What If: Could Clinton win it before Election Day

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Associated Press: Election Day isn’t what it used to be. The presidential winner may be all but known by then, thanks to early voting.

Beginning Friday, residents in North Carolina can submit absentee mail-in ballots — the first of 37 states and the District Columbia to vote by mail or at polling sites before Nov. 8. Four years ago, about 45.6 million people or 35 percent of the electorate attracted by its convenience voted early, and that number is expected to spike in 2016.

That’s where Hillary Clinton’s ground game — at least double the size of Donald Trump’s — could make a difference.

In seven states being targeted by both campaigns — Colorado, Florida, Iowa, Nevada, North Carolina, Arizona and Georgia — early votes are expected to make up 45 to 75 percent or more, based on 2012 numbers. All but Colorado are must-win for Trump.

No votes will be counted until Nov. 8. However, many states report the party affiliation of people who have cast ballots, offering solid clues.  Read more.

Millions more to face new voting restrictions in 2016

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Philly.com: With the presidential election less than three months away, millions of Americans will be navigating new requirements for voting – if they can vote at all – as state leaders implement dozens of new restrictions that could make it more difficult to cast a ballot.

Since the last presidential election in 2012, politicians in 20 states have passed 37 different voting requirements that they said were needed to prevent voter fraud, a News21 analysis found. More than a third of those changes require voters to show specified government-issued photo IDs at the polls or reduce the number of acceptable IDs required by preexisting laws.

“We have two worldviews: the people that think voter fraud is rampant and the people who want to push the narrative that it’s hard to vote. The bottom line is, neither is true,” said Republican Ohio Secretary of State Jon Husted, who has been sued several times over his state’s removal of some voters from the registration rolls, elimination of same-day registration, and curbs to early voting. “I believe that both political parties are trying to push a narrative that suits their agenda.”

Adding to the uncertainty for millions of voters, not all the changes may be in place for the November election because some were limited or overturned by court decisions still subject to appeal.

The new voting requirements, enacted in states mostly in the South and Midwest, were nine times more likely to have been passed by Republican legislatures than those controlled by Democrats, and almost five times more likely to have been signed by a GOP governor, the News21 analysis found.  Read more.

Federal reports on military voting often flawed

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Nondoc: When Americans vote for president in November, many of the 1.4 million active-duty U.S. military personnel stationed or deployed overseas will not know whether their absentee ballots have reached their home states to be counted. The federal Election Assistance Commission, charged with monitoring their votes, may not know either.

Under the Help America Vote Act, the ballots of military and overseas voters are supposed to be tallied by their home states and sent to the EAC, which reports them to Congress. But a News21 analysis of the EAC’s data found at least one in eight jurisdictions reported receiving more ballots than they sent, counting more ballots than they received or rejecting more ballots than they received.

‘Too many potential anomalies’

Some jurisdictions blame the EAC for confusing forms on which they are supposed to record military and overseas participation numbers. Paul Lux is supervisor of elections for Okaloosa County, Florida, home to Eglin Air Force Base and a large number of military voters.

“It will ask me how many ballots were mailed to overseas voters and how many ballots were returned from overseas voters in various locations in the survey. That is fine, but how am I supposed to account for ballots that are sent to domestic addresses but are returned from overseas?” said Lux. “There are just too many potential anomalies in the way we have to provide service to these voters.”

Military and overseas voting can be a complicated process. Service members can file a Federal Post Card Application, which allows them to register to vote and request an absentee ballot from their home state or county. If service members don’t receive their ballots in time, they can use a Federal Write-in Absentee Ballot as a backup.

EAC Commissioner Thomas Hicks told News21 that some of the inconsistencies between ballots sent and ballots returned are likely the result of military voters printing out the Federal Write-in Absentee Ballot and sending it back home. Since the ballots are not sent by local jurisdictions, they might be counted as ballots returned but not mailed out.  Read more.

Does All Voting Happen on Election Day? Think Again

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ABC News: Voters in tightly contested North Carolina have seen the presidential candidates and their surrogates a lot this summer.

What helps make the state such a political hot spot is that voting begins before anywhere else.

Election officials begin mailing ballots Sept. 9 to any registered voter in North Carolina who formally requested one. That’s the earliest in the country and 60 days before the Nov. 8 election.

A few other battleground states start mailing absentee ballots two weeks later. An array of states follows with differing forms of early in-person voting in the campaign’s final weeks.

It’s for that reason that North Carolina provides campaigns with an early test.

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MAILING IT IN

People don’t have to give a reason to vote by mail in North Carolina, such as out-of-town Election Day traveling or being too sick to leave the house.

A little over 200,000 mailed ballots were collected in 2012, which amounted to less than 5 percent of the state’s 4.5 million voter turnout. Republicans historically have favored mail-in ballots and could be critical to who gets the state’s 15 electoral votes. Republican Mitt Romney won the state by 92,000 votes in 2012, while Democrat Barack Obama won by 14,000 votes in 2008.  Read more.

Early Voting Dictates a New Clinton Campaign Structure

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Bloomberg News: Campaigns in the past were structured around the map. But Hillary’s campaign is built around the calendar.

For years, presidential campaigns seeking to divide the country into manageable chunks have turned to geography. National parties assign political directors to each region; John McCain’s presidential campaign even went so far as to designate regional campaign managers. Both of Barack Obama’s campaigns were organized around a series of six regional pods, with a lead official in each responsible for managing field, data, communication or digital across seven or eight states.

Hillary Clinton also uses pods—but hers look nothing like Obama’s. As she has reoriented her campaign for the general election, her team has devised a structure that reflects not geographic contiguity, with its common weather patterns or vernacular music traditions across neighboring states, but instead the different type of campaigning she will need to win each one. Most importantly, the structure acknowledges the increasing importance of early voting, which offers Clinton the potential to lock in an early lead when ballots begin to be cast in late September.

“Geography didn’t necessarily make sense. It’s not like ‘You cover the West and that involves driving between those states.’ It was sort of just a proxy for ‘The Western states are more or less similar because they have Latino people and mountains,’” says Michael Simon, a data analyst who was assigned to Obama’s Southwest pod in 2008 and served as the campaign’s targeting lead. “The previous system was fairly arbitrary. So why not try something else?”  Read more.

How to Vote in Every State, A Series of Videos About the Rules to Vote in Each US State and Territory

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Laughing SquidHow to Vote in Every State is a series of videos by Hank and John Green that easily lays out the rules of voting in each state in the United States. The series also has videos explaining the rules for voting in Washington D.C., United States territories, and for those in the military serving overseas. Each video is between two and three minutes long and contains all the information people need to know about registering and voting in their state.

Google’s search engine directs voters to the ballot box

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Associated Press: Google is pulling another lever on its influential search engine in an effort to boost voter turnout in November’s U.S. presidential election.

Beginning Tuesday, Google will provide a summary box detailing state voting laws at the top of the search results whenever a user appears to be looking for that information. The breakdown will focus on the rules particular to the state where the search request originates unless a user asks for another location.

Google is introducing the how-to-vote instructions a month after it unveiled a similar feature that explains how to register to vote in states across the U.S.

The search giant said its campaign is driven by rabid public interest in the presidential race between Hillary Clinton and Donald Trump. As of last week, it said, the volume of search requests tied to the election, the candidates and key campaign issues had more than quadrupled compared to a similar point in the 2012 presidential race.  Read More

Early Voting Limits Donald Trump’s Time to Turn Campaign Around

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New York Times: Advisers to Donald J. Trump keep reassuring Republicans that there is still plenty of time to rescue his candidacy — nearly three months to counter Hillary Clinton’s vast operation in swing states and get Mr. Trump on message.

The Trump team had better check the calendar.

Voting actually starts in less than six weeks, on Sept. 23 in Minnesota and South Dakota, the first of some 35 states and the District of Columbia that allow people to cast ballots at polling sites or by email before Nov. 8. Iowa is expected to have ballots ready by the end of September, as are Illinois and two other states.

The electoral battlegrounds of Arizona and Ohio are to begin voting on Oct. 12, nearly four weeks before Election Day. And North Carolina and Florida will be underway before Halloween.

Early voting has become a critical, even decisive factor in presidential elections: President Obama was sufficiently ahead in the early vote in Iowa and Nevada in 2012 that his campaign shifted resources from those states to others, according to former advisers, who also credited enthusiastic early voting in 2008 for his victory in North Carolina and elsewhere.

Nearly 32 percent of voters cast their ballots before Election Day in 2012, according to census data, compared with 29.7 percent in 2008 and 20 percent in 2004….

Early voters tend to be older and more partisan, and many choose to cast absentee ballots by mail, while others prefer to go to polling sites during special evening and weekend hours. In Arizona, many vote early rather than stand in long lines in the heat on Election Day.

Early voting rules and times vary widely by state, and some Republican-led legislatures have sought to put new limits on options like Sunday and evening voting — attempts that have been struck down in several court rulings. The Clinton campaign has “voter protection teams” of lawyers pushing for as much early voting as possible.  Read more.

Utah lawmaker Brown blames USPS, sues over his 9-vote primary loss

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Salt Lake Tribune: State Rep. Mel Brown — who lost his GOP primary by nine votes — asked the Utah Supreme Court on Monday to order the state to count 70 ballots that were never opened because officials say they were mailed too late.

Brown, R-Coalville, contends that U.S. Postal Service practices in rural counties delay postmarks by a day, which he argues unfairly disqualified many ballots. That happens because mail in many of those areas is sent to the Salt Lake Central Post Office, where it is postmarked the next day.

“Logically speaking, it is by far most probable that the 70 voters mailed their ballots in their respective counties of residence on the day before the election,” as required by law, Brown’s lawsuit asserts. House District 53 includes parts of Daggett, Duchesne, Morgan, Rich and Summit counties.

The lawsuit added that Brown talked with many of the 70 people involved who said they had indeed mailed their ballots on time.  Read more.

NYT Op-ed: The Election Won’t Be Rigged. But It Could Be Hacked.

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NY Times:  In my old workplace, right next to the comfortable couches where we would take breaks, we kept a voting machine. Instead of using the screen to pick our preferred candidate, we played Pac-Man. We sent Pac-Man’s familiar yellow chomping face after digital ghosts with the same kind of machine that had been used in 2008 in more than 160 jurisdictions with about nine million registered voters.

This was at the Center for Information Technology Policy at Princeton University, where researchers had been able to reprogram the voting machine without even breaking the “tamper evident” seals.

Voting isn’t a game, of course, and we need to trust the machines that count our votes. Especially this year. Donald J. Trump, the Republican presidential nominee, raised the possibility of “rigged” elections, and his former adviser Roger J. Stone Jr. has warned of a “blood bath” in such a case. A recent poll found that 34 percent of likely voters believed the general election would be rigged.

It’s unclear what mechanism the Trump campaign envisions for this rigging. Voter fraud through impersonation or illegal voting is vanishingly rare in the United States, and rigging the election by tampering with voting machines would be nearly impossible. As President Obama pointed out in a news conference last week, where he called charges of electoral rigging “ridiculous,” states and cities set up voting systems, not the federal government. That’s true, and it means the voting machine landscape is a patchwork of different systems, which makes the election hard to manipulate in a coordinated way.

But it’s still a bleak landscape.

Over the years, the team at Princeton, cooperating with other researchers, has managed to disable and tamper with many direct recording electronic systems that use touch-screen computers without a verifiable paper trail.

I’m not the only one who is worried. This month, Jeh Johnson, the secretary of Homeland Security, said his department was concerned about infiltration of the nation’s electoral systems. Experts have warned about voting machine vulnerability for years, but nothing has changed.  Read more.