Julia Harte

Writings & wanderings.

Philadelphia’s new voting machines under scrutiny in Tuesday’s elections

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June 1, 2020, Reuters

Annotation 2020-06-01 144533WASHINGTON (Reuters) – When Pennsylvania holds primary elections on Tuesday, some election security advocates will be watching closely to see if more than 2,000 new voting machines acquired last year by Philadelphia and two other counties perform without glitches.

Philadelphia and Northampton counties first used the new “ExpressVote XL” machines in last November’s local elections and will deploy them again in the presidential nominating contests and local races on Tuesday. A third county, Cumberland, will use the machines for the first time.

Their first widespread use in 2019 in Pennsylvania was marred by miscounted vote tallies in Northampton, a politically divided county in eastern Pennsylvania. Some ExpressVote XL machines incorrectly recorded votes for several candidates in the November election, prompting the county to count backup paper receipts to identify the correct winners, according to Maudeania Hornik, chair of the Northampton Election Commission.

The manufacturer of the ExpressVote XL equipment said in a December press conference that some of Northampton’s 320 machines “were configured improperly at our factory prior to delivery to Northampton County.” The manufacturer told the county as many as 30% of the machines were affected, Hornik said.

Problems with at least 366 ExpressVote XL machines also arose in Philadelphia, according to public records exclusively obtained by Reuters. The city last year replaced its old voting equipment with a new fleet of 3,750 ExpressVote XL machines. Reuters could not ascertain how many of those machines were deployed in the November 2019 election there.

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Written by juliaharte

June 1, 2020 at 1:47 pm

Posted in Uncategorized

Coronavirus-spurred changes to Ohio’s primary raise concerns about November

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April 27, 2020, Reuters

Annotation 2020-04-30 144721WASHINGTON (Reuters) – Ohio will hold its primary election on Tuesday, a virtually all-mail contest that could serve as a test case for voting in the coronavirus era.

Citing public health concerns, the state’s legislature moved back the date of the primary, originally slated for March 17, to April 28 and sharply curtailed in-person voting.

It’s a glimpse of what the presidential contest might look like in November if COVID-19 remains a threat. But some voters, election officials and voting-rights watchdogs are already alarmed: Ohio’s system has been overwhelmed by the crush of requests for absentee ballots, a situation that could disenfranchise potentially tens of thousands of voters.

“I’ve been here 20 years and I’ve never seen anything like this,” said Brent Lawler, a manager at the board of elections in Cuyahoga County, home to Cleveland and more registered voters than any other Ohio county.

More than 1.9 million Ohio voters requested to vote absentee in Tuesday’s primary, a 421% increase from absentee turnout in the 2016 primary, according to state election data.

The state’s election offices were required by law to mail ballots to any voters whose applications they received by noon on Saturday, April 25. At least 37,000 absentee ballots were mailed out on Saturday, county election data show.

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Written by juliaharte

April 27, 2020 at 6:00 am

Posted in Uncategorized

Fewer poll workers, coronavirus, spark fears of election day woes in Ohio Democratic primary

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March 13, 2020, Reuters

Annotation 2020-03-13 172113WASHINGTON (Reuters) – Nearly a quarter of Ohio’s counties are deploying fewer poll workers for the state’s Democratic primary on Tuesday than they have in previous presidential election years, raising concerns from voting-rights advocates who say the reductions could lengthen lines at the polls. 

Thanks to a change in state law last year, at least 1,200 fewer poll workers are slated to be on duty than in past federal elections, according to a Reuters analysis of staffing projections supplied by county election boards across Ohio.

The cuts will affect polling stations across 20 of Ohio’s 88 counties, impacting 7.8% of Ohio’s electorate but more than half of voters in the affected counties.

On top of these planned reductions, fears of the novel coronavirus have prompted hundreds of poll workers – who are often elderly and therefore at higher risk if they contract the virus – to stay at home rather than work on Election Day, said Aaron Ockerman, executive director of the Ohio Association of Election Officials.

“We’re doing our best to backfill and level the losses, though we’re not at 100%,” Ockerman said.

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Written by juliaharte

March 13, 2020 at 4:24 pm

Posted in Uncategorized

Inside Trump’s Divisive Mission to Identify and Deter Potential Extremists

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March 2, 2020, The Nation

Annotation 2020-03-03 150315

Marginalized minorities targeted by the DHS’s counter-extremism program say it lacked transparency and deepened their mistrust of government.

Boston’s Roxbury neighborhood is a historically black part of the city, straddling a blighted past and a gentrifying future. It is home to some of Massachusetts’s oldest colonial sites and a large Somali community; it also has one of Boston’s highest crime rates. Police officers frequent its streets, squares, and transit hubs, enforcing a citywide stop-and-frisk program.

Roxbury is also the site of a federally funded initiative to stop potential terrorists. The Boston Police Department participated in what the plan’s proponents described as trust-building workshops with Somali youths under an almost $500,000 counterextremism project that ended last fall.

Six months after Donald Trump was sworn in as president, the Department of Homeland Security awarded $10 million to 25 law enforcement, public safety, and civil society groups across the country for programs intended to prevent people from embracing violent extremist ideologies. Some grant projects encouraged community members to report acts that might be seen as early signs of radicalization. Others trained cops to spot potential extremist behavior. Several mentored children with the aim of instilling in them a truer understanding of Islam, an aversion to violence, or simply more respect for the police.

The DHS invited initiatives combating any form of terrorism to apply when it announced the funding opportunity in 2016. But two-thirds of the applications chosen by the Trump administration focused on immigrants or Muslims, even though white supremacists and other domestic terrorists have caused more deaths and led to more arrests in recent years than extremists inspired by foreign ideologies. And several grant recipients described their projects as run-of-the-mill community programs, without disclosing to participants that they were funded by the DHS and were targeting those it deemed susceptible to violent extremism.

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Written by juliaharte

March 2, 2020 at 3:05 pm

Posted in Uncategorized

Trump tweet, political divisions fuel rising discourse about new U.S. civil war

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October 29, 2019, Reuters

Annotation 2020-03-03 145749MIDDLETOWN, Va. (Reuters) – Sporting a Confederate flag shirt near a field clouded by cannon smoke, where blue- and gray-clad soldiers reenacted a Civil War battle from 155 years ago, Larry Caldwell Piercy, Jr. said he sees a new war looming in the United States – and a role for himself in any fighting.

“It would be all guerrilla warfare, not this open field-style kind of thing,” he said, gesturing at the reenactment of the 1864 Battle of Cedar Creek in Middletown, Virginia, earlier this month. “I would probably be an officer in that effort.”

Piercy, 62, is one of the motorcycle riders known as the “mechanized cavalry” of the Sons of Confederate Veterans, which has an estimated 30,000 members and describes itself as a “non-political heritage organization” that preserves the history and legacy of soldiers in the pro-slavery Confederacy in the 1861-1865 Civil War.

He is also a fierce supporter of President Donald Trump.

As Democrats push to impeach Trump and controversy rages over whether to remove monuments to Confederate generals like Robert E. Lee and Stonewall Jackson, Piercy warned a new civil war is brewing.

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Written by juliaharte

October 29, 2019 at 2:59 pm

Posted in Uncategorized

Border wall business: The non-profits, startups and PACs seizing on Trump’s dream wall

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July 3, 2019, Reuters

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President Donald Trump’s signature campaign vow to erect a wall on the southern U.S. border with Mexico has been mired in cross-border bickering and opposition from Democratic lawmakers with power over the government’s purse strings.

But amid the political stalemate, a wave of only-in-America entrepreneurs, fundraisers and profiteers have taken the issue into their own hands.

Tapping into Trump’s outrage over immigrants pouring into the United States, several dozen citizens have created non-profit and for-profit organizations, started GoFundMe pages, and launched political action committees to raise money to fund the wall or support like-minded candidates. In all, more than $25 million has poured in, the vast majority to a venture led by an Air Force veteran who has become the most public face of the fundraising mission.

Who’s paying the bill? Americans such as Arlene Mackay, 80, a Montana cattle rancher who gave $1,000 in January to what she thought was a multi-million dollar fundraiser, dubbed We Build the Wall, to construct a border wall. In fact, her money went to a different venture with a similar name: Build the Wall.

“I thought I might be buying a piece of the wall – like an inch,” said Mackay, when informed her donation had not reached its intended target. The money, she said, could have gone instead to buy half a cow. “I’m just going to say I better be very cautious from now on.”

In all, Reuters found, more than 330,000 Americans have dipped into their wallets to bankroll emerging border wall campaigns. With their investments have come big promises, but few concrete results. The most noticeable impact so far: A half-mile of new bollard-style fencing in eastern New Mexico, built by the largest border wall fundraiser.

Even that project has been beset by regulatory concerns. Meanwhile, wall-themed novelty toy sellers and failed political action committees have left behind some disappointed customers and donors.

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Written by juliaharte

July 3, 2019 at 3:27 pm

Posted in Uncategorized

Foreign government leases at Trump World Tower stir more emoluments concerns

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May 3, 2019, Reuters

Trump World Tower is pictured in Manhattan, New YorkThe U.S. State Department allowed seven foreign governments to rent luxury condominiums in New York’s Trump World Tower in 2017 without approval from Congress, according to documents and people familiar with the leases, in what some experts say could be a potential violation of the U.S. Constitution’s emoluments clause.

The Manhattan building, part of the real estate empire of Donald Trump, had housed diplomats and foreign officials before the property developer became president. But now that he is in the White House, such transactions must be approved by federal lawmakers, some legal experts say. The emoluments clause bans U.S. officials from accepting gifts or payments from foreign governments without congressional consent.

The rental transactions, dating from the early months of Trump’s presidency and first disclosed by Reuters, could add to mounting scrutiny of his business dealings with foreign governments, which are now the subject of multiple lawsuits.

Congressional staffers confirmed to Reuters that the Trump World Tower lease requests were never submitted to Congress. Elijah Cummings, chairman of the House Oversight and Reform Committee, said his committee has been “stonewalled” in its efforts to obtain detailed information about foreign government payments to Trump’s businesses.

“This new information raises serious questions about the President and his businesses’ potential receipt of payments from foreign governments,” Cummings said in a statement to Reuters. “The American public deserves full transparency.”

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Written by juliaharte

May 3, 2019 at 1:22 pm

Posted in Uncategorized

Left in the Dust: The dismantling of a U.S. workplace safety rule, and the political battle behind it

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January 22, 2019, Reuters

vgb110NEWPORT NEWS, Va. – When Wardell Davis landed work with a Norfolk, Virginia, shipbuilding contractor in the fall of 2007, he felt lucky.

Then 24 years old, with no high school diploma, Davis had for years bounced between part-time jobs.

Unable to work, he lives on disability payments, and has brought suit against abrasives manufacturers and safety equipment providers he alleges failed to protect him. They deny responsibility for his failing health.

“If I ever would have thought that this would have happened to me, I would’ve never ever worked there,” he told Reuters, his words punctuated by coughs. “Ever.”

Davis was one of an estimated 11,500 shipyard and construction workers who U.S. regulators say are exposed each year to beryllium: a toxic, carcinogenic element laced through the coal waste often used in abrasive blasting grits. These workers lie at the heart of a little-known regulatory drama unfolding behind the Trump administration’s push to relax safety rules it deems burdensome to U.S. businesses.

he contractor, he says, promised better pay for grueling labor: blasting the hulls of U.S. Navy ships with coarsely ground coal particles to remove rust and paint. He recalls the fog of dust created as workers fired the crushed coal – a residue from coal-fired power plants – against the ship bottoms from high-powered hoses, moving through the tented blasting area in respirators and protective suits.

A year later, Davis found a better job with a plumbing and heating company. He became a father, but still found time to hit the YMCA most days for a swim, a lifelong passion. Then, in 2011, he began struggling to hold his breath under water; soon, he couldn’t hold it at all. He was dogged by a persistent cough, sweats and nausea.

In 2014, doctors at Norfolk’s Sentara Hospital found a “black foreign material” in his lungs. Davis successfully filed a disability claim for “pneumoconiosis/silicosis and/or interstitial fibrotic disease caused by exposure to abrasive blasting dust.” Four years and three biopsies later, Davis survives on a single lung.

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Written by juliaharte

January 22, 2019 at 10:21 am

Posted in Uncategorized

Turkish hydroelectric dam will leave hundreds homeless

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October 9, 2018, Reuters

IMG_2593HASANKEYF, Turkey – Hundreds of people displaced by a huge dam in southeast Turkey fear they could go homeless because resettlement laws prevent them from moving into a new government-built town above the rising Tigris River waters.

The Ilisu dam, which Turkey planned to fill this year, will generate 1,200 megawatts of electricity but has been criticized for water shortages it will create downstream in Iraq and for the tens of thousands of people it will displace in Turkey.

For hundreds of residents of the 12,000-year-old town of Hasankeyf and its neighboring village of Kesmekopru, both of which will be submerged, housing laws may also block them from finding new homes on the nearby mountainside.

Those regulations bar unmarried adults and people with addresses registered elsewhere from claiming home ownership in the new site, residents and town officials told Reuters.

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Written by juliaharte

October 9, 2018 at 3:40 pm

Posted in Uncategorized

Republican lawmakers in tight races now embrace gun control measures

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March 7, 2018, Reuters

download (8)A majority of Republican lawmakers in the tightest congressional races are changing their message on guns, expressing new support for restrictions after last month’s high school shooting in Florida, according to a Reuters review of the candidates’ public statements.

Eleven Republican incumbents face elections in 2018 widely seen as toss-ups or leaning against the current office holder. So far, six of them have publicly embraced new gun control measures in the wake of the Feb. 14 shooting in Parkland, Reuters found. (Graphic: tmsnrt.rs/2I8qevA)

In advocating for some restrictions, they are breaking ranks with a party that has often balked at taking significant steps that could restrict Americans’ constitutional right to own guns and has typically limited its responses to mass shootings to expressions of sympathy.

However limited the shift, it shows that lawmakers who will depend on the votes of moderates and independents to win tough swing-district races are deviating from decades of party orthodoxy on gun ownership.

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Written by juliaharte

March 7, 2018 at 12:38 pm

Posted in Uncategorized