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Democracy

Rumors vs. reality: 6 facts about voting by mail for folks worried about election integrity

Worried about mail-in voting? Don't be.

voting elections mail-in ballots

Myths and facts about voting by mail.

As we head toward midterm elections in early November, there's a lot of misinformation floating around about how voting is conducted and how votes are processed. Sadly, we're reaping what widespread misinformation has sown in the form of continued election result denial, legislation that makes it harder to vote and even vigilante voter intimidation at ballot drop boxes.

Convincing someone their preferred candidate didn't win because the other side cheated is an easy political win, especially in a hyperpartisan atmosphere. But the reality is that the vast majority of Americans want elections to be as fair and accurate as possible, so sorting out truth from fiction and understanding how our election processes actually work—as opposed to how partisan sources tell us they work—is important.

Voting by mail comes up a lot in discussions of election integrity, so let's take a look at how mail-in ballots work and clear up some misunderstandings that might cause people concern.


Frequently, people will share things they've heard from a friend or a cable news host or a social media post without verifying whether those things are true. Every state handles mail-in ballots a little differently in terms of how people receive ballots and when they get counted, but the safeguards to prevent fraud and ensure eligible votes are counted are fairly standard.

Rumor: Mail-in voting is too new to be safe and secure.

Reality: Americans have been voting by mail since the 19th century. Those early mail-in votes came from soldiers in the Civil War and since then, members of the military who are deployed outside of their home states have long been voting by mail.

Widespread mail-in voting for civilians is newer, but not new. Oregon has been conducting all mail-in elections since 2000, so has had more than two decades to perfect its system. Washington state has done the same since 2012 and Colorado since 2014. In the past three years, Utah, Hawaii, Vermont and California have gone to all-mail-in voting. (Incidentally, Vermont and Washington took the No. 1 and No. 2 spots for electoral integrity in the 2018 midterm rankings in Harvard's Electoral Integrity Project, and all of the other states named here ranked in the top 20.)

Rumor: Mail-in voting gives Democrats an unfair advantage.

Reality: Studies have shown that there appears to be no statistically significant advantage for either party when mail-in voting is implemented. So there's that.

But as an anecdotal example as well, Washington state (where I live) elected a Republican secretary of state—the person in charge of elections at the state level—multiple times with our mail-in voting system until she resigned last year to work on election security at the federal level. And that's in a Democratic-leaning state overall. And the district I live in has elected a Republican representative to the House for years with all mail-in voting. Mail-in ballots are equally available to everyone and make voting very simple, so it doesn't make sense that it would give either party an advantage.

Rumor: Mail-in voting makes it easier to commit voter fraud.

Reality: The Brookings Institution shared data from the conservative Heritage Foundation that analyzed voter fraud over many years in different states. Here are the number of voter fraud cases Heritage found for states that had mail-in voting during most of the time period they analyzed and the total number of ballots cast during that time.

Colorado: 14 cases over 13 years out of 15,955,704 votes cast.

Oregon: 15 cases over 19 years out of 15,476,519 votes cast

Washington: 12 cases over 6 years out of 10,605,749 votes cast

This is what people mean when they say voter fraud isn't a concern. It's not that it never ever happens. It's just that it doesn't even come close to being anywhere near significant enough to approach making a dent in election results.

And false fraud allegations can have tragic real-world results. Everyone needs to make sure they triple-fact-check fraud claims before passing them along.

Rumor: I know of people who received more than one ballot in the mail, which means they'll be able to vote twice.

Reality: Nope, they can't vote twice even if they have two ballots. It doesn't really matter how many ballots a person receives since only one can be submitted and processed for each voter. Election officials try to avoid voters receiving more than one ballot since it causes confusion, but if it happens, it's not an indication that anything fishy is going on. Once one ballot is processed, another ballot for the same voter can't be. Multiple safeguards are in place to ensure that only one ballot is processed for each registered voter and to ensure that the person's signature on the ballot envelope is legitimate.

Rumor: Mail-in voting opens up the possibility of voter coercion.

Reality: This could be true. At a polling place, each individual votes privately so no one else can see who they vote for. People can still feel coerced into voting a certain way, but there's no way for anyone else to really know how they voted. When ballots are mailed to homes, it is possible for one person in the home to force another person to vote a certain way, but: 1) If there are really enough controlling and abusive households that coercion could sway an election, we have bigger problems on our hands than mail-in voting, and 2) Voter intimidation and coercion is a crime, whether it's someone sitting next to a drop box with a gun or someone sitting next to their spouse with a threat.

Rumor: Mail-in voting offers more opportunities for mistakes in the election process.

Reality: There's no evidence for a claim like this. Every voting system can run into problems. Polling places have power outages and voting machines break. Tens of thousands of voters in Virginia were recently given the wrong information about which polling place they are supposed to go to to vote in person. Mail-in voting systems aren't any more prone to things going wrong than any other voting system.

The full reality is that mail-in voting is a convenient, secure way to run an election, which has been proven by bipartisan and nonpartisan sources over and over again. Claims to the contrary are simply political games designed to sow fear and distrust, which is unfortunately an easy way to sway voters.

However you decide to vote, just vote. Democracy only works as intended if we all participate.

Science

MIT’s trillion-frames-per-second camera can capture light as it travels

"There's nothing in the universe that looks fast to this camera."

Photo from YouTube video.

Photographing the path of light.

A new camera developed at MIT can photograph a trillion frames per second.

Compare that with a traditional movie camera which takes a mere 24. This new advancement in photographic technology has given scientists the ability to photograph the movement of the fastest thing in the Universe, light.


The actual event occurred in a nano second, but the camera has the ability to slow it down to twenty seconds.

time, science, frames per second, bounced light

The amazing camera.

Photo from YouTube video.

For some perspective, according to New York Times writer, John Markoff, "If a bullet were tracked in the same fashion moving through the same fluid, the resulting movie would last three years."


In the video below, you'll see experimental footage of light photons traveling 600-million-miles-per-hour through water.

It's impossible to directly record light so the camera takes millions of scans to recreate each image. The process has been called femto-photography and according to Andrea Velten, a researcher involved with the project, "There's nothing in the universe that looks fast to this camera."

(H/T Curiosity)


This article originally appeared on 09.08.17

@thehalfdeaddad/TikTok

Dad on TikTok shared how he addressed his son's bullying.

What do you do when you find out your kid bullied someone? For many parents, the first step is forcing an apology. While this response is of course warranted, is it really effective? Some might argue that there are more constructive ways of handling the situation that teach a kid not only what they did wrong, but how to make things right again.

Single dad Patrick Forseth recently shared how he made a truly teachable moment out of his son, Lincoln, getting into trouble for bullying. Rather than forcing an apology, Forseth made sure his son was actively part of a solution.


The thought process behind his decision, which he explained in a now-viral TikTok video, is both simple and somewhat racial compared to how many parents have been encouraged to handle similar situations.

“I got an email a few days ago from my 9-year-old son's teacher that he had done a ‘prank’ to a fellow classmate and it ended up embarrassing the classmate and hurt his feelings,” the video begins.

At this point, Forseth doesn’t split hairs. “I don't care who you are, that's bullying,” he said. “If you do something to somebody that you know has the potential end result of them being embarrassed in front of a class or hurt—you’re bullying.”

So, Forseth and Lincoln sat down for a long talk (a talk, not a lecture) about appropriate punishment and how it would have felt to be on the receiving end of such a prank.

From there, Forseth told his son that he would decide how to make things right, making it a masterclass in taking true accountability.

“I demanded nothing out of him. I demanded no apology, I demanded no apology to the teacher,” he continued, adding, “I told him that we have the opportunity to go back and make things right. We can't take things back, but we can try to correct things and look for forgiveness.”

@thehalfdeaddad Replying to @sunshinyday1227 And then it’s my kid 🤦‍♂️😡 #endbullyingnow #talktoyourkidsmore #dadlifebestlife #singledadsover40 #teachyourchildren #ReadySetLift ♬ Get You The Moon - Kina

So what did Lincoln do? He went back to his school and actually talked to the other boy he pranked. After learning that they shared a love of Pokémon, he then went home to retrieve two of his favorite Pokémon cards as a peace offering, complete with a freshly cleaned case.

Lincoln would end up sharing with his dad that the other boy was so moved by the gesture that he would end up hugging him.

“I just want to encourage all parents to talk to your kids,” Forseth concluded. “Let's try to avoid just the swat on the butt [and] send them to their room. Doesn't teach them anything.”

In Forseth’s opinion, kids get far more insight by figuring out how to resolve a problem themselves. “That's what they're actually going to face in the real world once they move out of our nests.”

He certainly has a point. A slap on the wrist followed by being marched down somewhere to say, “I’m sorry,” only further humiliates kids most of the time. With this gentler approach, kids are taught the intrinsic value of making amends after wrongdoing, not to mention the power of their own autonomy. Imagine that—blips in judgment can end up being major character-building moments.

Kudos to this dad and his very smart parenting strategy.


This article originally appeared on 3.24.23

Representative image from Canva

Because who can keep up with which laundry settings is for which item, anyway?

Once upon a time, our only option for getting clothes clean was to get out a bucket of soapy water and start scrubbing. Nowadays, we use fancy machines that not only do the labor for us, but give us free reign to choose between endless water temperature, wash duration, and spin speed combinations.

Of course, here’s where the paradox of choice comes in. Suddenly you’re second guessing whether that lace item needs to use the “delicates” cycle, or the “hand wash” one, or what exactly merits a “permanent press” cycle. And now, you’re wishing for that bygone bucket just to take away the mental rigamarole.

Well, you’re in luck. Turns out there’s only one setting you actually need. At least according to one laundry expert.

While appearing on HuffPost’s “Am I Doing It Wrong?” podcast, Patric Richardson, aka The Laundry Evangelist, said he swears by the “express” cycle, as “it’s long enough to get your clothes clean but it’s short enough not to cause any damage.”

Richardson’s reasoning is founded in research done while writing his book, “Laundry Love,” which showed that even the dirtiest items would be cleaned in the “express” cycle, aka the “quick wash” or “30 minute setting.”


Furthermore the laundry expert, who’s also the host of HGTV’s “Laundry Guy,” warned that longer wash settings only cause more wear and tear, plus use up more water and power, making express wash a much more sustainable choice.

Really, the multiple settings washing machines have more to do with people being creatures of habit, and less to do with efficiency, Richardson explained.

“All of those cycles [on the washing machine] exist because they used to exist,” he told co-hosts Raj Punjabi and Noah Michelson. “We didn’t have the technology in the fabric, in the machine, in the detergent [that we do now], and we needed those cycles. In the ’70s, you needed the ‘bulky bedding’ cycle and the ‘sanitary’ cycle ... it was a legit thing. You don’t need them anymore, but too many people want to buy a machine and they’re like, ‘My mom’s machine has “whitest whites.”’ If I could build a washing machine, it would just have one button — you’d just push it, and it’d be warm water and ‘express’ cycle and that’s it.”
washing machine

When was the last time you washed you washing machine? "Never" is a valid answer.

Canva

According to Good Housekeeping, there are some things to keep in mind if you plan to go strictly express from now on.

For one thing, the outlet recommends only filling the machine halfway and using a half dose of liquid, not powder detergent, since express cycles use less water. Second, using the setting regularly can develop a “musty” smell, due to the constant low-temperature water causing a buildup of mold or bacteria. To prevent this, running an empty wash on a hot setting, sans the detergent, is recommended every few weeks, along with regularly scrubbing the detergent drawer and door seal.

Still, even with those additional caveats, it might be worth it just to knock out multiple washes in one day. Cause let’s be honest—a day of laundry and television binging sounds pretty great, doesn’t it?

To catch even more of Richardson’s tips, find the full podcast episode here.


This article originally appeared on 2.4.24

Should babysitters be expected to clean?

When it comes to babysitting, you can hit the jackpot with someone who not only enjoys hanging out with your kiddos but also cleans out of boredom. The only babysitter I've had that experience with is my mom, but I do hear they do exist. While walking into a spotless house after a much-needed night out would be amazing, it's not really part of a standard babysitting package.

Typically, whoever babysits for you is solely there to focus on the well-being of your children. They feed them snacks, play games with them, and follow their bedtime routine to the letter. Then they hang out on your couch reminding Netflix that they're still watching and wait for you to return. Sure, they clean up dishes from dinner and whatever toys were pulled out during their time with your kids, but they don't typically clean your house.

But in a private parenting group I belong to, a long debate was started when a mom asked a group of 260k of her closest friends if it would be appropriate for a parent to ask a babysitter to clean their home.


The anonymous mom explained that her college-aged daughter had recently started babysitting for a family, but on the second day, her duties suddenly changed. There was a list of chores waiting for the babysitter that included cleaning the family's dishes and cleaning up messes that were there before the sitter arrived.

This revelation set off a firestorm of comments with many agreeing that anything outside of cleaning up after the children while they're in your care is a separate job. But not everyone was on the same page and it was clear that this was a topic that was going to cause some intense debate. Since summer months are here, there's no wonder this topic is coming up and views are split.

woman holding kid in the street

Should babysitters be expected to clean, one mom asks.

Photo by Sai De Silva on Unsplash

Scary Mommy recently published an article posing a similar question, only this was coming from a parent who wanted her babysitter to clean while her children slept. Elizabeth Narins explains that she and her husband are stretched thin and have an active toddler she jokingly calls a "toy tornado."

"Given the amount of housework that clearly needs to be done, paying someone to sit on our toy-covered couch during naps or after bedtime just seems... inefficient," Narins wrote before posing the question. "Is it completely out of line for me to ask her to declutter when my kids are in bed?"

Whether it's the expert interviewed for the Scary Mommy article or the parents in the private group, there does seem to be one common theme among the discourse: Any additional chores should be clarified in the original job description, and if it wasn't, then it should be directly brought up in a conversation with the babysitter.

Many parents in the comments believed that a housekeeper should be hired in addition to the babysitter, while others thought the babysitter should be offered more money for the additional work. But there were several people who thought it was just common courtesy for a babysitter to clean the house while the kids were asleep.

It may seem that you're paying a babysitter to do nothing while your children sleep, but you're paying them to be there in the event of an emergency. No matter which side of the debate you're on, it seems proper communication about expectations will save everyone a headache in the future.

Do you think cleaning should be expected from a babysitter?


This article originally appeared on 6.8.23

CBS Mornings|YouTube

Video shows group of strangers trying to free man from burning car

Getting into a car crash is not something people hope they experience in their lifetimes, and if it does happen you hope it's just a minor fender bender. Unfortunately not all car accidents are minor. One man found himself in a pretty major accident on a Minnesota highway becoming trapped in his car.

According to eye witnesses, the man struck a light pole on the highway, landing with the driver's side of the car pinned against the guardrail. The car quickly becomes engulfed in flames as other drivers rush to the man's side in an attempt to free him from the fiery vehicle. Kadir Tolla caught the whole thing on his dash-cam accidentally when he jumped out of his running car to help.

Multiple people fought flames trying desperately to pull the car door open to let the driver out, but the guardrail thwarts their efforts repeatedly. At some point, Tolla runs to grab a large piece of hard plastic he found on the road and attempts to break the window. Nothing seems to be going in favor of the civilian rescuers.


"He was saying, 'pull me out, pull me out, pull me out,'" Tolla tells Fox News. "We could crack the door a little bit, you know, give him a little air. It [the flames] was actually smacking us in our face but we was just jumping back."

Eventually a "highway helper" arrived and breaks the glass on the driver's side window, which allows the other drivers to pull the man through the window, carrying him to safety. They got him out just in the knick of time because before they could get the unidentified man away from the car, the flames began to dance right where the driver was sitting seconds before.

The entire video is heart stopping, and shows the power of everyday people working together to save a stranger. Watch the heroic rescue below.