New story in Politics from Time: The Pandemic Is Causing a Shortage of Poll Workers. Can States Recruit Enough By Election Day?

Denis Fortier, a retired education specialist from Lewiston, Me., has worked as a deputy election warden for several years. But both he and his wife Pauline, an election clerk, decided they weren’t comfortable working the Maine primary in July due to the coronavirus pandemic. Both are over 70.

“It was not an easy decision,” Fortier says. “It’s not an easy decision whichever way I go for the November elections. I’ve not made up my mind yet whether I’m going to work or not.”

Fortier fits the profile for a standard election worker: A retired, engaged citizen who comes back cycle after cycle to keep democracy running smoothly. According to the U.S. Election Assistance Commission’s (EAC) Election Administration and Voting Survey for the 2016 presidential election, 917,694 poll workers ran voting sites across the country. More than half the poll workers the commission gathered data from were 61 or older.

This year, many of those workers are considering sitting November out, leaving election officials scrambling to recruit replacements. “What we’ve heard from election officials is just a massive dropout of poll workers,” says Benjamin Hovland, commissioner of the U.S. Election Assistance Commission. “That has real consequences. You can’t open polling places if you don’t have poll workers.”

The increase in mail ballots this year is expected to relieve some of the demand, but an adequate election-day workforce will still be needed to staff polling sites and count the ballots. In 2018, states used an average of eight poll workers per location, and nearly 70% of jurisdictions that responded to the EAC’s survey said they struggled to recruit workers.

The primaries have already demonstrated why it’s so important to plan ahead and ensure there are enough people to keep things running. Many states reported no-shows, resulting in long lines and even closed polling locations.

In Milwaukee, Wis., an expected 180 voting sites for the April 7 presidential primary were consolidated into five. The city typically requires at least 1,400 election workers, but had less than 400 as Election Day approached. The result was long wait times for voters. Due to the city’s large Black population, the delays disproportionately affected voters of color.

Shauntay Nelson, the Wisconsin state director for All Voting is Local, says the voting-rights group has been working with the City of Milwaukee municipal clerk and other local organizations to find “nontraditional” ways to recruit poll workers. Among their efforts are using social media, holding information sessions, and even hosting a job fair. She says they’re trying to recruit people from public-facing jobs, like bartenders, that may not be working on Election Day.

Make sense of what matters in Washington. Sign up for the daily D.C. Brief newsletter.

Efforts like this are underway in other states and on the national level. Ohio is offering lawyers Continuing Legal Education credit for taking part in the election. Iowa launched a recruitment campaign specifically requesting younger Iowans participate. Colorado offered election judges $3 more per hour and paid sick leave for the primary, while the West Virginia Real Estate Commission will allow agents and brokers to earn Continuing Education credit for their service. Many of the campaigns tap into patriotic themes. The Election Assistance Commission, Hovland says, also plans to announce soon that the agency will launch a poll-worker recruitment day for September 1, a new initiative spurred by the demand.

In Texas’ Bexar County, which encompasses San Antonio, several voting sites had to close during the state’s July 14 run-off elections because of a lack of poll workers. County Judge Nelson Wolff, who oversees guidelines and funding for elections on the local level as part of the Commissioners Court, says coronavirus concerns were to blame. Looking ahead to November, Wolff says the county is planning to create four “supersites” to reduce the need to staff so many places for early voting. While Bexar County typically has 280 voting sites for elections, Wolff says he anticipates cutting that figure to between 25 and 50 sites in November. “We’re taking a number of steps in anticipation that we will not be able to man all the polls on Election Day that we have done in the past,” Wolff says.

In South Windsor, Conn., poll workers will be paid an additional $100 in hazard pay for the presidential preference primaries on August 11, and may get the same bonus in November. The 26,000-person city would face a shortage of poll workers had younger poll workers not stepped in, according to Sue Larsen, the Democratic registrar. “The hazard pay was because we understood that this was a tough financial time and the fact that they were putting themselves in a situation that could be detrimental to their health,” Larsen says.

Poll workers are recruited and hired locally and help with tasks such as verifying voters’ identities, answering questions, and assisting voters who require it. Most of these roles are temporary and paid, requiring a short training period commitment and attendance on the day of the election. A majority of states even have youth poll workers programs, allowing minors to participate. Because so many of the workers build up a base of knowledge by returning election after election, training will be crucial this year because so many are likely to be first-time poll workers.

In Seminole County, Fla., Chris Anderson, the Republican Supervisor of Elections, said that because of the pandemic, the county had to build its bench of backup workers. While a lot of workers are returning, there will be a “very high degree of new folks,” Anderson says, estimating 30% of the poll workers for the August 18 primary election will be first-timers.

“What we do for all three elections, regardless of turnout, is we overstaff,” says Anderson. “We’re planners by nature, so we are always kind of looking at … the what-if scenario.”

NPR News: Parks In Nonwhite Areas Are Half The Size Of Ones In Majority-White Areas, Study Says

Parks In Nonwhite Areas Are Half The Size Of Ones In Majority-White Areas, Study Says
Amid high temperatures and a pandemic, green spaces are a lifeline. But new data shows parks in low-income and nonwhite areas are smaller and more crowded than those in high-income and white areas.

Read more on NPR

New top story from Time: The Pandemic Is Causing a Shortage of Poll Workers. Can States Recruit Enough By Election Day?

Denis Fortier, a retired education specialist from Lewiston, Me., has worked as a deputy election warden for several years. But both he and his wife Pauline, an election clerk, decided they weren’t comfortable working the Maine primary in July due to the coronavirus pandemic. Both are over 70.

“It was not an easy decision,” Fortier says. “It’s not an easy decision whichever way I go for the November elections. I’ve not made up my mind yet whether I’m going to work or not.”

Fortier fits the profile for a standard election worker: A retired, engaged citizen who comes back cycle after cycle to keep democracy running smoothly. According to the U.S. Election Assistance Commission’s (EAC) Election Administration and Voting Survey for the 2016 presidential election, 917,694 poll workers ran voting sites across the country. More than half the poll workers the commission gathered data from were 61 or older.

This year, many of those workers are considering sitting November out, leaving election officials scrambling to recruit replacements. “What we’ve heard from election officials is just a massive dropout of poll workers,” says Benjamin Hovland, commissioner of the U.S. Election Assistance Commission. “That has real consequences. You can’t open polling places if you don’t have poll workers.”

The increase in mail ballots this year is expected to relieve some of the demand, but an adequate election-day workforce will still be needed to staff polling sites and count the ballots. In 2018, states used an average of eight poll workers per location, and nearly 70% of jurisdictions that responded to the EAC’s survey said they struggled to recruit workers.

The primaries have already demonstrated why it’s so important to plan ahead and ensure there are enough people to keep things running. Many states reported no-shows, resulting in long lines and even closed polling locations.

In Milwaukee, Wis., an expected 180 voting sites for the April 7 presidential primary were consolidated into five. The city typically requires at least 1,400 election workers, but had less than 400 as Election Day approached. The result was long wait times for voters. Due to the city’s large Black population, the delays disproportionately affected voters of color.

Shauntay Nelson, the Wisconsin state director for All Voting is Local, says the voting-rights group has been working with the City of Milwaukee municipal clerk and other local organizations to find “nontraditional” ways to recruit poll workers. Among their efforts are using social media, holding information sessions, and even hosting a job fair. She says they’re trying to recruit people from public-facing jobs, like bartenders, that may not be working on Election Day.

Make sense of what matters in Washington. Sign up for the daily D.C. Brief newsletter.

Efforts like this are underway in other states and on the national level. Ohio is offering lawyers Continuing Legal Education credit for taking part in the election. Iowa launched a recruitment campaign specifically requesting younger Iowans participate. Colorado offered election judges $3 more per hour and paid sick leave for the primary, while the West Virginia Real Estate Commission will allow agents and brokers to earn Continuing Education credit for their service. Many of the campaigns tap into patriotic themes. The Election Assistance Commission, Hovland says, also plans to announce soon that the agency will launch a poll-worker recruitment day for September 1, a new initiative spurred by the demand.

In Texas’ Bexar County, which encompasses San Antonio, several voting sites had to close during the state’s July 14 run-off elections because of a lack of poll workers. County Judge Nelson Wolff, who oversees guidelines and funding for elections on the local level as part of the Commissioners Court, says coronavirus concerns were to blame. Looking ahead to November, Wolff says the county is planning to create four “supersites” to reduce the need to staff so many places for early voting. While Bexar County typically has 280 voting sites for elections, Wolff says he anticipates cutting that figure to between 25 and 50 sites in November. “We’re taking a number of steps in anticipation that we will not be able to man all the polls on Election Day that we have done in the past,” Wolff says.

In South Windsor, Conn., poll workers will be paid an additional $100 in hazard pay for the presidential preference primaries on August 11, and may get the same bonus in November. The 26,000-person city would face a shortage of poll workers had younger poll workers not stepped in, according to Sue Larsen, the Democratic registrar. “The hazard pay was because we understood that this was a tough financial time and the fact that they were putting themselves in a situation that could be detrimental to their health,” Larsen says.

Poll workers are recruited and hired locally and help with tasks such as verifying voters’ identities, answering questions, and assisting voters who require it. Most of these roles are temporary and paid, requiring a short training period commitment and attendance on the day of the election. A majority of states even have youth poll workers programs, allowing minors to participate. Because so many of the workers build up a base of knowledge by returning election after election, training will be crucial this year because so many are likely to be first-time poll workers.

In Seminole County, Fla., Chris Anderson, the Republican Supervisor of Elections, said that because of the pandemic, the county had to build its bench of backup workers. While a lot of workers are returning, there will be a “very high degree of new folks,” Anderson says, estimating 30% of the poll workers for the August 18 primary election will be first-timers.

“What we do for all three elections, regardless of turnout, is we overstaff,” says Anderson. “We’re planners by nature, so we are always kind of looking at … the what-if scenario.”

EPA Announces 33 Members of the Environmental Financial Advisory Board

EPA Announces 33 Members of the Environmental Financial Advisory Board
Headquarters, Water (OW)
WASHINGTON (August 5, 2020) — ​Today, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) announced the 33 members of the Environmental Financial Advisory Board (EFAB). EPA welcomes 19 new and 13 returning members along with the incumbent Chair.

Published August 05, 2020
Read more

New story in Politics from Time: Trump Looks to Deliver Republican Convention Speech From the White House. Pelosi Counters ‘He Can’t Do That’

(WASHINGTON) — President Donald Trump said Wednesday he’ll probably deliver his Republican convention acceptance speech from the White House now that plans to hold the event in two battleground states have been foiled by coronavirus concerns and restrictions.

Such a move would mark an unprecedented use of public property for partisan political purposes, and congressional leaders in both parties publicly doubted Trump could go ahead with the plan. Democratic House Speaker Nancy Pelosi said flatly that he “can’t do that.”

The president leaned into the idea during a television interview.

“I think it’s a beautiful setting, and we are thinking about that,” he said on Fox News Channel’s “Fox & Friends.” “It’s certainly one of the alternatives.”

He said the convention will be a mix of virtual events and live speeches, including his remarks and a speech by first lady Melania Trump. “I’ll probably do mine live from the White House,” he said.

The Republican National Convention is scheduled for Aug. 24-27. Trump is to be formally nominated on Aug. 24 in Charlotte, North Carolina. But the venue for his speech accepting the nomination has been up in the air.

All four days of the convention, including the speech, were planned for Charlotte until Trump feuded with the state’s Democratic governor over coronavirus health restrictions. Trump then moved the speech and other elements of the convention to Jacksonville, Florida, a move welcomed by the state’s Republican governor. But the president later canceled those plans because of a resurgence of the coronavirus in Florida.

That cancellation limited his options with the clock ticking.

Trump said holding the speech at the White House would be the “easiest from the standpoint of security” and the least expensive option because he — and the many staffers, Secret Service agents and others who typically accompany him — wouldn’t have to travel.

Trump said a final decision hadn’t been made, but he seemed to be leaning toward a White House setting for what traditionally is the highlight of a national political convention.

“If for some reason somebody had difficulty with it, I would, I could go someplace else,” he said. “The easiest, least expensive and I think very beautiful would be live from the White House.”

Pelosi, D-Calif., said overtly political events aren’t held at the Capitol or the White House and accused Trump of trying to divert attention from his handling of the coronavirus.

“He can’t do that. You can’t do that,” she said on MSNBC.

The No. 2 Senate Republican, John Thune of South Dakota, noted that the Hatch Act limits the ability of federal government employees to participate in partisan political activity — though Trump and Vice President Mike Pence are exempt.

“I think anything you do on federal property would seem to be problematic,” Thune told reporters at the Capitol. Sen. John Cornyn, R-Texas, expressed similar concern.

“I would have to have somebody show me where it says he could do that. I would think on government property would be problematic,” Cornyn said at the Capitol.

Trump also said journalists will be allowed to cover his renomination in Charlotte. Reports last week said the proceeding would be closed to media coverage because of coronavirus restrictions.

The Washington Post reported Tuesday that Republican officials were considering using the White House South Lawn to stage Trump’s acceptance speech.

Presidents typically seek to hold their nominating conventions in a state seen as crucial to their chances of winning the election, but this year’s coronavirus outbreak has forced candidates to change the way they campaign. Democrats are holding their convention in Wisconsin, though the event will be almost entirely virtual.

Democratic candidate Joe Biden will not travel to Milwaukee to accept his party’s nomination. Delegates also are not traveling to the site, and all business, including the vote to nominate Biden, will be virtual or by mail ballot.

Presidents historically have treated the White House as a politics-free zone, though Trump has shown disregard for many norms and customs of the presidency.

Jordan Libowitz, communications director for Citizens for Responsibility and Ethics in Washington, said a separation between governing and campaigning is fundamental to democracy.

Libowitz said delivering a convention speech from the White House would follow Trump’s decisions to disregard the long history of presidents and presidential candidates releasing their tax returns and to attempt to steer government business to his private for-profit properties.

“The Trump administration does not seem to care about these kinds of ethical norms for the president or really for anyone else,” Libowitz said.

On Wednesday, Trump also called for the first presidential debate, scheduled for Sept. 29 in Cleveland, to be moved up because early voting will have already begun in some states. He complained that the current scheduling is “ridiculous.”

The Commission on Presidential Debates, which plans the debates, had no immediate comment.

Two other presidential debates are scheduled for Oct. 15 in Miami and Oct. 22 in Nashville.

One vice presidential debate is planned for Oct. 7 in Salt Lake City.

Election Day is Nov. 3.

___

Associated Press writer Bill Barrow in Atlanta contributed to this report.

New world news from Time: Beirut Was Already Suffering. Then Came a Deadly Explosion

The electricity was out at Fatima Al Mahmoud’s Beirut home even before a colossal explosion ripped through the Lebanese capital late on Tuesday afternoon, killing at least 135 people, and wounding a further 5,000.

A senior editor at online city guide Beirut.com, the 22-year old had been working remotely due to COVID lockdowns when a blast she initially mistook for an earthquake rattled her family’s apartment. Moments later, a much larger explosion—so big it was felt 150 miles away in Cyprus—shattered her bedroom windows. Mahmoud dragged her 12-year-old brother to the relative safety of their corridor and in the 25 minutes before the generators kicked back in and restored her Internet connection, agonized over the safety of her other teenage brother. The panic and uncertainty brought to mind the summer of 2006, when war broke out between Lebanon and Israel. But the terror she experienced at that time, Mahmoud says, “was nothing compared to what I felt yesterday.”

Mahmoud, who managed to locate her brother and whose apartment sustained only minor damage, is among Beirut’s more fortunate residents. The blast, which Lebanese authorities say took place at a warehouse containing massive quantities of explosive materials at the capital’s port, has left Beirut’s downtown strewn with rubble and twisted rebar. It blew out windows at Beirut’s airport more than five miles from the blast site and rendered 200,000 people homeless according to Beirut’s governor Marwan Abboud, who estimated the cost of the damage at up to $5 billion. After a night during which radio presenters read out the names of the missing and injured as relatives scrambled to locate loved ones, rescue teams were on Wednesday still pulling wounded survivors from the rubble, and retrieving bodies from the water. The death toll could rise still further, with many still missing according to Lebanon’s health minister.

Lebanon Explosion
Hassan Ammar—APBeirut’s destroyed port seen after the massive explosion one day earlier, on Aug. 5
LEBANON-BLAST
Marwan Tahtah—AFP via Getty ImagesWounded people walk through the debris in the heart of Beirut following a twin explosion that shook the capital on August 4, 2020.

The tragic impact of Tuesday’s blast is compounded by the pressure it will exert on Lebanon’s already devastated economy. Amid scrutiny over the government’s culpability, Lebanon’s already volatile political climate is expected to further heat. Beirut’s port, which houses the country’s only grain silos and receives 80% of its imports, was “basically the only still thing still keeping us going,” says Mahmoud. “It’s where the wheat is stored, the medicine is stored, the fuel is stored. Now all of that is gone.”

Lebanon’s economy had already been on the brink of collapse. Beginning last October millions of Lebanese protesters directed their anger at inefficient government services, corruption in Lebanon’s patronage-based political system, interference from foreign states like Iran, and the worst economic crisis since Lebanon emerged from its 15-year long war in 1990.

Government shutdowns in response to the global pandemic halted Lebanon’s protest movement, but they also added to its economic desperation. One in three Lebanese citizens is unemployed, the currency has lost 80% of its value against the dollar since last fall, and mains electricity is only available for a few hours each day. In a statement accompanying a July 28 report that showed that almost a million people in greater Beirut do not have money for sufficient food, Save the Children’s acting Country Director Jad Sakr said: “We will start seeing children dying from hunger before the end of the year.”

Lebanese Prime Minister Hassan Diab
Anadolu Agency/Getty ImagesLebanese Prime Minister Hassan Diab makes a speech on the massive blast in Beirut.

Tuesday’s blast will heap yet more pressure on Lebanon’s embattled government. Lebanon’s Prime Minister Hassan Diab said in a statement that 2,750 metric tons of ammonium nitrate, which is typically used as an agricultural fertilizer, had been stored at a port warehouse for six years, “endangering the safety of citizens”. As for why it was there, “you will have to ask customs,” Lebanon’s Interior Minister Mohammed Fehmi told local reporters in Arabic on Tuesday. Asked why fireworks were stored near the ammonium nitrate—a reason local media has provided for how the explosives were ignited—the Director-General of Lebanese Customs Badri Daher shifted blame to Beirut’s port authorities.

Reports have linked the ammonium nitrate to a Moldova-flagged cargo ship called the Rhosus, which was carrying the same quantity of the explosive material to which Diab referred in his statement before Lebanese authorities impounded it in 2014. In a letter sent to Russian journalists in 2014, the ship’s Russian captain said the chemicals onboard effectively made the vessel a “floating bomb.” How and why they remained at the port for six years is still unclear, but Reuters reports that Lebanon’s government has agreed to place all Beirut port officials who have overseen storage and security since 2014 under house arrest.

LEBANON-BLAST
Patrick Baz—AFP via Getty ImagesAn injured man sits next to a restaurant in the Mar Mikhael neighborhood of Beirut on August 5 in the aftermath of the massive explosion.

Buck-passing has long been a facet of Lebanon’s dysfunctional political system, but it also underscores the fact the Lebanese state does not exercise full control over the port, says Lina Khatib, who leads the Middle East and North Africa program at London-based think tank Chatham House. Hezbollah, a militant Iran-backed political faction close to Lebanon’s President Michel Aoun is known to have a hand in the running of Beirut’s Port.

In addition to being vital to the Lebanese economy, the port has long been a conduit of smuggling for multiple political groups in the country. Hezbollah, which the U.S. and some European countries has designated a terrorist organization, “has in the past used the port to smuggle explosive material into Lebanon for the manufacturing of ammunition,” Khatib says.

There is no evidence that was the intended purpose of the ammonium nitrate said to have caused Tuesday’s blast, and an initial investigation has reportedly found years of inaction and negligence over its storage. Still, Hezbollah’s oversized political role in Lebanon is one factor in the country’s economic crisis, which has been exacerbated by the White House’s maximum pressure campaign. That had made Lebanon’s European backers, such as France, wary of providing financial support in the recent past.

In the wake of the blast, offers of aid have come from countries including Qatar, France, Russia, Iran, Russia, and even Israel, which is still technically at war with Lebanon. France’s President Emmanuele Macron is set to meet Aoun on Thursday. But longer-term, Khatib says, “the only way forward is for the [International Monetary Fund] to support Lebanon.” Talks over a bailout stalled last month and the IMF has conditioned its assistance on Lebanon implementing a range of measures designed to increase transparency and financial accountability. Failing to undertake urgent reforms now, says Khatib, will push Lebanon to become a “failed state.”

For now, civil society groups have stepped in to fill the gaps left by the government. Mahmoud, the Beirut.com editor says that she and her friends set up an online volunteer group that gathers donations to help people struggling to buy food and other essential goods after the blast. An Instagram page called @open_houses_lebanon offers accommodation for the displaced in over 150 locations across Lebanon. On Twitter, others offered vacant rooms under the hashtag #ourhomesareopen.

Still, the immediate focus on helping those most urgently in need will not detract from public anger at the government, says Mahmoud. “People are promising that today we mourn our martyrs and tomorrow we go back to the streets,” she tells TIME. “I hope that’s true.”

New top story from Time: 3 Ways Creativity Can Help Mental Health, From the Musician Jewel

Singer-songwriter Jewel didn’t have an easy upbringing. Her childhood was marked by neglect, abuse and anxiety. At 18, she became homeless. Jewel started writing songs because she didn’t know how else to cope, and when she sang them at bars for an audience, she saw her own anguish reflected back at her. “I watched people in pain every day,” she told TIME. “I made a commitment in my life to try to figure out what to do with pain. That journey set me off on an incredible adventure that involved music, but really the number-one goal always was: How do I advocate for myself? How do I fight for my happiness?”

In a recent episode of TIME for Health Talks, Jewel and her friend Dr. Blaise Aguirre, assistant professor of psychiatry at Harvard Medical School, spoke about creative ways for young people to take care of their mental health during stressful times.

Create something

Writing serves as a form of mindfulness for Jewel, helping her stay in the present moment without self-judgment. In her early years, “every time I wrote, I learned something,” she said. “I noticed things I didn’t realize I noticed, and I always felt calmer and less anxious. If you’re observant and curious, you’re forced into the present.”

You don’t have to be an artist, poet, painter or sculptor for creativity to aid your mental health. “I think of creativity in a way not solely focused on art,” Aguirre said. Instead, think of it as mind-expansion, or seeing things in a new and joyful way—not necessarily making something tangible. “Maybe going for a walk is the new creation, because now you’re outside, and you’re seeing the world in a new way,” he suggested.

Don’t dismiss the small things

Aguirre believes in the benefits of living an “antidepressant life“: one filled with lifestyle choices that can improve mood immediately. “There are things that you can do that are going to lift your mood in any case,” Aguirre said. These can include any activity, like hiking or reading a book, that stops the brain from fixating on negative thoughts, and spending time outdoors to stimulate brain chemicals that increase happiness. Meditating, exercising and fostering social connections also help.

Oh, and so does skipping. “You cannot be sad and skip at the same time,” Aguirre said. Once, Aguirre skipped with one of his patient across the Harvard campus to make sure he made it to his therapy session. They looked ridiculous, but “by the time we got there, both of our moods had lifted,” Aguirre said. With another patient, he tried loudly laughing—which releases serotonin—until the patient joined in. Weird, he knows, but it helped.

Of course, medication is often appropriate and necessary, and mental health conditions cannot be solely solved by a giggle. But easy strategies like these can have real effects. “The conditions for happiness exist right now,” said Aguirre. “Little things can make big changes.”

Notice negative thoughts—and change the script

Something that Jewel did during childhood to help herself feel better was to actively try to notice which negative thoughts and compulsions she kept having, and train herself to change them. Whenever she felt the urge to shoplift, for example, she forced herself to write a song. At first, she hated it, but the more she replaced a bad habit with a good one, the more she grew to like it. Eventually, she was writing 10 songs a day.

Through her charity, Jewel now shares these strategies with children. “We curate what photos we show on social media, but we don’t curate our own thoughts,” Jewel said. “But you can. Once you start teaching kids that, you start seeing these kids turn around.”

Scientifically, negative thoughts and internal dialogues really do have the power to change your brain for the worse. “The way we learn anything is by repetition,” Aguirre said. “When you repeat negative thoughts, your brain gets good at negative thoughts. You repeat, ‘Nobody will ever love me.’ You repeat, ‘My life sucks.’ You repeat, ‘I’m depressed.’ And then you look for things in the environment that tell you that that’s the way you should feel. You’re just going to get good at thinking that; it does rewire your brain.”

The solution isn’t to delude yourself into thinking things are great. “But you’ve got to recognize that that’s a pattern,” Aguirre said. “Once you start seeing the world through that lens, you miss out on all the other wonderful things that exist.” Where you choose to focus matters.

New top story from Time: Trump Looks to Deliver Republican Convention Speech From the White House. Pelosi Counters ‘He Can’t Do That’

(WASHINGTON) — President Donald Trump said Wednesday he’ll probably deliver his Republican convention acceptance speech from the White House now that plans to hold the event in two battleground states have been foiled by coronavirus concerns and restrictions.

Such a move would mark an unprecedented use of public property for partisan political purposes, and congressional leaders in both parties publicly doubted Trump could go ahead with the plan. Democratic House Speaker Nancy Pelosi said flatly that he “can’t do that.”

The president leaned into the idea during a television interview.

“I think it’s a beautiful setting, and we are thinking about that,” he said on Fox News Channel’s “Fox & Friends.” “It’s certainly one of the alternatives.”

He said the convention will be a mix of virtual events and live speeches, including his remarks and a speech by first lady Melania Trump. “I’ll probably do mine live from the White House,” he said.

The Republican National Convention is scheduled for Aug. 24-27. Trump is to be formally nominated on Aug. 24 in Charlotte, North Carolina. But the venue for his speech accepting the nomination has been up in the air.

All four days of the convention, including the speech, were planned for Charlotte until Trump feuded with the state’s Democratic governor over coronavirus health restrictions. Trump then moved the speech and other elements of the convention to Jacksonville, Florida, a move welcomed by the state’s Republican governor. But the president later canceled those plans because of a resurgence of the coronavirus in Florida.

That cancellation limited his options with the clock ticking.

Trump said holding the speech at the White House would be the “easiest from the standpoint of security” and the least expensive option because he — and the many staffers, Secret Service agents and others who typically accompany him — wouldn’t have to travel.

Trump said a final decision hadn’t been made, but he seemed to be leaning toward a White House setting for what traditionally is the highlight of a national political convention.

“If for some reason somebody had difficulty with it, I would, I could go someplace else,” he said. “The easiest, least expensive and I think very beautiful would be live from the White House.”

Pelosi, D-Calif., said overtly political events aren’t held at the Capitol or the White House and accused Trump of trying to divert attention from his handling of the coronavirus.

“He can’t do that. You can’t do that,” she said on MSNBC.

The No. 2 Senate Republican, John Thune of South Dakota, noted that the Hatch Act limits the ability of federal government employees to participate in partisan political activity — though Trump and Vice President Mike Pence are exempt.

“I think anything you do on federal property would seem to be problematic,” Thune told reporters at the Capitol. Sen. John Cornyn, R-Texas, expressed similar concern.

“I would have to have somebody show me where it says he could do that. I would think on government property would be problematic,” Cornyn said at the Capitol.

Trump also said journalists will be allowed to cover his renomination in Charlotte. Reports last week said the proceeding would be closed to media coverage because of coronavirus restrictions.

The Washington Post reported Tuesday that Republican officials were considering using the White House South Lawn to stage Trump’s acceptance speech.

Presidents typically seek to hold their nominating conventions in a state seen as crucial to their chances of winning the election, but this year’s coronavirus outbreak has forced candidates to change the way they campaign. Democrats are holding their convention in Wisconsin, though the event will be almost entirely virtual.

Democratic candidate Joe Biden will not travel to Milwaukee to accept his party’s nomination. Delegates also are not traveling to the site, and all business, including the vote to nominate Biden, will be virtual or by mail ballot.

Presidents historically have treated the White House as a politics-free zone, though Trump has shown disregard for many norms and customs of the presidency.

Jordan Libowitz, communications director for Citizens for Responsibility and Ethics in Washington, said a separation between governing and campaigning is fundamental to democracy.

Libowitz said delivering a convention speech from the White House would follow Trump’s decisions to disregard the long history of presidents and presidential candidates releasing their tax returns and to attempt to steer government business to his private for-profit properties.

“The Trump administration does not seem to care about these kinds of ethical norms for the president or really for anyone else,” Libowitz said.

On Wednesday, Trump also called for the first presidential debate, scheduled for Sept. 29 in Cleveland, to be moved up because early voting will have already begun in some states. He complained that the current scheduling is “ridiculous.”

The Commission on Presidential Debates, which plans the debates, had no immediate comment.

Two other presidential debates are scheduled for Oct. 15 in Miami and Oct. 22 in Nashville.

One vice presidential debate is planned for Oct. 7 in Salt Lake City.

Election Day is Nov. 3.

___

Associated Press writer Bill Barrow in Atlanta contributed to this report.