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Voting 2020 live updates: Ohio’s legal battle over drop boxes is officially over; Trump to cast ballot in Florida; turnout could reach 62% – USA TODAY

With less than two weeks until Election Day, more than 50 million people have already voted, and elections experts predict historic rates of turnout this cycle.

It’s possible that 85 million people could vote before Nov. 3, with 150 million voting in total. That would mean an eligible voter turnout rate of more than 62%.

So, how would that compare to eligible voter turnout rates for past presidential elections? The U.S. saw the highest eligible voter turnout rate, 82.6%, in 1876, when Republican Rutherford Hayes defeated Democrat Samuel Tilden. In 1860, when Abraham Lincoln defeated John Breckinridge, John Bell and Stephen Douglas, 81.8% of eligible voters turned out. The elections of 1868, 1880, 1888 and 1840 also saw rates above 80%.

Some context: Why such a high number? Experts say it’s partly because only white, male property owners could vote. Get an in-depth history lesson from USA TODAY’s Grace Hauck, who talked to election experts.

More news to keep in mind: USA TODAY is keeping track of what’s happening as voters around the country cast ballots. Keep refreshing this page for updates.

  • Best way to vote? Voting rights advocates are urging people to cast their ballots in person at the polls or at absentee ballot drop boxes
  • New election rules in New Jersey related to COVID were upheld Thursday. President Trump’s campaign had sued, citing purported fears of voter fraud.
  • Legal battles aren’t just limited to New Jersey: In the crucial state of North Carolina, Republicans have asked the Supreme Court to intervene over a rule that lets ballots come in up to 48 hours after Election Day.
  • Elsewhere, Russian hackers have been coming after various networks in the United States since September, the FBI has said.

This is a story you’ll want to share: Mabel Cook was just a baby when the 19th Amendment giving women the right to vote was added to the U.S. Constitution. At her advanced age of 101 years old, Cook is living up to her maiden name – Duty – by doing her civic duty, voting and urging others to do the same.

Voters have already been casting ballots: Numbers compiled by @electproject show at least 50.3 million have voted. In other numbers, the Guardian reports that 17.3% of registered voters in swing states have had their mail-in ballots accepted.

Federal case over where Ohio drop boxes could be installed dismissed

 After two lawsuits and months of legal arguments, Ohio’s battle over multiple drop boxes is officially over. 

Ohio Democrats and voting rights groups can claim one victory: Multiple courts found Ohio Secretary of State Frank LaRose, a Republican, could install multiple drop boxes for voters to deposit their ballots. 

But he was not required to do so and in the end, LaRose didn’t allow off-site drop boxes this election. On Friday, the federal case disputing where drop boxes could be installed was dismissed, ending a several-month legal fight. 

Earlier in the month, a three-judge panel from the U.S. Sixth Circuit Court of Appeals temporarily blocked a ruling that would have allowed multiple collection sites for Ohioans’ ballots. 

– Jessie Balmert, Cincinnati Enquirer

Trump to vote early in Florida, Pence votes in Indianapolis

President Donald Trump “plans to early vote on Saturday in West Palm Beach,” White House Deputy Press Secretary Judd Deere said Thursday. It’s the first time an incumbent president will cast his vote in Florida. That is a departure for Trump, who cast absentee ballots in the March presidential primary and then in the Aug. 18 primary election.

Meanwhile, Vice President Mike Pence and his wife, Karen, cast their ballots Friday morning in Indianapolis. They used the absentee ballots they had requested in early September. 

Trump casting a vote in Palm Beach County will be part of a historic, blockbuster political weekend in Florida. Trump is scheduled to speak Friday in The Villages, a conservative community north of Orlando, and in Pensacola. Vice President Mike Pence will also stump in Florida. Then, on Saturday, former President Barack Obama will rally the Democratic faithful in Miami. 

– Antonio Fins, The Palm Beach Post and Chris Sikich, Indianapolis Star 

Voting machines help vision-impaired voters in several Florida counties

Advocates have long fought for better vote-by-mail accessibility for blind and vision-impaired Florida voters. Orange, Miami-Dade, Pinellas, Nassau and Volusia counties are among the five jurisdictions to try an Accessible Vote-By-Mail Pilot Program. By 2022, all counties will be required to implement the technology.

To help voters with diminished sight cast their ballots, special equipment to improve ballot visibility will be placed at polling places. 

The equipment, attached to a traditional electronic voting machine, works like this: Voters feed their ballot into the machine, which magnifies the text to the viewer’s liking. By using a video game-like controller, voters can adjust the screen’s color and contrast. Headphones are also available to plug in and hear the ballot be read. 

– Sarah Nelson, Gainesville Sun

In Ohio, Democrats dominate early vote as GOP plans to pounce on Election Day

Ohioans can vote by mail up to the day before the election. Because absentee ballots postmarked by Nov. 2 can count if received up to 10 days after the polls close, the final results could take a final twist in the vital state of Ohio, with the tallying of provisional and late-arriving absentee ballots nearly two weeks after some try to call the race.

Ohio Secretary of State Frank LaRose has given local election offices tighter deadlines to begin the official canvass, which includes votes that could not be counted on election night. Boards are to begin the process Nov. 14 and have everything reported to the state by 2 p.m. Nov. 18.

– Doug Livingston, Akron Beacon Journal

In North Carolina, Republicans want court to change long absentee deadline 

President Donald Trump’s campaign and North Carolina’s Republican legislative leaders asked the U.S. Supreme Court on Thursday to return the state to a shorter deadline for accepting late-arriving absentee ballots postmarked by Election Day.

The legislative leaders argue in their appeal that the longer deadline, which was extended after early voting had begun, will result in unequal treatment of voters and dilute the value of ballots cast before the rule was changed.

They also say the board usurped legislators’ authority to set election rules by altering a deadline specified in state law. The Trump campaign’s separate but similar appeal also asks the high court to force the key battleground state to revert to stricter rules for fixing absentee ballot errors.

The high court is giving the other parties in the case until Saturday afternoon to file responses.

How to vote in 2020? This is the best way, according to experts and activists

With the election less than two weeks away, voting rights advocates, conservatives and community activists are urging the millions of voters who haven’t voted yet to cast their ballots in person at the polls or at absentee ballot drop boxes

The 2020 election is on track for record voter turnout as the nation battles the COVID-19 pandemic, a fight for racial equality and an economic recession. More than 35 million people have already voted.  But voters, particularly people of color and the elderly, are concerned about the health risk of voting in person and their vote being fairly counted.

People of color are dying of COVID-19 at higher rates than white people. Voting rights groups have accused Republican lawmakers of suppressing Black and Latino voters with long lines in urban communities and restrictive voter laws while President Donald Trump maintains that mail-in voting is susceptible to fraud. Read more.

– Nicquel Terry Ellis

FBI: Russian hackers on the attack

The FBI has posted an advisory saying state-sponsored Russian hackers have “conducted a campaign against a wide variety of U.S. targets” at least since September. The targets include government networks at various levels as well as aviation networks.

The FBI said hackers compromised some of the networks and extracted files from at least two servers, but had not disrupted elections or government operations.

“There may be some risk to elections information housed on … government networks,” the advisory said, adding that there was “no evidence to date that integrity of elections data has been compromised.”

Judge dismisses Trump lawsuit over New Jersey election rules

The new election rules instituted by New Jersey in response to the pandemic were upheld Thursday by a federal judge, who said President Trump’s campaign had no standing to sue and that its purported fears of voter fraud are speculative.

The campaign said New Jersey’s new rules, which allow local election officials to begin counting ballots 10 days before Election Day and permit them to count non-postmarked ballots received up to 48 hours after polls close, would lead to voter fraud.

U.S. District Judge Michael Schipp dismissed the lawsuit and refused to bar New Jersey from implementing the rules put in place by Gov. Phil Murphy and the state Legislature.

— Terrence T. McDonald, The Bergen Record

Election problems: What to keep in mind

This cheat sheet from Columbia Journalism Review offers tips for media organizations reporting on election 2020. There’s a lot of good stuff to keep in mind:

  • Voting problems aren’t failures. They happen every year and, as CJR notes, hiccups such as voting machines not working or polling places opening late don’t mean anything is “rigged.”
  • Some problems, however, are significant. CJR recommends the media scrutinize areas that have a history of voter suppression or obstructing minority voters, calling out Georgia as a place to monitor.
  • Don’t expect a winner on Election Night. This year is different because mail-in ballots could be as high as 30%. Previously, that number was 3%-5%. It will take a while to tally.
  • Seriously, expect to wait. State vote certification deadlines differ and don’t have to be reported to the federal level until Dec. 8. Additionally, the Electoral College doesn’t meet until Dec. 14.

Iowa Supreme Court upholds new law complicating absentee ballot requests

The Iowa Supreme Court has upheld a new law making it harder for county auditors to process absentee ballot requests with missing or incomplete information, days before Iowa’s deadline to request a ballot for the 2020 election. The court issued a decision Wednesday evening upholding a Republican-supported law that prevents auditors from using the state’s voter registration database to fill in any missing information or correct errors when a voter requests an absentee ballot. The law instead requires the auditor’s office to contact the voter by telephone, email or physical mail. 

“The overwhelming majority of Iowans have repeatedly said they support voter ID,” Iowa Secretary of State Paul Pate said. “It’s legal, constitutional and fair.”

– Stephen Gruber-Miller, Des Moines Register

Headlines from elsewhere and resources on voting

  • From ProPublica: Their Electionland project goes deep on issues that can affect eligible voters’ ability to cast a ballot.
  • From Pew/Stateline: The Barriers to the Ballot Box project takes on how changes to polling places impact communities.
  • Ballotopedia: Resources and guides to not just the election, but also voting.
  • Associated Press: More voting headlines that should be on your radar.

☑️How to make sure your mail-in ballot is counted and not discarded.

?️ USA TODAY’s Voter Guide has everything you need on registering to vote, when your state begins voting and what the candidates think about the issues.

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Advocacy group: Trumpers intimidated New Mexico voters in some areas

New Mexico Common Cause says caravans of flag-waving supporters of President Donald Trump appeared to obstruct and intimidate voters at two polling sites in predominantly Latino neighborhoods in the Albuquerque area last weekend. Executive Director Heather Ferguson said the incidents took place on the first day of balloting at voter convenience centers in the South Valley and western reaches of Albuquerque on Central Avenue. Ferguson estimated that dozens of potential voters in each location left without voting immediately as a result of the incidents before authorities interceded.

Contributing: Associated Press