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2020 Daily Trail Markers: Long lines and voting machine problems plague Georgia elections

One Georgia county plagued by long lines resulting from problems with voting machines is keeping polls open for an extra two hours Tuesday in the state's primary election. Georgia's primary election was delayed from March 24 due to the coronavirus pandemic but the voting machine problems are unrelated.  Fulton County, which includes parts of Atlanta, said it will will keep polls open until 9 p.m. after a Superior Court of Fulton County ruling. "Any voter in line until that time will be allowed to vote," Fulton County tweeted.  Georgia's secretary of state earlier announced an investigation into elections processes in Fulton and DeKalb counties. Gwinnett county also reported long lines due to the voting machines. CBS News campaign reporter Tim Perry reports Georgia Secretary of State Brad Raffensperger announced last year that the state would be purchasing these machines at a cost of $104 million. Though poll workers are voicing their concerns about the equipment, Raffensperger's office is putting the blame on the workers from individual counties for not knowing how to work the machines. "Obviously, the first time a new voting system is used there is going to be a learning curve, and voting in a pandemic only increased these difficulties. But every other county faced these same issues and were significantly better prepared to respond so that voters had every opportunity to vote," Raffensperger said in a statement. "The voting situation today in certain precincts in Fulton and Dekalb counties is unacceptable."

In a statement, DeKalb Board Elections chair Samuel Tillman said the problems are not just limited to a select few counties in the state. "DeKalb county Voter Registration and Elections Office is experiencing technical issues with the new state-issued voting machines. These issues are being seen statewide and are not isolated to DeKalb county"  Tillman said.

While Joe Biden has already clinched the Democratic presidential nomination, Democrats in Georgia are fighting in a highly-watched Senate race to compete against incumbent Republican Senator David Perdue in November. Investigative documentary journalist Jon Ossoff achieved national attention in 2017 despite losing in the special House election in the 6th congressional district that was the most expensive House race in history. He is now in a crowded field of seven candidates. Former Columbus Mayor Teresa Tomlinson and businesswoman Sarah Riggs Amico are the two other candidates with high expectations. If no candidate receives more than 50% of the vote, the top two finishers will advance to an August 11 runoff election.

FROM THE CANDIDATES

JOE BIDEN

Joe Biden's taped address to those gathered at George Floyd's funeral service Tuesday afternoon was both personal and political, CBS News campaign reporter Bo Erickson reports. No stranger to personal family grief, Biden sought to comfort the Floyd family. "I've watched with awe as you summon the absolute courage to channel God's grace to show the good man George was, to stir justice too long dormant, to move millions to act peacefully and purposely," Biden said. "We know you will never feel the same again. For most people, the numbness you feel now will slowly turn, day after day, season after season, into purpose through the memory of the one they lost." The Democratic presidential nominee also spoke to the political outlook on "racial justice." Biden asked, "Why, in this nation, do too many black Americans wake up knowing that they could lose their life in the course of just living their life?" He added "we cannot leave this moment thinking we can once again turn away from racism."

In more of his exclusive interview with anchor and managing editor of "CBS Evening News" Norah O'Donnell yesterday, Biden weighed in on COVID-19, Veepstakes, and systemic racism in America. Asked whether he's concerned about contracting COVID-19, Biden told O'Donnell, "No, as long as I follow the rules that I've been told to follow." Biden added, "It's important that everybody follow the medical and scientific advice that we're being given. This is all about science."

When asked if the last two weeks have affected how he will make his vice presidential running mate decision and who he will choose, Biden said, "No, they haven't, except it's put a greater focus and urgency on the need to get someone who is — totally simpatico with where I am. The one thing that I've learned as being — the only thing I know a fair amount about is vice presidency. And — it's really important that, whomever you pick as a vice president, agrees with you in terms of your philosophy of government, and agrees with you on the systemic things that you wanna change."

On whether he believes there is systemic racism in law enforcement, Biden said, "Absolutely. But it's not just in law enforcement, it's across the board. It's in housing, it's in education, and it's in everything we do. It's real. It's genuine. It's serious. Look, not all law enforcement officers are racist; my lord, there are some really good, good cops out there. But the way in which it works right now is we've seen too many examples of it."

More of O'Donnell's interview with Biden will air Tuesday, June 9 at 10:00 p.m. ET/PT during CBS News' "Justice for All," a one-hour primetime special.

PRESIDENT TRUMP

President Trump suggested without evidence Tuesday morning that an elderly man who was hospitalized after being shoved to the ground by police in Buffalo, New York was an "ANTIFA provocateur" who may have been trying to "set up" law enforcement, according to CBS News campaign reporter Nicole Sganga and CBS News digital reporter Melissa Quinn. Mr. Trump referenced a segment by the conservative One America News Network that claimed the 75-year-old man, identified as Martin Gugino, was using technology on his cellphone to scan and black out police communications during the protest. The reporter for the network, Kristian Rouz, who previously worked for the Russian outlet Sputnik, did not cite any evidence to back up his claims about Gugino and only referenced a report from "The Conservative Treehouse," a right-wing blog. In his tweet, Mr. Trump claimed Gugino, who is a longtime local peace activist, "fell harder than he was pushed" by officers with the Buffalo Police Department during the incident last week and said he was "aiming [a] scanner" towards the police. "No one from law enforcement has even suggested anything otherwise so we are at a loss to understand why the president of the United States would make such dark, dangerous, and untrue accusations against him," said Kelly Zarcone, a lawyer for Gugino. Buffalo Mayor Byron Brown said on Twitter that the city is praying for Gugino's recovery and that the two officers involved deserve due process. Buffalo Police Department declined comment to CBS News due to the impending criminal investigation into the two officers who shoved Mr. Gugino.

VEEPSTAKES

ELIZABETH WARREN

Senator Elizabeth Warren on Tuesday joined with Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer and Senator Richard Blumenthal to request an investigation into the Trump administration's agreement with six medical supply companies to ship personal protective equipment and other supplies to the United States from overseas, according to CBS News campaign reporter Zak Hudak. "Project Airbridge — like the broader Trump administration response to the pandemic  — has been marked by delays, incompetence, confusion, and secrecy involving multiple Federal agencies and actors," the Democratic senators wrote in a letter to the Pandemic Response Accountability Committee. Warren and Blumenthal in April launched their own investigation into Project Airbridge. They released the information provided to them by the companies involved on Tuesday, but said that it insufficiently addressed questions about where supplies had been sent and their sales prices. "It is not clear if the project was effective or cost-efficient, or if other alternatives — such as the early invocation and use of the Defense Production Act to produce medical supplies  — would have better alleviated the PPE shortage, saved money, and saved lives," the senators wrote. 

GRETCHEN WHITMER

Michigan Governor Gretchen Whitmer was asked if she supports the "defund the police" movement in an Instagram Live interview with The Root, reports CBS News campaign reporter Jack Turman. "It's really about reprioritizing and rebuilding communities, not just policing," Whitmer said. "That this is really about where do we, where do we prioritize our resources." Whitmer said budgets are "overwhelmingly focused" on policing and the corrections system and added that budgets should prioritize education, access to transportation and access to health care. Asked if she would support defunding police departments and use those funds for education, Whitmer responded, "I think you do all those other things. You don't need all the money that's going to the police departments. So, yeah, I mean, the spirit of it, I do support that spirit of it." Whitmer added that "we've got to have the conversation about who are, who are we in this country, how do we rebuild communities…And that's precisely why, you know, everything that we're working on here in Michigan is about setting those priorities, building in equity into our public education system, recognizing that kids in poverty require more resources just to level the playing field." In a separate interview with Detroit's ABC affiliate in Michigan, Whitmer said that there needs to be a greater investment in communities. "What we need to do is have real reforms, yes," Whitmer said. "But it also needs to be accompanied by the kind of investment in communities that, that has for too long been short changed."

Whitmer later told the Detroit Free Press the "perhaps the words that I used on The Root were maybe a little confusing, but they have never been other than I support rebuilding communities and rebuilding them in a way that creates real opportunity in an equitable and just manner." She continued that she didn't believe police should be defunded, but "what I hear from all of my friends who are part of this moment and who are leading on the front lines is we have a real need for greater investment in communities," and "we need to rebuild and level the playing field through better schools and better transportation and access to health care and those are all the critical investments that I absolutely support."

ISSUES THAT MATTER

BLACK LIVES MATTER

More than 700 cities and towns spanning all 50 states have held Black Lives Matter demonstrations, extending past the country's traditionally liberal cities and into suburban and rural communities, CBS News reporter Kate Smith and CBSN politics reporter Caitlin Huey-Burns report. From Greenwich, Connecticut, to Waco, Texas, to Wenatchee, Washington, protesters are tapping into a level of civil engagement that city officials say they haven't seen in decades. The organic nature of the demonstrations in such unconventional areas has the makings of a movement, and political strategists are watching the coalitions emerging from the protests five months out from election day. "I have been shocked about seeing this biracial coalition of people," says Tharon Johnson, a Democratic strategist based in Georgia, where Amaud Arbery was shot and killed by two white men while out on a jog in February. "I see more white people in Atlanta marching to the governor's mansion than I see black people...I see more parents I know in suburban areas marching with their children." The demonstrations in suburban areas represent a political shift made apparent in the 2018 midterm elections, where voters turned off by President Trump fueled the Democrats' takeover of the House. CBS News exit polling found that 53% of suburban women supported Democrats that year, a six-point swing from the previous midterm. "I can't think of another moment when so many people have gathered spontaneously, especially to fight for black lives...in a state that has some of the highest racial disparities," said Ben Wikler, chairman of Democratic Party of Wisconsin, a key battleground state.

CONVENTIONAL WISDOM

PARTY PLANNING

Republican National Committee officials are touring the Phoenix area on Tuesday, the latest stop in the GOP's search for a new venue to host President Trump's nomination acceptance speech. But while city officials and Georgia's governor greeted party officials on MondayCBS News campaign reporter Alex Tin reports officials in Phoenix, some neighboring municipalities, and the county spanning the area say they have heard nothing about the visit. Arizona's Governor Doug Ducey, a Republican, has done little to publicly campaign for the pick beyond fielding a question on the topic at a press conference last week. Instead the bid appears to have been spearheaded by Arizona Congresswoman Debbie Lesko, who has repeatedly floated a Glendale venue in her home district and plans to participate in part of Tuesday's tour. "Well, we do have a bit of an inside track because I talked to someone who talked directly to the president about this and the president said he has an open mind about Arizona and it's definitely in the works," Lesko told CBS affiliate KPHO.

CBS NEWS COVID CHRONICLES

MINNESOTA FARMING

CBS News is chronicling what has changed for the lives of residents of some of the biggest battleground states in 2020 amid the coronavirus pandemic. In southeastern Minnesota, Dave Mensink, a hog farmer, is bracing for a financial hit as he estimates that the COVID-19 pandemic is costing him $22 to $26 per pig over the next 12 months at current Chicago Mercantile Exchange prices. CBS News campaign reporter Jack Turman says hog farmers in Minnesota, which currently ranks second in the nation in hog production, have been impacted by meat processing plants being temporarily closed due to coronavirus outbreaks among their employees.  Soybean and corn farmers in the state have also had trouble marketing their products as some ethanol plants temporarily ceased operations.

STATE-BY-STATE

MICHIGAN

A Michigan conservative activist has filed a federal lawsuit against the state's Secretary of State and 16 county clerks arguing they have not done a sufficient job maintaining voter rolls, according to CBS News campaign reporter Adam Brewster. Tony Daunt, who is the executive director of the Michigan Freedom Fund, but filed this case in his personal capacity, argues that one northern Michigan county has more registered voters than adult citizens. Fifteen other counties have more than 90% of adults registered, which far exceeds national registration rates, according to the lawsuit. The suit is asking for any issues to be cleaned up before the November election. A 2018 report from the Brennan Center for Justice, which was authored by Michigan's current elections director, found relying on census data as a benchmark for eligible voting population isn't always accurate and some previous lawsuits have included inactive voters as registered voters. A spokesperson for the Michigan Department of State said in a statement to CBS News, "The suit seeks to gain media attention using debunked claims and bad statistics to delegitimize our elections. It compares old census data and registration numbers that make no attempt to distinguish between active and inactive registration, and asserts the false notion that voter registration rates should be low."

CONGRESSIONAL COVERAGE

IN THE HOUSE

Senator Bernie Sanders endorsed two House primary challengers on Tuesday, Cori Bush in Missouri's 1st district and Jamaal Bowman in New York's 16th district. With Sanders and Congresswoman Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez's endorsement last week, CBS News political unit broadcast associate Aaron Navarro reports Bowman has been collecting a number of high-profile progressive endorsements ahead of his June 23 primary against 31-year incumbent Congressman Eliot Engel. In a candidate forum over the weekend, Engel criticized Ocasio-Cortez's endorsement of his opponent. "This is not a dictatorship. This is a democracy. We shouldn't have one person, from high, even though she's a colleague of mine, think that she can anoint whoever's elected to Congress...I'm tried and true, I've been there," he said. Sanders also endorsed Texas' 10th runoff candidate Mike Siegel and two other House candidates running in open New York seats: Samelys Lopez in the state's 15th district and Mondaire Jones in the 17th district.

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