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Kristen Welker: Presidential debate moderator was ‘clear winner’ on social media

If social media is to be believed, there was only one winner of the final presidential debate – the person in charge.

Kristen Welker has been lauded online for her performance as a moderator, in particular being praised for keeping candidates on time and not allowing them to talk over her.

The 44-year-old grew up in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, and graduated from Harvard in 1998.

She became NBC’s White House Correspondent in 2011 and has since become co-anchor of NBC show Weekend Today.

There have been more than 125,000 tweets about the NBC journalist, who became only the second black woman to moderate a presidential debate alone, 28 years after ABC News journalist Carole Simpson became the first in 1992.

Welker would have still been at school when Simpson moderated that debate between Bill Clinton and George HW Bush.

Fox News journalist Chris Wallace faced criticism for his moderation of the last debate between Donald Trump and Joe Biden, while Susan Page was similarly criticized for how she handled the vice-presidential debate between Mike Pence and Kamala Harris.

But clearly Welker was taking notes from those debates, as she was praised specifically for managing to keep the candidates in line, and controlling the conversation – though she did have the advantage of the candidates being muted during each others’ allotted two minutes.

Fellow journalists have been vocal in their praise for Welker’s performance. NBC’s Chief White House Correspondent Hallie Jackson called it “a career-defining moment“, while news anchor Harris Faulkner said she “gave the American people a real debate“.

And PBS White House Correspondent Yamiche Alcindor said she was “beaming” watching Welker.

MSNBC host Rachel Maddow labelled Welker the “clear winner” of the debate, while previous moderator Chris Wallace told Fox News that he was “jealous” of her – wishing that he had been able to take charge of the debate instead.

It was not just Welker’s colleagues who were positive about her performance. American author Brigitte Gabriel said she did a better job than Wallace, and one person went so far as to suggest she deserved a medal for her performance.

And despite calling Welker “terrible and unfair” ahead of time, Trump took time during the debate to praise the moderator’s performance.

“By the way, so far I respect very much the way you’re handling this,” he said.


Why These Voters Rejected Hillary Clinton but Are Backing Joe Biden

Samantha Kacmarik, a Latina college student in Las Vegas, said that four years ago, she had viewed Hillary Clinton as part of a corrupt political establishment.

Flowers Forever, a Black transgender music producer in Milwaukee, said she had thought Mrs. Clinton wouldn’t change anything for the better.

And Thomas Moline, a white retired garbageman in Minneapolis, said he simply hadn’t trusted her.

None of them voted for Mrs. Clinton. All of them plan to vote for Joseph R. Biden Jr.

“I knew early that Trump definitely wasn’t the guy for me,” recalled Mr. Moline, an independent. But when it came to Mrs. Clinton, “I guess I had a bad taste in my mouth from her husband’s eight years in office.” He voted for Gary Johnson, the Libertarian candidate, a decision he regrets, and he feels at ease backing Mr. Biden.

“I identify more with Biden — whether that’s being a male chauvinist, or whatever you want to call me,” he said.

The point seems almost too obvious to note: Mr. Biden is not Mrs. Clinton. Yet for many Democrats and independents who sat out 2016, voted for third-party candidates or backed Mr. Trump, it is a rationale for their vote that comes up repeatedly: Mr. Biden is more acceptable to them than Mrs. Clinton was, in ways large and small, personal and political, sexist and not, and those differences help them feel more comfortable voting for the Democratic nominee this time around.

Thomas Moline, a retired garbage man who voted for Gary Johnson in 2016, said he will be voting for Mr. Biden this fall.
Credit…Caroline Yang for The New York Times


Mr. Biden also benefits, of course, from the intense desire among Democrats to get President Trump out of office. And a majority of voters give the president low marks for his handling of the coronavirus pandemic, the dominant issue of the race. But a key distinction between 2020 and 2016 is that, four years ago, the race came down to two of the most disliked and polarizing candidates in American history, and one of them also faced obstacles that came with being a barrier-breaking woman.

Mr. Biden now leads Mr. Trump in many public polls by bigger margins than Mrs. Clinton had in 2016. In private polling and focus groups, voters express more positive views of Mr. Biden than of Mrs. Clinton, though they know far less about his decades in political office, according to strategists affiliated with both Democrats’ campaigns.

Interviews with dozens of voters, union members and Democratic strategists reveal a party embracing Mr. Biden — a 77-year-old white man — as a familiar political pitch, though some bristled at what they saw as the gender bias in that assessment.

“The Republicans did a fantastic job of making Hillary Clinton seem like the devil for the last 20-plus years, so she was a hard sell,” said Aaron Stearns, the Democratic chairman in Warren County in northwestern Pennsylvania. “It’s just a lot easier with Joe Biden because he’s a guy and he’s an old white guy. I hate saying that, but it’s the truth.”

Even as Mr. Biden proposes a significantly bigger role for government than Mrs. Clinton did four years ago, some voters view the Democratic nominee as more moderate compared to how they saw her. And they don’t see him as being as divisive a political figure as they did Mrs. Clinton, despite Mr. Biden’s long record of legislative battles.

“I didn’t like Hillary — I felt that she was a fraud, basically, lying and conniving,” said Sarah Brown, 27, of Rhinelander, Wis., who regrets her 2016 vote for Mr. Trump and plans to vote for Mr. Biden. “I’m not a super big fan of him, either, but the two options — I guess it’s the lesser evil.”

Since 2019, Mr. Biden has held an advantage of four to eight points over Mrs. Clinton in key swing districts, according to an analysis by John Hagner, a partner at Clarity Campaign Labs, a Democratic data analytics firm.

Polling shows Mr. Biden scoring higher than Mrs. Clinton among a wide range of demographic groups — most notably older voters, white voters and suburbanites. But his advantage is stark among those who sat out the 2016 election or backed third-party candidates.

Mr. Biden leads Mr. Trump, 49 percent to 19 percent, among likely voters who backed third-party candidates in 2016, according to recent polling of battleground states by The New York Times and Siena College. Among registered voters who sat out the 2016 election, Mr. Biden leads by nine percentage points, the polls found.

At times, Mr. Biden has been notably critical of his party’s 2016 nominee, arguing that she lacked “vision” and failed to connect with working-class voters, and openly relitigating what he saw Mrs. Clinton’s debate missteps.

He has also noted “unfair” sexism against her, adding at an event in Iowa, “That’s not going to happen with me.”

Mrs. Clinton, too, has reflected on how she was perceived during the race.

“You should also be prepared for the slights, the efforts to diminish you — you personally, you as a woman,” she advised Senator Kamala Harris on Mrs. Clinton’s podcast before the vice-presidential debate.

In 2016, Mr. Trump’s appeal as a political leader was intriguing to many voters, given that he was an outsider and that few expected him to win, while Mrs. Clinton was a Washington veteran.

“Always institutionally, people want to get change,” said former Gov. Terry McAuliffe of Virginia, a close friend of the Clintons. “Trump was anti-establishment, anti-swamp. They now have seen the horror that this man has done to our country.”

Yet, even as votes are being cast in 2020, Democrats still worry about some of the reasons for their loss in 2016.

Mrs. Clinton’s campaign was criticized over its ground game in some battleground states; Mr. Biden’s campaign avoided direct contact with voters for months. Mrs. Clinton was attacked for keeping a lighter schedule than Mr. Trump at times; Mr. Biden made his first visit of the year to Wisconsin in September.

But Mr. Biden has never been torn down like Mrs. Clinton, who had faced more than two decades of unrelenting G.O.P. attacks by the time she ran.

Internal polling conducted for the Bernie Sanders campaign found that Mr. Biden had a reservoir of goodwill that Mrs. Clinton did not possess.

‘I’ve been crying for days’: How voting became the latest of 2020’s many anxieties

PHILADELPHIA — A few weeks before Election Day, a line of three dozen voters in Eagles and Flyers masks spools in front of Roxborough High to drop off their ballots. It is a gift of a cloudless autumnal day yet the anxiety is palpable.

“I’ve been frightened. I’ve been crying for a few days,” says Bernadette Neal, 68, a Black, retired special-education teacher, completing her ballot on a nearby bench. Visibly flustered, Neal drops her handbag, then her ballot.

President Trump’s debate comments about his supporters watching the city’s polls and his refusal to condemn far-right extremism left her shaken. “I’m so afraid they’re going to send in white supremacists, Proud Boys.”

Voting should be easy. It should be safe. For many Americans, it appears to be neither.

The reasons are legion. Voting anxiety is the latest entry in 2020’s bursting catalog of fears. Worries and confusion mount over making each vote count. It’s a seasonal elective disorder. And Pennsylvania has a pronounced case.

Americans have voted for more than two centuries, and yet we cannot manage to get it right. Despite being a wealthy, technologically advanced nation, or perhaps because of it, complications have only multiplied, along with our uncertainty.

We are told constantly the stakes are staggering, that this is The Most Important Election of Our LivesCoronavirus cases are spiking across the nation, making voting in person a risky proposition. Georgia residents waited up to 10 hours to vote Monday, an echo of the lines in many state’s primaries. Yet, given the maelstrom over mail delays, some feel valid trepidation about mailing ballots.

Voters wait in a line during early voting Tuesday in McAllen, Tex.

The intelligence community warns of multiple foreign bad actors waging election malfeasance, not so much a matter of if but who and how. In California, Republican Party officials admitted placing misleading unofficial ballot boxes. President Trump refuses to say whether he will concede.

The nation is infested with voting-related lawsuits. There are 365, as many as there are days in the year, according to the Stanford-MIT Healthy Elections Project’s COVID-Related Election Litigation Tracker, which wasn’t on the Founders’ wish list but is apparently something we now need.

For a country hooked on immediacy, there’s anxiety that it may take days, if not weeks, to learn the outcome. In New York’s 12th Congressional District primary, it required six weeks to certify the election. Nobody wants the interminable, contentious hell of 2000. Some fear violence if the results are contested.

“I want my vote to count so badly, but I’m really not sure it’s going to. And it’s actually frightening me,” says Anna Headley, 56, a Philadelphia physician. Her mail-in ballot arrived two weeks ago, but she had yet to open it. “I keep looking at it as if it’s a bomb.”

Headley worries for other voters. “It’s keeping me up at night thinking of everyone else,” she adds. “It terrifies me. If I’m this scared about my vote counting, I’m even more scared for people for whom English is a second language.”

Pennsylvania is a petri dish of voter unease. In this presidential contest, the state has been crowned the tippiest of tipping points, its 20 electoral votes considered a necessary way station to arrive at 270. Both Trump, who won here four years ago, and Joe Biden — a son of Scranton, a constant in his political rhetoric — desperately want to win the state. Trump staged a rally in Johnstown on Tuesday; Biden held his televised town hall in Philadelphia on Thursday.

This is the first year that Pennsylvanians can vote by mail, a move intended to make life easier and provide voters with choice, but it has managed to fuel consternation. Philadelphia is plastered with placards entreating “VOTE. MAKE A PLAN.”

“I would be very happy if it wasn’t not coming down to Pennsylvania, if we were just one of the many states one way or another,” says Suzanne Almeida, a lawyer for the state’s chapter of the watchdog group Common Cause.

“Nothing surprises me anymore,” says Democratic Secretary of State Kathy Boockvar, who projects that a third of the state’s registered voters will apply for mail-in ballots, twice the number in the primary. “We’ve had more changes in the past 2½ years than we’ve seen in the last century in the way that Pennsylvanians vote.”

Voters are vigorously debating whether to use the mail-in ballot or vote in person. It would be top fodder for bar fights — that is if people were still going to bars. To complicate matters — because, why not? — residents who ordered mail-in ballots but change their plan must bring them on Election Day to be invalidated, otherwise, they will vote with provisional ballots.“MAKE A PLAN,” for many residents, has launched an existential crisis.

“The level of anxiety is causing people to doubt themselves or to overthink this,” says Noam Kugelmass, a Philadelphia Democratic city committeeman. At least 20 people have asked him how they should vote.

Kugelmass warns voters that the weather may be lousy. Wait times may be considerable. You may be sick. The person in front of you may be sick.

“I’m asking people not to succumb to the fear and the anxiety and concern — which are real — by going to the polls because that’s adding to the chaos,” he says.

Trump’s debates also “bad things happen in Philadelphia” instantly became a rallying cry, a T-shirt, and assorted merch, but it’s also viewed as a threat to residents like Neal. In Philadelphia, Democrats outnumber Republicans almost 7 to 1; the city is 44 percent Black.

Pennsylvania is among the battleground states where there is concern of “a red mirage” being followed by “a blue shift,” which sound like titles of apocalyptic disaster films with the same potential for mayhem. This is the scenario where in-person votes reported Tuesday would favor Trump only to be followed by an abundance of mail-in ballots supporting Biden. A recent Philadelphia Inquirer headline blared “Bracing for Chaos” and “officials prepare for the worst” in four-Klonopin type.

Philadelphia landlord Gregor Majeske, 59, has decided to vote in person. “I want my vote to count,” he says, and worries “that if I voted by mail, the count will be delayed and those results would not be presented in a timely fashion to be certified as counted.”

There are fears that thousands of mail-in ballots will be tossed due to voter blunders, including “naked ballots” that arrive without the required “secrecy envelope,” which is inserted inside a second official election envelope.(Naked celebrities were solicited to star in a cautionary video.)

A Pennsylvania mail-in ballot is required to be put inside an angst-provoking “secrecy envelope,” right, then tucked inside the outer return envelope.

“I worry about our ability to get it all done. I know that we will,” says Lisa Deeley, head of Philadelphia’s election commission. Of the new voting laws, “we barely had time to learn it ourselves before covid-19 struck.”

Last month, Deeley wrote state lawmakers, after a court upheld the secrecy envelope requirement, that “it is the naked ballot ruling that is going to cause electoral chaos” — there’s that word again — with projected estimates as high as 100,000 ballots being discounted. Four years ago, Trump won Pennsylvania by less than half that number.

And then there are the lawsuits. “I don’t think I could count them at this point,” says Boockvar. At least 18in Pennsylvania, according to the litigation tracker.

Republicans have legally challenged many aspects of the commonwealth’s mail-in ballot rules. (Requests by Democrats outnumber theirs by more than a million.) There is a case, a monster migraine in the making, that would allow counties to toss ballots if the signature doesn’t match a voter’s original registration one, even if it was inked decades earlier or scratched by younger voters who were never properly taught cursive.

“I was very nervous about making a mistake,” says Eliot Ingram, 50, who runs a digital media company in Philadelphia and thinks he forgot the secrecy envelope during the primary. This time he spent a half-hour completing the ballot. “I think I signed my name properly. I wasn’t sure if my middle initial was there on my registration form.

Democratic Attorney General Josh Shapiro blames the president for creating confusion.“It’s a battleground state that Donald Trump has to win, and he’s losing badly right now,” he says. “Heis attempting to use the courts to undermine our laws in Pennsylvania. I won’t let him get away with it.”

There’s plenty of distrust to go around. Luzerne County GOP chairman Justin Behrens says, “The biggest concern I have is with the mail-in ballot. I think there’s more and more opportunity for manipulation.” (Experts note that U.S. elections have not seen widespread voter fraud, via mail-in ballots or otherwise.)

In the debate, Trump said, “There was a big problem. In Philadelphia they went in to watch. They’re called poll watchers. A very safe, very nice thing. They were thrown out.” But they were trying to enter satellite election offices. The polls are not open. Hence, no poll workers. The Trump campaign sued to have poll workers enter Philadelphia offices, and lost.

During the course of reporting, a county Republican official told The Post that all voters would be sent ballots whether they want them or not. (Not true. They must be requested.) A Philadelphia resident said voting early means your vote will be counted early. (Officials must wait until Election Day, which is why the count could take days.) Some voters suggested political thuggery was afoot after a laptop and USB sticks used to program city voting machines were reported stolen from an election warehouse the night after the debate. (The district attorney determined it was a random crime but, yes, that’s some timing.)

Boockvar, the secretary of state, spends much of her time battling misinformation when she’s not fighting lawsuits: “It’s very frustrating. Every one of us should be working to reassure and boost confidence.”

Carolyn Williams will not succumb to the chaos, the notion that bad things happen in her city, as she drops off her ballot at Roxborough High.

“This is just the biggest scare tactic ever to persuade people from not voting,” says Williams, 71, a retired legal assistant. “If anything, it’s made me more determined to vote. It adds more fuel to the fire.”


Amy Coney Barrett confirmation hearing live updates: ‘We have the votes,’ McConnell says of nomination

Oct. 15, 2020 at 10:24 a.m. EDT

The Senate Judiciary Committee has formally set a panel vote on Judge Amy Coney Barrett’s nomination to the Supreme Court for Oct. 22 at 1 p.m. Eastern.

Democrats protested the swift action less than three weeks before the Nov. 3 election, but are powerless to stop it. “We have the votes,” Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) told reporters in Kentucky as he said the full Senate will begin debate on the nominee Oct. 23.

Later in the day, outside witnesses invited by Republicans and Democrats were scheduled to testify on the fourth and final day of confirmation hearings.

Here are some significant developments:

  • Senate Republicans are predicting clear sailing for Barrett after she concluded her confirmation testimony Wednesday. They say she will forge a new and prominent path as a conservative, religious woman who opposes abortion. “There is nothing wrong with confirming to the Supreme Court of the United States a devout Catholic, pro-life Christian,” Sen. Josh Hawley (R-Mo.) said.
  • McConnell made it clear that Republicans will move expeditiously to confirm Barrett to the Supreme Court. “We have the votes,” McConnell told reporters in Kentucky. Republicans hold a 53-to-47 majority in the Senate. McConnell said that after the Oct. 22 committee vote, the full Senate would consider the nomination beginning Oct. 23.
  • Democrats’ slate of witnesses Thursday plan to testify about the nominee’s potential impact on key decisions involving the Affordable Care Act, access to abortion and voting rights. The lineup tracks with the party’s strategy, which has been squarely focused on health care and what Democrats say is the threat that Barrett’s confirmation would pose to the future of abortion and the 2010 health-care law, with its coverage for those with preexisting medical conditions.
  • President Trump, whose administration is part of the legal fight to gut the Affordable Care Act, has pressed for confirmation of Barrett before next month — when the nation chooses the next president and the Supreme Court will consider the case challenging the health-care law. Sen. Richard J. Durbin (D-Ill.), mocking Trump, said an “orange cloud” hangs over the nomination. Barrett has insisted she has no agenda and is not hostile to the law.


US election 2020: World reaction to long queues of voters in US

You may think waiting 11 hours to vote would be the height of frustration, but not for one family in Georgia.

“We made it, y’all,” says Johnta Austin in one viral video filmed as they reach the front of the queue, describing the lengthy process as an “honour”.

With early voting under way across much of the US, social media images show long queues of people, sometimes waiting for hours, patiently inching their way in line towards the polling booth.

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Some African Americans, including journalist Roland Martin in Texas, say they wept when they discovered such a motivated electorate on the morning of the vote.

In a video that shows a Black Lives Matter sign on the building, Martin says he cried after finding a “massive line after the polls had been open 27 minutes”, and that he prepared to vote by listening to protest songs from this summer.

Many of the Americans taking to the internet to show their voting pride are black. They say their vote is a continuation of the civil rights struggle, which they feel has been invigorated by the Black Lives Matter movement.

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“Souls to polls,” is one slogan being retweeted among the US black community.

In Georgia, where in-person voting began on Monday, a federal holiday, some voters arrived before dawn to queue.

The state has a long history of voting problems but it’s not the first in this election season to see long queues on the first day of early voting. It was the same in Ohio and Virginia.

Record turnout is expected this year, with an unprecedented number of people voting early due to the pandemic.

media captionLong queues as Americans vote early in the US election

Voters in Atlanta, Georgia, cited the death of local congressman John Lewis, who was beaten while marching for equal rights in Alabama in the 1960s.

Atlanta’s mayor on Monday tweeted a quote by Lewis, who died in July: “The vote is the most powerful nonviolent tool we have.”

According to the the state’s vote counters, a record 126,876 Georgians cast early ballots on Monday, including at the NBA’s State Farm Arena.

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With three weeks to go until election day, it’s estimated that some 11 million Americans have already voted.

Republican-run states have faced legal challenges for introducing rigorous ID checks and new rules like witness signatures.

Republicans say these measures are necessary to address voter fraud. Democrats accuse them of trying to suppress voters.

The long queues have prompted a huge global reaction.

One Canadian commenter in Ontario wrote that unlike in the US, a nonpartisan national commission runs the elections.

Another Canadian wrote: “I’ve waited longer for a bus than I have ever waited to vote.”

A British man wrote: “Dear USA, I’m 58 and not once in my life have I had to queue to vote. Sort it out!”

Another person suggested that election monitors from the Organization for Security and Co-operation in Europe (OSCE) should intervene.

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One man in India pointed out that his country handles more election ballots than any other democracy in the world.

In a country with a higher level of illiteracy than the US, no such long queues have been seen in previous elections.

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In Texas, where early voting began on Tuesday, social media users were reminding each other to come prepared with water, a chair and snack.

“Texas! Get in line early tomorrow! And vote! Yes! Turn the tv off! Eat a good breakfast at 5am! Take water! Chair! Umbrella! And stay in line!” wrote one man.

In Austin, Texas, crowds reportedly cheered when their polling stations opened in the morning.

One Doctor Who fan in the UK found a humorous way to summarise the American voting experience.

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Some accounts have offered freebies, including food and art, to people forced to wait in line for hours.

One company called Pizza to the Polls, says its goal is “making democracy delicious by delivering free food for all to polling places with long lines”.

They’ve been scanning Twitter for locations to deliver pizzas, and claim to have sent 2,418 pies so far in 2020.

Some people say the long queues show voter enthusiasm, but others say it is the result of a process that has intentionally been complicated in order to stifle voting among some historically disenfranchised communities.

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In response to researcher Brandon Tozzo’s question about polling times in other counties, an Irish woman wrote: “20 minutes but that was because I met a neighbour, then a friend, then knew the returning officer so said hello, then finally voted.

“Took another hour to leave the polling station, nothing like an election for Irish people to get a chance to chat.”

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Respondents in Norway, Germany and other European countries said there were numerous places to drop off ballots ahead of time and that unlike in the US, most polling locations were a short walk from home.

From Germany to Israel, people also reminded Americans that unlike in the US, voting occurs on holidays and weekends.

In Australia, some people said the queue to pick up the customary “Democracy Sausage” after the vote is often longer than the queue to vote itself.

“Plus the chat with sausage vendor can add half an hour,” wrote one Twitter user. Another said: “In Australia – we pick the polling station with the best BBQ, not based on wait times.”


Georgians Flock for Early Voting, Facing Glitches and Long Lines

Date: Oct. 12, 2020

Determined and energized voters in the battleground state waited in some places for hours to cast their ballots on the first day of early, in-person balloting.

Voters stood in line for early voting on Monday morning at the Agnes Scott College campus in DeKalb County, Ga.
Credit…Nicole Craine for The New York Times

By Glenn Thrush and 

Fired-up voters across Georgia descended on polling sites in record-breaking numbers on Monday, the first day of early, in-person balloting, as state and local officials reported glitches with the state’s new and troubled voting system.

In Atlanta and its suburbs, long lines of socially distanced voters began forming before dawn, some waiting for as long as eight hours to vote, after a federal judge rejected an attempt to replace the $107 million system with paper ballots until its problems could be sorted out.

“We thought we were going to get here early,” Norman Robinson III said as he stood in a line snaking for more than a half-mile outside his early voting site at the Gallery at South DeKalb in Decatur, near Atlanta. Still, he said, “it’s an awesome thing.”

Dr. Robinson, an educator specializing in math, science and technology, added: “My parents were jailed in college during the 1960s for exercising their rights to vote. This is in my blood to make sure I honor and continue their fight for voices to be heard.”

“It was clear that nobody was really prepared for it,” she said.

Despite the hardships, voting rights groups saw a silver lining.

Andrea Young, the executive director of the American Civil Liberties Union of Georgia, called it an “outpouring,” adding: “People are very energized. Georgia this year is a place where your vote matters.”

Elections officials acknowledged technical glitches around the state, but said the long lines were primarily a result of voter turnout that increased partly because many voters had the day off for Columbus Day.

“Georgia is seeing record turnout for early voting because of excitement and enthusiasm about the upcoming election,” said Walter Jones, a spokesman for Brad Raffensperger, Georgia’s Republican secretary of state.

More than 126,000 voters had cast ballots by the end of the day, Mr. Raffensperger’s office said.

But the snaking lines were not entirely a result of voter fervor. As hundreds lined up to vote in metropolitan Atlanta, problems emerged with electronic equipment at State Farm Arena, according to Jessica Corbitt-Dominguez, a spokeswoman for Fulton County, which includes the city.

Voters complained on Twitter of 90-minute delays as multiple machines had to be rebooted.

Aklima Khondoker, the Georgia director for All Voting Is Local, a voting rights group, said that electronic poll pads on which voters check-in had created problems around the state. “We’ve seen over 10 counties where this is happening,” she said.

A variety of technical issues had been the topic of litigation in which a voting rights group, the Coalition for Good Governance, argued that the system should be set aside in favor of paper ballots. In a ruling on Sunday night, Judge Amy Totenberg of the United States District Court for the Northern District of Georgia acknowledged the system had problems but said it was too late to revamp the voting system.

The state did not have the capacity “to turn on a dime and switch to a full-scale hand-marked paper ballot system,” she wrote, declining to make the shift recommended by the Coalition for Good Governance.


Judge in battleground state tosses Trump campaign’s lawsuit challenging voting policies

 / Source: Associated Press

HARRISBURG, Pa. — A federal judge in Pennsylvania on Saturday threw out a lawsuit filed by President Donald Trump’s campaign, dismissing its challenges to the battleground state’s poll-watching law and its efforts to limit how mail-in ballots can be collected and which of them can be counted.

The ruling by U.S. District Judge J. Nicholas Ranjan — who was appointed by Trump — in Pittsburgh also poured cold water on Trump’s claims that Pennsylvania is fertile ground for election fraud.

Trump’s campaign said it would appeal at least one element of the decision, with barely three weeks to go until Election Day in a state hotly contested by Trump and Democratic presidential nominee Joe Biden.

The lawsuit was opposed by the administration of Gov. Tom Wolf, a Democrat, the state Democratic Party, the League of Women Voters, the NAACP’s Pennsylvania office and other allied groups.

“The ruling is a complete rejection of the continued misinformation about voter fraud and corruption, and those who seek to sow chaos and discord ahead of the upcoming election,” Wolf’s office said in a statement.

The state’s attorney general, Josh Shapiro, a Democrat whose office fought the Trump campaign’s claims, called the lawsuit a political stunt designed to sow doubt in the state’s election.

“We told the Trump campaign and the president, ‘put up or shut up’ to his claims of voter fraud in Pennsylvania,” Shapiro told The Associated Press. “It’s important to note they didn’t even need to prove actual voter fraud, just that it was likely or impending, and they couldn’t even do that.”

Trump’s campaign said in a statement that it looked forward to a quick decision from the appeals court “that will further protect Pennsylvania voters from the Democrats’ radical voting system.”

The lawsuit is one of many partisan battles being fought in the state Legislature and the courts, primarily over mail-in voting in Pennsylvania, amid concerns that a presidential election result will hang in limbo for days on a drawn-out vote count in Pennsylvania.

In this case, Trump’s campaign wanted the court to bar counties from using drop boxes or mobile sites to collect mail-in ballots that are not “staffed, secured, and employed consistently within and across all 67 of Pennsylvania’s counties.” Trump’s campaign said it would appeal the matter of drop boxes.

More than 20 counties — including Philadelphia and most other heavily populated Democratic-leaning counties — have told the state elections office that they plan to use drop boxes or satellite election offices to help collect the massive number of mail-in ballots they expect to receive.

Trump’s campaign also wanted the court to free county election officials to disqualify mail-in ballots where the voter’s signature may not match their signature on file and to remove a county residency requirement in state law for certified poll watchers.

In guidance last month, Wolf’s top elections official told counties that state law does not require or permit them to reject a mail-in ballot solely over a perceived signature inconsistency. Trump’s campaign had asked Ranjan to declare that guidance unconstitutional and to block counties from following it.

In throwing out the case, Ranjan wrote that the Trump campaign could not prove their central claim: that Trump’s fortunes in the Nov. 3 election in Pennsylvania are threatened by election fraud and that adopting changes sought by the campaign will fix that.

Ranjan wrote Trump’s campaign could not prove that the president has been hurt by election fraud or even that he is likely to be hurt by fraud.

“While plaintiffs may not need to prove actual voter fraud, they must at least prove that such fraud is ‘certainly impending,’” Ranjan wrote. “They haven’t met that burden. At most, they have pieced together a sequence of uncertain assumptions.”

Ranjan also cited decisions in recent days by the U.S. Supreme Court and the 11th Circuit U.S. Court of Appeals in hot-button election cases, saying he should not second-guess reasonable decisions by state lawmakers and election officials.

The decision comes as Trump claims he can only lose the state if Democrats cheat and, as he did in 2016′s campaign, suggests that the Democratic bastion of Philadelphia needs to be watched closely for election fraud.

On Friday, Trump’s campaign lost a bid in a Philadelphia court to force the city to allow campaign representatives to monitor its satellite election offices.

Democrats accuse Trump of trying to scuttle some of the 3 million or more mail-in votes that are expected in the Nov. 3 election in Pennsylvania, with Democrats applying for mail-in ballots by an almost three-to-one rate over Republicans.


Samuel L. Jackson Tells Black Americans to Vote in New Joe Biden Commercial: ‘Vote, Dammit, Vote!’

Hollywood star Samuel L. Jackson told Black Americans to vote in a new commercial for 2020 Democratic presidential nominee Joe Biden which accused President Donald Trump of desiring voter suppression.

“Voter suppression has taken many forms,” declared Jackson in the commercial which was released on Friday. “First they used the poll tax to keep Black folks from voting. Then it was the literacy test, racial terrorism, and violence.”

“New day, same old dirty tricks,” he continued, adding, “If your vote didn’t matter, they wouldn’t try so hard to take it from you.”

“Vote early. Vote like your life depends on it. I’m exercising my right to vote, and you should too,” concluded Jackson. “Not because I want you to, but because he doesn’t. Vote, dammit, vote!”

In July, Jackson took part in a virtual fundraiser for Biden, and in 2019, he referred to Trump as a “motherf*cker.”

The Snakes on a Plane star hasn’t always been enamored with Biden, however,

In June 2019, upon being asked whether he liked any of the 2020 Democratic presidential candidates, Jackson said, “I just haven’t been inspired by what everybody’s trying to do, say, prove, whatever.”

Watch above via the Joe Biden campaign.



US election polls tracker: who is leading in the swing states?

As the presidential campaign heats up, the Guardian is tracking the latest polling in eight states that could decide the election

Joe Biden is leading ​Donald Trump in the national polls for the presidential election.

But that doesn’t guarantee ​the Democratic candidate victory. Hillary Clinton also had a clear lead over Trump in the polls for almost the entire 2016 campaign. She ended up losing in the electoral college.

​Because the presidential ​voting system assigns each state a number of electoral college votes, which​ go to the state’s victor regardless of the​ margin of victory, a handful swing states will ​probably decide the election and be targeted heavily by campaigners.

Each day, the Guardian’s poll tracker takes a rolling 14-day average of the polls in ​eight swing states.

In order to track how the race is developing in the areas that could decide the election, six of the eight states we focused on were those that flipped to Trump​ in 2016 after backing Barack Obama in 2012. Arizona and North Carolina were also added due to what they might tell us about a shifting electoral landscape – they could emerge as vital new swing states this year.

We must caution that the polls – particularly some swing state polls – severely undercounted Trump supporters in 2016. We are not certain, despite assurances, that they have corrected this​. Additionally, they may be over-counting Democratic support (more people may say they will vote for Biden than actually turn out).

We present the latest polls with those caveats to be borne in mind.


Kamala Harris v Mike Pence: Why this vice-president debate matters?

It’s time for the supporting cast to bask in the spotlight. The deputies will have their day in charge. The number-two figures are stepping out of the shadows.

This promises to be a vice-presidential debate like no other.

Some have even called it the most important in history, since it comes as the US president is ill with Covid 19, a virus that’s claimed 200,000 Americans and upended 330 million lives. Plus a Supreme Court fight, racial unrest and, and, and…

Wait. Who’s in the vice-presidential debate?
In one corner you have Kamala Harris, the woman who aspires to be the first female vice-president in history.

The California senator, 55, is one of the toughest interrogators in Congress, a hardened former lawyer who has left congressional witnesses bloodied after tearing into them in Senate hearings.

In her sights she has an unflappable Republican vice-president who rarely puts a foot wrong under intense media questioning. He won’t just be playing defence, either. He’ll be looking to exploit his obvious advantage in one area – he’s done it before.

Mr Pence is a 61-year-old, softly-spoken, deeply religious man, a Christian from Indiana. Despite their obvious differences, Mike Pence has been a pillar of loyalty to his boss for four years and they’ve walked in lock-step on nearly every issue and through every controversy.

Isn’t it usually a non-event? Who actually cares?
Vice-presidential debates don’t usually trouble presidential historians too much, but this year the drama of the election campaign could heighten interest in how the pair fare against each other.

The fact that the president has been seriously ill has reminded the public they have the two oldest presidential candidates in history. Being first in the line of succession has never been more significant, and both debaters will be aware they have to present themselves as ready to step into the world’s biggest job.

The first debate between Trump and Biden was also so bereft of serious policy that some have said they’re hoping for a proper discussion about the vision for America being offered by each ticket.

It could even also be the final debate of the campaign, depending on whether the president recovers in time.

No wonder the Brookings Institution called it the most important vice-presidential debate ever.

When is it, and how can I watch it?
It’s on Wednesday at 21:00-22:30ET (02:00-03:30BST), and will be the only match between the two VP candidates.

The BBC will have a live page and will stream the debate live from Salt Lake City, Utah, with analysis from three of our specialist reporters @awzurcher, @tara_mckelvey and @aleemmaqbool, and reaction from our voter panel.

It will also be covered live on BBC World News (global) and the BBC News Channel in the UK.

The two remaining presidential debates are:

15 October in Miami, Florida
22 October in Nashville, Tennessee

Has Trump’s infection forced any changes?
Debate organisers are aware that President Trump could have been contagious during the first debate, and potentially infected Joe Biden and moderator Chris Wallace (though both have tested negative so far), so they want to make no mistakes with this one.

The Commission on Presidential Debates has agreed to seat Kamala Harris and Mike Pence 12ft apart – up from 7ft at the presidential debate.

There will also be a glass shield around each candidate’s side of the stage to diminish infections. And no more than 200 people on site at the University of Utah’s Kingsbury Hall.

A Pence official told the BBC’s partner in the US, CBS News, the vice-president is opposed to his side of the stage having any glass.

Will it be as chaotic as the first debate?
Unlikely. Mr Pence and Ms Harris are tough but always civil so the chances of it being as nasty and disruptive as Cleveland are close to zero.

In 2016, Mr Pence was very effective in defending Mr Trump and attacking Hillary Clinton. He was widely credited with coming out of his battle with Democrat VP candidate Tim Kaine with the advantage. It’s his trademark to be forceful without ever raising his voice.

Ms Harris debates like the lawyer she once was – she’s always controlled. She demolished Mr Biden in a debate when she was running against him for the presidential nomination by focusing laser-like on a vulnerability she identified in his past record on civil rights.

That should make the moderator’s job a bit easier.
Definitely. In charge this time is USA Today newspaper Washington bureau chief Susan Page.

Ms Page is a seasoned operator with 10 presidential campaigns under her belt, and she won’t be intimidated by the occasion – she’s interviewed nine presidents.

So what will they politely debate?
Covid-19, and the Trump administration’s handling of it, will clearly be the dominant topic of discussion. Mike Pence is in charge of the presidential task force on the pandemic, and he will be pressed to defend the administration’s response.

Kamala Harris will probably be asked about her record on criminal justice as attorney general of California, as well as her shifting positions on healthcare reform. She ran to the left of Joe Biden during the race for the presidential nomination, so Pence’s debate success may hinge on how well he is able to pin her more liberal views to Biden.

Finally, four years from now, Pence and Harris could be leading their party’s tickets in the general election, so consider this debate a possible sneak preview of political battles to come.