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

New York Times’ columnist, Thomas Friedman, painted a stark picture on CNN’s “Reliable Sources” this weekend:


We are seeing something we have never seen before in American history: A massive voter suppression effort, an effort to steal the election even beforehand, before our eyes.”


Friedman warned that the strategy, primarily led by the Trump campaign, is using conservative media to promote “fear tactics” and creating confusion by attacking mail-in voting through the courts. (read more)


There’s no doubt that there has been an onslaught of disinformation and efforts to curb absentee voting since the pandemic struck. That’s why we decided to launch a special series that explains commonly asked questions about early voting, voting by mail, provisional voting, and the Electoral College.


What Happens When a Candidate is Ill? President Donald Trump is 74. Former Vice President Joe Biden will be 78 next month. Either would be the oldest president ever sworn into office.


Vice President Mike Pence, who will be 61 on Inauguration Day, and Sen. Kamala Harris (D-CA), who will be 56, were asked about this issue during the vice presidential debate. Both candidates deflected a question about their running mate’s health status and whether they were ready to step in as acting president should the time come.


There are several situations that could arise between Election Day and Inauguration. Our latest edition of America Decides, 2020 dives into what happens when a presidential candidate becomes ill or dies during each step of the election process after Trump announced that he contracted the coronavirus. (read more)


Next week, we speak with campaign finance experts about money in politics. Stay tuned.


What the Early Vote Totals Show Us So Far: Nearly 10 million voters have already submitted an absentee ballot or voted early in person. When we look at those who have already voted, registered Democrats outnumber Republicans by a 2:1 ratio. (h/t professor Michael McDonald of the University of Florida)


This means that a significantly higher percentage of votes cast in-person on November 3 will very likely be cast by registered Republicans. Since Election officials in several states aren’t allowed to begin counting absentee ballots until after the polls close on Election Day, and, in some cases, until the morning after, Republicans may initially appear to be in the lead until the mass of mail-in votes from Democrats are actually counted. The phenomenon is known as the “Red Mirage” and the “Blue Shift.” Bottom line: Patience is critical this year.


Election Update for Voters: Registration deadlines are approaching in several states. Here’s the lowdown:

  • If you live in Kansas, New Jersey, Oregon, Virginia, or West Virginia, the deadline to register to vote is today, October 13.

  • If you live in the District of Columbia*, the deadline to register to vote by mail or online is today, October 13.

  • If you live in Louisiana, the deadline to register to vote online is today, October 13.

  • If you live in Alabama, Pennsylvania, or South Dakota, the deadline to register to vote is October 19.

  • If you live in Massachusetts, the deadline to register to vote is October 24.

  • If you live in Nebraska, the deadline to register to vote is October 16 by mail or online and October 23 in person.

  • If you live in Arizona, the deadline to register to vote is October 23.

  • If you live in New Mexico, the deadline to register to vote in person is October 31.

  • If you live in California, Colorado, Connecticut, Hawaii, Idaho, Illinois, Iowa, Maine, Maryland, Michigan, Minnesota, Montana, Nevada, New Hampshire, Rhode Island, Utah, Vermont, Washington, Wisconsin, or Wyoming, you can register to vote in person on Election Day.


*If you live in the District of Columbia, you can register in person on Election Day. If you live in North Carolina, you can register to vote in person from October 15 to October 30. And, if you live in North Dakota, you are not required to register at all. Just bring a valid form of ID if you plan on voting in person. (read more)


ICYMI — WhoWhatWhy’s latest ebook by yours truly and investigative reporter Celeste Katz-Marston, Is This Any Way to Vote?: Vulnerable Voting Machines and the Mysterious Industry Behind Them, is now available on Amazon.


Help Wanted: Faced with a nationwide shortage, election officials in Wisconsin are actively recruiting younger poll workers to replace those who are at increased risk from the coronavirus. Our Emily Blumenthal quotes Reid Magney, the public information officer for the Wisconsin Elections Commission, as saying:


“Officials managed to have 168 polling sites open in Milwaukee for the local August primaries. Having approximately 30,000 poll workers for November 3 will be crucial in Wisconsin…”


“The WEC has issued statements urging people to sign up to be poll workers since mid-March when the coronavirus pandemic forced the state to adapt to a surge in mail-in voting and a decline in available poll workers. Wisconsin relied on the National Guard to fill the gaps, with over 2,400 serving as poll workers in April and about 700 assisting in the August 11 primary.” (read more)


More Controversy in the Badger State: While election officials struggle to recruit poll workers, another Wisconsin crisis has been brewing— Republican state lawmakers are questioning the legitimacy of more than 17,000 ballots collected in a ‘Democracy in the Park’ voter drive. Our Seb Peltekian and Emily Blumenthal report:


“Republicans in the Legislature asserted that the event was illegal and have raised concerns about the ballots collected. In a September 25 cease-and-desist letter … Wisconsin Assembly Speaker Robin Vos and Senate Majority Leader Scott Fitzgerald argued that the ‘threat’ that ‘Democracy in the Park’ poses ‘to ballot integrity is manifestly obvious…’”


“Republicans also argued that ‘Democracy in the Park’ amounted to early voting. October 20 is the first day that Wisconsin offers in-person absentee voting. ‘There is a grave risk that all ballots you collect through this campaign will be challenged in court and ultimately invalidated,’ the letter said.’” (read more)


In the Courts

  • Trump v. Murphy: A federal judge blocked the Trump campaign’s efforts to stop New Jersey election officials from processing absentee ballots 10 days before Election Day or to refuse to allow absentee ballots received without a postmark to be counted, even if they arrive less than 48 hours after November 3.
  • Arctic Village Council v. Meyer: The Alaska Supreme Court ruled that voters do not need a witness signature on their absentee ballots due to the pandemic and state officials must conduct voter outreach to notify them about the change.
  • Curling v. Raffensperger: Judge Amy Totenberg of the US District Court of the Northern District of Georgia found major security flaws in the state’s electronic voting equipment this weekend, but denied a preliminary injunction request to require hand-marked paper ballots because it’s too late to grant such relief for November.


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