Path to power: House races to watch on election night
By LAURIE KELLMAN
Monday, November 5
WASHINGTON (AP) — The path to power in the House winds through a few dozen districts, many of them suburban, in Tuesday’s election. Republicans defending their majority and Democrats looking to gain 23 seats they would need to win control.
After the first polls close in the Eastern United States, the tallies will start revealing clues to where Americans stand in 2018 on immigration, guns, health care, gender equality in the #MeToo era — and who they want representing them in Washington during the next two years of Donald Trump’s presidency.
Some races to watch for those keeping score, listed in order of poll-closing times:
The ruby-red state known for the Derby and sweet bourbon is hosting one of the most competitive and expensive races in the country. The Lexington-area battle pits third-term Republican Rep. Andy Barr against Democrat Amy McGrath, a retired Marine fighter pilot. Trump won the 6th District by more than 15 percentage points in 2016. But with the help of carefully shaped campaign ads that went viral, McGrath holds the edge on campaign fundraising.
Polls close at 7 p.m. EST
Red-hot Georgia is home to a House race that turns on issues of race and gun laws. Republican Rep. Karen Handel narrowly won her seat in a special election last year that set a record for spending. Now her Democratic challenger is Lucy McBath, a former flight attendant turned gun activist. McBath’s 17-year-old son, Jordan Davis, was killed by a white man at a gas station in 2012 when the black teenager refused to lower the volume on the rap music in his car. The district north of Atlanta leans Republican, but Trump won it by only 1 percentage point.
Polls close at 7 p.m. EST.
Rep. Dave Brat won his seat after upsetting House Majority Leader Eric Cantor in the 2014 Republican primary. Now, it’s Brat’s turn to fight for re-election to the Richmond-area district against Democrat Abigail Spanberger, a former CIA officer who is one of a record number of women running for Congress this year.
Polls close at 7 p.m. EST
North Carolina’s 9th District became a key election bellwether when the Rev. Mark Harris narrowly ousted three-term Rep. Robert Pittenger in the GOP primary, giving Democrats a wider opening in solidly red territory. Democrats answered with Dan McCready, an Iraq War veteran, solar energy company founder and Harvard Business School graduate. Trump won the district by 12 points and a Democrat hasn’t been elected to represent it since John F. Kennedy was president.
Polls close at 7:30 p.m. EST
It’s a rematch in central Ohio’s 12th District between Republican Troy Balderson and Democrat Danny O’Connor. Balderson won short-term control of the seat in August during a special election after Republican Pat Tiberi retired. Republicans in the district appear divided over the president, making the seat vulnerable to a Democrat who, like O’Connor, has supported some Republican ideas. He’s engaged to a Republican who calls herself a “Dannycrat.”
Polls close at 7:30 p.m. EST
National Republicans and Democrats are pouring major resources into the Miami-area 27th District seat, held since 1989 by retiring Republican Rep. Ileana Ros-Lehtinen. The Democratic nominee , Health and Human Services Secretary Donna Shalala, has ramped up her Spanish-language advertising and Hillary Clinton campaigned for her. But she’s facing a stiff challenge from her Republican opponent, Maria Elvira Salazar, a Cuban-American and former broadcast journalist who, unlike Shalala, speaks Spanish. Though Trump won Florida in 2016, Clinton won this congressional district by nearly 20 points.
Polls close at 8 p.m. EST
Along with California and Pennsylvania, suburb-filled New Jersey is a key battleground for House control. Two seats are open, vacated by veteran Republican Reps. Frank LoBiondo and Rodney Frelinghuysen , and could fall to the Democrats.
Keep a close eye on the 3rd District south of Trenton, which twice voted for President Barack Obama but went for Trump by about 6 percentage points. Fighting for re-election is Republican Rep. Tom MacArthur, who helped strike a deal that pushed the GOP’s “Obamacare” repeal bill to House passage (it failed in the Senate). His Democratic opponent is political newcomer Andy Kim, a National Security Council staffer under Obama who has worked in Afghanistan.
Polls close 8 p.m. EST
Democrats have particular reason to believe they can flip as many as six seats in the Keystone state. A state Supreme Court decision in January threw out 6-year-old congressional district boundaries as unconstitutionally drawn to benefit Republicans. The replacement districts approved by the court’s Democratic majority have created more competitive contests.
One key race is playing out in the Philadelphia suburbs. Freshman Republican Rep. Brian Fitzpatrick, a former FBI agent, has a centrist voting record and has explicitly tried to put distance between himself and Trump. He’s facing Scott Wallace, a longtime Democratic Party donor who was co-chairman of the Wallace Global Fund, a Washington, D.C.-based organization that supports liberal social movements. He’s heavily funding his campaign and outspent Fitzpatrick nearly 5-to-1 in the July-September quarter.
Polls close at 8 p.m. EST.
Trump and House Democratic Leader Nancy Pelosi loom large over a race in Northeastern Kansas. That’s where Democrat Paul Davis, the former state House minority leader, and Republican Steve Watkins, an Army veteran and engineer, are battling for the seat vacated by retiring Democratic Rep. Lynn Jenkins. Davis has said he would not support Pelosi for speaker if Democrats win the House. And Republicans were hoping that Trump’s visit to Topeka last month would boost Republican Steve Watkins, who has faced questions over claims he made about his qualifications and background.
Polls close 9 p.m. EST
Four House seats could flip from one party to the other in this traditionally Democratic stronghold.
For evidence of Democratic gains, look to the state’s booming suburbs. Clinton won Minnesota’s 3rd District west of Minnesota by 9 percentage points. GOP Rep. Erik Paulsen is under heavy pressure from Democrat Dean Phillips there. Paulsen avoided Trump’s recent rally in Rochester and his rally this summer in Duluth, and he has said he wrote in Marco Rubio’s name in the 2016 election. Still, Trump endorsed Paulsen last month.
Polls close 9 p.m. EST
The open 2nd District seat left open by Republican Rep. Steve Pearce, who is running for governor, offers a look at how the parties fare along the border with Mexico, where registered Democrats outnumber Republicans. Pearce attracted support from Hispanics and the region’s oil and gas interests. But the race between Democrat Xochitl Torres Small and GOP opponent Yyvette Herrell has focused on hot-button issues such as immigration and guns. Torres Small has raised more than five times the campaign cash drawn by Herrell.
Polls close 9 p.m. EST.
This deep-blue state offers a look at how race and Trump’s clout are playing out in the president’s home state.
North of New York City in the 19th District, an ad released last month by the Republican National Congressional Committee showed clips of Democrat Antonio Delgado performing songs from his 2006 rap album under his stage name, A.D. The Voice. Delgado, a Rhodes scholar and Harvard Law School graduate, said his opponent, Rep. John Faso, was using racial attacks to alienate him, a black first-time candidate in a district that is more than 90 percent white. Voters there are evenly split among Democrats, Republicans and independents, and went twice for Obama but favored Trump.
And in the Buffalo-area’s 22nd District, first-term Rep. Claudia Tenney, an early Trump supporter, is drawing comparisons to the president by brashly suggesting some people who commit mass murders are Democrats and promoting a petition to lock up Clinton. But in a close race against Democrat Anthony Brindisi, she’s shifted to a softer tone of bipartisanship. Brindisi, a state assemblyman, argues that Tenney’s hyper-partisan approach undermines her claim of working across the aisle. Trump beat Clinton by nearly 16 percentage points here.
Polls close 9 p.m. EST.
One Iowa race offers a test of whether a Trump-style advocate for immigration limits can win.
Republican Rep. Steve King is keeping a low profile in his bid for a ninth House term, his success suddenly in question after he was engulfed in controversy for his support of white nationalists. But Democrats, already hoping to flip two other seats among Iowa’s four-person delegation, have a tough road to success in the 4th District that voted for Trump by 27 percentage points. In an unusual move, the GOP’s campaign chief condemned King the week before the election, but it’s unclear whether the criticism will boost his Democratic opponent, J.D. Scholten.
Polls close 10 p.m. EST.
Democrats have targeted a string of Republican-held districts in California that carried Clinton in the 2016 presidential election.
One such battleground in the nation’s fruit-and-nut basket, the Central Valley, is where Republican Jeff Denham is trying to keep Democrat Josh Harder from taking his job. Fallout from Supreme Court Justice Brett Kavanaugh’s confirmation hearings and fights over health care and immigration have produced a tossup race where Democrats count a slender registration edge. Denham, a centrist who voted to repeal the Affordable Care Act, won re-election by 3 percentage points in 2016, while Clinton won the district with about 49 percent of the vote.
In another test of GOP clout in a rapidly diversifying district, Rep. Dana Rohrabacher’s re-election is in question for the first time in 30 years. A wave of new and more diverse residents and divisions over Trump and the #MeToo movement against sexual misconduct have produced a strong challenge from Democrat Harley Rouda. The district went to Clinton in the 2016 presidential contest.
Polls close at 11 p.m. EST.
Southwest Washington’s 3rd District offers a test of whether the tea party-driven GOP House takeover in 2010 survives. Republican Rep. Jaime Herrera Beutler, first elected that year and twice re-elected with more than 60 percent of the vote, has been out-raised in campaign funding by Democrat Carolyn Long. Herrera Beutler has broken with her party on such issues as health care. But Long has emphasized her credentials as an outsider. The district stretching east along the Oregon border voted for Trump by 7 percentage points.
Polls close at 11 p.m. EST.
Follow Kellman at http://www.Twitter.com/APLaurieKellman
For AP’s complete coverage of the U.S. midterm elections: http://apne.ws/APPolitics .
4 ways to defend democracy and protect every voter’s ballot
September 6, 2018
Douglas W. Jones
Associate Professor of Computer Science, University of Iowa
Douglas W. Jones was a co-principal investigator in the National Science Foundation funded ACCURATE (A Center for Correct, Usable, Reliable, Auditable, and Transparent Elections) project. He was a co-founder of the Open Voting Consortium, but is not currently affiliated with that group, and he is a registered Democrat.
As voters prepare to cast their ballots in the November midterm elections, it’s clear that U.S. voting is under electronic attack. Russian government hackers probed some states’ computer systems in the runup to the 2016 presidential election and are likely to do so again – as might hackers from other countries or nongovernmental groups interested in sowing discord in American politics.
Fortunately, there are ways to defend elections. Some of them will be new in some places, but these defenses are not particularly difficult nor expensive, especially when judged against the value of public confidence in democracy. I served on the Iowa board that examines voting machines from 1995 to 2004 and on the Technical Guidelines Development Committee of the United States Election Assistance Commission from 2009 to 2012, and Barbara Simons and I coauthored the 2012 book “Broken Ballots.”
Election officials have an important role to play in protecting election integrity. Citizens, too, need to ensure their local voting processes are safe. There are two parts to any voting system: the computerized systems tracking voters’ registrations and the actual process of voting – from preparing ballots through results tallying and reporting.
Before the passage of the Help America Vote Act of 2002, voter registration in the U.S. was largely decentralized across 5,000 local jurisdictions, mostly county election offices. HAVA changed that, requiring states to have centralized online voter registration databases accessible to all election officials.
In 2016, Russian government agents allegedly tried to access voter registration systems in 21 states. Illinois officials have identified their state as the only one whose databases were, in fact, breached – with information on 500,000 voters viewed and potentially copied by the hackers.
It’s not clear that any information was corrupted, changed or deleted. But that would certainly be one way to interfere with an election: either changing voters’ addresses to assign them to other precincts or simply deleting people’s registrations.
Another way this information could be misused would be to fraudulently request absentee ballots for real voters. Something like that happened on May 29, 2013, when Juan Pablo Baggini, an overzealous campaign worker in Miami, used his computer to file online absentee ballot requests on behalf of 20 local voters. He apparently thought he had their permission, but county officials noticed the large number of requests coming from the same computer in a short period of time. Baggini and another campaign worker were charged with misdemeanors and sentenced to probation.
A more sophisticated attack could use voters’ registration information to select targets based on how likely they are to vote a particular way and use common hacking tools to file electronic absentee ballot requests for them – appearing to come from a variety of computers over the course of several weeks. On Election Day, when those voters went to the polls, they’d be told they already had an absentee ballot and would be prevented from voting normally.
Two defenses for voter registration
There are two important defenses against these and other types of attacks on voter registration systems: provisional ballots and same-day registration.
When there are questions about whether a voter is entitled to vote at a particular polling place, federal law requires the person be issued a provisional ballot. The rules vary by state, and some places require provisional voters to bring proof of identity to the county election office before their ballots will be counted – which many voters may not have time to do. But the goal is that no voter should be turned away from the polls without at least a chance their vote will count. If questions arise about the validity of the registration database, provisional ballots offer a way to ensure every voter’s intent is recorded for counting when things get sorted out.
Same-day voter registration offers an even stronger defense. Fifteen states allow people to register to vote right at the polling place and then cast a normal ballot. Research on same-day registration has focused on turnout, but it also allows recovery from an attack on voter registration records.
Both approaches do require extra paperwork. If large numbers of voters are affected, that could cause long lines at polling places, which disenfranchise voters who cannot afford to wait. And like provisional voting, same-day registration may have more stringent identification requirements than for people whose voter registrations are already on the books. Some voters may have to go home to get additional documents and hope to make it back before the polls close.
Further, long lines, frustrated voters and frazzled election workers can create the appearance of chaos – which can play into the narratives of those who want to discredit the system even when things are actually working reasonably well.
Paper ballots are vital
Election integrity experts agree that voting machines can be hacked, even if the devices themselves are not connected to the internet.
Voting machine manufacturers say their devices have top-notch protections, but the only truly safe assumption is that they have not yet found additional vulnerabilities. Properly defending voting integrity requires assuming a worst-case scenario, in which every computer involved – at election offices, vote-tallying software developers and machine makers – has been compromised.
The first line of defense is that in most of the U.S., people vote on paper. Hackers can’t alter a hand-marked paper ballot – though they could change how a computerized vote scanner counts it, or what preliminary results are reported on official websites. In the event of a controversy, paper ballots can be recounted, by hand if needed.
Conduct post-election audits
Without paper ballots, there is not a way to be completely sure voting system software hasn’t been hacked. With them, though, the process is clear.
In a growing number of states, paper ballots are subject to routine statistical audits. In California, post-election audits have been required since 1965. Iowa allows election officials who suspect irregularities to initiate recounts even if the result appears decisive and no candidate asks for one; these are called administrative recounts.
Based on that experience, some election officials have told me that they suspect the current generation of scanners may be misinterpreting 1 vote in 100. That might seem like a small problem, but it’s really way too much opportunity for error. Voting simulations show that changing just one vote per voting machine across the United States could be enough to allow an attacker to determine which party controls Congress.
Recounts are expensive and time-consuming, though, and can create illusions of disarray and chaos that reduce public confidence in the election’s outcome. A better method is called a risk-limiting audit. It’s a straightforward method of determining how many ballots should be randomly selected for auditing, based on the size of the election, the margin of the initial result and – crucially – the statistical confidence the public wants in the final outcome. There are even free online tools available to make the calculations needed.
Preliminary experiences with risk-limiting audits are quite promising, but they could be made even more attractive by small changes to ballot-sheet scanners. The main problem is that the method is based in math and statistics, which many people don’t understand or trust. However, I believe relying on verifiable principles that any person could learn is far better than believing the assurances of companies that make voting equipment and software, or election officials who don’t understand how their machines actually work.
Elections must be as transparent and simple as possible. To paraphrase Dan Wallach at Rice University, the job of an election is to convince the losers that they lost fair and square. The declared winners will not ask questions and may seek to obstruct those who do ask. The losers will ask the hard questions, and election systems must be transparent enough that the partisan supporters of the losers can be convinced that they indeed lost. This sets a high standard, but it is a standard that every democracy must strive to meet.
Trump stumps in cities that don’t look that much like US
By JOSH BOAK
AP Economics Writer
Sunday, November 4
WASHINGTON (AP) — President Donald Trump is in the final stretch of a 44-city blitz for the midterm elections, but the America he’s glimpsed from the airport arrivals and his armored limousine is hardly a reflection of the nation as a whole.
The president has mostly traveled to counties that are whiter, less educated and have lower incomes than the rest of the United States, according to Census Bureau data. It’s a sign that he is seeking to galvanize the same group of voters that helped carry him to victory in 2016.
Trump has largely eschewed the big metropolises for smaller cities. He has been to Tampa, Nashville, Cleveland and Houston — where the arenas could accommodate his crowds. But he’s primarily been jet-setting to smaller places such as Elko, Nevada (population 20,078). Or, Mosinee, Wisconsin (population 4,023). Or, Belgrade, Montana (population 7,874).
When Trump stops at Belgrade on Saturday, historical records suggest he will be the second president to visit the Montana town named after Serbia’s capital city. In 2009, Barack Obama held a town hall in Belgrade to promote the Affordable Care Act.
Since March, Trump has crisscrossed the country like a salesman with a set territory. The majority of his trips have been to just nine states. They are Ohio, Pennsylvania, Tennessee, Florida, Missouri, Montana, Indiana, West Virginia and Nevada.
Trump won eight of those states in 2016, but not Nevada. And this year, seven of them feature a major Senate race with a Democratic incumbent. The former casino magnate has visited one city twice for the midterms: Las Vegas.
Here is a portrait of the America that the president is seeing:
Trump has journeyed to counties where it’s slightly more of a struggle to reach and stay in the middle class.
Out of his scheduled rallies, 74 percent are in counties with median incomes that fall below the national level. But he’s brought tidings of a 49-year low unemployment rate and accelerated economic growth to places that mostly lag the median U.S. household income of $55,032.
In September, Trump went to Wheeling, West Virginia. The typical household income in the county surrounding Wheeling is $41,986, or about $13,000 below the national level. The metro area has lost 818 jobs in the 12 months that ended in August, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics. And for West Virginia, coal mine jobs have declined this year after a hiring bump in 2017.
“Your state is booming like never before,” Trump told the crowd in Wheeling. “And our great coal miners are back to work.”
Trump has visited a few affluent counties. He stopped by Rochester, Minnesota, where incomes are high because of the presence of the world-renowned Mayo Clinic. And during a special congressional election in August, the president campaigned in Delaware County, Ohio, where the median household income of $94,234 is just shy of being double the national average.
FEWER COLLEGE DEGREES
Just 18.1 percent of the adults in Elko County, Nevada hold a college degree. That’s compared to 30.3 percent nationwide. Of the 43 places Trump is visiting, 28 have a below-average share of college graduates.
Elko’s economy is unique because it relies on mining gold, instead of the office and health care jobs that often require a college diploma. The county has five active gold mines, according to the Nevada Commission on Mineral Resources. This makes it something of an outlier in country where mining metal ore accounts for 0.03 percent of all jobs.
Trump went to Elko in part to help push for the re-election of Republican Sen. Dean Heller, who is in a tight race against Democratic Rep. Jacky Rosen. Heller flattered the president — and provided the lone reference to the local economy — by telling him, “I think everything you touch turns to gold.”
When Trump has gone to more educated counties, it’s often because they have a major college campus and venues where people can gather. Missoula is home to the University of Montana and 41.8 percent of its adults are college graduates. The University of Missouri is in Columbia, where 46.8 percent of adults hold college degrees.
Other than his rallies at big cities, Trump has generally been in communities that are overwhelmingly white. The U.S. population is 73.3 percent white, but almost three-fourths of the places where the president has stumped for midterms are above that average.
In the county surrounding Council Bluffs, Iowa, 88.7 percent of the population is non-Hispanic whites. Trump told the crowd at his rally that Democrats would allow Central American gangs such as MS-13 to immigrate freely into the United States, a claim disputed by Democratic lawmakers.
“They want to turn America, these Democrats — and that’s what they want — into a giant sanctuary for criminal aliens and the MS-13 killers,” Trump said.
In the area around Council Bluffs, 6.1 percent of the population is of Mexican descent. About 1 percent are from other Hispanic nations. By comparison, 17.3 percent of the U.S. population is Hispanic.
The biggest outlier in Trump’s schedule may be his rally Sunday in Macon, Georgia. Its county is 53.9 percent black, making it the lone place being visited by the president where minorities make up the majority of the population.
Trump is going there to promote the gubernatorial candidacy of Republican Brian Kemp. He is running against Democrat Stacey Abrams, who is trying to become the first black female governor in U.S. history.