Today’s the day, and CalMatters has a contingent of Votebeat reporters deployed around the state to bring you round-the-clock coverage of the 2020 Election. More than 11.2 million Californians voted early. Everyone else will cast their ballots in person today and we will be watching how that works, from the count, to any voting interference, to hiccups with poll equipment. Check back often as we update our live coverage.

Starting at 8 p.m. Pacific time, check out our live results tracker — it may have the potential to either raise or lower your blood pressure.

11:32 p.m.: Ballots arriving by air in LA County

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Nearing midnight, loads of ballots are still arriving to be counted at Los Angeles County’s Tally Operation Center.

The Tally Operation Center has been receiving ballots via choppers every 15 minutes. Boxes of ballots are being handled by Los Angeles County Sheriff’s deputies and deputy helicopters. 

A county official said the latest arrivals are coming from the farthest parts of the county, such as Lancaster and Catalina vote centers. 

Once at the tally center, where all county ballots are counted, they will be processed by staff.

Workers here are expected to be processing ballots for another couple of hours, maybe even until early morning.

10:13 p.m.: Observing the vote counts for 20 years

Thomas O’Shaughnessy often foregoes election night parties. Instead, “I watch the vote,” he said. 

O’Shaughnessy visits Los Angeles County’s tally centers as an observer of the count — something anyone can do.

“I only missed one election in the last 20 years,” O’Shaughnessy said.

His peers in the Los Angeles County Democratic Party encouraged him to serve as their poll observer about 20 years ago. He’s stuck to it for this long because, to him, the election is not done until he sees the votes counted with his own eyes.

“It helps prove the whole mechanism that the process is open, honest,” he said. “It’s a test as to why we’re a democracy.”

O’Shaughnessy is a lifelong activist. In 1960, he was in high school and watched John F. Kennedy accept the Democratic presidential nomination at the Los Angeles Memorial Coliseum. “My mother drove me up,” he said.

At 23, O’Shaughnessy said, he was involved in Bobby Kennedy’s campaign. “Sadly, I was there at the hotel when he died.”

Supporting Irish Catholics for office has been his thing and, today, with Joe Biden as the Democratic nominee, was no different. O’Shaughnessy is Irish Catholic, too, after all.

“I’m going to be here until two in the morning.”

Text and photo by Michael Lozano, CalMatters’ Votebeat reporter.

9:35 p.m.: Voting is over and folks cut loose in Oakland

As Americans waited for election results, downtown Oakland reflected a range of emotions: performers with Joy to the Polls, which describes itself as a nonpartisan movement aimed at making voting a celebration, relaxed after the polls closed. Nearby signs projected on a wall urged that every vote be counted, and police kept a wary eye on gathering protesters.

Text and photo by April Martin, reporter at UC Berkeley’s Graduate School of Journalism.

9:08 p.m. “The polls are closed!”


The clock struck 8 p.m. and San Francisco poll worker Kyle Huey stepped out into the chilly night. “The polls are now closed!” he yelled.

Huey isn’t a medieval bugler. He isn’t crying for attention. A clause in his poll worker handbook orders him to make this very announcement. “When the polls are closed,” the Secretary of State’s handbook says, “poll workers should proclaim loudly, ‘The polls are closed.’” 

Huey performed this task dutifully. 

So what happens next, to the ballots deposited at the polling place in the Ortega Branch Library? Well, it depends. The Sheriff’s Department will transport the paper ballots to a secure location, Huey said. A representative from the San Francisco Municipal Transportation Agency, driving a three-wheeled cart you’d recognize if you’ve ever received a parking ticket, will safely deliver electronic votes, stored across two memory cards, to county election officials.

Text by Robin Estrin, reporter at UC Berkeley’s Graduate School of Journalism.

8:49 p.m. A Trump train goes through Shasta County, and election officials switch tracks

The elections office in Redding, the seat of Shasta County, moved its polling station across the street Monday in response to a “Trump train” that hurtled through town over the weekend.

Flourishing Trump and MAGA flags, hundreds of Shasta County residents honked as they drove their cars, trucks and tractors, passing directly in front of the elections office. 

So the county, to ensure the 100-foot buffer zone legally mandated to insulate voters from direct political canvassing, relocated its voting booths to an outdoor shopping mall.  

“It’s not a personal thing, we just have to enforce the rules,” said Cathy Darling Allen, Shasta County’s Registrar of Voters. “The guy wearing a Biden shirt, he can’t wear that either. The rules are the same regardless of the content of that message.”

By 2:30 this afternoon, a record number of voters had cast their ballots in the new location. 

Shasta County is Trump country. In 2016, 64% of the county voted for him. Half of registered voters are Republicans, 23% are Democrats and 20% have no party preference. 

Turnout this year reflected Shasta County’s strong party preference. While about 80% of voters here have historically voted by mail, this election is seeing a major shift to in-person voting. This is the first election in memory in which more ballots have come through a drop box than the mail, Darling Allen said.

She attributes this to the doubts that Trump and many other Republicans have cast on the integrity of voting by mail. 

“People who would normally have been voting by mail without question for years, decades even, are questioning that, kind of out of the blue, because of the national rhetoric that we’re hearing,” she said.

Text by Margie Cullen, reporter at UC Berkeley’s Graduate School of Journalism.

7:55 p.m.: Registering, just in time

Kyle Huey, the precinct inspector at a small polling place in San Francisco’s Outer Sunset neighborhood, spent much of Election Day solving problems. Some voters showed up at the wrong polling place. Others turned up without having registered.

Not to worry, said Huey. “There’s a procedure for dealing with that.”

Huey estimated he and his team of five poll workers at the Ortega Branch Library helped 15 people register and vote today. This is new at California voting locations. It was only last October that Gov. Gavin Newsom signed into law a bill enabling voters to register at the polls through 8 p.m. on Election Day, and cast their ballot at the same time. Previously, voters could register on Election Day only at a county elections office or satellite location.

“I’ve had a couple people come in who were very proud they were casting their first vote,” Huey said, noting that most of those registering today were on the young side or spoke English as a second language.

The new voters signed up by Huey registered conditionally and voted provisionally. According to the Secretary of State’s website, the ballots they cast will be processed and counted once county elections officials verify their registration.

Text by Robin Estrin, reporter at UC Berkeley’s Graduate School of Journalism.

7:00 p.m.: Finally a citizen, she casts her first vote

Yudis Membrino has been waiting for this day for years. The 32-year-old, originally from El Salvador, wanted to vote against Donald Trump in 2016. The problem was her citizenship was not processed until after that election. 

But today, standing outside of the Athens Park vote center in South Los Angeles, she said she feels good. “Well, I exercised my first vote as someone representing El Salvador,” she said in Spanish.

She was inspired to vote because of the “many circumstances that are occurring because of Trump.”

She first came to the United States in 2005, and later endured about a five-year process to gain citizenship. She is now the first in her family to vote in the United States. Her hope for her teenage daughter? “That she doesn’t have to see so much racism.”

She quickly dropped off the ballot at the center. But earlier, those who wanted to use the vote machines and vote in person had to wait. One poll worker said the earlier wait was about 30 minutes, but the line smoothed out and the evening line went by fast.

Text and photo by Michael Lozano, CalMatters’ Votebeat reporter.

4:51 p.m.: Still have your ballot? Dropping it off is safer than mailing it.

This afternoon, election integrity expert Kim Alexander drove to her local mailbox in Sacramento to observe the mail pickup.

But Alexander had already missed the pickup, and she’s worried voters could too. If you still have your ballot today, you should take it to a vote center or deposit it in a drop box instead of mailing it to ensure it meets the deadline to be counted, she said. 

Placing your ballot in a mailbox after the U.S. Postal Service has already emptied the box for today will mean your ballot won’t be postmarked until tomorrow, which will render it invalid. 

“It’s counterintuitive because we call them ‘vote by mail’ ballots, but today is not the day to mail them,” Alexander said.

A recent study by her organization, the California Voter Foundation, found that a common reason for vote-by-mail ballots to be rejected is that they’ve been mailed too late. 

Even ballots mailed on Election Day can be late. In fact, the study found that most of the ballots rejected for late postmarks appeared to  have been put in the mail that day, Alexander said. 

Young voters who are less familiar with using the postal system are at particular risk of mailing their ballots late, she said.

Under California law, ballots must be postmarked by the last day of voting or hand-delivered by 8 p.m. 

If you must rely on mailing today, take your ballot to the post office counter and ask the attendant to postmark and hand-cancel, or stamp, your envelope, Alexander says. The hand-cancel provides extra proof the ballot was mailed on time.

Text by Aaron Leathley, reporter at UC Berkeley’s Graduate School of Journalism.

5:05 p.m.: Rope helps advocates pass out flyers

Cesilia Acevedo, 24, brought a 100-foot rope with her to a vote center in Fresno.

She used the rope to make sure she was 100 feet away from the vote center because that’s the law — no electioneering within 100 feet of a polling place.

She’s a youth organizer for the Dolores Huerta Foundation, a social justice advocacy group in Bakersfield, with offices in Sanger, Tulare and California City.

Acevedo set up a table with fellow volunteer Elisha Mendoza, 18. They offered a bilingual tip sheet to passing voters about how to vote on the propositions. In a few hours, they passed out about 100 flyers.

The rope worked. No one challenged their right to be there, Acevedo said.

Text and photo by Lewis Griswold, CalMatters’ Votebeat reporter.

4:37 p.m.: A warning about robocalls

The California Attorney General’s office wouldn’t confirm Tuesday whether it is investigating instances of robocalls spreading misinformation to voters, like those that have been reported in other states, including New York and Michigan.

“To protect its integrity, we are unable to comment on a potential or ongoing investigation,” the Attorney General’s office said in an emailed statement.

Voters in states across the country have been bombarded today with robocalls and texts containing inaccurate information about voting, the origins of which remain unclear, the Washington Post reported this morning

Some calls have insinuated that voting isn’t safe, while others have instructed people wishing to avoid long lines to vote tomorrow, when in fact the polls will be closed.

Spokesperson Chris Miller said the California Secretary of State has received three complaints of misleading election robocalls through an email address that voters can use to report misinformation to the agency. 

You can access that email address and report misinformation here.

Attorney General Xavier Becerra also tweeted out a warning this afternoon to “beware of calls claiming it is unsafe to vote due to COVID or any other reason.”

California’s attorney general “will continue to take steps — including in court where necessary — to ensure that every voter who casts their ballot will have their voice heard,” the Attorney General’s statement said.

Text by Aaron Leathley, reporter at UC Berkeley’s Graduate School of Journalism.

4:20 p.m.: In Tulare County, many voters wary of voting by mail

In the hazy sunshine of Tuesday  morning, a line of about 10 voters stood waiting for the Tulare County elections office to open its doors at 7 a.m.  It was not an overwhelming number, but Michelle Baldwin, the county registrar of voters, had outfitted her office with extra voting booths, staff and hand sanitizer in anticipation of crowds, because in Tulare County there’s skepticism about voting by mail. 

As of late last week, only 34% of the county’s 201,000 registered voters had mailed in ballots or slipped them into designated drop boxes. In nearby Fresno County, about half of voters had already voted by Nov. 1. Farther north, in Santa Clara County, an even larger percentage — 58% —  had already cast ballots. 

Baldwin said 34% isn’t too shabby for Tulare. In 2016, only 16% of voters opted to turn in ballots early. Still, she said, voters in her county haven’t embraced this pandemic-era shift to a vote-by-mail system. “We get a lot who just don’t want to mail their ballot in… They don’t trust the mail,” she said. “They want to vote here in person.”

They include Michael Barragan and his mom, Karen Haney, who waited for about 40 minutes to vote in person on Monday. Neither had received a mailed ballot, Barragan said. But even if they had, they would have come into the elections office and filled out a paper ballot.

“That’s what we’ve always done and we don’t want to change it,” Haney said. “I don’t trust the mail for nothing.” Her son nodded, adding, “I know when I get down here I’m the one who put it in the machine. I know it hasn’t been tampered with.” 

Baldwin said she believes that the President’s rhetoric of disdain for mail-in ballots may be motivating people  to either vote in person or march into her office or another county polling site to watch their ballot drop into its proper place. 

“I think there’s so many misconceptions out there,” she said. “People aren’t trusting of the system.”

Text by Anne Marshall-Chalmers, reporter at UC Berkeley’s Graduate School of Journalism.

4:19 p.m.: Tulare County has highest percentage of new voters in California

Tulare County skews slightly more conservative than many areas of California, with about 38% of voters registered Republican and 33% Democrat, according to the California Secretary of State.

On Monday, a line of about 20 voters spilled out of the elections office , one of the county’s 19 polling places.  Some were new voters, like Melissa Dragnich, whose two toddlers circled around her while her infant slept in a car seat at her feet.  

She never properly registered but wants to vote, she said.   “I’m just a little confused and need help.”

Tulare has had the highest increase in voter registration by percentage – 29.69% or about 45,000 new voters — of any county in the state since 2016. Baldwin said a lot of these voters just need a hand through the process.

Text and photo by Anne Marshall-Chalmers, reporter at UC Berkeley’s Graduate School of Journalism.

4:00 p.m.: This time, she included her John Hancock

Wyzuri Alexander, 30, a mother of two, righted a wrong on Election Day. 

Four years ago, she received a letter after submitting her mail ballot. Her ballot had been rejected. Why? No signature on the envelope.

This time, she made certain to sign the envelope, and put it in the drop box at a vote center in Fresno.

“I feel good because I was included,” she said. “I’m part of a big decision.”

Text by Lewis Griswold, CalMatters’ Votebeat reporter.

3:28 p.m.: Voting with the home team

If being a good citizen isn’t reward enough, Californians are being lured to vote with attractions like Warriors star Stephen Curry and Lakers-themed “I Voted” stickers. 

In cities across California, stadiums converted temporarily into polling places are trying to make voting feel like a team effort. 

In Oakland, the coliseum and arena voting site is offering voting stations, COVID-19 testing and flu shots. At Dodger Stadium in Los Angeles, mariachi bands are serenading voters as they cast their ballots. At the Staples Center in Los Angeles, voters can walk away with that sticker in distinctive purple and gold. 

Athletes and politicians are also promoting the new vote locations, as Gov. Gavin Newsom visited the Sacramento Kings facility last week, and Curry visited the Warrior’s downtown Oakland facility over the weekend.

Text by Zachary Fletcher, reporter at UC Berkeley’s Graduate School of Journalism.

3:48 p.m.: In-person voting ‘very smooth,’ some poll workers say

Edmond Logan, election coordinator at the vote center in west Fresno, said voter traffic has been smooth and steady, and notably busier than the previous three days of early voting.

“Yesterday, we processed 46 people,” he said. “Today we have processed 350 people” as of 3 p.m., with many more expected until the polls close at 8 p.m.

“It’s going very smooth,” he said. “In the old days you had lines.” He credited improved technology with shortening the time it takes for poll workers to get voters checked in.

In Visalia, poll worker Cobi Maness, whose job is to check temperatures of voters before they walk in, said Tuesday more voters were voting in person than the day before.

Text and photo by Lewis Griswold, CalMatters’ Votebeat reporter.

3:23 p.m.: These are not the keys to the election

A photo of a set of keys left in the lock of a drop box in Orange County went viral on Sunday, and the Twitterverse was abuzz with suspicions of ballot tampering. The photo (below), posted on Twitter, shows the keys inserted in the lock of a ballot drop box at a busy intersection in Huntington Beach.

Jackie Wu, community outreach manager for the Orange County Registrar of Voters, explained that the keys had been accidentally left behind by a staff member. “Our team collected the ballots, emptied the box, sealed it with serial numbered seals,” she said in an email, “and, within 15 minutes, realized they left the keys, returned, and obtained them from this individual that turned them in. No seals were compromised and they moved on to their next stops.” 

Wu also asserted that no ballots were tampered with and that the response to the photo was “completely overblown.”

Text by Steven Rascón, reporter at UC Berkeley’s Graduate School of Journalism.

2:45 p.m.: Voting with immigrant families and friends in mind

Fernanda Tortoledo, 21, works at a distribution center for a major retailer. She cast her vote in person in west Fresno on Election Day with family and friends on her mind.

“I’m an immigrant,” she said, born in Mexico. She’s a citizen of the United States.

“Only citizens can vote. I have family and friends who are just residents” but not citizens, she said. “I have friends who don’t have papers, so we have to vote for them.”

Text and photo by Lewis Griswold, CalMatters’ Votebeat reporter.

2:07 p.m.: For many, no home and no vote

Paula Williams, 52, a San Franciscan who is homeless, sported two “I Voted” stickers and an American flag bandana Tuesday morning after casting her vote in the city’s Tenderloin neighborhood. “It’s letting them know that I am a citizen and I would like to be part of helping them fix the city,” she said of her vote. “It means that my word is being heard.”

Outreach groups across the state have been trying to register unhoused voters like Williams. During a pandemic, the obstacles sometimes seem insurmountable.  

Hospitality House, a homeless shelter that is doubling as a polling station today, has spent the past weeks working to register unhoused San Franciscans and hosting information sessions on local ballot measures. “We’re hoping that our efforts in total will generate more involvement by people who are conditioned to feel that they don’t have a voice,” said Joe Wilson, its executive director.  The situation can be even more difficult in rural parts of the state. 

Nezzie Wade, co-founder of Affordable Homeless Housing Alternatives in Eureka, said her organization runs a mobile shower trailer for the area’s homeless residents that doubles as a voter registration booth during election seasons. But with so many unhoused residents confined to emergency hotel rooms, Wade said they haven’t registered many people this year.

The lack of address has become a bigger barrier to registering homeless voters than it was before. In past elections, unhoused voters could simply write a cross street on their registration form and vote in person. But in 2020, because of the shift to mail-in ballots, they needed a valid mailing address if they wanted to vote by mail. As a result, would-be voters have had to use the address of family or a homeless shelter that agreed to receive their ballots.

Text and photo by Brian Howey, reporter at UC Berkeley’s Graduate School of Journalism.

1:20 p.m.: Election workers in LA County plan to work through the night

It was mid-morning on Election Day and the room reserved for anyone who wants to watch Los Angeles County count its ballets was empty.

Workers were scanning ballots sent in from across the county at the Tally Operation Center in Downey to ready them to be counted later tonight. The county mailed ballots to 5,761,164 voters this election and workers have the major task of processing each one that is returned. As of last night, a county spokesperson said, that number stood at more than 3.1 million ballots — an amount greater than the population of many states. Starting at 8 p.m., the ballots will be tallied, then reported and certified.

The public is welcome to observe and watch tallies be updated on the screens, as well as submit questions and comments. Wear a mask. Groups will enter and exit in 20-minute cycles, and you can return to observe multiple times.

Workers say they are expecting a long night and might well work two back-to-back 12-hour shifts, depending on how things move

Text and photos by Michael Lozano, CalMatters’ Votebeat reporter.

1:12 p.m.: Two party hotlines, but everything’s cool

Voter protection hotlines are abuzz today as voters call in with last-minute questions, and less frequently, to report suspicious activity at polling places and vote centers across the state.

Both the Democratic and Republican parties of California have opened such lines of communication with voters; so has the Secretary of State. “National atmospherics” around the security of the election and changes to the way Californians are voting have contributed to a rising number of calls in recent days, said Rusty Hicks, chair of the California Democratic Party. “There’s going to be more activity today.”

A majority of calls, said Hicks, are coming from Southern California, the Inland Empire and the Central Valley, where races are the most hotly contested. But most of those callers aren’t reporting voter suppression and intimidation. They’re last-minute voters asking questions about the process and eager to participate in the election.

“We are fortunate that we live in California,” Hicks said. Compared to other states, “we don’t have the same type of, or the same number of, or the same proportion of incidents of voter suppression.”

Bryan Watkins, the California Republican Party’s deputy executive director, said Republican voters have been informing the party of irregularities at the polls through a secure online portal and through calls to state headquarters. Those reports are then routed to staff and attorneys who follow up as needed. 

But the story from Watkins is much the same as the one told by Hicks.

One voter recently advised the Republican Party that a vote center needed more printer paper. “We haven’t seen anything too egregious at this point,” said Watkins.

Text by Robin Estrin, reporter at UC Berkeley’s Graduate School of Journalism.

12:33 p.m.: The vote, so far

As of noon today, 58% of eligible California voters — more than 12.7 million residents — had cast their ballots, according to the Secretary of State’s office.

Statewide, 63% of Democrats, 58% of Republicans, and 48% of Independents and voters with no party preference had returned their ballots, according to Political Data Inc.

Broken down by age, 75% of voters 65 and over had returned their ballots, while 63% of those 50 to 64, 52% of those 35 to 49, and 42% of those 18 to 34 had done so.

By ethnicity, 62% of white and Asian American voters had cast their ballots, compared with 51% of Black and 46% of Latino voters.

Text by Elena Neale-Sacks, reporter at UC Berkeley’s Graduate School of Journalism.

12:15 p.m.: Never too old for your first vote

On Election Day morning, Nickolas Smith of Visalia decided to vote for the first time. She’s 73.

She had never voted because her religion discourages it, she said. After she accomplished her same day registration, an option in California, and submitted her ballot, “they gave me two stickers and clapped for me,” she said.

The change of heart started when her daughter Dede called her on Election Day, as she does every morning. “Excuse me!” she said when her mother said she wanted to vote. Her daughter called her boss to say she’d be late to work because her mother needed a ride to the polls.

The brand new voter said the turning point for her was the death of a family friend, a fervent supporter of President Trump who had recently died. “I voted straight Republican in honor of him,” she said. 

Text and photo by Lewis Griswold, CalMatters’ Votebeat reporter.

11:30 a.m.: Here’s what happens to your ballot after you vote today

Californians who didn’t use mailed ballots are heading to the polls today to vote. After they mark their ballot, it’s a long path before it becomes a digit in a larger set of election results. 

Here’s what happens behind the scenes.

Most California counties use paper ballots at their precincts. The counties that use fully electronic systems are required by law to have a paper record of the vote. It turns out that this little piece of paper can be quite contentious — as is the case with Los Angeles’ new voting system, called Voting Solutions for All People.

After a voter in Los Angeles County makes choices on a touchscreen of the ballot-marking device, the machine prints out a sheet with a list of the voter’s decisions for verification. These sheets also print out a unique QR code, which is what the tallying machines use to tabulate the votes. Critics argue that voters cannot easily verify those codes — to read one you have to use your phone, or a QR code reader, which some sites have installed, said Kim Alexander, president of the California Voter Foundation. 

But the result can look like gibberish, Dot.LA reported, since it just shows a string of letters and numbers that correspond to the voter’s choices. The voter would have to go through two levels of decoding to verify their choices. “It’s really unrealistic to think that anybody is going to go through that,” Alexander said. 

Each of California’s 58 counties processes votes differently, according to the Secretary of State. In most California counties, ballots cast in person are not counted at the precinct. They must be physically transported to a central tabulating location. (Many counties use the same equipment, made by Dominion Voting Systems.) This means that the scanning and tabulation processes — for mailed and in-person ballots — are separate. In San Diego County, for example, the tabulator is locked up, which helps prevent the risk of someone running the numbers prematurely. 

In Orange County, election workers remove the USB drives that contain data from the polling place scanners and transport them — in a team of two drivers, in separate cars — to a collection center. Then the USB drives, called vDrives, are delivered to the office of the registrar of voters, after which they are sent via old-fashioned chutes to a secure room where the tabulators are located, a spokesperson said. 

Reporting Results

After the polls close at 8 p.m. and the votes are tabulated, county officials send them to the Secretary of State’s office. California law requires counties to send their first batch of results no more than two hours after they start tallying the votes. The counties keep updating the Secretary of State’s office until all the vote totals from precincts are in. 

In Sacramento County, for instance, this transmission happens in several ways, according to spokeswoman Janna Haynes. At 8 p.m., an IT worker runs a report on a special computer that tallies the ballots that have been counted thus far — the mail-in, early, and drop-off votes. It produces a data file and a PDF, both of which are moved from that computer with a “single-use USB drive.” The data file is sent electronically to the Secretary of State’s office, and the PDF is faxed to the same office, as a backup. Then the Secretary of State’s office calls to verify both types of results. This is repeated throughout the night, every two hours. 

The process doesn’t end by midnight tonight. State law says that no later than the Thursday following the election, state election officials must start the official canvass of the vote, which can last as long as 30 days after the election. During this period, the state takes a number of steps to verify the election results, like doing a manual count of the ballots cast in 1% of the precincts, chosen at random. It also counts any vote-by-mail and provisional votes that were not tallied on election night. It is a lengthy, painstaking process designed to safeguard a fair election.

Text by Hanna Kozlowska, Votebeat reporter based in New York.

This coverage is made possible through Votebeat, a nonpartisan reporting project covering local election integrity and voting access. In California, CalMatters is hosting the collaboration with the Fresno Bee, the Long Beach Post and the UC Berkeley Graduate School of Journalism.

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