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While some veep contenders confirm they’re being vetted, others make subtler moves

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WASHINGTON — The selection process — and competition — for the vice presidential slot on the ticket with apparent Democratic nominee Joe Biden intensified this week with several contenders confirming that they’re being vetted for the job. Though some potential picks were forthcoming about their ambitions, others made subtler moves hinting at possible interest in the job or further cooperation with the Biden camp.

In the past week alone, NBC News and other outlets have reported that the Biden campaign has asked Sen. Amy Klobuchar of Minnesota, both New Hampshire Sens. Maggie Hassan and Jeanne Shaheen, and Florida Rep. Val Demings to provide the team with information required for the veep review process.

Sen. Amy Klobuchar, D-Minn., greets supporters at her caucus night campaign rally in Des Moines, Iowa, on Feb. 3, 2020.Nati Harnik / AP

Shaheen and Demings left little to the imaginative race when Shaheen announced she declined Biden’s offer to be vetted, while Demings claimed to be on the “shortlist.”

Other rumored picks for the job haven’t been as outspoken about their running mate ambitions, if existent. Here’s a roundup of the past week’s veepstakes developments that went under the radar.

Harris: California Senator and Biden’s former primary opponent Kamala Harris has long been floated as a possible VP pick, performing well in polling and proving to be a popular choice for the former vice president. Though Harris is set to headline an upcoming Biden fundraiser and has repeatedly voiced her support for the apparent Democratic nominee, she hasn’t publicly clamored for the job.

Tuesday however, the Biden campaign hired Julie Chávez Rodríguez — who once served as Harris’ 2020 co-national political director — as an adviser for Latino outreach. Notably, Rodríguez will continue serving as a Harris consultant while simultaneously working with Biden’s team. The hiring shouldn’t be read into too much but could signal further cooperation between the Harris and Biden camps. 

Warren: Massachusetts Sen. Elizabeth Warren has expressed in the past that she’d agree to be on the ticket with Biden if asked and this week, she raised eyebrows by appearing to shift away from her position on Medicare for All — a primary policy focus of her 2020 campaign — and closer towards Biden’s health care plan. 

Democratic presidential candidate Senator Elizabeth Warren eats lunch at Tacos El Gordo in Las Vegas, Nevada on Feb. 21, 2020.David Ryder / Reuters

“I think right now people want to see improvements in our health care system, and that means strengthening the Affordable Care Act,” she said at a virtual University of Chicago Institute of Politics event.

Warren added that she hopes the United States will have a single payer health care system in the future, but the move could be viewed as an attempt to adopt a more moderate health care policy that builds on the Affordable Care Act instead of overhauling it, a position Biden backs and that Warren has previously criticized for not being ambitious enough.

Duckworth: Democratic Senator Dick Durbin said one week ago that his fellow Illinois colleague in the Senate, Tammy Duckworth, will interview for the vice presidential slot soon, the Chicago Tribune reported. 

“I support Tammy Duckworth. She’s spectacular, a great colleague and I hope that she fares well in this interview, which I think is going to take place soon,” Durbin said.

Duckworth, while a less high-profile contender compared to Warren and Harris, brings a unique perspective to the table as an Asian-American woman and Iraq War veteran who lost both legs after her Black Hawk helicopter was shot down. Duckworth hasn’t answered questions about whether she’d accept the veep offer directly but Durbin’s statement about the veteran could be considered meaningful given that he’s a longtime ally of Biden’s. In 2016, he publicly honored the former vice president before he left office.

Check out the NBC News political unit’s coverage of the veepstakes here.

Most Americans favor mail-in voting, here’s how states are adapting

Sixty-three percent of registered voters favor mail-in voting for the November election due to the coronavirus pandemic, according to a new Fox News poll. While President Trump has argued that mail-in voting would lead to fraudulent ballots, several states already allow all mail-in ballot elections, and even more states have loosened absentee voting rules due to the pandemic.

Here’s the breakdown on how to vote by mail in each state:

Mail-in voting allowed 

Before the coronavirus pandemic, 34 states, plus Washington D.C., already allowed mail-in voting or no-excuse absentee voting. In states like ColoradoHawaiiOregon and Washington every registered voter is automatically sent a mail-in ballot to fill out if they don’t want to head to the polls. 

Additionally, in Arizona and New Jersey, registered voters can select to be placed on a permanent mail-in voting list so they are sent a ballot for all future elections. 

In the other 16 states, registered voters need to provide an excuse, such as illness or temporarily living out of state, in order to qualify for an absentee ballot. Each state also has its own deadlines on how long before an election an absentee ballot must be requested. In a state like Georgia, which has no-excuse absentee voting, a voter must request their ballot 180 days before the election. 

A poll worker sorts vote-by-mail ballots in Renton, Wash., on March 10, 2020.Jason Redmond / AFP – Getty Images file

Pandemic changes 

Several states have changed their absentee ballots rules for rescheduled primaries and/or the general election in November. In the 16 states that require excuses, Indiana, Kentucky, Louisiana, Massachusetts, New York, South Carolina, Virginia and West Virginia lifted restrictions on what qualifies a voter for an absentee ballot for either the rescheduled primaries in June and July or for statewide elections in the same time period. 

And in Georgia, while there’s never an excuse needed, all registered voters were sent a mail-in ballot application for the state’s May 19 primary. Similarly in Maryland and Delaware, all voters will receive a ballot for their new primaries. 

In New Hampshire, restrictions have been lifted for the November election as well. 

That leaves 7 states — Arkansas, Alabama, Texas, Tennessee, Connecticut, Mississippi, Missouri — that have not made any changes to their absentee voting rules during the pandemic. 

Ongoing fights for mail-in voting

While some states have yet to go forward with updating their absentee voting rules, there are many ongoing efforts to open up voting possibilities. In Texas, a federal judge ruled that all registered voters should qualify for a mail-in ballot during the pandemic — the state Attorney General is reviewing the order. 

The Connecticut Secretary of State said they would send every registered voter an absentee ballot, however the state law has not been modified to allow those ballots to be counted if the voter doesn’t have an excuse (like illness, age or temporary relocation) listed. 

New Biden digital ad compares Trump to a ‘deer in the headlights’ on coronavirus

Joe Biden’s presidential campaign Friday launched a new digital ad charging that President Donald Trump has reacted to the coronavirus pandemic like a “deer in the headlights” and has been “too scared to act, too panicked to tell the truth, too weak to lead.”

The one-minute ad, targeted to voters living in key battleground states, blasts Trump’s reaction to the pandemic since its onset, charging that the president was “unprepared, indecisive, frozen” in place and “paralyzed by fear” to act against the Chinese government and risk ongoing trade deal negotiations.

“Panicked at the thought of what a stock market collapse could mean to his re-election, he failed to act and the virus got out of control and shut down the nation and crushed the economy,” the narrator says as images of frontline workers and Americans in masks waiting to get tested flash on the screen.

The ad will play across key battleground states including Arizona, Michigan, North Carolina, Pennsylvania and Wisconsin on Facebook, Instagram and YouTube.

This is the third consecutive digital ad in which the Biden campaign has honed in on Trump’s handling of the coronavirus pandemic, a message senior campaign aides announced last week is one of the defining pillars of their general election strategy.  

The campaign has not run television advertisements since the March 17th primaries, pivoting its investments towards online spending in an effort to catch people on their laptops and phones while they stay-at-home.  

In an effort to unlock the best way to immediately draw in viewers and keep them interested enough to watch the entirety of an ad, the campaign employed a new advertising technique called “micro-teasing” foe this new ad that they adopted from the entertainment industry.

The first five seconds are devoted to hooking in the viewer by previewing their core argument and contrasting the look of those first moments to the rest of the ad. “When the coronavirus came, Trump froze like a deer in the headlights,” a narrator says as the ad opens.

The campaign says it will continue to test different advertising strategies like this one in an effort to improve its video completion rates as it tries to find lasting ways to engage with supporters in the digital campaign era. 

Conservative group launches new ads calling to ‘reopen America now’

WASHINGTON — FreedomWorks, the conservative think tank based in Washington D.C., is running a new digital ad campaign aimed atginning up public support to “liberate” states and “reopen society.” 

The group started running four different ads on Hulu Wednesday as part of a $50,000 digital ad buy targeting Republicans and independents across the country while also focusing on D.C. 

The ads are all similar. They largely begin by arguing that the mortality rates for COVID-19 infection are significantly lower for those under the age of 65 and without pre-existing conditions, before issuing a call to action for the young and healthy to push for a reopening. 

“This disease is horrible, and it is our American duty to take care of the vulnerable. If you are healthy, it’s time to demand we get back to work to support our families and communities,” the woman speaking to camera in one ad says.

“Let’s be brave and we’ll get through this together. Start making a difference by telling your governor to liberate your state and reopen society,” she adds, directing viewers to text a message of support for reopening. 

The spot comes as the political pressure on reopening is ramping up — President Trump has repeatedly called on Democratic governors to “liberate” their states, and there have been a handful of protests in states calling for governors to relax coronavirus-related restrictions amid record unemployment numbers.

Recent polling from Gallup shows that social-distancing has decreased as states begin to move toward relaxing some restrictions.

But that even so, 73 percent of adults say it’s better for healthy adults to stay home “as much as possible to avoid contracting or spreading the coronavirus,” compared to the 27 percent who say it’s better to “lead their normal lives as much as possible and avoid interruptions to work and business.”

Jeanne Shaheen takes herself out of veepstakes

WASHINGTON — Sen. Jeanne Shaheen, D-N.H., declined a request from Joe Biden’s presidential campaign to be vetted as a potential running mate, a source with direct knowledge told NBC News. She cited her “commitment to New Hampshire” as she runs for her third Senate term this year.

It’s the latest indication that Biden’s vetting work is well underway. Michigan Gov. Gretchen Whitmer was the first possible candidate to publicly disclose this week that she has been in touch with Biden’s team. During a “Today” interview she said, “it was just an opening conversation.” Biden has said he expects the vetting process to take five to eight weeks, which would point to an announcement occurring no sooner than July.

“They’re now in the process of thoroughly examining a group of women, all of whom are capable in my view of being president. And there’s about a dozen of them,” Biden said during a virtual fundraiser last week. “We’re keeping the names quiet because if anyone isn’t chosen I don’t want anybody to think it’s because there was something that was a — some liability that existed.” 

Sen. Jeanne Shaheen,D-N.H., during a hearing on Capitol Hill on May 7, 2020.Kevin Dietsch / Pool via Reuters

The Biden team’s interest in Shaheen was first reported by WMUR political reporter John DiStaso, who has also reported that Maggie Hassan, the state’s other Democratic senator, has agreed to be vetted by the Biden campaign, something NBC News has not confirmed.

NBC News learned that there were multiple conversations between Shaheen and Biden representatives over the last two weeks — specifically with Los Angeles Mayor Eric Garcetti and former Connecticut Sen. Chris Dodd, who are part of the Biden vetting operation

While Shaheen, who also served three terms as New Hampshire’s governor, hasn’t been listed as a top possibility, Biden mentioned her multiple times as one of women he might consider. At a campaign event in Iowa last November, Biden cited “the two senators from New Hampshire” as possibilities.

However, there are key factors as to why Shaheen may have declined the opportunity: At 73-years-old, she does not offer an obvious generational balance to the ticket and she’s ideologically more moderate. Additionally, if Shaheen were to be Biden’s running mate, and Biden were to win in November, the Republican New Hampshire Gov. Chris Sununu would appoint her replacement. This could hurt Democrats’ chances at winning back the Senate. 

Shaheen and Biden have known each other for decades. Shaheen’s husband endorsed Biden before the New Hampshire primary and was an active local surrogate for him. Shaheen endorsed Biden in April once he became the apparent Democratic nominee. 

Even though Shaheen will not be campaigning for Biden as a potential vice president, Biden will likely Biden depend on the strength of Shaheen’s formidable and time-tested political operation in New Hampshire. His campaign said last week that as they continue to build up their state-by-state operations, they would be seeking to supplement the work of strong Senate candidates rather than set up their own operations from scratch. 

Marianna Sotomayor contributed. 

A pandemic campaign is a lean campaign, and other campaign finance takeaways

WASHINGTON — Wednesday marked another monthly campaign finance deadline, where presidential campaigns and many committees filed their latest fundraising report through April.

Here are a few takeaways from the Political Unit. 

A pandemic campaign is a lean campaign

There are real concerns among political strategists that the massive job losses and belt-tightening caused by the pandemic may leave campaigns strapped for cash. 

But one benefit — the lack of a real campaign schedule is allowing former Vice President Joe Biden and President Trump to stockpile cash away ahead of the fall. 

Biden’s campaign raised $43.7 million and spent just $12.9 million, a healthy burn rate that allowed its cash-on-hand to swell from $26.4 million in March to $57.1 million at the end of April. 

And the Trump campaign raised $16.9 million and spent $7.7 million, closing April with $107.7 million (Team Trump is also supported by a handful of other authorized groups as well). 

Those numbers show Biden’s fundraising kicking into a steady gear as he knocked out his Democratic presidential rivals (he raised $46.7 million in March). And they show how the pandemic is allowing both sides to build up their resources. 

Joe Biden delivers remarks about the coronavirus outbreak, at the Hotel Du Pont March 12, 2020 in Wilmington, Del.Drew Angerer / Getty Images

Loeffler’s husband cuts big check for pro-Trump group

It’s been a busy few months in the news for Georgia Republican Sen. Kelly Loeffler. 

She’s been dogged by criticism of stock sales around the coronavirus pandemic. She’s argued her portfolio is handled by outside advisers, and a spokeswoman revealed last week that she had turned over information to the Justice Department about those sales. 

All the while, she’s running in a competitive Senate primary where her opponent, Rep. Doug Collins, has repeatedly highlighted the controversy. 

On Wednesday, FEC reports showed that Loeffler’s husband, Jeffrey Sprecher (the chairman of both the New York Stock Exchange and the Intercontinental Exchange), donated $1 million to the pro-Trump super PAC America First on April 29.

That was the second-largest individual check to the group (New Hampshire businessman Timothy Mellon gave $10 million). 

The battle for Congress

New reports from the House and Senate campaign committees provide a temperature check on the race for both bodies come November. 

Republicans have the slight cash edge on the Senate side — the National Republican Senatorial Committee raised $11.5 million in April and has $37.8 million banked away. The Democratic Senatorial Campaign Committee raised $9 million and has $28.8 million in the bank. 

On the House side, both groups virtually tied in fundraising, but it’s the Democrats with the big advantage in the bank. 

The National Republican Congressional Committee raised just over $11.4 million, with the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee coming in just under that amount. 

But the Democrats have $82.5 million banked away, while the Republican group has $52.3 million cash on hand.

Sanders still has a nice chunk of change

He may no longer be actively seeking the Democratic presidential nomination (even though his campaign has argued he’s still seeking delegates), but Vermont Independent Sen. Bernie Sanders still has a lot of money banked away from his presidential bid. 

Sanders’ April report shows he closed the month with almost $8.8 million in cash on hand, and that’s after spending more than $1 million refunding donations to supporters. 

He, and other presidential candidates can do a lot with leftover campaign cash, including — keep it for a future presidential election; refund more money to donors; spend it to wind down the campaign; donate to a charity that doesn’t directly benefit him; contribute (within limits) to other campaigns/committees; make an unlimited transfer to local, state or the national party; or transfer the money to his Senate account.  

Man who helped thwart train attack in 2015 poised to win GOP nomination in Oregon House district

WASHINGTON — Alek Skarlatos, the former National Guardsman who famously stopped a gunman on a Paris-bound train in 2015, appears to have won the GOP’s nomination for Oregon’s 4th Congressional District, setting him up for a clash against an 18-term Democrat. 

Skarlatos racked up a huge lead in Tuesday night’s primary, winning almost 87 percent of the primary vote with almost 77,000 mail-in ballots counted, according to the Oregon Secretary of State’s office. 

While more mail-in ballots are likely to be counted, Skarlatos’ sizable lead prompted groups like the National Republican Congressional Committee to refer to him as the winner. 

Skarlatos, who served a nine-month tour in Afghanistan for the Army National Guard, was one of three Americans who rushed a gunman on a train from Amsterdam to Paris, ultimately subduing the gunman before anyone was killed. After the attack, Skarlatos received the Soldier’s Medal, one of the Army’s highest honors, as well as a major award from the French government

He later played himself in the Clint Eastwood movie “The 15:17 to Paris,” which portrayed the train episode, appeared on ABC’s “Dancing with the Stars” and lost a close commissioner race in Douglas County, Ore. in 2018 before launching his congressional bid. 

If his lead holds, Skarlatos will face off against Rep. Pete DeFazio, the longtime Democratic congressman who chairs the House Transportation Committee.

DeFazio has regularly cruised to victory over the years, but in 2016, Democratic presidential nominee Hillary Clinton beat President Donald Trump in the district by just 0.1 percentage points, according to the Cook Political Report’s analysis. 

Senate Democrats still looking for answers on agency cooperation with probes

WASHINGTON — Sen. Chris Murphy, D-Conn., is asking the heads of four government agencies if President Donald Trump is “weaponizing” federal agencies by forcing them to cooperate with investigations into Trump’s 2020 rival, former Vice President Joe Biden and his son Hunter. 

In a letter to the heads of the Departments of State, Homeland Security, Treasury and the National Archives, obtained by NBC News, Murphy asks if they are “applying different standards” to congressional requests for documents and information, suggesting that the agencies are cooperating with Republican investigations while stonewalling probes into the president. 

“I am troubled that President Trump may be weaponizing the executive branch in advance of the 2020 elections by directing agencies to comply with congressional investigations designed to hurt his political opponents,” Murphy wrote, “while stonewalling legitimate oversight investigations into the actions of his own administration.”  

Sen. Chris Murphy, D-Conn., conducts a meeting before the Senate Policy luncheons in the Capitol on April 30, 2019.Tom Williams / CQ Roll Call via AP file

The letter is Murphy’s second attempt to receive the information. The senator wrote to the inspectors general of the four agencies in March, asking them the same questions. Three IGs — from State, Treasury, National Archives — told Murphy that his request was not in their purview but that agencies should reply to his request. 

Treasury Inspector General Joseph Cuffari wrote that the Treasury “can provide the factual information underlying your concern” and then-State Department Inspector General Steve Linick wrote that the State Department “may have relevant information” related to his request. 

Trump fired the State Department IG, Steve Linick last Friday at the urging of Secretary of State Mike Pompeo. 

Democrats have pointed to the refusal of the executive branch to comply with congressional requests under President Trump, particularly during the impeachment process last year. 

In contrast, the State Department has handed over thousands of pages of documents to Republican Senators Chuck Grassley of Iowa and Ron Johnson of Wisconsin, chairman of committees investigating Hunter Biden’s work on the board of Ukrainian energy company Burisma Holdings. The National Archives has promised to hand over thousands more documents.  

Johnson’s committee, the Homeland Security Committee, is expected to take a significant step in its investigation Wednesday and hold a vote to subpoena Blue Star Strategies, a Democratic consulting firm who worked with Burisma when Hunter sat on the company’s board. 

In a separate Republican-led investigation into the “unmasking” by Obama administration officials of Michael Flynn during the Trump transition, Sens. Grassley, Johnson and Lindsey Graham of South Carolina released an email of Obama’s former national security aide Susan Rice declassified by the Acting Director of National Intelligence Director Richard Grenell at their request.

Attack ads and bear hugs of Trump dominate airwaves in Tuesday’s contested Oregon House GOP primary

WASHINGTON — While the coronavirus pandemic has upended elections across the country, it’s business as usual in Tuesday’s Oregon primary — that’s because the state has voted entirely by mail since 2000. 

The most competitive federal election Tuesday is the GOP primary for the state’s 2nd Congressional District, where a crowded croup of Republicans are looking to replace the retiring Rep. Greg Walden. 

It’s been busy on the airwaves in the sprawling district that covers most of Eastern Oregon, with $1.7 million spent on television and radio through Tuesday, according to Advertising Analytics. 

Two candidates have spent significantly more than the rest of the field — Knute Buehler (the GOP’s 2018 nominee for governor) and Jimmy Crumpacker (an energy investor).

And those ads have gotten fierce — Buehler calls Crumpacker “a fraud with a trust fund” in one ad and a “Portland pretender” in another, hits fellow primary candidates Cliff Bentz (a former state lawmaker) and Jason Atkinson (a former state senator) as “Portland-loving liberals” in a third ad, and Bentz a “tax-and-waste politician” in a fourth.

Besides trying to rhyme his last name with “Trump-backer,” Crumpacker has gone on offense too. He calls Buehler, Atkinson and Betnz as allies of “Never Trumpers” in one spot and  Buehler a “career politician” who campaigns on “liberal lies” in a second. 

Bentz’s ads play him up as a “conservative Republican” who helped to “lead” one of the walkouts of Oregon Republican lawmakers aimed at frustrating legislative efforts on gun control and vaccines. 

And Atkinson’s ad strategy has largely centered on framing him as against abortion and someone who is more down-to-earth than a typical politician. 

A handful of outside groups have jumped into the race too, lobbing bombs and promoting the top candidates. 

So now all that’s left is deciding who will be the GOP’s nominee, who will have the inside track for the Republican-leaning seat. 

Federal appeals court orders New York to hold Democratic presidential primary

A federal appeals court ordered Tuesday that New York’s presidential primary be reinstated, and that the names former presidential candidates Andrew Yang and Bernie Sanders be among those allowed on the presidential primary ballot. 

The new order is the latest, and possibly final, development in a months-long fight between members of the New York State Board of Elections and a handful of former presidential candidates like Yang and Sanders over whether a candidate who has suspended their campaign should be allowed to remain on a ballot and thereby eligible to collect delegates to the Democratic National Convention. 

The New York State Board of Elections confirmed to NBC News they do not plan to appeal this morning’s decision, setting the stage for the presidential primary to return to ballots for the state’s June 23 primary. 

Last month, the board removed Vermont Independent Sen. Bernie Sanders from the ballot, pointing to his decision to drop out of the presidential race and a recent law that gave the board the power to remove candidates from the ballot after they dropped out.

That move effectively canceled the state’s Democratic presidential primary. 

But Sanders’ lawyers had argued against removing him, arguing that he was still fighting for convention delegates to have influence at the convention despite having ended his quest for the nomination. 

Yang brought a lawsuit against the board over the decision, and the Sanders camp hired a lawyer and penned a friend-of-the-court brief supporting the challenge. 

A federal circuit court judge disagreed with the board’s decision, ruling on May 5 that the primary proceed with the candidates who were on the ballot as of April 26. This includes Sanders, Yang, Michael Bennet, Michael Bloomberg, Pete Buttigieg, Tulsi Gabbard, Amy Klobuchar, Deval Patrick, Tom Steyer, Elizabeth Warren and Joe Biden.

And on Tuesday, the 2nd District Court of Appeals, the federal appeals court that covers New York, upheld the lower court’s decision. 

In a tweet responding to the decision, “America’s Promise,” a super PAC formed by former senior Sanders advisors after his campaign ended, wrote “Democracy prevails.”

Democratic super PAC Priorities USA says it’s on track to spend more than $200 million in 2020

WASHINGTON — Priorities USA, one of the chief outside groups working to boost Democrats’ hopes for recapturing the White House this November, says it is on pace to exceed its $200 million budget for the 2020 cycle — and is putting that cash to use with a new set of ads blasting President Trump for his handling of the COVID-19 pandemic.

The super PAC said Tuesday it has obtained commitments for more than $25 million since April on top of the $126 million it already raised for November, with the pace of fundraising picking up in May. Priorities says it is already outspending the Trump campaign online and on air in targeted battlegrounds, and will look to expand its role to “go toe-to-toe with the Trump disinformation machine.”

Presidential candidate and former Vice President Joe Biden speaks about responses to the COVID-19 coronavirus pandemic at an event in Wilmington, Delaware, March 12, 2020.Carlos Barria / Reuters

“Donald Trump and his allies have started advertising in battleground states and it’s imperative that Priorities gives Joe Biden the air cover he needs as he builds his general election campaign,” Guy Cecil, Chairman of Priorities USA, said in a statement to NBC News. “This election is going to be very close and this early period will be key to a Biden victory.”

While another pro-Biden super PAC, Unite The Country, has turned toward positive advertising promoting Biden’s middle class message, Priorities’ newest ad continues its focus on countering the president, accusing him of “failing America.”

“With over 90,000 Americans dead, Donald Trump continues to downplay the threat, ignoring experts who warn of a larger second wave with more death and devastation to our economy,” one of two new ads says, featuring Trump recently saying the coronavirus would “go away without a vaccine.”

That spot will air in Wisconsin, Michigan and Pennsylvania on broadcast and cable television, part of the previously announced $65 million reservation through Election Day. 



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Trump rants about fraud. But here’s the secret to keeping voting by mail secure.

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President Donald Trump insists there’s “NO WAY” an election with increased mail-in voting will be legitimate.

But both Democratic and Republican officials overseeing that process say he’s dead wrong and in interviews with NBC News they outlined the steps they take — most importantly, signature verification — to ensure the integrity of the system, which is coming into more widespread use because of the coronavirus.

Washington Secretary of State Kim Wyman, a Republican, oversees the elections in one of the nation’s leading vote-by-mail states.

“I think it’s good when the public questions any form of a voting system, but people should have confidence in it because election administrators are always trying to build in security measures that balance out that access,” she said.

Like other states, Washington requires that voters sign their absentee ballot and that the signature matches the one on file with a voter’s registration. If the signatures don’t match, the voter will be contacted and alerted to the discrepancy.

Election officials receive annual training from the Washington state police on the best practices for signature verification and how to spot differences. The ballots, Wyman said, go through multiple levels of verification — meaning three or more checks from “our more experienced signature verifiers.”

Fraud have been almost nonexistent. She pointed to the 2018 election, where her office detected about 140 instances of fraudulent voting out of roughly 3.2 million ballots cast.

“Is it perfect? No,” Wyman said. “Is that rampant fraud? No, it’s not.”

The subject has garnered increased attention as Trump has repeatedly attacked states for seeking to increase mail-in voting amid the COVID-19 pandemic. His claims of voter fraud are not backed by the historical record, as officials noted, and Twitter attached a fact-check to the president’s Twitter commentary for the first time, labeling his Tuesday posts as “unsubstantiated” and linking to articles debunking the claims.

“There is NO WAY (ZERO!) that Mail-In Ballots will be anything less than substantially fraudulent,” Trump tweeted. “Mail boxes will be robbed, ballots will be forged & even illegally printed out & fraudulently signed. The Governor of California is sending Ballots to millions of people, anyone living in the state, no matter who they are or how they got there, will get one. “

He added, “This will be a Rigged Election. No way!”

Speaking later at the White House on Tuesday, Trump doubled down, saying of mail-in ballots, “Nobody has any idea whether they’re crooked or not.”

“We can’t do that,” the president said of expanded mail-in voting. “Absentee is okay: You’re sick. You’re away. As an example, I have to do an absentee because I’m voting in Florida, and I happen to be president. I live in that very beautiful house over there that’s painted white. So that’s okay. And it’s okay for people that are sick and they can’t get up.”

Responding to Trump’s claims, California Secretary of State Alex Padilla, a Democrat, pointed to vote by mail’s success across the West Coast and said his state also requires signature verification.

“Voting by mail is secure,” Padilla said. “And unfortunately, not only is the accusation that it isn’t baseless, but frankly, hypocritical. You look at Trump himself. He is a absentee voter. He’s the first one to try to undermine people’s confidence in vote by mail and elections in general. I mean, I think what’s really going on here is they’re setting the stage to call into question results from the November election that they may not like.”

Documented voter fraud cases in the U.S. are few — and nothing close to the level that would constitute a “rampant” fraud, officials said. The Heritage Foundation, a conservative think tank, has tracked documented cases of fraud for the past 20 years and found more than 1,200 instances, about 200 of which involve misuse of absentee ballots. In that time, about 250 million mail-in votes have been cast.

Tom Ridge, the former Republican governor of Pennsylvania and Homeland Security secretary under former President George W. Bush, told NBC News the legitimacy of mail-in voting has “been pretty well validated by history.”

“My disappointment with the president is that he creates doubts about the legitimacy of the forthcoming election,” said Ridge, who co-chairs VoteSafe, a group of bipartisan election officials and organizations calling for safe voting during the coronavirus pandemic. “The reality is that (Trump is) sowing seeds of doubt in distaste of recorded history. And that’s sad.”

Researchers at UCLA and the University of New Mexico, in conjunction with the Union of Concerned Scientists, concluded that voter fraud is “not widespread” and that mail-in ballot fraud is “very rare.”

Many states have taken steps to try and boost mail in voting amid the coronavirus outbreak as Centers for Disease Control and Prevention guidelines “encourage mail-in methods of voting if allowed in the jurisdiction.” Congressional Democrats have pushed for additional funding for mail-in voting and have called for the practice to be put into use nationally.

In Ohio, Secretary of State Frank LaRose, a Republican, has pushed to make mail-in voting easier and said his state’s security measures ensure the integrity of such voting.

Republicans have sued over increased mail-in efforts elsewhere, including in California and Texas. Conservatives have pointed to past commentary from Democrats such as Rep. Jerrold Nadler, D-N.Y., who questioned the legitimacy of mail-in voting in 2004, and they have cited a 2005 report authored by a commission chaired by former President Jimmy Carter and former Secretary of State James Baker saying that absentee ballots “remain the largest source of” possible fraud. This month, Carter embraced vote-by-mail, calling for its expanded use amid the pandemic.

On Tuesday, West Virginia officials announced criminal charges against a mail carrier who they alleged “fraudulently altered eight absentee ballot requests” and “fraudulently changed the party affiliation on five from Democrat to Republican.”

Pointing to his state’s safeguards, which also include signature verification, Nevada Attorney General Aaron Ford, a Democrat, told NBC News his state “has a very sparse history of voter fraud.”

“To the extent we’ve had any experience with that, it’s been maybe a half a dozen cases,” he said. “Interestingly, it’s been from the Republican side of the aisle, not the Democratic side of the aisle. And some of those cases involved individuals who were literally intently trying to test the system to see if they could get away with it. They were caught. And so it shows that there’s an efficacy in our system that protects against voter fraud.”

As to what’s behind Trump’s tweets, several of those who spoke with NBC News said it seems as if the president is concerned about how he will fare in November.

“What’s to worry?” Ridge said. “He’s got five months to win.”



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Twitter fact checks Trump’s tweets for the first time, calls mail-in voting claim ‘misleading’

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Twitter slapped a fact check label on a pair of “misleading” tweets by President Donald Trump on Tuesday in which he railed against mail-in voting amid the COVID-19 pandemic.

“There is NO WAY (ZERO!) that Mail-In Ballots will be anything less than substantially fraudulent. Mail boxes will be robbed, ballots will be forged & even illegally printed out & fraudulently signed. The Governor of California is sending Ballots to millions of people, anyone living in the state, no matter who they are or how they got there, will get one,” Trump tweeted.

“That will be followed up with professionals telling all of these people, many of whom have never even thought of voting before, how, and for whom, to vote. This will be a Rigged Election. No way!”

Experts who study the issue have found no evidence that voter fraud is a widespread problem in the United States.

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It appears to be the first time that the social media giant has fact checked Trump or otherwise enforced its terms regarding his tweets. Many of his critics have long called on Twitter to hold the president accountable for violating its terms of service.

The platform added language to the president’s tweets that reads “Get the facts about mail-in ballots” and directs users to a Twitter article titled “Trump makes unsubstantiated claim that mail-in ballots will lead to voter fraud,” along with a “What you need to know” section, as well as aggregated tweets about Trump’s unfounded claims.

A Twitter spokesperson told NBC News on Tuesday that the tweets “contain potentially misleading information about voting processes and have been labeled to provide additional context around mail-in ballots.”

The spokesperson added that the company rolled out a policy this month to combat misinformation, particularly related to the coronavirus pandemic.

Trump lashed out at Twitter on Tuesday, saying the company is restricting free speech.

“.@Twitter is now interfering in the 2020 Presidential Election. They are saying my statement on Mail-In Ballots, which will lead to massive corruption and fraud, is incorrect, based on fact-checking by Fake News CNN and the Amazon Washington Post,” he wrote in one tweet.

“Twitter is completely stifling FREE SPEECH, and I, as President, will not allow it to happen!” he said in another.

Brad Parscale, Trump’s campaign manager, called Twitter biased in a statement Tuesday.

“We always knew that Silicon Valley would pull out all the stops to obstruct and interfere with President Trump getting his message through to voters,” he said. “Partnering with the biased fake news media ‘fact checkers’ is only a smoke screen Twitter is using to try to lend their obvious political tactics some false credibility.”

He added, “There are many reasons the Trump campaign pulled all our advertising from Twitter months ago, and their clear political bias is one of them.”

Former Vice President Joe Biden, Trump’s presumptive Democratic rival in November, urged the company to flag statements from every user, including Trump, when they are untrue.

“I think they should say when things are patently not true,” Biden said Tuesday in an appearance on CNN when asked about Trump’s recently sharing conspiracy theories on the site. “They should say so.”

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In the wake of the COVID-19 pandemic, many states holding primaries have had to consider how to balance elections with public health. The pandemic has driven lawmakers to act, such as California Gov. Gavin Newsom, who issued an order that requires election officials in each of the state’s 58 counties to send mail-in ballots to all registered voters.

However, the move has prompted legal challenges.

The Republican National Committee and other GOP groups, such as the California Republican Party and the National Republican Congressional Committee, sued Newsom on Sunday. RNC Chair Ronna McDaniel called Newsom’s executive order “radical” and a “recipe for disaster that would create more opportunities for fraud.”

A similar challenge also cropped up in Texas, but a federal judge there ruled in favor of the Democratic Party’s expanding mail-in voting. The case is being appealed by state Attorney General Ken Paxton.

Marianna Sotomayor contributed.



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Trump’s encouragement of racism against Asian Americans is an affront to all Americans

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A boy landed in the hospital after being beaten up by his classmates on school grounds. A little girl was pushed off her bike in the middle of a park. A nurse was assaulted on the subway, and another was spit on while delivering medicine to a sick patient. A father was hit over the head by a man swearing at him on the street.

In the past several months, countless Asian Americans have been punched and kicked and threatened, told that they’ll be sorry if they don’t leave this country — their country. They’ve been blamed for COVID-19: yelled at by strangers in parking lots, refused service at stores and needlessly, cruelly scapegoated by the most powerful man on the planet, President Donald Trump, who has racialized the pandemic and stoked xenophobia every time he’s uttered the term “Chinese virus.”

In a nation founded on the principle that we’re all created equal, such bigotry is downright un-American.

Deflecting blame for his own failure to heed the warnings of experts to prepare for this crisis, Trump has stood in the White House briefing room day after day and pulled from the same cynical playbook he’s relied on so many times before, stoking grievances and using the same politics of division that helped him get elected in the first place, this time by casting Asian Americans as the “other.” As if they are a deviation from those who are “actually” American. As if they don’t truly belong.

The comments Trump has made have ranged from the dangerous to the absurd. But the sentiment behind them has been clear.

So let us be even clearer.

The American story as we know it would not exist without the strength of the Asian American and Pacific Islander community. In a literal sense, Asian Americans helped build and unite this country — laying the railroad tracks, tilling the fields, starting the businesses and picking up the rifles necessary to develop and defend the nation we love.

No insult, no insinuation — even when it comes from the president in the middle of the Rose Garden telling an Asian American reporter to “ask China” — can change the fact that Asian Americans are just as American as anyone else lucky enough to be a daughter or a on of the United States.

Ironically, May marks Asian American and Pacific Islander Heritage Month. In the face of such intolerance, this month reminds us that it’s as important as ever to honor the AAPI community’s service to this country — as teachers, doctors, troops, you name it — as well as recognize the consequences of the fear-mongering and outright racism that have been on the rise throughout Trump’s presidency.

Because that’s the kind of prejudice that led to Japanese Americans’ being interned on U.S. soil even as their loved ones fought to defend this nation overseas during World War II. It’s a version of what we’ve seen in debates over everything from segregation to immigration, where those who aren’t white are portrayed as if they’re somehow dirty or dangerous or, now, contaminated — and then cast off as second-class citizens. In a nation founded on the principle that we’re all created equal, such bigotry is downright un-American.

The United States is great because, by and large, Americans look out for one another and are good to one another. We’ve witnessed that time and again, and we’re seeing it now in the midst of this crisis. Landlords are waiving rent for tenants struggling to get by. Medical students not yet allowed to take care of patients in the ICU are instead taking care of health care workers, offering to look after their kids or do chores. Teachers are driving through their students’ neighborhoods to say hello.

Trump has proven he will never get it. He will never understand that the reason the U.S. has led the world for decades is not just by the example of our power, but by the power of our example.

Each of those people understands our country better than Trump ever will. They understand that at its best, America is a roughly 3.8 million-square-mile community whose members don’t just want to do well for themselves, but to do good for others. No matter the color of their skin.

Trump has proven he will never get it. He will never understand that the reason the U.S. has led the world for decades is not just by the example of our power, but by the power of our example. As much as we all wish and hope, it is clear that Trump will never rise to the awesome responsibility that comes with the title President of the United States.

As our neighbors are spit on and beat up because of the color of their skin, it is more obvious than ever how important it is that we make this the last Asian American and Pacific Islander Heritage Month with Trump in the White House.

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