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Democrats want to turn Texas blue. It starts with the state House in 2020.

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Former Vice President Joe Biden has made a late-stage play for Texas in the hope of bringing to fruition his party’s longtime dream of flipping a once reliably red state. Local Democrats have set their sights lower on the ballot: They’re hoping to pick up nine seats in the Texas House of Representatives, enough to give them control of the state’s House for the first time since 2002.

The goal could be within their grasp. Those seats are all in districts that Democrat Beto O’Rourke won in his ultimately unsuccessful 2018 US Senate run. Even if President Donald Trump claims Texas’s 38 electoral votes in November and Sen. John Cornyn fends off newcomer MJ Hegar, Democrats hope that the state House will be the first domino to fall in their mission to remake Texas politics for good.

In 2018, Democrats picked up 12 seats in the state House. The party’s internal polling suggests that they are on track to flip another six to seven seats, said Genevieve Van Cleve, the Texas state director of All On the Line, the advocacy arm of the National Democratic Redistricting Committee. The remaining seats are more of a reach, but Democrats believe they’re still winnable.

The consequences of a Texas House win are bigger this year than in a typical election year because the state legislature will be responsible for redrawing electoral districts in 2021 after the results of the 2020 census come in. In a state that has long engaged in partisan gerrymandering, Democrats are hoping that, if they control the lower chamber, they will at least get a seat at the table during the redistricting process — improving their chances of winning elections in the state over the next decade.

“Democrats can compete just fine if we’re on a level playing field, and what we don’t have in Texas is a level playing field,” Van Cleve said.

They are also aiming to use a state House majority to prioritize expanding Medicaid for low-income Texans in the middle of a pandemic that has hit the state particularly hard, though with a Republican governor and state Senate that have long opposed that goal, it will likely be out of reach for at least the next two years.

Beyond those policy goals, Democrats hope that flipping the state House could give voters a reason to show up in future elections. Texas has historically low turnout, especially among Hispanic voters, in part because it has among the most restrictive voting laws nationwide. That has been a major obstacle to Democratic hopes of flipping the state.

“If we win a majority in the state House, you now have a seat at the table where you can begin to draw people back into democracy, draw them back in [with] a reason to vote,” O’Rourke said in an interview. “We have the ability to actually cure some of this.”

A state House majority would give Democrats a seat at the table in redistricting

Texas’s current electoral maps favor Republicans, but Democrats are trying to change that by flipping the state House and having a say in the redistricting process that will begin next year.

Winning the majority would offer them only modest gains in power — a single seat at the table on the state’s five-person legislative redistricting board and the possibility of sending the maps to federal court. That’s an improvement over the veto power they currently have over the maps (none), but it’s still a far cry from taking the reins and being able to redraw them more equitably.

Both congressional and state legislative districts are redrawn every 10 years. In most states, including Texas, the state legislature controls the process. In 2021, the redistricting committees of both the state House and state Senate will convene and attempt to pass new electoral maps, which must include districts of equal populations that do not discriminate on the basis of race and ethnicity. The governor has the power to veto those maps.

But if the chambers can’t come to an agreement or the governor vetoes their maps — as is likely to be the case if Democrats take control of the state House — that’s when it gets tricky. A panel of three federal judges in San Antonio would have the final say over the congressional maps.

But the process is different for the state legislative maps: a five-person board composed of the lieutenant governor, state attorney general, state comptroller, commissioner of the General Land Office, and speaker of the Texas House draw the maps in closed-door meetings, with no public input. A simple majority of the board would have to approve the maps. Currently, Republicans hold all of the seats on the board, but if Democrats win the state House and select their speaker, they would gain a seat at the table.

That’s the only way Democrats can begin to reverse the partisan gerrymandering that has plagued Texas for decades. Republicans have been accused of diluting the power of nonwhite voters (who tend to favor Democrats) with their electoral maps in 2003 and 2011, spurring protracted legal battles. And they have sought to break up the state’s growing urban, Democratic centers and create districts that extend well into redder, rural areas.

The practice is particularly obvious in Travis County, home to Austin, a city often described as a “blueberry in tomato soup.” The county has five congressional districts, all anchored in liberal Austin, but only one of those districts is represented by a Democrat.

“I’ve been in these districts where they’re sliced and diced, cracked and packed,” Van Cleve said. “Somebody who wants to run for office quickly discovers that no matter how great a message they have and no matter how awesome their volunteer support is in the community, their voice is not going to be heard at the Texas Capitol if they live in a district that’s totally gerrymandered.”

There could be additional complications to redistricting next year. Ken Paxton, the Texas Attorney General, has been accused of committing crimes including bribery and abuse of office, and it’s possible that a Democratic state House could move to impeach him and force him to step down. Gov. Greg Abbott, a Republican, would have to appoint his successor, meaning that his seat on the redistricting board would go to someone who “no Texan has vetted or voted for,” Van Cleve said.

The redistricting process also hinges on the new population counts from the 2020 census, which has been delayed on account of the pandemic and obstructed by the Trump administration. The population of Texas has grown substantially over the last 10 years, which can largely be attributed to growth in the Latino community and in major metro areas. The state is on track to gain two to three congressional seats, but if the results of the census are delayed or found to be inaccurate, that could impact whether the electoral maps accurately reflect population trends.

“It just doesn’t serve ordinary people,” Van Cleve said. “This system of rigged maps and hyperpartisan gerrymandering really goes lockstep with voter suppression.”

Democrats are highlighting Medicaid in their battle for the state House

On the campaign trail, Democratic candidates have sought to make their battle for the state House about one of voters’ top priorities, particularly in the middle of a pandemic: health care. In particular, they want to expand Medicaid under the Affordable Care Act’s joint state-federal program that has offered health care coverage to individuals with incomes below 138 percent of the poverty line (about $17,600 for a single adult) since 2016.

It’s a central pillar in their so-called “contract with Texas,” laying out policies they would seek to enact if they captured the majority. It’s also been highlighted in ads funded by the national Democratic super PAC Forward Majority, which has sunk $12 million into the Texas state House battle.

But since the GOP still holds a decisive majority in the state Senate, Democrats won’t likely be able to pass Medicaid expansion even if they capture the state House. And even if they did manage to pass it, Abbott could still veto it.

Texas, which has the highest uninsured rate nationwide, is one of only 12 states that has yet to expand Medicaid. The federal government covers 90 percent of costs associated with the program as of 2020, and Democrats estimate that it could bring in $110 billion in federal funds over the next decade.

Expanding Medicaid would extend health insurance coverage to an estimated 1 million low-income Texans amid the pandemic. Coronavirus hospitalizations peaked over the summer after Texas became one of the first states to reopen its economy, and 650,000 Texans have lost their health insurance during the pandemic. There have been concerning signs that Texas is due for another surge as cases have recently spiked in El Paso and North Texas.

“We have got to expand Medicaid,” state Rep. Erin Zwiener, a Democrat who is up for reelection after flipping their district in 2018, told KXAN. “Texas is leaving $10 billion of federal funding on the table every year because we got stubborn in 2009.”

Republicans, including Abbott, have long cautioned that it would nevertheless be too expensive and raise health care costs across the board.

“Medicaid expansion is wrong for Texas,” Abbott said in 2015, calling it a “broken and bloated” program.

A few Texas Republicans appear to be changing their position on the matter, but not nearly enough to be able to get the legislation through the state Senate and Gov. Abbott.

Democrats see winning the state House as a driver of voter enthusiasm

The Democrats’ play for the state House is coming on the heels of a particularly divisive few years in the Texas legislature, marked by controversies around a bill protecting businesses like Chick-Fil-A that donate to religious organizations that oppose same-sex marriage, and a failed proposal that would have barred transgender people from using public bathroom facilities that align with their gender identity.

Democrats see this election as an opportunity to show Texans, and the whole country, that their state politics can be different.

“This is ground zero for the fight for LGBTQ rights. This is ground zero for the fight for voting rights. It’s ground zero for the fight for reproductive health care,” Charlie Bonner, a spokesperson for MOVE Texas, a voter registration and engagement group, said. “For that reason, there’s a lot of national interest in ensuring that we see progress here.”

State House candidates have the challenge of getting their names out there in the middle of a pandemic that has made rallies, town hall meetings, and door-knocking impossible. Texas Republicans have also put up their own defenses, with Abbott injecting a mid-seven-figure investment into down-ballot candidates during the final weeks before Election Day. And they have sought to curb voter participation, limiting the number of ballot drop-off locations to just one per county, banning counties from sending mail-in ballots to all registered voters, and seeking to curtail drive-thru voting.

But organizations like MOVE Texas have observed that Democratic voters are now more activated in the state than ever. While the top of the ticket is driving voters to the polls, so are competitive down-ballot races, particularly among young people.

“We haven’t been having this discussion before about the hyperlocal basis for these issues that our generation really cares about, like racial justice and climate change,” Bonner said. “The president can’t have that much of an impact on those issues. But you can make a big difference on those issues in your city.”

Turnout already appears to be up this cycle. As of October 20 — with 10 days of early voting still to go — almost one-third of registered voters had cast their ballots in the state’s 10 largest counties. (That includes both Democrats and Republicans.) And Harris County, which has historically voted Democratic, has set early voting records.

Democrats are hoping that their play for the state House will keep voters activated for future contests: Abbott will be up for reelection in 2022, and his approval ratings have taken a hit during the coronavirus pandemic, possibly leaving him vulnerable to a Democratic challenger down the road. A Democratic PAC has already started fundraising to defeat him. A win in the state House could add momentum to those efforts.

“People have written off Texas for so many years that Texas voters didn’t believe in themselves,” Bonner said.


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All the products we found to be the best during our testing this year

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(CNN) —  

Throughout the year, CNN Underscored is constantly testing products — be it coffee makers or headphones — to find the absolute best in each respective category.

Our testing process is rigorous, consisting of hours of research (consulting experts, reading editorial reviews and perusing user ratings) to find the top products in each category. Once we settle on a testing pool, we spend weeks — if not months — testing and retesting each product multiple times in real-world settings. All this in an effort to settle on the absolute best products.

So, as we enter peak gifting season, if you’re on the hunt for the perfect gift, we know you’ll find something on this list that they (or you!) will absolutely love.

Coffee

Best burr coffee grinder: Baratza Virtuoso+ Conical Burr Grinder With Digital Timer Display ($249; amazon.com or walmart.com)

Baratza Virtuoso+ Conical Burr Grinder
Baratza Virtuoso+ Conical Burr Grinder

Beginner baristas and coffee connoisseurs alike will be pleased with the Baratza Virtuoso+, a conical burr grinder with 40 settings for grind size, from super fine (espresso) to super coarse (French press). The best coffee grinder we tested, this sleek look and simple, intuitive controls, including a digital timer, allow for a consistent grind every time — as well as optimal convenience.

Read more from our testing of coffee grinders here.

Best drip coffee maker: Braun KF6050WH BrewSense Drip Coffee Maker ($79.95; amazon.com)

Braun KF6050WH BrewSense Drip Coffee Maker
Braun KF6050WH BrewSense Drip Coffee Maker

During our testing of drip coffee makers, we found the Braun KF6050WH BrewSense Drip Coffee Maker made a consistently delicious, hot cup of coffee, brewed efficiently and cleanly, from sleek, relatively compact hardware that is turnkey to operate, and all for a reasonable price.

Read more from our testing of drip coffee makers here.

Best single-serve coffee maker: Breville-Nespresso VertuoPlus ($165; originally $179.95; amazon.com)

Breville-Nespresso VertuoPlus
Breville-Nespresso VertuoPlus

Among all single-serve coffee makers we tested, the Breville-Nespresso VertuoPlus, which uses pods that deliver both espresso and “regular” coffee, could simply not be beat for its convenience. Intuitive and a snap to use right out of the box, it looks sleek on the counter, contains a detached 60-ounce water reservoir so you don’t have to refill it with each use and delivers perfectly hot, delicious coffee with a simple tap of a lever and press of a button.

Read more from our testing of single-serve coffee makers here.

Best coffee subscription: Blue Bottle (starting at $11 per shipment; bluebottlecoffee.com)

Blue Bottle coffee subscription
Blue Bottle coffee subscription

Blue Bottle’s coffee subscription won us over with its balance of variety, customizability and, most importantly, taste. We sampled both the single-origin and blend assortments and loved the flavor of nearly every single cup we made. The flavors are complex and bold but unmistakably delicious. Beyond its coffee, Blue Bottle’s subscription is simple and easy to use, with tons of options to tailor to your caffeine needs.

Read more from our testing of coffee subscriptions here.

Best cold brewer coffee maker: Hario Mizudashi Cold Brew Coffeepot ($25; amazon.com)

Hario Mizudashi Cold Brew Coffeepot
Hario Mizudashi Cold Brew Coffeepot

This sleek, sophisticated and streamlined carafe produces 1 liter (about 4 1/4 cups) of rich, robust brew in just eight hours. It was among the simplest to assemble, it executed an exemplary brew in about the shortest time span, and it looked snazzy doing it. Plus, it rang up as the second-most affordable of our inventory.

Read more from our testing of cold brew makers here.

Kitchen essentials

Best nonstick pan: T-fal E76597 Ultimate Hard Anodized Nonstick Fry Pan With Lid ($39.97; amazon.com)

T-fal E76597 Ultimate Hard Anodized Nonstick Fry Pan With Lid
T-fal E76597 Ultimate Hard Anodized Nonstick Fry Pan With Lid

If you’re a minimalist and prefer to have just a single pan in your kitchen, you’d be set with the T-fal E76597. This pan’s depth gives it multipurpose functionality: It cooks standard frying-pan foods like eggs and meats, and its 2 1/2-inch sides are tall enough to prepare recipes you’d usually reserve for pots, like rices and stews. It’s a high-quality and affordable pan that outperformed some of the more expensive ones in our testing field.

Read more from our testing of nonstick pans here.

Best blender: Breville Super Q ($499.95; breville.com)

Breville Super Q
Breville Super Q

With 1,800 watts of motor power, the Breville Super Q features a slew of preset buttons, comes in multiple colors, includes key accessories and is touted for being quieter than other models. At $500, it does carry a steep price tag, but for those who can’t imagine a smoothie-less morning, what breaks down to about $1.30 a day over a year seems like a bargain.

Read more from our testing of blenders here.

Best knife set: Chicago Cutlery Fusion 17-Piece Knife Block Set ($119.74; amazon.com)

Chicago Cutlery Fusion 17-Piece Knife Block Set
Chicago Cutlery Fusion 17-Piece Knife Block Set

The Chicago Cutlery Fusion 17-Piece Knife Block Set sets you up to easily take on almost any cutting job and is a heck of a steal at just $119.97. Not only did the core knives included (chef’s, paring, utility and serrated) perform admirably, but the set included a bevy of extras, including a full set of steak knives. We were blown away by their solid construction and reliable execution for such an incredible value. The knives stayed sharp through our multitude of tests, and we were big fans of the cushion-grip handles that kept them from slipping, as well as the classic look of the chestnut-stained wood block. If you’re looking for a complete knife set you’ll be proud of at a price that won’t put a dent in your savings account, this is the clear winner.

Read more from our testing of knife sets here.

Audio

Best true wireless earbuds: AirPods Pro ($199, originally $249; amazon.com)

Apple AirPods Pro
Apple AirPods Pro

Apple’s AirPods Pro hit all the marks. They deliver a wide soundstage, thanks to on-the-fly equalizing tech that produces playback that seemingly brings you inside the studio with the artist. They have the best noise-canceling ability of all the earbuds we tested, which, aside from stiff-arming distractions, creates a truly immersive experience. To sum it up, you’re getting a comfortable design, a wide soundstage, easy connectivity and long battery life.

Read more from our testing of true wireless earbuds here.

Best noise-canceling headphones: Sony WH-1000XM4 ($278, originally $349.99; amazon.com)

Sony WH-1000XM4
Sony WH-1000XM4

Not only do the WH-1000XM4s boast class-leading sound, but phenomenal noise-canceling ability. So much so that they ousted our former top overall pick, the Beats Solo Pros, in terms of ANC quality, as the over-ear XM4s better seal the ear from outside noise. Whether it was a noise from a dryer, loud neighbors down the hall or high-pitched sirens, the XM4s proved impenetrable. This is a feat that other headphones, notably the Solo Pros, could not compete with — which is to be expected considering their $348 price tag.

Read more from our testing of noise-canceling headphones here.

Best on-ear headphones: Beats Solo 3 ($119.95, originally $199.95; amazon.com)

Beats Solo 3
Beats Solo 3

The Beats Solo 3s are a phenomenal pair of on-ear headphones. Their sound quality was among the top of those we tested, pumping out particularly clear vocals and instrumentals alike. We enjoyed the control scheme too, taking the form of buttons in a circular configuration that blend seamlessly into the left ear cup design. They are also light, comfortable and are no slouch in the looks department — more than you’d expect given their reasonable $199.95 price tag.

Read more from our testing of on-ear headphones here.

Beauty

Best matte lipstick: Stila Stay All Day Liquid Lipstick ($11, originally $22; amazon.com or $22; nordstrom.com and stilacosmetics.com)

Stila Stay All Day Liquid Lipstick
Stila Stay All Day Liquid Lipstick

The Stila Stay All Day Liquid Lipstick has thousands of 5-star ratings across the internet, and it’s easy to see why. True to its name, this product clings to your lips for hours upon hours, burritos and messy breakfast sandwiches be damned. It’s also surprisingly moisturizing for such a superior stay-put formula, a combo that’s rare to come by.

Read more from our testing of matte lipsticks here.

Best everyday liquid liner: Stila Stay All Day Waterproof Liquid Eyeliner ($22; stilacosmetics.com or macys.com)

Stila Stay All Day Waterproof Liquid Eyeliner
Stila Stay All Day Waterproof Liquid Eyeliner

The Stila Stay All Day Waterproof Liquid Eyeliner is a longtime customer favorite — hence its nearly 7,500 5-star reviews on Sephora — and for good reason. We found it requires little to no effort to create a precise wing, the liner has superior staying power and it didn’t irritate those of us with sensitive skin after full days of wear. As an added bonus, it’s available in a whopping 12 shades.

Read more from our testing of liquid eyeliners here.

Work-from-home essentials

Best office chair: Steelcase Series 1 (starting at $381.60; amazon.com or $415, wayfair.com)

Steelcase Series 1
Steelcase Series 1

The Steelcase Series 1 scored among the highest overall, standing out as one of the most customizable, high-quality, comfortable office chairs on the market. At $415, the Steelcase Series 1 beat out most of its pricier competitors across testing categories, scoring less than a single point lower than our highest-rated chair, the $1,036 Steelcase Leap, easily making it the best bang for the buck and a clear winner for our best office chair overall.

Read more from our testing of office chairs here.

Best ergonomic keyboard: Logitech Ergo K860 ($129.99; logitech.com)

Logitech Ergo K860
Logitech Ergo K860

We found the Logitech Ergo K860 to be a phenomenally comfortable keyboard. Its build, featuring a split keyboard (meaning there’s a triangular gap down the middle) coupled with a wave-like curvature across the body, allows both your shoulders and hands to rest in a more natural position that eases the tension that can often accompany hours spent in front of a regular keyboard. Add the cozy palm rest along the bottom edge and you’ll find yourself sitting pretty comfortably.

Read more from our testing of ergonomic keyboards here.

Best ergonomic mouse: Logitech MX Master 3 ($99.99; logitech.com)

Logitech MX Master 3
Logitech MX Master 3

The Logitech MX Master 3 is an unequivocally comfortable mouse. It’s shaped to perfection, with special attention to the fingers that do the clicking. Using it felt like our fingers were lounging — with a sculpted ergonomic groove for nearly every finger.

Read more from our testing of ergonomic mice here.

Best ring light: Emart 10-Inch Selfie Ring Light ($25.99; amazon.com)

Emart 10-Inch Selfie Ring Light
Emart 10-Inch Selfie Ring Light

The Emart 10-Inch Standing Ring Light comes with a tripod that’s fully adjustable — from 19 inches to 50 inches — making it a great option whether you’re setting it atop your desk for video calls or need some overhead lighting so no weird shadows creep into your photos. Its three light modes (warm, cool and a nice mix of the two), along with 11 brightness levels (among the most settings on any of the lights we tested), ensure you’re always framed in the right light. And at a relatively cheap $35.40, this light combines usability and affordability better than any of the other options we tested.

Read more from our testing of ring lights here.

Home

Best linen sheets: Parachute Linen Sheet Set (starting at $149; parachute.com)

Parachute Linen Sheets
Parachute Linen Sheets

Well made, luxurious to the touch and with the most versatile shopping options (six sizes, nine colors and the ability to order individual sheets), the linen sheets from Parachute were, by a narrow margin, our favorite set. From the satisfying unboxing to a sumptuous sleep, with a la carte availability, Parachute set the gold standard in linen luxury.

Read more from our testing of linen sheets here.

Best shower head: Kohler Forte Shower Head (starting at $74.44; amazon.com)

Kohler Forte Shower Head
Kohler Forte Shower Head

Hands down, the Kohler Forte Shower Head provides the best overall shower experience, offering three distinct settings. Backstory: Lots of shower heads out there feature myriad “settings” that, when tested, are pretty much indecipherable. The Forte’s three sprays, however, are each incredibly different and equally successful. There’s the drenching, full-coverage rain shower, the pulsating massage and the “silk spray” setting that is basically a super-dense mist. The Forte manages to achieve all of this while using only 1.75 gallons per minute (GPM), making it a great option for those looking to conserve water.

Read more from our testing of shower heads here.

Best humidifier: TaoTronics Cool Mist Humidifier (starting at $49.99; amazon.com)

TaoTronics Cool Mist Humidifier
TaoTronics Cool Mist Humidifier

The TaoTronics Cool Mist Humidifier ramped up the humidity in a room in about an hour, which was quicker than most of the options we tested. More importantly, though, it sustained those humidity levels over the longest period of time — 24 hours, to be exact. The levels were easy to check with the built-in reader (and we cross-checked that reading with an external reader to confirm accuracy). We also loved how easy this humidifier was to clean, and the nighttime mode for the LED reader eliminated any bright lights in the bedroom.

Read more from our testing of humidifiers here.

Video

Best TV: TCL 6-Series (starting at $579.99; bestbuy.com)

TCL 6-Series
TCL 6-Series

With models starting at $599.99 for a 55-inch, the TCL 6-Series might give you reverse sticker shock considering everything you get for that relatively small price tag. But can a 4K smart TV with so many specification standards really deliver a good picture for $500? The short answer: a resounding yes. The TCL 6-Series produces a vibrant picture with flexible customization options and handles both HDR and Dolby Vision, optimization standards that improve the content you’re watching by adding depth to details and expanding the color spectrum.

Read more from our testing of TVs here.

Best streaming device: Roku Ultra ($99.99; amazon.com)

Roku Ultra
Roku Ultra

Roku recently updated its Ultra streaming box and the 2020 version is faster, thanks to a new quad-core processor. The newest Ultra retains all of the features we loved and enjoyed about the 2019 model, like almost zero lag time between waking it up and streaming content, leading to a hiccup-free streaming experience. On top of that, the Roku Ultra can upscale content to deliver the best picture possible on your TV — even on older-model TVs that don’t offer the latest and greatest picture quality — and supports everything from HD to 4K.

Read more from our testing of streaming devices here.

Travel

Best carry-on luggage: Away Carry-On ($225; away.com)

Away Carry-On
Away Carry-On

The Away Carry-On scored high marks across all our tests and has the best combination of features for the average traveler. Compared with higher-end brands like Rimowa, which retail for hundreds more, you’re getting the same durable materials, an excellent internal compression system and eye-catching style. Add in smart charging capabilities and a lifetime warranty, and this was the bag to beat.

Read more from our testing of carry-on luggage here.

Best portable charger: Anker PowerCore 13000 (starting at $31.99; amazon.com)

Anker PowerCore 13000
Anker PowerCore 13000

The Anker PowerCore 13000 shone most was in terms of charging capacity. It boasts 13,000 mAh (maH is a measure of how much power a device puts out over time), which is enough to fully charge an iPhone 11 two and a half times. Plus, it has two fast-charging USB Type-A ports so you can juice a pair of devices simultaneously. While not at the peak in terms of charging capacity, at just $31.99, it’s a serious bargain for so many mAhs.

Read more from our testing of portable chargers here.

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Trump’s misleading tweet about changing your vote, briefly explained

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Open Sourced logo

Searches for changing one’s vote did not trend following the recent presidential debate, and just a few states appear to have processes for changing an early vote. But that didn’t stop President Trump from wrongly saying otherwise on Tuesday.

In early morning posts, the president falsely claimed on Twitter and Facebook that many people had Googled “Can I change my vote?” after the second presidential debate and said those searching wanted to change their vote over to him. Trump also wrongly claimed that most states have a mechanism for changing one’s vote. Actually, just a few states appear to have the ability, and it’s rarely used.

Twitter did not attach a label to Trump’s recent tweet.
Twitter

Trump’s claim about what was trending on Google after the debate doesn’t hold up. Searches for changing one’s vote were not among Google’s top trending searches for the day of the debate (October 22) or the day after. Searches for “Can I change my vote?” did increase slightly around the time of the debate, but there is no way to know whether the bump was related to the debate or whether the people searching were doing so in support of Trump.

It was only after Trump’s posts that searches about changing your vote spiked significantly. It’s worth noting that people were also searching for “Can I change my vote?” during a similar period before the 2016 presidential election.

Google declined to comment on the accuracy of Trump’s post.

Trump also claimed that these results indicate that most of the people who were searching for how to change their vote support him. But the Google Trends tool for the searches he mentioned does not provide that specific information.

Perhaps the most egregiously false claim in Trump’s recent posts is about “most states” having processes for changing your early vote. In fact, only a few states have such processes, and they can come with certain conditions. For instance, in Michigan, voters who vote absentee can ask for a new ballot by mail or in person until the day before the election.

The Center for Election Innovation’s David Becker told the Associated Press that changing one’s vote is “extremely rare.” Becker explained, “It’s hard enough to get people to vote once — it’s highly unlikely anybody will go through this process twice.”

Trump’s post on Facebook was accompanied by a link to Facebook’s Voting Information Center.
Facebook

At the time of publication, Trump’s false claims had drawn about 84,000 and 187,000 “Likes” on Twitter and Facebook, respectively. Trump’s posts accelerated searches about changing your vote in places like the swing state of Florida, where changing one’s vote after casting it is not possible. Those numbers are a reminder of the president’s capacity to spread misinformation quickly.

On Facebook, the president’s post came with a label directing people to Facebook’s Voting Information Center, but no fact-checking label. Twitter had no annotation on the president’s post. Neither company responded to a request for comment.

That Trump is willing to spread misinformation to benefit himself and his campaign isn’t a surprise. He does that a lot. Still, just days before a presidential election in which millions have already voted, this latest episode demonstrates that the president has no qualms about using false claims about voting to cause confusion and sow doubt in the electoral process.

Open Sourced is made possible by Omidyar Network. All Open Sourced content is editorially independent and produced by our journalists.


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The United States is in the middle of one of the most consequential presidential elections of our lifetimes. It’s essential that all Americans are able to access clear, concise information on what the outcome of the election could mean for their lives, and the lives of their families and communities. That is our mission at Vox. But our distinctive brand of explanatory journalism takes resources. Even when the economy and the news advertising market recovers, your support will be a critical part of sustaining our resource-intensive work. If you have already contributed, thank you. If you haven’t, please consider helping everyone understand this presidential election: Contribute today from as little as $3.

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Nearly 6,000 civilian casualties in Afghanistan so far this year

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From January to September, 5,939 civilians – 2,117 people killed and 3,822 wounded – were casualties of the fighting, the UN says.

Nearly 6,000 Afghan civilians were killed or wounded in the first nine months of the year as heavy fighting between government forces and Taliban fighters rages on despite efforts to find peace, the United Nations has said.

From January to September, there were 5,939 civilian casualties in the fighting – 2,117 people killed and 3,822 wounded, the UN Assistance Mission in Afghanistan (UNAMA) said in a quarterly report on Tuesday.

“High levels of violence continue with a devastating impact on civilians, with Afghanistan remaining among the deadliest places in the world to be a civilian,” the report said.

Civilian casualties were 30 percent lower than in the same period last year but UNAMA said violence has failed to slow since the beginning of talks between government negotiators and the Taliban that began in Qatar’s capital, Doha, last month.

An injured girl receives treatment at a hospital after an attack in Khost province [Anwarullah/Reuters]

The Taliban was responsible for 45 percent of civilian casualties while government troops caused 23 percent, it said. United States-led international forces were responsible for two percent.

Most of the remainder occurred in crossfire, or were caused by ISIL (ISIS) or “undetermined” anti-government or pro-government elements, according to the report.

Ground fighting caused the most casualties followed by suicide and roadside bomb attacks, targeted killings by the Taliban and air raids by Afghan troops, the UN mission said.

Fighting has sharply increased in several parts of the country in recent weeks as government negotiators and the Taliban have failed to make progress in the peace talks.

At least 24 people , mostly teens, were killed in a suicide bomb attack at an education centre in Kabul [Mohammad Ismail/Reuters]

The Taliban has been fighting the Afghan government since it was toppled from power in a US-led invasion in 2001.

Washington blamed the then-Taliban rulers for harbouring al-Qaeda leaders, including Osama bin Laden. Al-Qaeda was accused of plotting the 9/11 attacks.

Calls for urgent reduction of violence

Meanwhile, the US envoy for Afghanistan, Zalmay Khalilzad, said on Tuesday that the level of violence in the country was still too high and the Kabul government and Taliban fighters must work harder towards forging a ceasefire at the Doha talks.

Khalilzad made the comments before heading to the Qatari capital to hold meetings with the two sides.

“I return to the region disappointed that despite commitments to lower violence, it has not happened. The window to achieve a political settlement will not stay open forever,” he said in a tweet.

There needs to be “an agreement on a reduction of violence leading to a permanent and comprehensive ceasefire”, added Khalilzad.

A deal in February between the US and the Taliban paved the way for foreign forces to leave Afghanistan by May 2021 in exchange for counterterrorism guarantees from the Taliban, which agreed to sit with the Afghan government to negotiate a permanent ceasefire and a power-sharing formula.

But progress at the intra-Afghan talks has been slow since their start in mid-September and diplomats and officials have warned that rising violence back home is sapping trust.

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