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Electionland 2020: North Carolina Mail Voting, In-Person Voting Starts, Naked Ballots and More

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ProPublica is a Pulitzer Prize-winning investigative newsroom. Sign up for The Big Story newsletter to receive stories like this one in your inbox.

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In North Carolina, Black Voters’ Mail-In Ballots Much More Likely to Be Rejected Than Those From Any Other Race

Black voters were more than twice as likely to have mail-in ballots rejected than those submitted by the state’s white voters in 2018, and rejection rates for 2020 show a similar pattern, according to a new analysis by ProPublica and WRAL News. Read the story.

Foreign Hackers Cripple Texas County’s Email System, Raising Election Security Concerns

The malware attack, which sent fake email replies to voters and businesses, spotlights an overlooked vulnerability in counties that don’t follow best practices for computer security. Read the story.

Before Limiting Ballot Drop Boxes to One Per County, Top Ohio Election Officials Secretly Consulted Promoter of Debunked Voting Fraud Fears

After Black union workers petitioned the state for more secure ballot drop boxes, top election officials called Hans von Spakovsky, a leading purveyor of discredited voting fraud claims, and then put a strict limit on the boxes instead. Read the story.

In-person Voting Begins

  • Early in-person voting began last Friday, with polls opening in Virginia, Minnesota, South Dakota and Wyoming. (New York Times)

  • Some Virginia voters waited in long, socially-distanced lines to cast an early ballot, and there were signs of high turnout in the other three states. (CNN)

  • A group of Trump supporters disrupted early voting with a demonstration in front of a polling site in Virginia, which officials said made some voters and staff feel intimidated. (The New York Times)
  • More than half of U.S. voters say they will vote before Election Day, and 39% plan to vote by mail, according to a new poll from the Associated Press–NORC Center for Public Affairs Research. (Marketwatch)

2020 Election Challenges

  • Two major challenges to this year’s election: getting enough poll workers and making sure people fill out their mail-in ballots correctly, researcher Charles Stewart III says. (Science)
  • FBI Director Christopher Wray told a House panel last week that disinformation and foreign meddling risk undermining public confidence in U.S. elections. (NPR)
  • Former Director of National Intelligence Dan Coats calls on Congress to create a high-level bipartisan commission to monitor the 2020 election and reassure the public. (The New York Times)
  • With litigation and legislation still ongoing, local election officials are struggling to keep up with the changing rules — and a flood of mail-in ballots — ahead of Election Day. (NPR)
  • A bill filed in Massachusetts would keep state police, sheriffs and deputies away from polling places unless they have special permission. (WBUR)
  • One Florida election official says his office is getting creative about in-person voting, including buying Q-tips from Dollar Tree for voters to use on iPads to avoid the cost of pens and styluses. (NPR)
  • Former 2020 Democratic presidential hopeful Mike Bloomberg has raised $16 million to pay the outstanding fines for nearly 32,000 registered Florida voters who have felony convictions. Rep. Matt Gaetz said Bloomberg could be violating Florida law, and the state attorney general sent a letter to law enforcement agencies asking them to investigate potential violations of election law. (Washington Post, WTSP)

Keeping Voters Informed

  • California Gov. Gavin Newsom signed a bill Friday that makes it a misdemeanor to intentionally mislead voters about voting by mail. (KCAL)
  • Some voters who already requested a mail-in ballot were confused by a letter from the Illinois secretary of state about applying for a ballot. (Chicago Sun-Times, CBS Chicago)
  • An Oklahoma nonprofit dedicated to voter education sent a letter encouraging voters to register, confusing some voters who are already on the rolls. (Tulsa World)
  • Iowa’s voter registration form has not been updated to reflect an executive order last month that restored voting rights to thousands of felons who have completed their sentences. (Des Moines Register)
  • Florida sent postcards to 2.24 million residents who are not registered to vote, but with less than three weeks to go before registration closes, critics say it’s too little, too late. (Tallahassee Democrat)
  • Canvassers for civic engagement group Mi Familia Vota have also become lifelines for Arizona families hard-hit by the pandemic, passing along resources for help with rent and food while conducting door-to-door outreach. (Los Angeles Times)

Vote by Mail News

  • As of Sept. 24, more than 65.3 million voters had requested absentee ballots across 31 states and the District of Columbia. (New York Times)
  • Forty-six states now allow voters to track their mail-in ballots. (NBC News)
  • The Pennsylvania Supreme Court ordered election officials to throw out any “naked ballots” that are mailed back without the inner secrecy envelope provided to voters. Philadelphia’s city commission chair warned that the ruling could invalidate thousands of ballots and lead to “significant postelection legal controversy, the likes of which we have not seen since Florida in 2000.” (Philadelphia Inquirer)
  • Election officials in North Carolina are rejecting Black voters’ absentee ballots at nearly three times the rate of white voters. (Charlotte Observer, Five Thirty Eight)
  • North Carolina’s board of elections has agreed to let voters fix basic errors on mail-in ballots instead of filling out new ones, as part of a tentative settlement with a group that represents retirees. (Raleigh News and Observer)
  • Some states have changed the rules about ballot mistakes or ballot design to try to prevent mail-in ballots from being thrown out. (The New York Times)
  • A Michigan prosecutor will not pursue charges against a homeowner who placed a toilet and a sign that read “place mail-in ballots here” on their front lawn. (Lansing State Journal, The Hill)
  • Ohio politicians are urging the state’s top elections officer to abide by a court order and allow more dropboxes for absentee ballots across the state, instead of just one per county. (Mahoning Matters)
  • Some Mississippi voters are unsure how to cast their ballots as a lawsuit over the state’s in-person voting requirements works its way through the courts. (NBC News)
  • Wisconsin will not allow election “deputies” to visit nursing homes and assist residents with mail-in voting this year, citing concerns about the spread of COVID-19. (WFJW)
  • Arizona Governor Doug Ducey has come out against plans to allow some hospital patients and nursing home residents to cast their ballots via video conference. (Arizona Republic)
  • The cast of the NBC sitcom “Parks and Recreation” reunited for a virtual workshop to teach Wisconsin voters how to absentee vote as part of a fundraiser on behalf of the state’s Democratic Party. (NPR)
  • The Postal Service says groups can leave voter registration forms and absentee ballot request paperwork in post offices. That comes a month after the Texas League of Women Voters said volunteers around Houston had been blocked from doing so. (Houston Public Media, KUT)

The Trump Administration and Voting

  • At a rally Saturday, President Donald Trump said: “We’re going to have a victory on November 3rd the likes of which you’ve never seen. Now, we’re counting on the federal court system to make it so that we can actually have an evening where we know who wins. Not where the votes are going to be counted a week later or two weeks later.” (Politico)
  • Though Trump has frequently lambasted mail-in voting, on Monday he encouraged Michigan voters to take advantage of absentee voting. (Detroit News)
  • On Wednesday, Trump refused to commit to a peaceful transfer of power if Biden wins the election. (The Washington Post)
  • The Trump campaign has filed at least 11 cases on mail-in voting in addition to half a dozen lawsuits filed with the Republican National Committee. (BuzzFeed News)
  • The U.S. Commission on Civil Rights spent months researching threats to voting rights, but the recommendations it compiled won’t be published after conservative members voted against releasing them. (USA Today)

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The Advantages of Online Casino Welcome Bonuses

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When it comes to online gambling, the industry is thriving in 2020. Although casinos are banned in many countries, people still find ways to enjoy their favorite games of chance. However, considering the level of competition on the market, it may be difficult for a beginner to find a good online platform and take advantage of all offers. In this article, you will learn the benefits of casinos’ welcome bonuses.

What Is a Sign-Up Bonus?

As we have already established, the industry is growing rapidly and companies are desperately looking for new ways to attract customers. A welcome bonus is often used by online casinos to get new leads and players in the future. However, the best casino bonuses can be easily used to the player’s advantage. Here are the main reasons you should not neglect this offer.

  1. It saves your money

Quite obvious, right? Well, this is the main reason why you should always use welcome bonuses in online gambling: it is always better to not risk your own money. It is especially true for beginners. Since they have no experience, it is fairly common for beginners to lose their initial investment and be done with gambling for good. However, if you use your welcome bonus as a way of getting the basics skills, the chances of success will rise significantly.

  1. It allows you to try several games

Another common issue beginners face is a lack of understanding of which types of games they want to try: slots, roulette, baccarat, blackjack, etc. If you use your sign-up bonus, you will be able to play several games and choose the ones you like better. Moreover, you can take advantage of a welcome bonus on several online gambling platforms. That way you will try out even more options.

  1. It will make future gambling more profitable

Besides beneficial sign-up bonuses, good online casinos usually have great loyalty programs. For instance, the company may double up to five first deposits on the platform. If you invest 100 USD, you will get 200 USD to your account. More money — more games — more chances of winning.

Although a welcome bonus is a great way of upping your gambling game, there are a few things you should pay attention to. Firstly, a good bonus does not equal a good platform. Before choosing a casino, make sure that the company is legal and trustworthy. Since there are many scams right now, it is essential if you want to save your money. Moreover, check the available deposit/withdrawal methods and their terms.

We hope that this article has shown the true power of online casinos’ welcome bonuses and how you can use them to your own advantage. Follow our tips while choosing a platform and enjoy the best gambling experience.

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3 Key Mistakes to Avoid When Playing Blackjack

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Blackjack is the most popular casino game in the world. The card game, sometimes referred to as ‘21’, accounts for an average of 31 percent of all casino table traffic – this is consistent both online and in physical casinos. For reference, the second most popular is roulette (24%) followed by poker (21%).

It’s easy to understand blackjack’s popularity. It’s a simple game to grasp and offers players a mix of luck and skill: luck in the cards that are drawn, skill over how those cards are dealt and a player’s eventual hand. Compare that to roulette, which is based entirely on luck, and poker, which has a huge skill element to it.

However, while the beauty of blackjack is in its simplicity, there are also a number of complexities to the game, and as is the case with almost anything in life, you learn more from mistakes than successes.

With that in mind, here are three key mistakes to avoid when playing blackjack that can significantly increase your chances of winning, while limiting your losses.

Choosing the Wrong Table

Before a single card is drawn, being at the wrong table – whether live or online – is the first mistake to avoid.

First of all, each blackjack table will have different minimum bet requirements so avoid choosing one that is out of your budget. For instance, if you choose a table with a $100 minimum bet and your budget is $200, you might only play two hands.

Secondly, check the payout odds on the blackjack table. These are typically 6:5 and 3:2 and will affect how much gets paid out when you hit blackjack and land other bonus wins. Where possible, choose a 3:2 table as it pays out higher.

Thirdly, choose between a virtual and a live table. This is not so much a mistake to avoid but more comes down to personal preference. Virtual tables allow players to play against an automated computer, so you can play at your own pace, while live tables are usually quicker paced as human dealers are keen to move the game along.

When to Hit and Stand

As a general rule, most blackjack players know to hit when the hand is 12 and to stand when the hand equals 17. However, there are plenty of variables to consider that could influence when to hit and stand. Getting these right can really boost your chances of beating the house, while getting it wrong could prove costly.

One key move to implement is to always hit on a soft 17 – when the two cards are an ace and a six. This means that if you draw a 10 or picture card (jack, queen, king), then you convert your hand into a hard 17. It also gives greater flexibility if you draw a smaller value card as the ace can be used as a one.

While many players adopt a strict ‘never bust’ policy, meaning they always stand when their hand equals 12 or more, this can be ill-advised as it depends almost entirely on the dealer going bust.

Instead, analyze the value of your two cards compared to the dealer’s first card and weigh up the risk factor in drawing another card before the dealer draws their second. As a strict rule, if your first two cards equal 17 or more, then stand – anything else can be hit depending on the situation.

When to Split and Double

If you are playing in a blackjack tournament, either online or live, learning when to split and double can make all the difference to your chances of success. The same also applies to individual games of blackjack.

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Splitting is when you split two cards when dealt the same value cards, so a pair of eights for example. Doubling is when you are given the option to double your bet after being dealt your initial two cards.

While it can be tempting to split and double at every opportunity to increase your winning, doing at the right time is the key.

It is not recommended to split when:

  • You are dealt two picture cards or two 10s
  • You are dealt two 9s
  • You are dealt two 5s
  • The dealer holds a 10 or picture card

It is best to split when:

  • You are dealt two 8s
  • You are dealt two aces
  • The dealer holds a 5 or 6 (as this is the highest probability of a bust)

Similar to knowing when to hit and stand, take a brief moment to assess the dealer’s drawn card compared to your own two cards and determine whether the probabilities are in your favour.

Likewise, knowing when to double down – when not to double down – can change the complexities of your blackjack game. A simple rule to know when to double is if your two cards equal 10 and the dealer’s card is between 2-9. Additionally, if you hold an ace, you can consider a double as these have the flexibility of playing as 11 or 1. But if the dealer’s card is an ace, ignore the double.

Conclusion

Blackjack may be a simple game but there are some important strategies to keep in mind next time you head to the virtual or live table. The game itself is still rooted in luck so there are never any guarantees to long-term success. However, by keeping these three important rules in mind, you can at least avoid making avoidable mistakes.

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Top 5 Entertainment Activities for College Students

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The life of college students is sometimes too complicated. They have to face tons of homework assignments that steal their time. Many students get stressed because of continuous learning. They seem to forget how to relax. If you’re a busy student, you should remember that you’re still young and shouldn’t waste this precious life stage. You can undertake some entertainment activities sometimes. Take your friends and organize funny games to unwind and let off some pressure. We asked writing experts from a professional essay service Smart Writing Service to share their ideas and provide you with top-5 entertainment activities for college students you may like. 

Who Are You?

Students, especially freshmen, don’t know each other perfectly. They may be taken by surprise when some of them tell something quite unexpected about their hobbies, preferences, and so on. If you want to know other students better, suggest playing a game called “Who Are You”.

Form at least three teams. If there are many folks, you can form more teams. Choose a speaker of the game. It may be even one of your teachers or professors. All groups will be given topics to discuss. The speaker is supposed to announce a new topic every few minutes. You may discuss and answer the following topics:

  • What is the greatest challenge you are facing?
  • What do you like or hate most about yourself?
  • What is your greatest value in life?
  • What emotions do you express easily?
  • What is the most valuable thing in friendship?
  • Who you want to become in five years?
  • What is your major objective for next year?
  • Is there something you want to improve about yourself?
  • What motto do you try to live by?
  • Where would you like to travel?
  • If you were to study abroad, what country would that be?

Students should write their answers on index cards. The speaker should gather the answers of every student and shuffle them. Afterward, he/she redistributes them randomly to students. Each person should guess whose card he/she is holding. Play this game after you spend some time together and already know at least something about one another.

Sentence Completion

Another fun activity is “Sentence Completion.” Most people like it because it’s commonly accompanied by laughter and good mood. It’s necessary to prepare a list of sentences. Those sentences should have a beginning, but with no end. Every student should finish the sentence he/she gets. Oftentimes, students give funny answers. At times, they are quite serious, and we can learn something important about other students. Here are several sentence beginnings you may choose:

  • Before I came to college, I was interested in…
  • When I was a child, I wanted to become…
  • The best moment I remember most about high school is…
  • My favorite pet is…
  • The things I value most are…
  • Five years from now I hope to be…
  • My greatest personality trait is…
  • My favorite subject at high school was…
  • If I could change one thing in the world, it would be…
  • My greatest fear is…
  • After I graduate from college, I…

The Reception Line

You may likewise try another entertaining activity for college students. It is called “The Reception Line.” Gather all the mates eager to participate. Divide yourselves into two groups. If you form more, it won’t fit the rules of the game. Each person talks to the person in front of him/her until he/she must move. The person at the end of one line goes to the end of the other line. This method makes it possible to meet new people. Thus, students will learn more about each other. You can make shifts every next topic or set a limit. For example, the pair should discuss 5 topics and afterward move to change partners. Here are some interesting topics to discuss:

  • Where would you like to travel?
  • What motto do you try to follow?
  • What is your favorite movie?
  • What music do you like?
  • What is your favorite hobby?
  • Why did you choose this college?
  • What do you like about college life the most?

Take Sides

You can likewise suggest a game, which offers only two options. It’s called “Take Sides.” Create a list of questions with two answers. Students should obligatorily choose one of them. Afterward, you may discuss the answers. Let everyone explain his/her choices. Thus, you’ll learn more about each other, and it will bring you closer. Here are several suggestions:

  • Watermelon or banana?
  • Sweat or bitter?
  • Short trips every weekend or a journey around the world for three months?
  • Partying or hiking?
  • Listen or speak?
  • Rock or pop?
  • Morning or night?
  • Superman or Batman?
  • Robocop or Terminator?
  • Harry Potter or the Lord of the Rings?
  • Los Angeles or New York?
  • Liberal or conservative?
  • American football or ice hockey?

My Most Embarrassing Moment

You can likewise tell each other about the most embarrassing moments. It’s important to be honest and don’t imagine a story that never took place. All the participants should agree on this term. Commonly, it is a very entertaining activity. Students tell funny stories they’ve been through. It commonly makes them closer.

These activities for college students are very simple to follow. They are really entertaining. Mind that we have mentioned only 5 of them. However, you can try a hundred activities more. Use our examples to have fun and relax. They may inspire you and your friends to look for other entertaining activities.

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