Early US voting surpasses 2016, nine days before election

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In this file photo taken on October 21, 2020, early voters line up outside of the Vienna Community Building to cast their ballots for the November 3 election, in Vienna, West Virginia. (AFP / Stephen Zenner)
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A Pinellas County Sheriff Deputy is parked outside the County Supervisor of Elections Office on October 25, 2020 in St Petersburg, Florida.(AFP)
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Updated 26 October 2020

Early US voting surpasses 2016, nine days before election

  • Trump for months has been claiming, without evidence, that mail-in ballots lead to fraud, and many Republicans are expected to vote on Election Day

WASHINGTON: Early voting in the 2020 US election has surpassed all the pre-election ballots from four years earlier, an independent vote monitor said Sunday, with nine days still to go before the November 3 poll.
Millions of Americans wary of crowded polling booths during the coronavirus pandemic and energized by an election fight that both President Donald Trump and his Democratic rival Joe Biden have framed as existential are smashing records for casting ballots, whether by mail or in person.
The tally by the independent US Election Project, run by the University of Florida, said that as of Sunday more than 59 million people had voted so far.
That is higher than the 57 million who voted early or by mail in 2016, according to the US Election Assistance Commission website.
So far, Democrats — who have encouraged early voting — have been leading the way, but whether that means Biden can breathe easy remains to be seen.
Trump for months has been claiming, without evidence, that mail-in ballots lead to fraud, and many Republicans are expected to vote on Election Day.
With coronavirus cases spiking across the country, however, Michael McDonald — a political science professor at the University of Florida who administers the Election Project — warned that the strategy “looks all the more risky.”
“What if at least some of his voters decide not to vote? What if a polling place becomes unavailable or an election office shuts down?” he tweeted.
The Election Project has predicted that turnout this year could top 150 million in total. Some 137 million ballots were cast in the 2016 election.
Some states key to the 2020 outcome were also firmly on the path to breaking records, such as Texas, where the Election Project said Sunday that 80 percent of the early 2016 vote had already turned out.
“Folks, Texas still has in-person early voting until Friday, plus Election Day. No doubt Texas turnout will be above 2016. Question is, how much?” McDonald tweeted.
The election in Texas, traditionally a conservative bastion which has backed Republican candidates since 1980, is under close scrutiny, with some polls showing Biden in a position to edge out Trump.


UK sees rise in Islamist extremist cases referred to counter radicalization program

Updated 27 November 2020

UK sees rise in Islamist extremist cases referred to counter radicalization program

  • Cases involving Islamist extremism increase for first time in four years
  • Program aims to spot people who could go on to commit terrorist acts

LONDON: The number of people referred to the UK government’s counter extremism program has jumped amid concerns over increased radicalization among young people.
Cases involving Islamist extremism increased by 6 percent from 1,404 to 1,487. The numbers, which represent individuals of concern referred to the Prevent scheme between April 2019 and March 2020, mark the first year-on-year increase for Islamist cases since 2016.
While far-right cases remained steady compared to the previous year at 1,388, overall the number of people referred to the program rose 10 percent.
The rise in Islamist cases comes after a recent surge of attacks across Europe. Last month a school teacher was beheaded by an extremist after he had shown his class cartoons of the Prophet Mohammed in a freedom of speech discussion. Days later, three people were killed in a terrorist attack at a church in Nice.
In the UK, three people were killed in a knife attack on London Bridge almost a year ago.
The UK’s Prevent program is part of its wider counter-terrorism strategy and aims to safeguard people from becoming terrorists or supporting terrorism.
The most serious cases are referred to a panel known as “Channel,” which then decides what further action to take. Of the 697 cases that reached the panel, most were related to the far-right (302), while 210 were linked to Islamist extremism. 
More than half of all referrals were aged under 20.
Security Minister James Brokenshire said the Prevent strategy was an essential strand to the UK’s counter-terror strategy.
“It is about supporting vulnerable individuals, steering them away from terrorism, and protecting our communities,” he told the Royal United Services Institute on Thursday.
Last week the head of counter-terror policing in the UK, Neil Basu, said that while Islamist terrorists remained the greatest threat to Britain, the far right is growing faster.
He said COVID-19 had created a “perfect storm” with young and vulnerable people spending more time alone and online.