Pam Fessler

Pam Fessler is a correspondent on NPR's National Desk, where she covers poverty, philanthropy, and voting issues.

In her reporting at NPR, Fessler does stories on homelessness, hunger, affordable housing, and income inequality. She reports on what non-profit groups, the government, and others are doing to reduce poverty and how those efforts are working. Her poverty reporting was recognized with a 2011 First Place National Headliner Award.

Fessler also covers elections and voting, including efforts to make voting more accessible, accurate, and secure. She has done countless stories on everything from the debate over state voter identification laws to Russian hacking attempts and long lines at the polls.

After the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks, Fessler became NPR's first Homeland Security correspondent. For seven years, she reported on efforts to tighten security at ports, airports, and borders, and the debate over the impact on privacy and civil rights. She also reported on the government's response to Hurricane Katrina, The 9/11 Commission Report, Social Security, and the Census. Fessler was one of NPR's White House reporters during the Clinton and Bush administrations.

Before becoming a correspondent, Fessler was the acting senior editor on the Washington Desk and NPR's chief election editor. She coordinated all network coverage of the presidential, congressional, and state elections in 1996 and 1998. In her more than 25 years at NPR, Fessler has also been deputy Washington Desk editor and Midwest National Desk editor.

Earlier in her career, she was a senior writer at Congressional Quarterly magazine. Fessler worked there for 13 years as both a reporter and editor, covering tax, budget, and other news. She also worked as a budget specialist at the U.S. Office of Management and Budget, and was a reporter at The Record newspaper in Hackensack, New Jersey.

Fessler has a master's of public administration from the Maxwell School at Syracuse University and a bachelor's degree from Douglass College in New Jersey.

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Dirty tricks and disinformation have been used to intimidate and mislead voters for as long as there have been elections. But they have been especially pervasive this year as millions of Americans cast ballots in a chaotic and contentious election.

This has led to stepped-up efforts by election officials and voter advocates to counter the disinformation so voters are not discouraged from turning out.

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Many of the approximately 300 lawsuits filed this year over voting rules have been settled. But some key ones remain unresolved and court decisions could still reshape how voting is conducted in some crucial states.

The flurry of last-minute legal action comes as more than 5 million people have already cast ballots early or by mail, causing some confusion over what voters have to do to ensure that their votes count.

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The 2020 general election has begun with North Carolina becoming the first state to start mailing out absentee ballots on Friday, two months before Election Day.

Other states will begin doing the same over the next few weeks in an election that's expected to break all records in the number of ballots cast early and by mail. Minnesota will be the first state to offer early in-person voting starting Sept. 18, with many states following not long afterward.

Cuts to the U.S. Postal Service have led to widespread concerns about mail-in ballots arriving on time in November. Tens of thousands of ballots have already been rejected this year because they were received after the deadline.

Now, a number of states are extending those deadlines, so ballots only need to be postmarked by Election Day, instead of received by Election Day, which is currently the law in most places.

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Election-year legal battles over voting procedures are nothing new. But their scope and intensity are growing this year amid deep partisan polarization and the logistical challenges presented by the coronavirus pandemic. The legal fights are expected to heat up in the coming weeks.

The Senate coronavirus relief bill now under consideration would give states $400 million to protect upcoming elections against the pandemic threat. The money, far less than the $4 billion some Democrats had wanted, would allow states to expand mail-in and early voting, as well as online voter registration. The money could also be used to help secure in-person voting sites.

The election-year coronavirus pandemic has pushed back elections in more than a dozen states, leading to growing interest in expanding voting by mail this year in order to keep poll workers and voters safe.

Updated at 5:05 p.m. ET

Bernie Sanders and Joe Biden have canceled their respective rallies tonight in Cleveland, Ohio, with the campaigns citing public health concerns amid the coronavirus outbreak.

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Voters waited up to seven hours in line to cast ballots yesterday. As NPR's Pam Fessler reports, problems were especially bad in Texas and California, even though voters had more options than ever before, such as early voting and vote-by-mail.

A nonprofit group wants to see more unmarried women, young people and people of color on the nation's voter rolls, so it recently sent 9 million letters urging those groups to register.

But the mailers have upset some election officials, who say they've left voters confused.

The mailers clearly state that they're from the Voter Participation Center or its sister organization, the Center for Voter Information. But the letter inside looks like it could come from the government.

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Top election officials from all 50 states are meeting in Washington this week to prepare for 2020 — a gathering amid widespread concern over whether the upcoming elections will be fair and accurate, as well as free of the kind of foreign interference that marred the 2016 campaign.

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The Trump administration's new public charge rule, which makes it more difficult for immigrants to get green cards if it looks like they might need public assistance, is set to go into effect on Oct. 15. Multiple groups, including several states and immigrants' rights advocates, are in court trying to delay the rule and ultimately block it.

Updated at 9:27 p.m. ET

Federal judges in three states — New York, California and Washington — have issued temporary injunctions against the Trump administration's "public charge" rule, preventing it from taking effect on Oct. 15.

The controversial rule would make it more difficult for immigrants to get green cards if it looks as though they might need public assistance. Titled "Inadmissibility on Public Charge Grounds," the rule sparked several legal challenges.

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The nation's intelligence agencies have designated one person to be in charge of coordinating the government's efforts to identify threats to U.S. elections.

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The Trump administration is considering changing the way the government measures poverty, which has anti-poverty groups worried that many low-income individuals will be pushed off assistance programs such as food stamps, Medicaid and Head Start.

The possible change would involve adjusting the poverty line annually using a different inflation measure, one that would result in a slower increase over time.

The United States is almost alone among industrial countries and other democracies in putting most of the onus of registering to vote on individual voters, a sometimes cumbersome process that may explain a large portion of why turnout rates in the U.S. are lower than in many other countries.

Lawmakers told Housing and Urban Development Secretary Ben Carson Wednesday that there's little chance Congress will accept the Trump administration's plan to make deep cuts in housing and development programs.

Three-quarters of a million people would likely lose their food stamps later this year under a new proposal by the Trump administration. The goal is to encourage able-bodied adults to go to work and get off government aid. But opponents predict people would go hungry instead, if the rule goes into effect.

A public comment period, which ends Tuesday, has so far drawn more than 28,000 comments overwhelmingly against the proposed rule.

Poor families in the United States are having an increasingly difficult time finding an affordable place to live, due to high rents, static incomes and a shortage of housing aid. Tenant advocates worry that the new tax bill, as well as potential cuts in housing aid, will make the problem worse.

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