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On Tuesday, October 23, Axios' Sara Kehaulani Goo, Margaret Talev, and Alexi McCammond hosted a virtual event on barriers to voting access across the country, featuring Southwest Voter Registration Education Project President Lydia Camarillo, U.S. Election Assistance Commission Chairman Benjamin Hovland, Florida Rights Restoration Coalition President Desmond Meade and "The West Wing" actors Janel Moloney and Richard Schiff.

Benjamin Hovland unpacked how to vote safely during this unprecedented year and highlighted the uptick in mail-in ballots and early voting.

  • On a notable increase in early ballots being cast: "We're seeing a surge in early in-person voting...We're already at around 30 million Americans that have already voted in the 2020 election, which is pretty remarkable."
  • On the impact of the pandemic on mail-in ballots: "About 25% of Americans vote by mail in a normal year, or in 2016. So we're going to see an increase probably closer to half."

Lydia Camarillo discussed the importance of the Latino electorate in American elections.

  • The impact on November's election: "I think that the Latino electorate can be the deciding factor in this election — in partnership with other groups like the Black community, the Muslim community, Asian American community and progressives. They will decide the election."

Desmond Meade, who helped lead the 2018 fight for Amendment 4 in Florida, unpacked the expansion of voting rights and Florida's impact on similar state-level policy changes across the country.

  • On restoring felon rights: "This thing has caught on like a wildfire. All across this country, people are really standing up. Because America is a nation of second chances. And it's showing up right now in a major way."

Janel Moloney and Richard Schiff discussed the recent "The West Wing" episode on HBO Max and the experience of reuniting as an ensemble cast.

  • Richard Schiff on the meaning of the episode: "It's a rare thing in this day and age around the world to have the privilege to vote and the right to vote. And we should be very careful to not let it be extinguished and that this episode addresses that."

Axios Vice President of Event Kristin Burkhalter hosted a View from the Top segment with Lyft Head of Policy Engagement and Strategic Partnerships Heather Foster who discussed how transportation plays a critical role in voting access.

  • "We took a look at the statistics that came out of 2016, and it was estimated at the time that more than 15 million eligible voters did not go to the polls because they lacked a way to get there."

This event was the first in a yearlong series called Hard Truths, where we'll be discussing the wide ranging impact of systemic racism in America. Read our deep dive on race and voting here.

Thank you Lyft for sponsoring this event.

Go deeper

Updated Dec 15, 2020 - Axios Events

Watch: Fitness and fighting infections

On Tuesday, December 16 Axios' Kendall Baker hosted a conversation on how the pandemic-enforced lockdown has affected fitness and mental health, featuring former Surgeon General Richard Carmona and Long Beach, Calif. Mayor Robert Garcia.

Richard Carmona advocated for gyms that follow strict coronavirus mitigation strategies to be allowed to stay open, and discussed the importance of physical fitness on mental wellbeing.

  • On keeping gyms open: "I think when those best public health practices can be applied, we should consider letting those facilities stay open when possible based on epidemiologic data. People need that social connection...mental health and physical health are connected inextricably."
  • On the connection between physical and mental health: "We should do everything we can to stay connected and continue moving. It helps our immune system as well as our mind and our body, and helps to offset mental health problems like depression."

Mayor Robert Garcia unpacked the impact of the coronavirus pandemic and small business closures on the fitness industry, and highlighted Long Beach, California's $5 million fund for gyms and other personal care businesses.

  • On the financial impact on gyms: "This is an industry that's been hit very, very hard...[the fund] will go directly to these gyms so they can bridge those months they've been closed on the rent, or have some dollars to back up get started. It's critical that we support them."

Axios CEO and co-founder Jim VandeHei hosted a View from the Top segment with Planet Fitness CEO Chris Rondeau, who discussed the challenge of gyms being classified with other hospitality industry venues like clubs and bars during lockdowns and the importance of fitness as a part of public health.

  • "I think, unfortunately, we're lumped in with bars and restaurants and even movie theaters. We really need to get ourselves out of that arena and make sure they look at us as really part of wellness, mental health, and physical health as well. But it's been a struggle. But I think the data we're starting to produce now, showing them how we operate—they've really started to listen."

Thank you Planet Fitness for sponsoring this event.

Jan. 6 panel subpoenas 2 far-right "America First" activists

The House panel investigating the Capitol riot, from left; Reps. Bennie Thompson, Liz Cheney, Adam Kinzinger and Jamie Raskin on Capitol Hill in December. Photo: Drew Angerer/Getty Images

The House select committee investigating the Capitol riot issued subpoenas Wednesday for far-right leaders Nick Fuentes and Patrick Casey, who allegedly encouraged followers to go to D.C. and challenge the 2020 election results.

Why it matters: The action underscores the panel's increasing focus on rallies held ahead of the Capitol attack and how extremists were drawn to former President Trump's baseless claims of widespread voter fraud, per the New York Times.

Democrats fail to change Senate rules to pass voting rights bill

Senate Majority Leader during a news conference in Washington, D.C., on Wednesday. Photo: Alex Wong/Getty Images

Democrats failed Wednesday night to change Senate filibuster rules to pass the voting rights bill, with Sens. Joe Manchin (D-W.Va.) and Kyrsten Sinema (D-Ariz.) voting with Republicans.

The big picture: The failed effort came after Senate Republicans blocked the voting rights measure from coming to a final vote earlier Wednesday.