracy.

The Count #16: Will The Youth Vote Sink Trump?

The Count is a daily newsletter and live show from The Appeal and NowThis, focused on what happens in the scenario that the 2020 presidential race is too close to call on election night, if President Donald Trump makes good on his promise to not accept the election results, and what we can do in the 77 days between election day and the inauguration to uphold our democracy.


Today, we’ll look at:

  • Will the youth vote sink Trump?
  • The racist roots of voter suppression.

If you were forwarded this newsletter and would like to subscribe, sign up here.


THE DAILY COUNTDOWN.

  • 4 days until election day.
  • 39 days until the deadline for all ballots to be counted.
  • 45 days until electoral college slates send their votes to Congress.
  • 68 days until Congress counts electoral college votes.
  • 82 days until inauguration day.

WILL THE YOUTH VOTE SINK TRUMP?

Nearly 80 million people have already voted, and youth voters have made up a higher share of early votes in this cycle than at this point in 2018 or 2016. Ben Wessel, the executive director of NextGen America, a group working to mobilize younger voters for Democrats, told The Atlantic that it’s “the highest youth turnout since 2008, and maybe since 1992.

A Harvard Institute of Politics poll of 18- to 29-year-olds released this week found nearly two-thirds of young voters–significantly more than in 2016–said they would “definitely be voting.” And nearly twice as many young Americans say they’d vote for Joe Biden over Donald Trump, while even more likely voters say the same with 63% for Biden to 25% for Trump.

Biden’s campaign has of course been targeting young voters with ads: There were the spots aired during the MTV Video Music Awards, the get out the vote series aimed at young Black men in battleground states, and just this week aired a new animated ad that mocked Trump’s take on climate change on Cartoon Network and Comedy Central.


YOUNG VOTERS ARE DIVERSE, ENGAGED, AND BIGGER THAN EVER

  • THE YOUNG MATCH THE OLD — Crucially, this is the first year that Millennials and Gen Z will equal older generations “as a share of all Americans eligible to vote.”
  • MILLIONS OF VOTES —  24 million Gen Zers are eligible to vote this year, making up 1 in 10 eligible voters.
  • MORE DIVERSITY — Gen Z is set to be the most racially and ethnically diverse generation, with 45% of them expected to be nonwhite.
  • HIT HARD — At the beginning of the pandemic, more Gen Zers said they or someone in their household had lost their job or taken a pay than any other generation.

Zak Malamed, co-founder and executive director of The Next 50, told The Count that racial justice, environmental justice, and gun violence are motivating youth voter engagement, but that like any voting bloc, consistent engagement is key to increased turnout this year:

“Young people will be invested in the system as much as we’re invested in them … I believe that if we sustain this after this election, we’re looking at perhaps the most engaged, civically engaged, politically engaged generation our country’s ever seen.”


THE RACIST ROOTS OF GOP VOTER SUPPRESSION

Americans’ record early voter turnout is remarkable, but it’s important to remember that no matter the results of 2020, they will come in spite of voter suppression efforts.

“If Donald Trump loses the election, it’s not right to say that voter suppression didn’t work, or that it failed,” said Jay Willis, senior contributor at The Appeal, on The Count. “Millions of people still couldn’t meaningfully exercise their vote in this country. Because Republicans made it harder. That’s a tragedy for democracy, no matter what the election outcome is,” Willis said.

Willis recently wrote about the racist history of voter suppression–from both sides of the aisle–going back nearly 200 years in an article titled, “Trump’s Voter Fraud Lie Is the Oldest Trick in the Book.” These efforts have historically targeted Black Americans the most and the common ingredients, he says, are that: “It’s always strategic. It’s always pushed by people in power, who are afraid of losing that power. And the excuse for doing it is always, always, always voter fraud.”

Here’s a sampling of those efforts:

  • POLL TAXES — In 1871, Georgia launched the first poll tax that required all back taxes to be paid before voters could cast their ballot. This was a burden on sharecroppers who could not afford the taxes or didn’t often deal with cash.  After the poll tax, Black voter turnout was halved. The recent push by Florida’s Republican legislature to make people previously convicted of felonies pay off fines and fees before being able to vote is considered by voting rights advocates to be a poll tax by another name.
  • FELONY DISENFRANCHISEMENT — In the 15 years after the end of the Civil War, more than a third of the states introduced felony disenfranchisement. Some Southern states targeted crimes thought to be associated with Black Americans, such as burglary and theft, but not crimes like murder. Felony disenfranchisement continues today with more than 6 million people having lost  access to the ballot box; only two states (“the two whitest in the country”) and the District of Columbia never take away voting rights after a felony conviction.
  • LITERACY TESTS — In 1882, South Carolina created a system where ballots for each race had to be cast in eight separate slots. Successfully casting ballots was essentially a literacy test; if ballots were placed in the wrong box they were void but identifying the right box was made difficult for voters that weren’t completely literate. White voters who struggled were aided by poll workers, Black voters were left on their own or were read the wrong information. In 1880, 58,000 Black voters cast a ballot in South Carolina, by 1888, that number had dwindled to less than 14,000.
  • THE VOTING RIGHTS ACT OF 1965 was created to combat these efforts, and required Department of Justice approval for any voting law changes in nine states with a history of voter suppression. However, when key provisions were struck down by the Supreme Court in 2013, it opened the floodgates to many of today’s suppression tactics.

“As bad as voter suppression is, it’s actually a euphemism for something that’s a lot worse.” — Jay Willis


WHAT WE ARE TRACKING

  • The Minneapolis police union asked retired officers to volunteer as “poll challengers” in “problem” areas after a request from an attorney linked to the Trump campaign (the campaign has denied any involvement). City and state officials said the move amounted to voter intimidation.
  • Wisconsin’s Republican party says hackers stole $2.3 million, money put aside for Trump’s reelection efforts in the state.
  • More than 400 “Protect the Results” protests are already being planned around the country if Donald Trump appears to be challenging the count, showing that many are preparing to take to the streets if necessary.
  • How would you redesign ballots to make them easier to use? The New York Times gave it a go.
  • The three critical things elected Democrats must do to stop Trump from stealing the election are laid out here.
  • If Trump clearly loses the election, he will still be president for 77 days with nothing to lose. Here’s a few scenarios of what Trump could do in that time.

The Count #15: Kavanaugh Invites Trump To Steal The Election

The Count is a daily newsletter and live show from The Appeal and NowThis, focused on what happens in the scenario that the 2020 presidential race is too close to call on election night, if President Donald Trump makes good on his promise to not accept the election results, and what we can do in the 77 days between election day and the inauguration to uphold our democracy.

The Count #15: Kavanaugh Invites Trump To Steal The Election

The Count is a daily newsletter and live show from The Appeal and NowThis, focused on what happens in the scenario that the 2020 presidential race is too close to call on election night, if President Donald Trump makes good on his promise to not accept the election results, and what we can do in the 77 days between election day and the inauguration to uphold our democracy.


Today, we’ll look at:

  • How U.S. Supreme Court Justice Brett Kavanaugh is inviting President Donald Trump to steal the election.
  • How election nights have played out in history and how Democrats are preparing for the night of Nov. 3.

If you were forwarded this newsletter and would like to subscribe, sign up here.


THE DAILY COUNTDOWN.

  • 5 days until election day.
  • 40 days until the deadline for all ballots to be counted.
  • 46 days until electoral college slates send their votes to Congress.
  • 69 days until Congress counts electoral college votes.
  • 83 days until inauguration day.

KAVANAUGH INVITES TRUMP TO STEAL THE ELECTION

Earlier this week, the Supreme Court blocked Wisconsin from counting mail-in ballots that arrive up to six days after the election.

The ruling was a win for Republicans in a key battleground state, but the bigger blow came in the 18-page concurring opinion penned by Justice Brett Kavanaugh, which has election experts worried that SCOTUS could meddle with the 2020 election results.

Justice Kavanaugh wrote that allowing votes to be counted after election day, could create “chaos and suspicions of impropriety” and “potentially flip the result of an election.” Kavanaugh also wrote that states “want to be able to definitively announce the results of the election on election night, or as soon as possible thereafter,” suggesting that there is a higher value to knowing results quickly than to ensure those results are accurate.

Yet, as Justice Elena Kagan wrote in her dissent, “there are no results to “flip” until all valid votes are counted. And nothing could be more “suspicio[us]” or “improp[er]” than refusing to tally votes once the clock strikes 12 on election night. To suggest otherwise, especially in these fractious times, is to disserve the electoral process.”

Moreover, continuing to count ballots after election day is standard procedure:

  • The deadline for states to certify results occurs weeks, even up to a month, later.
  • Robert Reich, a professor of public policy at the University of California at Berkeley, rejected Kavanaugh’s argument about states’ timelines: “States don’t seek to announce results [on] election night. The media does. States don’t even certify election results the day of the election. Many take weeks before certification.”
  • As Michael Li, senior counsel for the Brennan Center for Justice’s Democracy Program, told The Hill: “The simple fact that NBC calls it doesn’t mean the ballots are all counted. The counting is never done on election night. There are always provisional ballots, there are always military and overseas ballots.”

Justice Kavanaugh’s opinion also suffered from at least one consequential factual error. He wrote: “States such as Vermont … have decided not to make changes to their ordinary election rules, including to the election-day deadline for receipt of absentee ballots.” But….

  • Vermont’s secretary of state’s office called the second sentence “incorrect.” Vermont, the Secretary said, did make a change this year, which involved mailing out ballots to every voter a month before the election.
  • Yesterday, the secretary of state formally requested the Supreme Court “correct the erroneous claim” because “facts matter.”
  • Kavanaugh has since tweaked this sentence from “ordinary election rules” to “ordinary election-deadline rules.”

Yet another aspect of Kavanaugh’s opinion that troubled experts was his effective support of the Supreme Court’s ability to overrule state courts about state election rules–which was too much for even the Bush v. Gore majority:

“It is also stunning in its implications, because many states have protections in their state constitutions for the right to vote, but under Justice Kavanaugh’s theory … all of the state constitutional protections that were adopted by the people are invalid since they did not come from the state legislature. The implications of that argument are sweeping, and could be extremely harmful to the right to vote in various states and across the country.” — The Count guest Leah Litman


DEMOCRATS READY FOR TRUMP’S ELECTION NIGHT “DIRTY TRICKS”

Trump has repeatedly said he expects the results of the presidential election to be announced almost immediately on election night.

  • Just 15 minutes after the Supreme Court’s ruling this week, Trump tweeted, “Big problems and discrepancies with Mail In Ballots all over the USA. Must have final total on November 3rd.
  • On Oct. 16, Trump told a rally crowd in Georgia that, “I want to find out, legitimately, who won or lost on November 3. I’m not looking to find out on November 19. Or on December 1.” (For the record, The Count would like a pony, but we don’t always get what we want, Donald.)
  • Trump ally Steve Bannon has even said Trump will declare himself the winner by 10 or 11 p.m. ET—which would be before polls have even closed in California.

Even in an ordinary year, the race being called that early in the night would be remarkable.

In 2016, the Associated Press called the election at 02:29 a.m. on Wednesday Nov. 9. In 2004, AP waited to call the election until 11.07 a.m. on Wednesday. And just over a century ago, in 1916, amid calls by Republicans of cries of fraud, it took days for the presidential election to be called for the incumbent.

This is, of course, no ordinary year.

More than 50% of all the votes cast in 2016 have already been cast. Two-thirds of these are mail-in ballots which simply take longer to process.

Of the states that had primaries after mid-March, results took on average four days to be confirmed. Battleground states were among the slowest with Pennsylvania and Michigan taking nearly a week.

This means the election won’t be called on election night unless it’s a complete blow out for one candidate. Senator Chris Murphy says Democrats are preparing for Trump’s “dirty tricks.”

“That night, as the president has indicated, he wants to shut the count down early. We’ll be ready for legal action the president may take as soon as the evening of election night to try and stop all of the ballots from being counted … I think one of the dirty tricks he’s going to employ is going to be an attempt either through political strongarming or through lawsuits to try and stop the ballots from being counted.” — The Count guest U.S. Senator Chris Murphy for Connecticut.

As Murphy said, “We may not know the winner on election night, and that’s okay. Democracy sometimes takes a little while.”


WHAT WE ARE TRACKING

  • The Supreme Court ruled last night that it would not expedite Republicans’ request to review Pennsylvania’s mail-in ballot deadline extension until after election day.
  • Some Republican-leaning Pennsylvania counties say they don’t plan to start counting mail-in ballots until after the polls close, or even the next day.
  • Pennsylvania, Georgia, Michigan, Wisconsin and Oregon, are at high risk of activity by armed groups over the election.
  • SCOTUS ruled that North Carolina’s nine-day mail-in ballot deadline extension can go ahead, rejecting arguments from Republicans and the Trump campaign.
  • Texas voters must wear masks when voting, a federal judge ruled yesterday. An appeal has already been launched.
  • Republicans are already using Kavanaugh’s opinion to spread fear and misinformation about mail-in voting and election results.
  • Growing efforts to change the focus from election night to “election season.”

The Count #14: How To Make Sure Your Ballot Counts

The Count is a daily newsletter and live show from The Appeal and NowThis, focused on what happens in the scenario that the 2020 presidential race is too close to call on election night, if President Donald Trump makes good on his promise to not accept the election results, and what we can do in the 77 days between election day and the inauguration to uphold our democracy.

The Count #14: How To Make Sure Your Ballot Counts

The Count is a daily newsletter and live show from The Appeal and NowThis, focused on what happens in the scenario that the 2020 presidential race is too close to call on election night, if President Donald Trump makes good on his promise to not accept the election results, and what we can do in the 77 days between election day and the inauguration to uphold our democracy.


Today, we’ll look at:

  • After voting, what else Americans can do to promote democracy.
  • Ballot “curing” and how to make sure your ballot counts.

If you were forwarded this newsletter and would like to subscribe, sign up here.


THE DAILY COUNTDOWN.

  • 6 days until election day.
  • 41 days until the deadline for all ballots to be counted.
  • 47 days until electoral college slates send their votes to Congress.
  • 70 days until Congress counts electoral college votes.
  • 84 days until inauguration day.

DO MORE THAN JUST VOTE

More than 66 million people have already cast early ballots, nearly 50% of votes cast in 2016. Almost half of all these ballots have also been cast in the 13 battleground states that will decide the winner of the Electoral College.

Democrats seem to be leading the lines to the ballot box. Of the states that report this information, Democrats have made up 48% of early voters to Republicans’ 28%.

Democrats are trying to harness this passion to combat voter suppression by encouraging Americans to get involved in politics, aside from just voting.

Representative Pramila Jayapal of Washington state, the first South Asian American woman ever elected to the House of Representatives, told The Count how important it is to be prepared to learn about “how people put themselves on the line” with non-violent civil disobedience, learning from protesters in other countries like Sudan.

“The road to fascism is littered with moments when people did not stand up or speak out and we cannot allow that to happen in the United States of America … If we want to keep our democracy, we’re going to have to fight for it.”


HOW TO MAKE SURE YOUR BALLOT COUNTS

Two-thirds of early voting across the country has been completed using mail-in ballots. That’s 44 million votes. And these ballots are verified differently than those cast in-person: Once received, election officials will verify the voter’s personal details such as name, address, and signature, and some states have extra steps such as requiring the signature of a witness or notary public.

The two biggest reasons some mail-in ballots were not counted in 2018 was because they arrived late, or signatures were missing or didn’t seem to match records. This disproportionately affected groups that are more likely to vote for Biden this year: young voters and Black and Hispanic voters.

This will be an even bigger challenge this year because of the millions of people voting by mail for the first time, increasing the chance of widespread rejections. During this year’s primaries, more than half a million mail-in ballots were rejected and officials in the key states of Michigan, Pennsylvania and Wisconsin rejected more than 60,000 ballots.

Estimates of mail-in ballot rejections this year suggest more than 1 million ballots could be tossed out. And because Democrats have returned more than twice as many mail-in ballots than Republicans, rejections could seriously hurt the Biden campaign in key states. Already, 15,574 Florida ballots have errors that need to be fixed, with twice as many of these belonging to Democrats than Republicans.

Ballot “curing” is crucial to keep ballots from being permanently rejected:

  • CURE ALL — “Curing” is the process that occurs when a voter fixes issues with their ballots, such as a blank signature or verifying personal details. This usually involves providing an affidavit with their information and ID to their election office.
  • CALL ME MAYBE — Some states will reject ballots outright, but 18 states always require election officials to notify voters if there’s an error with their ballot and give them a chance to cure it, and eight more states have introduced the policy for this year only.

As The Count’s co-host Emily Galvin-Almanza said, in states without a curing process “if voters make a mistake, they might not find out that their ballot didn’t count until after the election, if ever, which is why it’s so important to do it really, really carefully the first time.”

Like every aspect of the 2020 election, curing has been targeted in several lawsuits. In Texas, a federal appeals court reinstated the process of rejecting ballots outright while a federal judge ruled North Carolina can allow voters to correct small errors with an affidavit.

Here’s how this could all play out in a few key states:

  • FLORIDA — County supervisors of elections will notify voters whose ballots had errors. These voters, due to a lawsuit, have until 5 p.m. on Nov. 5 to submit their affidavit and copy of their ID to the supervisors of elections’ office.
  • PENNSYLVANIA — There’s no standardized rule, and whether voters are notified is up to each county. But after a state Supreme Court ruling, mismatching signatures can no longer be a reason to reject ballots.
  • WISCONSIN — There is no notify and cure process, so election officials can reject problematic ballots outright. Local clerks are encouraged to reach out to voters, but because of the unprecedented volume of mail-in ballots, voters may want to track their ballot, contact their clerk directly, or go into the clerk’s office if they want to cure their ballot.

You can use this directory to track your ballot. If you’re yet to submit a mail-in ballot, The Count hosts talk through the whole process from choosing the right pen to dropping it off in a ballot box:


WHAT WE ARE TRACKING

  • While campaigning in Pennsylvania on Monday, Trump made repeated false claims about voting in that state.
  • A Pennsylvania county has asked Amy Coney Barrett to recuse herself from the state’s mail-in ballot extension case set to be decided by the Supreme Court.
  • Mail-in ballots should be sent by yesterday, according to USPS. Meanwhile Pennsylvania’s governor advised his voters to return ballots by hand to drop off sites.
  • The pandemic has highlighted the unequal access to secure and private ballots in many states for voters with visual impairments.
  • Counties that verify signatures with AI software could threaten to disenfranchise voters via opaque algorithms.
  • Voting from Native American reservations can also be incredibly difficult.
  • How long will voting take in your state? This New York Times article lays it all out.

The Count #13: Can We Trust Presidential Polls This Year?

The Count is a daily newsletter and live show from The Appeal and NowThis, focused on what happens in the scenario that the 2020 presidential race is too close to call on election night, if President Donald Trump makes good on his promise to not accept the election results, and what we can do in the 77 days between election day and the inauguration to uphold our democracy.

The Count #13: Can We Trust Presidential Polls This Year?

The Count is a daily newsletter and live show from The Appeal and NowThis, focused on what happens in the scenario that the 2020 presidential race is too close to call on election night, if President Donald Trump makes good on his promise to not accept the election results, and what we can do in the 77 days between election day and the inauguration to uphold our democracy.


Today, we’ll look at:

  • Whether we can trust the presidential polls after 2016.
  • Avoiding a repeat of Bush v. Gore.

If you were forwarded this newsletter and would like to subscribe, sign up here.


THE DAILY COUNTDOWN.

  • 7 days until election day.
  • 42 days until the deadline for all ballots to be counted.
  • 48 days until electoral college slates send their votes to Congress.
  • 71 days until Congress counts electoral college votes.
  • 85 days until inauguration day.

CAN WE TRUST PRESIDENTIAL POLLS THIS YEAR?

Despite Biden’s lead in the polls, Democrats are cautious, even untrusting, this year after their experience in 2016.

The polls failed us—bigly.” That was the sentiment in the days and weeks following Donald Trump’s 2016 election win. Journalists, voters, and even pollsters were left asking, what went wrong?

There’s three critical answers to that question, and they shine a pretty positive light on 2020:

  • THE NATIONAL POLLS WERE ALRIGHT — Hillary Clinton did actually win 2016’s popular vote by 2.8 million. That was a margin of 2 percentage points and in line with what national polls had predicted to be around a 3 percentage point lead. Polling in the final three weeks was about as accurate as polls have been on average since 1972. The election polls in 2004, 2008, and 2012 had been unusually accurate, likely lulling us into a false sense of assuredness.
  • EDUCATION COUNTS — Where polling inaccuracies arose were at the state level. College graduates are far more likely to take part in polls, and in 2016, this became particularly problematic. There was a very distinct break in who college graduates supported versus non-college graduates, particularly in the upper Midwest. Because state polls didn’t correct for this (but most national polls did), it led to an “over-estimation of support for Clinton.” This year, polling firms are weighting by education.
  • LATE-BREAKING TRUMPERS — Late-deciding voters chose to go with Trump at a far higher rate than normal. In three key states–Pennsylvania, Wisconsin, and Florida–13% of voters only decided who to vote for in the final week. Such decisions are generally too late for polling to capture.

An analysis done by the survey industry’s standards association found good news to trust in polling: “Many polls were probably fairly accurate at the time they were conducted.” Instead, it lays the blame at the feet of forecasters who didn’t translate how close the race looked to be in the polling to voters.

And there’s more good news for Democrats this year because of how large Biden’s lead is over Trump, compared to Clinton’s lead at this point in 2016. Jason Ganz, Data for Progress’ chief of staff, told The Count that to have the same effect as 2016, this year’s polls would have to be “substantially worse.”

“A polling error of the 2016 size right now would actually still point to a relatively comfortable Biden victory.”


AVOIDING A REPEAT OF BUSH V. GORE IN 2020

Another election that is haunting Democrats is that of 2000. That presidential race of course ended up in the Supreme Court with it’s Bush v Gore decision to stop a recount that could have reversed the results, and was followed by Al Gore conceding “for the sake of our unity as a people and the strength of our democracy.”

Here’s how it went down:

  • Nov. 7: Election day. That night, Al Gore is declared by some media outlets as the winner of Florida’s Electoral College votes.
  • Nov. 8: In the early morning, media outlets instead declare Bush the victor of Florida and the White House. Gore calls Bush to concede, then rescinds his concession within an hour as the Florida count changes.
  • Nov. 10: Florida’s machine recount ends, with Bush having just a 327 vote lead.
  • Nov. 13: A federal court says it won’t stop manual recounts.
  • Nov. 14: A state court rejects the Gore campaign’s attempt to extend the Republican secretary of state’s 5 p.m. deadline to certify results.
  • Nov. 15 and 16: Florida Supreme Court allows hand recounts to continue.
  • Nov. 21: Florida Supreme Court rules hand recounts must be included in the state’s final tally.
  • Nov. 26: The secretary of state certifies Bush has won the state.
  • Dec. 4: The U.S. Supreme Court vacates the state Supreme Court’s ruling.
  • Dec. 8: In a different case, the Florida Supreme Court orders a recount of several thousand disputed ballots.
  • Dec. 9: The Bush campaign wins a U.S. Supreme Court ruling to stop the recount.
  • Dec. 11: Bush v. Gore is argued in the U.S. Supreme Court.
  • Dec 12: The U.S. Supreme Court reverses the state Supreme Court ruling, ending the recount.
  • Dec 13: Gore concedes.

Donnie Fowler, Al Gore’s national field director during the 2000 presidential campaign, and a veteran of several more presidential campaigns, told The Count what it was like to watch Gore’s concession speech:

When thinking about how 2020 could look like 2000, some say it’s crucial to remember that Gore did not have to concede. He could have sued for a statewide recount and if the courts ruled in his favor, by some analyses he would have won Florida. Gore’s campaign also never went through with an initial plan to send a competing slate of electors to Congress. Gore’s concession is a move that progressives are urging the Biden campaign not to follow if the results of this year’s election are similarly close and in dispute.

To avoid a similar outcome for the Biden campaign, Fowler recommends they avoid the Gore campaign’s missteps that included focusing solely on the courts rather than protests, which made Bush supporters look more passionate while the Gore campaign  was “losing the visual narrative.”

“If you want to compare this year to 2000 and the Florida recount and the fact that the Gore campaign decided not to participate aggressively in the public messaging, not to participate aggressively in protesting, that’s something the Biden campaign should be prepared to do and frankly I think they are prepared to do.”


WHAT WE ARE TRACKING

  • With a week to go, the country has exceeded 2016 levels of early voting and Texas is leading the charge with voters casting more than 80% of its total 2016 ballots.
  • Republicans are closing the gap in early voting, which is eating into registered Democrats’ lead.
  • These three men have been crucial to Republican efforts to promote the false idea that voter fraud is widespread.
  • Voter suppression even happens behind bars. The vast majority of the 745,000 people held in local jails can still vote, but local officials rarely provide the support necessary.
  • The threat of foreign interference could be most potent after election day, particularly because of the president’s rhetoric on election integrity.
  • Facebook has planned for the potential need to deploy tools on election day that it normally uses for “at risk countries,” in order to slow the spread of viral content.
  • If you’ve ever wondered how mail-in ballots are made, this New York Times piece will take you on that journey.

The Count #12: Trump Supporters’ Bad Faith Attack On Mail-In Voting

The Count is a daily newsletter and live show from The Appeal and NowThis, focused on what happens in the scenario that the 2020 presidential race is too close to call on election night, if President Donald Trump makes good on his promise to not accept the election results, and what we can do in the 77 days between election day and the inauguration to uphold our democracy.

The Count #12: Trump Supporters’ Bad Faith Attack On Mail-In Voting

The Count is a daily newsletter and live show from The Appeal and NowThis, focused on what happens in the scenario that the 2020 presidential race is too close to call on election night, if President Donald Trump makes good on his promise to not accept the election results, and what we can do in the 77 days between election day and the inauguration to uphold our democracy.


Today, we’ll look at:

  • New polling shows Republicans are rejecting Trump’s lies about mail-in voting.
  • How Trump supporters are trying to undermine mail-in ballots, and failing.
  • The creative ways Americans are trying to make voter suppression more bearable.

If you were forwarded this newsletter and would like to subscribe, sign up here.


THE DAILY COUNTDOWN.

  • 8 days until election day.
  • 43 days until the deadline for all ballots to be counted.
  • 49 days until electoral college slates send their votes to Congress.
  • 72 days until Congress counts electoral college votes.
  • 86 days until inauguration day.

NEW POLL: REPUBLICANS REJECT ANOTHER TRUMP VOTING MYTH

Research shows that votes counted after election day tend to lean Democratic. This will only be accentuated more this year: By Friday, Democrats had returned 10 million mail-in ballots, more than twice Republicans’ 4.6 million.

Trump and allies like Steve Bannon have tried to cast this trend as voter fraud, but even their own voters aren’t buying it.

New polling from Data for Progress and The Justice Collaborative Institute shows voters believe in these patterns.

  • 67% of voters, including 62% of Republicans, find it believable that due to Democrats disproportionately casting early ballots and voting by mail, the results after Nov. 3 will lean more Democratic.
KEY TAKEAWAY — Most voters understand that a “blue shift” is likely and aren’t buying Trump’s false “blue steal” branding. The Count guest Jason Ganz, who is Chief of Staff at Data For Progress explains:

 


TRUMP’S VOTER FRAUD FRAUD

Trump and his allies have laid the groundwork for claiming that widespread voter fraud cost him the election, should he in fact lose. But the facts just aren’t there:
  • After losing the popular vote in the 2016 election, Trump said this was because of “millions of people who voted illegally.” He set up a Presidential Advisory Commission on Election Integrity, which did not find evidence of widespread voter fraud.
  • The Trump campaign and RNC have tried to ban states from expanding voter access this election cycle because, they claim, it opens the door to voter fraud. Federal court judges in several states have rejected these claims, with one judge calling them “theoretical” and “speculative.”
  • Republicans often point to a list compiled by one conservative think tank that claims to contain 1,298 instances of “voter fraud.” An analysis found it “does not include a single example of a concerted effort to use absentee ballot fraud to steal a major election, much less a presidential election.”
  • The nonpartisan Brennan Center for Justice found most cases of reported voter fraud–which it estimates are between 0.00004% and 0.0009%–were usually due to “clerical errors or bad data matching practices,” not fraud.
  • The Washington Post found just 31 credible claims from 1 billion ballots cast between 2000 and 2014.
  • A month after the 2016 election, there were only four reported cases of voter fraud.

Despite overwhelming evidence to the contrary, Trump and his allies continue to tell supporters that Democrats will take advantage of widespread mail-in voting this year to commit voter fraud.

“He has on a couple of occasions encouraged his own supporters to cast multiple ballots in this election. What’s troubling is that some of his followers are actually taking this advice to heart and actually committing a crime and actually getting arrested and actually facing jail time because of something the president told them to do.” –The Count co-host Emily Galvin-Almanza

  • A Trump supporter in Pennsylvania was arrested last week after he allegedly requested a mail-in ballot for his deceased mother. The county said this is its first alleged case of voter fraud in three decades.
  • A Trump supporter in Florida was arrested after allegedly requesting a mail-in ballot for his late wife. The man said he wanted to test Florida’s voting system.

These cases show how well the system actually works, not only catching the small fraction of alleged voter fraud cases, but doing so before mail-in ballots are even sent out.


BEATING BACK THE LINES

Some good news to start off your week: By last Friday, nearly 51 million ballots had been cast. In Texas, early voting has hit more than 70% of the state’s total 2016 turnout. Estimates are that voter turnout is on pace to hit 154 million people.

This has of course meant hours-long lines for many voters across the country. These long lines are a symptom of voter suppression that we don’t want to normalize, but we do want to celebrate how Americans are showing up to support another while they wait.

Last week, the nonprofit Pizza to the Polls thanked Ariana Grande for supplying pizza to hundreds of voters in Florida.

So far this year, the organization has sent 3,857 pizzas to more than 300 polling places with more than $340,000 in donations (you can see all their deliveries here). They’re also mobilizing 180 food trucks in 25 cities for early voting and election day.

 


FEEDING VOTERS IS A GROWING WAY TO COMBAT VOTER SUPPRESSION:

  • Chefs for the Polls works with local restaurants in 23 cities to provide meals to hungry voters, and have been giving out hundreds of meals at a time.
  • Fuel the Vote has been working with restaurants to provide food and water at Philadelphia’s satellite election offices. Fuel the Polls is also an effort from Philadelphia restaurants to feed poll workers on Nov. 3.
  • Rock the Line is seeing musicians, circus performers, comedians, dancers, drumlines, and even unicyclists perform for voting lines in Philadelphia today and tomorrow as well as on Election Day.
  • Savannahvote.org has set up an Amazon list for people to support their efforts to provide snacks, water, PPE, and phone charges to voters in Savannah, Georgia, come election day.
  • Georgia 55 Project aims to make voting in Atlanta “easy, fun, and delicious.” Having partnered with 15 restaurants the group hands out coffee, water, baked goods, sandwiches, soup, and even barbecue. (They also have an Amazon list that includes hand warmers and crayons for kids.)
  • Feed the Polls is also planning for election day when it intends to give out 50,000 healthy meals to voters in line across the country.

In addition to keeping voters fed and entertained, these initiatives are a crucial way to make sure “people have joy” when they go to vote, something Maurice Mitchell, the national director of the Working Families Party and recent guest on The Count, reminded us is so important.


WHAT WE ARE TRACKING

  • Yet another federal judge threw out a Trump campaign case because claims of voter fraud were “speculative.” New Jersey election officials prevailed, and will be able to count ballots beginning 10 days prior to election day and accept ballots up to 2 days after.
  • Pennsylvania cannot reject mail-in ballots because of a signature comparison by election officials, the state Supreme Court ruled on Friday.
  • Black voters in North Carolina are having their mail-in ballots rejected four times more often than white voters. Hispanic voters in Florida are having their mail-in ballots rejected at more than two-and-a-half times the rate of white voters.
  • 43 out of 50 states had accessibility issues with their mail-in ballot applications. Only seven states have since updated their applications.
  • Politico has produced a moment-by-moment guide of everything that could go wrong after the polls close on Nov. 3. Read it if you dare.

Our Future On the Ballot #6

Heading into the highest-stakes election of our lifetimes, The Appeal launched a newsletter called Our Future on the Ballot, covering insurgent candidates across the country, their elections, and what's at stake.

Our Future On the Ballot #6

Heading into the highest-stakes election of our lifetimes, The Appeal launched a newsletter called Our Future on the Ballot, covering insurgent candidates across the country, their elections, and what's at stake.


In today’s issue, we’ll cover:

  • Will the Texas House flip from Red to Blue?
  • Other Texas Races We’re Tracking
  • Plus: Our Portland mayoral debate, Jamaal Bowman’s new commentary piece in The Appeal, a critical county supervisors race in Los Angeles, and more news from around the country.

FOR THE FIRST TIME IN 18 YEARS, THE TEXAS HOUSE IS IN PLAY

  • The Math: Democrats picked up 12 seats in the last cycle, and need to pick up 9 more to take the House. There are 34 competitive races this cycle, Democrats need to win 21. Here’s the Dallas Observer on how “Democrats Could Flip the Texas House,” and a four part series from Austin’s NPR station on the battle for control of the Texas legislature.
  • Democrats Lead In The Polls: New polling from RA News shows Democrats “hold comfortable leads” in 21 of the 22 competitive districts surveyed.
  • Why It Matters: Texas is a Republican trifecta, meaning the House, Senate, and Governor are all Republican controlled. Governor Greg Abbott announced six bills, to be considered next legislative session, that would effectively increase punishment around protest-related activity. Democrats taking back the House would put a check on Gov. Abbott and the GOP agenda.
  • Relatedly: Governor Abbott is backing Justin Berry, a veteran of the Austin Police Department, for Texas State House District 47. Berry once compared Black Lives Matter to the Ku Klux Klan and has staunchly criticized efforts to defund the police. His opponent, Vikki Goodwin, recently joined The Appeal, where she explained why she opposes Abbott’s effort to usurp local control.
  • Meet Two Transformational Texas Statehouse Candidates: 
    • Lorenzo Sanchezrunning in Texas State House District 67, is a first-generation Mexican-American and a small business owner. Raised by a single-mother who worked multiple jobs to keep food on the table, Sanchez told The Appeal’s Our Future On The Ballot, that he is running on a platform that supports a $15 minimum wage, medicaid expansion, and universal health care. Here’s Sanchez on why we need universal healthcare:

    • Celina Montoya, running for Texas House District 121, would often accompany her single-mother to clean the homes of her classmates. “I know how to fight for workers and small business owners, because I am both,” Montoya said about why she’s running on medicaid expansion and establishing a living minimum wage. Montoya also prioritizes criminal justice reform, for example, supporting eliminating the death penalty and establishing a statewide police misconduct database. Here’s Montoya on The Appeal’s Our Future On The Ballot, discussing her work with the Innocence Project while a journalism student at Northwestern University:

OTHER TEXAS RACES WE’RE TRACKING:

  • Julie Oliver, running for U.S. House of Representatives in TX-25, supports Medicare for all, a Green New Deal, ending cash bail, abolishing the death penalty, canceling all student debt, and safe housing for all. Oliver, whose race is close (“down to the margin of hustle,” as she put it) recently joined The Appeal’s Our Future On The Ballot to discuss these issues, and what it means to her to be a “Medicare mom”:

Mike Siegel, running for U.S. House of Representatives in TX-10, supports Medicare for all, housing for all, ending cash bail, abolishing the death penalty, college for all, and a Green New Deal. You don’t want to miss the powerful video that the Sunrise Movement released in support of Siegel, featuring a worker explaining why he’s supporting Siegel and also organizing with his union for a Green New Deal. Siegel recently joined The Appeal’s Our Future On The Ballot to discuss why expanding voting rights is his top issue:

  • Chrysta Castañeda, running for the Texas Railroad Commission, the primary regulatory body for the oil and gas industry, joined The Appeal’s Our Future On The Ballot to discuss why she wants the job: “The Railroad Commission has enormous powers over oil and gas production in the state of Texas. And when I talk about all day, every day is how important this race is for the climate. And for the environment. In fact, it’s been written up as the most consequential climate election in the nation because of the impact of gas direction on greenhouse gases. And because no place is it bigger than right here in Texas[.]” The Appeal profiled Castañeda today, and here’s a NowThis video on the enormous impact of her race on the climate crisis.

Vance Keys is running for Sheriff in Tarrant County, which has a population of two million people. In a recent interview with The Appeal, Keys committed to ending the office’s 287(g) agreement with ICE, vowed to advocate for ending money bail, and pledged to significantly reduce the jail population by making fewer arrests and diverting more people to treatment facilities.


WHAT WE’RE TRACKING

  • Sarah Iannarone, candidate for Portland Mayor and Ted Wheeler, the incumbent Mayor, joined The Briefing on Friday for a debate. The candidates clashed on policing, anti-fascism and the homelessness crisis.

  • “We can’t let our children go hungry,” wrote Jamaal Bowman in a piece for The Appeal yesterday. The pandemic has put the vast majority of children eligible for free or reduced lunch in “grave danger of malnutrition and starvation.” Bowman proposes a federal extension of the Pandemic Electronic Benefit Transfer (P-EBT) and interagency collaboration to provide a food delivery system that works for each family in need.
  • Cori Bush, in a recent profile from The Appeal: “My role is to be what I’ve always wanted to see, that’s somebody actually fighting for the regular person. . . I feel like that role starts with fighting for the person who has the least in this district and looking at everything else I do from that lens.”
  • Mondaire Jones, in a recent profile from The Appeal, said that he’s looking to bring “big structural changes” to the halls of Congress and described “two primary problems with our criminal legal system – one is systemic racism, and the other is an overreliance on policing as a means to obtain public safety.”
  • Anna Tovar, candidate for Arizona Corporate Commission, sometimes called the state’s fourth branch of government, joined The Appeal’s Our Future On the Ballot, where she discussed how, as a young public school teacher, her battle with cancer (caused by a rare environmental toxin) propelled her to run for higher office. She hopes to end a legacy of corruption at the Corporate Commission and usher in policies that encourage the use of renewable energies that have already saved Arizonans $2 Billion from 2008 to 2016. Watch her speak about these solutions here:

Holly Mitchell and Herb Wesson are running for a pivotal seat on the Los Angeles County Board of Supervisors, which controls the budget for the most populous county in America. The Appeal highlighted the important race and why it’s critical to criminal justice reform: “Whoever fills the open seat next month will play a pivotal role in determining how law enforcement is funded in the largest county in the United States—at a time when many community leaders believe that genuine transformation of the criminal legal system is within reach,” Mitchell said.

The Count #11: The Gaslighting of The American Voter

The Count is a daily newsletter and live show from The Appeal and NowThis, focused on what happens in the scenario that the 2020 presidential race is too close to call on election night, if President Donald Trump makes good on his promise to not accept the election results, and what we can do in the 77 days between election day and the inauguration to uphold our democracy.

The Count #11: The Gaslighting of The American Voter

The Count is a daily newsletter and live show from The Appeal and NowThis, focused on what happens in the scenario that the 2020 presidential race is too close to call on election night, if President Donald Trump makes good on his promise to not accept the election results, and what we can do in the 77 days between election day and the inauguration to uphold our democracy.


Today, we’ll look at:

  • How Trump is using lawfare and Republican judges to subvert democracy.
  • The complex voting systems that are gaslighting the American voter.

If you were forwarded this newsletter and would like to subscribe, sign up here.


THE DAILY COUNTDOWN

  • 11 days until election day. 
  • 46 days until the deadline for all ballots to be counted. 
  • 52 days until Electoral College slates send their votes to Congress. 
  • 75 days until Congress counts Electoral College votes.
  • 89 days until inauguration day.

NEW POLL: HOW TRUMP IS USING LAWFARE TO SUBVERT DEMOCRACY

On Monday, all eyes will be on Capitol Hill as Senate Republicans seek to confirm Judge Amy Coney Barrett to the nation’s highest court. If she’s confirmed, President Donald Trump will become the first president since Ronald Reagan to appoint three justices to the Supreme Court.

But SCOTUS isn’t Trump’s only judicial legacy. Trump’s fingerprints can be found on courts across the country, having appointed more than 200 federal judges. One in four circuit judges is a Trump appointee. (Two-thirds of Trump’s appointees have been white men, and none of the appellate court appointees are Black.)

This has had a dramatic effect on voting-related lawsuits.

Take Back the Court, a group that supports expanding the judiciary, recently released a scorecard that found Republican-appointed federal and Supreme Court judges and justices this year have made three times as many rulings that make it harder to vote as Democratic appointees. When it came to voting cases, Trump judges had anti-democratic rulings 86% of the time.

Leah Litman, a professor of constitutional law at the University of Michigan, co-host of the podcast Strict Scrutiny, recently wrote in The Atlantic that “Republican litigants seek to limit the franchise, and Republican-appointed judges often allow them to do so.”

“There has been a very significant number of federal voting rights victories across the country and those have in the last week or two—many if not most—been stayed by appellate courts,” Wendy R. Weiser, the director of the Democracy Program at the Brennan Center for Justice, recently said.

This pattern could be seen just yesterday when a federal appeals court overturned the ruling from a federal district judge who had allowed hiring of transportation for voters. And it’s a pattern the Trump campaign is relying on. Later in the day, it asked the Supreme Court to reverse a North Carolina decision to allow mail-in ballots to be accepted after election day.

Yesterday on The Count, Litman pointed to SCOTUS’ split decision this week on whether to count mail-in ballots that arrive after election day in Pennsylvania as a deeply troubling sign of what could happen if the Trump campaign fights mail-in ballot results all the way to the Supreme Court.

“It’s very possible that we right now have four justices on the Supreme Court who are sympathetic to the idea that federal law requires there to be a singular Election Day such that any votes tabulated or received after election day are somehow uniquely or presumptively problematic.” — Litman

This is a recurring theme, Litman says. From the Affordable Care Act, to Roe v. Wade, to efforts to restrict voting, Republicans keep turning to the courts “because they lack the democratic mandate to pursue their agendas in the political process.”


THE GASLIGHTING OF THE AMERICAN VOTER

Casting your ballot for an election outside the United States might seem unrecognizable to most Americans. Voting often takes place on weekends or holidays, polling places abound, lines are non-existent, and in some countries you can even do it all online.

We’re used to seeing long lines at the polls—especially in urban and diverse areas—but it shouldn’t be that way. A 2014 presidential commission found that if an American voter has to wait in line for more than 30 minutes it is “an indication that something is amiss and that corrective measures should be deployed.”

“Most Americans are being gaslit into thinking that a wildly unpleasant hazard filled voting experience is somehow normal or necessary, or the only possible option.” –The Count co-host Emily Galvin-Almanza

Financial constraints are one major reason for how complicated, confusing, and dysfunctional voting in America has become. But in many cases, the dysfunction is also “by design.” Here’s a sampling of some of these efforts:

  • SHOP IS CLOSED — There are nearly 21,000 fewer polling places to vote this election day compared to 2016. A VICE investigation found the Justice Department even used the Americans With Disabilities Act to close almost two dozen places, rather than settling for ADA compliance. Fewer polling places is an especially big problem in states without widely available vote-by-mail, including Texas (which closed 1 in 16 polling places since 2016), Mississippi (1 in 10) and Indiana (nearly 1 in 5).
  • SHOW ME THE MONEY — Every four years America runs the most-watched election in the world, yet, according to the National Conference of State Legislatures, “No one knows how much it costs to run elections in the United States. For that matter, it’s a rare state that knows how much election administration costs within its own borders.” We do know the federal government provided election funding just once in the 16 years before 2018. And the presidential commission described election needs as “often the last to receive attention from state and local budgetary authorities.” Municipalities and states have even had to turn to private funding.
  • LOWER TURNOUT TUESDAY — Holding election day on a Tuesday makes it extremely hard for 9-to-5 workers to vote, particularly if they live in a district with lines that stretch for hours. In 2016, nearly 15% of nonvoters said they were too busy or had a conflicting schedule. The Weekend Voting Act was introduced in 2017, but none of the 102 cosponsors in Congress were Republicans, essentially blocking its passage, and keeping turnout lower.
  • HAVE YOU TRIED RESTARTING? — Voting machines across the country are prone to crashing and failing. In 2018, 41 states used equipment that was at least 10 years old. When early voting began in Texas, machines at all 30 sites in one county didn’t work for hours. But splashing cash on new machines and technology doesn’t mean it will be faultless if you don’t test and train adequately, as the Iowa caucuses showed.
  • AFFIX STAMP HERE — On the other end of the spectrum, only 17 states supply prepaid returns for mail-in ballots, most try to pass the expense onto voters, including several Pennsylvania counties. In Texas’ Harris County it costs  $1.10 to mail a ballot. The hassle of buying stamps that correctly cover the weight and dimensions of your county’s ballot envelope could be enough to demotivate some voters, and advocates say amounts to a poll tax. 
  • RECORD SCRATCH — Decentralized and disorganized records also make it hard for individuals to vote. In Florida, the Republican legislature introduced what is effectively a poll tax on individuals formerly convicted of a felony, requiring them to first pay fines and fees. But there is no centralized way to find out how much, if anything, you owe.
  • JUST PLAIN OLD UGLY — Bad ballot design can confuse voters, extend voting (and thus waiting) times, and cause “tens of thousands” of lost votes each election. Palm Beach County’s infamous “butterfly ballot” may have cost Al Gore the election in 2000.  

The failure to invest in essential election infrastructure is the burden of both parties, but moves that limit access to voting tend to benefit Republicans and is part of their electoral strategy. 

Earlier this year, Senate Republicans passed a stimulus bill that didn’t include any election funding—despite the glaring need to adapt voting to the pandemic. And with a president who refuses to unilaterally accept next month’s election results, voting chaos  will only further benefit Trump and his allies.

As The Count co-host Alana Sivin said, “[this] ends up just playing into the GOP and Trump’s motives to sow confusion upon the whole election process. Because when there are lots of ballots that are not counted because of technical difficulties and that sort of thing that sort of makes Trump say, ‘Oh, you can’t trust any of this. You just can’t trust it.’”

Who does Trump want you to trust instead? Trump.


WHAT WE ARE TRACKING

  • The Trump campaign has been warned about voter intimidation by Pennsylvania’s attorney general after a representative videotaped voters depositing ballots at drop boxes in Philadelphia.
  • But Pennsylvania’s no-excuse mail-in ballots are helping wealthier voters far more than those living in low-income neighborhoods. Nearly 50% of voters in the wealthiest Philadelphia ZIP codes requested ballots, compared to just 27% in the lowest-income communities.
  • Iowa’s election officials will no longer be allowed to use voter registration information to fix missing information on mail-in ballot applications like in previous elections, after the state Supreme Court upheld a law passed by the Republican-controlled legislature.
  • A Florida county will place sheriff’s deputies at five early voting sites after two armed men who appeared dressed as security guards were seen at a polling station.
  • Drive-thru voting can continue in Harris County, Texas after the state Supreme Court rejected a request by the GOP to stop the practice, which could have invalidated 70,000 ballots already cast.
  • A body of Seattle labor groups, that represent 100,000 members, say they will strike if Trump does not accept the results of the election and thus threatens the nation’s democracy.
  • Russia may exploit the likely scenario that the election is too close to call on Nov. 3. “Russian groups could use their knowledge of local computer systems to deface websites, release nonpublic information or take similar steps that could sow chaos and doubts about the integrity of the results.”

 

 

The Count #10: How Trump Could Exploit Election Night Coverage

The Count is a daily newsletter and live show from The Appeal and NowThis, focused on what happens in the scenario that the 2020 presidential race is too close to call on election night, if President Donald Trump makes good on his promise to not accept the election results, and what we can do in the 77 days between election day and the inauguration to uphold our democracy.

The Count #10: How Trump Could Exploit Election Night Coverage

The Count is a daily newsletter and live show from The Appeal and NowThis, focused on what happens in the scenario that the 2020 presidential race is too close to call on election night, if President Donald Trump makes good on his promise to not accept the election results, and what we can do in the 77 days between election day and the inauguration to uphold our democracy.


Today, we’ll look at:

  • New polling that shows voters still aren’t prepared to wait a long time for election results.
  • How Trump could exploit voters’, and the media’s, desire for results on election night.
  • The GOP push to throw out valid results by restricting mail-in ballot deadlines.

If you were forwarded this newsletter and would like to subscribe, sign up here.


THE DAILY COUNTDOWN.

  • 12 days until election day.
  • 47 days until the deadline for all ballots to be counted.
  • 53 days until electoral college slates send their votes to Congress.
  • 76 days until Congress counts electoral college votes.
  • 90 days until inauguration day.

NEW POLL: VOTERS STILL NOT PREPARED FOR “ELECTION SEASON”

During this year’s primaries, it took nearly a week to count the votes in three key battleground states—Arizona, Pennsylvania, and Wisconsin. In Pennsylvania, election officials had 1.5 million mail-in ballots to count. In the general election, Pennsylvanians have requested nearly twice that many. It will likely take longer than a week, perhaps much longer, for the Pennsylvania election officials to process and count all these mail-in ballots.

New polling from Data for Progress and The Justice Collaborative Institute shows that —while fewer voters expect results on election night—they’re still not prepared for how long the vote counting process could take.

After being given information about mail-in voting, the poll found:

  • 53% of voters, including 47% of Republicans, are not confident an election winner will be announced on Nov. 3.
  • 58% of voters are confident the winner will be known a few days after Nov. 3, and 63% are we’ll know within a week.
  • KEY TAKEAWAY — Voters have a more realistic understanding that election results are unlikely to point to a winner on election night, but they still struggle to understand how long the timeline could be. A majority of voters are confident results will arrive within a week. This is a reminder of the importance of educating voters about how long it takes to count mail-in ballots.


HOW TRUMP COULD EXPLOIT ELECTION NIGHT COVERAGE

Big chyrons. Big interactive screens. Big red, white, and blue “battle for the White House” animations. Election night has long been the political media’s Super Bowl. In a country without a national election commission, the media is the official kingmaker. But history has shown how this system can go horribly awry.

In 2018, a CNN commentator announced, “It’s not a blue wave,” before the House of Representatives flipped to Democrats. Earlier this year, anchors were all speechless when they had nothing to announce from the Iowa caucuses.

In 2000, TV networks first announced Al Gore would win Florida, but a few hours later projected George W. Bush to take both Florida and the White House. Gore called Bush to concede, but as numbers kept coming, the TV networks withdrew their projections, and Gore retracted his concession just an hour later.

In the aftermath of 2000, Jeff Zucker, a producer of NBC’s coverage, who is now the president of CNN, admitted, “We made mistakes based on bad information. If you make a mistake and own up to it, that’s fine.”

Actually, it wasn’t fine. The media’s brief victory call for Bush had a lasting effect on public opinion:

“It really takes hold in your mind, and for a lot of Americans that was hard to shake … A Bush victory felt like affirming what they saw on TV and a Gore victory felt like overturning it.”– The Count guest Jay Willis

Willis, a senior contributor at The Appeal, recently wrote about the 2000 election in “Election night coverage is broken. In 2020, it could be dangerous” about how covering the election should be less football final, more “first day of the Tour de France.”

If the media doesn’t adequately prepare their audiences for the dynamics of counting results amid a surge of in mail-in ballots, or prematurely calls the election for Trump, it will provide a potent clip or headline that will further allow Trump to declare himself the winner.

This could set off the same wave of events that happened in 2000, with public support for Joe Biden dipping just as lawsuits ramp up, actually stacking opinion in favor of Trump stealing the election and against a legitimate count.

The good news is that TV networks are saying they are prepared for more of an “‘election week’ rather than election day.” Network executives have even said announcing a winner with confidence will be “a longer process” and that election night “is not going to be about storylines or narratives or projections or predictions.”

But TV hosts can’t even predict their own shows, let alone an election.

“Let’s get one thing straight right from the get-go: We would rather be last in reporting returns than be wrong,” Dan Rather said on CBS at the beginning of election night 2000. “If we say somebody’s carried the state, you can take that to the bank.”

Hours later he called the election for Bush.


ANOTHER GOP PUSH TO THROW OUT VALID VOTES

With mail-in ballots playing a pivotal role this year, and open questions around the U.S. Postal Service’s ability to promptly deliver these ballots, many states have tried to extend, or blocked extending, the deadline for mail-in ballots to be received if they are postmarked by the state deadline. Republicans’ are lining up against extending deadlines, in yet another attempt to further restrict whose votes will be counted.

Here’s a sampling of their efforts:

  • GEORGIA — The New Georgia Project, founded by Stacey Abrams, sued the Republican secretary of state and won a three-day extension. The state appealed, and the court reverted the deadline back to election day.
  • MICHIGAN — The Republican-controlled legislature appealed a September ruling that granted a 14 day deadline extension. An appeals court instead ruled that ballots must be received by 8 p.m. on election day.
  • NORTH CAROLINA — Republican lawmakers sued over plans to extend the ballot deadline. After their case was rejected, the Trump campaign and state Republican party, appealed and lost. Mail-in ballots can be accepted until Nov. 12.
  • PENNSYLVANIA — The state Republican party sued the Democratic secretary of state to block a ballot extension. The U.S. Supreme Court deadlocked, allowing the state’s Supreme Court ruling, to accept ballots 3 days after election day, to stand.
  • WISCONSIN — The Democratic Party sued the Republican-appointed secretary of the Wisconsin Elections Commission, which led to a judge ruling that ballots could be accepted until Nov. 9. This was blocked by an appeals court and Democrats have taken the case to the U.S. Supreme Court.


WHAT WE ARE TRACKING

  • The FBI is investigating election interference by Russia and Iran. Both countries, according to the director of national intelligence, gained access to voter information and “have taken specific action to influence public opinion.” Iran was behind “spoofed” emails sent to voters in as many as four states, including Florida, threatening them to vote for Trump. Crucial advice from the DNI: “If you receive an intimidating or manipulative email in your inbox, do not be alarmed and do not spread it.”
  • Senior government officials are pushing back on Trump’s urging to have election results finalized on election night. “There’s a very good chance that we will not know the winner of the presidential election, for instance, on election night itself. And that’s not because something isn’t working,” a Trump appointee at DHS said.
  • The U.S. Supreme Court blocked a lower court ruling that allowed curbside voting in Alabama. The vote was 5-3 along party lines.
  • USPS is pulling its uniformed officers off the streets just weeks ahead of the election. The officers’ patrols were meant to prevent robberies of mail boxes.
  • “Witchcraft” is how one expert described signature matching, the process that states rely on to verify–and reject–mail-in ballots.
  • Misinformation is popping up on Spanish-language media and trying to create tension between Latinx and Black voters.
  • Mississippi voters will now be notified by election officials if there are problems with their ballots and have 10 days to fix them.

The Count #9: Are We Headed For Election Deja Vu?

The Count is a daily newsletter and live show from The Appeal and NowThis, focused on what happens in the scenario that the 2020 presidential race is too close to call on election night, if President Donald Trump makes good on his promise to not accept the election results, and what we can do in the 77 days between election day and the inauguration to uphold our democracy.

The Count #9: Are We Headed For Election Deja Vu?

The Count is a daily newsletter and live show from The Appeal and NowThis, focused on what happens in the scenario that the 2020 presidential race is too close to call on election night, if President Donald Trump makes good on his promise to not accept the election results, and what we can do in the 77 days between election day and the inauguration to uphold our democracy.


Today, we’ll look at:

  • New polling that shows voters aren’t believing President Donald Trump’s spin about election day results.
  • Why experts are worried 2020 might be a throwback to the election of 1876.
  • How complex rules and processes are a hidden form of voter suppression.

If you were forwarded this newsletter and would like to subscribe, sign up here.


THE DAILY COUNTDOWN.

  • 13 days until election day.
  • 48 days until the deadline for all ballots to be counted.
  • 54 days until electoral college slates send their votes to Congress.
  • 77 days until Congress counts electoral college votes.
  • 91 days until inauguration day.

NEW POLL: VOTERS AREN’T BUYING TRUMP’S FALSE NARRATIVE

This year, counting the votes is going to take a loooong time. At least 83 million mail-in ballots have been requested or sent to voters across the United States, and nearly one-third have already been returned. This is a historic number. Before mail-in ballots can even be counted they must be opened, signature verified, and physically prepared for processing. The vast majority of states cannot begin counting until election day.

But Trump is trying to spin this situation into a false crisis in order to undermine trust in the electoral system:

  • “Must know Election results on the night of the Election, not days, months, or even years later!” — Trump tweeted on July 30
  • “What we want election night to look like is a system that’s fair, a situation where we know who the President of the United States is on election night. That’s how the system is supposed to work.” — White House press secretary Kayleigh McEnany on Fox News, Sep. 9

New polling from Data for Progress and The Justice Collaborative Institute shows most voters don’t believe Trump’s spin:

  • Once given information about mail-in voting, 66% of all voters, including 63% of Republicans, say this makes them less likely to believe we’ll have results on election day.
  • 68% of voters, including 56% of Republicans, also expect a legitimate change between the finalized vote count and that on election night.
  • KEY TAKEAWAY: GOOD NEWS FOR DEMOCRACY. If Trump tries to prematurely declare victory on election night or claim that mail-in ballot counts are fraudulent, he can only be successful if Americans, and Republican voters in particular, believe him. This polling indicates bipartisan skepticism about these claims and that voters are becoming more comfortable with the idea of waiting days or weeks for final election results.

WHAT 1876 CAN TELL US ABOUT 2020 

The Electoral College has decided the Presidency in all but three elections — 1800, 1824, and 1876. In each of these cases, the House of Representatives chose the president, which has electoral analysts this year craning their necks back to the 19th century.

Every presidential election, congress counts the votes in the Electoral College. Usually this is a trivial matter. But congress’ role becomes decisive in picking the president in two scenarios:

  1. Neither candidate gets to the 270 Electoral vote threshold to win including a 269-269 tie. (This year, there are 64 different scenarios in which a tie could occur.) This happened in 1800 and 1824.
  2. There is an unclear number of Electoral College votes because of disagreements in state totals and competing elector slates. This occurred in 1876.

Dial in 1-8-7-6 into your Delorean time machine, get up to 88 mph, and you’d see:

  • DISAGREEMENTS — Despite record voter turnout of 82%, multiple states had disputed returns after claims of voter fraud.
  • NO ELECTOR MAJORITY — 185 Electoral College votes were needed at the time to become president. Without the electors from these disputed states, Democrat Samuel Tilden had 184 votes and Republican Rutherford B. Hayes had 165 votes.
  • RIVAL SLATES — A few states sent lists of competing slates of electors to Congress.
  • COMMISSION — Congress created a 15-member commission of congressmen and Supreme Court judges. Partisanship was split with a 15th member “known for his impartiality” but after he resigned, he was replaced with a Republican judge.
  • REPUBLICANS WIN — The group voted along party lines 8-7 to give Hayes the remaining disputed Electoral College votes.
  • DEVASTATING COMPROMISE — To get Democrats on board, Republicans agreed to remove the last federal troops from the South, essentially abandoning Reconstruction, and opening the door for the Jim Crow era.

The lead up to the election of 1876 closely mirrors 2020, with voter suppression, claims of fraud, legal challenges, and an extremely partisan Capitol with a divided Congress and Republican-leaning Supreme Court. But the similarities don’t stop there.

Yesterday on The Count, Ben Sheehan, author of OMG WTF Does the Constitution Actually Say?, highlighted a “backsliding in democracy” including undermining the Voting Rights Act and widespread gerrymandering which have “rotted the democratic foundations in many ways in this country.”

“What I’m talking about is parallels of resistance to having our first black president,” said Sheehan. “You have the Reconstruction Era being 12 years after the end of civil war and slavery. And then you have this moment being 12 years after the election of the first African American president…and so these parallels are really unsettling.”


VOTER SUPPRESSION BY ANOTHER NAME

We’re all familiar with many of the forms of voters suppression, from gerrymandering, limiting polling places, harsh voter ID restrictions, voter roll purges, and felony disenfranchisement.

A lesser known form of voter suppression is onerous and complex voting systems. Cleverly hidden under the guise of “election security,” these systems and requirements can confuse voters, causing mistakes (or pushing people not to vote at all).

In 2016, an astonishing 1% of votes, amounting to 1.4 million ballots, weren’t counted because they arrived late, signatures didn’t match, or ballots weren’t properly marked. This issue is likely to grow this year. With hundreds of election lawsuits flying around the country, cases are difficult to track. But some of the restrictive processes that have gained attention just in the last month include:

  • PENNSYLVANIA — can continue rejecting mail-in ballots that are not submitted inside a second “secrecy” envelope, due to a state Supreme Court decision. This could cause as many as 100,000 ballots to be rejected.
  • NORTH CAROLINA — will return to requiring witness signatures on mail-in ballots, after an agreement by the state Board of Elections. Election officials, who had been waiting for a decision, will now need to reject potentially thousands of already-submitted ballots and voters will need to fill out another ballot.
  • TEXAS — can continue rejecting mail-in ballots over mismatched signatures without informing the voter until after the election, an appeals court ruled.
  • ALABAMA — will continue requiring that mail-in ballot applications contain a photo ID and that mail-in ballots be submitted alongside an affidavit that is notarized or signed by two witnesses, after a federal appeals court ruling.

It’s not just court cases over ballot requirements. Human error, a lack of preparedness, and insufficient resources may cause voter suppression and disenfranchisement this election. Nearly 100,000 New York voters were sent defective ballots, more than 28,000 North Carolina voters received incorrect ballots, nearly 7,000 New Jersey voters’ ballots had the wrong congressional district, thousands of Ohio voters are still waiting for mail-in ballots, a handful of Pennsylvania voters didn’t receive the “secrecy envelope” required to submit their mail-in ballots, and more than 2,000 California voters were sent faulty ballots with no way to vote for a presidential candidate. While these errors likely weren’t intentional, they are a direct product of an election system that is intentionally complicated and starved for resources.

— “There’s this long history of the GOP, using bureaucracy to achieve their policy goals … voter suppression is no exception. They’re very, very good at exploiting tiny, tiny, invisible bureaucratic minutia to mess people up.” — The Count co-host Emily Galvin-Almanza


WHAT WE ARE TRACKING

  • The National Guard is preparing for “election-related missions.” Their work could include ballot counting or responding to post-election day unrest if called upon by a governor.
  • A conservative think tank’s database of 1,298 instances of “voter fraud” is often used as evidence by Republicans, but an analysis found it “does not include a single example of a concerted effort to use absentee ballot fraud to steal a major election, much less a presidential election.”
  • 17 attorneys general have filed a Supreme Court brief opposing Alabama’s attempt to maintain a ban on curbside voting.
  • The “overwhelming majority” of Pennsylvania’s votes will be counted by the Friday after election day, according to the secretary of state. But lawmakers have essentially closed the door on allowing early processing of ballots which would make this goal far more likely.
  • Dozens of Californian ballots were damaged after a ballot box was set on fireThe incident is being investigated as suspected arson.
  • Colorado will tackle voting misinformation head on, with the secretary of state announcing that her office will run ads on social media and Google to counteract misinformation that begins trending.
  • Wisconsin, a key swing state, opened early voting yesterday. Some towns have already passed 50% of their 2016 turnout.

The Count #8: Mobilizing Against Trump’s Assault On Democracy

The Count is a daily newsletter and live show from The Appeal and NowThis, focused on what happens in the scenario that the 2020 presidential race is too close to call on election night, if President Donald Trump makes good on his promise to not accept the election results, and what we can do in the 77 days between election day and the inauguration to uphold our democracy.

The Count #8: Mobilizing Against Trump’s Assault On Democracy

The Count is a daily newsletter and live show from The Appeal and NowThis, focused on what happens in the scenario that the 2020 presidential race is too close to call on election night, if President Donald Trump makes good on his promise to not accept the election results, and what we can do in the 77 days between election day and the inauguration to uphold our democracy.


Today, we’ll look at:

  • New polling that shows voters, including many Republicans, believe Trump will try to steal the election.
  • The insights Steve Bannon has given about this very plot (and his contempt for those who want to count every ballot).
  • The importance of mobilizing against Trump’s assault on democracy.

If you were forwarded this newsletter and would like to subscribe, sign up here.


THE DAILY COUNTDOWN.

  • 14 days until election day.
  • 49 days until the deadline for all ballots to be counted.
  • 55 days until electoral college slates send their votes to Congress.
  • 78 days until Congress counts electoral college votes.
  • 92 days until inauguration day.

NEW POLL: EVEN MANY REPUBLICANS SAY TRUMP WILL TRY TO STEAL THE ELECTION

Concern over President Donald Trump’s plan to steal the election has reached the halls of Congress. Senate Democrats yesterday released a new report that promotes the message that vote counting will not end on Nov. 3 and “that’s ok.”

“Americans should be prepared to reject misinformation and be patient about results in places where counting ballots may take longer,” reads the report. “President Trump’s rhetoric indicates he may exploit this illusion [of a “red mirage” on election night] and claim victory for himself, then falsely claim that there is “massive fraud” in mail-in ballots that have not yet been counted or reported.”

This belief is shared by a majority of American voters.

New polling from Data for Progress and The Justice Collaborative Institute indicates voters believe Trump will undermine the will of voters.

  • 53% of voters, including 33% of Republicans, believe that Trump and his campaign will try to commit voter fraud and steal the election.
  • 57% of voters, including 35% of Republicans, agree that Trump and his campaign will try to stop the counting of ballots if they are ahead on election night.
  • KEY TAKEAWAY: VOTERS SEE THROUGH TRUMP. Months of GOP and Trump rhetoric intended to undermine the legitimacy of mail-in ballots hasn’t convinced voters of a “rigged” election. However, Trump’s statements have convinced voters that he will actually try to fraudulently rig the election for himself.
  • STOP THE STEAL. The best way to stop Trump from stealing the election is to vote, because stealing an election is only possible if there are tight margins. “If we are able to have such a powerful show of force on Election Day, and throughout the election cycle, then no matter the kind of intensity Trump and the Republicans bring, they won’t be able to overcome us,” said Data for Progress’ Jason Ganz on The Count.


STEVE BANNON GIVES UP THE GAME ON TRUMP’S PLOT TO STEAL THE ELECTION

Chief among Trump’s allies echoing the president’s attempts to cast doubts on election results is Steve Bannon. The former White House adviser, who was charged with fraud earlier this year, launched a speaking tour in key swing states called “The Plot to Steal 2020.”

Bannon is telling as many voters as he can, that it is the Democrats who plan to steal the election. But he’s also hinted at the Trump campaign’s election strategy: to win the “game-day vote,” claim an early victory, stop the count, and, if necessary, get the courts to agree with you.

Here’s a breakdown–and the hypocrisy of–that strategy. It’s bananas. It’s B-A-N-N-O-N-A-S:

  • ELECTION DAY IS GAMEDAY –– In Bannon’s world, the only votes that matter are the ones submitted on Nov. 3 and Nov. 3 alone, and it is Democrats’ fault for lowering their own election day turnout by pushing for (and accepting the risk of rejection) of mail-in ballots.
    • “[Democrats] do not want to go stand in line and vote. That, ladies and gentlemen, is a game changer. It’s what electorate shows up to vote, on a vote that can be certified, that’s a vote that counts.” — Bannon at a Young Republican Federation of Virginia event
    • “President Donald Trump is going to win on gameday … They’re going to try and overturn the gameday election three or four weeks after, by Thanksgiving, by going in there and trying to count all these ballots.” — Bannon on KUSI News
  • ANNOUNCE TRUMP’S VICTORY ON NOV. 3 — This is straight out of Trump’s playbook. By telling Trump voters that the president will declare himself the winner by 11 p.m. on Nov. 3, and that anything short of that means a rigged election because, according to Bannon, “that’s the real vote, the vote that counts.”
    • “Set the [red] predicate on November 3rd. Once we set that predicate that Trump’s going to win on election day, that’s mighty hard to unwind. And they know that. That’s why they’re freaking out … On Nov. 3 Donald J. Trump is going to walk into the Oval Office and he may hit a tweet before he goes in there to see if Jack Dorsey has the stones not to put it up.” — Bannon at a Young Republican Federation of Virginia event
  • CRITICIZE THE AUDACITY TO… COUNT BALLOTS — Bannon has repeatedly told audiences that Democrats will — gasp — keep counting ballots even after Trump announces his “win” on election night. Bannon has criticized Democrats’ “need to keep counting.”
    • “They continue to say you have to, you know, you have to count all the votes … They want to go and count until they get a victory.” — Bannon on The John Fredericks Show
  • “BLUE STEAL” — Like Zoolander, this is Bannon’s only look. The well-established trend in post-election day vote tallies known as the “blue shift” is expected to be larger than ever this year. But Bannon is trying to frame this normal political trend as thievery:
    • “They point to McSally [Republican candidate for US Senate in Arizona] she’s up 15,000, she loses by 35,000. They just keep counting… They just keep counting ‘til they win.” — Bannon at a Young Republican Federation of Virginia event
  • CREATE A FIGHT CLUB — Bannon has complained that Democrats are involved in “200 lawsuits” — meanwhile, the RNC plans to spend twice as much on lawsuits as the Democrats’ litigation budget. Bannon has also complained about Biden’s hiring of multiple lawyers, while also proudly promoting how many lawyers Trump has amassed:
    • “President Trump and the Trump campaign have the lawyers for Trump — I think they have 1,500 lawyers right now. I think the campaign’s done an amazing job with outside groups.” — Bannon during a webinar with Arapahoe Tea Party.
  • TAKE IT TO THE (GOP CONTROLLED) COURTS — Bannon slams Democrats’ lawsuits as courtroom “shenanigans,” while declaring that “every ballot is going to be contested” and that he expects the election results to end up in front of SCOTUS.

“It’s not anything short of gaslighting the entire voter population..” — The Count co-host, Emily Galvin-Almanza


MOBILIZING AGAINST TRUMP’S ASSAULT ON DEMOCRACY

The key to defeating Trump’s plan is not just to see this as about winning one election, but rather about the need to save democracy, says Maurice Mitchell, a community organizer and national director of the Working Families Party.

Mitchell reiterated this on The Count yesterday, saying that voters need to create a, “Which side are you on?” moment. “There is no fence sitting, there’s no gray area; you’re either on the side of democracy, or you’re on the side of fascism. It’s really that binary, it’s that clear. And so there’s a lot of work that we could do, as everyday citizens in establishing that as a norm as a normative value, that when it comes to democracy, it is a binary choice.”


WHAT WE ARE TRACKING

  • Pennsylvania’s mail-in ballot deadline was upheld by a split US Supreme Court, who declined to hear the GOP’s challenge to the Pennsylvania Supreme Court decision that will allow counting of ballots received within 3 days of the election, as long as they are postmarked by Nov 3.
  • Pennsylvania’s voter registration closed yesterday but election officials were “inundated with complaints” after many first-time voters’ signature uploads were rejected. Nearly a third of the state’s registered voters have requested mail-in ballots.
  • The final presidential debate is scheduled for Thursday, but it might not actually happen. The Trump campaign has objected to the topics chosen by the moderator (fighting COVID-19, families, race in America, climate change, national security, and leadership) despite agreeing months ago that moderators would decide the topics. And yes, this time, mics will be muted.
  • The “Malarkey Factory” is the name of the Biden campaign’s effort to combat misinformation online and one of the big concerns is voters’ potential lack of trust in the election results. The campaign is “bracing for any information warfare that could take place in the aftermath of the election.”
  • Florida’s early voting began on Monday with 52 of the state’s 67 counties opening up early polling places. In one county, “more voters had cast ballots by midday than voted early overall in 2016.”
  • Michigan’s state police could be called into enforce laws against voter intimidation if local sheriffs won’t, the state’s attorney general said.
  • Micro-influencers and memes are urging Black voters to not cast a ballot this year, but these voter depression efforts can’t keep turnout down. The mobilization of Black voters this election is on track to rival 2008.”
  • If you’re unsure about what can go wrong with mail-in ballot verification, check out this visualization from The New York Times, which shows how spacing, slants, and loops can all cause ballots to be thrown out.

The Count #7: Resisting Trump’s Play For Absolute Power

The Count is a daily newsletter and live show from The Appeal and NowThis, focused on what happens in the scenario that the 2020 presidential race is too close to call on election night, if President Donald Trump makes good on his promise to not accept the election results, and what we can do in the 77 days between election day and the inauguration to uphold our democracy.

The Count #7: Resisting Trump’s Play For Absolute Power

The Count is a daily newsletter and live show from The Appeal and NowThis, focused on what happens in the scenario that the 2020 presidential race is too close to call on election night, if President Donald Trump makes good on his promise to not accept the election results, and what we can do in the 77 days between election day and the inauguration to uphold our democracy.


Today, we’ll look at:

  • New polling that finds millions of Americans are prepared to protest if Trump launches legal challenges to stop vote counts.
  • How researchers, organizers, and activists are pushing for voters to be prepared to protest and form civic engagement groups in their communities.
  • Record early voting in key battleground states.

If you were forwarded this newsletter and would like to subscribe, sign up here.


THE DAILY COUNTDOWN.

  • 15 days until election day.
  • 50 days until the deadline for all ballots to be counted.
  • 56 days until electoral college slates send their votes to Congress.
  • 79 days until Congress counts electoral college votes.
  • 93 days until inauguration day.

NEW POLL: AMERICANS PREPARED TO PROTEST IF TRUMP STEALS ELECTION

Americans have continually shattered protest records during the Trump administration, whether it be the largest one-day demonstration with the 2017 Women’s March to an estimated 15 to 26 million people participating in the Black Lives Matter protests. And this could be set to continue.

But even those records could be shattered if President Donald Trump goes ahead with his plan to contest election results that are unfavorable to him in the courts.

New polling from Data for Progress and The Justice Collaborative Institute shows that tens of millions of voters are poised to protest Trump’s effort to steal the election.

  • 40% of likely voters, including 53% of Democrats, would likely attend a protest in the event of the Trump campaign taking legal action to stop votes from being counted.
  • 35% of Republicans also said they’d protest if Trump’s campaign tried to stop the vote count.
  • KEY TAKEAWAY — If Trump decides to subvert the will of the voters, America could see the largest protests in recorded history. Based on the turnout in 2016 of 138 million people, 40% of voters protesting would mean 56 million people taking to the streets—that’s more than double the biggest estimates of the number of people who took part in Black Lives Matter protests. With this election’s turnout already breaking records, the number of Americans who would protest could be even larger.
  • As The Count guest Jason Ganz said, “If these numbers were anywhere close to the number of people that actually went out onto the streets, and were actually protesting, this would be historic, it would be monumental, it would be something that Donald Trump would not be able to ignore.”


RESISTING TRUMP’S PLAY FOR POWER

Aside from voting, protests are one of the most powerful and effective methods of seeking political change. A study of more than 100 nonviolent protests found nearly every single one succeeded when they actively and sustainably mobilized 3.5% of their population against the government.

This sort of activism is what Hardy Merriman, Ankur Asthana, Marium Navid, and Kifah Shah want Americans to prepare for after election day. The four researchers, organizers, and activists are the authors of a new report, “Hold the Line: A Guide to Defending Democracy.” The report helps people organize for nonviolent civil resistance, including protests, strikes, and boycotts, as well as forming election protection groups which they hope can play a crucial role to pressure state and federal elected officials, as well as county election officials, to count every vote.


RECORD EARLY VOTING IN KEY BATTLEGROUND STATES

A “record-shattering avalanche” is how the Associated Press described voter turnout after a number of states began early voting last week. Across the United States, more than 28 million people have already cast early or mail-in ballots.

 

  • Early voting levels last week were already 10 times higher than at this point in 2016 (even without eight states that have yet to report their numbers) and Democrats are casting ballots at twice the rate of Republicans.
  • 16 states have already cast more than 20% of all their 2016 votes.
  • Texas is leading the country in early voting. Texans have already cast 45% of all their 2016 votes and nearly 15% of the entire country’s 28 million early votes have been cast by Texans.
  • One estimate, from a professor and creator of the U.S. Elections Project, expects 2020 to have the highest voter turnout in more than a century.

MORE EARLY VOTING GOOD NEWS TO START OFF YOUR WEEK:

  • Arizona — Since Oct. 7, when early voting began, voting has outpaced 2016. Maricopa County, the fourth most populous in the country, had a record-breaking turnout on its first day of early voting.
  • Florida — Early voting in-person largely begins today, but the number of ballots cast has already doubled over 2016. Florida Democrats have returned 430,000 more mail-in ballots than Republicans, comprising more than 50% of total votes cast, up from 2016 when Republicans’ early ballots led Democrats 43% to 40%.
  • Georgia — More than 1.2 million ballots were cast by Friday, which is more than double this point in 2016. Including mail-in ballots, more than 10% of the entire electorate had voted after two days.
  • Michigan — Since early voting began on Sept. 24, three-and-a-half times more voters have cast their ballots than at this point in 2016.
  • North Carolina — Setting a new voter turnout record, 333,000 early voters cast their ballots on the first day of early voting and the state topped 1 million total ballots by Friday.
  • Ohio — Turnout is triple what it was after the first week of early voting in 2016.
  • Pennsylvania — 75% of the 683,000 mail-in ballots received so far have been submitted by Democrats.

What this shows is that, “Americans are not being deterred,” according to The Count host, Emily Galvin-Almanza, “and they will stand in line as long as they have to to get their damn vote cast.”


WHAT WE ARE TRACKING

  • Trump claimed his own FBI director “is not doing a very good job” at his town hall last week because the agency’s head has said there’s no evidence of widespread voter fraud.
  • USPS will prioritize election mail across the United States, and reverse several changes implemented this year, after settling a lawsuit last week with Montana’s Democratic governor.
  • Pennsylvania’s Republican legislators said they don’t foresee being involved in challenges to their state’s election results. “We will have no role post-election in changing outcomes,” one leader said, though what happens if there isn’t a clear outcome is, well, less clear.
  • But Pennsylvania has rejected 372,000 ballot applications. More than 90% were rejected as duplicate requests from people who had unwittingly requested a general election mail in ballot in June. Overall, one-in-five mail-in applications has been rejected.
  • Alabama is heading to the Supreme Court to try to block a ruling that allowed curbside voting because it would “cause confusion and much harm.” The original lawsuit was to accommodate voters with disabilities or who are high-risk for COVID-19.
  • The battle over Texas’ ballot boxes continues after a judge ruled counties can have more than one mail-in drop off box per county. But an immediate appeal from the attorney general paused that ruling for now.
  • Those unofficial ballot boxes in California will remain for now, as the GOP who installed them said they plan to ignore a cease and desist letter from the state attorney general and secretary of state.
  • Navajo Nation members in Arizona won’t have extra time to cast mail-in ballots after an appeals court rejected their case. There’s only 11 days between the mail-in application deadline and the election, but the complaint said it could take 10 days for mail to reach the county offices from the reservation.

Amy Coney Barrett’s Record on Criminal Justice Is ‘Deeply Troubling,’ Reform Advocates Say

In the midst of a national debate about changing the criminal legal system, Barrett is set to take a lifetime seat on the U.S. Supreme Court. Advocates see her addition as a potential setback to creating a more fair system.

Judge Amy Coney Barrett on Oct. 21.
Photo by Jim Lo Scalzo-Pool/Getty Images.

Amy Coney Barrett’s Record on Criminal Justice Is ‘Deeply Troubling,’ Reform Advocates Say

In the midst of a national debate about changing the criminal legal system, Barrett is set to take a lifetime seat on the U.S. Supreme Court. Advocates see her addition as a potential setback to creating a more fair system.


Judge Amy Coney Barrett’s expected confirmation by the Senate on Monday to a lifetime seat on the U.S. Supreme Court will be an enormous blow to criminal justice reform, advocates say.

“She has a deeply, deeply troubling record when it comes to people who are caught up in the criminal justice system,” Daniel Goldberg, legal director for the Alliance for Justice, told The Appeal.

Barrett was approved by the Senate Judiciary Committee on Thursday, despite all of the Democratic members boycotting the vote. Before her appointment by President Trump to the Seventh Circuit in 2017, Barrett, a conservative, had no judicial experience. She worked as an attorney for a private practice for two years before becoming a law professor in 2002. But during her short tenure on the bench, she has taken positions in several cases that could signal a setback for criminal justice reform. 

In 2019, she penned a dissent in McCottrell v. White, siding with two prison guards who fired shotguns to break up a fight. The buckshot from the guns struck multiple men in the prison, including several who were not involved in the fight.

Although the majority of the court decided that there was enough evidence for a jury to find the guards acted with excessive force and remanded the case to the trial court, Barrett took the guards at their word, finding they didn’t intentionally harm the men because they had fired the guns into the ceiling.

In January, Barrett joined a majority opinion reversing a lower court order that found two Indianapolis police officers should be held accountable for leaving an 18-year-old handcuffed while he complained of having difficulty breathing until he died from lack of oxygen. Barrett and the circuit court decided the officers were entitled to qualified immunity from being held liable for the death of the teenager, who was accused of stealing a watch from Burlington Coat Factory.

Barrett has even attempted to undermine Trump’s signature criminal justice reform legislation. Less than two weeks before her nomination last month, Barrett wrote a dissent in United States v. Uriarte, contending that a man sentenced to more than 40 years in prison for drug and firearm offenses was not entitled to relief under the First Step Act.

The majority of the court disagreed and resentenced the man to 20 years in prison under the new guidelines.

Even before taking the bench, Barrett has taken positions that could be disastrous for people seeking relief from the Supreme Court.

In law review articles, Barrett has argued that the constitutionality of Miranda rights is disputed and argued that non-U.S. citizens being held in the military prison at Guantánamo Bay, Cuba, are not entitled to protest their detention once convicted.

Trump nominated Barrett to replace liberal champion Ruth Bader Ginsburg after Ginsburg’s death in September. “Justice Ginsburg was a giant in the fight for equality and civil rights,” Black Lives Matter wrote in a public statement denouncing Barrett. “Judge Amy Coney Barrett shouldn’t even be in consideration, as she has no plans but to roll back on RBG’s initiatives.”

With Barrett’s confirmation securing a conservative majority in the court, advocates should focus on pushing criminal justice reform issues in other areas by electing local leaders who will enact reforms and pushing Congress to change laws, Goldberg said.

“The reality is, not just at the Supreme Court but the lower courts—which have been packed with right-wing ideologues—there are judges who are not going to be on the side of ensuring racial equality and ensuring equal justice under the law,” Goldberg added. “That will require advocates and all people who care deeply about these issues to press them in different forms.”

More in Explainers

Michigan Lifers Are Organizing Their Families to Vote

The Adolescent Redemption Project, a new group organized by Michigan prisoners sentenced to life without the possibility of parole, is advocating for progressive prosecutors.

A voter casts their absentee ballot in Detroit, Michigan on Oct. 15.
Photo by Salwan Georges/The Washington Post via Getty Images.

Michigan Lifers Are Organizing Their Families to Vote

The Adolescent Redemption Project, a new group organized by Michigan prisoners sentenced to life without the possibility of parole, is advocating for progressive prosecutors.


Earlier this year, as COVID-19 ravaged G. Robert Cotton Correctional Facility, Joshua Puckett and his fiancée Cassandra Anzalone hatched an idea. 

Puckett, who is incarcerated at Cotton, has been in the Michigan prison system for 25 years. When he was 18, he was convicted of aiding and abetting first-degree murder because he gave directions to somene he knew who carried out a drive-by shooting and later removed a gun from the scene. He was not in the vehicle.

Over the summer, with the November election approaching and issues around mass incarceration gaining steam with voters and leaders alike, Puckett and Anzalone founded The Adolescent Redemption Project, or TARP, a 501(c)4 organization dedicated to ending the mass incarceration of people ages 18 to 25 through political advocacy. 

But because the roughly 35,000 people incarcerated in Michigan’s prisons cannot vote, TARP is creating a “voting bloc” of friends and family of incarcerated people who support criminal justice issues and progressive prosecutors.  

“If even approx. 20,000 [prisoners] that we got to influence just 2 family members to vote for justice reform progressive candidates we then have 40K votes!” Puckett wrote in an email to The Appeal. “That’s powerful. Prison[ers] have never before had a lobby that moves on their interests.” 

TARP estimates that it has spread its “Redemption Voting Bloc” flyers to about 20,000 prisoners since the summer by posting them in dayrooms and on bulletin boards. The flyers use a tear-off form that prisoners can share with their families to register with TARP as part of the “bloc” and receive TARP’s mailings on candidates and issues. 

The flyers describe TARP’s mission as “a campaign for mercy,” calling for an end to the “mass incarceration of late adolescent offenders” through eliminating mandatory minimums and allowing judges to retroactively consider adolescent brain development. 

The group is also supporting Carol Siemon, a prosecutor running for re-election in Ingham County, which includes parts of Lansing, the state capital. She won handily in 2016, besting three other candidates in the Democratic primary, and she represents a county that votes reliably blue

Since taking office, Siemon has reviewed life without the possibility of parole cases, beginning with people who committed a crime at age 17 or younger. She said she saw people who had “transformed”—not because of anything the Michigan Department of Corrections had done—but because they found a good mentor, “aged out” of their violent behavior, or they had a child they wanted to see grow up.  

“In 20 years, and hopefully sooner, but I say in 20 years, we’re going to look back and say, how did we ever do life for people in prison without the possibility of parole?” she told The Appeal.

In January, Siemon told the Lansing City Pulse about her plans to review and possibly seek commutations for 90 people convicted of first-degree murder serving life without parole. She later apologized after backlash over her comments, saying she regretted not speaking to the victims’ families first. 

Still, Siemon has remained true to her philosophy. According to the City Pulse, after Siemon’s election, “nearly all murder defendants have had the chance to plead to a lesser charge [of] second-degree murder.” (Michigan does not have the death penalty.) 

“We knew right there we had to support her. If she loses, no other prosecutors will do this kind of work,” Puckett said. Siemon co-wrote a commentary calling for an end to juvenile life without parole and cited the adolescent brain science TARP relies on. She also signed on to a letter committing to reject police contributions and endorsements to her campaign, the only Michigan prosecutor to do so. 

“I’ve been a lawyer for 39 years, and I’m really annoyed that the same conversations I was having 35 years ago, we’re still having,” Siemon said, pointing to alternatives to incarceration such as after-school programs and drug addiction rehabilitation.

TARP has also supported Karen McDonald’s candidacy for prosecutor in Oakland County. McDonald won the Democratic primary with 66 percent of the vote, besting incumbent Jessica Cooper, a “tough on crime” Democrat who gained national attention for punishing a 15-year-old Black girl for failing to complete schoolwork while on probation.

The group’s organizing comes amid growing public support for voting rights for formerly incarcerated people, though there is still progress to be made. In 2018, Florida voters approved a constitutional amendment to allow people who served felony sentences to vote again. But in 2019, the state legislature passed a law requiring them to pay all fees before being eligible to vote, effectively disenfranchising thousands, despite questions over its constitutionality. Felony disenfranchisement laws are a Jim Crow relic, but they prevent more than 5 million Americans from voting. 

TARP is still new—all volunteers—but its organizers say that it’s growing and empowering incarcerated people. “We’ve created somewhat of a sensation [among] the Michigan prisoners,” said Stephen Silha, a TARP board member. DeAndrea Taylor, one of Breonna Taylor’s sisters, recently joined the board to advocate for their father, Everette Taylor, who has been incarcerated in Michigan since he was 22. 

In addition to pushing for change through the courts, TARP is also working on drafting  second look legislation, which allows courts to re-evaluate people’s sentences after a significant period of time. Some states have already considered similar legislation, and a version has been introduced in Congress. 

“If you can get the legislators to change the law,” said Laurel Kelly Young, Puckett’s attorney and a TARP board member, “things will happen a lot quicker than, like, trying to create precedent to the court.”