Politics

Election 2014: Beyond The Horserace

CREDIT: ThinkProgress/ Adam Peck

ThinkProgress will be reporting live on the ground from seven states. Check back here frequently for updates of what it looks like across the country in the hours leading up to Decision 2014.

LATEST UPDATE
10:31 am

How Ballot Initiatives Fared Around The Country

How Ballot Initiatives Fared Around The Country

As the smoke clears, last night was a huge win for Republicans: The party picked up ten U.S. Senate seats, and now have control of 59 of the country’s 98 state legislatures.

Digging down into the state ballots a bit, ThinkProgress took a look at the major ballot initiatives across the country. Here’s a breakdown on some of the biggest issues — click through for more detailed analysis:

Paid sick leave wins big.

Minimum wage laws pass in red states.

Radical anti-abortion ‘personhood’ efforts get roundly rejected.

Marijuana makes major gains.

Gun violence prevention gets its day in Washington.

The nation gets its first soda tax.

Mass incarceration takes a hit.

Texans reject fracking.

Alabama buys into ‘creeping Sharia’ fears.

Tennessee becomes the next abortion battleground.

Alaska put up a barrier to approving a controversial chemical mine.

Oregon rejects plan to let undocumented people get drivers’ licenses.

— Annie-Rose Strasser and Aviva Shen

3:06 am

Defeat On Unfair Evictions Initiative

Defeat On Unfair Evictions Initiative

SAN FRANCISCO, CA — San Francisco’s Proposition G appeared headed for a defeat late Tuesday night. State Senator Mark Leno, a champion of the measure and rumoured challenger to Mayor Ed Lee in next year’s elections, acknowledged the grim outlook for the measure. “There is more work to be done, that’s for certain,” he admitted. “We need to better educate the public about the dislocations happening in San Francisco. Remember, though, there was a concentrated mult-imillion dollar effort run against us here. The California Realtor Association is one of the most significant special interest groups in the state, and they lead a powerful misinformation campaign.”

The fight over G, which would have created a transfer tax on ‘flipped’ properties by penalizing real estate speculators operating within a 5 year window, neatly summarized many of the most dire fault lines currently running through San Francisco politics. Housing here ranks as the most expensive in the country, with the median price of a one room apartment coming in at an astronomical $3,200/month. Many of the grassroots activists and organizers who supported G were also behind the protests against the Google bus service last spring. They blame the tech community and it’s high salaries for driving up the cost of living and fueling gentrification in what were previously working class neighborhoods.

— Sacha Feinman

11:05 pm

One Major Progressive Policy That's Winning Big Tonight

One Major Progressive Policy That’s Winning Big Tonight

If you have it you may not know it, but paid sick leave is hard to come by in this country. Tonight, though, it just got easier.

The state of Massachusetts is projected to approve Question 4, a paid sick leave ballot initiative that allows workers in the state to earn 40 hours of paid sick leave per year. “Employees would earn one hour of sick time for every 30 hours worked, and would begin accruing those hours on the date of hire or on July 1, 2015, whichever is later,” a summary of the initiative explains.

Massachusetts will be just the third state with paid sick leave in place. Two New Jersey towns — Trenton and Montclair — approved similar initiatives tonight.

Paid sick leave is proven to be advantageous for employees and employers alike. Employees are able to take the time off that they need to recover from illness or care for a sick child, while employers can be assured illness doesn’t spread throughout a business and lower productivity. Most cities that have thus far passed paid sick leave laws have found that they performed better with them in place.

The movement for paid sick leave has been growing, and enjoying an increasing number of wins in recent months.

— Annie-Rose Strasser

10:05 pm

Colorado's Contradictory Votes

Colorado’s Contradictory Votes

Coloradans tonight rejected — for the third time — a ballot initiative that would have defined “personhood” as beginning at conception, a far-right effort to effectively outlaw abortion in the United States.

But while that provision was roundly rejected by about 70 percent of the electorate in early counts, voters simultaneously are looking likely to elect Cory Gardner (R) to the U.S. Senate. Gardner’s position on personhood itself has wavered — he originally supported it but then says he learned more about the measures and rescinded his support — but he has been unequivocal in his support of the underlying idea of limiting women’s abortion access. The Senator-elect remains a cosponsor of a federal personhood bill introduced last year and has sponsored bills that would outlaw abortions in cases of rape and incest.

Annie-Rose Strasser

9:54 pm

Florida Voters Reject Medical Marijuana Initiative

Florida Voters Reject Medical Marijuana Initiative

Voters in Florida rejected an initiative to legalize medical marijuana on Tuesday, which required a supermajority of support — 60 percent or higher — to prevail.

Both sides poured millions into the issue, including Las Vegas casino mogul Sheldon Adelson, who spent at least $5.5 million or 85 percent of total funding to support Drug Free Florida’s campaign.

A narrower medical marijuana bill may have also diverted support from the measure. It flew through the Florida legislature with near-universal support in May. Gov. Rick Scott (R) was convinced to support the bill that grants some low-THC pot in non-smokable form to patients with epilepsy and a select few other conditions. Scott opposed the ballot initiative.

Twenty-three states and Washington, D.C. have legalized medical marijuana laws.

— Igor Volsky

9:40 pm

Fighting Evictions In The Bay Area

Fighting Evictions In The Bay Area

SAN FRANCISCO, CA — The after-work rush hour is in full effect as commuters exit San Francisco’s underground MUNI train and head upstairs to the Harvey Milk Plaza. Waiting there are three of the city’s most visible gay political figures: City Supervisor David Campos, “Homeless Czar” Bevan Dufty, and Brian Bassinger, Director of the AIDS Housing Alliance. In a final GOTV effort, they are holding signs and passing out pamphlets, urging Campos’ re-election and the passage of Proposition G, which would tax real estate speculation in this city — which has the highest wealth gap and some of the costliest rents in the nation — in an effort to curb the recent rash of evictions that have hit the famed Castro neighborhood.

“G is good for musicians!” offers Bissinger to one would-be voter. She has a guitar slung over her shoulder and continues on, smiling without making eye contact.

“It’s my birthday today, you need to vote for us!” shouts a Campos volunteer to no one in particular.

Even here, in a neighborhood legendary for its political activism, mobilization is a thankless task. Few passersby engage with the efforts. The eyes of most people are concentrated on their smartphone screens, and their ears are filled with white earbuds.

Just up the street at the Harvey Milk Civil Rights Academy, voters file out of their polling station at a steady pace. They seem to be split on G, albeit down predictable lines. Aaron is a 34 year old therapist who has lived in the Castro for 9 years. “I’m a small business owner, so I get it,” he explains. “I voted yes on G, but it was a complicated one. It’s not the best solution to speculation, but I’m not a property owner, so…” He shrugs as he walks off in search of dinner.

Jessica Dzwigalski voted against the proposition, citing her home-ownership as the prime reason. “This was a move on people looking at housing as an investment, and if someone dies and leaves their property to the children, then it’s going to hurt the family,” she says. “I think we need to build more housing if we want to solve the crises. This doesn’t do that.”

— Sacha Feinman

9:11 pm

Arkansas Voters Approve Minimum Wage Increase

Arkansas Voters Approve Minimum Wage Increase

Voters in Arkansas approved a ballot measure to increase the state’s minimum wage to $8.25 an hour, a provision that was supported by both candidates in the state’s closely-watched senate contest. The increase will be phased in over a period of three years.

Arkansas is one of a just a few states with a minimum wage lower than the federal level of $7.25, and many of its workers in small, rural mom-and-pop stores still make just $6.25 an hour. State lawmakers had not raised the wage since 2006, and Census data shows that nearly 20 percent of the state’s population lives poverty, including nearly 30 percent of children.

Voters in Illinois and Nebraska have also voted to increase their minimum wages.

— Igor Volsky

8:53 pm

Native Houstonian Voter Purged From The Rolls, Not Offered Provisional Ballot

Native Houstonian Voter Purged From The Rolls, Not Offered Provisional Ballot

HOUSTON, TX — Poll workers at Fiesta market told lifelong Houston voter Stevie Blakely that he could not cast a ballot tonight because he hadn’t voted in 2012. Blakely told ThinkProgress that he had voted that year, and Texas law mandates that a voter must miss two elections before a registration lapses. He said he was not offered a provisional ballot, which he is entitled to by law, until volunteer Stephanie Shapiro from the Election Protection Network accompanied him back into the polling place to demand one.

“I’ve been here for like an hour! It doesn’t make sense,” he lamented to ThinkProgress in the parking lot outside Fiesta. “I didn’t do nothing wrong, but they made me sign a whole other paper, had to give all this extra information, give where I lived seven or eight years ago, my middle name, my birthday.”

Shapiro, who helped Blakely get a provisional ballot, said she had to ask for one about five times, before the poll workers acknowledged the request. She says poll workers told Blakely: “You know why you were dropped from the polls.”

Conservative poll observers hovered extremely close-by during the entire exchange.

Blakely says he does not know why he was dropped, but he’s very frustrated to have to cast a ballot that may not be counted. “I’m not up on everything, certainly, but Greg Abbott, I don’t like his policies so I wanted to vote against him,” he said.

Attorney Adam Laughton​ with the Election Protection Network says the Houston call center received several calls throughout the day with similar issues—voters whose registration lapsed even though they had been voting regularly. Loughton said the system often doesn’t register those who vote early—a group that consists disproportionately of low-income people of color.

Alice Ollstein

8:50 pm

We Just Hit A Record Number Of Women In Congress

We Just Hit A Record Number Of Women In Congress

Alma Adams (D) just won North Carolina’s 12th Congressional district in a special election that will put her into office immediately. EMILY’s List points out that makes her the 100th voting woman in this Congress (there are three women who are non-voting delegates).

One hundred is the largest-ever number of women in Congress.

As a woman of color, Adams also increases the diversity of our top elected officials. Currently, of the women in Congress, 30 percent are women of color. But Adams won’t offset another trend among the women who occupy the U.S. Capitol: Most — 77 of the 100, to be precise — are Democrats. Only 33 are Republicans.

— Annie-Rose Strasser

8:20 pm

Last-Minute Problems At The Polls In Ferguson

Last-Minute Problems At The Polls In Ferguson

Several issues have come up at Ferguson polling locations during the evening rush tonight. One voter alleges that only 1 in 4 voting machines is up and running, a claim Election Protection is currently verifying. Nearby locations ran out of paper ballots, causing long lines. Officials requested additional ballots at 1:45pm, according to Denise Lieberman, the lead attorney at Election Protection’s command center. Fifty additional ballots were sent at 5:00pm.

Lieberman was quick to point out the consequences of such ballot shortages: people who leave a voting site due to problems are unlikely to come back.

Elsewhere in North County, the section of St. Louis where Ferguson is located, one voter who moved, re-registered, and had ID says she was told that she was considered inactive because she hadn’t voted in the past 8 years. She was allegedly deleted from the voter roll, but she claims that she voted in the last two presidential elections. She was ultimately able to vote by provisional ballot.

Lieberman explains, “If you do not vote for 2 federal elections (a period of four years), you can be put on an inactive voter list. You’re still a registered voter, but there’s reason to believe that you may have died or moved. Legally you cannot be purged from the roles just for not voting. They can start the purge process, which involves election officials sending at least two non-forwarding mailings to the address where you’re registered. If both pieces bounce back, they are considered undeliverable, and you can be purged from the rolls. But nobody can be purged from the voter rolls sooner that 90 days from the election. And if you’re on an inactive list and show up to the polls, you’re supposed to be put on active status.”

— Carimah Townes

8:08 pm

How D.C. Residents Feel About Legalizing Marijuana In The District

How D.C. Residents Feel About Legalizing Marijuana In The District

WASHINGTON, DC — Voters in Columbia Heights, one of the most economically and ethnically diverse neighborhoods in the District of Columbia, gave ThinkProgress mixed answers on whether or not the nation’s capital should legalize marijuana.

One common theme was cutting down on incarceration rates for minor drug offenses in the District. According to a 2013 report by the American Civil Liberties Union, D.C.’s arrest rate for marijuana possession is the highest in the country. Arrest rates for marijuana are famously skewed racially, and in D.C., it’s no different: police in the District arrest eight times as many black people for marijuana possession than white people, despite national rates of marijuana usage being fairly even among races.

Brittany McNeil, a student at the University of the District of Columbia, told ThinkProgress that she voted in favor of Initiative 71 because she’s had multiple friends arrested for pot possession. One of them, she said, has had a tough time getting a job with a drug-related offense on their record. Another 38-year-old resident, who declined to give his full name, said he works at the Department of Corrections and sees the effects the nation’s marijuana laws have had on the city’s population. He said he’s seen how a minor drug-related offense can make it difficult for people to find jobs.

“There’s no point in having people locked up for little offenses,” he said. “Being locked up for that doesn’t help anybody.”

Other residents pointed to the potential health benefits of legalization.

“My dad has Parkinson’s and marijuana makes a huge difference,” Trevor, a 26-year-old D.C. resident who declined to give his last name, said. “So I proudly voted yes.”

Diane Healy, a social worker in Maryland, said she’d rather see the police spend their time on things other than marijuana arrests — like cutting down on violence in the city.

“I think that D.C. has bigger problems than just trying to monitor small amounts of marijuana,” she said.

Dominic Hinez, who works in sales in D.C., agreed. He said he voted for Initiative 71 because he’s hoping it will cut down on drug trafficking and reduce the incarceration rate for drug-related offenses.

Not all residents were supportive of the measure, however. One mother of a 13-year-old son, who declined to give her name, was worried that legalizing marijuana would allow young people more access to it, and Aida, a 68-year-old resident, was also concerned about the ramifications of legalizing recreational marijuana.

Katie Valentine and Kiley Kroh

7:58 pm

This D.C. Resident Doesn't Smoke. He Doesn't Drink. And He Voted To Legalize Marijuana

This D.C. Resident Doesn’t Smoke. He Doesn’t Drink. And He Voted To Legalize Marijuana

WASHINGTON, DC — Kelly Miller Middle School is located in the heart of a neighborhood with the highest arrest rate for marijuana in Washington, D.C. In a city where African Americans are eight times more likely to be arrested for pot than whites, it is in this overwhelmingly African American segment east of the Anacostia River where arrests are most prevalent, according to American Civil Liberties Union statistics.

Voters at the middle school had a lot of opinions about the marijuana legalization initiative on the ballot Tuesday. And they ran the gamut. Many were compelled by statistics and personal stories about high arrest and incarceration rates in their neighborhoods. Others believe marijuana is one of a number of drugs that had been a scourge on their community, and that legalizing marijuana would do little to improve the area’s lack of economic opportunity.

But polls suggest the ballot initiative will pass. And a random selection of ThinkProgress interviews at Kelly Miller Middle School Tuesday evening suggested the same. Among those who support the ballot initiative is Ronald Porter.

Porter worked in the Department of Recreation in this neighborhood in a program for at-risk kids for 40 years. He doesn’t smoke, he doesn’t drink, and he doesn’t think kids should be allowed to smoke either. But he’s seen what pot arrests do to kids’ lives. Black kids, mostly.

“I hate to throw race in it, but there is a racial portion to it,” he said. “You know, why are these kids getting locked up? Kids are getting criminal records … it really stigmatizes you for the rest of your life.”

He said especially in Ward 7, the segment of the District where the middle school is located, many many underprivileged kids “get hooked up in it.” And funneling them into the criminal justice system only means they are “stymied” by their record going forward.

“I think it’s just ridiculous,” he said.

He thinks at most kids caught with pot should be ticketed. “It shouldn’t be any worse than that.”

“The president did it,” he said. He added that his “contemporaries” — President Bush, President Clinton, did it, too. “And nothing happened to them.”

Nicole Flatow

7:28 pm

Voters Being Locked Out In DC?

Voters Being Locked Out In DC?

A staff member at the Center for American Progress reports that when he went to go vote at his downtown Washington, DC polling place this evening, “The front door at my polling place [was] locked and the worker on the other side didn’t want to open it. And there is a 200-person line.”

Here is a picture of the line, which he said snaked between “3 places — two hallways and the lunchroom.”

— Annie-Rose Strasser

7:25 pm

Citing Malfunctioning Equipment, Crist Campaign Petitions Court To Keep Polls In Florida Open Late

Citing Malfunctioning Equipment, Crist Campaign Petitions Court To Keep Polls In Florida Open Late

The campaign’s filing in Broward County Florida cites malfunctioning equipment, inaccurate information provided to voters by poll workers and inaccurate information printing on newly issued voting cards. They are asking the court to keep the polls in Broward County open until 9PM. You can read the entire filing here.

UPDATE

Crist’s request was denied, meaning the polls in the area will close on schedule.

Share Update
7:20 pm

ThinkProgress Reporter Thrown Out Of Polling Place

ThinkProgress Reporter Thrown Out Of Polling Place

alice kicked out

CREDIT: ThinkProgress / Alice Ollstein

ThinkProgress politics reporter Alice Ollstein was kicked out of a Houston polling place Tuesday night and handed a letter saying the realty company that owns the property does not allow in media without permission:

“Dear media,” the letter reads, “Weingarten Realty does not allow media to park or film on our properties without permission. We are politely requesting all media to leave the shopping center effective immediately.”

Ollstein says she was not filming at the time she was stopped, but rather was in the middle of audio-recording an interview with a man who said he encountered trouble while trying to vote. “I was here for a while and identified myself as a reporter,” she said, “they all knew I was here.”

She added that other reporters had clearly been there earlier in the day.

The group Election Protection put in a complaint about the incident, which they believe is illegal, Ollstein said.

— Annie-Rose Strasser

7:04 pm

Growing Lines In North Carolina

Growing Lines In North Carolina

GREENSBORO, NC — Alma and Devny Jordan walked out of the Washington Montessori Elementary School tonight a little before 7:00pm, having waited in line for a good 30 minutes.

The lines here have been long but manageable throughout the day, but the pace has quickened since 5:00 pm according to campaign volunteers stationed outside. Inside, the line to wait for a voting machine was about 30 people deep, with more waiting in line to sign in.

As with many voters elsewhere in the state, Alma first tried to vote at the wrong precinct before being sent here.

When asked what brought them to the polls today, Alma said simply “Thom Tillis and Kay Hagan.”

Her daughter, a student at North Carolina A&T, chimed in as well, saying that education cuts handed down by the state legislature were a big concern for her.

— Adam Peck

6:54 pm

Meet An Oncology Nurse Who Says She Needs DC To Legalize Marijuana For Her Patients

Meet An Oncology Nurse Who Says She Needs DC To Legalize Marijuana For Her Patients

WASHINGTON, DC — Shadon Patty came to vote Tuesday evening at Kelly Miller Middle School in Washington, D.C. still wearing her nurse uniform. As a resident of an overwhelmingly African American neighborhood with among the highest marijuana arrest rates in the city, she is supportive of moves by the District to reduce criminal penalties for marijuana.

But she said she has other reasons she’s voting for D.C.’s marijuana legalization initiative that have nothing to do with recreational use. “I see it for my patients,” said Patty, who’s an oncology nurse. “They really need it.”

Washington, D.C. already has a medical marijuana program. But a little more than a year after the District’s first medical marijuana dispensary opened, Patty says the program is far too expensive for many of her patients. It costs about $100 to get a card, although there is supposed to be a discount for low-income individuals. And marijuana from a legal dispensary can cost several hundred dollars.

“In DC, you can get it through medical marijuana and it costs so much a lot of the elderly people can’t afford it,” she told ThinkProgress.

She said she believes marijuana will be much more widely available, and without the same hurdles, if it’s legalized for all purposes.

“If they pass the law, a lot of people would definitely make use of it for cancer reasons. And just for medical issues that they have,” she said.

D.C.’s medical law also only allows marijuana for a very limited list of conditions, although cancer is one of them.

Nicole Flatow

6:45 pm

Conservative Poll Watchers Out In Force At Texas Polls

Conservative Poll Watchers Out In Force At Texas Polls

HOUSTON, TX — Poll watcher spotted at a Fiesta market in Houston:

pollwatcher

CREDIT: Alice Ollstein

Conservative election integrity groups including True The Vote and Judicial Watch encouraged volunteers to monitor and report suspicious voter activity during the midterm elections in multiple states.

Alice Ollstein

6:23 pm

What Will Republicans Do If They Win Back The Senate?

What Will Republicans Do If They Win Back The Senate?

Republicans didn’t offer an overarching agenda or platform to voters during the 2014 midterm elections and instead sought to connect their Democratic opponents to President Obama and the slow economic recovery. But party leaders have offered some specifics about what they intend to actually accomplish should they reclaim the Senate majority. Here are some highlights:

1. Adopt small changes to Obamacare. “I think you’ll see the medical device tax removed, but I think you’ll also see the so-called death panels taken away,” outgoing Rep. Michele Bachmann (R-MN) told Fox News on Tuesday, using her preferred term for the Independent Payment Advisory Board or IPAB.

The Affordable Care Act provision is tasked with making binding recommendations to Congress for lowering health care spending, should Medicare costs exceed a target growth rate. Both the medical device tax and the IPAB are also opposed by Democrats with close ties to the health care industry. Other Obamacare targets include: repeal of the employer responsibility provision — which the administration has delayed twice — and changing the definition of a full-time work week from 30 hours to 40 hours.

2. Approve the Keystone XL pipeline. During an appearance on MSNBC, RNC Chairman Reince Priebus pledged that Republicans will approve the Keystone pipeline, possibly attaching the provision to must-pass legislation. In May, Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-NV) had offered Republicans a vote on an amendment that would have authorized immediate construction of Keystone XL in exchange for passage of an energy efficiency bill. Republicans rejected the compromise.

The decision to build the pipeline ultimately lies with the State Department and President Obama. The State Department announced in April that it would extend the comment period on Keystone and the project is still awaiting a ruling from the Nebraska Supreme Court.

3. Pass a budget in both chambers. “We will pass a budget in both chambers,” Priebus added, though he did not specify if the GOP will seek to build consensus with Democrats — as Rep. Paul Ryan (R-WI) had done with Sen. Patty Murray (D-WA) — or adopt a more partisan document that would include significant changes to the Medicare and Medicaid programs.

4. Declaw financial reform. Sen. Mitch McConnell (R-KY) has repeatedly promised to repeal Dodd-Frank. Republicans are likely to take aim specifically at the Volcker rule, which goes into effect in 2015, and at the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau (CFPB). The House has already moved forward on legislation that limits the CFPB’s power and independence, but the Democratic Senate has refused to vote on them.

Republicans have also pledged to undercut Obama’s efforts to extend deportation relief for undocumented immigrants via executive action and the administration’s efforts to avoid bringing any tentative deal to stop Iran’s nuclear program to Congress. Republicans have threatened to restore all sanctions if Obama does not bring the agreement to Congress for final approval.

— Igor Volsky

6:17 pm

Black Voters Show Up At Polling Place Only To Find Florida Republicans Eliminated It This Year

Black Voters Show Up At Polling Place Only To Find Florida Republicans Eliminated It This Year

MIAMI, FL — Pastor Fred Brown of the St. John’s First Baptist Institutional Church in Manatee County, FL, a polling place that was eliminated by the Republican majority Board of County Commissioners earlier this year, said voters have been showing up at his church all day, only to be told they must report to one of three different polling locations.

Brown told ThinkProgress that he is doing his best to redirect voters to their correct locations, but the voters have told him they were never notified by mail of the change and when they try to call the phone number listed for the county elections officials, they are not getting through.

“If they come here at 7 p.m., they can’t vote at all because the Supervisor of Elections has said if they’re not at their appropriate polling place by 7 p.m., they will not be allowed to vote,” he said. “The problem is, there’s a whole system of misdirection taking place so that people having trouble getting there.”

Without computers or internet in their homes, many voters are effectively disenfranchised through not knowing their correct polling location, he said.

“What happens if you’re not computer savvy? That’s no different as having to prove your literacy to vote.”​

Kira Lerner

6:07 pm

Voting Rights Attorney Details The Problems She's Seen At Georgia Polls

Voting Rights Attorney Details The Problems She’s Seen At Georgia Polls

ATLANTA, GA — Georgia voters have experienced a lot of confusion today, from some voters being charged to park at a location in Atlanta to the Secretary of State’s website crashing. Julie Houk, Senior Special Counsel of the Voting Rights Project for the Lawyers’ Committee for Civil Rights Under Law, was monitoring the election in Atlanta and outlined all of the problems she saw.

“We’ve had consistent other issues where people registered newly through the New Georgia Project or the NAACP and are finding when they get to the polls that they’re not on the poll books,” Houk said, referring to the 40,000 missing voter registrations that Georgia Secretary of State Brian Kemp (R) has refused to process.

I think it’s very discouraging, especially for first-time voters, to want to be involved in the process only to find out that it’s not a clear process,” Houk said. “They’re being told to go to different places, they have their lives to lead, and that’s an unnecessary burden on people who just want to exercise their constitutional right to vote.”

Lawrence Dortch

5:48 pm

Black Students In Texas Are Reportedly Being Disenfranchised Right Now

Black Students In Texas Are Reportedly Being Disenfranchised Right Now

A voter protection attorney in Texas tells ThinkProgress that she’s spoken with “about 8 to 10 students” at an historically black university, who tell her that they’ve been disenfranchised by the state’s voter ID law. According to the attorney, the students believed that a court decision halting the voter ID law was still in effect, despite the fact that the Supreme Court allowed the law to go back into effect shortly after a lower court struck it down. More on the reportedly disenfranchised students here.

Ian Millhiser

5:46 pm

These Two Men Have Been Waiting Six Months To Receive Their Right To Vote

These Two Men Have Been Waiting Six Months To Receive Their Right To Vote

RICHMOND, VA — It was 1979 when Othello Wimbush, 68, was arrested on charges of shooting a gun into a moving vehicle. To this day he maintains his innocence, but he plead guilty anyway, and in exchange received no prison sentence.

What Wimbush did not realize was that, in pleading to a felony in Virginia, he would lose his right to vote. It wasn’t until May of this year that he found out he could submit an application to have his voting rights restored. But he submitted it in May, and he still hasn’t heard anything back.

“I’d like to have my rights restored because I want to have just as much voice as the next man,” he said. “But right now, my voice is nothing.”

Under the Virginia law that requires ex-felons to file a voting rights restoration application form to re-gain their right to vote, the process is supposed to take 45 to 60 days. But for Wimbush, it’s been six months. During his interview with ThinkProgress, he called the state’s Restoration of Rights department to check on his application, and was told it was still being processed.

The same thing happened to Ira Miller, 65, who also filed his voting rights restoration application in May, and was told today that his application is still being processed. Miller served a 24 month prison sentence in 1976 for breaking and entering, and has never voted in his life. He told ThinkProgress that he would have liked to vote in this election.

“Without your voting rights you’re really not considered a citizen,” he said. “People ask you, did you vote? And when you say you can’t, people think… well, they look at you different.”

Richard Walker, who runs the non-profit Bridging the Gap for Virginia, said the problem lies with the fact that Miller and Wimbush’s cases are so old, that the state government can’t find their case files.

“They have no data, they never saved information on crimes that are 10 years old or over,” he said. “That’s the biggest challenge facing restoration of rights in Virginia.”

— Emily Atkin

5:38 pm

Redefining 'Winning'

Redefining ‘Winning’

Meet

Anthony Cage

CREDIT: ThinkProgress / Carimah Townes

DELLWOOD, MO — Meet Anthony Cage, who’s been standing outside this recreation-center-turned-polling center for 5 hours, passing out campaign materials for Zaki Baruti. Asked if Baruti has a chance at winning, given his late entry into the election, he expressed nothing but positivity.

“He only started in October, and he has a nice amount of votes. He don’t have to really win the election to say he’s won. He’s just a write-in candidate who came in with very little funding. He didn’t have big companies, unions, teamsters — nobody backing him. But for him to have the platform he ran on, that means people believe in what he actually stands for.”

— Carimah Townes

5:23 pm

Lines Starting To Grow In Missouri

Lines Starting To Grow In Missouri

St. LOUIS, MO — Here’s the line at the Dellwood recreation center in St. Louis.

— Carimah Townes

5:20 pm

Vietnam Veteran Describes Voting Hassles After North Carolina Slashed Early Voting Period

Vietnam Veteran Describes Voting Hassles After North Carolina Slashed Early Voting Period

CHARLOTTE, NC — In the run-up to the election, North Carolina’s Republican-controlled legislature reduced the state’s early voting period from 17 to 10 days. That caused havoc at the polls on the days they were open, as detailed by one Vietnam war veteran from Charlotte.

Richard Wilson, a Vietnam veteran from Charlotte, said he had tried to vote early on Saturday, but that the lines were so long that he had to go home.

“I can’t stand in lines because I had heart surgery not too long ago,” Wilson said. “I’m retired but if I was working I’d be really angry.”

Billy Corriher and Lauren Malkani

5:18 pm

North Carolina's Voter Restrictions Are Having A 'Huge Impact' On Turnout

North Carolina’s Voter Restrictions Are Having A ‘Huge Impact’ On Turnout

RALEIGH, NC — Twins Eddie and James Kalaf were catching their breath outside of Freedom Temple Church in West Raleigh with their friend Chris Bristle. All three had just run the mile from North Carolina State University to vote at this polling place, which services most of the student resident population.

Students at the state’s largest university are now being forced to find a way to cast their votes off campus after lawmakers successfully removed the polling place that had been located right near the heart of the University for years.

Eddie Kalaf has witnessed the impact that the new location has had on turnout.

“Huge impact,” he said. “I’ve talked to a lot of people who are like, ‘I’m too busy.’ It’s ridiculous because the population that we have right on central campus is so big, there should be a polling place there.”

Students are one of the most heavily affected constituencies under the state’s new voter laws that have made it more difficult for certain people to vote.

Appalachian State, another public university further west in Boone, successfully beat back attempts to remove a polling place from their campus, but success stories for students are few and far between.

For its part, NC State is doing all it can to encourage students to make the trek to this suburban enclave.

“I know they were having a lot of stuff going on in the Brickyard and around Wolf Plaza to get people to turn out,” said Taylor McGhee, another NC State student who emerged from the polling place with her friend Mackenzie Edwards. “They were giving out a bunch of prizes.”

Adam Peck

4:46 pm

The Missouri Politician Running On A 'Justice For Mike Brown' Platform

The Missouri Politician Running On A ‘Justice For Mike Brown’ Platform

JENNINGS, MO — According to Eddie Hasan of St. Louis, there was a large push to find an alternative candidate to Republican Rick Stream and Democrat Steve Stenger, the two white men running for St. Louis County executive here. Zaki Baruti is the right person for the job, they say.

“We want to make a statement and give people another choice,” Hasan explained. “Stream is against a minimum wage and Medicare, and Stenger is a friend of St. Louis Prosecutor Bob McCulloch.”

Enter Baruti, a long-standing community organizer in and around Ferguson, whose primary platform is seeking justice for Mike Brown.

“The demographics [of St. Louis County leaders] should match the group they’re representing,” said Hasan. As a black man, Baruti looks like the people with the most to gain in this election. Black people make up 25 percent of St. Louis County’s population and 67 percent of Ferguson’s.

His primary campaign pledge is to push to diversify the police force. He also wants to “penalize municipalities that practice racial profiling in traffic stops,” according to a campaign brochure. In a sharp turn from Stenger, Baruti wants McColloch replaced with a special prosecutor for the Darren Wilson’s case.

But supporters like Hasan also believe that Baruti brings something else to the table: economic reform. Hasan felt strongly that economic justice also plays a pivotal role in the larger fight for change. “[Baruti] wants equity in regards to who draws contracts that come out of St. Louis County,” which means ensuring that 30 percent of contractors are African American and women of color. Unlike Stream, Baruti supports a $15 minimum wage.

Timing was not on the write-in candidate’s side. His opponents have been campaigning for an extended period of time, but Baruti entered the race about a month ago in response to calls for justice for Brown. Hasan knows that late entry to the election is an issue.

“He is a viable candidate; if we had more time, he’d have more name recognition.”

— Carimah Townes

4:37 pm

Silicon Valley Heads To The Polls

Silicon Valley Heads To The Polls

CUPERTINO, CA — Less than a mile from Apple Headquarters, the Peninsula Bible Church of Cupertino is a prosaic place at 11:30 in the morning. Luxury minivans come and go, their passengers managing to vote and get on with their day all within a 15-20 minute window. Such are the luxuries when you live in America’s 11th wealthiest city.

Congressman Mike Honda represents this neighborhood, a symbol of the greatest liability his re-election campaign faces. Honda is in a runoff with fellow Democrat Ro Khanna, whose entire raison d’etre has been that he better understands the needs of Silicon Valley and the tech elite who live and work within the 17th district. This message has proven to be surprisingly effective, considering that Honda is a well-liked incumbent whose policy beliefs barely differ from Khanna’s. In fact, as recently as March 2012, Khanna went on the record praising Honda, calling him, “an outstanding representative.”

But the appeal for change in and of itself worked on Meena, an immigrant from India who voted for Khanna even though she couldn’t identify anything she explicitly disliked about the incumbent. “Honda has been there a long time,” she said, “There is nothing specifically wrong with him; it was just time for a change.”

Anecdotally, those exiting the church were split almost perfectly down the middle, suggesting that the polls which predict a nailbiter are largely correct. Caroline, an employee at the graphic chip maker Nvidia, voted for Honda in large part because she didn’t know what Khanna stood for. “It’s not that I think Mike better understands Silicon Valley or the tech sector,” she said, “But I haven’t seen any significant opinions from Khanna. I still don’t know what he stands for.”

— Sacha Feinman

4:31 pm

Ex-Convicts Still Have Trouble Voting In Virginia

Ex-Convicts Still Have Trouble Voting In Virginia

RICHMOND, VIRGINIA — Two Virginia women with former felony convictions were not allowed to cast regular voting ballots on Tuesday, despite both receiving letters from Gov. Terry McAuliffe that their voting rights had been restored.

Jeannea Anderson and her cousin Brenda, who asked not to have her last name published, both have non-violent felony convictions. Under Virginia law, citizens with felony convictions are not guaranteed voting rights when they are released from prison. Instead, they must pay a fine, get off parole or probation, and file a voting rights restoration application with the state.

Jeannea and Brenda both got their voting rights applications approved in August of this year. But when they went to vote on Tuesday, both of them were denied access to the ballot box. The women were eventually allowed to file provisional ballots. More on the reason for this problem here.

3:51 pm

Report: Rick Scott Poll Watcher Intimidated Voter Who Had Rights Restored

Report: Rick Scott Poll Watcher Intimidated Voter Who Had Rights Restored

MIAMI, FL — A woman with a letter proving her voting rights had been restored post-conviction was intimidated by a poll watcher working for Governor Rick Scott (R-FL), an Election Protection volunteer told ThinkProgress. The poll watcher spoke with both the election clerk and the voter even though Florida law prohibits poll watchers from interfering with poll workers or slowing down the operation of a precinct.

The African American voter presented a letter to the clerk which proved that her rights had been restored before the 2012 election. However, the clerk said she’d have to cast a provisional ballot because her name was not in the system.

The Election Protection volunteer said that when she tried to help the voter negotiate with the clerk, the poll watcher stood over them and repeated “she’s now allowed to be in here.” But Florida law allows voters to ask election protection workers to assist them if they choose.

“It is the right of anyone who requests assistance to get assistance from the person of their choice,” the volunteer said.

However, the Scott poll watcher repeatedly interfered with the volunteer’s conversation with the clerk. At one point, he told the clerk “you could get in a lot of trouble or get sued for having her inside,” according to the volunteer.

Kira Lerner

3:49 pm

Asian American Voters Say They're Being Challenged At The Polls

Asian American Voters Say They’re Being Challenged At The Polls

WASHINGTON, DC — Voters have the legal right to bring a translator of their choosing into the voting booth if they have trouble reading or writing in English — but that right is being unevenly honored, according to representatives of the Asian American Justice Center (AAJC).

“One Texas voter who has difficulty reading English wanted her son to help her vote. The poll workers denied her this right,” said AAJC president Mee Moua at a press conference by the voting rights watchdog coalition Election Protection.

Moua was citing a call made to the National Asian Language Election Protection Hotline, one of several phone lines maintained by members of the coalition for voters and poll monitors to report issues. “They said that since the county was providing language assistance, she would not be allowed to bring her son with her into the voting booth. They also said that the poll workers would determine whether or not she spoke English well enough,” Moua said, adding that those decisions violated the voter’s right to a translator.

The hotline has gotten over 200 calls so far this Election Day, compared to well over a thousand for the main Election Protection number. Most of the calls have come from Georgia, Texas, Virginia, Florida, and North Carolina, AAJC’s Christine Chen added.

Alan Pyke

3:18 pm

Texas Voting Restrictions Sow Confusion At The Polls

Texas Voting Restrictions Sow Confusion At The Polls

HOUSTON, TX — At this polling site in Third Ward, a historically African American neighborhood, two voters have been turned away for lacking a photo ID. One had simply left it at home, and would have to make an additional trip to the polls. The other had to cast a provisional ballot, which has a much lower chance of being counted.

Verdelle Ingram, a volunteer who was passing out voting rights information all morning outside the polls, told ThinkProgress that a much more common problem was people showing up at the wrong precinct. Often, due to very gerrymandered districts, a voter may live just across the street from a polling place, but be assigned to one a couple miles away. Under Texas law, ballots cast at the wrong precinct are not counted.

An additional difficulty is that many sites that were open for early voting are not open today, so people who may have seen signs in their neighborhood over the past few weeks could show up at a closed site. Then, this morning, about 7 voting sites that were supposed to open at 7 a.m. opened late, some as late as 8:30 a.m. This made the lines at those sites quite long once they did open.

“It’s a huge impediment, because people are trying to vote before going to work,” said Election Protection Network volunteer Grace Chen, who has been doing outreach in Houston’s large Mandarin-speaking population. “Everyone thinks of injustice as something obvious and out there, but just like in the days of the poll tax, now it’s about frustrating voters in small ways. Injustice can be banal.”

Alice Ollstein

2:55 pm

Inside The Voter Protection War Room

Inside The Voter Protection War Room

WASHINGTON, DC — In the brightly-lit basement of a downtown D.C. office building, a coalition called Election Protection has assembled a rare thing: a room full of free lawyers. About two dozen volunteer attorneys are staffing laptops and phone lines in the group’s Election Day war-room, taking calls from voters and poll-watchers around the country with questions and concerns about the voting process at their local precinct. One of the two large video screens at the front of the room shows incoming tweets to the group’s online presence. The other plays cable news on mute. Phones chirp almost constantly, punctuation to the lawyerly chatter among volunteers and staffers.

“People here will be fielding calls from voters and poll monitors throughout the country,” said Allegra Chapman of Common Cause, one of several organizations that provides resources for Election Protection. The calls range from simple questions about polling places and voter registration to more complicated issues with voting machines or misconduct by poll watchers.

A Florida voter called the hotline earlier in the day to say her touch-screen voting machine had asked her which language she wanted to vote in, then thanked her for casting her ballot once she selected ‘English,’ Chapman said, without ever showing her a ballot or recording her choices. Calls like these are referred to people on the ground, who can investigate further.

Sometimes callers report more nefarious issues. “Apparently poll workers in Illinois have received robocalls sending misinformation saying ‘you need to do an additional training, don’t show up to your polling place today,'” Chapman said. “A lot of poll workers didn’t show up. You can imagine the kinds of headaches those polling places are experiencing now.”

Workers at overwhelmed polling places may not have time or energy to get word to the proper state and local officials when a machine is malfunctioning, but Election Protection’s network of volunteers in states and here in the nation’s capital help nudge the system along where they can.

The volunteers also record demographic data, location information, and a brief description of the issue motivating each caller. The resulting database of Election Day difficulties will be available for public review and analysis in the near future.

Alan Pyke

2:25 pm

North Carolina's New Election Restrictions Are Turning Away Voters

North Carolina’s New Election Restrictions Are Turning Away Voters

SOUTH RALEIGH, NC — At two polling places south of the city center, voters are turning up in steady numbers throughout the morning. But many of them aren’t casting ballots: they are being turned away because they aren’t at their correct precinct.

Rhonda Little, who has been outside Fuller GT Elementary School all morning, said one woman she spoke with had visited eight different polling places before finally ending up at the correct one. That doesn’t surprise Art Lieberman, a voter protection volunteer stationed at Chavis Community Center, a sprawling recreation complex off of the busy Martin Luther King Jr. Boulevard.

“Probably my guess is, 8 out of 10 people are at the wrong precinct,” he said. Voters who have turned up here are being sent to their correct polling places, but it’s unclear how many of them actually follow up.

Lieberman said that the cause is most likely North Carolina’s new law that eliminated out-of-precinct voting. In October, the Supreme Court blocked a 4th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals decision that reinstated the practice. The lower court had reasoned that eliminating out-of-precinct voting would disproportionately impact African American voters.

“For early voting, people could vote anywhere,” Lieberman said. “People would come here for early voting two years ago, and so this year people come here on the day and they think they’re allowed to vote here.”

— Adam Peck

2:11 pm

What's Driving People To The Polls In Missouri

What’s Driving People To The Polls In Missouri

St. LOUIS, MO — Attorneys Dorothy White-Coleman and Ruby L. Bonner of the Mound City Bar Association told ThinkProgress about the ballot initiatives that mean the most to them this election cycle.

“Amendment 10 takes power away from the governor to balance the budget,” explained White-Coleman. “Republicans control Missouri’s Senate and House of Representatives, and [now] they’re trying to diminish the governor’s right to balance the budget, which he does as the chief executive officer.”

The Missouri Times reported on Monday that 38 percent of Missourians plan to vote in favor of Amendment 10 while 42 percent oppose it. Twenty percent of Missourians, however, remained undecided, making it a contentious ballot initiative.

As for Bonner, a former elementary school teacher, Amendment 3 is especially important. “The ballot initiative would relate student achievement to teacher evaluations,” she explained. “I have long since felt that teachers should be required to have some kind of assessment; they should have to demonstrate proficiency the way doctors, lawyers, and nurses do. There needs to be some kind of objective measure of teachers. [People] argue that kids in these urban communities come with social problems and that teachers are teaching to the tests, but I think that if you are creative enough to meet the individual needs of your students, it doesn’t matter where they’re coming from.”

— Carimah Townes

2:09 pm

Georgia Voter Redirected To Polling Place 35 Miles Away

Georgia Voter Redirected To Polling Place 35 Miles Away

ATLANTA, GA — Georgia Secretary of State Brian Kemp’s office failed to process tens of thousands of voter registration cards — mostly in heavily African-American counties — before the election, and it’s causing confusion at the polls. Karl Ragland and his wife moved to Atlanta from Covington, Ga., earlier in the year and submitted a change of address form to the Board of Elections. But when they showed up at their new polling place in Atlanta, they learned that the form had never been processed. Karl now has to drive 35 miles to Covington to vote, causing him to miss up to two hours of work.

“I am going to vote today,” Karl said.

Lawrence Dortch

2:00 pm

Miami Man Waited More Than 4 Hours To Vote After Poll Workers Refused To Allow Address Change

Miami Man Waited More Than 4 Hours To Vote After Poll Workers Refused To Allow Address Change

MIAMI, FL — Opa-Locka resident Eugene Gonzalez arrived at his polling location at 8:30 this morning, but did not cast his ballot until 1 pm. When he went to Robert Ingram Elementary, the polling place down the street from his home, he was told that he was still registered in Broward County where he lived previously.

Gonzalez has lived in Miami-Dade County for a few years but never changed his voter registration from Broward County. However, his driver’s license has his current Miami-Dade address. Florida law allows voters to change their address at the polls on Election Day.

Jacob Coker-Dukowitz, the regional lead for Florida New Majority which is organizing election protection efforts throughout the county, told ThinkProgress that because poll workers aren’t adequately trained on Florida’s Electronic Voter Identification System (EVID), some voters who have recently moved are having problems casting ballots in their new precincts.

Election protection volunteer Alyssa Cundari Roelans worked with Gonzalez, who declined to be interviewed, to ensure the poll workers didn’t force him to cast a provisional ballot.

“At first they told him he couldn’t vote,” Cundari Roelans told ThinkProgress. “Part of the problem was that the clerk didn’t know you can change your address on-site, so that was something I had to inform her about.”

The election workers eventually made Gonzalez fill out an affidavit while they called the county election hotline. “It took over an hour and a half of him being there because there were issues with finding him in the system,” Cundari Roelans said. The servers did not update for a few hours, so Gonzalez returned to cast his vote later in the day.

“The issue is the lack of communication and the ability to communicate beyond county lines,” Cundari Roelans said. “A lot of people move to different counties for job or employment issues… When I talked to the supervisor of elections, she said this was a special circumstance. But I don’t think moving across a county line is that special or unique of a situation.”

Kira Lerner

1:02 pm

Alabama Voters With Public Housing, Shelter IDs Are Being Turned Away

Alabama Voters With Public Housing, Shelter IDs Are Being Turned Away

At least three Alabama citizens apparently have been denied their right to vote thanks to the state’s voter ID law. Deuel Ross, an attorney with the NAACP Legal Defense Fund who is working on voter protection efforts in the state, told ThinkProgress he had encounted three voters in the past day who have been rejected due to lack of “valid identification.”

“One was a 92 year old woman with public housing ID,” he said, who was rejected thanks to a last-minute decision by the state that such identification was not valid proof of identity, and “another gentleman had ID from a shelter, but nothing they considered valid.”

A third woman, he said, was permitted to vote a provisional ballot but has no valid form of photo identification to bring back to get her vote counted.

Josh Israel

1:00 pm

Raleigh Area Voting Going Smoothly

Raleigh Area Voting Going Smoothly

RALEIGH, NC — Cynthia Grissom is a long-time voter here in Raleigh. She cast her ballot several days ago during early voting, but that didn’t stop her from arriving at the Cameron Village Regional Library at 6:30 am to urge voters to vote yes on a local Parks and Recreation ballot initiative.

“It’s been a steady flow of traffic all day,” she said. “I’ve been really impressed.”

There haven’t been any reports of issues so far here, though one voter said that signs inside reminding residents that photo IDs will be required in 2016 could cause some confusion today.

— Adam Peck

12:50 pm

Reports Of Poll Workers Requesting Photo ID In Missouri, Not A Voter ID State

Reports Of Poll Workers Requesting Photo ID In Missouri, Not A Voter ID State

St. LOUIS, MO — The National Bar Association President Pamela Meanes told ThinkProgress today that poll workers are asking for two forms of ID if individuals can’t produce a photo ID. So far, there’s one incident in Ferguson and one incident in Jennings. Photo ID is not required to vote in Missouri.

— Carimah Townes

12:49 pm

Guam Poised To Legalize Medical Marijuana

Guam Poised To Legalize Medical Marijuana

It’s not just jurisdictions in the contiguous United States that are headed toward reforming marijuana laws today. In Guam, most of the returns are in on a ballot initiative to legalize medical marijuana. And passage looks extremely likely. The results show that 56 percent voted to legalize medical marijuana, with results in from 56 out of 58 precincts in the unincorporated U.S. territory.

Ethan Nadelman of the Drug Policy Alliance said these returns are a “positive omen” for “marijuana reform efforts around the country,” pointing out that Guam is politically conservative, with a large military presence.

Other jurisdictions with marijuana initiatives on the ballot include Washington, D.C., Alaska, and Oregon, which are all voting on recreational legalization measures, and Florida, which is considering a medical marijuana expansion.

Nicole Flatow

12:38 pm

Ex-Felons Struggle To Become Full Citizens On Election Day

Ex-Felons Struggle To Become Full Citizens On Election Day

RICHMOND, VA — Throughout Virginia, there are more than 300,000 people who pay state taxes, but don’t have the right to vote. That’s because they’re former felons, released from prison, but still paying a price for their crimes.

“Virginia is a wonderful place to live if you don’t commit a crime; it’s the worst place in the country if you do,” said Richard Walker, the founder of Bridging the Gap in Virginia. “They don’t believe in second chances.”

ThinkProgress is traveling through Richmond today with Bridging the Gap, a grassroots nonprofit that helps ex-convicts overcome barriers that prevent them from becoming fully active citizens. One way the group does this is by helping ex-convicts regain the right to vote.

Virginia has one of the strictest laws in the country when it comes to voting rights for felons. In most states, rights are automatically reformed once a felon is released from prison. But in Virginia, former felons must pay fines, get off parole or probation, and file a voting rights restoration application. The process is supposed to take 45 to 60 days, but often takes longer. For violent offenders, the process is the same, but they have to wait three years to apply, and cannot commit any other crimes.

On Election Day, Bridging the Gap can see the benefits of its work.

Clarence Woodson Bey, a 63-year-old Richmond born man, served 15 years in prison and five years of probation for a murder charge. On Tuesday, he voted for the first time in his life. His voter application was initially rejected by former Gov. Bob McDonnell (R) but was accepted by Gov. Terry McAuliffe (D) in August:

“Our main purpose on Election Day is to catch up with the individuals we’ve helped who are voting for the first time, catching that excitement for the first time,” said Walker.

Walker is also checking up on some people who have been waiting to get their rights restored for more than six months, former felons who were convicted in the late 1970s and whose criminal records have been lost by the state.

“The process is not over,” Walker, himself a former felon, said. “Countless Virginians still don’t have the right to vote.”

— Emily Atkin

12:29 pm

As Kentucky Candidates Talk Up Coal, These People Are Actually Helping Out-Of-Work Coal Miners

As Kentucky Candidates Talk Up Coal, These People Are Actually Helping Out-Of-Work Coal Miners

The coal mining industry drove the economy in Appalachia and Eastern Kentucky for much of the 20th century. But as coal declines, the region has been losing jobs and people to the rest of the country. Broadband for rural areas, cleaning up toxic former mine lands, and other efforts to diversify the area’s economy are going to be shaped by who represents Kentucky, and which party controls the Senate.

Kentucky’s candidates for Senate spend a lot of their time talking up coal, but these organizations are getting to work bringing new opportunities to out-of-work miners. That’s going to be a driving factor in today’s vote between Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R) and Democratic challenger Alison Lundergan Grimes. Read our on-the-ground report here.

Andrew Breiner

12:04 pm

Citing Polling Problems, Democrats In Connecticut Request Extension Of Voting Hours

Citing Polling Problems, Democrats In Connecticut Request Extension Of Voting Hours

Election officials in Hartford, Connecticut failed to distribute voting lists to polling places early Tuesday morning “so that when voters showed up, there were no lists for poll workers to check — and check off,” CBS Connecticut reports. In some areas, voters were permitted to vote by affidavit. The problems appear to have been resolved by 8 AM.

Still, Gov. Dannel Malloy’s (D) campaign has asked the Hartford Superior Court to extend voting hours to allow voters who were unable to cast their ballots more time to vote.

Republican State Chairman Jerry Labriola said GOP lawyers are reviewing the problems, but he doesn’t believe that voters any additional time. “There are still more than 12 hours for people to vote so I don’t see how there can be a claim that voters were disfranchised. This would be an attempt to increase the polling hours and give Democrats more time for shenanigans,” he said. A spokesperson for Republican gubernatorial challenger Tom Foley agreed.

— Igor Volsky

UPDATE

A Connecticut judge has extended polling hours at two Hartford locations.

Share Update
11:59 am

Election Day In Miami-Dade, Where Voters Waited More Than 6 Hours To Vote In 2012

Election Day In Miami-Dade, Where Voters Waited More Than 6 Hours To Vote In 2012

MIAMI, FL — Denise Lopez, an election protection volunteer with the Florida New Majority, sits outside Miami-Dade County’s precinct 212 thanking people for voting and letting them know she’s there to help if any issues arise. However, so far things have been running smoothly, she said. The lines have been minimal and the biggest obstacle of the day came when an elderly Spanish-speaking voter needed translation help.

“She said they didn’t have any Spanish speakers [poll workers],” Lopez told ThinkProgress. “Somebody inside who was also voting was able to help her.”

At other polling places across Miami, voters told ThinkProgress they were pleased with quick voting process. In 2012, some Miami voters waited up to six hours to vote, making Florida the national poster child for election chaos. A report estimated the lines discouraged more than 200,000 people from voting — the intended goal, according to Florida Republicans who later admitted that the slew of election law changes were targeting Democratic voters. As the backlash after the 2012 election grew, Gov. Rick Scott (R-FL) signed a bill reversing his own voter suppression laws, restoring early voting days and polling locations. With extended early voting this year, lines have so far been short or nonexistent. ​

Kira Lerner

11:53 am

Voters In North Carolina Show Up To Find Their Polling Place Closed

Voters In North Carolina Show Up To Find Their Polling Place Closed

CHARLOTTE, NC — Warren Coleman was trying to vote during a break from his job at a bakery in Charlotte, North Carolina. But his usual polling place, a neighborhood library, wasn’t open. Coleman was one of dozens of confused voters who showed up at Beatties Ford Road Regional Library.

The library was a popular site for early voting site last week, but the state board of elections decided to shut it down for Tuesday. Several elderly and disabled voters had shown up there, only to be told that it was not a polling place.

Coleman then tried a nearby elementary school, only to be told that he still wasn’t at the right place. “I was at work. I’m really lacking for time right now,” he said, “I wish it was a lot easier. I wish we… had some direction from the beginning about where to go.” Casting a provisional ballot at an incorrect precinct isn’t an option this year.

In addition to a new photo ID requirement, cuts in early voting, and new hurdles to voter registration, the North Carolina legislature’s 2013 voter suppression bill also included a provision that said the state would no longer count provisional ballots cast at the wrong precinct. Voting rights advocates had recently won a court order striking down this provision, as well as the end to same-day voter registration.

The U.S. Supreme Court, however, overturned that decision last month. In Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg’s dissent, she noted that these two provisions would “likely” have been found to be discriminatory under the Voting Rights Act’s preclearance requirement, which was struck down by the Court’s conservative majority last year. Justice Ginsburg noted that a lower court had determined that these two provisions “risked significantly reducing op¬portunities for black voters to exercise the franchise…”

Since the GOP took over the legislature and the executive branch in 2012, North Carolina has led the way in suppressing the vote. Voting authorities in the state have shut down polling places on college campuses and in neighborhoods with African-American voters. These efforts come in the midst of a pivotal race for a U.S. Senate seat is too-close-to-call, which means that every vote is essential. Despite the hassle, Coleman said “It was worth it. Voting is worth it.”

— Billy Corriher

11:02 am

Cities Offering Free Transit Services To Voters On Election Day

Cities Offering Free Transit Services To Voters On Election Day

Minnesota and parts of Texas and Florida are offering residents free rides on public transportation this Election Day, The Hill reports.

Dallas Area Rapid Transit (DART) is requiring passengers to display a valid voter registration card to ride the service for free from 6 AM to 8 AM, while Tampa’s Hillsborough Area Regional Transit (HART) is helping riders map routes to their polling places. HART passengers will also need a valid voter registration card to ride the service for free.

Minnesota’s Metro Transit and suburban transit providers are also offering free rides under a new state law, which does not require passengers to show a pass or voter registration card. The state Legislature has appropriated $144,000 to offset the costs for Metro Transit.

However, research shows that free transit services have a negligible impact on voter turnout. The increase in ridership during Election Day on the DART and HART systems, which have been running the promotion for years, has been “minimal, if at all.”

— Igor Volsky

11:01 am

Atlanta Voters Are Being Required To Pay To Park

Atlanta Voters Are Being Required To Pay To Park

In one of Atlanta’s largest voting precincts, voters are complaining about being required to pay as they leave the parking lot next to Georgia Tech’s student center polling site, even though signs advertised free parking on Election Day.

“We were told inside that we could get out for free with our Georgia voter stickers,” Elizabeth Stell, an attorney who showed up to vote when the polls opened at 7:00 am, told the Atlanta Journal-Constitution. “It was only $2 but it’s the point that you shouldn’t have to pay to vote.” Voters in the area reported similar issues with parking fees during the primary elections in May.

Advocates say that requiring people to pay extra fees during the process of voting essentially amounts to a poll tax. Making an individual’s right to vote contingent upon their ability to pay a fee is unconstitutional under the 24th Amendment.

— Tara Culp-Ressler

10:44 am

Voter Intimidation?

Voter Intimidation?

St. LOUIS, MO — Pictured: a police car parked outside of Koch Elementary School, a voting location that’s less than a mile from where Mike Brown was shot. The group Election Protection is concerned that police presence at the polls will intimidate voters, especially in communities of color.

— Carimah Townes

10:39 am

In Six Governors' Races, Health Care For Low-Income Americans Is On The Line

In Six Governors’ Races, Health Care For Low-Income Americans Is On The Line

If every state accepted Obamacare’s optional Medicaid expansion, the landscape of the country would look pretty different, and the national uninsurance rate would decline by an estimated two percentage points. Depending on the outcomes of six key gubernatorial races on Tuesday, we could start getting a little closer to that reality.

Of the GOP-led states that have so far refused to expand Medicaid, there are six — Alaska, Florida, Georgia, Kansas, Wisconsin, and Maine — that would likely move forward with the policy if a Democrat gets elected to the governor’s mansion this week. The races in those states are tight, and outside observers are keeping an eye on them to see what happens to this key Obamacare provision.

Even if a Democrat takes control of one of those six states, they’ll still have to negotiate with state lawmakers, who may have the power to block Medicaid expansion. Alaska, Florida, and Georgia currently have solidly Republican legislatures. As the political debate over the health reform law begins to wane, however, it may be possible for governors to negotiate a deal to push through the expansion anyway.

— Tara Culp-Ressler

10:27 am

Voters, Particularly People Of Color, Want Climate Change Action

Voters, Particularly People Of Color, Want Climate Change Action

Nearly half of the voters in Tuesday’s midterm elections are concerned about climate change and want the government to regulate carbon emissions, according to a new poll.

A YouGov/Huffington Post poll of 782 likely midterm voters found that 49 percent of respondents were in favor of the government imposing stricter regulations on greenhouse gas emissions, and that 44 percent of respondents believed climate change is a result of human activity. The poll also found that 53 percent of respondents felt that it was very or somewhat important that Congress pass “legislation in the next year dealing with climate change.”

Spending by environmental groups in this year’s midterm elections has reached record levels: environmental groups are set to spend more than $85 million on races this year. That spending has been led by billionaire environmental activist Tom Steyer, whose super PAC, NextGen Climate Aciton, has spent $57 million. Steyer, a member of the Center for American Progress Action Fund’s board, has been trying to insert climate change into the discussion of many races in an attempt to get voters to care about the issue, an effort that, historically, hasn’t been easy. Americans, on average, care less about climate change than people in many other countries, and while 69 percent of Democrats say that candidates’ positions on the environment is “very important” in deciding their vote, only 36 percent of Republicans do.

According to a September poll from FiveThirtyEight, however, non-white voters might be more likely to vote with the environment in mind: the poll found that, in 2014, more than 40 percent of non-white Americans think climate change should be a “top priority” for Congress, compared to just a little over 20 percent of white Americans.

— Katie Valentine

10:04 am

Voting Irregularities Reported In North Carolina

Voting Irregularities Reported In North Carolina

MSNBC is reporting that some North Carolina polling places in predominantly African American neighborhoods were down on Tuesday morning. A polling place near Bennett College, a historical black college, didn’t have the correct voter rolls. Another location was missing thumb drives. Watch the MSNBC report:

Last week, voters noticed that some machines in Guilford County were switching votes for Sen. Kay Hagan (D) to her Republican challenger Thom Tillis. However, that problem seems to have been resolved. Guilford County Board of Elections told News & Record this morning, “We may have had a few small housekeeping things, but nothing major. Everything’s been going smoothly.”

— Igor Volsky

9:57 am

This Woman Just Cast Her First Vote In 30 Years

This Woman Just Cast Her First Vote In 30 Years

RICHMOND, VA — When Alecia Venable sat down in a Richmond coffee shop at 8:30am on Tuesday, she was beaming — she had just cast her first vote in over 30 years.

“It felt fantastic,” she said, wearing a small ‘I voted’ sticker on the lapel of her blazer. “I’ve finally had the privilege to vote for what I believe in.”

Venable, 51, lost her right to vote under a Virginia law that strips voting rights from convicted felons. After becoming addicted to crack and heroin in her teens, she was arrested for possession in 1999, serving scattered prison sentences until 2011.

Now almost 3 years clean, Venable was approved to vote in August, after Gov. Terry McAuliffe signed an executive order allowing individuals who commit non-violent felonies to have their voting rights restored when they get out of prison. Venable hopes that one day that law can be expanded to include all convicted felons.

“I feel like people who have paid their debt to society shouldn’t have to come out and still be punished for their crimes,” she said. “Their voting rights shod be restored so their voice can matter, so Virginia can stand as one.”

Emily Atkin

9:36 am

What This Election Could Mean For Your Reproductive Rights

What This Election Could Mean For Your Reproductive Rights

As Americans head to the polls on Tuesday, they’ll help determine the future of reproductive health policy in several key states, as well as potentially across the country.

Voters in three states — Tennessee, Colorado, and North Dakota — will have the opportunity to vote directly on abortion rights, since the issue is the subject of controversial ballot initiatives there. Depending who voters elect to their local legislatures, they’ll also help determine whether lawmakers continue to pass a record-breaking number of abortion restrictions on a state level. And if Republicans take control of the U.S. Senate, they’ll likely push through a national 20-week abortion ban, as well as reshape the political landscape of our federal courts — which are often women’s last hope after their lawmakers past stringent abortion laws that threaten to erode their access to the procedure.

Planned Parenthood has been working hard to make women’s health an election issue, but it’s unclear whether those efforts will pay off with pro-choice voters. More on ThinkProgress Health.

— Tara Culp-Ressler

9:33 am

Longtime Voter Removed From Voter Rolls In Ohio

Longtime Voter Removed From Voter Rolls In Ohio

Jamil Smith, a producer for MSNBC’s Melissa Harris-Perry show, reported on Twitter this morning that his father encountered a serious problem attempting to vote:

It’s unclear how Smith’s father’s name was removed from the voter rolls, but Ohio was one of several states that signed onto a voter purge scheme devised by Kansas Secretary of State Kris Kobach (R).

A list of individuals under consideration for purging was developed by simply finding people who share the same first and last name as a voter in another state. Those individuals would then be mailed a postcard, and if they didn’t reply — if they even correctly received it — they would be removed from the voter rolls. Assuming Jamil’s father shares the incredibly common last name Smith, it’s not unlikely that his registration was caught up in the list of 7 million voters to be purged.

Smith followed his first tweet with some additional thoughts about his father’s inexplicable struggle voting:

Zack Ford

9:17 am

Judge Tosses GOP Attempt To Monitor Colorado Mail-in Ballots

Judge Tosses GOP Attempt To Monitor Colorado Mail-in Ballots

GOLDEN, CO — An attempt by Republicans in Colorado to insert their poll watchers into the signature verification process on mailed-in ballots was quickly slapped aside by a Boulder County judge on Monday afternoon.

Boulder County Clerk Hillary Hall told a Denver television station that a lawsuit by the GOP claiming she was violating the law by denying party poll watchers the opportunity to review signatures on mailed-in ballots was “partisan politics” by “people who don’t like mail ballots trying to discredit them.” The suit was quickly dismissed by District Judge Patrick Butler.

Hall said that under state law, election judges are tasked with verifying signatures, not poll watchers. “If they [Colorado Republicans] want the right to verify signature, they should go ask the state legislature,” Hall told Fox31 Denver.

Colorado Republican Party chairman Ryan Call said in a statement that the party is “profoundly disappointed” by Butler’s decision and “continues to believe that Coloradans deserve to have our elections conducted in a lawful and fully transparent way.”

This is the first election in Colorado when all registered voters are to have received mail-in ballots, though a smaller than usual array of regular polling places are still available to voters who did not get their ballots or who want to register to vote on election day.

— Tom Kenworthy

8:53 am

A View From St. Louis's Election Protection Command Center

A View From St. Louis’s Election Protection Command Center

St. LOUIS, MO — On October 22, community activist and senior attorney for Advancement Project Voter Protection Denise Lieberman attended an annual meeting with the St. Louis Board of Elections, police officers, and the prosecuting attorney in St. Louis. There, she was informed by the sergeant of St. Louis police, Matt Pleviak, that the county is sending additional patrols to Ferguson, due to ongoing protests in the city.

Having successfully fought a voter ID law that would have required a state-issued photo ID, Lieberman feels that police presence at the polls can be perceived as another form of voter suppression.

Last night, she sent a letter of demands to St. Louis County, pointing out that intimidation tactics at the polls are illegal and have larger repercussions for voters of color.

“As you know, police may be at poll sites to undertake official police business, such as picking up mid-day ballots, or responding to a 911 call, but cannot simply be stationed at or linger at poll sites without further justification. Should an incident arise requiring police presence, they can be dispatched to the site just as with any other incident call,” the letter said.

Lieberman told ThinkProgress that while “organizers in Ferguson are planning an aggressive GOTV push.. police tension could undermine that.” She is currently supervising a group of volunteers with Election Protection, the largest nonpartisan voter monitoring organization in the nation, which was formed after the Bush v. Gore elections in 2000.

Lieberman’s group is particularly concerned with voters in Ferguson. A common myth is that felons or people with criminal records or warrants cannot vote. In Missouri, felons who completed their time and people with warrants or criminal backgrounds can still vote. But Lieberman points to an ArchCity Defenders report that found that the average household in Ferguson has 3.2 warrants, and a police presence could deter individuals from hitting the polls.

At an early morning training session for students from the University of Oklahoma this morning, Lieberman was enthusiastic about getting down to business this Election Day. “Election protection is about ensuring that all voters have the right to cast a ballot,” she told the volunteers. “If voters leave, it isn’t likely they’re going to come back.”

— Carimah Townes

8:39 am

GOP Could Become More Diverse After Election Day

GOP Could Become More Diverse After Election Day

The Daily Caller’s Matt Lewis points out that the GOP could look far more diverse after election night:

Elise Stefanik could become the youngest woman ever elected to Congress. My old friend Alex Mooney, whose mom immigrated from Cuba, could become the first Hispanic Congressman elected from West Virginia. Openly gay Republican candidates like California’s Carl DeMaio and Massachusetts’s Richard Tisei are running for House seats (I believe either would become the first openly gay non-incumbent Republican Congressman.) And Utah’s Mia Love could become the first black Republican woman and the first Haitian American member of Congress.

A CQ-Roll Call analysis found that the House “could add as many as 10 women, four minorities, and two openly gay candidates to the Republican ranks.” Currently, there are 19 Republican women in the House.

— Igor Volsky

8:10 am

Meet Chris, A Disenfranchised Voter Determined To Try Again In 2016

Meet Chris, A Disenfranchised Voter Determined To Try Again In 2016

MISSION, TX — In the small martial arts studio where he teaches karate until late in the evening, 33-year-old Texas native Chris Ponce told ThinkProgress how he was turned away from the polls last week even though he brought three separate documents with him.

He presented his expired drivers’ license, his voter registration card and his Social Security card, but was turned away. “It was embarrassing,” he said. “There was like, 15 people in the line behind me when the lady said, ‘I’m sorry, sir, you can’t vote.’ Never in my life has that happened. Even if my license has expired, it’s still a real ID that shows my picture. It’s not like I’m going to drive the voting booth down the road.”

Ponce says he’s been working multiple jobs and saving up money to get a new drivers’ license, which he can’t do until he pays off a couple outstanding speeding tickets he has from years ago that now cost more than a thousand dollars. He hopes he can settle this debt in time to vote for the next US president in 2016.

“I believe voting gives people the power to make a difference,” he said. “So it’s a shame the state has been putting its money into stopping people from voting rather than educating and helping them. I’m not going to be the only person that suffers from this situation, especially in my region since we’re low-economy down here.”

Alice Ollstein

8:43 pm

In Last Minute Decision, Alabama Says Voters Can't Use Public Housing ID At The Polls

In Last Minute Decision, Alabama Says Voters Can’t Use Public Housing ID At The Polls

Alabama, which is testing out its new voter ID law for the first time this year, will not accept public housing ID at the polls.

Bernard Simelton of the Alabama NAACP State Conference told ThinkProgress that he learned Friday that voters will not be able to use their public housing ID under the Attorney General’s interpretation of the new law. Simelton said he wasn’t sure why, but speculated that the restriction was because the town of Bayou La Batre’s housing authority is run by a private entity. “So it’s not a government-run program. The city owns the property, but a private company runs it,” he said.

Simelton said the NAACP would probably challenge the decision to reject public housing IDs because of the late notice.

Alabama’s voter ID law is believed to have disenfranchised at least 282 voters in the primary.

Alabama’s Secretary of State and Attorney General could not be reached for comment.

Aviva Shen

8:12 pm

Democratic House Candidate Dies In Car Accident

Democratic House Candidate Dies In Car Accident

Earl E. Everett, the Democratic challenger to Rep. Markwayne Mullin (R-OK), passed away Sunday night after a car accident on Friday, according to The Oklahoman.

Everett, 81, was a retired schoolteacher and Korean War veteran who lived in Fort Gibson.

Aviva Shen

6:56 pm

This Coastal District Is Already Dealing With The Consequences Of Climate Change

This Coastal District Is Already Dealing With The Consequences Of Climate Change

DELRAY BEACH, FL — State Senator Maria Sachs is running for re-election in Florida’s 34th District, which covers the far eastern parts of Palm Beach and Broward Counties. Sachs said voters in her district are concerned about climate change and how it directly impacts them.

“My district is all along the coastline and folks are concerned with the changing weather patterns and the rise in development and the availability of fresh water,” she told ThinkProgress. “We have to acknowledge it, prepare for it and fund it.”

Sachs said that some people in government won’t acknowledge weather changes, but voters in her district live with the consequences every day.

“Don’t politicize climate change,” she said. “It’s a big issue and we need to acknowledge it.”

Kira Lerner

6:33 pm

The Final Moral Monday Before The Election

The Final Moral Monday Before The Election

GREENSBORO, NC — On the eve of the midterm elections, several hundred people gathered outside the government complex here in Greensboro to rally voters and encourage turnout one last time.

“We need to vote because there are some politically uncivilized activities going on here in North Carolina,” said Reverend William Barber before digging into the record of U.S. senate candidate Thom Tillis, who has served as speaker in the State House since 2011. Barber is the leader of Moral Mondays, a movement started in protest of the slew of extreme laws, from voter suppression to gutting education funding, passed by the House under Tillis.

“It’s extreme to say ‘if I get elected, I want to deny people with pre-existing conditions’,” he said. “It’s extreme to say that raising the minimum wage is a dangerous idea.”

Adam Peck

6:25 pm

Texas Secretary Of State's Office Says They're 'Hearing Good Things' About Voter ID

Texas Secretary Of State’s Office Says They’re ‘Hearing Good Things’ About Voter ID

MCALLEN, TX — Despite many, many reports of problems with Texas’ voter ID law, Alicia Pierce, a spokesperson for the Secretary of State’s office, told ThinkProgress that she’s been “hearing good things” about the implementation of the law.

“People are showing up with the documents they need,” she said. “There was one gentleman who came to mobile ID station in Houston last week who did not have a copy of his birth certificate [needed to get the “free” ID], but we were able to call the right state agency and get him the information he needed.”

Pierce said that that man could have gotten a reduced-price birth certificate for $3, but since it could only be used for getting an ID, he opted to get a full-price “traditional” birth certificate for about $22.

Noting such costs, a federal judge struck down Texas’ voter ID law in early October, calling it a “poll tax.” The Supreme Court overruled her decision​.

Alice Ollstein

5:07 pm

Laying The Tracks For 2016

Laying The Tracks For 2016

FERGUSON, MO — Two volunteer canvassers, Christopher Woods, 33, and Marcellus Buckley, 22, are part of a three-day voting outreach campaign that started on Sunday here. They’ve targeted Ferguson and Dellwood, another municipality in St. Louis County. Woods and Buckley, are part of a team that’s going door to door, asking if people have transportation to get to the polls tomorrow. They’ve also passed out registration cards, but most of the people they’ve reached out to have already registered.

Both emphatically said that they’re emphasizing the 2016 election, not tomorrow’s. “That’s why we’re building relationships, and when we do come back, we’re welcomed into the neighborhood,” said Buckley. “Also specific to Ferguson, there’s talk of maybe trying to recall the mayor and the city council, so this is starting to lay the tracks for that.

“These are the buildings blocks for [future] elections,” said Woods. “We’re laying tracks, but now it’s more voter turnout; it’s not registration at this point.”

Neither Woods nor Buckley were enthusiastic about the two candidates running for St. Louis County Executive. Democratic Stenger’s campaign platform mentioned safe communities with the help of police officers, an issue close to the hearts of Ferguson residents. Woods doesn’t buy it. “Reform is such a dirty word, it doesn’t necessarily mean change. It could add something or take away something, but it doesn’t necessarily address all the main issues. But that’s just me, and I didn’t even hear what [Stenger] said.”

“That’s stupid,” Buckley added. “Police do patrols every day. They’ll just start patrolling us even more. We’re not all criminals. That’s what he thinks can help in his communities maybe — not ours.”

But beyond their skepticism, both say the people they’ve interacted with are enthusiastic about voting. They credit the movement for mobilizing people to go out to the polls. “Everybody is just tired. Everybody is ready to go vote.”

Tomorrow the two plan on phone-banking and canvassing on foot.

— Carimah Townes

4:36 pm

Texas Has Issued Seven Times More Auctioneers' Licenses Than Voter IDs

Texas Has Issued Seven Times More Auctioneers’ Licenses Than Voter IDs

Hours before Election Day, Texas has barely issued any of the free voter IDs that were intended to lessen the damage of the state’s new voter ID law. Out of the estimated 600,000 Texans who lack one of the forms of IDs required to vote Tuesday, only 371 were issued free IDs. The Texas Tribune points out that the state has issued seven times more auctioneers’ licenses than voter ID cards.

After the U.S. Supreme Court gutted the Voting Rights Act, Texas’ previously blocked voter ID law was allowed to take effect, potentially disenfranchising hundreds of thousands of Texans. The law presents a particularly tough burden for voters who are low-income, students, elderly, black, or Latino, who are much less likely to have an ID. But it casts such a wide net that even gubernatorial candidates Greg Abbott and Wendy Davis were considered potential fraudulent voters under the law because their voter registrations had minor variations from their driver’s licenses.

The law’s list of acceptable forms of IDs is also exceptionally strict. Student IDs, for example, are not permitted, but firearms licenses are. Obtaining the free ID has its own obstacles. About 400,000 eligible voters would need to drive three hours to get a photo ID from a Department of Public Safety office.

The Texas Tribune mapped out where these ID cards have been issued; the heavily Hispanic Hidalgo County led the state with 41 IDs. But no IDs were distributed in seventy-five percent of Texas counties.

UPDATE

The Texas Department of Public Safety told ThinkProgress that 407 ID certificates were issued as of Monday.

Share Update

Aviva Shen

4:07 pm

Wall Street's Record Donations To GOP Likely To Pay Off As Financial Deregulation

Wall Street’s Record Donations To GOP Likely To Pay Off As Financial Deregulation

This election cycle has broken several records on the campaign finance front. These have been the most expensive midterm elections in history, with a total spending of $4 billion. Wall Street alone has spent $78 million on campaign donations this year, the most the banking and financial sector has ever spent on midterms. The chief beneficiaries of this spike in spending have been Republicans, who have received 63 percent of Wall Street donations this election cycle — the largest share in history.

The investment is likely to pay off. If the GOP takes the Senate, Mitch McConnell (R-KY) will become the majority leader. The Senator has already made clear his intention to reverse some of legislative battles that Wall Street lost in the democratically-held Senate — namely the passage of the Wall Street Reform and Consumer Protection Bill, more commonly known as Dodd-Frank. The bill passed in the wake of the 2008 crisis set restrictions on risky speculative behavior (a portion of the bill known as the Volcker rule), and set up the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau (CFPB), which has already saved consumers billions of dollars by protecting them from predatory financial practices. Both of these elements of the bill have been criticized repeatedly by Republicans and indeed by the potential future majority leader.

McConnell and some of his colleagues, like Paul Ryan, have taken to calling Dodd-Frank “Obamacare for Wall Street” on the campaign trail. Such rhetoric seems to be setting the tone for an eventual stripping down of Dodd-Frank by the Republican-held senate. Republicans are likely to take aim specifically at the Volcker rule, which goes into effect in 2015, and at the CFPB. The House has already moved forward on legislation that limits the CFPB’s power and independence, but the Democratic Senate has refused to vote on them. Falling in line with the House in defanging the three-year-old agency is likely to be one of the GOP-held Senate’s top priorities.

Of course, President Obama would have veto power over any legislation that passes. But the administration could cave if the proposed reforms are attached to crucial legislation like the appropriations bill or a debt ceiling measure. In other words, there is a chance that many of the restrictions put on Wall Street after the financial meltdown — which many believed did not go far enough in the first place — are likely to dissolve in case the GOP wins big tomorrow night.

— Joaquim Moreirasalles

4:01 pm

Cynicism In Missouri

Cynicism In Missouri

Brianca Bulley

CREDIT: ThinkProgress / Carimah Townes

FERGUSON, MO — Brianca Bulley is a 19-year-old from the town next to Ferguson. She attends St. Louis Community College and goes out to protest in the evenings after doing her homework.

Asked if she plans to vote tomorrow, she said, “I’m registered to vote, but I don’t know who I’m going to vote for because I haven’t heard any good stuff they’re going to do. All I’ve heard is them talking about their opponents. ‘Oh, he’s not good, he’s not going to do this.’ But what are you going to do to help us? I haven’t heard anybody talk about what they’re going to do to help with the police system. With this situation, they should be putting bullets in our heads to get us to vote for them.”

When told that Democratic candidate for county executive Steve Stenger says on his website that he wants to “emphasize crime control through hot spot policing, random police patrols, and rapid response to citizen calls, she responded, “That’s going to get more black kids killed.”

— Carimah Townes

3:44 pm

More Than 21,000 Kansans Could Be Blocked From Voting On Election Day

More Than 21,000 Kansans Could Be Blocked From Voting On Election Day

Tens of thousands of Kansans who registered to vote may find themselves ineligible on Tuesday as a result of a new law that “requires people registering to vote for the first time to provide proof of citizenship, such as a birth certificate or passport,” the Wichita Eagle reported on Friday. As of Oct. 31, 21,473 registered voters had not sent in documentation showing that they are American citizens.

The measure was spearheaded by Secretary of State Kris Kobach, who has long championed legislation that has resulted in voter suppression.

His office argues that voters can easily prove their eligibility until today, Monday, the day before the election, by submitting proof in person, via mail, fax, or by scanning in documents and emailing them to their county election officer.

— Igor Volsky

3:10 pm

A Record Number Of Pastors Are Endorsing Candidates From Their Pulpits

A Record Number Of Pastors Are Endorsing Candidates From Their Pulpits

An unprecedented number of Christian pastors are openly endorsing candidates from their pulpits this year, with more than a thousand faith leaders defying federal law by telling their flocks who to vote for come election day.

Whereas just 33 people ministers mailed their sermons to the IRS in 2008, ADF reports that more than 1,800 pastors participated this year, with faith leaders in all 50 states and Puerto Rico endorsing candidates in front of their congregations from October 5th until Election Day on November 4th.

The phenomenon is a part of Pulpit Freedom Sunday, an effort organized by the conservative Christian group Alliance Defending Freedom (ADF). The organization encourages ministers to endorse political candidates during their worships services and then mail their sermons to the IRS. Under current law, organizations that are classified with a “501(c)(3)” non-profit tax-exempt status — which includes most churches — are allowed to voice opinions on political issues, but not endorse specific candidates.

The IRS has yet to clarify whether or not it plans to punish the ministers involved, even though it was sued in 2012 by the Freedom From Religion Foundation for its perceived inaction (the case was settled earlier this year with the understanding that the IRS would do something to address the issue).

— Jack Jenkins

3:04 pm

Florida Seniors Say They'll Support Medical Marijuana Legalization

Florida Seniors Say They’ll Support Medical Marijuana Legalization

BOCA RATON, FL — Voters across Florida tomorrow will vote whether to legalize medical marijuana. While the initiative is likely to drive younger Floridians to the polls, seniors in Palm Beach County also said they will vote for access to marijuana to treat serious pain.

Toni Rosenberg, president of the Palm Beach County Democratic Senior Caucus, told ThinkProgress she voted in favor of Amendment 2 when she cast her ballot early. Rosenberg hosted a phone banking event for Charlie Crist in her home on Monday where a group of senior citizens said they also support medical marijuana.

“That commercial with that girl that has seizures, it can just break your heart, and we need to move ahead and approve medical marijuana,” Delray Beach resident Bruce Levy said.

Rosenberg said she has spoken with a lot of seniors who are afraid that if the amendment passes, Florida residents will start growing marijuana plants in their homes.

“I think there’s a misunderstanding about how it’s going to be distributed,” she said.

Boca Raton resident Frances Madigan added that television ads against the initiative have portrayed images of Colorado, where marijuana is legalized. “We’ve been told time and time again that the marijuana will be regulated. It’s not going to go in any little shops,” she said.

“I think those who will vote against it are those who do not truly understand the difference between Colorado and what’s going to happen in Florida,” Madigan said.

Kira Lerner

2:40 pm

Meet A Grandmother Of 14 Who's Voting For Wendy Davis

Meet A Grandmother Of 14 Who’s Voting For Wendy Davis

EDINBURG, TX — Graciela Ramirez, a volunteer with Battleground Texas in the far-southern city of Edinburg, told ThinkProgress why many Latinos in her community are hoping Democratic candidate for governor Wendy Davis can eke out a victory tomorrow.

“She’s for a better salary for everybody and equal pay for women, which is important because we are often de-valued and paid less for the same work, which isn’t just,” she said.

Ramirez added that she has fourteen grandchildren who have all gone through the federal Headstart preschool program, which Republican candidate Greg Abbott has opposed expanding to all eligible four-year-olds in the state.

But most of all, Ramirez says she and her friends feel they can relate to Davis. “We feel like she’s a woman who will really represent us and fight for our rights. She’s lived like you and me, as a single mother, and a waitress, which I was too!”

Davis is currently trailing Attorney General Abbott in the governor’s race.

— Alice Ollstein

2:11 pm

No, A Student ID Doesn't Let You Vote In Texas

No, A Student ID Doesn’t Let You Vote In Texas

EDINBURG, TX — Mimosa Thomas is a freshman studying pre-med at the University of Texas Pan-American. She’s been helping register students on her campus to vote, personally canvassing every single dorm, and told ThinkProgress many are unaware they can’t vote using their student ID.

“They recognize that this an election that impacts them directly — their tuition rates, what jobs they can get after they graduate and if they’ll be paid fairly—and they’re excited and want to vote,” she said. “But the voter suppression has been terrible, a huge problem. A lot don’t have IDs, or aren’t aware of which IDs they can use, and a lot of people who registered are being told they aren’t registered, because [the county] been taking a long time to process them. They may have to vote on provisional ballots. It’s very frustrating.”

This has also been a major problem in Georgia.

— Alice Ollstein

1:32 pm

How The Florida Governor’s Race Could Unleash Solar Power In The Sunshine State

How The Florida Governor’s Race Could Unleash Solar Power In The Sunshine State

Florida’s gubernatorial election has the potential to be a game-changer for the state’s solar industry. The state ranks third in the nation for solar potential but 18th for total installed solar power capacity — a gap that, according to solar advocates, is largely due to the state’s regressive policies on renewable energy.

According to many activists, the distinction between Gov. Rick Scott and Democratic challenger Charlie Crist is stark: Crist supported solar in his previous term and has pledged to support it further if elected, while Scott has done little to encourage the solar industry in Florida during his years in office and has avoided taking a firm stance on it in the race. Read Climate Progress’ in-depth coverage on solar’s role in Florida’s governor’s race here.

Katie Valentine

1:24 pm

Charting Out The Future Of Elections

Charting Out The Future Of Elections

In a report published today, Center for American Progress President Neera Tanden and Center for American Progress Action Fund President Ted Strickland point out that Republicans’ attempt to appeal to more conservative voters in this non-presidential year may backfire in the long run:

In order to appeal to a more conservative electorate in 2014, Republicans have counted on the structural advantages in participation patterns for the midterm elections and doubled down on their far-right positions on immigration, climate change, voting restrictions, and women’s economic and health issues. While these positions may help drive the intensity of the traditional conservative base in the short term, many of the actions and messages risk alienating the rising American electorate of 2016 and beyond—Latinos, Millennials, African Americans, and single women. Republican successes in 2014 will be an albatross for 2016.

They include some helpful charts that back up this point:

latino voters

millenial voters

african american voters

unmarried women voters

— Annie-Rose Strasser

12:44 pm

Georgia Secretary Of State Tweets Photo Of 'Supporters' Who Were Actually Grilling Him On Voting Rights

Georgia Secretary Of State Tweets Photo Of ‘Supporters’ Who Were Actually Grilling Him On Voting Rights

Georgia Secretary of State Brian Kemp (R) is catching more heat from a voter advocacy group for tweeting a picture of him with two African American women smiling at a campaign event. The tweet said Kemp was addressing “an enthusiastic crowd of supporters” — but in fact, the women pictured were actually grilling Kemp on his office’s refusal to locate 40,000 missing voter registrations.

briankemp

A video of the encounter released by Georgia Women’s Action for New Directions (WAND) shows the two women asking Kemp about black women’s political power and the missing voter registration forms. A judge refused last week to force Kemp to process the registrations, which were mainly for first-time minority voters. “Don’t just take our picture. Take our advice,” the video says.

Watch it:

Aviva Shen

9:44 am

Outside Groups Pour Millions Into Competitive Races Just Days Before Election Day

Outside Groups Pour Millions Into Competitive Races Just Days Before Election Day

A slew of outside groups are pouring millions into competitive races across the country just days ahead of the 2014 election, spending at least $20 million a day last week, the New York Times estimates. “Total spending on Senate races reached $200 million in October alone, significantly more than in the same period before the 2010 midterms.”

Those dollars, unleashed by the Supreme Court’s decision in Citizens United, are particularly hard to track. The 2010 decision allowed groups to raise unlimited money without having to disclose its donors.

“It’s yet another way to hide money from the public,” Kathy Kiely, of Sunlight Foundation told the Times. “What’s particularly insidious is that these are the late contributions that can sometimes tip the balance in a close race.”

The Center for Responsive Politics predicts that the 2014 midterm elections will be the most expensive in history, costing close to $4 billion or, as CNN’s Chris Frates points out, “10 times more than the government has committed to fighting Ebola in West Africa and would be enough to build 100 treatment centers and run them for years.” CRP estimates that outside groups have spent $480 million so far, accounting for 13 percent of spending this cycle. The 2010 election cost $3.63 billion, but spending from outside groups accounted for just 8.5 percent.

— Igor Volsky

9:36 am

Meet The College Student Who's Running For State House To Combat Education Cuts

Meet The College Student Who’s Running For State House To Combat Education Cuts

GREENVILLE, NC — There are few candidates for statewide office who can speak as authoritatively about the impact that budget cuts have had on the state’s 2 million public school students as Uriah Ward.

That’s because there’s no other candidate who is currently a student at a public school.

“I was born in Greenville, it’s my last semester at East Carolina University,” said Ward, who took a break from his busy campaign schedule to meet at a Starbucks near campus. Ward is the Democratic nominee in North Carolina’s 9th house district.

“People bring up the issue of experience a lot,” said Ward, who is 22. “That may be true when it comes to age, but when it comes to actually living in the community, I’m not the inexperienced candidate.”

“I know what it’s like growing up through a system with constant cuts,” he said. “That’s the distinction we’ve been able to draw.”

The 9th district, which includes a large piece of Pitt County along with the ECU campus of nearly 27,000 students, leans slightly Republican, but polling suggests that Ward could unseat incumbent Brian Brown, who took office in 2010 and helped push through some of the nation’s largest cuts of public education spending.

“We’ve really tried to center this campaign around public education,” said Ward. “There would be no stronger rebuke of education cuts than to elect a college student.”

Adam Peck

8:59 am

'Democrats are doing GOTFV -- Get out the fraudulent vote'

‘Democrats are doing GOTFV — Get out the fraudulent vote’

While campaigning on behalf of Wisconsin Gov. Scott Walker (R) this weekend, Sen. Ron Johnson (R-WI) invoked the myth that voter fraud is a major problem in American elections.

In a speech to campaign staff, Johnson accused Democrats of intentionally turning out fraudulent voters, citing specifically Colorado’s new plan that makes it easier for people to vote:

Despite Johnson’s more reserved speech to the volunteers, he did also squeeze in a hit on Democrats.

“While we’re in the middle of our GOTV [Get Out The Vote] push, Democrats are doing GOTFV — Get out the fraudulent vote,” Johnson said. He went on to reference Colorado, whose plan to mail ballots to every voter has drawn concerns from some conservatives about possible voter fraud.

You’re more likely to get hit by lightning than to commit voter fraud. But still, “fraud” is the driving force behind policies like voter ID laws that make it harder to vote, and arguments against making voting easier.

Creating more barriers to voting not only solves a problem that doesn’t exist, it also creates an even bigger one: “fraud” prevention efforts like voter ID can lower voter turnout, and have a disproportionate impact on young voters of color.

— Annie-Rose Strasser

8:51 am

Senator Compares Jodi Ernst To Taylor Swift

Senator Compares Jodi Ernst To Taylor Swift

Retiring Sen. Tom Harkin (D-IA) awkwardly compared Jodi Ernst, the Republican candidate running for his senate seat, to Taylor Swift. “I don’t care if she’s as good looking as Taylor Swift or as nice as Mr. Rogers, but if she votes like Michele Bachmann, she’s wrong for the state of Iowa,” Harkin said.

Ernst told Fox News she was “very offended” by the comments, arguing that “if my name had been John Ernst attached to my resume, Sen. Harkin would not have said those things.”

“I am a woman and second I have been to war. I am a combat veteran, this is not a war on women and anytime Democrats use the word war, they need to do it to honor our servicemen and women,” she added. During a campaign swing on Monday, Ernst incorporated Swift’s song “Shake It Off” into her remarks on the stump: “He compared me to Taylor Swift, so I’m gonna shake it off.”

A recent Des Moines Register poll found Ernst running 7 points ahead of Democratic opponent Rep. Bruce Braley, though other polls have the two in a virtual dead heat.

— Igor Volsky

9:27 pm

'We are under attack again, our most sacred right'

‘We are under attack again, our most sacred right’

WINSTON-SALEM, NC — For the large crowd gathered here at Shiloh Baptist Church on Sunday night, this election couldn’t be more important.

“On Tuesday, we’re either going to move forward, or move backwards 50 years,” said Wayne Patterson, president of the local NAACP chapter.

Tonight’s event was part of the Moral March to the Polls Tour, a statewide effort by the North Carolina NAACP to both encourage participation in this week’s midterm election and ensure that voters know their rights on election day.

“You can suppress our vote all you want, we’ve been through this before,” said Linda Sutton, a local field organizer for Democracy North Carolina, an advocacy organization that seeks to boost voter participation. “We are under attack again, our most sacred right.”

— Adam Peck

5:59 pm

Education Leaders Press Miami Voters To Reject Overtesting, Elect A New Governor

Education Leaders Press Miami Voters To Reject Overtesting, Elect A New Governor

MIAMI, FL — National education leaders, including the presidents of the National Education Association and American Federation of Teachers, joined Miami community members in a Souls to the Polls rally on Sunday, urging voters to reject Governor Rick Scott’s focus on standardized testing.

“When you have a current governor who has shown us how to do it all wrong… until you’re basically distilling it to what will fit on a standardized test and you’re judging these whole children by a number on a cut score on a test and that’s all they get, especially if they’re the poorest kids in the community…” NEA President Lily Eskelsen García told ThinkProgress. “We gave it a chance. And it was a disaster for public education.”

AFT President Randi Weingarten also spoke at the “Our Vote, Our Victory” rally following the Souls to the Polls march organized by the A. Philip Randolph Institute. She told ThinkProgress that although most of the educators present are hoping for a new governor, the rally is really a nonpartisan get out the vote effort.

Among the rally participants were many members of the United Teachers of Dade, including kindergarten teacher Sharlee Peabody who told ThinkProgress the issues she cares most about are teacher raises, having enough materials for her students and making sure that teachers aren’t burnt out from overtesting.

“We’re under the gun right now,” Peabody said. “If one person stays in office, we’ll continue being attacked. But if Crist is elected, we’ll have a seat at the table.”

Sharlee Peabody

Sharlee Peabody

CREDIT: ThinkProgress/ Kira Lerner

– Kira Lerner

4:59 pm

Fergusons All Over

Fergusons All Over

Reverend Tommy Pierson

Reverend Tommy Pierson

CREDIT: ThinkProgress/ Carimah Townes

FERGUSON, MO — Reverend Tommy Pierson has been heavily involved in get-out-the-vote efforts here in Ferguson. He says, “If you love yourself, then I suggest you vote. It is crucial. That’s the key.”

He also says that, even as the election approaches, the death of Mike Brown and the subsequent protests that brought his town into national focus are never far from anyone’s mind.

“The mood has changed a bit” since the protests, Pierson said. “It’s more of a global issue now… it’s become bigger than Mike Brown. There are Fergusons all over, and they identify with what happened.”

Ferguson isn’t just gearing up for an election this week — residents are also preparing to discover in the coming weeks whether or not a Grand Jury will indict Officer Darren Wilson in the shooting of Brown. Schools and businesses are preparing for potential unrest based on what the jury decides.

— Carimah Townes

4:14 pm

In Colorado, Better Late Than Never?

In Colorado, Better Late Than Never?

GOLDEN, CO — This year is the first that every registered Colorado voter gets a ballot in the mail. Over the last week or so, Colorado Democrats have watched with mounting concern as mail-in ballots have piled up and shown a decided Republican advantage -– as of Sunday, ballots cast by GOP-registered voters outnumbered those mailed in by Democratic-registered voters by more than 100,000.

Now comes Eli Stokols, chief political reporter for Denver’s KDVR television station and one of the best in the state, with a word of caution for gleeful Republicans and a word of encouragement for mopey Democrats worried about the fate of incumbent governor John Hickenlooper and incumbent senator Mark Udall.

Wrote Stokols today: “As we’ve seen over several election cycles in Colorado, the early voter registration numbers can be deceiving; and the early Election Night returns often reflect few of the ballots cast over the final days of the race, offering little indication of how a race will end.”

Because of the new mail-in system, and the fact that this is the first year when residents can register to vote on Election Day and still cast ballots the old fashioned way, pretty much all predictions in this year’s critical –- and close –- elections have an element of speculation. But history can still be a guide.

Four years ago, Democratic U.S. Senate candidate Michael Bennet was six percentage points down in the party ratio of returned mail ballots the day before election day but went on to win a squeaker. That race showed, again, that Democrats tend to send in their mail ballots later than Republicans. “For whatever reason, Democratic voters tend to wait until the last minute to vote, whereas Republicans fill out their ballots and return them quickly,” Stokols wrote.

As of today, Republicans enjoy an 8 percentage point advantage –- 42-32 in those returned mail ballots, further raising GOP hopes that Cory Gardner will topple Udall.

But, wrote Stokols, that 8 percent gap is not insurmountable by the time all ballots are actually counted. “That eight percent Republican advantage is significant,” he wrote, “but politicos near and far would be wise to step outside of their emotions, beyond the prevailing media narrative and simply look at the numbers – and to remember that Democrats have a history of overcoming such margins with a surge of last-minute voters casting ballots on Election Day.”

— Tom Kenworthy

3:37 pm

How Beyoncé's Church Is Mobilizing The Most Vulnerable Voters In Texas

How Beyoncé’s Church Is Mobilizing The Most Vulnerable Voters In Texas

HOUSTON, TX — “Make sure you go out and vote!” thundered Pastor Simeon Queen to the hundreds of congregants lining the pews Sunday morning at St. John’s United Methodist Church.

A pillar in Texas’ faith community, this church is best known as the spot where Beyoncé Knowles first started singing and where she remains involved today.

Pastor Queen described how the church has been helping community members cast a ballot in this year’s midterm elections: providing vans to help people get to the polls last weekend and on Election Day, helping register about 500 homeless voters and 3,000 others this year alone, and setting up a system for homeless neighbors to use the church as their mailing address in order to get a voter ID or vote absentee if necessary.

Many of these initiatives have been funded by multimillion-dollar​ donations from Beyoncé and her family.

“They’ve been lifesavers, a very gracious family,” Queen told ThinkProgress. “It’s supported the core of our mission to serve others, especially those who have been disenfranchised.”

— Alice Ollstein

2:39 pm

Singing For Your Vote

Singing For Your Vote

MIAMI, FL — Voters here in Miami gathered for a ‘Souls to the Polls’ rally on Sunday, two days ahead of Election Day. ‘Souls to the Polls’ is a non-partisan effort to turn out African-American voters all over the United States:

Miami has been a contentious place for voting issues in years past. In 2012, South Florida voters faced long lines and tremendous wait times. The conditions were so bad that one report estimated they discouraged more than 200,000 people from voting.

– Kira Lerner

1:23 pm

A Voting Church

A Voting Church

RALEIGH, NC — “This is a voting church,” declared Alfredia Collins during Sunday morning services at First Baptist Church here in Raleigh.

Early voting ended yesterday, but Tuesday’s election was very much on everyone’s mind at this predominantly black church, a congregation whose roots stretch back over 200 years to its founding as a place of worship for slaves and free men alike.

“No matter what happens on Tuesday, know that God will always be there,” said pastor Dumas Alexander Harshaw Jr. during his sermon.

After, worshippers expressed their concern about access to the voting booth.

“[Church groups] have done a good job of getting people to early vote, but there are still a lot of people who will show up on Tuesday and be told ‘no’ because of these new laws,” said Clarita Perkins, who added that she has been telling everyone she meets to vote early.

-Adam Peck