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The State of Reform
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Trump's allies push tiny suspicions of vote fraud in two swing states

The number of votes being investigated for fraud has surged this week — by 47 ballots.

Inquiries were revealed Thursday by the Justice Department, which said it was probing the fate of nine discarded mailed-in ballots in Pennsylvania, and the Republican attorney general in Texas, who unveiled indictments in a case of 38 people pretending to be disabled so they could vote absentee.

The probes show just how assiduously allies of President Trump are working to find and publicize cheating with mailed votes, a scheme the president maintains is so massive that it's about to rob him of an otherwise assured second term.

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Legal decisions issued over the past few days significant impact voting by mail in a half-dozen states.

More court rulings in favor of a complete (if not quick) election

This month's flurry of courthouse wins is continuing for advocates of a comprehensive and safe election. The most important decision out of six since Friday could prevent the presidential election winner from being declared until the middle of November.

Michigan absentee ballots must be counted so long as they arrive within two weeks of the election, a judge ruled Friday. If not reversed on appeal, the ruling means the tallying of potentially hundreds of thousands of votes won't be done until Nov. 17 in a state Donald Trump carried by a scant 11,000 votes last time — and with 16 electoral votes that remain a tossup again this time.

Judges also allowed easier absentee voting in the biggest county in Texas, relaxed a vote-by-mail restriction in South Carolina and tossed a lawsuit seeking to limit mail voting in Illinois. And the Postal Service agreed to destroy millions of its misleading voter mailings. The only bad news for voting rights groups came from the Supreme Court of Mississippi, which ruled people at high risk of severe Covid-19 complications don't have an automatic right to vote absentee.

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These are the latest developments:

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Access to absentee voting expands in three more states

Claim: Absentee ballot request forms sent by political organizations are legitimate. Fact check: True

Voters in states such as Texas and North Carolina were sent absentee voter request forms from political organizations that sometimes feature ads for candidates, including President Trump. As long as the form included in the ad is "not altered or pre-filled" the form would pass inspection in North Carolina, according to Patrick Gannon of the state's Board of Elections.

"As long as they are official North Carolina Absentee Ballot Request Forms (older versions of the official state form are also accepted, as we have updated them this year), and as long as no information is pre-filled, our county boards of elections should accept them," Gannon continued in his email.

Full details on determining the validity of absentee ballot request forms in North Carolina can be found here. Organizations involved in sending these mailers include the North Carolina GOP and the Center for Voter Information. Voters should make sure to inspect the forms they receive from political organizations to ensure they match their state's official request form or they can request an absentee ballot directly from their state's board of elections website.

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Rep. James Clyburn, along with other Democrats on the House subcommittee, led an investigation into election preparedness in four states.

Hill Democrats focus voting concerns on four big battlegrounds

Congressional Democrats this week moved to focus heightened concern about election preparedness on four of the biggest battlegrounds: Texas, Florida, Georgia and Wisconsin.

The majority of a special House committee, created this spring to oversee the government's response to the coronavirus pandemic, issued a report Wednesday focusing their apprehension on the limits of mail-in voting, poll worker shortages and safety of polling places in those states — with a combined 93 electoral votes central to the campaign strategies of both President Trump and Joe Biden.

The report by the Select Subcommittee on the Coronavirus Crisis, which no Republicans signed, urged the states to spend quickly and generously to fix the problems — something they are unlikely to be able to do without a cash infusion from Congress itself, which looks less likely every day.

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