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Delayed election results present a boon to confusion and conspiracy theories

Even as the legitimacy of American elections has been under constant assault from former President Donald Trump, a number of key races have recently seen embarrassing lags and errors in reporting results.

The New York City mayoral race is the biggest such instance to date, but it shouldn’t have been a surprise that the city’s Board of Elections failed to do even basic due diligence and that this resulted in a miscount of initial results last month. New York’s elections have been an object lesson in ineptitude over the past year.

Last summer, it took the state more than six weeks to determine the winners in two New York congressional primaries, and election officials rejected one out of every five mail ballots, a much higher number than usual.

Residents in the Flatbush neighborhood of Brooklyn, N.Y., vote in June primaries at P.S. 249.
Residents in the Flatbush neighborhood of Brooklyn, N.Y., vote in the city’s mayoral primary in June. (Michael M. Santiago/Getty Images)

Last fall, New York officials sent incorrect mail ballots to about 100,000 voters, and had to resend the batch. That mistake in particular provided fresh material for Trump’s lies that the election was rigged, because it came at the height of the fall election, as Trump’s campaign of misinformation was reaching a fever pitch.

The parade of incompetence in New York, and a few other delays in election results, have made this something of a national story, especially the mayoral race, which used ranked-choice voting for the first time. Ranked-choice voting, or RCV, is an election reform that’s been gaining traction nationally as a way to stem partisan polarization, among other ills plaguing American democracy. It works by allowing voters to rank candidates in order of preference, and reallocating those votes as lower-polling candidates are eliminated.

But before New York election officials released bad data on the mayoral race, the Iowa caucuses in February 2020 were bungled by the state and national Democratic Party, leading to a wait of days before a winner was declared.

After the November general election, results in key states were delayed. Several Rust Belt states — Michigan, Wisconsin and Pennsylvania — took three days to determine the presidential winner in their contests, largely because Republicans who controlled the state legislatures refused to allow election officials to prepare mail ballots for counting in the days leading up to the election, as Yahoo News extensively reported.

In Georgia, November’s presidential election was so close that although TV networks called the race for Joe Biden a week after Election Day, state officials held three separate recounts over the next few weeks, which confirmed Biden’s victory. But Trump concentrated much of his attention and lies on this state, even though the outcome would not have changed the presidential result anyway.

Former President Donald Trump addresses a rally on July 3 in Sarasota, Fla.
Former President Donald Trump addresses a rally in Sarasota, Fla., on July 3. (Eva Marie Uzcategui/Getty Images)

The vote in Arizona was also so close that it took a week for most networks to call the race there for Biden, a result that was verified by multiple recounts that — as in Georgia — were dogged by conspiracy theories and protests. And as in Georgia, the results in Arizona would not have changed the outcome of the presidential race even if the state had gone for Trump.

But while Trump’s continued insistence that he won reelection last November is completely without merit and easily refuted, election administrators have nevertheless mishandled a number of closely watched races, making it easier for Trump to continue to spread his fabrications. Election experts have pointed to areas in the Northeast and the Deep South as having “pockets of incompetence” in election administration that are related to the states’ political history.

In the Rust Belt states, Republicans made sure that mail ballots would take days to count. That led to a small but not insignificant irony: Many Democrats were pushing for election officials to count mail ballots that arrived after Election Day.

In Pennsylvania, ballots were allowed to be counted if they arrived up to three days after the election, as long as they were postmarked by Election Day or if they had no postmark. This was part of a broader attempt to expand access to voting by mail during the coronavirus pandemic, which started with public health concerns but then became a partisan issue.

California, which has liberal voting rules in order to maximize participation, often takes a while to report results, but since it is not a competitive state nationally, those delays have not attracted national attention.

Vivian Morales checks a ballot in San Bernardino, Calif., before sending it in to be tallied at the County Registrar of Voters office in November last year.
Vivian Morales checks a ballot in San Bernardino, Calif., before sending it in to be tallied at the County Registrar of Voters in November of last year. (Irfan Khan/Los Angeles Times via Getty Images)

But voting rights groups are reassessing some things as they think about how to reduce the amount of potential targets for bad actors. While it was Trump’s lies about the election that led his supporters to riot at the Capitol on Jan. 6, officials who oversee elections have a special responsibility to make sure the reported results are beyond reproach, which has not been the case in a smattering of races in recent years.

Election officials, however, have been caught between demands that voting be made as easy as possible and the reality that delays in reporting results, sometimes a partial consequence of those demands, leave the door open to claims of fraud, however baseless. Trump’s attacks on elections and election officials have prompted a spike in threats against election officials, which experts worry will cause a rash of retirements and a lack of volunteers in future elections.

“When you can request a mail ballot the Saturday before a Tuesday election, no, that’s not setting the election officials up for success and the voters up for success,” said an official with a national election administrators’ group.

Election officials have been criticized in the past by leftist groups for moving the deadline for requesting a mail ballot further away from Election Day, but the election administration official said, “I know some of those conversations are happening among the more liberal advocacy groups that we can’t go after election officials for things like that.”

Then, finally, many states expanded voting by mail and early voting last year because of the pandemic — but never got the money from Congress that they requested for doing so. Much of the funding for the expansion was provided by private donors, which Republicans in some states are now passing laws to prevent.

Election workers sort vote-by-mail ballots for the presidential primary at King County Elections in Renton, Wash., in March 2020.
Election workers sort vote-by-mail ballots for the Washington state presidential primary in March 2020. (Jason Redmond/AFP via Getty Images)

Rick Hasen, a top election expert and the author of “Election Meltdown,” has listed four “principal dangers” to democracy. The first three are voter suppression, dirty tricks, and the kind of meritless and incendiary remarks Trump has trafficked in — such as talk of a “rigged” election.

But the fourth, to hear Hasen tell it, is just sheer incompetence, which over time dilutes respect for election outcomes even among those who are resistant to Trump-style mistruths and demagoguery. While the vast majority of U.S. elections are competently administered, this isn’t always the case in big metropolitan areas like Detroit, Philadelphia and New York.

“If New York were a Republican state, there would be protests in the streets over voter suppression, because it runs its elections so poorly,” Hasen told Yahoo News last year. “But yet it gets a pass, because it’s a Democratic state.”

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Pop mogul Simon Cowell was a racing flop with ‘awful’ £35,000 horse he owned with Ant and Dec – that didn’t win a penny

SIMON COWELL conquered the music world – but his foray into racing ended in disaster with an ‘awful’ £35,000 horse he owned with Ant and Dec.

The music mogul, 62, has done it all with bands like One Direction, Little Mix and solo acts Olly Murs and James Arthur, to name but a few.

Cowell owned an 'awful' £35,000 horse with Ant and Dec - but the runner didn't win a single penny in six races

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Cowell owned an ‘awful’ £35,000 horse with Ant and Dec – but the runner didn’t win a single penny in six racesCredit: PA:Press Association
Cowell remains a massive racing fan and loves Royal Ascot and the Epsom Derby

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Cowell remains a massive racing fan and loves Royal Ascot and the Epsom Derby

His Syco label – plus shows such as Britain’s Got Talent – have dominated the entertainment industry and brought him an estimated net worth of £385m.

A lover of Royal Ascot and the Epsom Derby, he looked perfectly poised to strike a knockout blow in the world of thoroughbreds.

But it turns out his runner was far from No1 in the charts – and never even finished better than fifth during a doomed six-race career.

Things looked promising at the start.

Named It’s A Yes From Me, the runner was trained with the respected James Fanshawe and sent off at 8-1 for his first race in June 2014.

But coming last of five by 13-and-a-half lengths was unfortunately about as good as it got for the gelding.

A month’s rest followed before he was sent off at 40-1 in a six-furlong sprint at Doncaster.

But there he could only manage fifth again, and it was same at Redcar the next month.

‘Dreadfully slow’

By October that year – with further finishes of sixth and tenth – It’s A Yes From Me came second-last in a one-mile race at Kempton.

One analysis of the race warned punters the horse was ‘one to tread carefully’ with.

Well, Cowell and Ant and Dec took that advice to heart as they never raced him again.

The horse was penniless from six races, never finishing high enough to recoup some of that £35,000 investment.

It’s doubtful Cowell, with hundreds of millions in the bank, lost any sleep over that.

But Ant and Dec revealed just how bad things has got with the horse during an interview last year.

Dec said of It’s A Yes From Me: “It was awful, it was a dreadfully slow horse.

“It wasn’t a racehorse it was just a horse, because it didn’t race.

“Every time we got to the BGT studio Simon would say, ‘I keep paying stable fees on this horse, but I’ve never seen it run’.”

Cowell originally wanted to name the nag after himself, but they settled on It’s A Yes From Me when they bought it in 2013.

‘It was awful’

Dec revealed its eventual fate: “I think it got rehomed.”

Of course it’s not all been bad for Cowell at the races.

He was one of the exclusive few at the Epsom Derby in June, having a great time with partner Lauren Silverman and Piers Morgan.

And two weeks later he was at Royal Ascot – where he first discovered his love of racing.

Cowell told SunSport’s Matt Chapman during a chat at Epsom: “I’ve got my son Eric with me today.

“My mum and dad years ago used to take me to Ascot and I was probably about his age – seven or eight.

Cowell with partner Lauren at Epsom earlier this year

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Cowell with partner Lauren at Epsom earlier this yearCredit: Getty
It's A Yes From Me trails behind in last during one of his six races

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It’s A Yes From Me trails behind in last during one of his six races
The music supremo tweeted about his horse's bad start... which never got much better

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The music supremo tweeted about his horse’s bad start… which never got much better

Most read in Horse Racing

“So the fact I can now bring him to the races as well is brilliant. It brings back a lot of good memories.

“Making TV shows is my passion. But racing is actually my second passion.”

He hasn’t made that passion the money-maker his music label is, but don’t rule out Cowell staging his own comeback at the track in the near future.

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Remember to gamble responsibly

A responsible gambler is someone who:

  • Establishes time and monetary limits before playing
  • Only gambles with money they can afford to lose
  • Never chases their losses
  • Doesn’t gamble if they’re upset, angry or depressed
  • Gamcare – www.gamcare.org.uk
  • Gamble Aware – www.begambleaware.org

Commercial content notice: Taking one of the bookmaker offers featured in this article may result in a payment to The Sun. 18+. T&Cs apply. Begambleaware.org


Remember to gamble responsibly

A responsible gambler is someone who:

  • Establishes time and monetary limits before playing
  • Only gambles with money they can afford to lose
  • Never chases their losses
  • Doesn’t gamble if they’re upset, angry or depressed
  • Gamcare – www.gamcare.org.uk
  • Gamble Aware – www.begambleaware.org
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Minnesota wildfire doubles in size, creates its own weather

A wildfire in northeastern Minnesota more than doubled in size Tuesday, growing to more than 19,000 acres, after it produced pyrocumulous clouds that generated lightning and even raindrops, fire officials said.

The Greenwood Fire’s growth, most of which happened Monday afternoon, prompted firefighters to leave McDougal Lake, about 80 miles south-southwest of Duluth, officials said. Authorities fear that structures might have been destroyed or damaged.

“We had crews embedded, and as this fire took off, it was quite an effort to communicate with forces on the ground so they could get out,” said federal fire incident spokesman Clark McCreedy.

The pullout was a success, and no injuries were reported. However, downed trees and necessary cleanup mean crews have been unable to assess damage around the lake, McCreedy said.

In addition to the firefighter pullout, 159 dwellings were evacuated Monday, according to an update from the National Wildfire Coordinating Group. Cabins, homes and recreational sites remain under threat, the group said.

Patrick Prochaska, a Minneapolis resident who built a cabin near McDougal Lake in 2012, told NBC affiliate KARE that he watched via security camera as flames mostly bypassed his property Monday, causing minor damage.

“I was feeling very scared,” he said. “At the same time, I could see that it was not doing anything to the house, and it was kind of reassuring.”

The fire in and north of Superior National Forest has mostly performed according to the weather, fire officials said. On Monday, with dry fuel on the ground and temperatures in the high 80s, it was an expanding inferno punctuated by strobes of lightning.

“The winds were drawn into the fire from all directions,” the incident’s fire behavior analyst, Michael Locke, said in a video update Tuesday. “It created what we call pyrocumulous clouds. And really high in the atmosphere … you’d see a thunderstorm, and in fact they went high enough to produce a few sprinkles of rain and even some lightning.”

Temperatures dipped into the mid-70s Tuesday, and the blaze mellowed. “The real story was cloud cover and cooler temperatures,” McCreedy said.

More of the same, and possibly rain, was in the forecast, giving officials hope that they might be able to close the book on an unusually active and dry fire season in Minnesota.

Experts have said climate change has set the stage for extreme weather, including an increase in the frequency and intensity of wildfires in the Northern Hemisphere.

Firefighters — 426 were assigned to the Greenwood event — have been confronted with “prolonged, severe drought,” making parts of Minnesota look like the fire-prone West this summer, McCreedy said.

The Greenwood Fire, which was detected Aug. 15, is believed to have been sparked by lightning.

So far, firefighters have scored no containment, and areas including McDougal Lake, Sand Lake and the Highway 2 corridor have been under mandatory evacuation orders. The federal Boundary Waters Canoe Area Wilderness was closed Saturday “due to active and increasing fire activity, extreme drought, limited resources,” the National Forest Service said in a notice.

Officials set a goal of Sept. 1 for full containment.

“We’re probably going to get more of that moderating weather for the rest of the week,” McCreedy said. “That opens the door for fire crews to make progress on the ground.”

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Hiker survives grizzly bear attack at Denali National Park

A tourist from Indiana was attacked and injured by a grizzly bear at Denali National Park and Preserve in Alaska on Monday night, park officials said.

The 55-year-old tourist, whose name was not released, was hiking alone in dense fog in the Thoroughfare Pass area when a mother bear and multiple cubs charged him from nearby bushes, the National Park Service said in a statement Tuesday.

He had puncture wounds to a calf, his left ribs and his left shoulder, the agency said.

The victim used bear spray that might have cut the attack short, the park service indicated. He walked 1.5 miles to a visitor’s center where “medical personnel” vacationing at Denali treated him as a park bus driver called 911, it said.

The hiker was taken to a medical center near the park before he was transferred to Fairbanks Memorial Hospital, about 120 miles away, park officials said. He was stabilized at the Fairbanks hospital, they said.

“Due to the apparent defensive nature of this attack, there are no plans to locate the bear involved,” the park service said. “Female bears with cubs are naturally defensive of their young, especially when surprised. There is no indication that this bear is unusually dangerous.”

Grizzly bears are federally protected as a threatened species in the lower 48 states. According to the National Wildlife Federation, fewer than 1,500 grizzlies are left in the lower 48, but they thrive, comparatively, in Alaska, where they have a population of about 31,000.

The backcountry area of the attack is closed for one week as a precaution, the park service said.

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