MetroFocus: September 24, 2020

Encore: October 12, 2020

Whether you’re leaning towards re-electing President Trump, voting for the historic Biden-Harris ticket or undecided, this is one show you can’t afford to miss as this year the voting process will be unlike any other and we all have questions about how to navigate it. How do you go about getting a ballot? Should you vote by mail or in-person? When does early voting start? What’s being done to keep you safe at the polls? And what steps should you have already taken in order to participate in the upcoming presidential election? Myrna Pérez, director of the Voting Rights and Elections Program at NYU’s Brennan Center for Justice is here to sort out the confusion and answer your most pressing questions for voting across the tri-state.

To find out more about the Brennan Center for Justice, click here. And if you need help registering to vote, click here for THIRTEEN’s voting guide.

Aired on September 24, 2020.

TRANSCRIPT

> THIS IS 'METROFOCUS' WITH RAFAEL PI ROMAN, JACK FORD, AND JENNA FLANAGAN.

'METROFOCUS' IS MADE POSSIBLE BY SUE AND EDGAR WACHENHEIM III, SYLVIA A. AND SIMON B. POYTA PROGRAMING ENDOWMENT TO FIGHT ANTI-SEMITISM.

BARBARA HOPE ZUCKERBERG, JANET PRINDLE SEIDLER, JODY AND JOHN ARNHOLD, CHERYL AND PHILIP MILSTEIN FAMILY, BERNARD AND DENISE SCHWARTZ, JUDY AND JOSH WESTON, DR. ROBERT C. AND TINA SOHN FOUNDATION.

> WELCOME TO 'METROFOCUS,' I AM JENNA FLANAGAN.

WITH THE NOVEMBER ELECTION JUST WEEKS AWAY AND THE CORONAVIRUS PANDEMIC SHAKING UP HOW WE VOTE, TONIGHT WE'RE GOING TO TAKE A DEEP LOOK INTO WHAT YOU NEED TO KNOW ABOUT VOTING IN THE TRI-STATE JUST TO MAKE SURE THAT YOUR BALLOT WILL INDEED COUNT.

THERE ARE ALREADY STEPS SOME OF US SHOULD BE TAKING IN ORDER TO PARTICIPATE IN THE UPCOMING PRESIDENTIAL ELECTION, BUT DON'T PANIC IF YOU HAVEN'T DONE ANYTHING YET, BECAUSE THAT IS WHAT TONIGHT'S SHOW IS ALL ABOUT.

WE ARE HERE TO HELP SORT OUT THE CONFUSION, ANSWER YOUR MOST PRESSING QUESTIONS, NAVIGATE THE VOTING PROCESS IN NEW YORK, NEW JERSEY AND CONNECTICUT DURING THIS ENTIRE COVID-19 CRISIS.

SO HOW DO YOU GO ABOUT GETTING A BALLOT?

SHOULD YOU VOTE BY MAIL OR IN PERSON?

AND WHAT'S BEING DONE IN TERMS OF PROVIDING SAFETY FOR YOU AT THE POLLS?

WHEN DOES EARLY VOTING START?

CAN YOU INDEED VOTE EARLY IN YOUR STATE?

AND HOW LONG WILL IT ULTIMATELY TAKE TO TALLY THE VOTES AND DECLARE A WINNER?

JUST SOME OF THE QUESTIONS WE WILL TRY TO ANSWER TONIGHT WITH ELECTIONS EXPERT MYRNA PEREZ, SHE IS DIRECTOR OF THE VOTING RIGHTS AND ELECTIONS PROGRAM AT NYU'S BRENNAN CENTER FOR JUSTICE, A NONPARTISAN LAW AND POLICY INSTITUTE.

MYRNA, WELCOME TO YOU.

THANK YOU SO MUCH FOR HAVING ME.

LET ME START OFF BY ASKING YOU TO EXPLAIN THE BRENNAN CENTER, IF YOU WILL.

SO WE HAVE A SENSE OF THE TWO, THAT YOU ALL DO THERE.

SURE.

THE BRENNAN CENTER IS A NONPARTISAN LAW AND POLICY INSTITUTE THAT WORKS ON ISSUES OF DEMOCRACY AND JUSTICE.

WE ARE NAMED AFTER THE GREAT JUSTICE WILLIAM BRENNAN WHO MADE FAMOUS THE IDEA OF A LIVING CONSTITUTION, THE IDEA THAT THE WORDS OF THE CONSTITUTION WERE NOT STATIC AND FROZEN IN TIME, BUT RATHER NEEDED TO ADAPT TO THE CHALLENGES OF THE MOMENT.

THAT'S SOMETHING THE BRENNAN CENTER TAKES REALLY SERIOUSLY.

WE CERTAINLY ARE IN A MOMENT RIGHT NOW WHERE OUR COUNTRY IS NOT ONLY DEALING WITH A ONCE IN A CENTURY PANDEMIC, WE ARE RECKONING FOR THE THINGS WE HAVE DONE AND THE THINGS THAT WE HAVE LEFT UNDONE WITH RESPECT TO HOW PEOPLE ARE TREATED IN THIS COUNTRY AND WHETHER OR NOT THEY ARE WELCOME INTO OUR INSTITUTIONS OF POWER.

SO WE AT THE BRENNAN CENTER ARE WORKING IN ALL OF OUR INSTITUTIONS OF POWER, BE IT THE STATE HOUSES, THE COURTS, AMONG OPINION LEADERS, IN THE MEDIA, TO TRY TO MAKE SURE THAT OUR DEMOCRACY IS AS ROBUST AND INCLUSIVE AND AS PARTICIPATORY AS IT CAN BE.

I MENTIONED TO YOU I HAD THE GREAT GOOD FORTUNE TO GET TO KNOW JUSTICE BRENNAN MANY, MANY YEARS AGO IN MY EARLIER CAREER AS A LAWYER IN NEW JERSEY.

SO HAVING ANYTHING TO DO WITH ANY ORGANIZATION OR ENTITY THAT IS NAMED AFTER HIM IS ALWAYS AN HONOR.

LET'S FRAME OUR CONVERSATION WITH A COUPLE OF BIGGER PICTURE EXPLANATIONS.

I WOULD SUSPECT THAT THERE ARE MANY PEOPLE OUT THERE WHO ARE HEARING ABOUT EARLY VOTING AND VOTING BY MAIL PERHAPS FOR THE FIRST TIME AND THEY MIGHT THINK, WELL, THIS MUST BE SOMETHING THAT'S VERY NEW THAT'S ONLY BECAUSE OF THE PANDEMIC THAT WE'RE EXPERIENCING.

WHAT'S THE REALITY OF BOTH THE NOTION OF EARLY VOTING AND THE IDEA OF VOTING BY MAIL?

WELL, I THINK YOU JUMPED ON AN ISSUE THAT'S EVEN -- THAT WE SHOULD DISCUSS EVEN BEFORE THAT, WHICH IS WHY IS IT THAT AMERICANS ARE PAYING ATTENTION RIGHT NOW TO ELECTIONS?

WHY ARE THEY ENGAGED AND EXCITED?

AND WE'RE CERTAINLY THRILLED THAT THEY ARE.

ELECTIONS ARE THE WAY THAT WE RESOLVE OUR POLITICAL DIFFERENCES PEACEABLY, THEY ARE THE WAY THAT WE SET THE DIRECTION FOR OUR COUNTRY AND FOR A NUMBER OF DECADES IN THIS COUNTRY THE IDEA OF A FREE, FAIR AND ACCESSIBLE VOTE ENJOYED WIDE BIPARTISAN SUPPORT.

UNFORTUNATELY IN THE LAST 10 TO 15 YEARS WE'VE SEEN AN INCREASINGLY AGGRESSIVE DEBATE OVER WHETHER OR NOT OUR BALLOTS SHOULD BE ACCESSIBLE AND IT IS PLAYING OUT IN STATES ACROSS THE COUNTRY, IT'S PLAYING OUT IN STATE HOUSES ACROSS THE COUNTRY WHERE THERE ARE ACTIVE EFFORTS TO TRY AND PUT BARRIERS IN FRONT OF THE BALLOT BOX, AND THAT IS OCCURRING ALONGSIDE THE COUNTRY ASKING A LOT OF QUESTIONS ABOUT HOW ARE WE INCLUDING ALL OF US?

HOW ARE WE REPRESENTING ALL OF US?

HOW ARE WE MAKING SURE THAT WE ARE ALL ENJOYING THE EQUAL BENEFITS OF CITIZENSHIP.

AND TO GET TO YOUR SPECIFIC QUESTION, IT TELLS ME THAT WE HAVE WHAT I WOULD CALL A SYSTEM FAILURE.

THAT VOTERS RIGHT NOW ARE HEARING ABOUT VOTE BY MAIL OR ABOUT EARLY VOTING FOR THE FIRST TIME.

THE TRUTH OF THE MATTER IS THAT EVERY STATE IN THIS COUNTRY ALLOWS SOME VOTERS TO VOTE AT HOME AND THE VOTE OF VOTE BY MAIL HAS BEEN AROUND IN THIS COUNTRY SINCE CIVIL WAR.

MANY STATES, NOT ALL OF THEM, BUT MANY STATES ALLOW VOTERS THE OPPORTUNITY TO VOTE EARLY.

IT IS CONSIDERED A CONVENIENCE FOR VOTERS, IT'S A WAY OF GOOD CUSTOMER SERVICE BECAUSE IT ALLOWS PEOPLE TO ACCOUNT FOR THE VARIOUS COMPLICATIONS OF THEIR LIVES, THE IDEA THAT SOME PEOPLE DON'T GET THE TIME OFF OR DON'T HAVE CHILD CARE ARRANGEMENTS THAT MAKE IT EASY FOR THEM TO SPEND THE DAY AT THE POLLS ON ELECTION DAY, AND THERE ARE ACTUALLY PRETTY COMMONPLACE OCCURRENCES IN MUCH OF THIS COUNTRY AND WHAT IS REALLY COMING TO A HEAD RIGHT NOW IS THAT WE NEED BOTH OF THOSE THINGS TO BE MORE ACCESSIBLE TO PEOPLE IN ORDER TO ACCOUNT FOR THIS GLOBAL PANDEMIC THAT WE ARE IN.

NOT EVERY STATE IN THE COUNTRY ALLOWS EVERY PERSON WHO WANTS TO VOTE BY MA I WILL TO VOTE BY MAIL.

NOT EVERY STATE IN THE COUNTRY AFFORDS PEOPLE A SUFFICIENT AMOUNT OF EARLY VOTING OPPORTUNITIES AND IF WE ARE GOING TO MAKE SURE THAT OUR DEMOCRACY INCLUDES ALL OF US, IN A PANDEMIC VOTERS NEED A LOT OF OPTIONS.

WE HAVE DIFFERENT RISK PROFILES, WE HAVE DIFFERENT RISK TOLERANCES AND THAT MEANS WE HAVE BEEN PUSHING AS MANY STATES AS WE CAN TO EXPAND OPPORTUNITIES TO VOTE BY MAIL AND TO EXPAND EARLY VOTING OPPORTUNITIES AND WE ARE EXCITED THAT A NUMBER OF STATES HAVE MET THE CHALLENGE.

SOME HAVEN'T, THERE ARE SOME BIG HOLDOUTS, BUT THESE ARE NOT NEW IDEAS OR NEW REFORMS.

THESE ARE IDEAS THAT ARE GETTING AN INCREASED ATTENTION BECAUSE IT IS SO OBVIOUS THAT VOTERS NEED THESE KINDS OF OPTIONS WHEN WE ARE IN THE CRISIS THAT WE ARE IN.

ONE MORE LAST BIG PICTURE YES FOR YOU THEN I WANT TO GET TO SOME OF THE HOW-TO'S IN OUR CONVERSATION.

THIS PLAYS OFF OF WHAT YOU JUST SAID.

NOW, ARE YOU OPTIMISTIC THAT PERHAPS AS A CONSEQUENCE OF WHAT WE'VE BEEN EXPERIENCING HERE WITH THE PANDEMIC THAT IN OUR NEXT CYCLE WHEN HOPEFULLY WE ARE NOT UNDER THE THUMB, IF YOU WILL, OF THE CORONAVIRUS, THAT PEOPLE AND GOVERNING BODIES WILL HAVE SAID, DO YOU KNOW WHAT, THIS IS A BETTER WAY FOR US TO DO THIS, SO LET'S CONTINUE TO EMBRACE THIS NOTION OF ACCESSIBILITY AND WHATEVER WE CAN DO TO MAKE IT EASIER FOR PEOPLE TO VOTE.

DO YOU THINK THIS MIGHT SORT OF JUMP START US AND GET US A LITTLE BIT CLOSER TO THAT?

I CERTAINLY HOPE WE LEARN LESSONS FROM THIS.

I MEAN, I THINK THE BIG LESSON FROM THE CORONAVIRUS IS THAT WE HAVE A LOT OF CRACKS IN THE SYSTEM AND WE NEED TO REPAIR THEM BECAUSE OUR ELECTIONS ARE SO CRITICAL TO OUR DEMOCRACY BY DEFINITION, OUR ELECTIONS ARE SO CRITICAL TO THE IDEA OF REPRESENTATIVE GOVERNMENT THAT THEY NEED TO BE ABLE TO WITHSTAND WHATEVER CHALLENGE THE MOMENT THROWS AT US.

AND IT IS VERY, VERY OBVIOUS THAT WHAT HAPPENED PRIOR TO THE CRISIS WAS THAT WE DIDN'T HAVE WHAT SOME PEOPLE WOULD CALL A LOT OF RISK DIVERSIFICATION, WHERE WE DIDN'T HAVE SYSTEMS THAT ACCOUNTED FOR SOMETHING GOING WRONG.

ON THE BEST OF CIRCUMSTANCES OUR ELECTIONS ARE UNDERFUNDED AND UNDERRESOURCED AND WE REALLY FEEL THAT UNDERFUNDING AND THAT UNDERRESOURCING AND THAT UNDERSUPPORT WHEN WE ARE IN A CRISIS LIKE THE ONE WE ARE IN NOW.

SO MY HOPE IS THAT FOLKS WILL LEARN FROM THIS AND DECIDE THAT WE ARE GOING TO BUILD SOME MORE WHAT WE WOULD CALL RESILIENCY AND PREPAREDNESS IN OUR ELECTIONS BECAUSE THIS YEAR IT WAS THE CORONAVIRUS AND OTHER YEARS IT MIGHT BE WEATHER AND IN OTHER YEARS IT MIGHT BE FOREIGN CYBER CRIMINALS TRYING TO CRIPPLE OUR INFRASTRUCTURE.

RIGHT.

ELECTIONS ARE TOO IMPORTANT NOT TO BE ABLE TO BE SMOOTH AND TRUSTWORTHY AND ACCURATE, IRRESPECTIVE OF WHAT IS GOING ON IN OUR COUNTRY.

ALL RIGHT.

AND I THINK IT'S IMPORTANT, IT'S A AN IMPORTANT OVERVIEW WE HAVE GIVEN TO PEOPLE, SO NOW LET'S GET TO SOME OF THE SPECIFICS.

THESE ARE SPECIFICS DIRECTED AT PEOPLE NO MATTER WHAT YOUR POLITICAL AFFILIATION MIGHT BE OR YOUR PHILOSOPHICAL STANCES MIGHT BE.

THIS IS BASICALLY HOW TO DO ALL OF THIS.

SO LET'S START WITH THE NOTION, FIRST OF EARLY VOTING, ALL RIGHT?

AND WE'RE FOCUSING NOW ON -- LET'S FOCUS NOW ON NEW JERSEY, NEW YORK, CONNECTICUT.

WHAT SHOULD RESIDENTS OF THOSE THREE STATES KNOW ABOUT ANY EARLY VOTING POSSIBILITIES FOR THEM?

OKAY.

SO IN ALL CIRCUMSTANCES FOLKS NEED TO TALK TO THEIR COUNTY ELECTION OFFICES AND MAKE SURE THEY ARE LOOKING ON THE WEBSITES, THAT THEY ARE IN TOUCH WITH THEIR ELECTION ADMINISTRATORS THE WAY THEY ARE FAMILIAR WITH WHERE THE VOTING LOCATIONS ARE, WHAT THE TIMING IS GOING TO LOOK LIKE AND WHAT ARE THEIR OPTIONS ON ELECTION DAY.

SO NEW JERSEY HAS SOME FORM OF IN-PERSON EARLY VOTING BUT IT'S GOING TO LOOK A LOT DIFFERENT THAN SOME OTHER STATES WHERE THEY ACTUALLY SET UP POLLING LOCATIONS AND PEOPLE CAN GO IN.

SO THAT'S GOING TO HAVE SOME COUNTY VARIETY.

NEW YORK IS DOING EARLY VOTING AND IT'S RECENT FOR US TO DO THAT.

FOR MANY YEARS NEW YORK WAS LIKE THE PUNCH LINE WHEN ANOTHER STATE WOULD GET SUED FOR CUTTING BACK ON EARLY VOTING, YOU KNOW, IT WAS ALMOST ALWAYS IN THE CASE SOMEBODY WOULD SAY, WELL, HOW CAN WE BE DOING SOMETHING ILLEGAL BY CUTTING BACK ON EARLY VOTING WHEN THERE ARE STATES LIKE NEW YORK --

AND YET YOU WOULD THINK OF ALL PLACES FOR SO MANY REASONS WOULDN'T NEW YORK BE ONE OF THE PLACES THAT SAY, YES, LET'S EMBRACE IT.

NOW WE DO SO NOW THERE WILL BE SOME EARLY VOTING OPPORTUNITIES BETWEEN LATE OCTOBER AND NOVEMBER 1st.

CONNECTICUT STILL DOESN'T HAVE EARLY VOTING THE WAY WE WOULD THINK ABOUT IT, BUT ALSO REMEMBER THAT IT'S NOT JUST EARLY VOTING, IT'S ALSO FOR HOW YOU RETURN YOUR ABSENTEE BALLOT, WHICH IS WHY, YOU KNOW, THE IDEA OF MAIL VOTING OR BALLOT BY MAIL OR ABSENTEE VOTING IS AN INTERESTING CONCEPT BECAUSE IT'S SUCH A TERM OF ART FOR EVERY STATE.

YEAH.

AND LET ME ASK YOU JUST TO DISTINGUISH ONE THING BECAUSE THERE SEEMS TO HAVE BEEN CONFUSION IN PEOPLE'S MINDS BETWEEN THE NOTION OF ABSENTEE VOTING AND MAIL-IN VOTING.

ARE THERE DISTINCTIONS, TECHNICALLY AND LEGAL, ARE THERE DISTINCTIONS THERE?

YES AN NO.

IN SOME WAYS IT'S A TERM OF ART FOR THE STATE, YOU KNOW, THE IDEA OF THOSE THAT DO ABSENTEE VOTING IT'S BECAUSE THEY ARE ABSENT FROM THE POLLS, OTHERS CALL IT VOTE BY MAIL BECAUSE SOMEONE IS VOTING THROUGH THE POLLS, BUT REALLY THOSE TERMS ARE -- ARE NOT FIXED AND THEY'RE NOT FIXED BECAUSE THERE ARE VARIATIONS IN ALL OF THEM.

SOME STATES AS I MENTIONED WILL ALLOW EVERYBODY WHO WANTS TO CAST A BALLOT FROM THEIR HOME CAST A BALLOT FROM THEIR HOME.

SOME STATES PUT RESTRICTIONS WHERE ONE OF THE THINGS THEY EXPECT YOU TO DO IS TO ACTUALLY BE ABSENT.

SOME STATES ALLOW YOU TO TAKE THAT BALLOT THAT YOU GOT IN THE MAIL AND RETURN IT IN PERSON OR EVEN RETURN IT AT THE POLLING PLACE.

SO WHEN YOU HEAR ABOUT PHRASES LIKE ABSENTEE BALLOTS OR BALLOT BY MAIL OR -- OR MAIL VOTING OR MAIL BALLOTING, I THINK IT'S REALLY IMPORTANT TO YOUR LISTENERS THAT THEY ACTUALLY LOOK AND FIGURE OUT WHAT THEIR STATE'S POLICY IS AND WHAT THE STATE PRACTICE IS.

I TEND TO LUMP THOSE GROUPS OR THOSE POLICIES WHERE A BALLOT COMES TO YOUR HOME THROUGH THE MAIL IN ONE CATEGORY AND WE WILL OFTEN CALL THOSE VOTING AT HOME BECAUSE THAT CAN ENCOMPASS BOTH THE ONES THAT ARE TECHNICALLY ABSENTEE OR THE ONES THAT ARE MORE COMFORTABLE USING VOTE BY MAIL, BUT THE UPSHOT IS YOU NEED TO KNOW WHAT YOUR STATE POLICY IS, YOU NEED TO KNOW WHAT YOUR STATE TERMS ARE, YOU NEED TO KNOW WHAT THE STATE RULES ARE.

SO I'M GLAD WE'RE HAVING THIS CONVERSATION, BUT I ALSO WOULDN'T HAVE PEOPLE BE TOO STRESSED OUT ABOUT IT.

THE UPSHOT IS CAN YOU GET A BALLOT COME THROUGH THE MAIL TO YOUR HOME?

DO YOU HAVE A WAY OF VOTING THAT DOES NOT REQUIRE YOU TO STAND IN LINE AT A POLL SITE?

AND THOSE ARE WHAT WE WANT VOTERS TO HAVE.

WE WANT VOTERS TO HAVE OPTIONS, ESPECIALLY IN A TIME WHEN WE ARE FACING A VIRUS THAT IS TRANSMITTED THROUGH THE AIR WHEN PEOPLE ARE AROUND EACH OTHER.

NO MATTER WHO YOU INTEND TO VOTE FOR, IF YOU ARE A VOTER OUT THERE, SHOULD YOU BE REALISTICALLY AT ALL FEARFUL THAT IF YOU CHOOSE TO VOTE BY MAIL THAT SOMEHOW YOU'RE GOING TO BE DISENFRANCHISED, THAT SOMEHOW YOUR VOTE IS NOT GOING TO COUNT?

THE REALITY IS THAT HOW ONE VOTES IS A VERY PERSONAL DECISION.

SO, FOR EXAMPLE, THERE ARE COMMUNITIES THAT CANNOT REASONABLY BE ASKED TO VOTE BY MAIL BECAUSE THEY EITHER HAVE PHYSICAL OR VISUAL IMPAIRMENTS OR THEY NEED LAWFULLY PROVIDED TRANSLATION SERVICES THAT ONLY EXIST AT THE POLLS.

IN SOME COMMUNITIES, LIKE PRIMARILY LIKE OLDER AFRICAN-AMERICAN COMMUNITIES, THE IDEA OF VOTING IN PERSON IS SUCH AN IMPORTANT CULTURAL CONNECTION BECAUSE OF THE HARD-FOUGHT BATTLE FOR EQUALITY AT THE BATTLE BOX THAT THOSE ARE FOLKS THAT MAY WANT TO BE VOTING IN PERSON.

AT THE SAME TIME YOU NEED PEOPLE WITH HIGH RISK PROFILES AND LOW RISK PROFILES THAT ARE WORRIED ABOUT BEING IN PERSON.

AT THE BRENNAN CENTER WE'RE GENERALLY AGNOSTIC ON HOW TO PERSON DECIDES TO VOTE.

WHAT WE DO TELL PEOPLE IS HOWEVER YOU CHOOSE TO VOTE YOU SHOULD VOTE AS EARLY AS YOU CAN.

SO IF THAT MEANS YOU'RE VOTING BY MAIL, GET YOUR BALLOT AS QUICKLY AS YOU CAN.

IF YOU HAVE TO APPLY FOR IT, APPLY FOR IT AS EARLY AS YOU CAN.

RETURN IT AS QUICKLY AS YOU CAN.

CALL YOUR ELECTION OFFICE TO SEE IF THEY GOT IT.

IF YOU'RE VOTING AT THE POLLS, YOU KNOW, AND YOU'RE IN THE STATES THAT ALLOW FOR EARLY IN-PERSON VOTING GO DO IT.

DO IT AS QUICKLY AS YOU CAN.

IF YOU ARE UNABLE TO DO IT BECAUSE YOU CAN'T GET THE TIME OFF, YOUR STATE DOESN'T HAVE IT, GET TO THE POLLS FIRST THING IN THE MORNING ON ELECTION DAY, IF YOU CAN.

THERE MAY BE SOME GLITCHES ON ELECTION DAY FOR A VARIETY OF PEOPLE AND THE BEST WAY TO HAVE THE TIME TO OVERCOME THEM SO THAT YOU CAN CAST A BALLOT THAT COUNTS WOULD BE BY VOTING EARLY.

SO OVERARCHING, YOUR OVERARCHING PIECE OF GUIDANCE OR ADVICE NO MATTER HOW YOU INTEND TO DO IT, JUST DO IT EARLY.

JUST GET OUT THERE.

LET ME COME BACK FOR A SECOND TO WHAT YOU MENTIONED THAT SOME PEOPLE ARE INCLINED TO GO FIRST.

I'VE ALWAYS LIKED THE IDEA OF VOTING IN PERSON.

I LOVE GOING TO MY FIRE STATION.

RIGHT.

THAT'S WHERE WE ARE.

I LOVE IT.

WE HAVE A LITTLE FIRE STATION, WE LIVE IN A LITTLE TOWN, IT HAS A SMALL FIRE STATION AND JUST -- FOR SOME REASON EVEN THOUGH IT'S A TINY PLACE, TO ME IT UNDERSCORES THE MAJESTY OF THIS GREAT RIGHT THAT WEHAVE.

SO, YOU KNOW, I AM IN NEW JERSEY WHERE WE ARE GOING TO -- I GOT A CARD IN THE MAIL JUST THE OTHER DAY SAYING, OKAY, YOU'RE GOING TO BE GETTING A BALLOT IN THE MAIL, YOU ARE ENCOURAGED TO DO IT THAT WAY, IF THERE IS A REASON YOU HAVE TO DO IT IN PERSON THEY WILL BE OPEN OBVIOUSLY.

WHAT DO YOU SAY TO SOMEONE WHO SAYS I'M INCLINED TO GO IN PERSON.

WHAT SHOULD THEY BE CONCERNED ABOUT?

WHAT SHOULD THEY LOOK INTO IN ADVANCE BEFORE THEY GET THERE?

THEY SHOULD MAKE SURE THEY KOW WHICH POLLING LOCATIONS ARE OPEN AND WHERE AND DURING WHAT HOURS BECAUSE NEW JERSEY IS TAKING THE STEP OF AUTOMATICALLY SENDING MAIL BALLOTS TO ALL ACTIVE AN REGISTERED VOTERS.

WE KNOW THAT SOME COUNTIES ARE REDUCING THE NUMBER OF POLLING PLACES.

SO MAKE SURE THAT YOU KNOW WHERE YOU'RE SUPPOSED TO GO IN AND VOTE AND MAKE SURE YOU KNOW WHAT TIME YOU CAN BE THERE.

MAKE SURE YOU KNOW HOW TO GET THERE.

AND THE LIKE FOR THAT.

WE'RE ALSO ASKING PEOPLE TO SHOW UP TO VOTE WITH THE APPROPRIATE PPE.

WE REALLY WANT TO KEEP THE PUBLIC HEALTH AS SAFE AS POSSIBLE, SO BE CONSIDERATE OF OTHER VOTERS.

THINK ABOUT THE HEALTH OF OTHER VOTERS.

SOME OF THE PEOPLE THAT ARE GOING TO BE VOTING IN PERSON ARE PEOPLE THAT JUST REALLY DIDN'T HAVE A LOT OF OTHER OPTIONS BECAUSE EITHER THE MAIL WAS UNRELIABLE OR THEY'RE WORRIED THAT THE MAIL IS UNRELIABLE AND, YOU KNOW, SO WE WANT TO MAKE SURE THAT WE HAVE GOOD PUBLIC HEALTH WHILE WE'RE VOTING, BUT THE MAIN THING THAT I THINK IS GOING TO BE TRICKY FOR PEOPLE IS THAT IT'S NOT GUARANTEED THAT THE PLACE YOU'RE USED TO VOTING AT WILL BE OPEN THIS TIME AND SO YOU JUST NEED TO CHECK AND ON FIRM THAT IN ADVANCE.

IN TERMS OF THAT DECISION, WHAT ADVICE WOULD YOU GIVE TO FOLKS WHO SAY, ALL RIGHT, I'M GOING TO -- AS OPPOSED TO NEW JERSEY WHERE THE STATE IS ENCOURAGING EVERYBODY TO VOTE, BUT LET'S SAY IT'S ONE OF THE OTHER STATES AND THEY HAVE OPTIONS AND THEY CHOOSE TO VOTE BY MAIL AND THEY DO IT EARLY, FOLLOWING YOUR DIRECTIONS HERE AND YOUR SUGGESTIONS, AND THEN AT SOME POINT IN TIME THEY -- I DON'T WANT TO SAY THEY PANIC BUT THEY START TO QUESTION THEIR DECISION.

IS THERE SOMETHING THEY CAN DO AT THAT POINT THIS TERMS OF ACTUAL IN-PERSON VOTING OR ARE THEY LOCKED IN AT THAT POINT?

I MEAN, I THINK -- I THINK IT'S REALLY IMPORTANT FOR YOUR READERS TO UNDERSTAND, ESPECIALLY GIVEN SOME OF THE MISINFORMATION AND BAD -- BAD ADVICE, BAD -- BAD FAITH ARGUMENTS THAT ARE BEING MADE BY SOME POLITICAL ACTORS AT ALL LEVELS OF GOVERNMENT.

A PERSON HAS THE OPTION OF CHANGING THEIR MIND IN ALMOST EVERY STATE AND THE STATES CONTEMPLATE IT.

SO, FOR EXAMPLE, IN NEW YORK THEY ACTUALLY ACKNOWLEDGE THAT VOTERS, YOU KNOW, MAY CHANGE THEIR MIND, EVEN IN A STATE LIKE GEORGIA, YOU CAN FILE AN APPLICATION AT THE POLLS THAT AUTHORIZES THEM TO SPOIL YOUR BALLOT.

SO IN NEW JERSEY IF YOU HAVE GOTTEN A MAIL BALLOT, THEY'RE GOING TO ASK YOU TO VOTE BY PROVISIONAL BALLOT.

IF YOU ARE IN NEW YORK AND YOU VOTE EITHER EARLY OR ON ELECTION DAY, THAT IS GOING TO SUPERCEDE ANY ABSENTEE BALLOT THAT COMES IN.

SO THEY ARE NOT GOING TO COUNT YOUR ABSENTEE BALLOT.

IN CONNECTICUT YOU CAN CANCEL A RETURN ABSENTEE BALLOT BY GOING INTO YOUR CLERK AND THEY TRACK IT AND THEY HAVE A CERTAIN TIME WHERE THEY ARE COUNTY THE ABSENTEE BALLOTS AND THEY'RE HOLDING THEM TO COUNT THEM UNTIL ELECTION DAY WHERE THEY COMPARE TO SEE WHO VOTED ON ELECTION DAY.

SO I WANT TO DISABUSE SOME VOTERS OF THE IDEA THAT IF YOU CAST A MAIL BALLOT AND YOU ALSO SHOW UP AT THE POLLS, THAT THAT MIGHT MEAN YOU'RE UP TO NO GOOD.

THAT DOESN'T MEAN THAT.

IT MEANS THAT YOU'RE NERVOUS ABOUT THE POST OFFICE BECAUSE YOU HEAR ALL THE THREATS THAT HAVE BEEN MADE AGAINST THE POST OFFICE, YOU HEAR THAT IT IS DECREASING IN RELIABILITY AND YOU CARE SO MUCH ABOUT YOUR RIGHT TO VOTE THAT YOU WANT THE SATISFACTION OF KNOWING THAT IT'S GOING TO COUNT, AND THESE THREE STATES THAT WE ARE TALKING ABOUT HAVE PROTOCOLS FOR VOTERS IN THOSE CIRCUMSTANCES TO MAKE SURE THAT NO ONE IS PASSING TWO BALLOTS THAT WILL COUNT.

THERE ARE WAYS TO TAKE MANUFACTURE THAT THEY DON'T GET COUNTED AND THAT THE IN-PERSON SYSTEM IS TALKING TO THE MAIL BALLOTING SYSTEM.

WHAT SORT OF ADVICE WOULD YOU GIVE FOLKS, AGAIN, AND THIS IS IN TERMS OF BOTH PARTIES OR ANY PARTIES OR ANY VOTE YOU WANT TO CAST HERE.

WHAT SORT OF ADVICE WOULD YOU GIVE PEOPLE WHO SAY TO YOU, YOU KNOW, I'M SEEING THESE STORIES ABOUT ALL OF THE PROBLEMS THAT ARE EXPECTED HERE IN TERMS OF VOTING IN THE MIDST OF A PANDEMIC AND I'M FRIGHTENED THAT IT SOUNDS LIKE THIS IS GOING TO BE, KIND OF A VOTING ARMAGEDDON.

NOTHING IS GOING TO WORK, NOTHING IS GOING TO COUNT.

AND I WILL SAY THAT MY PROFESSION, THE MEDIA, NOT EVERYBODY, IT'S NOT A MONOLITH I CAN ENTITY BUT PEOPLE TEND TO FOCUS ON THE NEGATIVE AND YOU WILL SEE STORIES, THERE ARE REASONS FOR THOSE STORIES, BUT THEY MIGHT ALARM PEOPLE.

WHAT KIND OF ADVICE WOULD YOU GIVE TO PEOPLE ABOUT THAT?

DO NOT BE DETERRED.

CAST A BALLOT IN FAVOR OF OUR DEMOCRACY.

THE ABSOLUTE WORST THING THAT WOULD HAPPEN WOULD BE FOR PEOPLE TO BE SO WORRIED ABOUT OUR ELECTIONS GOING WRONG THAT THEY WOULD NOT BE PARTICIPATING IN OUR ELECTIONS.

THAT WOULD BE THE ABSOLUTE WRONG THING.

INSTEAD PEOPLE CAN CAST BALLOTS FOR ELECTIVES THAT THEY THINK ARE GOING TO MAKE OUR VOTING PROCESS SMOOTHER.

THE REALITY IS THAT THE VAST MAJORITY OF AMERICANS ARE GOING TO HAVE A SMOOTH ELECTION DAY, WHETHER THEY VOTE IN PERSON OR WHETHER THEY VOTE BY MAIL, BUT THERE ARE ALMOST FOR SURE GOING TO BE SOME GLITCHES.

THERE ALWAYS ARE.

AND IN A TIME LIKE WE HAVE NOW WHERE SO MUCH OF IT IS GOING TO BE NEW FOR SO MANY VOTERS AND IT'S GOING TO BE NEW PROCESSES THAT SO MANY ELECTION ADMINISTRATORS ARE HAVING TO MANAGE WE'RE PROBABLY GOING TO GET MORE GLITCHES, BUT WE NEED TO NOT BE DETERRED.

WE NEED TO BE RESILIENT, WE NEED TO BE PREPARED, WE NEED TO HAVE A PLAN AND WE NEED TO MAKE SURE THAT -- THAT OUR POLITICIANS AND OUR ELECTION ADMINISTRATORS KNOW THAT OUR RIGHT TO VOTE IS PRECIOUS TO US AND THAT WE'RE GOING TO ASSERT IT AND THAT WE AS AMERICANS WANT A ROBUST AND PARTICIPATORY DEMOCRACY.

WE AS AMERICANS UNDERSTAND THAT OUR DEMOCRACY WORKS BEST WHEN ALL OF US ARE INCLUDED.

AND MY HOPE IS THAT FOLKS FIND A LOT OF FAITH AND INSPIRATION IN WAYS THAT I FIND IT, FOR EXAMPLE, I'M SEEING MORE AND MORE PEOPLE VOLUNTEER TO BE POLL WORKERS WHICH IS REALLY IMPORTANT.

WHY DO YOU THINK THAT IS?

I'M CURIOUS ABOUT THAT BECAUSE MY FIRST THOUGHT -- INTUITIVELY YOU MIGHT THINK PEOPLE ARE SAYING I DON'T WANT TO GO ANYWHERE NEAR POLLS.

VOTERS VOTE FOR VOTING.

AMERICANS CARE ABOUT THEIR ELECTIONS.

AMERICANS CARE ABOUT EACH OTHER.

THIS IS A WAY WHERE WE CONSERVE OUR COMMUNITY AND AMERICANS ARE RESPONDING TO THE CALL AND THAT IS SO INSPIRING, IT IS SO INSPIRING TO SEE PEOPLE FROM ALL WALKS OF LIFE DECIDE, DO YOU KNOW WHAT, I'M GOING TO TAKE A DAY OFF OF WORK, I'M GOING TO GO THROUGH THE TRAINING, I'M GOING TO EXPOSE MYSELF TO THE PUBLIC BECAUSE I SO BELIEVE IN OUR DEMOCRACY THAT I'M GOING TO DO SOMETHING ABOUT IT.

I TALKED TO VOTERS WHO DO THIS ALL THE TIME AND IT'S SO INCREDIBLY EXCITING.

I ALSO SEE STATES MAKING CHANGES BECAUSE THEY KNOW THAT THAT'S WHAT'S NEEDED IN OUR TIMETABLE.

RIGHT?

THAT THEY KNOW THAT THAT'S WHAT'S NEEDED IN THE MOMENT THAT WE ARE IN.

SOME OF THESE STATES ARE MAKING CHANGES THAT ARE MORE PERMANENT, BUT SOME OF THESE STATES ARE GOING TO LEAVE THE PERMANENT DEBATES TO A LATER TIME BUT THEY KNOW WHAT THEY'RE DOING IN THIS ELECTION, WHEN WE ARE IN THE MIDDLE OF A ONCE IN A GENERATION PANDEMIC.

AND THAT'S ALSO EXCITING AND THAT'S ALSO INSPIRING.

SO I THINK WE SHOULD ALL JUST REMEMBER THAT WE ARE A RESILIENT PEOPLE, WE ARE PEOPLE THAT CARE ABOUT OUR DEMOCRACY AND IF WE PUT OUR SHOULDER INTO IT WE'RE GOING TO BE ABLE TO WITHSTAND THIS.

IT'S GOING TO BE BUMPY.

IT'S GOING TO BE BUMPY.

THERE ARE GOING TO BE REAL PROBLEMS, LIKE REAL PROBLEMS THAT SHOULDN'T HAVE HAPPENED, BUT THAT SHOULD NOT DETER PEOPLE FROM PARTICIPATING.

THAT SHOULD, IN FACT, INSPIRE PEOPLE TO MAKE SURE THAT THEY VOTE AS EARLY AS THEY CAN AND TO MAKE SURE THAT THEIR FRIENDS AND THEIR NEIGHBORS AND THEIR FAMILY MEMBERS WHO ARE ELIGIBLE ALSO KNOW WHAT TO DO AND HOW TO CAST A BALLOT THAT WILL COUNT.

LAST QUESTION.

I HAVE LESS THAN A MINUTE HERE FOR YOU.

YOU TOUCHED ON IT HERE.

GENERALLY SPEAKING, ARE YOU OPTIMISTIC THAT NO MATTER WHO THE WINNER IS GOING TO BE IN THIS PRESIDENTIAL ELECTION, THE PROCESS SHOULD WORK THE WAY IT'S SUPPOSED TO WORK?

THE VOTING PROCESS?

I THINK OUR DEMOCRACY IS -- HAS GOT A LOT OF REALLY GOOD BONES IN IT AND I DON'T THINK WE ALWAYS LIVE UP TO OUR IDEALS, BUT I THINK WHEN WE ALL WORK TOGETHER AND WE ARE ALL COMMITTED AND WE ALL HAVE SHARED GOALS WE GET MUCH CLOSER TO THAT.

SO MY HOPE IS THAT WE STOP WITH THE POLITICIANS BICKERING OVER THINGS THAT HELP THEIR JOB SECURITY, INSTEAD PUT VOTERS FIRST AND LET VOTERS HAVE A FREE, FAIR AND ACCESSIBLE VOTE.

THAT'S CERTAINLY A GOOD WAY TO END THIS CONVERSATION.

GOING BACK TO WHAT YOU STARTED WITH, GET OUT, GET YOUR VOTE DONE EARLY, WHETHER IT'S IN THE MAIL OR WHETHER IT'S IN PERSON, DO IT EARLY.

MYRNA PEREZ, AGAIN, THANK YOU SO MUCH.

FROM THE BRENNAN CENTER, YOU'VE BEEN VERY HELPFUL HERE AND I'M SURE PEOPLE ARE GOING TO APPRECIATE THIS.

I WILL LOOK FORWARD TO TALKING WITH YOU AGAIN REAL SOON.

YOU BE WELL.

YOU, TOO, SIR.

THANK YOU.

BYE NOW.

'METROFOCUS' IS MADE POSSIBLE BY SUE AND EDGAR WACHENHEIM III, SYLVIA A. AND SIMON B. POYTA PROGRAMING ENDOWMENT TO FIGHT ANTI-SEMITISM.

BARBARA HOPE ZUCKERBERG, JANET PRINDLE SEIDLER, JODY AND JOHN ARNHOLD, CHERYL AND PHILIP MILSTEIN FAMILY, BERNARD AND DENISE SCHWARTZ, JUDY AND JOSH WESTON, DR. ROBERT C. AND TINA SOHN FOUNDATION.

♪ ♪ ♪ ♪ ♪

Funders

MetroFocus is made possible by Sue and Edgar Wachenheim III, the Sylvia A. and Simon B. Poyta Programming Endowment to Fight Anti-Semitism, Bernard and Denise Schwartz, Barbara Hope Zuckerberg, Janet Prindle Seidler, Jody and John Arnhold, the Cheryl and Philip Milstein Family, Judy and Josh Weston and the Dr. Robert C. and Tina Sohn Foundation.

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