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Election officials fear voting changes will confuse voters in November

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A woman drops off her main in ballot outside the Denver Elections Division polling center as she votes in the primary election on June 30, 2020.

Michael Ciaglo | Getty Images

Voting officials are concerned that drastic changes to election procedures in response to the coronavirus will confuse voters in November.

Dozens of states have expanded vote-by-mail access to give people an alternative way to safely cast a ballot in November. Multiple states have also set up more polling locations, and some are considering expanding the polling period to spread out people opting for in-person voting.

While election officials have ramped up communication efforts nationwide to inform voters of all changes, worries remain that voters will find it difficult to keep up.

Already, there have been multiple reports of voter confusion during primary elections. Voters told local news outlets in New Jersey that they were confused about where to cast their ballot during the state’s presidential primary last Tuesday. Others said they never received a ballot, despite an executive order from Gov. Phil Murphy ensuring that all voters would receive either a ballot or an application for one in the mail.

Voters in Pennsylvania, which held its presidential primary June 2, noted that longtime polling locations had moved elsewhere the day of the vote, resulting in confusion and frustration.

Georgia during its primary on June 9 chose to unveil a new voting system, leading to confusion among poll workers, who weren’t properly trained on using the machines. Voters suffered long lines and delays, as well as technical and logistical issues. Critics said the state’s primary was poorly executed and was tantamount to voter suppression.

Anticipating confusion in November

Many states fear that this kind of confusion — where voters are either unaware of or misinformed about how to cast a ballot — will also occur during the Nov. 3 election.

“Aside from the administrative issues of polling places, poll managers, Covid-19 supplies, and processing absentee ballots, our ability to educate voters on changes (or lack thereof) will play a key role in a successful November election,” said Chris Whitmire, director of public information at South Carolina’s Election Commission.

The most obvious potential source of voter confusion for South Carolina is the lack of new rules in place for the presidential election, Whitmire said.

Gov. Henry McMaster signed a law that authorized any voter in South Carolina to request an absentee ballot for the primary and runoff elections. And a federal court ruling said that those requesting an absentee ballot did not require a witness. These rules have expired, leaving “no changes to election procedures” at the moment, according to Whitmire.

“If there are changes, we’ll work to educate voters on those. If there are no changes, we will have to work to ensure voters understand that the rules in place for the primary no longer apply,” Whitmire added.  

South Carolina has been emerging as a coronavirus hot spot in recent weeks, with the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention forecasting an acceleration in Covid-19 deaths in the state in the next couple weeks.

A sign reminds voters in Baltimore to practice social distancing. Tuesday, April 28, 2020.

Tom Williams | CQ-Roll Call via Getty Images

“We know that the number of Covid cases are expanding in the state at record levels and are more concerned today than ever about the impact on November,” Whitmire said. “We don’t know if the General Assembly will again expand reasons or make any other changes, and if any of the several pending court cases will result in any changes.”

In Missouri, Secretary of State Jay Ashcroft said he plans to mobilize his team in the next couple weeks to “explain what has changed and what people’s options are for voting.”

The state legislature expanded vote-by-mail provisions, adding mail-in voting options, Ashcroft said. These options look similar to no-excuse absentee voting, but are slightly different, according to Ashcroft.

Anyone in the state can request an absentee ballot this year, the state legislature determined. But the ballot envelope must be notarized unless the voter is immunocompromised or age 65 or older or has another condition that might put their health at risk. The notary requirement is what concerns Ashcroft, who suggested to CNBC that voters may not be aware of this distinction.

“It is against Missouri law for a notary to charge to notarize an absentee ballot,” Ashcroft said. “It is not against the law for a notary to charge to notarize a mail-in ballot.” His office has put together a list of organizations that have agreed to provide free notary services for mail-in and absentee ballots.

Getting ahead

Several state officials told CNBC they are preparing to overcommunicate with voters to decrease potential for confusion ahead of Election Day. 

“Our office has been actively working to keep Alabamians informed in a timely and efficient manner,” said Grace Newcombe, press secretary to Alabama’s secretary of state’s office.

In the weeks leading up to the state’s primary runoffs, “our office launched a multimedia campaign notifying Alabamians of the opportunity to vote absentee as well as important election dates to be aware of. We have sent out weekly press releases reminding Alabamians about how many days are left to apply for an absentee ballot and even introduced a video that walks voters through the process of applying for and casting an absentee ballot.”

An election official wears a mask and sits behind a plastic barrier as he checks in voters at McKinley Technology High School on primary Election Day on June 2, 2020 in Washington, DC.

Drew Angerer | Getty Images

Officials in Idaho have sought out new ways to reach voters, said Chad Houck, chief deputy secretary of state. 

The office, as well as various Idaho counties, have been working on expanding their social media presence, particularly on Facebook, to reach audiences that may not be as aware of changes. 

“They found a larger audience there and a growing audience there, which will now give them a better voice as we move into making changes or as things evolve going forward,” Houck said, adding that his office is looking at Election Day communications tools that we will probably try to test in November.” 

In an effort to make the voting process easier, Michigan election officials are piloting a ballot-tracking service that allows voters to keep tabs on their individual ballots, according to Jake Rollow, director of communications and external affairs at the secretary of state’s office. 

“It looks like many of the mail tracking services provided by companies that ship orders to individuals,” Rollow said. “Through the use of smart bar codes on the envelopes, the voter can see ballot’s status as it goes from the clerk to them and then back to the clerk.”

The state will employ this tracking program during its August primary, “with the expectation of expanding statewide for November,” Rollow added. 

For its presidential primary, Indiana spent a portion of allocated CARES Act funds on a voter outreach campaign “that informed voters of changes to the election and advised them to request an absentee ballot,” said Ian Hauer, acting communications director at the secretary of state’s office. 

“If changes are made to the general election, we will likely use a similar outreach campaign (in additional to our usual outreach campaign),” Hauer added. 

In March, Congress allocated $400 million to the Election Assistance Commission to provide states with grants “to prevent, prepare for, and respond to coronavirus, domestically or internationally, for the 2020 Federal election cycle.” But state and local officials have been urging Congress to appropriate more money, arguing funds are rapidly depleting.

“It’s looking like I spent close to 60% of my CARES Act funding on the primary election,” Jared Dearing, executive director of the Kentucky State Board of Elections, said Wednesday. “To put that in context, we are expecting turnout to go from 30%, which was a record high for a primary election, to as much as 70%.”

Source: https://www.cnbc.com/2020/07/11/election-officials-fear-changes-could-confuse-voters-in-november.html

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eBay makes a dedicated portal for officially refurbished gear

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eBay launches a Certified Refurbished site for used goods
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eBay is taking on Amazon Warehouse with a new destination called Certified Refurbished, selling used goods from brands like Lenovo, Microsoft and Makita. The idea is that you can buy second-hand products at significant discounts over new, but still get a two-year warranty (from Allstate), a money-back guarantee and 30-day “hassle-free” returns, along with new accessories, manuals and manufacturer-sealed packaging.

eBay’s Certified Refurbished has five priority categories: laptops, portable audio,power tools, small kitchen appliances and vacuums. It offers several brand exclusives, including De’Longhi, Dirt Devil, Hoover, Makita and Philips, along with inventory exclusives from Dewalt, iRobot and Skullcandy. It’s also selling products from participating brands including Dell, Acer, Bissel, Black & Decker, Cuisinart, KitchenAid, Lenovo, Microsoft, Miele and Sennheiser.

To make the cut, manufacturers must offer items in “pristine, like-new condition that has been professionally inspected, cleaned, and refurbished by the manufacturer, or a manufacturer-approved vendor,” according to eBay. It also must be in new packaging with original or new accessories.

For an example of the savings, the site is offering Dell’s best-equipped 2020 XPS 15 9500 for $1,950, or $650 off the current price at Dell. Samsung’s Powerbot R7040 robot vacum is $199 rather than $399, and if you’re looking for a drill, Dewalt’s 20V combo tool kit used costs $235, while a new version runs $399 on Amazon.

eBay Certified Refurbished doesn’t have as many categories or brands as Amazon Warehouse or Amazon Renewed, but it seems to offer free shipping on most items, along with the guarantee and other perks. It’s now available to users in the US, and eBay said that applications are now open to retailers in Australia.

All products recommended by Engadget are selected by our editorial team, independent of our parent company. Some of our stories include affiliate links. If you buy something through one of these links, we may earn an affiliate commission.

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The Morning After: GMC’s Hummer EV, AOC on Twitch and iPhone 12 reviews

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The 5G iPhones are almost here. This time around, Apple is offering four models in its iPhone 12 lineup and while we haven’t tested all of them (the 12 mini and the 12 Pro Max are coming later), we’ve given the other two devices our full scrutiny. And we kind of had to — the iPhone 12 and 12 Pro are remarkably similar phones in so many ways.

iPhone 12 and iPhone 12 Pro

No, seriously, if you didn’t spot the third camera (the telephoto one that does zoom), you’d struggle to tell them apart by eyesight alone. You can take this two ways: The Pro phones don’t warrant the extra money this time around, or the iPhone 12 is a well-priced phone where you make barely any compromises. Our full review combines both phones for these very reasons. 

If you’re looking for an even cheaper iPhone, wait for that iPhone 12 mini, perhaps. And if you want the very best imaging in an iPhone, wait for the iPhone 12 Pro Max, which has even better cameras than the smaller Pro model. Yes, it’s easy to get confused. Oh and the iPhone 11 is still on sale, too!

— Mat

GMC’s 1000HP Hummer EV is an ‘all-electric supertruck’

After a series of teasers dating back to the Super Bowl, GMC finally revealed the new Hummer. 

The GMC HUMMER EV is driven by next-generation EV propulsion technology that enables unprecedented off-road capability, extraordinary on-road performance and an immersive driving experience.

The four-door crew cab boasts AWD, 1,000 HP and 11,500 ft/lb of torque generated by three motors run from the vehicle’s Ultium battery pack. That’s enough oomph to reportedly propel it from standing to 60MPH in just three seconds, the same timing as the Rivian R1, and an announced range of 350 miles.

Ultium batteries come in sizes as large as 200kWh — double what you’d find in a Model S and 80kWh bigger than what the massive Bollinger B1 uses — however, GMC has not confirmed what the Hummer EV is sporting. Using the higher throughput recharge options and the fact that the Hummer EV utilizes an 800V power architecture, GMC estimates the Hummer EV will fill 100 miles worth of power in just ten minutes using DC at 350kWh.

The Hummer will also have something called Crab Mode, where the front and rear wheels rotate at the same tilt angle, so the vehicle moves diagonally — you know, like a crab. According to GMC, the Hummer EV will be able to scale “18-inch verticals and [drive] through water that is more than two feet deep,” and its open-air Infinity Roof consists of removable, transparent “sky panels.”

The 2021 Hummer EV Edition 1 is slated for release in fall 2021. It will have a starting MSRP of $112,595. The model year 2022 Hummer EV is expected to retail for $99,995, the 2023 should start at $89,995 and the 2024 model (which will not include a third motor) will start at $79,995.
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AOC’s ‘Among Us’ Twitch stream peaked at over 435,000 viewers

The stream encouraged viewers to make a plan to vote on or before Election Day.

AOC's 'Among Us' Twitch stream

Last year, Donald Trump joined Twitch — before enduring a two-week ban over hateful content — and now US Representative Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez has joined the service. Her first broadcast featured games of Among Us played with fellow Rep. Ilhan Omar and a few popular streamers. 

That proved to be a good strategy, as Twitch reports the concurrent viewer count peaked at 435,000. That’s the third highest count we’ve heard of, behind the Ninja/Drake stream in 2018 that topped 600k and Shroud’s return stream that crossed 500k.
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NASA’s OSIRIS-REx successfully collected bits of an orbiting asteroid

After over a decade of planning, the $800 million mission achieved a major milestone.

OSIRIS-REx

NASA made history on Tuesday afternoon as its OSIRIS-REx spacecraft successfully “tagged” the asteroid 101955 Bennu, and in doing so collected a small sample of regolith from the passing celestial body’s surface. This marks the first time a NASA mission has managed to intercept, interact with and collect samples from an asteroid.

Collecting those samples involved a never-before-tried technique dubbed the touch-and-go (TAG). Before beginning its approach, the OSIRIS unfolded and deployed its Touch-And-Go Sample Acquisition Mechanism (TAGSAM) while pulling its solar panels back into a Y-shape so that if the TAGSAM arm did accidentally overshoot and crunch into Bennu, the rest of the spacecraft would still have the necessary power to function. 

To ensure it has a sufficiently large sample, OSIRIS will first take a picture of the collector head to confirm the presence of regolith, and then on Saturday, will extend its TAGSAM arm and spin on its axis like a centrifuge to measure the mass of rock and dust in the collection bin. If all goes well, the collection capsule will return to Earth at the Utah Test and Training Range in 2023.
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The Department of Justice sues Google over antitrust concerns

This is arguably the biggest antitrust move since the government sued Microsoft in 1998.

On Tuesday, the US government’s Department of Justice filed an antitrust lawsuit against Google. The company, which is a part of Alphabet, is accused of having an unfair monopoly over search and search-related advertising. In addition, the department disagrees with the terms around Android, the most widely used mobile operating system, that forces phone manufacturers to pre-load Google applications and set Google as the default search engine. 

Rebutting the charges, Google’s chief legal officer Kent Walker wrote that “People use Google because they choose to, not because they’re forced to or because they can’t find alternatives.”
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Sony plans to optimize the PS5’s fan speed using game data

What a cool idea. Who’s a fan?

PS5 teardown

Sony will be monitoring the system and collecting data on individual games, so if a game really taxes the PS5, the fans could kick in at higher (and noisier) speeds to keep things running smoothly. These currently theoretical fan optimizations would presumably be delivered via software updates. PlayStation owners are used to firmware patches that change or add new features to their system. But an update that changes the physical performance of the hardware? That’s unusual.
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But wait, there’s more…

Windows 10’s October 2020 update is rolling out with a refreshed Start menu

Quibi chairman reportedly looked into selling its content library

Impossible Foods is working on plant-based milk that tastes like the real thing

DJI’s Pocket 2 handheld promises higher quality and mods

Photoshop’s new AI features include neural filters and sky replacement

‘Fortnite’ will host a Halloween ‘cross reality’ concert with singer J Balvin

Adobe’s tool to identify edited images comes to Photoshop

Cyberpunk 2077’s dialogue was lip-synced by AI

Novation and Aphex Twin’s limited-edition Bass Station II embraces the weird

In this article: themorningafter, newsletter, gear
All products recommended by Engadget are selected by our editorial team, independent of our parent company. Some of our stories include affiliate links. If you buy something through one of these links, we may earn an affiliate commission.

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Vivo phones are coming to Europe

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Vivo has expanded its reach and announced its entry into the UK, France, Germany, Italy, Poland and Spain. The Chinese tech manufacturer has also presented its first European line-up at an online media briefing broadcast from Dusseldorf, Germany, revealing that it’s hoping to win new fans in the region with the Vivo X51 5G. As Trusted Reviews notes, the flagship phone’s specs are almost identical to the X50 Pro with its micro gimbal camera that can keep videos stable. The main difference between the two is that the X51 5G has software modified for the European market.

Aside from the new flagship, Vivo is making its European debut with a series of mid—range smartphones: the Y70, Y20s and Y11s. It’s also releasing two Google Assistant-capable wireless earphone models in the region. First is the True Wireless Stereo Earphone Neo, which features AI noise canceling, while the other is Vivo’s Wireless Sport Earphone. The latter was designed for outdoor activities and hence boasts strong battery performance.

In its announcement, Vivo says its European launch followed extensive preparations, including research and interviews with 9,000 people across the continent. Vivo has a pretty decent share of the global smartphone market and is the sixth leading manufacturer in the world, according to Counterpoint Research. Like other Chinese OEMs venturing into Europe, though, it may see the continent as a market that promises even more growth, in part due to an opening left by Huawei after it was placed in the US entity list. The move prevents the manufacturer from offering Google’s services on its devices and from working with other US companies. Huawei used to be pretty popular in Europe until 2019, when it saw its sales drop in the region. The company was only able to prevent its numbers from slipping too much this year by re-releasing older devices, which can still use Google’s services, in the continent.

All products recommended by Engadget are selected by our editorial team, independent of our parent company. Some of our stories include affiliate links. If you buy something through one of these links, we may earn an affiliate commission.

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