Election Integrity
Photo credit: L. Allen Brewer / Flickr (CC BY 2.0).

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

Good Tuesday Afternoon, and Happy Election Day! Voters in Massachusetts who want to cast their ballots in person for the state’s congressional primaries are heading to the polls today. The main race to watch is the Democratic Senate primary between Sen. Ed Markey and Rep. Joe Kennedy III. Despite the fanfare surrounding yet another  Kennedy running for higher office, Markey has consistently led in the polls by a nearly 2-to-1 margin and has the backing of the progressive wing of the party, which goes a long way in Massachusetts.

The primary has not been friendly. Markey has slammed Kennedy for his father and brother’s Super PACs pouring hundreds of thousands of dollars into the race. Kennedy accused Markey of ignoring several cities in his campaign. It turned out that the cities in question had disappeared decades ago after they were flooded in order to make way for a reservoir. Finally, the Markey campaign contacted the FBI last week to report a suspicious Twitter account that was hurling vile attacks against Kennedy’s staff and supporters. (read more)

When Social Media Takes Over Real Life: Trump campaign surrogates flooded Twitter with misleading or doctored videos in recent days, so much so that Twitter felt forced to add “manipulated media” labels at the bottom of the tweets.

The move won applause since Twitter has been more willing to address disinformation than its competitors, but critics say this does not go far enough. The label is fairly small, and users can still retweet the fake content. (read more)

Top Intelligence Official Says Goodbye to Election Security Briefings: Director of National Intelligence John Ratcliffe sent a letter to lawmakers this weekend announcing that his office will no longer provide Congress with in-person briefings on election security. It is a major about-face from Ratcliffe’s earlier promises to be transparent about foreign threats to the 2020 election, and it comes less than a month after intelligence officials announced that Russia, China, and Iran were actively attempting to influence the election. The Biden campaign did not mince words in its response.

“There can be only one conclusion,” Biden said in a prepared statement.” President Trump is hoping Vladimir Putin will once more boost his candidacy and cover his horrific failures to lead our country through the multiple crises we are facing. And he does not want the American people to know the steps Vladimir Putin is taking to help Trump get re-elected or why Putin is eager to intervene because Donald Trump’s foreign policy has been a gift to the Kremlin.” (read more)

Trump Can’t Send Troops to the Polls, but He Really Wants To: President Donald Trump says many things, but the latest is a doozy. During  Joe Biden’s speech on the final night of the Democratic National Convention, Trump went on Fox News to tell Sean Hannity that he was considering sending law enforcement agents to oversee polling places on Election Day.

“We’re going to have everything,” Trump said. “We’re going to have sheriffs and law enforcement and … hopefully, US attorneys, and we’re going to have everybody, and attorney generals, but it’s very hard.” 

Three federal statutes prevent Trump from carrying out his threat:

  • Section II(b) of the Voting Rights Act states that “no person … shall intimidate, threaten, or coerce, or attempt to intimidate, threaten, or coerce any person for voting or attempting to vote.”
  • Section 18 of US Code 592 prohibits the military from standing guard outside polling places
  • Section 18 of US Code 595, which prohibits federal and state government employees from using their position “for the purpose of interfering with, or affecting, the nomination or the election of any candidate for the office of President.” 

Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff Gen. Mark Milley assured lawmakers last week that he would not follow any unlawful orders and has “no role to play” in the November election. (read more)

The Debate Over Whether Trump Will Refuse to Leave Office if He Loses the Election Becomes More Serious: The 63 days between Election Day and inauguration may be the most trying in our nation’s history. 

Jeff Schechtman examines what is likely to happen next in WhoWhatWhy’s latest podcast with Lawrence Douglas, Amherst professor of law, jurisprudence, and social thought. Douglas explains why we are in uncharted territory, where the system is likely to experience maximum stress and the possible psychological impact on American society. (listen here)

Have You Registered to Vote Yet? The US does not have a centralized election system. Each state runs its election in its own way. Did you know that in North Dakota, you can vote without even bothering to register?

In our latest edition of America Decides, 2020, we discuss the many ways a person can register to vote, what federal laws guide registration requirements, and why in some states, picking a party affiliation can make an important difference.

Plus, you can check out our interactive chart to learn about the type of registration that is offered in your state. (read more)

Next week, we will discuss the Electoral College. Stay tuned.

In the Courts

  • Trump v. Murphy: New Jersey Gov. Phil Murphy signed an executive order in mid-August that called for mail-in ballots to be sent to all registered voters. In response, the Trump campaign filed a lawsuit to block the order and cited unsubstantiated claims of widespread voter fraud by mail.  The Campaign Legal Center and New Jersey chapter of the NAACP filed a motion to intervene yesterday, arguing that “voters who planned to vote by mail, and are expecting to receive their ballots in the mail, risk being disenfranchised entirely if that option is eliminated.”
  • League of Women Voters v. Watson: Voting-rights groups filed a federal lawsuit on Thursday against Mississippi Secretary of State Michael Watson and Attorney General Lynn Fitch over absentee ballot requirements. Voters are only allowed to vote absentee if they meet one of several specific excuses and must include a notarized signature on their ballot to be accepted.

What We’re Watching

From Atlanta to Milwaukee, voters are finally going to be able to visit their favorite team’s stadium again. A growing number of pro-sports teams are offering to turn their facilities into voter registration sites, absentee ballot drop-off locations, and polling places this November. It’s part of a larger effort to boost turnout and ensure that anyone who wants to vote in-person can do so, but as we saw in Massachusetts, it’s not as easy as it looks.

The Boston Celtics tried to turn its stadium into a polling place for today’s election but were told no because officials are required to notify voters at least 20 days before an election about where they can vote. And, even if other teams follow state and local rules to get their stadiums to be approved polling sites, the next obstacle becomes recruiting and training enough poll workers in time. 

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