What Happened Last Week?

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WhoWhatWhy’s Election Integrity Weekly is written by Gabriella Novello, and edited by William Dowell and Sue Rushford. Have a tip or want to suggest a story? Send us an email at ei@whowhatwhy.org.

What Happened Last Week? Republicans in Washington lack the power to put the US Postal Service on the chopping block, but  they have been doing everything they can to starve the agency to death.

The Postal Service has been hastily removing mail sorting machines, while cutting overtime for mail carriers. Americans who rely on the US mail are discovering that their prescriptions, paychecks, and bills that have come due are fast becoming collateral damage. With millions of people likely to cast an absentee ballot this November, disrupting the mail threatens to throw a wrench into the process. (read more

BREAKING THIS AFTERNOON: Postmaster General Louis DeJoy has now announced that he will suspend operational changes until after the election. Overtime will be approved, mail sorting machines will not be removed, and mail processing facilities will remain operational. The DeJoy did not quantify the damage that has already been done by his policies. (read more)

Happy Election Day! Alaska, Wyoming, and Florida are holding Congressional primary elections today. If you did not vote early or by mail, find your polling place here.

If you still need to request an absentee ballot for the November election, find an explanation of  how to do so in your state here.

The Women’s Vote, 100 Years Later: “The right of citizens of the United States to vote shall not be denied or abridged by the United States or by any State on account of sex.”

Today marks the centennial of the ratification of the 19th Amendment, which enshrined the right to vote for women. To honor this historic moment in history, President Donald Trump pardoned Susan B. Anthony for the crime of voting during the 1872 election. Anthony was one of the key leaders of the Suffragette movement, and during the 2018 midterm elections, dozens of women placed “I Voted” stickers on her headstone in New York.

“If I could live another century!”Anthony said in a 1902 interview with the Democrat and Chronicle. “I do so want to see the fruition of the work for women in the past century. There is so much yet to be done, I see so many things I would like to do and say, but I must leave it for the younger generation. We old fighters have prepared the way, and it is easier than it was fifty years ago when I first got into the harness. The young blood, fresh with enthusiasm and with all the enlightenment of the twentieth century, must carry on the work.” (read more)

Ranked-Choice Voting, Explained: The American two-party political  system is  more partisan and opposed to compromise than ever before. What if we could end the gridlock by ranking  more than one candidate according to preference? Our latest edition of America Decides 2020 looks at a possible solution.

More and more states are offering the option of ranking candidates in the same way that you might shop for a product  in a supermarket. You want to buy a specific brand because you prefer it, but if the store is out, you pick the next best thing to avoid going home empty-handed.

In a demonstration of the concept, FairVote partnered with SurveyUSA to conduct a ranked-choice mock election to determine who was likely to be the favorite Democratic candidate for vice president. Here’s how it worked:

Voters were asked to rank seven candidates. California Sen. Kamala Harris, the eventual nominee, received 26 percent of the first choice votes. Massachusetts Sen. Elizabeth Warren received 22 percent, and former National Security Advisor Susan Rice received 14 percent. Other candidates, including Georgia Democrat Stacey Abrams, Illinois Sen. Tammy Duckworth, Florida Rep. Val Demings, and California Rep. Karen Bass received fewer votes than the three leading candidates. Karen Bass, who received the lowest number of votes,  was the first to be eliminated.

None of the candidates managed to win more than 50 percent of the votes in the first elimination round, so during the second round, Val Demings was eliminated. Tammy Duckworth was eliminated during the third round, and Stacey Abrams during the fourth. During the fifth round, Rice was eliminated.  Harris finally emerged as the winner with nearly 55 percent of the total votes cast. (learn more)

Next week, we discuss the different ways you can register to vote. Stay tuned.

Republicans Start to Warm to a Mail-in Election: We know that wide-scale mail-in voting will very likely prevent a final result being officially declared on election night. Will that invalidate the election? No. Will it indicate widespread voter fraud? No. Will it mean that states will need more time to certify the presidential election results? Yes.

This  is where it gets interesting: Sen. Marco Rubio (R-FL) introduced legislation to delay what is known as the “safe harbor rule.” Instead of states being required to certify the popular vote by December 8, the deadline would be January 2, 2021. This would give state and local election officials more time to ensure that every mail-in ballot is fairly counted and that voters can correct any discrepancies that may be on their ballot. (read more)

In the Courts

  • Jones v. DeSantis: Lawyers for former felons were back in court today, arguing against a Florida law requiring individuals with past felony convictions to pay any outstanding court fines and fees before they can register to vote. State lawmakers were required to codify a constitutional amendment restoring the right to vote for individuals with past felony convictions after voters overwhelmingly voted in favor of it in 2018. Voting-rights groups filed a lawsuit shortly after and argued that the eventual law constituted a “modern-day poll tax.” The US District Court for the Northern District of Florida ruled that the law was unconstitutional, and the Supreme Court declined to intervene, so the 11th Circuit Court of Appeals is hearing oral arguments today.
  • Common Cause Rhode Island v. Gorbea: The ACLU, Common Cause, and League of Women Voters filed a lawsuit against a witness signature requirement for absentee voting. The Republican National Committee and Rhode Island Republican Party appealed the ruling to the Supreme Court after a lower court ruling that sided with the voting-rights groups. The Supreme Court rejected their appeal last week, in large part because state officials supported the decision to waive the signature requirement.

What We’re Watching

The House Oversight and Reform Committee announced that Louis DeJoy will testify on Monday, August 24. There will be a few things to watch for during the hearing. Will House Democrats press him about why he announced the initial changes to the Postal Service? How will Republican lawmakers react to their colleague’s allegations that the changes are an attempt to disrupt the November election?

Postal Service board of governors Chairman Robert M. Duncan will join DeJoy. This could be important because the watchdog agency has the authority to reverse DeJoy’s policy changes — or fire him if necessary. We may hear a few lawmakers try to do just that. (read more)

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