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Rebecca Long-Bailey embarrassed as Keir Starmer set for LANDSLIDE Labour leader victory

The YouGov poll showed the shadow Brexit secretary is set to slide to victory with a sizeable 53 percent of the vote. This is compared to the 31 percent of Rebecca Long-Bailey, dubbed the ‘Corbyn continuity candidate’, and the 16 percent of Lisa Nandy. It is, therefore, believed Sir Keir could even end up winning the contest for the leadership in the first round – with Ms Long-Bailey not even forcing a second ballot to members.

The poll surveyed 1,323 Labour Party members and others eligible to vote in the leadership contest from February 20 to 25.

It asked: “Who will you give your first preference vote to in the Labour Leadership contest?”

Sir Keir cruised ahead of his rivals, who have been respectively battling to convince the party members they are the best candidate.

The Holborn and St Pancras MP was seen to be victorious amongst all backgrounds of the party – men and women, all age ranges, social statuses and in all parts of the country.

However, he was pipped to the post by Ms Long-Bailey among Labour members who voted for Brexit in 2016.

More than 580,000 Labour Party members will be sent ballots this week ahead of voting for Jeremy Corbyn’s successor.

The Labour Party hopes to recover from a catastrophic General Election defeat in December 2019.

Preferential voting will be used, so if no candidate wins more than 50 percent in the first round, the candidate in last place will be eliminated and votes redistributed until one candidate crosses the finishing line.

Sir Keir is widely viewed as the most popular candidate to win the Labour leadership contest.

Ms Long-Bailey is seen as most likely to challenge him.

But, Ms Nandy, considered the underdog in the race, has gained a wide range of support.

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All candidates will now have until April 2 to convince the electorate they are the best choice.

Sir Keir, Ms Long-Bailey and Ms Nandy have all vowed to offer their rivals positions in the shadow cabinet if they win.

The shadow Brexit secretary said: “I would happily offer both these candidates a top job in the shadow cabinet, and I’d happily serve them if they wanted me to do the same.”

Ms Nandy said: “I like both of these people, I respect them, I would want them in my shadow cabinet doing big jobs.”

And Ms Long-Bailey said she would welcome Ms Nandy and Sir Keir to her cabinet, describing both as “brilliant”.

Sir Keir was given another boost in his bid for the Labour leadership, recently.

London Mayor Sadiq Khan formally endorsed his bid in a tweet this morning.

He wrote: “I will be voting for Keir Starmer to be the next Labour leader. I’ve known Keir for decades.

“He’s the best person to unite our party, take the fight to the Tories and put Labour in government.”

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‘Labour must fight the Tories not amongst ourselves’, urges Keir Starmer

One-hundred-and-twenty years ago in the Congregational Memorial Hall in central London, the Labour Party was born.

Keir Hardie passed a motion establishing “a distinct Labour group in Parliament” that would stand up for the working class.

It brought together trade unions and socialist societies to form a single, united movement.

Since then, we have had our ups and down – our victories and our defeats.

But together we have achieved so much.

We have made the impossible possible.

We have been the greatest force for social change this country has known.

We created the National Health Service, passed the Equal Pay Act, introduced the Minimum Wage, created Sure Start, decriminalised homosexuality, took a million children out of poverty and helped bring about peace in Northern Ireland.

But we only achieved those things in power.


  • Labour leadership poll predicts Keir Starmer will easily win contest in first round

  • Sadiq Khan backs Keir Starmer in Labour leadership race

In government, Labour can change lives. In opposition, we can’t.

That is why December’s election result was so devastating.

More so, because it was our fourth defeat in a row. By 2024 we will have been out of power for 14 years. A whole generation will have grown up knowing nothing but Conservative Prime Ministers.

The task ahead of us is huge, but I’m standing to be leader of the Labour Party because I believe it is a mountain we must climb.

First, we need to unite. How can we expect people to trust us if we spend more time fighting ourselves than the Tories?

Second, we must be an incredibly effective opposition to Boris Johnson. We have to pin him down day in day out and expose his failures in government.

We need a programme for the 2020s and 2030s that is every bit as transformative as the one Hardie set out 120 years ago

The best moments of our history have shown that only Labour can tackle injustices. Today we see injustice everywhere: the climate emergency causing flooding across the country, rampant inequality, a cruel social security system and a broken housing market.

If I am elected Labour leader, it will be my mission to win back the trust of Mirror readers and to show that Labour, once again, can be a force for good and a force for change.

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Rough sleeping statistics could be showing just a fifth of the problem

Rough sleeping in the UK could be five times worse than the current UK government figures, according to an investigation that revealed that as many as 28,000 people were recorded sleeping rough in a year.

Official figures, calculated on the basis of a one-night snapshot, claimed that 4667 people were sleeping on the streets in England in 2018.

But an investigation by the BBC asked councils for their rough sleeping stats .

The responses show nearly 25,000 people were recorded sleeping rough at least once in England during the latest year.

After the investigation Labour's John Healey demanded that that the government's statistics, which he branded "seriously misleading" were investigated by the government's statistics authority.


  • Labour leadership poll predicts Keir Starmer will easily win contest in first round

The Shadow Housing Minister said: “These figures expose the shameful scale of rough sleeping on our country’s streets.

"The Conservatives can’t begin to fix the problem when they won’t admit the scale of it,” he said

“Ministers should replace these discredited statistics and adopt Labour ’s plan to end rough sleeping for good.”

Writing to UK’s statistics chief Sir David Norgrove, Mr Healey said: "The government’s rough sleeping statistics are the sole statistics produced by government on rough sleeping so they are naturally and inevitably assumed by the public to be an accurate portrayal of the scale of rough sleeping. This is clearly not the case.

"I would be grateful if you would investigate the flaws in these figures and how the government’s statistics could be improved so they better capture the level of rough sleeping in our country.

A Government spokesman told the BBC: "We're committed to eliminating rough sleeping by the end of the Parliament and our efforts have already led to the first nationwide fall in a decade."

"We're confident our independently verified snapshot provides a good estimate of the numbers of people sleeping rough on a given night.

"This year we will give nearly half a billion pounds to councils and charities to support homelessness and rough sleeping services and get people off the streets for good."

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Britain on verge of WALKING AWAY! Fury at more of Barnier’s Brexit trade deal demands

The UK will be given “super preferential access” only if it agrees to common standards, the chief negotiator said. But No 10 insisted ministers are ready to walk away with a loose trading arrangement if Brussels refuses to budge. Britain’s negotiating mandate, which stretches over around 40 pages, will be published today.

A Government source: “We’re not going to be signing up to a level playing field or something which means we won’t be in control of our own borders and laws in the future.

“State aid is obviously another area where we’ll have our own regime. 

“On fishing, our position is we take back control of our waters.”

Mr Barnier blamed “social anger” and feelings of abandonment for Brexit.

Speaking at an event in the European Parliament, he said it was “too late” for the EU to tackle the issue in Britain but it must deal with “similar popular sentiment” in some regions across the bloc.

Talks on future relations with the bloc begin on Monday in Brussels.

Mr Barnier said the EU would offer “unprecedented” trading terms if the UK agrees to rules that stop unfair competition.

He warned Brussels would not “take the risk that the UK becomes a kind of assembly hub” for goods from all over the world.

The negotiator also dismissed demands for a Canada-style trade deal “because of Britain’s proximity to the EU”.

He added: “We are ready to offer to the UK super-preferential access to our markets – a level of access that would be unprecedented for a third country.

“Is this something we can do without firm guarantees that the UK will respect the level playing field and avoid unfair competitive advantages? The answer, I’m afraid, is simple. We cannot.

“We want competition in the future but it must be fair – fair and free.”

No 10 said Boris Johnson has a “clear mandate and a set of obligations” based on his election manifesto. 

The PM’s spokesman said: “If we are able to get a Canada-style free trade agreement then good but if leave on terms which mean we will be trading with an Australian-style relationship, then that’s fine as well.”

Adrian O’Neill, Irish ambassador to the UK, said it should be possible to reach agreement on a trade deal by the end of the year, even if does not cover all aspects of future EU-UK relations.

“I think it will be challenging to negotiate a deal in that timeframe but I think it will be possible. I think Mr Barnier also thinks it will be possible,” he told BBC Radio 5 Live.

“It may not cover all of the desirable areas that we would like it to cover, it may not be as comprehensive as we would have wished, but I think there is sufficient time, certainly, to negotiate a fair trade agreement.”

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Boris Johnson admits £111 a month Universal Credit is not enough to live on

Boris Johnson has admitted £111 a month of Universal Credit is not enough to live on after being confronted with the shocking case of a pregnant woman.

The Tory leader – who once described his £250,000 newspaper salary as "chicken feed" – made the confession at Prime Minister's Questions after he was quizzed by SNP MP Mhairi Black.

Ms Black raised the case of a constituent who is eight-and-a-half months pregnant and on the new six-in-one benefit – which includes a five-week wait for the first payment.

That wait leads many families to take out advances, paid back out of their future benefits, to cover the gap. But they're then hit by the repayments, which totalled £50million in one month alone last year.

She said: "After deductions, including an advance, she is left with the grand sum of £111 a month to feed herself, to heat her home and care for her child."


  • How DWP's five-week wait for Universal Credit has cost thousands where you live

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Ms Black said she would be happy to give the PM more details so he could help, but added: "I want to ask him in principle.

"As the Prime Minister, does he think that £111 a month is enough for anyone to live on?"

Further details of the case – including the woman's name or details of why she only ended up with £111 – were not immediately available.

DWP statistics say the average Universal Credit payment is £720 a month, though the advice on deductions is less clear.

Mr Johnson replied to Ms Black: "I am of course very happy indeed to look at the case and to do whatever we can to help with the individual case.

"But I must say to her that in the round, Universal Credit has helped and is helping 200,000 people into work.

"There [are] an estimated 1million disabled households who will get around £100 more per month as a a result of Universal Credit – and I am proud to stand by our record of helping people into work and off welfare."

"As I've said to her before I am more than happy to look at the case.

"And the answer to her question, in a word, is no."

Mr Johnson worded his answer carefully just weeks after being slapped down by the official statistics watchdog for making a false claim about Universal Credit.

In January the Prime Minister told PMQs the six-in-one benefit "has in fact succeeded in getting 200,000 people into jobs." But the UK Statistics Authority said his claim was inaccurate – because the figure is only predicted once the benefit is fully rolled out in 2024.

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Senior House Democrat Clyburn endorses Biden for president

CHARLESTON, S.C. (Reuters) – James Clyburn, the No. 3 Democrat in the House of Representatives and an influential black legislator from the early voting state of South Carolina, said on Wednesday he would endorse former U.S. Vice President Joe Biden’s bid for president.

Biden, the former vice president who was once the front-runner in the national race, is counting on his traditional strong support from black voters, who make up about 60% of the state’s Democratic electorate, to help him win in South Carolina’s primary on Saturday.

Democratic White House contenders attended a breakfast with black ministers in South Carolina, hours after a rowdy debate that featured repeated attacks on front-runner Bernie Sanders as a risky choice who would lead the party to defeat in November.

Sanders and the other debate participants – all except billionaire Michael Bloomberg – were at the breakfast hosted by civil rights leader Al Sharpton. The event focused on mobilizing black churches to get out the vote this year.

Opinion polls have shown Sanders cutting into Biden’s lead with those voters, and the latest Reuters/Ipsos poll showed Sanders surpassing Biden in support among them.

In a debate on Tuesday night that featured candidates repeatedly shouting over one another and plowing past their time limits, Sanders’ opponents attacked the self-avowed democratic socialist, saying his nomination would cost Democrats the White House and control of Congress.

“Bernie will lose to Donald Trump, and Donald Trump and the House and the Senate and some of the statehouses will all go red,” said Bloomberg, the former New York mayor, calling the prospect “a catastrophe.”

Pete Buttigieg, the moderate former mayor of South Bend, Indiana, criticized Sanders for the changing estimates on the costs of his proposals such as government-run healthcare and warned the front-runner would bring about chaos.

“I can tell you exactly how it all adds up. It adds up to four more years of Donald Trump,” Buttigieg said.

“If you think the last four years has been chaotic, divisive, toxic, exhausting, imagine spending the better part of 2020 with Bernie Sanders versus Donald Trump.”

LOOMING PRIMARIES

Sanders has taken command of the Democratic race after his resounding win last week in Nevada, and the debate was the last chance for his opponents to try to stop his momentum before this weekend’s South Carolina primary and next week’s 14 vital Super Tuesday contests.

Sanders held his ground, defending healthcare as a human right and saying his economic and social justice agenda, including his Medicare for All plan to replace private health insurance with a government-run program, is supported by the American people.

“If you want to beat Trump, what you’re going to need is an unprecedented grassroots movement of black and white and Latino, Native American and Asian, people who are standing up and fighting for justice. That’s what our movement is about,” Sanders said.

Underscoring the high-stakes of Tuesday’s debate, even Elizabeth Warren, a senator from Massachusetts and a progressive ally of Sanders, took a swing at her old friend.

“I think I would make a better president than Bernie. And the reason for that is that getting a progressive agenda enacted is going to be really hard,” said Warren, who is trying to revive her struggling campaign after poor showings in the first three nominating contests.

“I dug in, I did the work, and then Bernie’s team trashed me,” she said.

Also attending the breakfast in Charleston on Wednesday will be Senator Amy Klobuchar and billionaire activist Tom Steyer.

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Brexit LIVE: Sorry Boris! Barnier launches INFURIATING attack 5 days before trade showdown

Trade talks between the EU and the UK will kick off on Monday, as the two sides attempt to thrash out a deal before the end of the Brexit transition period, that concludes on December 31. Ahead of the talks, Michel Barnier has issued a stern warning to the UK, telling the PM the EU won’t conclude a trade deal “at any price”. He also dashed Boris Johnson’s hopes of securing a Canada-style trade deal, by saying the UK will require a different set of rules.

The EU’s chief Brexit negotiator said: “The UK will be the EU’s third-largest trading partner, almost 10 times bigger then Canada.

“At the same time Canada is some 5,000 kilometers away.

“It is clear that the rules cannot be the same.”

A second sticking point between the two sides is the issue of the level playing field – where the EU insists Britain must adhere to the bloc’s rules and regulations post-Brexit.

Downing Street has said the UK will never accept rule-taking from Brussels and rejected the proposals.

The Prime Minister’s spokesman said: “The EU has respected the autonomy of other countries around the world in trade deals – we just want the same.”

FOLLOW EXPRESS.CO.UK FOR LIVE UPDATES:

12.37pm update: Britons can get their hands on the first blue British passports TODAY 

Britons applying for new passports can expect to get their hands on the new blue editon – launched as a symbol of post-Brexit Britain.

The new blue passport design will start being issued from March 2020 according to the gov.uk website.

12pm update: PMQs kicks off in the Commons 

For live upates, follow HERE. 

11.24am update: EU predicts British economy will grow if transition period extended 

The European Commission has predicted the UK economy will grow by 1.2 percent next year if the Brexit transition period was extended. 

They also warn: “Even in a scenario where an FTA is concluded the resulting situation will be less beneficial to EU-UK trading relations than when UK was in the Internal Market and Customs Union.”

10.33am update: EU plot to ‘sacrifice British fisheries’ condemned by furious Brexiteers

The European Union’s attempts to force the UK into sacrificing its fishing industry has been condemned as “egregious” by furious Brexiteers.

10am update: Furious chicken row erupts on GMB over US trade deal

Brexiteer activist Tom Harwood brutally dismissed arguments against striking a post-Brexit trade deal with the US over concerns food standards might be compromised. 

Remainers have long claimed striking trade deal with countries lacking strong agri-food standards could compromise the quality of UK foods and be harmful to people.

But Mr Harwood was quick to dismiss major concerns as he pointed out scientists from the European Union’s own European Food Safety Authority (EFSA) claimed the consumption of food treated with chlorine would not be harmful.

9.44am update: Brexit will have ‘huge impact’ on social care 

An expert has issued a warning to the Goverment that Brexit could have potentially disastrous consequences for people who need support.

Karolina Gerlich, chief executive of the National Association of Care and Support Workers, told the London Assembly that people’s lives are on the line.

She criticised the Government’s proposals to introduce a £25,600 salary threshold for skilled workers entering the UK, as social care workers would not meet the threshold.

She said the approach “seems to confuse academic ability with skills”.

Ms Gerlich said: “It isn’t necessarily something where we can say we’ll give the sector a couple of years to adjust and work things out.

“Because while you’re adjusting and working things out it is people’s lives that are going to be at risk.”

Social care includes a range of jobs supporting older, disabled or mentally ill people, both adults and children – it can be help washing, dressing and taking medicine, as well as more specialist roles.

9.13am update: Eustice says there is ‘room for discussion’ on US trade standards

Enviornment Secretary George Eustice spoke at the NFU conference this morning where he was grilled on food standards on US imports.

He said: “I didn’t say that there was room for compromise [on standards] with the US on a trade deal, I said there was room for discussion.”

Mr Eustice also acknowledged the importance of food standards. 

He said: “The entire nation eats the food we produce, so when the NFU speaks up on standards up you are speaking up for everyone.”

8.40am update: Steve Baker resigns as ERG chairman

Steve Baker has stepped down as chairman of the European Research Group (ERG), the right-wing Tory pressure group.

He said that after chairing the group for five years it was time to give way to others on the issue.

Mr Baker said the group had “wielded more power from the backbenches than any others in the long history of our party and country”.

The Wycombe MP said he wanted to spend more time with his constituents and to do his bit to “start bringing the country together now we have left the EU”.

8.10am update: Public ‘fed up’ with repeated warnings from the EU

Tim Martin, the chairman of pub chain Wetherspoons, has said the British public is “fed up” with the EU’s warnings about delays to a Brexit deal.

He warned negotiators that people will not be “fooled” by a deal that fails to achieve what he said would be a real restoration of democracy. 

Mr Martin said: “If the public is tricked or cajoled it will have the power to drive imports from France and Germany down to zero, irrespective of any agreement.

“In my opinion the public is fed up with repeated warnings from French President Emmanuel Macron and EU chief negotiator Michel Barnier, in areas such as fishing rights and prospective delays to a deal beyond the end of this year.

“It’s truly pathetic of the EU to imply that a deal can’t be done by December 2020.

“Brussels is a laughing stock in most of the world for its bureaucracy and sclerosis.

“If Macron and Barnier don’t want a deal, or make threats, consumers will simply reject EU goods and will buy from the rest of the world, as Wetherspoon has shown by swapping French brandy and champagne, and German spirits and beers, for UK and new world alternatives.”

8am update: Heathrow boss warns ‘no Global Britain’ without third runaway

The head of Heathrow has warned Boris Johnson if he blocks the airports third runway there will be “no Global Britain”. 

Speaking to BBC Radio 4’s Today Programme, the CEO of Heathrow Airport Ltd urged Boris Johnson to speed up plans to build a third runway.

CEO John Holland-Kaye argued Brexit Britain could only thrive if the London airport is expanded to allow trading relations with countries outside the EU to flourish.

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Sanders comes under fire early at South Carolina Democratic debate

CHARLESTON, S.C. (Reuters) – Surging front-runner Bernie Sanders came under fire early in the Democratic debate in South Carolina on Tuesday, as rival Michael Bloomberg said Russia was helping the senator because it knew he would lose in November to Republican President Donald Trump.

Bloomberg, the billionaire former New York mayor who was pummeled by rivals at the last debate, made reference to reports that U.S. intelligence officials believe Russia is trying to help Sanders, an independent senator and self-avowed democratic socialist.

“Vladimir Putin thinks that Donald Trump should be president of the United States, and that’s why Russia is helping you get elected so you lose to him,” Bloomberg told Sanders.

Sanders shot back, saying: Hey Mr Putin, if I’m president of the United States, trust me you’re not going to interfere in any more elections,” in reference to Russian President Vladimir Putin.

The debate is the third this month and the 10th overall for the Democrats vying for the right to challenge Trump in the Nov. 3 election. It is their final encounter before Saturday’s South Carolina primary and next week’s 14 vital Super Tuesday contests.

The pressure for a strong performance is high for all of the contenders. Joe Biden, the national front-runner not so long ago, needs to win South Carolina to keep his campaign alive, while Pete Buttigieg, Elizabeth Warren, Amy Klobuchar and Tom Steyer are desperately battling for relevance.

Sanders has taken command of the race after strong showings in the first three nominating contests in Iowa, New Hampshire and Nevada.

His momentum has alarmed a Democratic establishment wary that his aggressive economic equality and social justice agenda will lead to defeat against Trump.

Warren, a progressive ally of Sanders, said he was winning because progressive ideas were popular.

“I think I would make a better president than Bernie. And the reason for that is that getting a progressive agenda enacted is going to be really hard,” she said. “I dug in, I did the work, and then Bernie’s team trashed me.”

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Massive changes to California voting spark fears of Iowa-style primary chaos

LOS ANGELES (Reuters) – As he looks ahead to California’s March 3 Democratic primary, Neal Kelley is having sleepless nights.

Kelley is the elections chief for Orange County, part of a wave of California counties rolling out sweeping new balloting procedures affecting millions of voters in the nation’s most populous state.

He has good reason to be worried.

Memories of the chaos that plagued Iowa’s first-in-the-nation caucuses on Feb. 3 have election officials nationwide looking to avoid similar embarrassment. Iowa’s results were delayed for days, in part because of the failure of an unproven vote-counting app.

Some mammoth California counties are unveiling their own new voting technology. They’re also eliminating thousands of polling places in the hopes that voters will make use of expanded mail-in balloting or take advantage of extended early in-person voting.

The stakes are high. With 415 delegates up for grabs – the largest haul in the country, accounting for more than 20% of the 1,991 delegates a candidate must win to secure the Democratic nomination on the first ballot – California will have considerable influence in choosing the eventual nominee. Its early primary this year will give the Golden State even more sway. Four years ago, its primary was held in June.

That also means a California-sized screw-up would dwarf the dysfunction in Iowa.

“I’m not going to sit here and say nothing can go wrong,” Kelley said. “It’s a transition to a whole new system of voting. I am getting very little sleep.”

NEW MACHINES, NEW ISSUES

California’s shift stems in part from a 2016 state law known as the Voter’s Choice Act aimed at making voting easier and more flexible for the state’s 20.5 million registered voters. California’s 58 counties can choose whether to participate. Five did so in the 2018 election cycle. Another 10 are making the leap this year. Combined, they account for half of California’s electorate.

Los Angeles County – the state’s largest county with 5.4 million registered voters – has embarked on a parallel modernization program of its own. Part of its effort includes new voting machines, which are already drawing scrutiny.

The city of Beverly Hills in January filed a lawsuit demanding changes to the new touch-screen system, which displays just four candidates at a time. To see additional candidates voters must navigate a “confusing series of steps” that raises the risk they won’t see all the available choices, the lawsuit alleges. For example, California’s Democratic primary ballot lists 20 presidential candidates, only eight of whom are still in the race.

A ruling is not expected before the March 3 primary, according to Beverly Hills City Attorney Laurence Wiener.

Mike Sanchez, a spokesman for the Los Angeles County Registrar-Recorder/County Clerk, the office in charge of elections, declined to discuss the lawsuit. He said the agency held a mock election in September to test the new equipment and made improvements based on user feedback, including upgrades to the buttons that help voters navigate the candidate lists.

Orange County, too, is introducing new digital voting machines, albeit by a different manufacturer. Kelley, the county’s registrar of voters, said there are large prompts at the bottom of each screen as well as “ultra-clear” orange scroll buttons to ensure voters can see all the candidates.

The new electronic voting machines in Los Angeles and Orange counties do not themselves count ballots. After voters key in their choices, the machines print out paper ballots showing their selections. Once satisfied, voters place their completed ballots into drop boxes in the machines. The ballots are later collected by election workers and taken to a secure location where they are counted via a central tally system. Voters are not required to use the machines; they can fill out paper ballots by hand if they prefer.

New technology is just the beginning. Traditional polling places have been replaced by so-called Voting Centers that election officials say will be larger and better-staffed. Early in-person voting at some of these facilities began on Feb. 22. Voting Centers will offer same-day registration, even on election day. Voters will no longer be tied to a single polling place near their homes, rather they can cast ballots at any Voting Center in their county.

In addition, election officials sent ballots to all registered voters in participating counties in the hopes of encouraging more people to vote by mail.

FEWER POLLING PLACES

The tradeoff is that there will be markedly fewer polling places. In Los Angeles County, for example, there will be about 970 Voting Centers open for next month’s primary, less than a quarter of the 4,500 polling places that were operating during the 2016 primary. Election officials are betting so many people will vote by mail or head to a Voting Center early that fewer sites will be needed on election day.

Los Angeles County’s Sanchez said the county has made a major effort to educate voters, including direct mailings to their homes and informational spots across a host of media.

Still, getting the word out has been a challenge, said Marilu Guevara, executive director of the League of Women Voters of Los Angeles.

“My concern is we have such a large number of voters and election day will come and they will show up at their old polling places, or will be unaware of the new voting system,” Guevara said. “A lot of voters have still not heard about the changes. I know that. I’m talking to people.”

Lee Jackson is among the confused. A resident of La Habra Heights in Los Angeles County, the 45-year-old business development consultant said he intends to vote in the Democratic primary. But he has only “vaguely” heard about this year’s changes and isn’t sure where to find the nearest Voting Center.

In addition, Jackson said he is registered as “No Party Preference,” a designation chosen by about one in four California voters. The state’s Democratic Party allows unaffiliated voters to participate in its primary, but they must specifically request a Democratic ballot with the names of the party’s presidential candidates.

“Boy, I had no idea about that,” said Jackson, 45.

‘MILITARY OPERATION’

Rick Hasen, an elections expert at the University of California Irvine School of Law, and the author of a recent book entitled “Election Meltdown,” said it was “unfortunate” that California is introducing so many changes in such an important and closely watched primary.

“There is real potential for voter confusion, with new polling places, new timings, and new machines,” Hasen said. “Nobody wants to be the next Iowa. Ideally you would try these changes in an election that has a lower status.”

California’s delegate mother lode is crucial in this year’s presidential nominating process. After watching smaller states winnow the candidate field in 2016, California moved its primary up by three months to give its reliably Democratic electorate more influence in deciding who will face Republican incumbent Donald Trump in the November general election. California is one of 14 states that will vote on March 3, known as “Super Tuesday,” with over one third of delegates on offer in the nominating battle.

Kelley, the Orange County registrar of voters, said his team has been preparing for this moment for the past four years. “This is as close to a military operation as you can get in the civilian world,” he said.

But the sheer number of California voters affected could expose any weaknesses in the system. California Secretary of State Alex Padilla on Saturday predicted record voter turnout in 2020. “As a result, Election Day wait times may be longer than normal,” he said in a statement urging Californians to vote early.

Super Tuesday will provide a real-time test as to whether the state’s voters got that message, said Justin Levitt, a political science professor at California State University, Long Beach. He said the sharp reduction in Los Angeles polling locations is a particular concern given the region’s congestion and limited public transport.

“Traffic problems in L.A. are legendary,” Levitt said. “There are a lot of people wondering how this will go.”

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‘Tories are willing servants of vested financial interests and the privileged’

Until tight, low limits are imposed on how much rich individuals can spend in elections our political system will continue to be bought up by a wealthy few.

The scandal of huge donations by a handful to the Tories illustrates this perfectly.

Their money-bags backers are unlikely to be disinterested philanthropists.

He who pays the piper calls the tune and Boris Johnson’s Tories are willing servants of vested financial interests and the privileged.

Trade union money is the cleanest in politics when a few pounds are collected from millions of workers to fund Labour.

The Tories on the other hand rely on millionaires and billionaires investing millions to support them.

So it should come as no surprise when Johnson puts his party’s special friends first. After all they have paid handsomely.

A vile betrayal

Politicians turning a blind eye to paedophile politicians was a shameful betrayal of victims of sexual abuse not to mention public trust.

Inquiry head Alexis Jay’s damning verdict on the failure of our political institutions must end impunity for powerful predators preying on the vulnerable.

Peer and former Liberal leader David Steel deserved to be expelled if he hadn’t quit the House of Lords and his party.

He failed to act on information that Rochdale MP Cyril Smith abused children, disgracefully recommending the monster for a knighthood. Steel should never call himself Lord Steel again.

Boris Johnson couldn’t have been more wrong when he claimed the inquiry into historic cases “spaffed” money up the wall.

Cheers to Ben

England cricket star Ben Stokes adding an OBE to his BBC Sports Personality of the Year trophy crowns a remarkable 12 months for the swashbuckling player.

It’s one properly-merited award the whole country can applaud.

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