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Screenshot of VoteFlare website. Photo: Axios

A new tool lets voters in Georgia sign up for automatic notifications of any sudden changes to their voting status that could prevent them from casting ballots in the pivotal Jan. 5 runoffs that will determine party control of the Senate.

Driving the news: VoteFlare.org, a site created by Harvard University's Public Interest Tech Lab, went live Friday.

Why it matters: Advocates earlier this month filed a lawsuit claiming nearly 200,000 Georgia voters were wrongly purged from the rolls in 2019, disproportionately hitting younger, poorer and minority voters.

  • Next month's two Senate runoffs, pitting Republican Sens. David Perdue and Kelly Loeffler against Democratic challengers Jon Ossoff and Raphael Warnock, will determine whether Democrats take control of the Senate, giving Democrats control of both chambers of Congress as well as the White House.
  • The high-stakes nature of the contests also has raised concerns about turnout and disenfranchisement.
  • As of Friday morning, Georgia's secretary of state's office said more than 1.1 million ballots had been cast in the first four days of early runoff voting. In 2018, fewer than 1.5 million votes total were cast.

What they're saying: "The irony in Georgia is that Democrats don't trust the governor or the secretary of state, especially after what happened after 2018, and Republicans don't trust the governor or the secretary of state after what happened in November," Dhruv Gupta, a 2020 Harvard graduate who worked on the project, told Axios.

How it works: Georgia voters who sign up may choose to get notified by text, call or email if there are changes to their registration or absentee ballot status. VoteFlare pulls official data from election offices.

  • Harvard professor and Data Privacy Lab director Latanya Sweeney and her students were first to report about vulnerabilities in voter registration websites during the 2016 election.
  • This year, Sweeney asked students to look for a technological solution to address voters' distrust.
  • They'll work with stakeholders to answer voters' questions about what to do if they are notified of changes to their registration or if their absentee ballot is rejected.

What's next: Virginia. The team has a prototype for 48 of the 50 states.

Go deeper

Chuck Schumer is now majority leader as 3 new Democratic senators are sworn in

Sen. Chuck Schumer (D-N.Y.) is officially Senate majority leader after the inauguration of Vice President Kamala Harris and the swearing-in of new Sens. Alex Padilla (D-Calif.), Jon Ossoff (D-Ga.) and Raphael Warnock (D-Ga.).

Why it matters: With a 50-50 Senate, Schumer will control a narrow majority with Harris as the tie-breaking vote. Democratic control of the Senate is crucial to President Biden's agenda, from getting his coronavirus relief proposal passed to forgiving student debt.

How the Delta variant ups the stakes in the war against COVID

Illustration: Shoshana Gordon/Axios

The dominant Delta variant's ability to efficiently infect people and rapidly grow inside a person is enabling the coronavirus to regain its footing in the United States.

Why it matters: "The solution is right in front of us — get everybody vaccinated and we wouldn't even be talking about this," NIAID director Anthony Fauci tells Axios.

Apple debuts plan to detect images of child sexual abuse

Illustration: Aïda Amer/Axios

Apple announced new iPhone features Thursday that it said would enable the detection and reporting of illegal images of child sexual abuse while preserving users' privacy.

Driving the news: One new system will use cryptographic hashes to identify illegal images that users are uploading to Apple's iCloud without Apple directly snooping in users' troves of photos, which can be encrypted.