A dozen U.S. states see problems with voting machines: rights groups

WASHINGTON/ATLANTA (Reuters) – Problems with voting machines were preventing some Americans from casting ballots in a dozen states in Tuesday’s congressional elections, U.S. rights advocates said, following complaints about registration problems, faulty equipment and intimidation they have received throughout early balloting.

Democrats and advocacy groups said they have been grappling with a diverse crop of new voting restrictions for these elections, which will determine whether Republicans keep control of the U.S. Congress. Thirty-six governorships and hundreds of state offices are also up for grabs.

A U.S. Department of Homeland Security official told reporters the agency had received reports of “sparse” voting technology failures, but said that so far they appeared to have had no significant impact in preventing people from voting.

Broken voting machines were reported in at least 12 states by noon (1700 GMT) on Tuesday, according to an “election protection” coalition of more than 100 groups that set up a national hotline for reporting irregularities.

In Georgia, where the election included a tight, bitter race for governor, the state sent investigators to look into problems with digital poll books, said state spokeswoman Candice Broce. Some voters were given provisional ballots instead of using regular voting machines, she said.

Postal worker Shirley Thorn, 56, said technical problems caused her to wait more than four hours at a polling station in Snellville, Georgia, to cast her ballot.

“I was determined I was going to cast my ballot today because it’s a very important election,” Thorn said.

Rights groups say provisional ballots are less reliable than regular ballots because they require information about voters to be verified before the votes are counted.

“We’re fully prepared to mount emergency litigation to push back against some of the systemic problems that sometimes rear their heads in our elections,” said Kristen Clarke, head of the Lawyers’ Committee for Civil Rights Under Law, which leads the election protection coalition.

The committee said it planned to demand that Maricopa County, Arizona, extend hours at polling places where systemic issues such as problems with voting machine printers caused the polls to open late or not at all.


Civil rights groups have already been locked in litigation with several states over voting restrictions that were passed in the lead-up to Tuesday’s election.

North Dakota introduced a voter ID requirement that Native Americans say discriminates against them; Kansas and Georgia moved polling locations, and changes in Tennessee registration laws led to people being removed from the voting lists.

Advocacy groups said the changes stack the deck against minority voters who are likely to support Democratic candidates.

Each of those hotly contested states’ top election officials have said the changes were made to protect against voter fraud and accommodate budgetary constraints, not to suppress voting.

Independent studies have found that voter fraud is extremely rare in the United States.

“We’re seeing a tug of war for the soul of this country,” said Jamal Watkins, who leads civic engagement at the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People, or NAACP, a member of the committee.

Referring to the state officials usually charged with overall supervision of elections, he added: “It’s become the norm for a secretary of state who’s conservative to use their position to suppress the vote, and that means we’ve hit a crisis point in our democracy.”

The intense political environment has led to a surge in interest from people offering to help monitor polling stations.

Hotline traffic in recent weeks was higher than in the previous U.S. midterm elections in 2014, said Marcia Johnson-Blanco, an official with the Lawyers’ Committee.

Common Cause said it has signed up more than 6,500 volunteers, compared to 3,000 in the 2016 presidential election.

For full election coverage see: here

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TD accuses Peter Casey of 'cynically stirring up and appealing to anti-Traveller attitudes' to boost profile

PRESIDENTIAL candidate Peter Casey has been accused of “cynically stirring up and appealing to anti-Traveller attitudes in society” to boost his profile and vote.

The claim was made by Solidarity TD Mick Barry.

He said that in the wake of the controversy it’s “more important than ever” that an Expert Group on Traveller Accommodation brings forward “bold” recommendations to address “festering issues”.

Mr Barry made his remarks as members of the Expert Group appeared at the Oireachtas Housing Committee.

He said the “elephant in the room” was the debate that occurred during the recent presidential election and its aftermath.

During the campaign Independent candidate and businessman Peter Casey claimed that Travellers were “basically people camping in someone else’s land”.

He also highlighted a case in Tipperary where six homes lay empty in a €1.7m development due to a dispute between Traveller families and the local authority over space for their horses.

“I’m sorry, there’s something seriously wrong with society when we’re at that stage,” Mr Casey said at the time.

Mr Casey was widely criticised for his controversial remarks about the Travelling Community and was forced to deny accusations that some of them amounted to racism.

His raising of the issue has been credited in part for seeing his support rise from as low as 1pc to the 23pc of the vote he got on election day.

At today’s committee meeting Mr Barry said it hasn’t been unusual for “wannabe” politicians to play the “Traveller card” to boost their vote.

He argued that “this was on a level that’s not been seen before in this State” during the presidential election.

He claimed one candidate in the presidential election was involved in “cynically stirring up and appealing to anti-Traveller attitudes in society in order to cynically boost their profile and their vote.

“As we know unfortunately that was done with some success by the candidate in question.”

Mr Barry urged the Expert Group members not to soften its approach to coming up with recommendations for government as a result of the recent debate.

He said: “I would say actually in the aftermath of that controversy it is more important than ever that the expert group comes up with recommendations that are bold, that are radical and that address the festering issues and problems that are there.”

Mr Barry claimed the issue of providing Traveller Accommodation has been pushed to the side by local authorities for “far too long” and that “courage” is needed to address the human rights issues that currently exist.

The Expert Group met for the first time last month and has been tasked with examining the best ways to deliver Traveller accommodation.

It is to provide the government with suggestions on key actions within the next six months. 

Sinn Féin TD Eoin Ó Broin said there has been a “chronic underspend” by local authorities in providing Traveller accommodation and that he hopes the expert group will come back with “radical” recommendations on how this can be addressed.

Mr Ó Broin said the figures are “intolerable”.

He said: “I have no doubt and I’ll say it publically – while there are many reasons why individual projects are slower to deliver – prejudice operating at a community level, at a political level, at a management level is one of the key factors and I just think we have to be honest about that.”

He added: “where prejudice is clearly a barrier we have to find mechanisms to put in place to then take those decisions away from some of those people”.

Mr Ó Broin asked if sanctions should be considered for local authorities and suggested that withholding funding for roads “might focus the minds of elected representatives to do what they’re legally required to do under the traveller accommodation programmes.”

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Hopes of Brexit deal but Theresa May tells cabinet not 'at any cost'

The prime minister updated her cabinet on Tuesday about the progress of negotiations with Brussels, amid signs a divorce agreement could finally be in sight.

Although Mrs May has stated 95% of the UK’s withdrawal agreement is settled, the Irish border issue continues to prove a sticking point in exit talks.

She and her senior ministers discussed plans for a “review mechanism” to ensure the UK is not placed permanently in a backstop arrangement aimed at avoiding a hard border on the island of Ireland.

Hopes of a breakthrough have been raised after Irish prime minister Leo Varadkar said he was “open” to such a deal, although he reiterated his red lines on Brexit.

Following the cabinet meeting, Mrs May’s spokesman said: “The prime minister said she was confident of reaching a deal.

“She said that, while the UK should aim to secure a withdrawal agreement as soon as possible, this would not be done at any cost.

“The prime minister said that, once agreement was reached on a withdrawal agreement, it remains the case that nothing is agreed until everything is agreed and it will be subject to securing an acceptable full future framework.”

Downing Street later said there is no further cabinet meeting scheduled this week in order for ministers to reach an agreement on Brexit, although one could be held “at the appropriate moment”.

At a Brussels summit in October, EU leaders ruled there was not enough progress in Brexit negotiations in order to call an emergency summit this month to finalise a deal.

However, there have been reports the bloc could yet call an extraordinary gathering of national leaders towards the end of November following recent signs of progress.

Mrs May has been boosted by Mr Varadkar’s willingness to negotiate a review mechanism, thought to be part of proposals for the UK to enter an effective customs union with the EU under a backstop arrangement to prevent a hard Irish border.

The backstop arrangement would come into force should a future EU-UK trade relationship fail to avert a hard border between Northern Ireland and the Republic of Ireland.

Tory Brexiteers fear the UK could be left permanently under a backstop agreement with Brussels, curtailing Britain’s ability to sign independent trade deals, with Mrs May having told the EU this cannot be the case.

However, the bloc has rejected UK attempts to place a time limit on any backstop arrangement, while Brexiteers have been pushing for the UK to have the unilateral right to exit a backstop arrangement and force a “no-deal” departure from the EU.

Speaking in the Irish parliament on Tuesday, Mr Varadkar repeated his red lines.

“There can be no expiry date and there can be no unilateral exit clause, and if it were to be either of those things, the backstop would not be worth the paper it was written on,” he said.

However, the Irish prime minister added it may be to Ireland’s “advantage” for a review clause to be included in a backstop agreement.

“I’m open to creative solutions and creative language but we will not resile from our fundamental resolution, the backstop cannot have a time limit or an exit clause,” he continued.

Mr Varadkar was accused by Sinn Fein of having “lost his nerve” in Brexit negotiations by signalling his willingness to reach a compromise solution with the UK.

At a news conference in Slovakia, the EU’s chief Brexit negotiator Michel Barnier reiterated Brussels’ support for Ireland’s position on a backstop arrangement, as he repeated an overall Brexit deal has yet to be reached.

“We are still not at the 100%,” the European Commission official said.

“What is missing is a solution for the issue of Ireland. Without an operational backstop there will not be an accord and there will not be a transition period. That is certain.”

Mr Barnier added a backstop arrangement “cannot have an end-date” and “must be applicable unless and until another solution is found”.

Responding to Ireland’s rejection of a time-limit or a UK ability to unilaterally exit a backstop, the DUP’s chief whip Jeffrey Donaldson warned: “Looks like we’re heading for no deal.”

He tweeted: “Such an outcome will have serious consequences for economy of Irish Republic.

“In addition, UK won’t have to pay a penny more to EU, which means big increase for Dublin.

“Can’t understand why Irish government seems so intent on this course.”

Labour shadow chancellor John McDonnell has signalled his party will vote against the UK being in an effective customs union with the EU for a temporary period after Brexit.

He told the BBC: “I can’t see it because I think it would be the worst of all worlds.

“What I’m getting from business leaders, trade union leaders and others is they want permanence, they want stability.”

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Voters head to the polls in critical U.S. midterm test for Donald Trump

Clara Swallows pulled herself out of bed. Her aching back made her want to stay put, but the 74-year-old in Indiana had somewhere she needed to be: the polls.

Seven hundred miles away in Florida, Stephanie Kent suspended repairs to her home — flooded during Hurricane Michael — and drove 20 miles out of the way to circumvent a still-closed bridge just to cast her ballot, too.

Like Swallows and Kent, more than 30 million Americans already have voted in a midterm election expected to draw unprecedented numbers by the time polls close Tuesday night. In casting their ballots for House and Senate races, voters will render a verdict on U.S. President Donald Trump’s tumultuous tenure, deciding whether his 2016 election was a one-off or if his divisive style of governing will define the future of American politics.

Swallows and Kent voted from opposite ends of the political schism. Swallows was determined to help put Democrats in office to curtail Trump’s agenda, while 54-year-old Kent committed to Republicans as a show of support for him. But both agreed this election was among the most important of their lifetimes.

“I woke up in pain, but I said I’m going to get out and do this,” said Swallows, a former Republican who has never before voted in a midterm. She cast her ballot for all Democrats, citing Trump’s stirring of racial and political tension. “I’m here to say that hatred is not going to win. We are not going to stand for it.”

Trump has sought to counter some of that rage toward his administration by stoking even more anger among his base. In recent weeks, he’s put the spotlight on a caravan of Central American migrants fleeing poverty and violence that he calls “an invasion” of criminals and terrorists. He ran an advertisement about immigration so racially incendiary that all three major cable news networks, including Fox News, either refused to air it or eventually decided to stop showing it.

Among some Republican voters, that message resonated.

“This whole thing with this caravan is pretty scary,” said Jennifer Rager, 55, of Bozeman, Montana, who approves of Trump’s plans to crack down on immigration. She cast her ballot to keep Republicans in power so the president doesn’t become a lame duck. “It just feels like he’s really trying to do a good job of protecting our country, you know? I can’t wrap my head around why the other side is so unhappy and so terrified.”

In St. Louis, Susan Riebold, 53, posed for a photo with a cardboard cutout of Trump at a pre-Election Day rally for her Republican candidate for U.S. Senate. She said she fully supports Trump’s decision to send military troops to the Mexican border to intercept the caravan — a move critics say is unnecessary and a political stunt, given the migrants are travelling mostly on foot and remain hundreds of miles away.

The country, she said, “is more strong, confident and unified than it’s ever been, and most of the confidence and people feeling unified and patriotic again has come right before Trump got in and since he’s been in.” And she dismissed any criticism of the president as fake news. “We hate the media,” she said, “because they’re the Democratic arm.”

Others expressed a heightened sense of unease and sadness about the state of America’s political climate. The election comes just days after a series of hate crimes and political attacks, including the arrest of a man who mailed pipe bombs to Trump critics whom the president often derides as “evil,” ″un-American,” and “the enemy.”

Many voters said they saw the election as an opportunity to reject that kind of bombast.

“We’ve forgotten our decency. We’ve forgotten the truth,” said Morris Lee Williams, 67, an Army veteran and member of Zion Travelers Missionary Baptist Church in St. Louis. “We’re supposed to be a group of people, Americans, who are supposed to be that light in the world. Instead of a light, it’s turned into a nightmare.”

In suburban Chicago, Lea Grover agreed. “It seems to me a referendum on empathy, and whether or not we as a nation have any,” said the 34-year-old mother of three daughters.

Grover, a survivor of sexual assault who works for a nonprofit that helps other victims, was angered by the confirmation hearings for Supreme Court Justice Brett Kavanaugh. He was accused by a high school classmate of sexually assaulting her decades ago. Republicans voted to confirm Kavanaugh, and Trump at one point mocked the accuser during a rally.

Voters on the other side were also galvanized by the Kavanaugh hearings — a “smear campaign,” in the opinion of Natalie Pig, a 31-year-old attorney in Missouri motivated to elect people to Congress sure to stand behind Trump.

Civil engineer Pritesh Mehta also cast his early vote for those who would support the president. Mehta, who lives in Little Rock, Arkansas, emigrated from India in 2000 and believes Trump is steering the country in the right direction, including with his immigration policies. Mehta came legally, he said, and he doesn’t see anything wrong with vetting others who want to live in the United States.

Uroosa Jawed is an immigrant, too. She relocated from Pakistan with her family when she was 5. Now 42 and a naturalized citizen living in Omaha, Nebraska, she has always considered herself an American. But over the last two years, as Trump has made sowing fear about immigrants the centrepiece of his presidency, she’s wondered whether her neighbours see her that way, too.

Jawed, who works for a nonprofit aimed at cultivating interfaith cooperation among Jewish, Muslim and Christian groups, said this election offers an opportunity to turn back that tide.

“I don’t feel despair,” she said. “I feel we’re on the precipice of change.”

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Am I Registered to Vote? Answers to Common Questions on Election Day

Good morning, it’s Election Day. Or, for some, perhaps it would be more fitting to say: Good morning, it’s Election Day?!

In any case, here are answers to some commonly asked questions about voting.

How do I know if I’m registered to vote?

There are a few websites you can visit to check your voter registration.

VoteSaveAmerica asks you to enter basic personal information to determine whether you’re registered. That tool is supported by Vote.org, a nonpartisan nonprofit seeking to increase voter turnout.

Another website that lets people quickly check their voter registration status is run by HeadCount, a nonpartisan group; you can use it to verify that you are registered and the location of your polling place.

Everything You Need to Know for the Midterm Elections

The midterm elections are around the corner. If you haven’t been keeping up with what’s going on, or have been and are still confused, take a look at our cheat sheet.

Do I have to show an ID?

Whether voters must show valid identification at their polling place varies by state. As of August, 35 states have some type of voter ID law, according to VoteRiders, a nonpartisan organization that helps demystify state voter ID laws.

VoteRiders publishes a map that breaks down voter ID laws by state, so you can use it to determine what your state requires.

The strictest voter ID laws can be found in states like North Dakota and Georgia, said Kathleen Unger, the founder of VoteRiders. Those states require residents to bring specific types of identification to their polling place.

States like New York or California generally do not require voters to provide IDs after residents have registered, Ms. Unger said. First-time voters in those states should bring identification, however.

If you need further help, you can contact VoteRiders by phone or email — it will help you figure out the intricacies of your state’s laws.

The Five Battlefields for Control of the House

Democrats or Republicans will piece together a House majority from across five main types of congressional districts that are most competitive this fall. Here’s our field guide to those races.

Can I wear my partisan T-shirt while voting?

Although you might want to show support for your chosen candidate through your outfit, that might not be legal in your state.

This year the Supreme Court struck down a Minnesota law that prohibited voters from wearing T-shirts, hats and buttons expressing political views at polling places. Minnesota’s law was particularly broad, however, and it was enforced to ban even general political messaging on issues like gun rights or labor unions.

State laws that ban apparel supporting or opposing specific candidates or ballot measures are acceptable, according to the court’s majority opinion.

Jeanette Senecal, with the League of Women Voters, suggests that, to be on the safe side, voters leave their partisan apparel at home. But if you end up wearing it anyway, election supervisors will often ask you to turn your shirt inside-out in the bathroom, Ms. Senecal said.

[Make sense of the people, issues and ideas shaping the 2018 elections with our new politics newsletter.]

What if my address has changed?

Every time you change your address permanently, you’re supposed to re-register or change your voter registration information. You should check your state’s laws to determine what sort of documentation, like a driver’s license or utility bill, you may need to bring to the polling place for proof of your new address.

In some states, like Pennsylvania, if you change your address within 30 days before an election you can vote at the polling place associated with your old address. In Wisconsin, you’re eligible to vote with your old address if you’ve lived for fewer than 10 consecutive days at your new address. Details vary, so check your state’s official rules.

What if I’m turned away from my polling place?

Don’t leave just yet.

If you are turned away because you’re told you do not have the right form of identification, ask to speak with the polling supervisor to determine whether you are getting the right information, or call the VoteRiders hotline to get the advice of an expert, Ms. Unger said.

Another hotline to call is 866-687-8683, which is run by Election Protection, a nonpartisan organization.

If your identification or voter registration is still challenged, Ms. Senecal said, you should ask for a provisional ballot, which means your vote is contingent on verification of your eligibility. If your qualifications can be verified later, your vote will be counted. (Here’s more on what to do if you’re told you cannot vote — and how to minimize the chances of it happening in the first place.)

Follow Julia Jacobs on Twitter: @juliarebeccaj.

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Two Visions of Patriotism Clash in the Midterm Elections

DES MOINES — President Trump has spent his 21 months in office labeling his critics as unpatriotic.

N.F.L. players who kneel during the national anthem possibly “shouldn’t be in the country,” he has said. Journalists who write unflattering stories are “enemies of the people.” Democratic lawmakers who did not clap for his State of the Union address were “treasonous.”

And yet, for Bridget Carberry Montgomery, a Democrat in Iowa, this is a time when she has never felt more patriotic.

Ms. Montgomery, a 43-year-old mother of four, had never gotten involved in politics before this fall, when she led a group that met Sunday nights at a sports bar, with children in tow, to write postcards urging Iowans to turn out to vote.

“I love my country and I want it to be the very best version of itself,” she said. She added, “I feel emboldened in my patriotism.”

As the nation goes to the polls in what is widely seen as a referendum on the president’s conduct, policies and character, both his supporters and his opponents are expressing sharply contrasting views on issues like immigration, guns and the courts.

But increasingly they differ on something more fundamental: what it means to be patriotic and how to express that politically.

Here in the middle of the country, where three of Iowa’s four House races are competitive, and where Mr. Trump first rewrote the rules of patriotism by attacking a war hero and ex-P.O.W., Senator John McCain, it is clear that Republicans and Democrats part ways over the meaning of duty, respect and love of country.

For Republicans and Mr. Trump, who was joined for his final rallies by the singer Lee Greenwood, who performed his anthem “God Bless the USA,” patriotism in politics often means conspicuous displays of respect for the traditional expressions of America — the flag, the military, the Pledge of Allegiance.

Denise Bubeck, a Republican in Grimes, Iowa, works for an advocacy group that promotes “family values” such as heterosexual marriage and opposition to abortion.

For her, standing to show respect for the flag is nonnegotiable. When she sees athletes kneeling in protest of police brutality during the anthem, she thinks of a grandfather who was killed in the battle of Iwo Jima. “People actually shed blood for the freedoms we have,” she said. “We need to show respect for this country.”

But, particularly in this election season, many Democrats described their vote as a different form of patriotism, an urgent effort to protect and reclaim American democracy. That view tries to redefine a subject Democrats in the past have often ceded, politically, to Republicans.

Democrats see a president who has sought to use the Justice Department against his political enemies, to undo constitutional protections including freedom of speech and birthright citizenship, and who has dangerous authoritarian tendencies.

They are furious at the Republican majorities in Congress for not exercising their responsibility to hold Mr. Trump accountable.

Democrats “are rallying around a rhetoric of ‘you’ve got to go out and do this to save the country’ — that voting is going to be a patriotic act, that there are norms being violated and institutions corrupted,” said Kevin M. Kruse, a historian at Princeton University.

Some conservative intellectuals think Democrats’ efforts to seize a patriotic mantle is fundamentally flawed. They argue that progressive politics is built on grievances about racism, sexism and other alleged sins of America.

Support for President Trump can be explained in part as a patriotic backlash to the left’s ongoing critique of America, said Shelby Steele, a senior fellow at the Hoover Institution at Stanford University.

“Trump is president today because the left got drunk on its sanctimony, on its moral superiority, and actually put down these people, and in many cases quite unfairly,” Mr. Steele said.

“And so the explosive support for this guy from nowhere is those people who felt overlooked and excluded from this new vision of America, this new liberal innocence. They want to be — they believe — that they’re really proud Americans, and their patriotism is built on American self-esteem.”

A defining moment this campaign season was when Beto O’Rourke, the Democratic Senate candidate in Texas, responded to a question about N.F.L. players who kneel during the national anthem to protest police killings of blacks.

“I can think of nothing more American,” Mr. O’Rourke said of the protests, in a speech that went viral.

The next day, the president told supporters in West Virginia, “You’re proud of our country, you’re proud of our history, and unlike the N.F.L., you always honor and cherish our great American flag.”

Democrats and Republicans are divided over the acceptability of dissent as a component of patriotism.

Kristen Anderson, a 34-year-old new mother who lives in Des Moines, sees protests very differently.

She invoked the definition of patriotism written by James Baldwin: “I love America more than any other country in the world and, exactly for this reason, I insist on the right to criticize her perpetually.”

Ms. Anderson, who works for a financial company, said her vote for the Democratic challenger in a tight race in Iowa’s Third Congressional District was a vote to flip the House majority, and put a check on the president.

“I think anyone who’s paying any attention should be worried about democracy,” she said.

She said her own family was directly threatened. As a lesbian, she said the constitutional protection of her marriage felt vulnerable with Mr. Trump’s Supreme Court picks. Her spouse, a Latina immigrant, has a green card. “But with this administration’s antagonism toward immigrants, especially those of Latino descent, and in a homosexual partnership — I can’t trust this administration to honor precedents or laws,” Ms. Anderson said.

Like nearly everything in the Trump era, Americans’ divisions over patriotism have become more partisan, polls suggest.

Gallup, which since 2001 has asked people how proud they are as Americans, found this year that 74 percent of Republicans are extremely proud, but since Mr. Trump’s election, the share of Democrats who are extremely proud to be American has plummeted to 32 percent.

A YouGov survey this year found majorities of Democrats said a person can be patriotic who criticizes American leaders to foreigners, disobeys a law believed to be immoral or refuses to serve in a war believed unjust. Far fewer Republicans agreed that such dissents were compatible with patriotism.

Brian Myers, a Republican small business owner in Madrid, Iowa, who did not vote for Mr. Trump (he wrote in Bobby Jindal, the former governor of Louisiana), said he was troubled by polls showing a drop in Democrats’ pride in America.

“So often now I see people characterize the American flag as an offensive item,” he said. “‘It’s a symbol of racism and bigotry.’ I just find that appalling.”

Tyler Higgs, 32, a school psychologist who lives in Clive, Iowa, rejected the conservative critique that as a progressive he hates America. Mr. Higgs founded a local chapter of Indivisible, a grass-roots network on the left.

“Why are we knocking on doors, why are we going to legislative forums and writing letters to our legislators if we hate our country?” he said. “All these things they say are liberal outrage — that’s patriotism.”

Mr. Higgs called the midterms “insanely important,” listing ways he thought Mr. Trump was a threat to democracy: undermining the electoral process, attacking the independent press and “stoking white supremacists in our society.”

Many Republicans view this fear as overblown, even paranoid. Senator Charles E. Grassley, Iowa’s senior Republican, said Democrats should relax, and that the Constitution’s separation of powers remains intact. He recalled his first election to the House in 1974, shortly after Richard Nixon resigned, when there was wild talk about a military coup. But the Republic survived.

“As long as you’ve got the Constitution’s checks and balances, what these Democrats are saying about the threat from Trump has no basis,” Mr. Grassley said.

Republicans for years owned the upper hand on patriotism as a political issue. The advantage dated at least to the Vietnam era, when some on the left equated the flag and the military with shameful symbols of American power.

In the 1980s, Republicans mastered using the flag as a wedge issue in the culture wars. They later attacked President Barack Obama for going on what they called an “apology tour” of foreign countries and an insufficient embrace of “American exceptionalism.”

This year, however, with American prestige in the world suffering under Mr. Trump, Democrats have seen an opportunity and sought to rewrite the patriotism script. They nominated a slew of military veterans in Republican-held House districts. Many are women with tours of combat or the service academies on their résumés. The candidates include Amy McGrath in Kentucky, Mikie Sherrill in New Jersey and Elaine Luria in Virginia. Abigail Spanberger, running in Virginia, is a former C.I.A. antiterrorism officer.

Jean Ludwig, 75, a retired financial adviser, has been knocking on doors for Republican candidates in Carroll, Iowa, including for Gov. Kim Reynolds and Representative Steve King.

“I wish there was more I could do,” she said.

In her view, a factual assessment of the Trump presidency would conclude that he has done an excellent job, but Democrats, who “are more controlled by emotions,” she said, have been unwilling to see it. “They don’t talk to anybody, just to each other: ‘I hate the president, don’t you?”

She said she particularly dislikes the news media telling her what to think rather than, in her view, reporting things straight. When Mr. Trump called himself a “nationalist,” much of the coverage was critical because of the historical association of the term with white supremacy; Ms. Ludwig called that media bias.

“Nationalism is a perfectly fine thing. It just means we’re going to look out for the United States first,” she said.

Not far from Ms. Ludwig’s home county, Emily Alberhasky hears something much more sinister in the president calling himself a nationalist. For her, it is the opposite of patriotism.

“He is giving voice and power to the racist underbelly of this country,” said Ms. Alberhasky, 40, a mother of five from Ankeny, Iowa. “When President Trump speaks about the caravan or any of the hundreds of thousands trying to get asylum or find safety in our country, and he speaks about them the way we have heard other groups, including Jews, be talked about in history, it gives me chills to the bone.”

“The association with the word nationalism is not one of democracy and acceptance,” she said. “It has a very heavy tone of judgment and supremacy to it.”

She said the Trump administration has caused her fear and sleepless nights.

“Am I proud to be an American?” she said. “I don’t think I can say I am right now. I feel really disappointed in close to half of this country. I feel embarrassed and ashamed that this is our current situation.”

She added: “But I’m really proud of more than half of our country and I feel very patriotic that I want this country to get back to, or maybe self-actualize up to, a place of being who we truly are, which is a very diverse, very eclectic, beautiful mix of all kinds of people.”

Ms. Alberhasky had never been involved with politics before this year. She spent the days leading to Tuesday working 12-hour shifts in a campaign office, mobilizing volunteers to get out votes for Democrats.

Dr. William J. Barber II, the North Carolina pastor and champion of liberal causes who lead protests known as Moral Mondays at the State Capitol, said the idea of eternally seeking to improve America is enshrined in some of the nation’s most patriotic texts.

He cited “America, the Beautiful” and its lyrics: “America! America! God mend thine every flaw.”

Richard Fausset contributed reporting from Atlanta.

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New mayors in Vancouver, Surrey and Burnaby sworn in

Newly elected mayors and city councillors were set to formally take over in city halls across the province on Monday. In Metro Vancouver’s three largest cities, Vancouver, Surrey and Burnaby, there are new mayors in charge after local government elections on Oct. 20.

Kennedy Stewart takes the reigns in Vancouver after 10 years of Gregor Robertson’s rule. Stewart has outlined his priorities for the first 100 days in office.

The new mayor of Vancouver has promised to hire more staff and changing processes to begin clearing the permit backlog of permits, especially those aimed at delivering rental housing.

Stewart has also promised to work with council to hire a renters’ advocate and staff up the office. The mayor has also promised to get a Downtown Eastside emergency task force up and running.

“We are indeed in an unfamiliar situation here in Vancouver. An independent mayor, a set of new and renewed political parties and like the voters of this city, a council that reflects a mixture of ideas and approaches,” said Stewart.

“And this change in situation means we can and must think of this differently. And this starts with respect.”

In his opening address as mayor, Stewart said his goal was to build “trust right across this city.”

The new mayor also acknowledged former Vancouver mayor and the last independent Mike Harcourt. There hasn’t been an independent mayor since the 1980s and no consensus on council will be one of the first challenges Stewart must address.

“Mike tells me that such councils have the most chance for success because all voices matter,” said Stewart. “Well, his councils were often expected to fail to fall into bickering and discord, instead they flourished.”

WATCH HERE: Trudeau visits Vancouver, meets new Vancouver and Surrey mayors

Stewart’s council includes five members from the NPA, three Green councillors, Jean Swanson and Christine Boyle.

Surrey Mayor Doug McCallum is also being sworn in on Monday. He has promised to move forward with moving from the RCMP policing Surrey to a local police force.

McCallum is also moving to scrap the LRT and go forward with SkyTrain. It is a change that needs to be approved by the mayors’ council.

New Burnaby Mayor Mike Hurley will be officially sworn in on Monday night. Hurley says he is confident that “within a year,” his new council can make a dent into the affordability crisis.

“The very first priority will be the housing issue. Displacement issues in Metrotown but affordability issues all across this city,” said Hurley. “We need to address it quickly as possible. There will be a mayor’s task force on this issue from Jan. 1, hopefully reporting back within six months about the difficulties we feel.”

Hurley says Burnaby is way behind on housing, adding that not a lot has been done over the last 16 years. The incoming Burnaby mayor says he has been texting back and forth with Housing Minister Selina Robinson about setting up a meeting.

Robinson says she is looking forward to meeting with the new mayors “as soon as possible” to look at ways the province can help address the housing issue.

“We have to remember it is the electorate that said they need housing,” said Robinson. “I’m really pleased all of these mayors are committed to doing that works with us as a province.”

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Dozens of Facebook, Instagram accounts blocked over election interference concerns

Facebook, Inc. said it has identified and blocked some 30 Facebook and 85 Instagram accounts over concerns of foreign election interference, on the eve of the U.S. midterm elections.

The action came after law enforcement authorities contacted Facebook to inform them of social media activity that they believe may be linked to foreign entities, Nathaniel Gleicher, the company’s cybersecurity policy head, said in a release.

Most the Facebook pages were in Russian or French, while the Instagram accounts were largely in English.

Gleicher said the accounts were possibly engaged in “coordinated inauthentic behaviour,” although he said it was too early to tell whether they were linked to the notorious Russian-based Internet Research Agency troll farm.

“Typically, we would be further along with our analysis before announcing anything publicly,” Gleicher said. “But given that we are only one day away from important elections in the U.S., we wanted to let people know about the action we’ve taken and the facts as we know them today.”

The revelation came less than a month after Facebook unveiled its so-called “war room” dedicated to combating fake accounts and news stories ahead of the midterm elections. M-DA

Facebook didn’t always take the risk of election interference seriously, however. Days after the surprise victory of U.S. President Donald Trump in 2016, CEO Mark Zuckerberg brushed off assertions that the outcome had been influenced by fictional news stories on Facebook.

That attitude shifted as criticism of the company mounted.

— With files from the Associated Press

Follow @Kalvapalle

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Atlantic Canadian delegation to China hopes to bolster trade in the region

A federal-provincial trade mission is heading to China this week with hopes of bolstering Atlantic Canada’s presence in one of the world’s largest consumer markets.

Federal Agriculture Minister Lawrence McAulay, Treasury Board president Scott Brison, and the premiers of Nova Scotia, Prince Edward Island and Newfoundland and Labrador will join more than 70 businesses and organizations participating in trade shows and business-to-business meetings.

Brison, a Nova Scotia MP, says the federal presence coupled with a regional approach will give more weight to work already done in the Chinese market by the individual provinces.

He says the goal is to build on the trust that has been established in the Chinese market, and that requires a periodic presence and face-to-face meetings.

Nova Scotia Premier Stephen McNeil will be travelling to China for the second time this year – it will be his sixth trip overall.

According to federal government, exports to China from Atlantic Canada grew 37 per cent last year to more than $1.5 billion, with seafood exports having doubled in the past five years alone.

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Midterms 2018: Last-Minute Canvassing Before Election Day

After all the debates, rallies, ads and barbs, it’s almost here: Election Day is Tuesday. Voters across the United States will choose the winning candidates for 435 seats in the House of Representatives and nearly three dozen seats in the Senate. Thirty-six states will elect governors, including in high-profile contests in Florida and Georgia.

New York Times journalists are reporting from around the country as candidates make their final pitches to the voters who will help reshape the United States for the next two years.

• Here’s a guide to how, when and where to vote on Tuesday.

• Make sense of the people and ideas shaping the election — and its aftermath — with our politics newsletter.

Latino voters go door to door: ‘We are very anxious’

ORLANDO, Fla. — Nancy Batista is a 32-year-old Guatemalan immigrant with a file full of voters to contact and a message for President Trump.

“How many more things can we tolerate?” she said, canvassing with a half-dozen Latinos on a sleepy cul-de-sac. “We all feel like we have been targeted.”

Ms. Batista oversees the Florida operation for Mi Familia Vota, a Latino civic group that says it has registered some 30,000 new voters in the state this cycle, about half of them Puerto Ricans.

[Read more: Who are we talking about when we talk about Latino voters?]

While Ms. Batista said the group takes care to avoid partisan advocacy for individual candidates when engaging with voters, it has not been subtle about its feelings toward Mr. Trump. Most recently, it released an advertisement featuring a dramatization of Mr. Trump slapping Latinos across the face. Its title, “Trumpadas,” is a play on the Spanish word “trompada,” which is a punch.

“We are very anxious,” Yadhira Barrios, 39, a canvass organizer, said in Spanish, after a mostly unsuccessful door-knocking swing.

But “good work,” she added, “is never in vain.”

— Matt Flegenheimer

The elections through the eyes of The Times

Handshakes. Rallies. A “tax ax.” The New York Times has 16 photographers fanned out across the country covering the final days of campaigning for the midterm elections. Keep up with the latest images here.

A confident governor in Arizona

PRESCOTT, Ariz. — Standing on a small podium set up in a shopping mall food court, Gov. Doug Ducey of Arizona had a message for the hundreds of thousands of people who have moved into his state during his time in office.

“Are you ready to keep the state of Arizona red?” he asked the audience of Republican retirees in Prescott. “Welcome back to America, and remember why you left California.”

In the final days of the tumultuous midterm campaigns, Republican candidates in Arizona are appealing to their state’s moderate to conservative voting history, reminding audiences that despite all the demographic changes, it is not that liberal bastion to the west.

At least not yet. Strategists on both sides say Arizona’s early voting numbers show strong support for Democrats. That’s unlikely to affect Mr. Ducey, who has a broad lead in the polls, but it has made Democrats more confident about the chances of Representative Kyrsten Sinema, the party’s Senate nominee.

— Lisa Lerer

Trump loyalists sticking together

BISMARCK, N.D. — In an unusual calculation for a sitting president, Mr. Trump has campaigned relentlessly for Republican candidates and urged voters to see the election as a referendum on his own presidency. His rhetoric appears to have stuck with his base here in a deep-red state that elected him by 36 points — one he has visited three times in support of Representative Kevin Cramer, who is looking to unseat Senator Heidi Heitkamp, a Democrat.

“Trump saying, ‘A vote for Republicans is a vote for me’ — well it is, because he is our president,” said Melanie Udell, a volunteer at the G.O.P. office in Bismarck. “He’s just trying to turn the country around.”

Maggie Dosch, a party delegate here, said a Republican Congress was needed to protect Mr. Trump from political attacks from Democrats.

“If given the opportunity, some people would try to impeach him, and I think the man should have a fair chance to run the country,” she said. “He got North Dakota working again. There is a loyalty to that.”

— Catie Edmondson

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