How Safe Is Flying in the Age of Coronavirus?
How safe is it to fly? This remains a troubling question. The hopes of airlines for a rebound in travel after an initial collapse ran up against a resurgence of the coronavirus around the world in late 2020. Would-be passengers continue to worry about being stuck in a cabin for an extended time with possibly infectious strangers. The evidence shows the risks aren’t negligible.washingtonpost.com
Susan Collins Almost Tied With Democratic Challenger After SCOTUS 'No' Vote: Poll
The Maine senator is only 1 point behind Democratic candidate Sara Gideon after her vote against Amy Coney Barrett's nomination.newsweek.com
Robert Kardashian Hologram For Kim's 40th Birthday Sparks Wave of Memes, Jokes
The reality television star shared a video of the hologram of her late father speaking which has since been viewed more than five million times.newsweek.com
California Fire Map, Update as Evacuation Orders Lifted For Silverado and Blue Ridge Blazes
Firefighters continue to battle 22 wildfires across the state, according to the California Department of Forestry and Fire Protection (Cal Fire).newsweek.com
Yes, Black Americans are entitled to reparations. We’ve earned them.
The centuries of injustices, dear reader, should be reason enough to make the case for reparations.washingtonpost.com
Trevor Noah Says Black Men Backing Trump Are Like Pro-Iceberg Titanic Survivors
Trump has made repeated appeals for support from Black Americans, citing unemployment numbers and criminal justice.newsweek.com
CNN, MSNBC prime-time shows skip historic 33.1% GDP growth amid economic recovery
CNN and MSNBC may still call themselves 24-hour news networks, but their most-watched shows in prime time continue to avoid some of the biggest headlines.foxnews.com
Donald Trump's Chances of Winning Election by a Landslide
George H. W. Bush was the last candidate to secure more than 400 of the Electoral College votes on offer.newsweek.com
Cowboys seventh-round rookie QB Ben DiNucci ready for 'opportunity of a lifetime' vs. Eagles
Rookie Ben DiNucci went from a third-string afterthought to the Cowboys' expected starting QB for a crucial divisional game against the Eagles.usatoday.com
Chris Wallace compares 2020 presidential race to 1968: 'This race has stayed remarkably stable'
'Fox News Sunday' host says his biggest hope is for 'a clear winner and a clear loser on Election Night'foxnews.com
Leopard mauls man who paid for "full contact experience"
"He went for the jugular," the man's attorney said of the attack. "The ear was pretty much removed."cbsnews.com
The Radicalization Is Mutual
As one of the ugliest and most divisive American presidential campaigns in our history coasts to its finish, President Donald Trump’s defenders are making their closing arguments. Some of them assert that they like Trump’s policies; his ethical violations or his abuses of his office for personal gain don’t bother them. These views come from deep conviction, and at this point, they can’t be changed.But another argument that appears over and over again in these closing statements demands a response. It is often made by educated conservatives, people who know that the Trump administration and its incompetence have allowed the coronavirus to devastate America. They also know that Trump has left America weaker and less influential around the world. They even dislike Trump’s vulgarity and his cruelty; they just wish he would stop tweeting. Nevertheless, they will vote for him because the alternative—the left, the Democrats, the socialists, the “woke warriors,” whatever epithet you want to use—is so much worse.There isn’t time, in the few days left in the campaign, to argue about whether these conservatives’ beliefs about the left are correct. The Democrats’ choice of Joe Biden as their candidate seems to me solid proof that the party’s most active supporters—the people who vote in its primaries—wanted a moderate leader. Nothing in Biden’s decades-long record as a public servant indicates that he is a communist, a radical, or anything other than a small-l liberal. The same is true of the people around him. The big changes that he does want—including taxes on the very wealthy, universal health care, and major action on climate change—do not seem remotely extreme to me either, but that’s an argument for another time.[Franklin Foer: Joe Biden has changed]For at this stage, no one can convince the educated conservatives that any of this is the case. Instead, I’d rather acknowledge that some of the things they fear are real. Yes, it is true: We do live in a moment of rising political hysteria. Far-left groups do knock down statues, not just of Confederate leaders but of Abraham Lincoln and Theodore Roosevelt. Some self-styled “antifa” activists do seem more interested in smashing shop windows than in peaceful protest. Dangerous intellectual fashions are sweeping through some American universities—the humanities departments of the elite ones in particular. Some radical students and professors do try to restrict what others can teach, think, and say. Left-wing Twitter mobs do attack people who have deviated from their party line, trying not just to silence them but to get them fired. A few months ago, I signed a group letter deploring the growing censoriousness in our culture: “an intolerance of opposing views, a vogue for public shaming and ostracism, and the tendency to dissolve complex policy issues in a blinding moral certainty.” A part of the left—admittedly the part most addicted to social media—reacted to this letter with what can only be described as censoriousness, intolerance, and a determination to dissolve complex policy issues in a blinding moral certainty.But anyone who is truly worried by these tendencies should fear the consequences of a second Trump administration even more. Anyone who actually cares about academic freedom, or the future of objective reporting, or the ideas behind the statues built to honor American democrats in the country’s public squares, must hope that Trump loses. If he wins a second term, extremism on the left will not be stopped. It will not grow quieter. Instead, extremism will spread, mutate into new forms, and gradually become entrenched in more areas of American life.Radicalism of all kinds will spread, on the right as well as the left, because America will find itself deeply enmeshed in the same kind of death spiral that the country experienced in the 1850s, a form of negative politics that the British political scientist Roger Eatwell has called “cumulative extremism.” Eatwell described this phenomenon in an article about northern England in 2001, a moment when groups of radicalized white British men physically clashed with groups of radicalized British Muslims. At that time, there were deep economic, religious, and sociological sources for the violence. People in the far right felt themselves to be outside of politics, alienated from the Labour Party that most had once supported. The neighborhoods where both groups lived were poor and getting poorer.But the mutual anger also acquired its own logic and its own momentum. The perception of anti-Muslim prejudice pushed some Muslims toward radical preachers. The radical preachers provoked an anti-Muslim backlash. Extreme language on one side led to extreme language on the other. Organized violence on one side led to organized violence on the other. Both would blame the other for accelerating the dynamic, but in fact the process of radicalization was mutually reinforcing. Milder, more moderate members of both communities began to choose sides. Being a bystander got harder; remaining neutral became impossible. Nor was this remotely unusual. “People tend to become violent, or to sympathize with violence, if they feel an existential threat,” Eatwell told me recently. They also become more extreme, he said, when they feel their political opponents are not just wrong, but evil—“almost the devil.”Cumulative extremism often occurs in places where physical space is contested—for example, when more than one community claims a particular neighborhood. In the 1960s and ’70s, the cycle of radicalism in Northern Ireland accelerated in part because of Catholic marches into Protestant “territory” and Protestant marches that offended Catholics. Clashes led to violence, and then violence normalized more violence. Cumulative extremism was also fueled by imitation. The two sides copied each other’s tactics, use of language, and use of media. Bad policing was also part of the story because it led many people to lose faith in the neutrality of the British state.That loss of faith then led, in turn, to a greater acceptance of violence and eventually to the same phenomenon that Eatwell observed. People who had been only slightly interested in politics were drawn in. The numbers of centrists shrank. In both communities, terrorists found safe harbor among ordinary working people who, in the past, had never considered themselves radical.[J.M. Berger: Our consensus reality has shattered]Modern America doesn’t have many physical contests for space. Americans, with a few exceptions, generally have enough land to enjoy the luxury of distance from people we really don’t like. There are some exceptions: A self-described member of Rose City Antifa, based in Portland, Oregon—he was wearing a mask when interviewed—told a journalist last summer that “when fascists come to our cities to attack people, we are going to put our bodies between fascists and the people they want to attack.” This sentiment could easily have come from the Irish Republican Army. A vigilante videographer in Idaho, who had read internet rumors that antifa groups were coming to his town, sounded much the same: “If you guys are thinking of coming to Coeur D’Alene, to riot or loot, you’d better think again. Because we ain’t having it in our town.”But as it turns out, symbolic struggles can be just as polarizing as physical ones. All of the angst at American universities over “platforming,” over who is and is not allowed to speak from a lectern, comes from a very similar kind of dispute. The gangs of students who have shouted down speakers or sought to prevent them from appearing on their campuses are behaving in a ritualized manner that would be familiar to the inhabitants of Belfast. They are acting out the street fights that erupt in other cities, with petitions or social-media campaigns and organized hissing and booing taking the place of physical contests—though sometimes they turn into physical contests as well.In the online spaces as well as the broadcast ether where American political contests take place, Trump has entered into these symbolic battles like a gang leader striding onto enemy turf. Like Reverend Ian Paisley, who happily played the role of Northern Irish Protestant bigot for decades, Trump embraces a cartoon version of the right—one that repulses centrists, including the center right, and pushes the left to even greater extremes. If you were already inclined to believe that American history is a story of oppression and racial hatred, then the ascent of the birtherist-in-chief, a man who advocates cruelty toward immigrant children, is only going to reinforce your views. If you were already inclined to believe that street violence is required to affect public opinion, then the political dominance of a man who nods and winks at far-right militias is going to solidify your beliefs. As the writer Cathy Young has argued, “when the President of the United States is practically a woke caricature of the evil white male—an entitled bully, who endorses police brutality, bashes minorities and flaunts his lack of human empathy—it pushes large numbers of people farther and farther to the left, lending credibility to the woke idea that America is a racist patriarchy.”Trump has squeezed moderates out of his party. If he wins reelection, the result will be to squeeze moderates out of American politics altogether. I hope that educated conservatives think hard about what will happen if Biden’s moderate-left campaign fails: It is extremely unlikely that its adherents and spokespeople will shrug their shoulders and decide that, yes, Trump is right after all. They are much more likely to move further to the extremes. Americans will witness the radicalization of the Democratic Party, as well as the radicalization of the powerful and influential intellectual, academic, and cultural left, in a manner that we have never before seen. A parallel process will take place on the other side of the political spectrum—one that has started already—as right-wing militias, white supremacists, and QAnon cultists are reenergized by the reelection of someone whom they have long considered to be their defender.[Read: The prophecies of Q]Unfortunately, history offers very few happy endings to that kind of story. In the past, cumulative extremism has usually subsided in one of two ways. It can culminate in a full-scale civil war that one side or the other wins—which is what happened in the U.S. in the 1860s. Alternatively, it can end thanks to the emergence of moderate forces on both sides, often with the aid of outsiders, who take the political momentum away from the extremists. That’s a part of what happened in Northern Ireland, and in the British towns Eatwell described.Americans don’t have outsiders who will help us get out of this death spiral. All we have is the power to vote.theatlantic.com
Can President Trump overcome a pandemic spike in Wisconsin?
Wisconsin was a pivotal Rust Belt win in Donald Trump's 2016 election. John King breaks down the areas Trump will need to defend to repeat his victory.edition.cnn.com
What Is Samhainophobia? The Extreme Fear of Halloween That Makes Some People Physically Sick
The intense anxiety around Halloween's festivities can stop some sufferers from going about their normal lives.newsweek.com
Nancy Grace battles Scott Peterson's ex-lawyer over death penalty, says prosecutors 'out to seek justice'
A former defense attorney for Scott Peterson accused prosecutors of targeting her ex-client in their push to retry him for the death penalty.foxnews.com
Animated Biden Ad Urging Voters to Silence Trump Watched Over 2 Million Times
Recent Biden campaign ads have focused on climate change as a key issue in securing votes ahead.newsweek.com
As cases soar, an El Paso judge ordered a shutdown. But the Texas AG says the judge has ‘no authority.’
El Paso County Judge Ricardo Samaniego ordered a two-week shutdown of non essential businesses on Thursday.washingtonpost.com
The all-in-the-family approach to political attacks has a long history
The gambit deployed by Trump allies against Hunter Biden and other family members of opponents is more than a partial rerun of itself from 2016, says historian Nicole Hemmer -- its all-in-the-family feel dates back to tactics used against Hillary Clinton, Billy Carter, Ladybird Johnson and more.edition.cnn.com
Election Day weather forecast: Will storms affect voter turnout?
Unlike the political climate, the weather on Election Day looks to be rather tranquil across the U.S., forecasters said.usatoday.com
As sports world rallies around voting, what led these athletes to cast their first ballots
Some athletes have been motivated to vote for the first time by this summer's social justice movement, or a specific issue they want to support.usatoday.com
DHS is planning the largest-ever operation to secure U.S. election against hacking
A 24/7 war room will operate from Election Day until local officials are confident in the results. It shows just how far DHS’s cybersecurity agency has come since 2016.washingtonpost.com
West Virginia’s surprising boom, and bust, tells the story of Trump’s promise to help the ‘forgotten man’
Under Trump, the once-forgotten Ohio Valley boomed — until this year.washingtonpost.com
Joe Biden: I want your vote to become your next president — here’s what I will do for you and our nation
If elected, I promise to fight as hard for those who don’t support me as for those who do. That’s the job of a president: not to divide us into red states and blue states, but to bring us together in common purpose — as the United States of America.foxnews.com
Editorial: Halloween in COVID times is a big boohoo
Like so many other moments of 2020, we'll celebrate a new version of Halloween this year.latimes.com
Letters to the Editor: Does Trump really think Amy Coney Barrett will help him with women voters?
Female voters care more about having a Supreme Court justice who supports the right of women to choose.latimes.com
Virginia Heffernan: Trump's forces have gamed out nightmare election scenarios. Votes can stop them
In 2020, voters are taking fears of militiamen and election sabotage with us to the ballot box.latimes.com
Letters to the Editor: Kids mock names. When adult politicians do it, it's disgraceful
The mocking by some Republicans of Kamala Harris' first name brings back some of our readers' less fond memories.latimes.com
Letters to the Editor: Trying to remove Sheriff Alex Villanueva is an undemocratic power play
Like it or not, Alex Villanueva was elected sheriff. The Board of Supervisors should respect the will of the voters.latimes.com
Donald Trump: Reelect me and I will continue to deliver safety, prosperity and opportunity for all Americans
As president, I pledge to safeguard the progress my administration has made over the past four years and build on our historic success for as long as I am in the White House. I will continue doing everything in my power to ensure that this great country prospers like never before.foxnews.com
Ron Wyden's Big Idea: Defend Section 230 and prevent a 'government speech police'
Sen. Ron Wyden is one of the original authors of Section 230 of the Communications Decency Act, a law that has come under intense fire in recent years, and he thinks it's getting a bad rap.foxnews.com
The unseen machine pushing Trump’s social media megaphone into overdrive
Researchers say the online feedback loop between Trump, high-profile influencers and rank-and-file followers is a danger to the election.washingtonpost.com
How I quarantined for two weeks to play video games for 100M people
The 2020 League of Legends World Championships are in Shanghai, but with Covid measures in place to ensure player and staff safety, people had to quarantine for two weeks in order to play the biggest esport tournament in the world for over 100M people online.edition.cnn.com
Letters to the Editor: Why fund space exploration when we have Super Fund sites off our coast?
That DDT was dumped off the Southern California coast for decades shows how little we know about our planet's own marine ecosystems.latimes.com
Live election updates: We're just four days away from the election. Here's what you need to know
The Biden and Trump campaigns will hold dueling events in two states: Minnesota and Wisconsin, with drastically different event styles.usatoday.com
Chile voted to write a new constitution. Will it promise more than the government can deliver?
In a global first, women will make up half the constitutional convention.washingtonpost.com
Editorial: Memo to the Supreme Court: Let the people vote
Conservative justices need to treat the right to vote with more respect.latimes.com
Why Jim Carrey’s Biden impersonation on SNL isn’t quite catching on
“Like any politician, Biden certainly has particular traits that can be caricatured, but he’s absolutely not the maniacal figure that Carrey is portraying,” says one Obama White House aide.washingtonpost.com
Stephen King on how to properly adapt his books and which project went ‘entirely off the rails’
With Halloween around the corner, we asked prolific author Stephen King about the best and worst adaptations of his work.washingtonpost.com
Democrats Set To Tell Mr. Smith To Get Out of Washington | Opinion
Democrats' proposed drastic breakdown of the United States of America would turn our country into a banana republic.newsweek.com
My Never-Trump Elegy
Shortly after the fall of the Soviet Union, the author John le Carré’s most famous creation, the fictional British spy George Smiley, reflected on a career spent fighting a now-vanquished enemy.“There are some people,” Smiley said at a dinner among young recruits to the Secret Service, “who, when their past is threatened, get frightened of losing everything they thought they had, and perhaps everything they thought they were as well. Now I don’t feel that one bit. The purpose of my life was to end the time I lived in.”With a bit more pensiveness, Smiley adds: “Or perhaps … our troubles are just beginning.”I think of this passage often, not only because I spent the first part of my career fighting (in my own small and mostly insignificant way) the Cold War, but also because I have spent the most recent part of my career fighting the possible rise of authoritarianism in my own country. I was a founding member of the band of Republican defectors known as the Never Trumpers, and one way or another, “the times I have lived in”—the movement to protect American democracy from Donald Trump and to stop his reelection—will come to an end in November.I am not confidently predicting victory. I am too scarred by the horrific outcome of the 2016 election to count any chickens, no matter how alive and clucking they might seem. But win or lose, our goal will become something else. When my friends—including the few I have left among the conservatives—ask what the Never Trumpers will do now, I say with all honesty that I am not sure.[Robert P. Saldin and Steven M. Teles: The last anti-Trump Republicans are biding their time]What I do know is that, regardless of what any one of us does individually, two aspects of the Never Trump movement will outlast Trump. First, we will always be able to say that when Trump and his thugs took over the Republican Party and then the elected branches of the United States government, we did not cut and run. We stood and fought.Second, these four years have confirmed to us that Trump’s moral corruption of the Republican Party is total, from top to bottom. Our current alliances with our liberal friends may not be a permanent realignment. But I don’t believe that those of us who opposed Trump will declare that bygones are bygones with conservatives who supported him and go back to partisanship as usual.The fact that we didn’t run is more than a point of pride. Other conservatives who spoke privately and sometimes publicly of Trump with utter contempt in 2016 buckled that November. Some had even signed letters during the election saying that they’d never work for Trump, but when he won, they groveled and asked for just one more glimpse of the throne.I believe that if all of us had caved, Trump would now be much closer to victory, not just at the polls, but over the Constitution itself. Many of us instead held firm and made the case for democracy and the rule of law from the right flank against our own tribe.We all paid for our dissent, in various ways.While some lost money, all lost friends. A few needed law enforcement to step in because of threats to their lives and to their families.For my own part, I naively thought at the start of this madness that no one would much care what I said about Trump, at least any more than they did about my previous writing on politics. Besides, the fight among the conservatives was mostly brewing in Washington, D.C., and I was a middle-aged professor living on the quiet shores of Rhode Island. I was wrong.Early in 2016, I said (in a conservative magazine, The Federalist, that has since fallen to the Trumpist fever) that I would take Hillary Clinton over Trump. As a lifelong conservative choosing “Crooked Hillary” over the “Swamp Drainer,” I received a short burst of interest, especially from talk radio. Then, that summer, I wrote a piece on how I became a Never Trumper for The New York Times Magazine.I was at my church’s annual Greek festival, about to grab some souvlaki and baklava with my young daughter, when my phone rang.“Have you seen Breitbart?” a colleague asked.“When have I ever read Breitbart?” I responded. (I had been asked some years earlier to be a contributor when the publication launched. I had turned it down flat.)“Well, because they’re trying to get you fired,” my friend said.I am a professor. But because I teach at a military institution, I am a Defense Department employee and I am therefore bound by the Hatch Act, which prohibits government employees from using their positions for political purposes. Breitbart claimed I was breaking that law. (This is where I am duty-bound to remind you that I do not speak in any way for the U.S. government or any of its agencies.) As it turned out, even before the Breitbart story dropped, my employer had already determined that I had not violated any laws or regulations.[Sarah Longwell: Why people who hate Trump stick with him]I spent decades studying repressive regimes, but I always did so with the swagger of a man who holds an American passport. Other people had to fight for their rights, not me. Now I was accused of legal wrongdoing for expressing my political views as a private citizen. For the first time in my life, I felt like a dissident.That summer, I sat down with my wife and members of my family. Continuing to write about Trump could mean serious financial hardship. I had a lifetime contract with the Navy, but no contract is unbreakable. We were facing real risk, and I wanted to know their feelings.The people I care most about in the world all told me the same thing: Fight.So I went on the offensive, writing and speaking out even more. If Trump’s minions were determined to curtail my constitutional rights, I was more determined to exercise them. I became intimately familiar with the Hatch Act and its provisions—and I obeyed it far more scrupulously than anyone in the Trump White House—but that did not stop the regular waves of emails and phone calls over the next four years, usually spurred by some Trump-supporting website or talk-show host, demanding that I be fired.Over time, my critics moved on to various other charges, including that I was personally unfit to associate with officers of the U.S. military, that I was an agent of the “deep state,” and even that I was a Russian asset and therefore a security risk.As they did with all of us in the Never Trump camp, the president’s most fanatical supporters accused me of outright treason. They demanded my arrest. Some sent messages telling me that they looked forward to my official execution or other versions of my untimely death. In some cases, I had to pass these threats on to federal law enforcement for assessment of risk not only to me, but to my community.The Trump faithful also accused us of trying to get rich on our Never Trump status. Yes, the founders of the anti-Trump Lincoln Project are now taking in lots of donations—but that was after burning personal and financial bridges to the Republican Party that sustained them and built their handsome homes over the years. (For the record, I have received zero compensation for my association with the Lincoln Project, but I hope the owners of the organization get plenty rich. They’ve earned it.) For most of us, media appearances came only with a ride to the studio and free coffee. (At 30 Rock in New York, at least it was Starbucks.) The short pieces we all wrote—much like this one—generated a small fee that could pay for a nice dinner and maybe a bottle of wine. I am a successful author, but none of my books are about Trump, and to this day, I don’t even have an agent. If we’d been in it for our own enrichment, we’d have made the smart play and signed on with Trump, because that’s where the money was right from the start.As we approach Election Day, my career and my constitutional rights remain intact. I have made my case against the president loudly and clearly.Now that it looks like Trump is headed for defeat, some Republicans feel safe to criticize him again. But courage exercised only when the coast is clear is not courage; it is opportunism. Seeing someone such as Senator Ben Sasse of Nebraska or the ever-troubled Senator Susan Collins of Maine rediscover their voices now that the die seems to be cast is not particularly inspiring.These late conversions to opposing Trump mean nothing, at least to me. The experience of fighting taught the Never Trumpers how much the president had poisoned the Republican Party and long ago exposed the character of many of our former comrades. Some turned out to be as racist and authoritarian as Trump himself, while others merely confirmed that they were little more than vacuous opportunists who were capable of betraying the Constitution at will.[Quinta Jurecic and Benjamin Wittes: The revenge of the Never Trumpers]This is why, when Trump is gone (whether after this election or in 2024), I will continue to oppose everyone who had anything to do with inflicting this scar on American history, long after the members of the Trump family are finally bankrupt, in rehab, in jail, or living in seclusion in Manhattan among the neighbors who already despise them.Whether it is Nikki Haley or Tom Cotton running for president or Fox’s prime-time lineup bolstering Trump’s underlings, for as long as I have a public platform, I will contend that these are people who betrayed the principles of our system of government for their own gain and that my fellow citizens should refuse to give them votes or ratings.And what if Trump wins? If that happens, America will become a different country, and we will all enter the first iteration of an American dictatorship. At a minimum, I will join with other civil libertarians to limit the speed and depth with which the president will take us into authoritarianism. The fight will be a rearguard action, and we will likely lose. But I didn’t run the first time Trump was elected, and I won’t run if it happens again.I hope that this is purely alarmism on my part. As Smiley said over his brandy, “if my past were still around today, you could say I’d failed.” But as the election approaches, I prefer to think about my time as a Never Trumper by recalling the old spy’s final words to those young students:“Never mind. What matters is that a long war is over. What matters is the hope.”theatlantic.com
The Absent Bloc That Could Decide the U.S. Election
Election Day has already happened for the more than 75 million Americans who have cast their ballot via mail or early in-person voting this year, far surpassing 2016’s numbers. This surge has been prompted in part by the pandemic and apprehension about crowded polling stations on November 3, as well as concerns over the Trump administration’s efforts to hobble the U.S. Postal Service in the run-up to the vote (sparking worries that the service would not be able to handle a short-term surge).For a small subset of people, though, these ostensibly new voting challenges—mail-in ballots, deadlines, and disparate state rules—aren’t new at all: Americans living overseas have had to contend with absentee-voter registration and mail-in deadlines long before the pandemic. Like their stateside counterparts, these Americans want to ensure that their vote is counted. And despite belonging to a group that has historically sat out elections, this time they are poised to turn out in record numbers.If they do, overseas Americans won’t just be shaking off their reputation as a relatively silent voting bloc. In some of the close contests that will decide who ultimately takes the White House—particularly in states such as Michigan and Florida—they could be a determining factor.When it comes to elections, overseas Americans are an easy group to forget. This diverse collection of émigrés, members of the military, and children of American parents are not only physically absent, but relatively few in number: David Beirne, the director of the Federal Voting Assistance Program, told me that about 5.5 million of them are scattered across the globe—a constituency that, together, makes up the population of South Carolina. Three million of them are eligible to vote, though only a small fraction do.This could be attributed to the fact that voting hasn’t always been a straightforward process for expatriates. Susan Dzieduszycka-Suinat, a Munich-based American who has lived outside the U.S. for 25 years, told me that until the early aughts, Americans seeking to cast their vote from abroad had to fill out a blurry paper form and consult a 500-page instruction book—one that she said often included outdated information on where to send absentee-ballot requests. This archaic system inspired her to create the Overseas Vote 2004 initiative, to enable overseas citizens to register and request their ballot online. “These original civic-tech innovations that we had imbued into the system became a model for the government,” Dzieduszycka-Suinat said. Now, thanks to the 2009 Military and Overseas Voter Empowerment Act, states are required to provide voter-registration and ballot-request services online and must dispatch ballots to voters at least 45 days prior to Election Day.Though these innovations have certainly made voting easier for Americans overseas, turnout remains low: Only 7 percent of Americans abroad voted in the 2016 election, compared with 72 percent stateside, and just 4.7 percent voted in the 2018 midterms, compared with 65 percent stateside. It’s a discrepancy the FVAP attributes in part to voting obstacles: Not only must Americans abroad take into account factors such as mail speeds (my ballot, for example, took just under two weeks to travel from London to California) and the wide variability of individual states’ voting laws, but they also need to ensure that their ballot is perfect—mismatched signatures or a missed deadline could cause the ballot to be rejected.[David Graham: Signed, sealed, delivered—then discarded]Americans in the U.S. face similar challenges, but have an advantage over their overseas counterparts: While U.S.-based voters are being encouraged to hand deliver their ballots to their local clerk or ballot-drop location if they’re worried it won’t arrive by mail in time, Americans abroad don’t have that luxury. Instead, many have to opt for commercial couriers, which can be prohibitively expensive (though some companies are offering discounts for overseas ballots from select countries). The heavy curtailment of international flights as a result of the pandemic has also meant that many of those willing to fly home to cast their ballot cannot do so.The factors that have made voting more challenging this year are paradoxically the same ones that appear to be driving more Americans to vote early, including those living abroad. Dzieduszycka-Suinat, now the president and CEO of the U.S. Vote Foundation, said that its Overseas Vote initiative has seen a 150 percent increase in website traffic and absentee-ballot request-form generation compared with 2016—a rise that began as early as June. Beirne from the FVAP, which also provides online voter-registration services, said that upwards of 648,000 overseas ballot-request forms had been downloaded from its website as of October 13, far surpassing the 384,180 forms downloaded ahead of the 2016 vote. Nearly 37,000 federal write-in absentee ballots, an emergency backup for citizens who don’t receive a ballot from their state election officials in time to meet the voting deadline, were also downloaded. Vote From Abroad, an online voter-registration platform run by Democrats Abroad, the international arm of the Democratic Party, has seen more than two and a half times as many visitors this year as it did in 2016.A number of states, which like the FVAP and other online services also field ballot requests directly from voters, are reporting increases over previous years too. “Many voters contacting us … have never voted in an American election,” Debra O’Malley, a spokesperson for the Secretary of the Commonwealth of Massachusetts, told me in an email, noting that the state has fielded nearly 17,000 overseas ballot requests this year, compared with 10,513 in 2016. Increases have also been observed in Michigan (20,316 ballots, up from 14,782 in 2016), New York (58,330 ballots, up from 47,000), Washington (42,285, up from 27,917), South Carolina (13,465, up from 8,621), and Vermont (3,245, up from 2,723).Ballot requests don’t tell the full story, though: Of the total number of ballots that are mailed out to overseas voters each election, as few as half are returned. During the 2018 midterm elections, for example, just over a quarter of Americans in Germany requested a ballot, and only about half of them ultimately cast it. Similar discrepancies were seen among American voters in Canada, the U.K., France, Switzerland, and Japan. And it’s not just a midterm phenomenon: Of the 930,000 ballots sent to overseas and military voters during the 2016 election, 633,000 were returned. Of those, just 512,696 were counted.None of this is to say that overseas voters don’t make a difference. To the contrary, they could tip the balance in close races—particularly in competitive states such as Florida, which are poised to determine which party takes the White House. “This is where we can really come back and make a difference,” Julia Bryan, the global chair of Democrats Abroad, told me, noting that nearly half of overseas voters cast their ballot in swing states in the last presidential election.Overseas voters have emerged as the deciding factor in previous contests, perhaps most notably during the 2000 presidential contest, in which delayed overseas ballots gave George W. Bush a narrow 537-vote lead over Al Gore in Florida. The same could happen again: As my colleague Edward-Isaac Dovere reported, Trump won the battleground state of Michigan by a narrow margin of 11,000 votes in 2016—a state where an estimated 21,000 overseas Americans are registered, but where only 17,000 cast their ballot. More than 20,000 have requested ballots from Michigan this year. If enough of them actually vote, they could play a role in deciding which way the state swings.“It could be a banner year for overseas voters,” Dzieduszycka-Suinat said. “The services are up everywhere, they’re easier to use than they ever were in the past, and the voters are finding them. I think it’s going to make a difference this time around.”[Barton Gellman: The election that could break America]Here in Britain, which hosts the largest population of American voters outside of North America, Republican and Democratic organizers attribute increased voter activity to the state of the U.S. itself. Though American politics has always traveled easily across the pond, this administration has attracted an unusual amount of attention—not all of it positive. “There is an unbelievably strong determination to get rid of Trump,” Inge Kjemtrup, the U.K. chair of Democrats Abroad, told me, noting that her team has been approached by Americans who haven’t voted in decades. Even those who typically vote seem to be more worried about it than usual.Sarah Elliott, the U.K. chair of Republicans Overseas, told me that she too has observed an uptick in voter activity—including among those who have never voted Republican before. “We just see America drifting very quickly [into] becoming what I would say is un-American,” she said, citing some voters’ concerns over issues such as cancel culture and free speech. If there’s one thing Democrats and Republicans have in common, she added, it’s that “both sides see the stakes equally as high, equally as unpredictable, and equally [as] important.”theatlantic.com
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