6:47 PM - October 23, 2020
6:47 PM - October 23, 2020

Rapper Common was in Philly Friday because he wants you to vote

Lonnie Rashid Lynn, better known as Common, a rapper, performs outside Philadelphia City Hall on Friday.
ALEJANDRO A. ALVAREZ / Staff Photographer
Lonnie Rashid Lynn, better known as Common, a rapper, performs outside Philadelphia City Hall on Friday.

Friday afternoon, on a stage that was set up on the northeast corner of Philadelphia’s City Hall, the rapper and actor Common recited poetry, performed a handful of songs, and underscored the importance of voting in the upcoming presidential election to a socially distanced crowd of nearly 300.

“Today we’re getting to perform for people who’ve been working [to] register to vote and the volunteers,” Common said in an interview before the performance. “We get to give them some joy and some support and let them know how much we value them and care about them.”

The event was designed to encourage people to vote, and vote early. It was organized by several local organizations and volunteers, including Vote to Live, the Collective Pack, the Urban League of Philadelphia, and the Philadelphia branch of the NAACP. City Hall is one of 17 early-voting locations in the city.

After Philly, Common is scheduled to visit Jacksonville, Fla., Miami, and Atlanta with the same mission.

Common said the performance on Friday was his first in a while. "It feels good to go on stage. ... I’m actually doing music from my new project that I have called A Beautiful Revolution Part 1.

Brandon T. Harden

5:51 PM - October 23, 2020
5:51 PM - October 23, 2020

More than 1.4 million Pa. voters have returned mail ballots

More than 1.4 million Pennsylvania voters have returned mail ballots to county election offices as of Friday.

More than 2.9 million mail ballots have been printed and mailed to voters throughout the state, according to data released by the Pennsylvania Department of State. More than 366,000 of those have been mailed to voters in the last week.

Of the more than 1.4 million ballots that have already been returned, about 128,000 of them were marked as returned on Thursday.

Democrats have requested mail ballots in larger numbers than Republicans. As of Friday, 63% of mail ballot requests were from Democrats, while 25% were from Republicans and 11% were from unaffiliated voters or members of other parties.

Pennsylvania officials have urged voters to request and return their mail ballots as soon as possible, but mail ballot applications continue to come in ahead of Tuesday’s deadline to request them. More than 40,000 applications were requested, processed, and approved on Thursday, and nearly 217,000 were approved in the last week.

Laura McCrystal

5:26 PM - October 23, 2020
5:26 PM - October 23, 2020

Pa. elections chief applauds court ruling on mail ballots, GOP leader criticizes it

Pennsylvania’s chief elections official applauded the state Supreme Court’s decision Friday to prohibit counties from throwing out mail ballots based on perceived mismatches between the signatures on the ballots and voter signatures on file.

“We are very pleased that the Pennsylvania Supreme Court has ruled again in favor of voters having access to a free and fair election,” Secretary of state Kathy Boockvar said in a statement Friday afternoon.

Boockvar had requested the court take up the question of signature matching and reject the idea of signature analysis as a reason for not counting ballots.

“This ruling provides clarity for the counties as they prepare to canvass millions of mail ballots and ensures that voters in every county will be afforded the same treatment,” she said, “and that no voter will be unfairly disenfranchised due to signature variations over time.”

But Pennsylvania Senate Majority Leader Jake Corman (R., Centre) said the decision damaged the integrity of the election.

“Secretary Boockvar’s work to undermine the security features embedded in our Election Code is ongoing,” he said.

Voter fraud is extremely rare by any method, including by mail, and it is far more common that a legitimate voter’s ballot is rejected for not meeting all the requirements than it is an illegitimate vote is cast and counted. Still, Republicans have been concerned that the rapid expansion of mail voting in Pennsylvania could lead to openings for fraud.

The court’s ruling sets up differing standards for votes cast by mail and in person, Corman said, saying “mail-in voting is officially a free-for-all.”

And while the court said in its opinion that the legislature could have explicitly included signature matching in the law if it meant to do so, Corman said that was the intent: “Never did we contemplate that Secretary Boockvar would interpret the statute in a way which would result in signatures required on the mail-in ballots being meaningless.”

Attorney General Josh Shapiro, a Democrat, said Friday afternoon that the ruling was a victory for voters and noted that voters' identity is confirmed, often through drivers license numbers, when they apply for mail ballots.

Jonathan Lai

3:12 PM - October 23, 2020
3:12 PM - October 23, 2020

Pro-Trump super PAC makes closing argument against Biden in Pennsylvania

A super PAC backing President Donald Trump’s reelection campaign is making its closing argument against Joe Biden in Pennsylvania by attacking his economic proposals and decades-long career in politics.

America First Action said Friday it would spend $10 million through Election Day on a new round of anti-Biden television commercials in Pennsylvania, North Carolina, Florida, Georgia, and Wisconsin. Some of the ads are running nationally as well.

To date, America First says it has spent $42 million in Pennsylvania. “America was built with hard work and big dreams,” the narrator says in a commercial airing in most markets across the state. “But for decades, Joe Biden sold us out to China.”

Biden’s campaign and his allies have been outspending the Trump campaign and pro-Trump groups for months in the Keystone State. And Pro-Biden groups have reserved $24 million in airtime between Friday and Election Day, compared to $13.5 million booked by pro-Trump groups, according to the ad-tracking firm Advertising Analytics.

An ad funded by the Democratic group Future Forward portrays Trump as an “erratic” leader who refuses to “rely on experts.”

Andrew Seidman

1:31 PM - October 23, 2020
1:31 PM - October 23, 2020

Mail ballots cannot be rejected over signature matching, Pa. Supreme Court rules

Mail ballots cannot be rejected based on a comparison of their signatures to the voters' signatures on file, the Pennsylvania Supreme Court said Friday.

“[C]ounty boards of elections are prohibited from rejecting absentee or mail-in ballots based on signature comparison conducted by county election officials or employees, or as the result of third-party challenges based on signature analysis and comparisons,” Justice Debra Todd wrote Friday.

Signature issues are one of the most common reasons for mail ballots being rejected nationally, and the League of Women Voters of Pennsylvania and Urban League of Greater Pittsburgh had sued the state over counties' use of signature matching, saying it created an unfair patchwork of policies.

That suit was dropped after the Pennsylvania Department of State, which oversees elections, issued statewide guidance to counties that ballots should be counted if they have signatures, without any analysis or comparison.

The Trump campaign challenged that in federal court and lost.

Boockvar then asked the state high court to take up the question.

Pennsylvania Attorney General Josh Shapiro, a Democrat, called the ruling “another win for voters,” and said a voter’s identity is validated when mail ballot applications are processed — usually by using a drivers license number.

“Pennsylvania’s voter identification system is safe and secure," Shapiro said. "We are protecting every eligible vote and ensuring each is counted. Make your plan to vote and we will keep doing our work to make sure your voice is heard.”

Jonathan Lai, Laura McCrystal

12:50 PM - October 23, 2020
12:50 PM - October 23, 2020

Philadelphia to increase police staffing for Election Day

Philadelphia is preparing for the potential of civil disturbances on and after Election Day and attempts to disrupt the voting process by increasing police staffing across the city for the Nov. 3 election, having prosecutors embed with police commanders to shorten response times, and working closely with federal law enforcement agencies, according to Mayor Jim Kenney’s office.

“Nothing is more important to the Mayor and the City Commissioners than Philadelphia running a fair and accurate election according to the laws of this Commonwealth,” Kenney spokesperson Deana Gamble said. “The City will ensure enhanced security measures and trained staff are in place throughout the entire election operation.”

Kenney’s office declined to provide specifics on the plans, citing security reasons, but said Philadelphians should be confident they will be able to vote without intimidation or interference.

The city’s increased police staffing plan, however, doesn’t mean that polling places will be blanketed by cops. Pennsylvania state law prohibits police officers from coming within 100 feet of a voting location unless they are called in to respond to a specific incident.

Democrats have said President Donald Trump’s baseless claims that the election will be marred by widespread voter fraud and his encouraging supporters to monitor polling places regardless of whether they are certified as poll watchers, could result in voter intimidation and confrontations.

On Friday, the Philadelphia Republican Party sent an email soliciting donations from supporters to fund its “Election Day Operations."

”It’s up to all of us to keep our elections fair, secure, and take home the WIN for President Trump and the entire Republican ticket," the email said.

Because a record number of voters are using mail ballots, which take longer to count than ballots cast on in-person voting machines, it could take days for Philadelphia officials to tally the city’s results and for a winner to be declared in Pennsylvania, raising fears of attempts to disrupt the counting process.

Consequently, the city’s security preparations go beyond Election Day, Gamble said, to include “deployments to enhance the protection of infrastructure that is critical to the election and post-election tabulation of ballots.”

Sean Collins Walsh

12:33 PM - October 23, 2020
12:33 PM - October 23, 2020

Rapper Common visits Philly to promote early voting

Lonnie Rashid Lynn, better known as Common, a rapper, performs outside Philadelphia City Hall on Friday.
ALEJANDRO A. ALVAREZ / Staff Photographer
Lonnie Rashid Lynn, better known as Common, a rapper, performs outside Philadelphia City Hall on Friday.

The Grammy award-winning rapper is in Philadelphia to raise voter awareness about early voting. The Chicago native will perform public, hour-long set at the northeast corner of city hall at 12:30 p.m.

The event is being organized by Vote to Live, Collective Pack, the Urban League of Philadelphia, and Project 68. After Philly, Common will also perform in Jacksonville, Fla., Atlanta, Miami, and other cities.

“Today we get into perform for people who’ve been working to register people to vote,” Common said. “It’s an incredible experience for us because we want to give them some joy and support and let them know we value them.”

Brandon T. Harden

12:01 PM - October 23, 2020
12:01 PM - October 23, 2020

Court upholds ruling that Philly satellite election offices aren’t polling places

The Pennsylvania Commonwealth Court on Friday agreed that President Donald Trump’s campaign can’t station poll watchers inside satellite election offices in Philadelphia.

A three-judge panel upheld a ruling two weeks ago from Philadelphia Common Pleas Judge Gary S. Glazer that the offices are not polling places, according to the state’s Election Code.

Voters can request and drop off mail ballots at the 17 offices in different parts of the city. Poll watchers, selected by candidates or political parties, observe in-person voting at polling places on Election Day.

Trump’s campaign sued the city three weeks ago after staffers it sent to monitor the first offices as they opened were turned away by the City Commissioners, who run elections in Philadelphia.

Trump and his campaign have repeatedly used unsubstantiated claims and concerns about voter fraud in the courts to try to undermine public confidence in the 2020 election. He declared during the first presidential debate on Sept. 29 that “bad things happen in Philadelphia” during voting.

— Chris Brennan

11:50 AM - October 23, 2020
11:50 AM - October 23, 2020

‘Very disappointed’ Pa. elections head says there’s still time for a deal to count ballots before Election Day

A worker organizes mail ballots in Chester County. Pennsylvania counties have been flooded with mail ballot requests, and the days-long process of counting them can’t begin until Election Day under current state law.
Margo Reed / Philadelphia Inquirer
A worker organizes mail ballots in Chester County. Pennsylvania counties have been flooded with mail ballot requests, and the days-long process of counting them can’t begin until Election Day under current state law.

Some counties would still benefit from a legislative deal to allow them to count mail ballots before Election Day, Pennsylvania secretary of state Kathy Boockvar said Friday, but the collapse of negotiations this week means such a deal could come too late for others.

“The closer it is, the more you lose the ability for some counties who have already committed their teams to doing the myriad of other things they need to do in those days before,” Boockvar told reporters during a virtual call.

Pennsylvania is facing a pandemic-fueled flood of mail ballots this election, the first time any voter can vote by mail without providing a reason. Counting those ballots will take days, and state law doesn’t allow that process to begin until the morning of Election Day — potentially leaving some races too close to call on the night of Nov. 3. Counties have advocated for the law to be changed to allow them to begin opening those ballots earlier, shifting the timeline and reducing the election night challenge.

But the Republican-controlled legislature met Wednesday for its last scheduled session day before Election Day without reaching an agreement with Gov. Tom Wolf, a Democrat.

Spokespeople for Wolf and Republicans have left the door open for a last-minute deal. There’s no drop-dead deadline, Boockvar said, because some counties would be able to quickly respond and process ballots before Election Day — but every day that goes by reduces their ability to do so.

“Every county would do everything they possibly could to take advantage of any additional days they get, no matter when they happen,” she said. “But obviously this would have been a key week to get this done, and we’re very disappointed.”

—Jonathan Lai and Cynthia Fernandez

11:33 AM - October 23, 2020
11:33 AM - October 23, 2020

Biden leads Trump in new Pa. polls as concern about foreign election interference fade

Pennsylvania voters are less worried about foreign interference or malfunctioning voting machines, and more concerned about voter fraud or suppression, according to a new Muhlenberg College/Morning Call poll released Friday.

The survey found former Vice President Joe Biden holding a 7-point lead over President Donald Trump among likely voters, 51% to 44%. That’s closely in line with the results of other recent polls, and continues a positive trend for Biden in the Muhlenberg’s polling: He had a 4-point lead in August and was tied with Trump in February.

Just 8% said foreign interference was the biggest threat to Pennsylvania having a safe, secure, and accurate election, down from 17% in February. Another 3% said malfunctioning voting machines are a concern, down from 22% in February.

Voter fraud, an issue that is getting daily amplification from Trump and his campaign, is cited as the biggest threat by 40% of those surveyed, up from 25% in February. Academic studies over the course of years have repeatedly found no evidence of any significant voter fraud. Voter suppression is a concern for 34%, up from 21% in February. The poll of 416 likely voters was conducted between Oct. 13 an Oct. 20, with a margin of error of plus or minus 5.5 percentage points.

A Fox News poll on Wednesday found Biden with a 5-point lead among likely voters, 50% to 45% over Trump. A Morning Consult poll Thursday showed Biden ahead by 9 points, 52% to 43%.

An average of Pennsylvania polls compiled by the website FiveThirtyEight gives Biden a 6.2% lead over Trump as of Friday. The RealClearPolitics average gives Biden a 5.1% edge.

— Chris Brennan

11:20 AM - October 23, 2020
11:20 AM - October 23, 2020

Pennsylvania campaign events this weekend: Joe and Jill Biden, Bernie Sanders, Nikki Haley

Joe Biden and Jill Biden will visit Bucks and Luzerne Counties on Saturday.
Demetrius Freeman
Joe Biden and Jill Biden will visit Bucks and Luzerne Counties on Saturday.

The second-to-last weekend before Election Day will be a busy one in Pennsylvania. Mike Pence is at a rally in Allegheny County on Friday. Here’s a look at confirmed campaign events ahead:

Joe Biden and Jill Biden will visit Bucks and Luzerne Counties on Saturday.

The couple has thus far largely stumped separately but will make the Saturday swing together. Jill Biden grew up a county over from Bucks in Montgomery (Willow Grove) and Joe Biden grew up a county over from Luzerne in Lackawanna’s Scranton.

Biden’s visit to Bucks lands him in the county where Republicans have hung onto more support than elsewhere in the Philadelphia suburbs. President Donald Trump lost to Hillary Clinton in Bucks County by less than one percentage point.

Luzerne County, which Biden also plans to visit Saturday, is also a key swing area. President Barack Obama won the county in 2012 but it shifted to supporting Trump in 2016.

Bernie Sanders will headline two events for Biden in Pittsburgh.

First he’ll attend a GOTV event with members of the union SEIU and campaign volunteers. In the afternoon, he’ll host a drive-in rally with Lt. Gov. John Fetterman and State Reps. Sara Innamorato and Summer Lee. Innamorato and Lee both backed Sanders in the primary.

Nikki Haley, former governor of South Carolina, will spend two days in the state stumping for Trump, first with an Indian Voices for Trump fireside chat in Norristown on Saturday and then an event in Reading. On Sunday she will host a campaign event at Brandywine Manor in West Brandywine Township in Chester County.

Eric Trump will host an event for his father on Saturday at the Kalahari Resorts in Pocono Manor.

— Julia Terruso

10:25 AM - October 23, 2020
10:25 AM - October 23, 2020

How to make sure your vote still counts if you think you submitted a ‘naked ballot’

A Pennsylvania mail ballot for the 2020 general election.
ALEJANDRO A. ALVAREZ / Staff Photographer
A Pennsylvania mail ballot for the 2020 general election.

Worried you submitted a “naked ballot” in Pennsylvania? You can still make sure your vote is counted.

Voters who turned in mail ballots that they fear could be rejected because they made a mistake — such as not using the inner secrecy envelope — can go to the polls on Election Day and use a provisional ballot that would ultimately be counted, the Pennsylvania Department of State said this week.

“If the voter believes that he/she has not returned or cast the ballot successfully or otherwise contests his/her ballot status, the poll worker shall provide the voter a provisional ballot,” the department, which oversees elections, said in new guidance to local officials issued Wednesday.

That provides a solution for voters who may inadvertently turn in a naked or otherwise flawed ballot and realize it before Nov. 3.

Pennsylvania uses a two-envelope system for its mail ballots, with voters placing their ballot inside an anonymous secrecy envelope that then goes inside a mailing envelope. The Pennsylvania Supreme Court ruled last month that counties must reject “naked ballots” missing the inner secrecy envelope. Elections officials warned that more than 100,000 ballots could be rejected under that decision, prompting major voter education campaigns.

— Jonathan Lai

10:00 AM - October 23, 2020
10:00 AM - October 23, 2020

Biden the target of an assassination attempt, feds say

Democratic presidential nominee and former Vice President Joe Biden waves as he leaves the Hotel Dupont on September 16, 2020 in Wilmington, Delaware.
Drew Angerer / MCT
Democratic presidential nominee and former Vice President Joe Biden waves as he leaves the Hotel Dupont on September 16, 2020 in Wilmington, Delaware.

As it was becoming clear in March that Joe Biden would be the Democratic presidential nominee, Alexander Hillel Treisman started to map out his plot to assassinate the former vice president, federal authorities say.

“Should I kill Joe Biden?” Treisman wrote in a caption to a meme he posted in April.

It didn’t appear to be an idle threat, the feds say.

The 19-year-old searched online for Biden’s home address and for night-vision goggles, and purchased an AR-15 in New Hampshire, according to federal court documents first reported Thursday by WBTV. At one point in May, Treisman ended up at a Wendy’s within four miles of Biden’s home in Delaware. And when he was arrested later that month in North Carolina, police searching his van found four rifles, a 9mm handgun, explosive materials, books on bomb making, and $509,000 in cash.

Those revelations all come in an order that a federal magistrate judge filed earlier this month outlining why Treisman, who was indicted by a federal grand jury in September on child pornography charges, should remain in custody.

News of the alleged plot against Biden is the latest violent threat against the former vice president to be broken up by authorities. A 42-year-old Maryland man was charged Wednesday for allegedly writing a letter in which he threatened to kill Biden and Sen. Kamala Harris(D., Calif).

— Washington Post

8:40 AM - October 23, 2020
8:40 AM - October 23, 2020

Debate fact check: Fracking, again

During Thursday’s debate, President Donald Trump and former Vice President Joe Biden once again went at it over fracking — a controversial drilling technique that has lifted the economy in Western Pennsylvania.

In the past, Trump has falsely claimed Biden would ban fracking. But Thursday night, it was Biden who was being misleading, claiming “I have never said I opposed fracking.”

It comes down to what you think of the word “oppose.” While Biden has repeatedly pledged not to abolish fracking and would limit a ban to new permits on federal land, the former vice president has reiterated the need to transition away from all fossil fuels.

“Biden did make anti-fracking comments during the Democratic primary in 2019 and 2020,” said CNN fact checker Daniel Dale following the debate. “Biden is not actually proposing a complete fracking ban, but it’s just false for Biden to say that he never said he opposed fracking.”

In July, Biden released a $2 trillion plan to tackle climate change that he said would set the United States on “an irreversible path” to net-zero emissions by 2050. To achieve that goal, Biden wants to create a pollution-free power sector by 2035 and increase energy efficiency by upgrading four million buildings and weatherizing two million homes.

Biden has ruled out banning fracking or other fossil fuels, saying his approach would phase-out those industries in favor of renewable sources of energy that don’t contribute to climate change.

“I do rule out banning fracking because we need other industries to transition to only net-zero emissions,” Biden said during the debate. “What I will do with fracking over time is make sure we can capture the emissions from fracking, capture the emissions from gas.”

— Rob Tornoe

7:30 AM - October 23, 2020
7:30 AM - October 23, 2020

Philly native Kristen Welker draws widespread praise for controlling debate

Moderator Kristen Welker of NBC News listens as President Donald Trump and Democratic presidential candidate former Vice President Joe Biden participate in the final presidential debate.
JIM BOURG / AP
Moderator Kristen Welker of NBC News listens as President Donald Trump and Democratic presidential candidate former Vice President Joe Biden participate in the final presidential debate.

While President Donald Trump and former Vice President Joe Biden were both credited for holding a substantive debate Thursday night, most of the praise is going to moderator Kristen Welker.

Welker, 44, a Philadelphia native and a White House corespondent for NBC News, managed to keep control of the proceedings without preventing the candidates from going at one another. She certainly benefited from Trump’s gentler tone, and having the candidates muted at times helped. But the seasoned D.C. reporter knew when to cut off the candidates and keep them on message, enabling their answers — and not their bickering — to come forward.

Not surprisingly, her performance won near universal praise from both sides of the aisle. Even Trump, who baselessly attacked her as biased leading up to the event, praised her performance during the debate.

“Terrific job by tonight’s moderator, Kristen Welker. A consummate professional and excellent journalist,” Philadelphia Mayor Jim Kenney wrote on Twitter. “Proud to say she’s from Philly.”

“Kudos to Kristen and the way it was structured, the tremendous amount of work that went into it and the command that she asserted,” said NBC News chief foreign affairs correspondent and Penn graduate Andrea Mitchell. “She actually got them to debate with each other. You heard an incredible contrast in policies.”

“I would’ve liked to have been able to moderate that debate and get a real exchange of views instead of hundreds of interruptions," said Fox News anchor Chris Wallace, who moderated the first debate between Trump and Biden.

— Rob Tornoe

7:15 AM - October 23, 2020
7:15 AM - October 23, 2020

Joe Biden’s Pennsylvania campaign swings are all about swing voters

Democratic presidential candidate former Vice President Joe Biden speaks aboard his train as it travels to Pittsburgh, Wednesday, Sept. 30, 2020.
Andrew Harnik / AP
Democratic presidential candidate former Vice President Joe Biden speaks aboard his train as it travels to Pittsburgh, Wednesday, Sept. 30, 2020.

Joe Biden is coming back to Pennsylvania Saturday for a visit that continues a clear focus for the former vice president: winning back swing voters.

Biden and his wife Jill will campaign in Bucks and Luzerne Counties, both places that represent tough fights for Democrats. Those stops follow recent Biden trips to Erie, Cambria, and Westmoreland Counties — all areas that have Democratic roots but broke from the party in 2016 or earlier to support Republicans.

Luzerne was the epicenter for that kind of switch last election: It produced a 32,200 vote swing from Barack Obama in 2012 to Donald Trump in 2016, the largest such shift in Pennsylvania.

Biden is clearly trying to win back many of those often white, working class voters in places that not long ago supported Obama.

Bucks is a slightly different story but a similar theme: It’s a battleground. Hillary Clinton narrowly won the county in 2016, but it was by far the closest contest of all the Philadelphia suburbs. Trump retains a base of support there. So in going to Bucks, Biden is again trying to reach beyond the Democratic base.

It’s the opposite of Trump’s strategy, which has focused relentlessly on winning the same kind of voters in the same areas that he did in 2016, only by bigger margins. His rallies have focused on places he won last time, like Erie and Cambria Counties, with the same themes that won him a loyal base — but left him struggling to expand his support.

Biden, of course, also needs Democratic base voters, and he has deployed his most powerful surrogates for that. Obama held his first in-person rally of the campaign at Lincoln Financial Field in Philadelphia Wednesday and Sen. Kamala Harris, the Democratic nominee for vice president, campaigned in the city in September and has featured heavily in television ads aimed at the Philadelphia market.

Biden, meanwhile, continues pursuing the white, working class areas his party lost last election. He may not win a majority from that group, but if he can cut into the president’s advantage, it could make the difference in a state decided by just 44,000 votes in 2016.

Jonathan Tamari

7:10 AM - October 23, 2020
7:10 AM - October 23, 2020

Sweatpants, Eagles masks and lots of yellow ballots: A day in the life of a New Jersey drop box

Ed and Joyce Knorr vote Oct. 20, 2020, sliding their mail-in ballots into the Gloucester County Board of Elections drop box at the Monroe Municipal Building in Williamstown. A look at a single mail-in ballot drop box.
TOM GRALISH / Staff Photographer
Ed and Joyce Knorr vote Oct. 20, 2020, sliding their mail-in ballots into the Gloucester County Board of Elections drop box at the Monroe Municipal Building in Williamstown. A look at a single mail-in ballot drop box.

By early morning, three police officers already had visited the ballot drop box sitting on Virginia Avenue outside the Monroe Township Municipal Building, but they were there only to deposit their own New Jersey ballots.

“I’m undercover,” confided one, swinging by the box in an unmarked car with his yellow ballot envelope, explaining why he couldn’t give his name. He was bleary from an overnight job.

Joining them in the first few misty hours of daylight at the Gloucester County box were these voters: the assistant principal of Overbrook High, a supervisor for a juice company, a teacher on her way to Cherry Hill, a married pair of environmental cleanup specialists, a hairstylist, and Christina Toney, a bookkeeper, who said: “I just hope it’s safe. I hope we’re OK. Stressful times.”

It was a brilliantly all-encompassing and deliberate slice of American life played out over the course of a day at one ballot box in small-town New Jersey, during what feels like a monthlong festival of voting in a state where as of Thursday, more than 2.1 million people had voted by mail, about 54% of 2016′s total turnout.

— Amy S. Rosenberg

6:45 AM - October 23, 2020
6:45 AM - October 23, 2020

To bring ‘joy to the polls,’ national group launching roving concert program in Philly Saturday

Planning to cast your mail-in ballot this weekend and anticipating a line? It might not be so bad.

As part of a mission to support voters waiting in line, the Election Defenders — a group of volunteers organized by a coalition of progressive organizations — is launching a nationwide “Joy To The Polls” effort in Philadelphia on Saturday. The group is partnering with local artists and traveling around to early voting locations in the city to provide musical entertainment to voters.

This weekend, the effort will bring the live music to the city’s satellite election offices, which opened over the past several weeks and allow voters to request and cast a mail-in ballot in one location. And they’ll be back on Election Day, partnering with artists across the country to take their roving concert national on Nov. 3.

— Anna Orso

6:30 AM - October 23, 2020
6:30 AM - October 23, 2020

Friday morning roundup