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Voting Early In San Diego

 October 16, 2020 at 10:22 AM PDT

Speaker 1: 00:01 Salad boxes are filling up around San Diego with early voting off to a roaring start. We check in on how the process is going. As new challenges pop up. The accuracy of the 2020 census is in doubt as the Supreme court weighs in some of our local communities, fear and undercount and asylum denied for those turned away by president Trump. What happens when they returned to their home countries? I'm Mark Sauer and the KPBS round table starts. Now. [inaudible] welcome to our discussion of the week's top stories. I'm Mark Sauer and joining me at the remote KPBS round table today, reporter shilling to chat Lonnie of KPBS news reporter max Rivlin Adler, also with KPBS and Kate Morrissey who covers immigration and the border for the San Diego union Tribune. The ads are everywhere. Candidates are debating and people are voting it's decision time and the 2020 general election with early voting underway. Speaker 1: 01:03 Well over 150,000 San Diego ones have already cast a ballot. Many more will do so in the days ahead is early voting takes on added significance during a pandemic KPBS reporter shilling, a chat. He is following that part of the story. And as part of our in depth election coverage, she's here to give us an update on how things are going. Hi, Shalina Hey Mark. Well, let's start with the basics this time. Remind us about the early voting timeline. When people can vote, how they can find out where to vote and drop off a ballot. Speaker 2: 01:32 Well, the pools here in California have been open since October 5th. That's when early voting started and people have also gotten their mail in ballots. The first round of Malin ballots for the 1.9 million registered voters in San Diego. And the next batch of registered voters will also get their mail in ballots before the November 3rd deadline as well. And they'll be able to mail it by October 19th, for them to cast that mail in ballot. And if you don't make that deadline, you can go pick up a ballot in person and vote at a local voting site where you can go to the registrar's office. So there will be some major, super poll sites open four days before the election, where you can go cast a vote in person and you will be able to vote on election day, November 3rd as well. Speaker 1: 02:19 And of course that's a Tuesday and you're telling me talking about several days ahead of time. That means over the weekend. So with all these options and over a weekend, I, there's no way to procrastinate. We got to vote. I've got to go vote. Speaker 2: 02:33 Exactly. It seems like it actually, it doesn't just seem like it's obvious this year that the registrar's office has come up with so many different ways to make voting more convenient for people, but have also tried to make sure that all of the safeguards and protocols for checking ballots are in place. So there are multiple venues through which people can cast their vote this year. It's almost impossible not to. Speaker 1: 03:01 So no excuses, everybody's got to get out and vote. Now you spoke with San Diego County registrar, Michael VU this week. What's his takeaway from the start of early voting, any serious issues thus far? Speaker 2: 03:12 I think the biggest takeaway is that voting is a really ramping up. It's an election year. People are really excited. They're really eager to get out and cast their ballot. Um, especially now with, when it comes to deciding who the next president of the United States will be. And he's already received, you know, around 175,000 ballots back to the registrar's office, which is a huge jump, obviously from this time last year, um, in terms of, you know, Malin ballots being sent out, you know, with there being 1.9 million registered voters. So it looks like the turnout is really big this year. And I think that's the biggest takeaway in terms of any serious issues. Um, he says he hasn't encountered any so far, but there's, you know, the obvious issues that come with a pandemic, which is that you have to make sure that you have the personal protective equipment available, have mass on hand and gloves and sanitizer. It's just adds like an extra layer of protocol to voting, um, that hasn't existed in prior years Speaker 1: 04:16 Now is Michael VU concerned about the number of volunteers and being able to staff the election this year? Speaker 2: 04:22 Oh, so the solution to that was to reduce the number of polling locations. There are around 235 super poll locations where voters can go early to cast their ballots for days before election day on November 3rd, then those are going to be in bigger locations, right? So where people can socially distance, they can wear masks in the end so that it helps reduce the spread of the virus. And also the voting time is over a longer period. So it'll reduce the influx of the number of people that are going to those polling sites. And so in terms of the staffing and in terms of spread of the virus, it sounds like the registrar voters office has really thought very carefully about how to control that space, Speaker 1: 05:08 Right? So a lot of staggered voting that should certainly help as we get closer to November 3rd. Now you reported this week on reports up on authorized ballot drop boxes. These have been reported in other cities in California, but not San Diego. What did Michael VU tell you about the security of the local ballot collections? Speaker 2: 05:26 Yes. There was news of that happening in Los Angeles County, uh, Fresno and, uh, one other County in California. And so Michael VU said that with 1.9 million registered voters so far and there likely being more, it would be easy for them to get a tip from any voter about whether there is an unauthorized ballot drop off location. Also, he said that a lot of the, or most of the ballot drop off locations, except for one are staffed by people from his office. There's a ballot drop-off box, that's open 24 seven, but every other drop off location has a staff member. So you, you will be able to tell that it is official based off of who is there. Additionally, if you are really concerned as a voter about going to a place that is legitimate, you can look on the back of your voter information card that comes with your ballot, and you can find the three closest polling location addresses. And those are official places where you can go and cast your ballot. Speaker 1: 06:30 Now, a lot of reporting this summer and issues of the postal service and the ability to process mail in a timely way. Is there any update on that? Is that still a question Mark or anything being done to prioritize mail in ballots? Speaker 2: 06:42 I think one of the things that Michael VU addresses a lot, uh, when we talk about voting is his confidence in the us postal system. He says that, you know, as you can see, people on social media are getting their ballots. People are putting their ballots into the mail and it is being received by the office of the registrar's office. So it is clear that the us postal system is doing the job it needs to do, and that people are getting the information that they need to get. And so his big point to everyone is don't be swayed by any misinformation that may be coming on the national level, but just focus on the fact that you can have confidence in your local postal system to get your ballot to the place where it needs Speaker 1: 07:30 And people can attract their ballot from drop-off to receipt by election workers. How do they do that? Speaker 2: 07:35 So they can go online and they can sign up to track their ballot, SD, and they can do that even before they get their ballot in the mail, they can sign up and then see when their ballot is being put into the mail by the registrar's office. And when it might get received men, once they put it back into the mail, they can track and see when it was received by the registrar's office and when it was counted. So that's a good option for people that are, you know, concerned about where their, their vote is going to be going to selection. Speaker 1: 08:06 Well, there's no excuse to not get that ballot out. Election day is coming up, but there's plenty of ways to vote and plenty of time to do it right now. I've been speaking with Shelina chatline, the science and technology reporter for KPBS and a big part of our election coverage. Thanks. Shalina happy to be here this week. America watched the hearings for president Trump's latest Supreme court nominee. It's his third pick during his first term in office and perhaps the most controversial given the timing just weeks before the presidential election. And it was this week when the high court weighed in on president Trump's plan to limit the reach of the census, a move that could affect the next decade of political power representation and federal spending KPBS reporter max Rivlin Nadler is following the local census count and what this development means. Welcome back to the round table, max. Good to be here, Mark. Well, first, what did the Supreme court do this week? And is the census effectively over for now? Speaker 3: 09:01 Court was ruling based off of the ninth circuit court of appeals, which said that the Trump administration couldn't stop the census count before October 31st, as it had originally proposed, this was an extension by the way that the Trump administration had proposed. And then they began walking it back. They had originally walked back all the way to October 1st, the end of September, then the ninth circuit court of appeals kept the count going until just this week. The Supreme court said, no, we're going to send it back down to the ninth circuit court of appeals for further argument. And in the meantime, we're going to stop the count. The census is effectively over now, and it ended at midnight last night. Speaker 1: 09:38 Now, as you say, a lower court wanted the census to continue through its original end date. And that was October 31st. How much of a difference could those two extra weeks have made in having an accurate count? Speaker 3: 09:50 Right? So it's, it's logarithmic, right? Every person that gets counted, basically they get used again and again and again for years and years and years, uh, for the next 10 years. So in terms of how much of a difference, even just counting another hundred and other 200 people per census tract, we're now talking hundreds and thousands, hundreds of thousands of dollars over the course of these decades. So obviously census organizers have been laser focused on making sure that everybody gets counted. And even before this got cut short, they were really worried that even if they had those two weeks, they would still have an undercount. And now that they don't have these two weeks, they're even more Speaker 1: 10:27 Now, what have you learned about the local response rates to the census and how the account has been going here Speaker 3: 10:34 Varies depending on where you're at. And it goes neighborhood by neighborhood, those neighborhoods that have had a concerted outreach effort, those have been doing quite well. And obviously the County and local organizations have been really focused on making sure that this census doesn't go like 2010s when there was a national under count, especially for immigrant neighborhoods and undocumented individuals. Right now, what you see neighborhood by neighborhood is if there's lack of internet access, if there is higher rates of COVID-19, if there are all these barriers that put people in the, that are put in the way of people who want to participate in something like the census, then you're seeing low, lower response rates. So obviously that kind of these larger societal issues are reflected and you know, much more upscale places. You're seeing much higher numbers. You know, that's just the way it is. Speaker 1: 11:22 And what are local census workers and outreach groups saying about the legal back and forth on this, has this affected their morale and their effectiveness after all the, uh, they really had a rough time already because of the pandemic, Speaker 3: 11:34 Not even a rough time due to the pandemic. Cause remember this all starts with a question over citizenship that the Trump administration wanted to put on the census. So this battle goes back two years that they had to really overcome, you know, even before the pandemic, they were worried that people would now want to participate because they were worried about how the government was going to use this information. So they were really trying to do a information campaign to say, no, this got struck down and this is something that will be safe and you could participate. Not only could you participate in, you should participate in cause undocumented immigrant. Um, you know, this is going to help you in, in bringing money to your community. So, uh, in terms of the uphill battle, th this is something they've been dealing with the entire time here, and this only adds to the impediments to getting an accurate census count. Speaker 1: 12:22 And of course, like everything else, it's a it's political here in the census among other things is used to assign each state a number of congressional districts. The Trump administration wants that process to be finished by the end of the year, rather than the spring, and why the early timetable from their point of, Speaker 3: 12:38 Well, you know, in the COVID relief talks, which have dragged on interminably right now, people are still waiting for relief, changes to the census have been considered. And even by partisan agreement that this should be pushed until next year, because they're just not going to be able to get an accurate count or a certification or redistricting by the end of this year, at some point, the Trump administration who had originally been okay with that turned on that, um, maybe looking at poll numbers or things like that, becoming less confident that they would, uh, be in office next year. So they want to wrap this up as quickly as possible. And, uh, the, the borough commerce department, which is running the census seems to be on the same page, Speaker 1: 13:18 I guess a, as they say certain lives and certain counts matter more than other counts here. And it's interesting how they, uh, look at, uh, who's counted when and where they're counted. It's a fascinating thing. When you look at the whole census from, uh, from the long view, now the case went all the way to the Supreme court. If the current nominee Amy Coney Barrett wins confirmation, we'll see an even more conservative tilt. Much of your reporting work is an underrepresented communities. Do you get a sense they're following the news in DC this week? Speaker 3: 13:48 I mean, I, I doubt that people are following the blow by blow of this, uh, confirmation hearing. I think people understand that the Supreme court has taken a larger role in American politics. I mean, obviously it doesn't get much bigger than 2000, right? With Tuesday who would be the president. But that being said, a lot of legislation that people want to see passed, be it even DACA or some immigration solution for individuals who are out of status or mixed status or things like that will eventually have to go pass the Supreme court and things like the affordable care act barely survived and might not survive ultimately the Supreme court. So I think people are definitely following the Supreme court in general and its role in and how, you know, basically we pass laws, but then it goes to this other body that right now will most likely have a conservative majority for a generation. And they understand that that's an impediment to change, that they would like to see in terms of the blow by blow of the Amy Coney Barrett, uh, confirmation hearings. You know, it's not being played on loud speakers on street corners. Speaker 1: 14:52 Now, current polling is looking good for Democrats. Could Democrats revisit the census issue, should Joe Biden and a democratic Congress take over in January, maybe a chance to have a do over or adjustments. If it's shown the 2020 count is really not accurate. Speaker 3: 15:07 I was just saying any changes that they want to make to basically the social compact or politics is going to have to pass the Supreme court. And we've already seen what they're thinking about this, and this is even without a conservative, you know, super majority at this point, this is with bipartisan support. The only dissent in the decision to send back the census question to the ninth circuit was Sonia Sotomayor and Obama appointee. So, you know, even calling back and revisiting the census, which by the way, would be almost unprecedented. The 2010 census was also botched in terms of an undercount for immigrant communities. So a and that was at a time when you did have a democratic super majority or, you know, had three wings of the government. So these things are rare if they would ever go back to it. And I would actually be frankly shocked if they did. I think people are coming to terms with that. They're going to have to live with this undercount for a decade, and really does show the long arm of our most recent history. Speaker 1: 16:03 Well, we'll see how it all shakes out and what the final count does say here. It's been a fascinating couple of years on the census and more to come. I'm sure I've been speaking with KPBS reporter max Rivlin Nadler. Thanks max. Thank you. Many thousands have fled their homes in central America. The past few years, they flee in fear for their lives. Often the targets of gangs who wield extraordinary power in Honduras, Guatemala, and El Salvador riving at our border. These desperate migrants apply for asylum. Very few such requests are granted these days under the Trump administration, but what happens when migrants are sent back union Tribune, reporter Kate Morrissey set about finding out and she joins me now, welcome back to the round table. Kate, thank you for having me among the many insights in your excellent series of stories on migration from central America is that soda little is known about what happens to these migrants when they're denied asylum in the U S and they're sent back, is anyone in the U S government tracking this? Speaker 4: 16:59 The government does not track this. As far as we know, once someone is deported, then they pretty much have cut contact with them. If you'll remember a couple of summers ago, when there was a court order to reunite deported parents with their children who they'd been separated from that was quite an ordeal precisely because the United States had no idea where they were. And so, uh, we don't see the United States tracking this. There are a couple of sort of independent researchers or research organizations who try to track it, but the best that they can do is monitor news clippings from reporters in these countries who happened to mention that someone had been deported or an asylum seeker before they were murdered. Speaker 1: 17:38 One of your latest stories focused on a young man from the town of San Pedro Sula in Honduras, who was he in? What was his hometown like? And what happened to him? Speaker 4: 17:47 So you'll be in the strata, uh, grew up in a city, just outside San Pedro Sula called Joe Loma. And he was a young man who was very involved in his community. He did a lot of youth mentorship work through, uh, hip hop. Actually, he was a dancer, a B boy. And he worked with young people and, and tried to motivate people in his community to find things to do with themselves other than sort of participating in the gang life there. But that's actually not why he was killed as far as we can tell he for his day job drove Moto taxis, which are these, these little sort of transport vehicles that take people around in places, especially where it's harder to get cars in because the roads are so terrible. And so he worked driving these in an area where it's, it's particularly, it's, it's a dangerous industry Countrywide because it's a cash business. Speaker 4: 18:40 And it's, it's really right for gangs to extort people. Who've worked in this, in this business. Um, but he was also working in a place that's contested by multiple gangs. And so, uh, when that happens, you can have multiple gangs asking you to pay what's called a war tax. Um, in order to be able to pass through their territory, gangs might look at you suspiciously. If you're crossing from their opponent's territory into theirs, it also means that you're out and about in a way that you can witness things. You have been witnessed a murder, actually the murder of a fellow Moto taxi driver. And after that, he started receiving threats. So he ended up selling his motor taxi and fleeing to the United States in early 2018, uh, only to be deported a couple of months later. Speaker 1: 19:23 And, uh, it didn't go well for him when he got back. Speaker 4: 19:27 No, it did not. He was killed in August of 2019. Yeah. Speaker 1: 19:31 It's such a good way to tell the story, to humanize it with these particular people and what happens as they go back. Now, Donald Trump ran on an anti-immigrant platform. It's largely been carried out by his controversial advisor, Stephen Miller, but your story notes, the United States through administrations of both parties has been hostile to asylum seekers for decades, right? Speaker 4: 19:52 Yes. And that's building on reporting that we did in part two of the series as well, where we've really looked historically at some of the disparities that have existed in the system. The asylum system was created in 1980. And even in the 1980s, we saw, um, people from El Salvador and Guatemala, for example, having extremely low acceptance rates, um, for their asylum claims, uh, compared with other countries. And so we've continued to see that kind of sort of discrimination play out in different ways in the system against particularly people who are fleeing from these countries that are our closest neighbors. And I think that's a really significant point to highlight because in order to request asylum, you generally have to be here at the United States to ask for it. It's not something that you can stay in your home country and ask for and wonder how many Americans Speaker 1: 20:48 Are even familiar with the official policy. What is the stated ideal and purpose of inviting desperate people from other countries to apply for asylum in the United States? Speaker 4: 20:57 We have the asylum system because of what happened during world war two. The United States was among several countries who turned away Jewish migrants, who were trying to flee the horrors of the Holocaust. And so in the aftermath of that and in the creation of the United nations. And so the idea of really, when you look at the spirit of what this was intended to do, it was intended to prevent people from being turned away back to torture back to death, certain death back to, to persecution based on something about their identity, that they really can't change or shouldn't have to change. Speaker 1: 21:38 And do we know why these applications get denied any one individual or, or any of them for that matter? Speaker 4: 21:43 It's hard to say exactly unless you have access to someone's full, you know, immigration record as to why they were denied. For example, in the case of, of UVA, I was able to get some of his record, but not the full thing. I actually still have a pending public records request, but what we do know, speaking with, you know, attorneys and advocates and what they see happening over and over again in these cases is that it is very difficult to convince a judge or an asylum officer, depending on who you're speaking with, that your fear of the gang amounts to a fear of somebody that the government cannot or will not control. And again, they also have a very hard time illustrating how, what has happened to them ties into one of these five sort of protected traits that you have to show is the reason for your persecution. It can be very difficult to get the kind of evidence together that you need in order to show that that's the case. Even though, as, as I said, in my story, we do have, um, advisories from organizations like the United nations saying that people fleeing these kinds of violence from Honduras should be considered under these categories because of, of a number of different reasons. Speaker 1: 23:02 And finally, from your extensive reporting and research on this important issue, what could an incoming American administration do to improve conditions in the central American countries, from which so many desperate people are trying to flee? Speaker 4: 23:15 Well, that's a really big, big question with, with, I think a number of answers. There's definitely room on the one end to look at our asylum system. I think what my series so far has illustrated is that there are a lot of things that are not functioning about the system. If we take it as a system that is really intended to protect the world's most vulnerable people, we see that that, that isn't necessarily what's happening. And so there is, there is room to really, um, look at that system and think about how we could do it differently. And there are countries who have asylum systems that look very different from ours. And to tease a little bit the final installment, I'm hoping to talk about that with the final installment of this, this project, but then on the other end, when you look sort of regionally and at central America, a lot of what's going on there, and what has gone on is this just really stark government abandonment of, of people, of the people who, who live in these countries. Speaker 4: 24:17 They don't have social services, they don't have access to basic resources. They don't make enough money to buy. Uh, what's translated from Spanish as, as the basic basket, the basic sort of like food that you need for the week to survive. And so all of that sort of comes together to create conditions where gangs can thrive and without addressing the roots of all of that, you're not going to be able to see the kind of change that would stop the necessity of people leaving. You know, it's not generally that people want to leave their countries, but if they're facing certain death and then what else are they going to do? And so you have to find ways to sort of sort of mitigate that fear. And then that violence is happening there, which is, which is a very difficult task and, and takes quite a lot of financial resources to stabilize and give people those basic services that they need. Speaker 1: 25:13 Well, it's a fabulous series. I'd highly recommend that our listeners take a We've linked to it. There, it's a great series. I'd been speaking with Kate Morrissey who covers immigration and the border for the San Diego union Tribune. Thanks Kate. Thank you so much. That wraps up another week of stories at the KPBS round table. I'd like to thank my guests. Shalina chatline and max Rivlin, Nadler of KPBS news and Kate Morrissey of the San Diego union Tribune voting has already begun in San Diego County. Check out our comprehensive voters and be sure to vote before or on November 3rd. I'm Mark Sauer. Thanks for listening and join us again next week on the round table.

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The surge in early voting across San Diego county, the Supreme Court sides with President Trump to end the census early, and a look at what happens to asylum seekers who are returned to Central America.