Dispatches from here and there
A small benefit of the pandemic is having reporters dispersed all over the country this election season. From California to Louisiana, our writers sent in election snapshots from where they are spending fall semester.
Just 44% of San Francisco mail-in ballots have been returned
Campaign flyers and election directions hang off of door handles and pour out of apartment foyers into San Francisco doorways. We find ourselves just days away from an election that is weighing on the minds and hearts of many. In windows of homes and neighborhood businesses, Black Lives Matter posters and messages of gratitude for essential workers are joined by campaign signs for Board of Supervisors candidates and the Biden-Harris ticket. Unlike many cities across the nation, there are no hours-long early-voting lines, no reports of fake ballot drop-off boxes, and no voter suppression drama.
San Francisco Department of Elections director John Arntz is urging city voters to return their absentee ballots to drop-off boxes present at the main early voting site in front of Bill Graham Civic Auditorium, at the Chase Center, the home of the Golden State Warriors, or at the designated public library in each district. According to the Department of Elections website, as of Wednesday, just 240,210 (about 44%) of the 542,879 vote-by-mail ballots issued in the city have been returned. Even so, the number of early vote-by-mail ballots returned is already nearly as many as the total number received for the entire 2016 voting period. Arntz said to the San Francisco Examiner, “San Francisco does trust the vote-by-mail process, but there’s still a large number of people who drop off ballots at voting places and people who like voting on Election Day for the community experience.”
In San Francisco, the races for Board of Supervisors District One and District Five, both of which border USF’s campus, are heating up. In District One, made up primarily by the Richmond neighborhood where many students live, London Breed and the San Francisco Chronicle have endorsed Marjhan Philhour, who is promising a “clean, safe, and vibrant” Richmond neighborhood. Meanwhile the San Francisco League of Pissed Off Voters guide, a city election staple, endorsed Connie Chan, a progressive candidate who passes out the guides at local coffee shops like Cinderella Bakery on Balboa.
In District Five, Vallie Brown, Breed’s candidate, is challenging Dean Preston in hopes of reclaiming the seat she lost to him by just 185 votes last year. — Faith Quigley
Foghorn alum breaks Trump campaign website hack news
Former Foghorn Editor in Chief Gabriel Greschler was the first to note that President Trump’s campaign website had been hacked on Tuesday. Greschler, a staff writer for the Jewish News of Northern California, was working on a story about Jewish Californians organizing around climate change when he visited the Trump 2020 campaign website to familiarize himself with the president’s environmental platform.
“I’m on [the website] for about 5-10 minutes and then, all of a sudden, my screen froze and then this message pops up,” said Greschler. “‘We are in control of Donald Trump’s website. We will reveal his plans.’” According to Greschler, this message was accompanied by a cryptocurrency link which encouraged website users to send money to the hackers for the release of sensitive information regarding the Trump campaign.
Greschler said he was in disbelief and had to double-check to make sure he was on the correct website. This prompted him to tweet the news of the hack along with a screenshot of the site, which Nicole Perlroth, a New York Times cybersecurity reporter, later used in her own tweet about the hack. Greschler reached out to Perlroth to receive credit for his work and subsequently appeared in the New York Times’ coverage of the incident. “It was more of a funny experience than feeling accomplished because it was so random,” said Greschler, who was namechecked in Perlroth’s story. “It wasn’t like I was looking for who was hacking his website. It wasn’t like I was on this beat at all, it just was timing.” — Julian Sorapuru
A city divided
SPOKANE — Driving through Spokane’s neighborhoods before the election is like witnessing a political tug of war. Snowy lawns adorned with Trump signs and huge American flags frequently face off against neighboring Black Lives Matter and Biden-Harris signs. The city is clearly split, but a local paper, the Spokesman Review, endorsed reelecting President Donald Trump in an editorial on October 26. The paper called Biden’s vision for America “fantastical” and declared “economic policy and principle should prevail.”
The governor’s race is on the ballot. Many people in eastern Washington want Governor Jay Inslee (D) out of office. He has imposed statewide mask requirements throughout the pandemic. His support for environmental protection policies, such as implementing a carbon tax, have strong support in Seattle, to the west, but not in Spokane. Another widely debated issue on the Washington ballot is a referendum to get rid of a bill the state senate passed that would require comprehensive, age-appropriate sexual education for K-12 students.
According to the Washington Secretary of State Office, of the 360,778 registered voters in Spokane, almost 65% of ballots had been received by Friday. Statewide, about 46% of registered voters had returned their ballots with less than a week until Election Day in a state with no in-person voting. Out of all the congressional districts in Washington, Spokane’s District 5 has seen the highest voter turnout so far for ages 18-24, according to the Washington Secretary of State Office. — Elizabeth Oswalt
In the middle of things, in the middle of the country
LONGMONT, Colo. — Coincidentally, the last day for Coloradans to request a ballot in the mail, Oct. 26, was also the day Longmont saw nearly 10 inches of snow. Luckily for those who still need to go to voter services, the snow melted. That wasn’t me, as I don’t vote in Colorado. I moved to Longmont for only a couple months, but I was just in time to witness the state’s worst fire season to date. Watching the sky turn dark with smoke and hills burning a few miles away temporarily took my mind off the election.
Despite the fires, snow and global pandemic, as of Oct. 29, half of all registered Coloradans have already voted, according to the U.S. Elections Project. Colorado’s ballot is interesting for its sheer diversity of issues- propositions range from reintroducing Gray Wolves on the Western Slope to regulating gambling. There’s a proposed income tax reduction, and a push to change the state constitution to read “only” instead of “all” citizens may vote—a move which, if passed, would have little to no actual impact, Colorado Public Radio reported. Coloradans, who are seeing a spike in Covid-19 cases, are also voting on a proposition to guarantee workers 12 weeks of paid medical and family leave. Prop. 115 would ban abortion after 22 weeks. Colorado is also gauging public support of the National Popular Vote Movement, which it joined in 2019. Under this inter-state agreement, Colorado would pledge to throw all nine of its electoral votes to the presidential candidate who wins the popular vote—though if passed, it wouldn’t affect this election.
Biden and Trump signs populate my neighborhood. I’ve received many of the NRA’s doomsday YouTube ads condemning former Colorado Gov. John Hickenlooper, the Democrat challenging incumbent Republican Cory Gardner for his Senate seat. The race in District 2, where I am, is between Colorado’s first Black congressman, incumbent Joe Neguse (D), and a weak opponent, Dr. Charlie Winn, a Republican physician running to restructure and localize the healthcare system. — Mardy Harding
Texas sees historic voter turnout
HOUSTON — With Election Day right around the corner, Texas has already shattered several early-voting records, and Harris County, home to Houston, leads the turnout.
On Thursday, Oct. 30, the day before early voting ended in the state, Harris County Clerk Chris Hollins said that the county had already surpassed its entire 2016 turnout with 1.34 million votes casted. Hollins announced this during Texas Artists, Texas Voters, a drive-in concert at NRG Park which featured headliners The Suffers and Bun B.
Oct. 29 also marked the first time Harris County has ever offered 24-hour voting at eight Houston-area polling locations. Harris County, the largest Texas county by population and the third largest county in the nation by population, is the only one of the state’s 254 counties to offer around-the-clock voting to accommodate never-before-seen voter turnout.
The 24-hour voting initiative was just one of many changes encouraging Houstonians to vote. Other changes included drive-thru voting, new polling sites, and more voting machines. Harris County’s attempts to mobilize more voters encountered some setbacks, however. Prior to early voting, Gov. Greg Abbott issued an order limiting mail-in ballot drop-off locations to just one per county. Harris County originally had 12 locations, but they were forced to move operations to NRG Park; a large site, but an hour plus drive from the furthest parts of the huge county.
Less than a week before Election Day, a Republican legislator and three other members of the GOP filed a petition with the Texas Supreme Court challenging thousands of drive-thru votes, which the GOP called an illegal expansion of curbside voting. As of writing, the petition still sits in front of the court. — James Salazar
Louisiana women’s right to abortion on the ballot
NEW ORLEANS — As of Thursday night, close to a million Louisianians have voted early in the 2020 presidential election, almost doubling the previous record of 531,000 set in 2016 according to the Louisiana Secretary of State office. Nearly a third of all registered voters in the state have cast their ballots — 818,000 voted early in person while another 146,000 voted by mail.
I was among the 818,000 early in-person voters. On Tuesday, the finale of the state’s 10-day early voting period, I cast my ballot for the first time in a presidential election. I waited about an hour at the Smoothie King Center, home of the New Orleans Pelicans, one of several sports arenas the NBA made available as early voting sites. Uniformed police officers made sure everyone in line complied with the mask order. In a tent outside the Smoothie King Center, people were giving out packaged lunches (each included a sandwich and a bag of chips) to thank voters.
Senator Bill Cassidy (R) is running against the city of Shreveport’s mayor Adrian Perkins (D) who, if elected, would become Louisiana’s first Black senator since 1887. President Donald Trump has supported Cassidy, while former President Barack Obama and Louisiana Governor John Bel Edwards have formally endorsed Perkins.
The most hotly debated of the seven statewide measures on the ballot is Amendment 1, which seeks to amend the Louisiana Constitution to include that it will not protect the right to, nor require the funding of, abortion in the state. If this amendment passes and the Supreme Court overturns Roe v. Wade, as President Trump has sworn will happen with his appointment of Amy Coney Barret, women in Louisiana would no longer have access to abortions, even if the mother is at risk of death or the pregnancy was a result of incest or rape. — Julian Sorapuru