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Wake Up To Politics - August 10, 2020

It’s Monday, August 10, 2020. Election Day is 85 days away. Have questions, comments, or tips? Email me.

Election security becomes leading campaign issue

Presidential elections are generally fought over a consistent battlefield of policy issues, from health care to immigration to foreign policy. But in 2020, the election itself has become an issue at the forefront of the presidential campaign, as President Donald Trump and Democratic rival Joe Biden raise alarm bells over the safety of the voting process.

Their concerns, of course, stem from wildly different problems, as Trump warns about mail-in voting and Biden about foreign election interference. Here’s what you need to know:

Mail-in voting: As the coroanvirus pandemic continues to rage, more Americans than ever are expected to vote by mail in 2020. The projected increase in mail-in voting has led Trump to predict the 2020 vote will be “the most corrupt election in the history of our country,” citing a litany of false claims about the process.

Contrary to the president’s rhetoric in press conferences and on Twitter, mail-in voting is not a new phenomenon: about 24% of votes in the 2016 election were cast by mail, according to the Election Assistance Commission. It is also generally safe: “As with all forms of voter fraud, documented instances of fraud related to [voting by mail, or VBM] are rare,” the MIT Election Lab concluded.

However, “even many scholars who argue that fraud is generally rare agree that fraud with VBM voting seems to be more frequent than with in-person voting,” due to the increased “opportunities for coercion and voter impersonation” and the potential of “ballots being intercepted and ballots being requested without the voter’s permission.” (A database maintained by the conservative Heritage Foundation has unearthed 1,290 instances of voter fraud in recent decades, just 204 of them connected to absentee ballots, a miniscule percentage of the hundreds of millions of votes case in the same time period.)

But the use of mail-in voting throughout the 2020 primaries has also triggered concerns beyond the method’s safety. In the New York primaries, for example, some races took more than a month for the results to be certified, as legal battles ensued over which absentee ballots to count. Those experiences have led to worries about a nightmare scenario in November: a long delay in tabulating results that leads to turmoil in the nation’s leadership.

According to the New York Times, both campaigns are rapidly hiring lawyers to prepare for such a scenario, alarmed at the prospect of Election Day turning into Election Week(s). As a preview, conflicts are already playing out related to mail-in voting rules: according to the Times, the Trump campaign and Republican National Committee have filed about 40 lawsuits “trying to shape the rules of the election.” Democrats, meanwhile, are warning about oversight of the Postal Service, as a top Trump allies overhauls the agency’s leadership amid concerns that slow mail delivery could impact Americans attempting to cast ballots absentee.

Election interference:  “Ahead of the 2020 U.S. elections, foreign states will continue to use covert and overt influence measures in their attempts to sway U.S. voters’ preferences and perspectives, shift U.S. policies, increase discord in the United States, and undermine the American people’s confidence in our democratic process,” National Counterintelligence and Security Center Director William Evanina declared in an intelligence assessment released Friday.

The intelligence community concluded that Russia was attempting to “denigrate former Vice President Biden,” while China would prefer that “President Trump – whom Beijing sees as unpredictable – does not win reelection.”

According to the Washington Post, though, China’s efforts are “largely rhetorical and aimed at shaping policy,” while Russia is “actively engaged in efforts that are reminiscent of the Kremlin’s attempts to influence the outcome of the 2016 election.” The two threats, House Speaker Nancy Pelosi said on CNN, are “not equivalent.”

Some lawmakers have also suggested that the interference efforts they have been briefed on go even further than are publicly known. “The information that I heard in this classified setting, where we’re sworn to secrecy, is absolutely chilling, startling and shocking,” Sen. Richard Blumnethal (D-CT) told MSNBC.

A dispute has broken out between the two parties over how much to divulge to the public, as Republicans accuse Democrats of politiczing intelligence and Democrats seek to prevent a repeat of “the Obama administration’s soft-pedaled approach to Russian election interference in 2016,” according to Politico.

Intelligence officials “need to tell the American people more,” Pelosi said. “The American people, I believe, they should decide who the president of the United States is. Not Vladimir Putin making that decision for us.”

The Rundown

The United States surpassed 5 million coronavirus cases on Sunday. “The total number of confirmed cases throughout the world is nearly 20 million, meaning the U.S. accounts for roughly 25% of all cases worldwide despite only having around 4% of the global population,” according to CBS News. “More than 162,000 people in the U.S. have died of complications due to COVID-19.”

President Trump signed four executive actions Friday to provide economic relief amid the pandemic, as congressional negotiations reached no consensus. “The three memorandums and one executive order call for extending some enhanced unemployment benefits, taking steps to stop evictions, continuing the suspension of student loan repayments and deferring payroll taxes,” according to NPR.

“Trump promised that funds would be ‘rapidly distributed’ to Americans in need, although it remains unclear whether the president has the authority to do certain steps unilaterally, without congressional approval. In any case, legal challenges are expected, which could delay any disbursement of funds.”

Former Vice President Joe Biden is expected to name his running mate in the coming days, before the Democratic National Convention opens next week. Biden has promised to pick a woman for the post, and he has faced pressure to name a Black woman: speculation has centered around California Sen. Kamala Harris, former national security adviser Susan Rice, and California Rep. Karen Bass.

However, other possibilities remain: according to the Associated Press, Biden met with Michigan Gov. Gretchen Whitmer last week, suggesting that he is meeting one-on-one with an unusually long list of contenders. Student journalist Prayag Gordy contributes this graphic to help you keep track of the women in the running to be Biden’s No. 2:


All times Eastern.

President Donald Trump will have lunch with Vice President Mike Pence at 12:30 p.m. and receive his intelligence briefing at 2 p.m.

Vice President Mike Pence will have lunch with the president at 12:3o p.m. and lead a video teleconference with governors on COVID-19 response and recovery at 3 p.m.

White House press secretary Kayleigh McEnany will hold a press briefing at 1 p.m.

The Senate will convene at 3 p.m. No roll call votes are expected.

The House is not in session.

The Supreme Court is on summer recess.

Democratic presidential candidate Joe Biden will attend a virtual fundraiser.

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