01:52 - Source: CNN
Millions cast their votes early ahead of Election Day 2020

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CNN  — 

Thirty minutes. That’s the maximum amount of time anyone should have to wait to vote, according to a 2014 report by a presidential commission.

“Any wait time that exceeds this half-hour standard is an indication that something is amiss and that corrective measures should be deployed,” according to the Presidential Commission on Election Administration, a bipartisan group that was empaneled during the Obama administration, in part after pictures of crazy long voting lines in 2012.

While most Americans are not going to wait hours to vote this year, the fact that some are is a problem and, while people who fell out of long lines this week at early in-person voting locations still have time to go back, that’s not going to be the case on Election Day.

A Brennan Center study of the 2018 midterms suggested more than 3 million voters waited more than the government-recommended 30 minutes to vote. That study notes that Latino and Black voters are more likely to say they waited longer than this half-hour wait, which compounds the unfairness of it.

The presidential commission didn’t mention race in the portion of its report on long lines, but rather said there are “problem jurisdictions” that are routinely failing to move voters through, thanks to long ballots, glitchy registration systems and, sometimes, feuding poll workers.

North Carolina is the latest place to open polling places. And there were plenty of pictures of long voter lines. Local new reports suggested people were waiting more than an hour in some places.

Early in-person voting starts:

  • in Louisiana and Washington on Friday,
  • Massachusetts and Nevada on Saturday,
  • Alaska, Arkansas, Colorado, Idaho and North Dakota on Monday,
  • Hawaii, Utah and Wisconsin next Tuesday,
  • West Virginia on October 21,
  • Most of Florida on October 24,
  • and Maryland on October 26.

When it starts in Washington, DC, and parts of Kansas on October 27, it will also be ending in Pennsylvania and Louisiana.

Check your state at CNN’s voter guide.

There will be pictures of long lines, potentially, for every one of these states, although North Carolina is a key battleground this year and where more than half the votes were cast early in 2016, before the pandemic put early voting on steroids.

I looked at the wait times, randomly, in Durham at 4:35 p.m. and they ranged from 15 minutes to 55 minutes.

Mail-in ballots in limbo in North CarolinaCNN’s Dianne Gallagher talked to two North Carolina voters, Black men, whose mail-in votes have been flagged as needing a “cure.” But the men, nearly a month after mailing their ballots, have not yet been contacted by Guilford County, which includes Greensboro.

And they can’t cure them until the County calls them. The county has a much higher rate of throwing out ballots than other counties, according to CNN’s report.

This issue of ballot curing is the subject of court battles around the country and in North Carolina, where a judge recently ruled ballots without a signature on their envelope cannot be cured.

And sentences like this from Gallagher’s report are what leads to allegations of voter suppression: Statewide, Black voters make up only 16% of total ballot returns, but they account for almost 40% of the ballots labeled as “pending” or “pending cure.”

What happened to my mail-in ballot? I made a big show of putting my absentee ballot in a mail box a little more than a week ago.

I tracked it online and the postal service scanned it. On Wednesday I called the city election office to make absolutely sure they got it. They said they did and it was locked up and ready for Election Day.

My wife used a drop box. They said they have her ballot too.

Now I’ll have to make sure the ballot is accepted. There’s certainly more to the mail-in process than simply showing up and voting. But my completely anecdotal and personal story is a happy one so far.

As of Friday, all 50 states and Washington, DC, have some kind of mail-in option available. Check your local listings here.

About those California drop boxes. In a letter, the state party said it would continue to utilize unofficial drop boxes to collect ballots and return them for counting. Note: These ballots would still need to be associated with a registered voter and be certified as valid.

The battle over drop boxes in Texas continues – After a federal appeals court sided with the governor, a state court has ruled against him, according to reports. These boxes are for dropped off mail-in ballots.

Time is passing by. Bookmark this Harry Enten story about how long after Election Day it will take to count ballots received by mail. The key point here is that the states are about evenly split on whether they’ll count ballots accepted after Election Day.

More hiccups

28,000 incorrect ballots in Pennsylvania – CNN’s Kelly Mena reports that Allegheny County election officials announced Thursday that a “ballot imaging error” by the counties contractor, Midwest Direct, resulted in incorrect ballots being sent to 28,879 voters in the western Pennsylvania county that includes the city of Pittsburgh.

All ballots are being re-issued with most voters expected to receive the corrected ballots the week of October 19, David Voye, manager of the Elections Division for Allegheny County, said in a statement.

The county will also be making a “look-up tool available within the next 24 hours for voters to determine if they are in the batch of impacted ballots. In the interim, voters may use the state’s online ballot tracker to look up when their ballot was mailed. It can be found in the column “Ballot Mailed On.” If the date is 09/28/2020, you may have received an incorrect ballot.”

Donald Trump’s margin of victory in Pennsylvania was less than 45,000 votes in 2016. The margins are very important!

17 million plus Americans already voted

We’re still 19 days from Election Day, but that 17 million early votes figure is closing in on 15% of total vote count in 2016, which was 128,838,342.

In battleground states, the early voting tallies are:

  • More than 2 million in Florida
  • More than 500,000 in North Carolina
  • Nearly 1 million in Georgia
  • More than 1.1 million in Michigan
  • Nearly 600,000 in Wisconsin

Each figure is close to or more than double the vote at this point in 2016, although it’s almost not worth comparing the years since the circumstances and rules this year are so different. In 2016, a total of just more than 46 million votes were cast early. Read more from CNN’s Chris Cillizza here.

(Note: This voting information comes from CNN, Edison Research and Catalist – a data company that provides data, analytics and other services to Democrats, academics and non-profit issue advocacy organizations.)

Cillizza notes: In the 23 states that report ballots cast by party identification, 55% of the returned ballots are from Democrats while just 24% are from Republican and 16% are from voters with no party affiliation.

Democrats have returned more ballots in Florida, according to CNN’s tally. While that’s not predictive and some Republicans – at Trump’s urging – may be more leery of early voting this year. But it is certainly a turnaround from recent years, when Republicans held an early voting edge in that state.

Early vote numbers are deceiving. This is close. In a new NPR/PBS/ Marist poll, Joe Biden leads Trump, 78% to 21%, among voters who say they have already voted. That is absolutely not going to be the way this election ends.

And the most interesting tweet you’ll read today comes from Joe Biden’s campaign manager, who said on Twitter:

“Early voting is already underway in many states. Millions of voters have already cast their ballots. But there is still a long way to go in this campaign, and we think this race is far closer than folks on this website think. Like a lot closer.”