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

We Have Some Exciting News!

WhoWhatWhy has one mandate: dig relentlessly and reveal what we uncover. There are no gatekeepers. We are dedicated to investigative journalism, pure and simple.

Election Integrity applies these investigative principles to one of the most important and fundamental issues facing the nation: the reliability of the machinery used in elections. Today, we are proud to announce our latest ebook, Is This Any Way to Vote?: Vulnerable Voting Machines and the Mysterious Industry Behind Them, written by yours truly and investigative journalist Celeste Katz-Marston.

Is This Any Way to Vote?: Vulnerable Voting Machines and the Mysterious Industry Behind Them delves deep into the murky world of voting machines, from the corporations that make and sell the machines to the hackers who can break into them.

Is it safe to assume that the machinery used for voting in the United States is safe, tamper-proof, and accurate? Maybe not. Our ebook peels back the layers of mystery surrounding voting machines through a series of questions about the manufacturers, the machines themselves, their accessibility, vulnerability, and possible solutions.

Produced by WhoWhatWhy, this book provides an unflinching look at the vulnerabilities in our election equipment and the implications of our strained infrastructure for democracy.

Election integrity — and equal access — is the very basis of democracy. Get your copy on Amazon today and visit our website for more information.

Virtual Event Announcement: The first presidential debate between former Vice President Joe Biden and President Donald Trump airs commercial-free tonight from 9-10:30 pm EDT. Join WhoWhatWhy on Twitter as we fact-check in real-time and provide analysis of the candidates’ responses. If you have a question or an issue you would like our team to fact-check, contact us at the hashtag #WWWFactCheck.

ICYMI — Does Your School Rank? Last week, WhoWhatWhy released its first-ever Student Voter Guide to help college students understand how accessible voting on their campuses are. 

Schools with students living on campus experience higher voter turnout rates in presidential elections. Roughly  73 percent of the schools we looked at had at least one on-campus polling station during the 2016 general election. The conclusion is that a large percentage of college students across the country normally rely on polling places that are on campus to vote.

The University of Washington ranked first on our list, with 67.6 percent student voter turnout in 2016. Did your school make the cut? Find out here.

America Decides, 2020 — The Electoral College, Explained: In two of the last five presidential elections, the winning candidate lost the popular vote but won in the Electoral College. Why does this system still exist?

Technically, voters do not get to decide the winner directly. When we head to the polls every four years, we are really voting for a group of electors, who, in turn, will cast their ballots for the next president.

The system was created as a compromise to satisfy southern states that feared they were at a disadvantage with respect to the northern states. The US Constitution required ratification by at least nine states to go into effect, and the southern states were nervous about the North imposing its will on the South.  The total population across the South was roughly equal to the North, but approximately half of that population were slaves. In 1787, lawmakers agreed to a compromise that would count each slave as three-fifths of a white person when it came to assigning representation in Congress.  The compromise enabled southern states to balance their representation with the North, and the Electoral College enabled southern states to have a nearly equal voice to the North in choosing the president. As James Madison wrote during the Constitutional Convention:

“The right of suffrage was much more diffusive in the Northern than the Southern States, and the latter could have no influence in the election on the score of the Negroes. The substitution of electors obviated this difficulty and seemed, on the whole, to be liable to fewest objections.”

More Americans than ever are eager to replace the Electoral College with a direct popular vote. The latest solution being offered is the National Popular Vote Interstate Compact.

In essence, the compact calls for all states to allocate their Electoral College votes to whoever wins the national popular vote. The compact would go into effect once enough states with a majority of Electoral College votes agree. To date, the National Popular Vote Interstate Compact has been enacted by 12 states that hold 196 electoral votes. Colorado, which has nine electoral votes, will decide on whether to join the compact through a ballot measure this November. (read more)

Election Workers Need More Training: Absentee voting is not prone to widespread voter fraud, and election officials are not “rigging” the 2020 election to tilt the results toward one candidate. We have yet to find any evidence of that.

On the other hand, processing errors involving absentee ballots do happen. In the swing state of Pennsylvania, controversy ensued after an investigation revealed that an independent contractor had accidentally discarded nine ballots filed by military and overseas voters. Seven of the ballots were for Donald Trump. Officials blamed inadequate training and promised greater oversight. Pennsylvanians cast a total of 5.9 million ballots in the 2016 election. 

The loss of the nine ballots, nevertheless, focused attention on the need for supplemental training for election workers. Many states are recruiting first-time poll workers and ballot counters, which increases the likelihood of more errors unless there is adequate training.

Even though the loss of nine ballots might seem statistically insignificant when compared to the nearly six million votes actually cast, critics of mail-in voting tried to use the incident to support their claim that voting by mail is prone to widespread election fraud. Had Luzerne County officials, where the incident took place, not noticed, and immediately moved to investigate the issue, the claim might have had some validity. David Pedri, Luzerne County manager, urged voters to have faith in the system because the issue was caught quickly and the ballots will be counted. (read more)

In the Courts

  • Vote Forward v. DeJoy: A lawsuit backed by the National Redistricting Foundation won a preliminary injunction in the US District Court for the District of Columbia that stops Postmaster General Louis DeJoy’s recent policy changes from going into effect.


  • Daunt v. Benson: The League of Women Voters were allowed to intervene in a federal lawsuit concerning voter purges in Michigan. The Honest Elections Project, a dark-money group backed by the self-described conservative Anthony Daunt, filed a lawsuit in June to remove voters from 16 counties.
  • Schmitz v. Fulton County Board of Registration and Elections: A Superior Court judge in Georgia dismissed an emergency lawsuit seeking to remove more than 14,000 voters from the voter rolls. Judge Jane Barwick ruled that the requested purge would violate the federal National Voter Registration Act of 1993.

What We’re Watching

The battle over Trump’s Supreme Court nominee is underway, and the Senate is expected to begin hearings on October 12. Judge Amy Coney Barrett, who was appointed by Trump to the US Circuit Court of Appeals for the Seventh Circuit in 2017, will be questioned by the Senate Judiciary Committee on October 13.

Barrett’s nomination came despite the late-Justice Ginsberg’s request for her seat to not be replaced until after the presidential election. At this point, it’s possible that the Supreme Court could hear a case regarding the outcome of the election and whether absentee ballots received after Election Day should be counted. Voting rights groups warn that she would vote to limit this, so we’ll be paying close attention to how she responds if asked about this during the confirmation process.

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