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Voting across the US live updates: Joe Biden leads Donald Trump in Texas poll; New Hampshire can’t ban armed voters; Facebook threat

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The unprecedented level of early voting nationwide has been most notable in Texas, where more than 7.1 million ballots have already been received, according to the U.S. Elections Project website.

That’s the highest total in the nation, and it augurs well for Democrat Joe Biden’s chances of turning the state blue for the first time in more than four decades.

A new poll by the Dallas Morning News and the University of Texas at Tyler shows Biden ahead of President Donald Trump among likely voters, 48%-45%, within the poll’s margin of error. A Biden victory in Texas would almost certainly guarantee his election and likely turn the race into a landslide.

Some context: Texas hasn’t voted for a Democratic presidential candidate since choosing Jimmy Carter over Republican Gerald Ford in 1976. The longtime red state handed Mitt Romney a 15.8-point victory in 2012 over President Barack Obama, who easily won reelection. Four years later, Trump claimed the state’s 38 electoral votes by nine points over Hillary Clinton.

More news to keep in mind: We’re nine days away from Election Day. USA TODAY is keeping track of what’s happening as voters around the country cast ballots. Keep refreshing this page for updates.

  • Facebook’s threat of “enforcement action” against New York University researchers draws outcry from academics, journalists and First Amendment defenders.
  • Native Americans have been disproportionally impacted by the coronavirus, and they face extra difficulties in choosing elected leaders who might help protect them.

If you want to go in-depth: How we got to the point where there’s talk about “packing” the Supreme Court. Read more.

Voters have already been casting ballots: Numbers compiled by the U.S. Elections Project website show more than 58 million have voted. In other numbers, The Guardian reports that 20.6% of registered voters in swing states have had their mail-in ballots accepted through Friday. USA TODAY’s politics team has the latest updates from the campaign trail here.

In September, the Dallas Morning News-University of Texas at Tyler poll had President Donald Trump ahead of Democratic candidate Joe Biden by two points, but the former vice president has more than made up that deficit with gains among independents and Hispanics to move ahead 48%-45%.

“Texas remains a toss-up because of the public’s attitudes toward President Trump,”  political scientist Mark Owens, who directed the poll, told the newspaper.

Long lines at polling sites have been a common sight in Texas, which moved up the date of early voting by a week to Oct. 13 but does not allow voting by mail in most cases. The early voting already represents 80% of the total voting in the 2016 election.

Derek Ryan, a GOP data analyst, predicted this week the Texas turnout probably would surpass 12 million. Democrats believe that figure would be to their advantage because it likely would mean a larger percentage of the state’s Latino voters — who usually lean Democrat  cast their ballots.

“It’s hard to say, ‘Yes, if we reach 12 million then Democrats win,’ because you never know,” said Abhi Rahman, a spokesman for the Texas Democratic Party. “But on balance, yes, if we reach 12 million voters we’ll win this election.”

As they consider which candidate might best help protect them from the dangers of the coronavirus, many Native Americans find irregular mail service, spotty internet access and the remote location of reservations present difficulties to having their voices heard.

COVID-19 has disproportionately sickened or killed Native Americans across the U.S., creating another Election Day challenge for a poor and geographically isolated population already fighting to overcome steep voting barriers ranging from discriminatory election laws to distant polling stations.

– Marco della Cava

New York University researchers are getting strong support from academics, journalists and First Amendment lawyers in a showdown with Facebook over its demand that the school analysts stop the collection of data showing who is being micro-targeted by political ads on the world’s dominant social media platform.

The researchers say the disputed data-collection tool, “Ad Observer,” is vital to understanding how Facebook has been used for disinformation and manipulation.

In an Oct. 16 letter to the researchers, a Facebook executive demanded they disable a special plug-in for Chrome and Firefox browsers used by 6,500 volunteers across the U.S. and delete the data obtained. The plug-in lets researchers see which ads are shown to each volunteer; Facebook lets advertisers tailor ads based on specific demographics that go far beyond race, age, gender and political preference. 

The executive, Allison Hendrix, said the tool violates Facebook rules prohibiting automated bulk collection of data from the site. Her letter threatened “additional enforcement action” if the takedown was not effected by Nov. 30.

The threat, first reported by The Wall Street Journal on Friday, led to an outcry that cited the valuable insights the “Ad Observer” tool provides. It has been used since its September launch by local reporters across the country to write about the Nov. 3 presidential election.

As opposed to Michigan, a fellow open-carry state that has moved to ban voters from bringing firearms into polling sites, New Hampshire won’t attempt to keep armed voters away. The Attorney General’s office said it does not have that authority but will be on the lookout for voter intimidation in the upcoming election.

“We are not able to use any of our New Hampshire election laws to prohibit a voter from entering to vote if they have a firearm, and that includes if the polling place is a school,” said Assistant AG  Nicholas Chong Yen, according to NHPR.org.

The website said some New Hampshire poll workers and voters have expressed concern about the presence of armed individuals at polling places.

The Michigan ban on openly carrying firearms in such locations, issued by Secretary of State Jocelyn Benson, is being challenged in court by gun rights groups.

Headlines from elsewhere and resources on voting

️How to make sure your a mail-in ballot is counted and not discarded.

️ USA TODAY’s Voter Guide has everything you need on registering to vote, when your state begins voting and what the candidates think about the issues.

For updates to your inbox, subscribe to our daily On Politics newsletter.

Election problems: What to keep in mind

This cheat sheet from Columbia Journalism Review offers tips for media organizations reporting on Election 2020. There’s a lot of good stuff to keep in mind:

  • Voting problems aren’t failures. They happen every year and, as CJR notes, hiccups such as voting machines not working or polling places opening late don’t mean anything is “rigged.”
  • Some problems, however, are significant. CJR recommends the media scrutinize areas that have a history of voter suppression or obstructing minority voters, calling out Georgia as a place to monitor.
  • Don’t expect a winner on Election Night. This year is different because mail-in ballots could be as high as 30%. Previously, that number was 3%-5%. It will take a while to tally.
  • Seriously, expect to wait. State vote certification deadlines differ and don’t have to be reported to the federal level until Dec. 8. Additionally, the Electoral College doesn’t meet until Dec. 14.

Contributing: The Associated Press

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