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Group Sues Tennessee County over Invalid Voter Registrations

A group representing black voters is suing the election commission in  Tennessee’s largest county, which includes Memphis, after thousands of registrations were deemed invalid by the commission.

The Tennessee Black Voter Project filed a lawsuit Monday in Shelby County Chancery Court asking a judge to allow the group to inspect voter registration forms that the county’s Election Commission has rejected.

Groups including the Black Voter Project submitted more than 36,000 registrations to the Election Commission in Shelby County. But the commission said about 55 percent of them were invalid because they were incomplete, were duplicates from previously registered voters or had come from convicted felons.

The group wants to inspect records detailing why the applications were rejected. 

Commission attorney Pablo Varela declined comment on the pending litigation.

Election Commission spokeswoman Suzanne Thompson said workers are still going through applications and have added a help desk to assist voters who have questions about their registration. 

“We’ve been trying to get a hold of everybody we could to correct irregularities on the forms,” Thompson said Tuesday. 

Thompson said the Black Voter Project delivered 10,000 applications on the last day of registration, which surprised the commission. One person registered to vote 22 times in the same day, she said.

Thompson said workers have “wasted a lot of time” going through the incomplete forms.   

Tennessee is among states with the lowest voter turnout. Some groups launched campaigns to get voters registered ahead of the November election, which includes a tight U.S. Senate race pitting Republican Marsha Blackburn against Democrat Phil Bredesen. 

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US Congressional Races Break Fundraising Records

Fundraising records are falling in this year’s U.S. congressional campaign season, driven in part by unprecedented hauls by at least five candidates from both major parties, according to a Reuters analysis of campaign finance disclosures.

Candidates for the House of Representatives have collectively raised $1.2 billion from January 2017 through the end of September, more than the inflation-adjusted $1 billion record set at this point in the 2010 election cycle, according to Federal Election Commission data.

Senate candidates — who have six years to raise funds because of their longer terms — have raised more than $950 million, surpassing the $844 million raised during the same period ahead of the 2010 election.

Intense battle

The records are a sign of the intense fight by the Democratic and Republican parties ahead of the Nov. 6 elections. Democrats are aiming to pick up 23 seats in the House and two in the Senate in an effort to take control of Congress and block Republican President Donald Trump’s agenda.

Republicans are eager to retain control of both chambers, which has allowed them to pass an extensive tax cut package and confirm two conservatives to the Supreme Court.

Democrats collectively raised more than Republicans. Senate Democrats raised at least $551 million, while Republicans raised at least $368 million. House Democratic candidates raised at least $680 million while Republicans raised at least $540 million.

The apparent Democratic edge may have been exaggerated by large numbers of candidates contesting primaries, said Michael Malbin, director of the nonpartisan Campaign Finance Institute. “I’m not seeing an overwhelming advantage for the Democrats,” Malbin said.

Individual marks

A handful of candidates broke individual records.

Democratic U.S. Rep. Beto O’Rourke of Texas, who is challenging Republican Sen. Ted Cruz, was the only Senate candidate who broke an individual fundraising record. He brought in nearly $63 million, besting former Sen. Hillary Clinton’s record inflation-adjusted haul of nearly $61 million in 2006.

O’Rourke’s total included a record-setting $38 million in the third quarter.

Four House candidates broke that chamber’s previous record, which was set in 2008 when Colorado Republican Jared Polis raised about $8 million. Republicans Devin Nunes of California, Greg Gianforte of Montana, Karen Handel of Georgia and Pennsylvania Democrat Conor Lamb all exceeded that mark.

Nunes raised $10.6 million, the highest total for a House Republican running for re-election who did not chip in personal wealth to his or her campaign.

Factoring in people who funded their own races, Democrat and liquor entrepreneur David Trone of Maryland raised the most of any House candidate, with his campaign taking in $16.5 million. 

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Pelosi Outlines Agenda if Democrats Retake House

Projecting confidence about her party’s chances, Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi outlined five of the top 10 agenda items Democrats will pursue if they retake the House in next month’s election.

Lowering health care costs, rebuilding infrastructure, and running the House chamber with more transparency and openness are near the top of the Democratic agenda, Pelosi said during a talk Tuesday at Harvard’s Institute of Politics. Democrats would also prioritize giving legal status to young immigrants, known informally as Dreamers, and strengthening background checks on gun purchases, she said.

Democrats need to gain 23 seats to take control of the House from Republicans, something surveys suggest is within reach.

“If the election were today, we would win the majority,” Pelosi said.

The California Democrat said she couldn’t predict whether the election would be a “wave” or “tsunami” for her party, but said she expected it to triumph, putting her in line to regain the speaker’s gavel.

“I’ve never seen anything like the mobilization that is out there, the grass roots,” she said.

One item not on Pelosi’s top 10 list: impeaching President Donald Trump.

“I think impeachment, to use that word, is very divisive,” she said.

Instead, she said House committees under Democrats would conduct oversight of the administration and help special counsel Robert Mueller conclude his Russia investigation, preserving all the documents from his probe for congressional follow-up.

“Getting the documents and the truth — and where they lead us — that’s what we have to do,” she said.

Looking ahead to a possible lame-duck session after the election, Pelosi indicated Democrats wouldn’t relent in their opposition to funding Trump’s proposed border wall. She said it would not be the best or most cost-effective way to protect the border.

“It happens to be like a manhood issue for the president and I’m not interested in that,” she said.

Pelosi has been the leader of House Democrats since 2003, an extraordinary stretch that includes becoming the first woman elected speaker in 2007. But some Democrats running for office this year have called for a new face at the top, echoing the complaints of rank-and-file Democratic lawmakers who say generational change is needed.

She brushed off those challenges to her leadership, chalking up the debate to the “vitality of the party.”

“None of that frightens me,” she said. “I feel pretty good about it.”

One item she’s personally hoping to add to the House agenda in the early days is the Equality Act, which would add protections for women and LGBT people to the existing Civil Rights Act.

As Republicans fight to preserve their majority, some GOP leaders believe they have touched a nerve by linking Democrats to protests against Trump’s agenda. They point to activists confronting senators in the Capitol hallways during the hearings to confirm Brett Kavanaugh to the Supreme Court.

Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell of Kentucky has berated the “mob” mentality as Republicans campaign to retain their majority.

House Majority Leader Kevin McCarthy of California summed up his election pitch during an interview on Fox News: “This is about results vs. Democrats’ resistance.”

Democrats have distanced themselves from some of the more fiery rhetoric from their side of the aisle, including former Attorney General Eric Holder’s suggestion that Democrats should “kick” back.

Pelosi in a letter earlier this week to her colleagues encouraged them to stay laser-focused on the agenda they’re bringing to voters. She said Republicans have “intensified their climate of negativity” because they don’t have a record to run on.

“In this final stretch, it is imperative that we remain positively focused on communicating our powerful message,” Pelosi told them.

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Warren Accuses Trump of ‘Creepy’ Comments About Her DNA Test

Sen. Elizabeth Warren is suggesting President Donald Trump’s comment about him personally administering a DNA test to her to prove her Native American heritage is “creepy.”

She tweeted Monday that the president makes “creepy physical threats” about women who scare him, including her.

“He’s trying to do what he always does to women who scare him: call us names, attack us personally, shrink us down to feel better about himself,” the Massachusetts Democrat responded on Twitter after Trump made the comment during an appearance in Georgia. “It may soothe his ego – but it won’t work.”

Warren, who is seen as a potential 2020 challenger to Trump, appears to have taken a page out of his political playbook, striking back almost instantly at the president who continues to ridicule her claim of Native American ancestry. Trump relishes a good fight, those close to him have said, and will hit back twice as hard when he’s been attacked.

A sharp critic of Trump, Warren wasted little time going after him on Monday.

She opened the day by releasing DNA test results that provide some evidence of a Native American in her lineage, though the ancestor probably lived six to 10 generations ago, according to the analysis. Trump has ridiculed her as “Pocahontas” over the ancestry claim.

In July, the president offered to donate $1 million to her favorite charity if a DNA test proved her Native American bloodline.

On Monday, he first denied ever making such a promise, then said later that “I’ll only do it if I can test her personally.”

“That will not be something I enjoy doing either,” he added.

Warren tweeted that Trump is a “cowardly elitist” and she “won’t sit quietly for Trump’s racism” so she took the test.

“I took this test and released the results for anyone who cares to see because I’ve got nothing to hide. What are YOU hiding, @realDonaldTrump?” she wrote. “Release your tax returns – or the Democratic-led House will do it for you soon enough. Tick-tock, Mr President.”

Warren was referring to the Nov. 6 election, when Democrats hope to regain control of the House, which would put them in position to examine and possibly publicly release Trump’s returns.

Trump has bucked decades of precedent by refusing to release his income tax returns during the 2016 presidential election, as well as after taking office.

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Both Parties Agree – Trump Drives the Midterms

Three weeks before a crucial U.S. midterm election, it would be difficult to find much that Democrats and Republicans agree on. Both parties, however, seem to agree on one thing: President Donald Trump will be the key issue in elections that will determine control of Congress for the next two years.

For many voters, the “Trump factor” could be a deciding consideration in this year’s midterms. And as the president campaigns on behalf of Republicans around the country, he is quick to remind his supporters that he has a huge personal stake in the outcome on Nov. 6.

WATCH: Trump influence on Midterm elections

​“All of this extraordinary progress is at stake,” Trump told a recent rally in Southaven, Mississippi. “I’m not on the ballot. But in a certain way, I am on the ballot. So please, go out and vote. Go out and vote.”

Motivating Democrats

As much as Trump motivates his core supporters, he also energizes critics like Jenny Heinz, who helped organize a recent anti-Trump rally in New York City.

“There is an active resistance to this president, who is operating as if he is above the law.”

No question, Trump is the central figure in this year’s election, according to American University analyst David Barker.

“Yes, Democrats from the day after the election in 2016 have been waiting for this day, and it is all about Trump,” Barker told VOA. “Trump fully embraces that. He wants it to be all about him.”

Historically, midterm elections have been a mix of local issues, local candidates, and partly a referendum on the sitting president.

This year’s campaign seems to have accelerated a trend whereby midterm congressional elections have increasingly become nationalized.

“It really is now all national, and everyone is kind of looking at this as either a referendum for or against the president and his party,” said George Washington University expert Lara Brown.

In the latest Washington Post-ABC News poll, a majority of voters in both parties said a congressional candidate who shares their view of Trump is an important consideration as they assess the coming midterms.

Seizing the spotlight

Unlike some presidents who have tried to resist the idea that the midterms are a presidential referendum, Trump has willingly embraced it.

Former Trump strategist Steve Bannon told Associated Press Television that he favors the approach. 

“I think if you make this a national referendum and nationalize this election on the success of President Trump’s program, it is a clear winner, and I think the Democrats get crushed.”

Others are skeptical, including former Republican National Committee Chairman Michael Steele.

“All right, fine. You want it to be about you? Well, every candidate on the ballot now has to account for your behavior, has to account for your tweets,” said Steele, a recent guest on VOA’s Plugged In with Greta Van Susteren.

Trump hopes to boost Republican turnout in November; but, Democrats argue he is likely to be just as effective in spurring their voters to the polls.

Maryland Democratic Representative Dutch Ruppersberger also spoke on Plugged In.

“When all you do is care about yourself and not about people, not about what they need – like your seniors needing medical care. And you just want to look good and knock them out (politically), which is happening, this is hurting. And this is why, I think, a lot of people will come out (to vote).”

Tending the base

Trump has been aggressive on the campaign trail courting his base, especially in Republican-leaning states where many of this year’s closer Senate races are taking place.

“They are focusing on their base, and they are trying to make sure that they are going to show up and vote. And it could make some difference in close midterm elections,” said University of Virginia analyst Larry Sabato.

Some Republicans have urged Trump to try and broaden his appeal beyond his base during campaign visits this year.

But Gallup pollster Frank Newport said the president has limited options.

“He has kind of given up on attempting to broaden his appeal, it looks like. It fits more with his style,” said Newport. “He has, as we all know, a very combative style. He likes to have enemies because that gives him somebody to fight against. So, it would be hard for a president like Trump anyway to try and broaden his appeal.”

Trump’s name will not appear on the Nov. 6 ballots, but, he will clearly be front and center in the minds of voters, and the midterm results could determine the future of his presidency.

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Both Parties Agree Trump Drives the Midterms

Three weeks before a crucial U.S. midterm election, it would be difficult to find much that Democrats and Republicans agree on. But one thing both parties do agree with is the notion that President Donald Trump will be the key issue in elections that will determine control of Congress for the next two years. VOA national correspondent Jim Malone has more on the “Trump factor” in the 2018 elections from Washington.

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Why the Midterm Election is on Diaspora Media’s Radar

For many immigrants, U.S. midterm elections traditionally draw minimal interest. But this election cycle, the reaction is different as a Democratic victory for control of the House or Senate or both would have huge repercussions for immigrant communities.

U.S. President Donald Trump’s controversial policies on trade, immigration, taxes and a host of other issues that impact immigrants could be challenged or reversed with the Democrats back in control of Congress.

In the 2016 presidential election, foreign language media was a fundamental source of information for immigrants, as mainstream outlets aimed to connect with broader audiences.

In the 2018 midterm elections, a “news-you-can-use” component is a key part of how these outlets continue to serve their audiences.

Cameroon native Pamela Anchang is managing editor of The Immigrant Magazine and host of “Impact,” a new radio talk show for the immigrant community based in Los Angeles. 

“Given the climate that we’re in, everybody is paying attention,” she told VOA. “Now, immigrants are aware that elections have consequences, and when you don’t vote for whatever reason, it comes back to either serve you or hurt you.” 

In the past, the midterm elections were also of little concern for La Opinion, a Spanish language daily newspaper in Los Angeles. However, the midterms of 2018 are “completely different” because of Trump, said Gabriel Lerner, La Opinion’s editor-in-chief. 

“This has been like an earthquake, a political earthquake for many of the Latinos, so people are really interested in what is going on,” Lerner said.

The homepages of Spanish language media websites in the U.S. are packed with news about deportations, raids and arrests by the U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement and President Trump’s latest plan for building a wall at the U.S.-Mexico border.

​”In the case of Latinos, Trump positioned himself as a foe since the beginning of his campaign when he defined that Mexican immigrants are criminals, are rapists — this created a lot of strong reaction against Trump and Trumpism in the community,” said Lerner.

Anchang said Trump’s tough stance on immigration does not only create strong reaction in the Latino community, but many other immigrant communities, including the African diaspora. 

“Because issues are what drive us,” Anchang said.” If you just talk about elections in general, nobody cares. But if you talk about how it affects you personally, they pay attention. What is really important to Africans — health care [and] being legal. We have a lot of Africans who are undocumented.” 

“It is very possible that the results of these midterm elections will be a vote of confidence for President Trump,” said Vincent Chang, chief content officer and executive editor of World Journal, a Chinese-language newspaper. The outcome of the midterms will show how much trust the electorate puts in Trump and his policies, he said. Within the Chinese community, those who are U.S. citizens tend to support Trump’s policies on immigration, he added. 

Chang said the issues the Chinese language readership is concerned with include core administration policies regarding tax reform, the economy and immigration. Chang said his paper will be closely watching potential changes throughout Congress after the midterms.

Local races get a lot of attention

During every election cycle, news organizations tailored to the immigrant communities also have in-depth coverage of local races of candidates from their own ethnic groups.

​”We’ll follow closely how the Chinese-American candidates perform in the different districts, regardless of whether they win or lose,” said Chang.

That also rings true in Southern California’s Little Saigon where political billboards with the names of Vietnamese-American candidates can be seen everywhere. They are running for local and state level races, from mayor to the state senate and every position in between. 

Unlike the mainstream media and many other immigrant communities, the Vietnamese community is excited about the midterms almost exclusively because of the local races. 

“We don’t pay much attention to the federal level [races]. But mostly [we focus on races at the] local level,” said Dzung Do, staff writer for Nguoi Viet Daily News, a California-based Vietnamese language paper that printed its first edition 40 years ago. Do said many Vietnamese Americans will vote for a Vietnamese name, regardless of a candidate’s position on the issues. 

The topics they want to read in the press and hear from the candidates include U.S. relations with Vietnam, education and security, according to Do. Since many Vietnamese Americans arrived in the U.S. as refugees, immigration is not as much of a priority as other immigrant groups. 

Immigration is a passionate topic for the guests on Anchang’s “Impact” radio talk show. They included a Korean-American, a Filipino-American and a Latino-American. Some of the guests said that Trump’s immigration policies are highly discriminatory and create widespread fear. Some would like amnesty for those who are already living in the U.S., while others argued that immigrants must follow U.S. law and wait their turn in line to gain legal entry to the U.S. 

Anchang said her message to her readers and listeners is that only by voting can they keep the status quo or create change. 

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Why Diaspora Media Riveted by US Midterm Campaign

The press that serves the U.S. immigrant population typically shows little interest in midterm elections. But the outcome of this year’s fight for control of Congress could either blunt much of President Donald Trump’s agenda or advance his policies. That’s why the immigrant community may be more interested in this year’s midterms than ever before. VOA’s Elizabeth Lee has the details from Los Angeles.

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Trump Suggests Defense Chief Could Leave

U.S. President Donald Trump is suggesting Secretary of Defense Jim Mattis could be one of his next key officials to leave the government.

The Republican president, said in an interview Sunday on CBS’s “60 Minutes” news show, that he has no indication that Mattis is leaving, but added, “It could be that he is. I think he’s sort of a Democrat, if you want to know the truth.”

The U.S. leader described the retired Marine Corps general as “a good guy. We get along very well. He may leave. I mean, at some point, everybody leaves. Everybody. People leave. That’s Washington.” 

Trump, during his 21-month administration, has fired or pushed out dozens of key officials, or watched as others he liked have resigned, including United Nations ambassador Nikki Haley, who last week said she would be leaving her post at the end of the year.

Mattis, while leading the U.S. military, has occasionally been at odds with Trump and more hawkish Trump administration officials, including national security adviser John Bolton.

Mattis, in mid-2017, pushed for more diplomatic overtures to North Korea in dealing with Pyongyang’s nuclear weapons program, a stance Trump eventually came around to, leading to his June summit with North Korean leader Kim Jong Un.

Trump said there are still “some people” in his administration that he is “not thrilled with.” He has often assailed Attorney General Jeff Sessions but declined to fire him for removing himself from oversight of the lengthy investigation of whether Trump’s 2016 campaign colluded with Russia and whether Trump as president obstructed justice by trying to thwart the probe.

But Trump rebuffed reports of chaos in the White House as “fake news,” adding, “I’m changing things around. And I’m entitled to. I have people now on standby that will be phenomenal. They’ll come into the administration, they’ll be phenomenal.”

 

 

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3 Arrested in New York Violence After Far-Right Speech

Three people were arrested in New York City following violent clashes after a speech by the founder of a far-right group, and police said Saturday they were reviewing video of the clashes and could make additional arrests.

The violence Friday night followed a speech by Gavin McInnes, the founder of the Proud Boys, at the Metropolitan Republican Club. The male-only Proud Boys describe themselves as “western chauvinists.”

Videos posted on YouTube show clashes between the Proud Boys and groups that were protesting McInnes’ speech.

No serious injuries were reported.

The three arrested face assault charges and were awaiting arraignment Saturday in Manhattan criminal court. Police spokesman J. Peter Donald said the department was reviewing video and would make other arrests as warranted.

Several elected officials expressed outrage over the violence and blamed the Proud Boys, which has been designated as a hate group by the Southern Poverty Law Center.

More arrests possible

“Authorities must review these videos immediately and make arrests and prosecute as appropriate,” Gov. Andrew Cuomo, a Democrat, said. “Hate cannot and will not be tolerated in New York.”

New York City Public Advocate Letitia James, a Democrat who is running for state attorney general, said, “I am disturbed and disgusted by the videos I’ve seen of members of the neo-fascist, white supremacist Proud Boys group engaging in hate-fueled mob violence on the streets of New York City.”

City Councilman Rory Lancman, also a Democrat, said video shows police officers were at the scene of an assault by Proud Boys members but did not arrest anyone from the group.

“It is revolting to see white supremacists commit a hate crime on the streets of New York City — in full view of the NYPD — and for none of them to be arrested or prosecuted,” Lancman said.

The Republican club was vandalized ahead of Friday’s speech by McInnes, who is also a co-founder of Vice Media. Statewide Republican officials said the damage included smashed windows, a spray-painted door and a keypad lock covered in glue. A note left at the scene claimed that the damage was “just the beginning.”

Clashes in Portland

Saturday night in downtown Portland, Oregon, fights broke out between protesters with a right-wing group and counter-demonstrators.

The right-wing Patriot Prayer group was holding a Flash March for Law and Order Saturday evening when the counter-demonstrators, some of whom identified themselves as members of the militant group Antifa, confronted them, leading to scuffles, local media reported.

Police in riot gear worked to break up fights and used pepper spray to try to control the crowd, local media reported. Police said officers saw people at the demonstration with hard-knuckled gloves, guns, knives and batons.

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