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Biden to Haitian-American voters: You can help decide the next U.S. president

The sounds and culture of Haiti served as a colorful backdrop for former vice president and Democratic presidential nominee Joe Biden’s visit to Little Haiti Monday as he courted Haitian-American voters and leaders on the last day to register to vote in Florida.

“It’s all about the spirit, the spirit of this community,” Biden said. “There’s no quit in America. There’s clearly no quit in the Haitian community, there is none. And I promise you there would be no quit on my part as your president making sure that the Haitian community has an even shot and back on its feet.”

During an address lasting eight minutes, 46 seconds, Biden emphasized the need to have voters, including Haitian Americans, turn out and stressed issues that unite him and the crowd.

Biden told the small crowd if the turnout is the same as it was in 2016 when President Donald Trump, whose name he never once mentioned, ran against Democratic rival and former U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, the Haitian-American community in Florida “by itself” has the potential of determining the outcome of the Nov. 3 presidential race.

“Wouldn’t it be an irony, an irony of all ironies,” Biden said, “if on election eve, it turned out Haitians literally delivered a coup de grâce in this election?”


Biden up 10 points after Trump contracts coronavirus, 59% say postpone Oct. 15 debate until he recovers

Democratic presidential nominee Joe Biden’s lead over President Donald Trump grew slightly in one of the first national polls conducted since the president announced he tested positive for COVID-19.

Reuters/Ipsos poll released Sunday found Biden ahead of Trump by 10 percentage points (51%-41%) among likely voters, a 1-point jump from a poll Sept. 30. That increase falls within the survey’s margin of error of plus or minus 5 percentage points.

An NBC News/Wall Street Journal poll conducted before Trump became ill found Biden had surged to a 14-point lead among registered voters, a 6-point jump from a NBC/WSJ survey Sept. 20.

Trump’s infection raised doubts that the candidates would be able to hold their second debate Oct. 15, as scheduled.

Fifty-nine percent of Americans in the Reuters/Ipsos poll say the debate should be postponed until Trump has recovered from the virus.

The poll was conducted Friday and Saturday. Trump announced early Friday he and first lady Melania Trump contracted the virus.

Before his announcement, Trump was rarely seen wearing a mask in public and had held several large in-person events, some of them indoors, defying recommendations from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

Trump’s progress unclear:Trump’s doctors say he could go home Monday. Other COVID-19 physicians say that seems early

He regularly told Americans that the end of the outbreak was near, even as data indicated otherwise. In his book “Rage,” journalist Bob Woodward said Trump told him in March he wanted to downplay the severity of the pandemic.

Sunday’s survey found 65% – including 9 in 10 registered Democrats and 5 in 10 registered Republicans – say that if Trump “had taken coronavirus more seriously, he probably would not have been infected.” Slightly more than a third of Americans say Trump has been telling the country the truth about the pandemic, and 55% say he has not.

The Trump campaign announced Saturday it planned to resume in-person campaigning, despite Trump contracting the coronavirus. “Operation MAGA” will kick off with Vice President Mike Pence holding a rally in Arizona on Thursday.

More than two-thirds (67%) of Americans say the candidates should stop in-person campaigning because of the risk of spreading the virus.



Trump Covid: How will this affect US election?

The US presidential election has been turned on its head.

That sentence could have been written about any number of moments in a tumultuous year in American politics, but nothing quite like this has occurred this year, this decade, this century.

Just 32 days before the presidential election, Donald Trump has tested positive for Covid-19. Given his age, 74, he is in a high-risk category for complications from the disease. At the very least, he will have to quarantine while he is treated, meaning the US presidential contest – at least his side of it – has been fundamentally altered.

Is the election campaign suspended?

The initial implications are obvious. The president’s rigorous campaign schedule – which included visits to Minnesota, Pennsylvania, Virginia, Georgia, Florida and North Carolina in just the past week – is on indefinite hold.

Media caption“Hang on, Peter”: How US news reacted to Trump’s Covid diagnosis

Trump will certainly have surrogates on the trail, but given that he has relied heavily on his family and senior administration and campaign officials for such tasks in the past, and many of them may have to quarantine because of their own exposure to the virus, that operation will be disrupted as well.

Even the next presidential debate, a town hall format with audience questions scheduled for 15 October in Miami, Florida, is in doubt. Perhaps the event could be conducted via video-conference, but that will largely depend on the president’s health at the time.

At this point, there is no serious talk of altering the election schedule, which would require an act of Congress passed by both the Democratic-controlled House of Representatives and the Republican-held Senate.

In some states, in fact, early voting has already begun.

How will this affect the polls?

Then there are the political implications.

Despite the aforementioned turmoil this year – the pandemic and resulting economic disruption, the nationwide demonstrations against institutional racism and police brutality following George Floyd’s death and sometimes violent unrest in several major US cities, the countless smaller crises and controversies that seem like a daily occurrence during the Trump years – this presidential race has been remarkably stable.

Democrat Joe Biden has held a statistically significant lead over the president for months in national polls, with a smaller but still noteworthy advantage in key swing states. Time was running out for the president to change this dynamic, even before this week’s dramatic news.

The public has consistently given the president low marks for his handling of the coronavirus pandemic, so anything that puts the focus on the disease is potentially damaging for his re-election prospects. Complicating matters for the president will be that many Americans might recall what many would describe as the president’s sometimes cavalier attitude toward Covid-19.



South Carolina GOP asks Supreme Court to reinstate mail-in ballot witness requirement

Oct. 1, 2020, at 3:09 p.m. EDT

South Carolina Republicans asked the Supreme Court on Thursday to reinstate the witness signature requirement for mail ballots ahead of the November election, extending the legal turmoil over the rule even as tens of thousands of ballots have been sent to voters across the state.

The request to the high court comes after the U.S. Court of Appeals for the 4th Circuit on Wednesday left in place an order blocking the requirement because of the risks associated with in-person voting during the coronavirus pandemic.

The legal battle over the mechanics of absentee mail-in voting in South Carolina is one of two voting cases Republicans have appealed to the Supreme Court in the weeks before the Nov. 3 contest. Earlier this week, Pennsylvania’s Republican legislative leaders asked the justices to block a decision to count ballots received by mail up to three days after Election Day.

South Carolina lawmakers told the Supreme Court that the legislature took steps to expand absentee voting because of the pandemic but intentionally did not suspend the witness requirement, “deeming it an important tool for deterring fraud and promoting confidence in this unprecedented election.”

More than 150,000 absentee ballots have already been mailed out, according to the request filed with Chief Justice John G. Roberts Jr., who oversees the Richmond-based 4th Circuit.

The appeals court warned in its order Wednesday that reinstating the rule now could lead to “mass voter confusion.”

The justices are typically hesitant to intervene in cases over voting so close to an election.

Marc Elias, an attorney for the plaintiffs, including the South Carolina Democratic Party and individual voters, said in a tweet that he would “continue to fight for SC voters.”

A federal judge initially struck down the requirement in September, after also blocking the measure for the June primary election. U.S. District Judge Michelle Childs said requiring voters to get a witness signature would likely confuse and deter voters, and that complying could increase their risk of exposure to the virus.

On Wednesday, a divided 4th Circuit maintained Childs’s order. The court majority said she had “properly concluded that imposing the witness requirement now would likely unconstitutionally burden the fundamental right to vote, irreparably harm voters, and disserve the public interest,” wrote Judge Robert King, a nominee of President Clinton.

King said the ruling “protects countless lawful voters who otherwise would have to choose between avoiding needless exposure to a deadly virus and exercising their fundamental right to vote.”

That drew a dissent from five judges, including J. Harvie Wilkinson III, who said the state’s law is sensible and designed to combat voter fraud.

“By substituting its own policy choice for that of the representatives of the Palmetto State, the district court’s injunction robs South Carolina of its sovereign prerogative to determine the rules for its elections,” wrote Wilkinson, a nominee of President Ronald Reagan.



Six Takeaways From the First Presidential Debate

President Trump and Joseph R. Biden Jr. appeared onstage together for the first time on Tuesday. It was not exactly a debate.

Shouting, interruptions and often incoherent cross talk filled the air as Mr. Trump purposefully and repeatedly heckled and blurted over his rival and the moderator alike in a 90-minute melee that showcased the president’s sense of urgency to upend a race in which polls show him trailing.

Mr. Biden labored to get his points in over Mr. Trump’s stream of interjections, turning directly to the camera for refuge from a scrum that hardly represented a contest of ideas. But Mr. Biden did not stumble, contradicting months of questions from the Trump campaign about his mental fitness, and Mr. Trump seemed to do little to bring over voters who were not already part of his base.

The impact on the race of the messy affair — given that 90 percent of voters say they are already decided — is an open question.

Here are six takeaways from the first debate.

Chris Wallace faced harsh reviews on social media as the debate on Tuesday night grew unruly through repeated interruptions by Mr. Trump.
Credit…Ruth Fremson/The New York Times

From the opening bell, Mr. Trump came out as an aggressor, speaking over Mr. Biden in what seemed to be almost din-by-design: Pull the former vice president, who has run as a statesman promising to restore the soul of America, into a mud-slinging contest.

He bulldozed Mr. Biden and the moderator, Chris Wallace, throughout the evening. But his goal, other than making for a convoluted contest, was less clear. Mr. Trump seemed principally focused on undercutting and disorienting Mr. Biden, rather than on presenting an agenda or a vision for a second term in the White House.

“I’ve seen better-organized food fights at summer camp,” said Michael Steel, a Republican strategist. “But Trump needed a clear ‘W,’ and he didn’t get it.”

Mr. Biden’s own performance was mostly adequate. He swallowed some of his own lines, and Mr. Trump talked over others.

Before the debate, Mr. Wallace had said that, if successful, his job was to be “as invisible as possible.” He sometimes managed to recede, though at other times he was caught up in the shout-fest. Rarely did he exert control over the chaos. “If you want to switch seats?” he offered gamely at one point to Mr. Trump.

The performance kept the focus squarely on Mr. Trump — often where he seems to like it — but also where the Biden campaign wants all the attention in a 2020 election the Democrat has cast as a referendum on the current president.

During the first debate, Mr. Biden repeatedly pivoted to the camera, and away from Mr. Trump.
Credit…Bridget Bennett for The New York Times

Mr. Biden’s visceral dislike of Mr. Trump practically burst through the screen. He told Mr. Trump to shut up. He called him a clown and a liar. He tagged him as a racist. “You’re the worst president America has ever had,” he said at one point. “Keep yapping, man,” he said at another.

But for the most part, Mr. Biden succeeded in avoiding the chum that Mr. Trump was tossing into the debate water. Instead, he kept turning — physically — to face the cameras and address the American people instead of his chattering rival.

“This is not about my family or his family,” Mr. Biden said at one point, after Mr. Trump tried to bait him with an attack on his son Hunter. “It’s about your family. The American people. He doesn’t want to talk about what you need.”

The former vice president was strongest and most comfortable on the issues that he has focused on overwhelmingly in the last six months: the coronavirus pandemic and the resulting economic downturn.

“How well are you doing?” Mr. Biden asked the television audience about the economy, casting Mr. Trump as the candidate of the well-to-do, seizing on the recent report from The New York Times that Mr. Trump had paid only $750 in federal income taxes in both 2016 and 2017.

Turning to the cameras gave Mr. Biden refuge from the constant stream of words coming from across the stage, and it helped him land some of his more effective and empathetic lines — an area that his advisers see as crucial to his appeal.

When Mr. Trump bragged about his large rallies that are being held against the guidance of many public health officials, Mr. Biden said, “He’s not worried about you.”

Mr. Trump is the president. He held his convention speech on the White House grounds. But he found some of his greatest success four years ago when running against Hillary Clinton as a failed Washington insider. And he is not ready to give up that angle in 2020.

In the 2016 debates, Mr. Trump hammered Mrs. Clinton over her failure to fundamentally change the country. “She’s been doing this for 30 years,” he said then.

He reprised the same line almost verbatim against Mr. Biden. “Why didn’t you do it over the last 25 years?” Mr. Trump challenged him about overhauling the tax code.

“In 47 months,” Mr. Trump said in one of his better, if clearly well-prepared, lines, “I’ve done more than you’ve done in 47 years, Joe.”

Like it was for Mrs. Clinton, it was at times a hard attack for Mr. Biden to answer. But unlike her, he had Mr. Trump’s record to slash at.

“He’s going to be the first president of the United States,” Mr. Biden countered at one point, “to leave office having fewer jobs in his administration when he became president.”


When asked to condemn white supremacists, Mr. Trump asked them to “stand back and stand by.”
Credit…Ruth Fremson/The New York Times

One of the chief reasons Mr. Biden has said he is running for president as a 77-year-old is because of the white nationalists who gathered in Charlottesville, Va., in 2017 and Mr. Trump’s unwillingness to condemn them.

The president declined to condemn white supremacists again on Tuesday, despite being asked directly by Mr. Wallace if he would do so.

“I’m willing to do that,” Mr. Trump began, before instead saying that “almost everything I see is from the left-wing. Not from the right.”

Eventually, after Mr. Biden suggested he condemn the Proud Boys, a far-right organization widely condemned as a hate group, Mr. Trump declared, “Proud Boys: Stand back and stand by.”

It was a moment likely to outlast the night.

Representative Ro Khanna, Democrat of California, said: “The problem is not that Trump refused to condemn white supremacy. It’s much worse. It’s that he acknowledged he was their leader by telling them to ‘Stand by.’”

Later, Mr. Trump also refused to say he would abide by the results of the election and declined to tell his supporters to stay calm and avoid civil unrest.

“If I see tens of thousands of ballots, I can’t go along with that,” Mr. Trump said, urging his supporters go to polls and “watch very carefully.”

Mr. Biden said he would abide by the results and urged calm.

Mr. Biden has staked himself to a steady lead in the race largely due a historic gender gap: Women are supporting him far more than Mr. Trump, and by a far greater margin than Mr. Trump’s advantage among men. While Mr. Trump tried at times to explicitly tailor his points to suburban women, who have been at the center of his demographic erosion, his bullying performance seemed unlikely to win them back.

Mr. Trump has long seen politics in terms of strength and weakness, winning and losing, but his interruptions and self-aggrandizing seemed ill-suited to expanding his political coalition.

“Unless his strategy was to alienate more women to see if that helps him pick up more men, no,” said Sarah Isgur, who was a spokeswoman for Jeff Sessions when he was serving as attorney general in the Trump administration and who is now a writer for The Dispatch, a conservative news site.

Or as Anne Caprara, a Democratic strategist and chief of staff to Gov. J.B. Pritzker of Illinois, put it, “I don’t know any woman watching that who isn’t going to be disgusted by everything Trump did.”

Mr. Trump’s struggles in the suburbs are, in part, a result of his diminishing support among college-educated voters. His mocking of Mr. Biden’s decision to regularly wear a mask — which health officials have recommended — underscored his rejection of science when it suits his political purposes.

”I don’t wear a mask like him,” Mr. Trump said. “Every time you see him, he’s got a mask. He could be speaking 200 feet away from it, and he shows up with the biggest mask I’ve seen.”


Mr. Biden addressed his role as the leader of the Democratic Party.
Credit…Ruth Fremson/The New York Times

Beyond his attacks on Mr. Biden’s mental fitness — which redounded to Mr. Biden’s benefit by driving down expectations for his performance — one of Mr. Trump’s most consistent lines of attack has been that Mr. Biden is actually a leftist or even a socialist masquerading as a centrist.

Mr. Trump, whose narrow 2016 victory was aided by disaffected liberal supporters of Senator Bernie Sanders who either stayed home or voted for a third party, has worked hard to foment ideological divisions among Democrats.

Mr. Biden repeatedly took the opportunities on Tuesday to distance himself from his party’s left-wing — without denouncing them. And he left little doubt who was in charge.

“The party is me, right now,” Mr. Biden said. “I am the Democratic Party.”

He said his eventual stance on adding seats to the Supreme Court — on which he has avoided taking a position — would become the party line, and he rejected the Green New Deal without looking down on expansive environmentalism.

“I support the Biden plan,” he said.

Mr. Biden’s delivery was not always forceful. He did occasionally lose his cool and succumb to Mr. Trump’s barrage of taunts. But he mostly emerged unscathed, and for most Democrats, anything but a loss was welcomed as a clear win.


US election to have far fewer international observers than planned

Covid concerns and a lack of an invitation for Latin American observers reduce monitoring as US faces fears over fair vote

A voter registration event in Wisconsin. Photograph: Mark Hertzberg/Zuma Wire/Rex/Shutterstock

in Washington


There will be far fewer international election observers than planned at this year’s fraught US presidential vote because of a combination of health concerns during the pandemic and the lack of an invitation from the state department for Latin American observers.

The electoral arm of the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe (OSCE) has had to scale down its ambitions because of COVID-related precautions and travel restrictions. It is sending 30 observers, instead of the 500 that had been recommended in view of the scale of concern about the US election.


The Organization of American States (OAS) has yet to receive an invitation to send observers to the 3 November vote, which is threatening to be the most contentious in modern US history as Donald Trump himself repeatedly claims it will be rigged and refuses to say whether he will leave the White House if defeated at the polls.

The OSCE’s election monitoring body, the Office for Democratic Institutions and Human Rights (ODIHR), had intended to send 100 long-term and 400 short-term observers, after its assessment mission warned the election “will be the most challenging in recent decades”.

But a cautious response from the OSCE member states who have the responsibility for recruiting and funding the trained observers meant the plans had to be drastically downsized.

The organisation is now sending just 30 long-term observers in a limited mission. The long-term observers, who arrive this week, will make assessments of the overall environment for the vote and are supported by a dozen core staff led by the head of mission, Urszula Gacek, a former centrist Polish politician and diplomat.

The short-term observers would have fanned out to polling stations around the country, particularly in battleground states, to give live assessments on the conduct of the vote. This year, they will not be coming.

“The safety concerns as well as continuing travel restrictions caused by the Covid-19 pandemic are creating challenges for all our election activities and particularly for the deployment of long- and short-term observers, who are sent directly by OSCE countries,” Katya Andrusz, the ODIHR spokeswoman, said.

“In this case, we ended up with a huge shortfall of long-term observers compared to the number we’d originally requested. In the end, we judged that it would simply be infeasible to deploy enough short-term observers to allow a meaningful observation of election day, and therefore changed the format of the observation activity to what we call a limited election observation mission.”

The OSCE’s parliamentary assembly plans to send 84 members of parliament from 30 countries, supported by 20 staff, about the same size of the mission in 2016. The parliamentarians will give their assessment of the vote alongside the ODIHR mission the day after the election.

The OAS was invited to send an observation mission in 2016 and dispatched 41 observers from around Latin America, led by the former Costa Rican president Laura Chinchilla.

The state department did not respond to an inquiry on whether an invitation for 2020 would be sent at all.

Amid threats from Trump that he might not respect the result, and his repeated claims that postal ballots will be rigged, in absence of any historical evidence that they are vulnerable, the November vote threatens to be like no other.

US intelligence has warned that Russia is repeating the election interference campaign it unleashed in 2016, largely based on disinformation. There is also widespread evidence of voter suppression, most of it targeted at Black Americans.

In view of the dangers and the high stakes, the Carter Center, which observes elections around the world, announced it would launch a campaign in the US for the first time. It will involve supplying public information about the election and encouraging election officials to maintain transparency and access for observers, but it will not be deploying observers.

The political parties and non-government organizations will be deploying observers but Susan Hyde, a political science professor at the University of California, Berkeley, said international observers could provide a useful international benchmark of whether an election is free or fair in a hyper-partisan atmosphere.

“The thing that seems clear from many other countries is that what international observers can do is be a clear outside actor which is interested more in a democracy than in who wins and have expertise in the quality of the electoral process,” Hyde said.



D.C. and Maryland have new policies allowing prisoners to vote. Making it happen is hard.

In July, D.C. lawmakers voted to allow felons to vote while in prison, joining only Maine and Vermont in expanding the franchise so widely to those who are incarcerated.

In the months since, District officials have learned just how difficult it is to carry out that intention.

How can people behind bars prove their identity, when they rarely have access to a traditional ID or a document like a utility bill? How will they learn about their newly granted right to vote, when they have limited access to the Internet? How can the District even find all of its prisoners to send them registration forms, when they are spread out across the country at 107 different federal prisons?

The Board of Elections has scrambled to answer those questions in time for prisoners to participate in November’s election, although the law does not mandate voting for federal prisoners until 2021.

The effort coincides with a regional and nationwide push to enable voting among those who have previously lost the right to cast a ballot because of criminal convictions, including a new agreement to distribute voter registration forms to inmates in Maryland. Ten other states across the country have expanded voting rights for currently and formerly incarcerated residents since the 2016 presidential election, adding more than 1 million people to voting rolls nationwide.

Since 2016, 11 states and D.C. have expanded voting rights for current and former inmates

“Their votes are critically important. Their voices so need to be heard,” said Kathy Chiron, who as president of D.C.’s League of Women Voters has conferred with several local nonprofits on getting ballots to D.C.’s newly enfranchised prisoners and informing them about the choices on the ballot. “They have interacted with so many levels of our government that the rest of us haven’t … Their voices need to be shouting out the loudest.”

Part of the challenge springs from the District’s relationship with the federal government. In most states, the majority of convicted felons are serving time in state prisons. But the District has only a local jail, which houses defendants awaiting trial and those convicted of misdemeanors or serving felony sentences of less than a year. That means D.C.’s felons can be sent to federal prisons anywhere in the country — making it hard to track them all down to send ballots.

Board of Elections Executive Director Alice Miller said the Federal Bureau of Prisons sent her a list of facilities that house D.C. residents but would not provide a list of those prisoners’ names. Miller said federal officials told her they would tell D.C.’s government about its own prisoners only for law enforcement purposes, not to enable voting.

Bureau of Prisons spokeswoman Nancy Ayers confirmed that the federal agency would not provide inmates’ names to the Board of Elections, but said that the Bureau of Prisons did send emails to inmates from the District informing them of their right to vote.

Initially, Miller sent voter registration forms to the wardens of those 107 prisons, asking them to distribute the forms to any inmate who is from the District and to make announcements within the prison about D.C.’s new law. Chiron said that nonprofits working with D.C. prisoners also contacted prison librarians, hoping they could spread the word about the chance to register to vote.

Five myths about felony disenfranchisement

Council member Robert C. White Jr. (D-At Large), who spearheaded the legislation allowing incarcerated residents to vote, said that thanks to the nonprofit groups’ information on D.C. prisoners, the Board of Elections was eventually able to directly mail registration forms to a large majority of the approximately 2,400 D.C. residents currently housed in federal prisons.

Charles Thornton, who was formerly incarcerated and now works for the District’s Office of Human Rights, said that the D.C. Corrections Information Council, an independent monitoring body that he helps lead, has received inquiries from prisoners who have heard that they can now vote and have questions about how.

But those questions, which to Thornton are a promising sign that the word is getting out, have come from only eight of the 107 facilities. “I want to hear from every institution that received the registration,” he said, adding that he sees the frustrating process as an unfortunate byproduct of the District’s as-yet-unsuccessful quest for statehood.

“We have individuals in a federal system that have been extended liberty,” Thornton said. “And we’re fighting the federal system so that liberty can be exercised.”

Nicholas Jacobs, a spokesman for the elections board, said any inmate who has been in the D.C. jail for at least 30 days can register to vote using forms distributed by correctional officers without further proof of identification. Some federal inmates who have records in D.C. systems will be able to register just by providing their Social Security numbers; others may require additional forms of ID.

About 200 jail inmates and 200 federal inmates have registered this fall, he said.

Inmates of more than 30 days can use the jail’s address as their address when registering to vote, which is what Ivan Potts, 34, did when a correctional officer gave him a registration form about three weeks ago.

“They come around with the forms, trying to get us to vote,” Potts said in a phone interview from the jail, where he is awaiting trial on a federal drug charge. Potts is from Baltimore and says that most of the men in his unit are from Maryland but that nobody informed them that if they previously registered in Maryland, like Potts did, they should have received Maryland absentee ballots as pretrial inmates. “I believe our vote counts while we’re in here,” he said.

Advocates worry that inmates’ voting can be stymied in a number of ways, from confusion about what documents they need to register, to rules prohibiting some from sealing their own envelopes before sending mail from prison.

“I think the Board of Elections was handed an extremely difficult project to resolve between now and November,” said Jonathan M. Smith, executive director of the Washington Lawyers’ Committee for Civil Rights and Urban Affairs, which has been working on the issue. “The clock is running. It is my hope that we’ll be able to get as many prisoners registered to vote as possible … but the barriers to achieving that objective are large.”

In reversal, D.C. says Mystics’ home court can be used as voting supercenter in Southeast D.C.

In Maryland, felons are not allowed to vote while serving their sentences, but inmates awaiting trial or those convicted of misdemeanors can. After intense pressure, led by the Baltimore nonprofit Out for Justice, the state Board of Elections agreed last month to distribute registration forms and applications for mail-in ballots to qualifying inmates.

“This is a serious racial justice issue,” said Dana Vickers Shelley, executive director of the ACLU of Maryland, noting that while 30 percent of Maryland residents are Black, nearly 70 percent of Marylanders who have been in prison are Black. “By not allowing voting inside [prisons], the government is continuing to attempt to weaken the power of Black people,” Shelley said.

In 2016, the Democratic majority in the General Assembly won a hard-fought battle against Gov. Larry Hogan (R) to enact legislation that restored the right to vote to tens of thousands of former prisoners still on parole or probation. Hogan vetoed the bill, arguing that only a “tiny, radical minority” of Maryland residents supported the measure, and wrongly predicted that its enactment — after a veto override — would result in Democrats losing their legislative seats.

Tyrone Walker, 45, an ex-offender, testified last year for the District’s new law that allows felons to vote in prison. Walker works for the Justice Policy Institute.
(Justice Policy Institute)
Tyrone Walker, 45, an ex-offender, testified last year for the District’s new law that allows felons to vote in prison. Walker works for the Justice Policy Institute. (Justice Policy Institute) (Justice Policy Institute)
Sen. Cory V. McCray (D-Baltimore City), who championed the bill, said the push across Maryland and the country is part of a continued effort to expand the vote for marginalized communities. “There were always barriers put in place to deny Black folks the opportunity to vote,” McCray said.

Nicole D. Porter, the director of advocacy for the Sentencing Project, a D.C.-based nonprofit criminal justice think tank, said modern felony disenfranchisement is rooted in a tradition of medieval Europe, known as “civil death.” Early colonists brought the practice to the United States.

A report by the Brennan Center for Justice says that “the United States stands alone among modern democracies” in revoking voting rights from millions of citizens on the basis of criminal convictions. As voting rights expanded to Black men after the Civil War, the report said, many states — particularly in the South — toughened criminal laws to imprison formerly enslaved people, and passed new laws disenfranchising those who had been convicted.

The report found that one in every 13 Black citizens of voting age cannot vote, a rate more than four times that of other Americans.

For decades, District resident Tyrone Walker was one of them. Now an employee of the Justice Policy Institute, Walker served 25 years in prison for murder. He testified in favor of the District’s new law, which would have allowed him to vote while he was behind bars.

“It means a whole lot to be able to cast your ballot. It’s your voice,” he said.

Two years ago, after he completed his sentence, Walker, 45, voted for the first time. His parents, who were both felons, had never voted.



Poll: Biden, Trump virtually tied in Arizona, Florida

Washington Post-ABC News poll released Wednesday reported that 49 percent of Arizona likely voters surveyed prefer Trump and 48 percent back Democratic presidential nominee Joe Biden — an advantage of 1 percentage point that falls within the survey’s margin of error.

Another Post-ABC poll has Trump ahead of Biden by 4 percentage points in Florida, with the Republican incumbent earning 51 percent support among likely voters surveyed to the former vice president’s 47 percent. That 4-point edge similarly falls within the margin of error for the poll’s Florida data.

But the polls of the Sun Belt battlegrounds, conducted by Langer Research Associates, show Biden slightly ahead of Trump among registered voters surveyed in both states: 49-47 percent in Arizona and 48-47 percent in Florida — leads that fall within the surveys’ margins of error.

According to the RealClearPolitics average of Arizona surveys conducted from Sept. 4-20, Biden remains 4.1 percentage points ahead of Trump in general election polling. The RealClearPolitics average of Florida polling, which includes surveys from Aug. 28-Sept. 20, shows Biden leading Trump by 1 percentage point.

Trump won Arizona’s 11 Electoral College votes by 4.1 percentage points in 2016. Bill Clinton, who won Arizona in 1996, was the most recent Democratic presidential nominee to carry the state.

Trump also won Florida in 2016, securing the 29 Electoral College votes from the nation’s largest swing state by 1.3 percentage points. Florida has been carried by the eventual winner of each of the past six presidential elections.

The Post-ABC polls were conducted Sept. 15-20 — surveying 765 Florida registered voters, including 613 likely voters; and 701 Arizona registered voters, including 579 likely voters. The margin of sampling error is plus or minus 4.5 percentage points among registered and likely voters in Arizona, as well as among likely voters in Florida. The margin of error is 4 points among Florida registered voters.


Postal Service must process election mail on time, judge rules

By The Associated Press

For the second time in a week, a federal judge said a nationwide order is necessary to ensure mail for November’s election is delivered on time, and he is threatening to demand weekly updates on efforts by the U.S. Postal Service to process election mail.

On Monday, U.S. District Judge Victor Marrero in Manhattan largely sided with several people across the country, including candidates for public office, who claimed in a lawsuit that President Donald Trump, the Postal Service and the new postmaster general were endangering election mail.

“The right to vote is too vital a value in our democracy to be left in a state of suspense in the minds of voters weeks before a presidential election, raising doubts as to whether their votes will ultimately be counted,” Marrero said. He ruled after conducting a hearing Wednesday.

Officials at the Postal Service are reviewing the ruling, spokesperson Marti Johnson said in a written statement.


US election news: Early voting begins in four states

Voters begin to cast ballots in Minnesota, Virginia, South Dakota, and Wyoming.

Lines of voters stretched from polling places in Virginia and Minnesota as early voting started in four states, the first of the 2020 presidential election.

The longest lines were found in Virginia, where voters previously needed a reason to cast an early ballot. In the state’s Fairfax County, where reports showed lines stretching for hours, election workers scrambled to open an additional voting room at the county government centre.

Ed O’Keefe of CBS News tweeted that “dozens” of socially-distanced voters cast ballots in the first 45 minutes of early voting in Duluth, Minnesota.

South Dakota and Wyoming also saw their first day of early voting on Friday. Ballots can be cast through November 3.