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Pam Fessler

Pam Fessler is a correspondent on NPR's National Desk, where she covers poverty, philanthropy, and voting issues.

In her reporting at NPR, Fessler does stories on homelessness, hunger, affordable housing, and income inequality. She reports on what non-profit groups, the government, and others are doing to reduce poverty and how those efforts are working. Her poverty reporting was recognized with a 2011 First Place National Headliner Award.

Fessler also covers elections and voting, including efforts to make voting more accessible, accurate, and secure. She has done countless stories on everything from the debate over state voter identification laws to Russian hacking attempts and long lines at the polls.

After the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks, Fessler became NPR's first Homeland Security correspondent. For seven years, she reported on efforts to tighten security at ports, airports, and borders, and the debate over the impact on privacy and civil rights. She also reported on the government's response to Hurricane Katrina, The 9/11 Commission Report, Social Security, and the Census. Fessler was one of NPR's White House reporters during the Clinton and Bush administrations.

Before becoming a correspondent, Fessler was the acting senior editor on the Washington Desk and NPR's chief election editor. She coordinated all network coverage of the presidential, congressional, and state elections in 1996 and 1998. In her more than 25 years at NPR, Fessler has also been deputy Washington Desk editor and Midwest National Desk editor.

Earlier in her career, she was a senior writer at Congressional Quarterly magazine. Fessler worked there for 13 years as both a reporter and editor, covering tax, budget, and other news. She also worked as a budget specialist at the U.S. Office of Management and Budget, and was a reporter at The Record newspaper in Hackensack, New Jersey.

Fessler has a master's of public administration from the Maxwell School at Syracuse University and a bachelor's degree from Douglass College in New Jersey.

If you're poor or low-income in the U.S. and use government safety net programs, you could be affected by a number of new rules and actions proposed by the Trump administration. Most of the changes are still pending, and anti-poverty groups are trying to stop them from going into effect. Some of the proposals already face legal challenges.

The Department of Homeland Security has finally agreed to conduct a thorough inspection of election equipment used in North Carolina that was supplied by a vendor whose system was targeted by Russian hackers in 2016.

It has been three years since the machines — laptops used to check in voters in Durham County — malfunctioned on Election Day, telling voters that they had already voted, even though they had not.

Copyright 2019 NPR. To see more, visit https://www.npr.org.

STEVE INSKEEP, HOST:

Mold. Leaks. Rodents. Crime. These are just some of the things the nation's 2 million public housing residents have to worry about. Many of the buildings they live in have been falling into disrepair for decades. Public housing officials estimate that it would cost $50 billion to fix them up.

But the Trump administration wants to eliminate the federal fund now used to repair public housing in favor of attracting more private investment to fix up and replace it.

Copyright 2019 NPR. To see more, visit https://www.npr.org.

ARI SHAPIRO, HOST:

We got some news today from Florida about what Russian intelligence agents did in the 2016 elections. Here's the governor, Ron DeSantis.

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Tens of thousands of poor children — all of them American citizens or legal residents — could lose their housing under a new rule proposed Friday by the Trump administration.

The rule is intended to prevent people who are in the country illegally from receiving federal housing aid, which the administration argues should go to help only legal residents or citizens.

The Trump administration is considering changing the way the government measures poverty, which has anti-poverty groups worried that many low-income individuals will be pushed off assistance programs such as food stamps, Medicaid and Head Start.

The possible change would involve adjusting the poverty line annually using a different inflation measure, one that would result in a slower increase over time.

It is likely to be a banner year for the voting equipment industry with state and local election offices planning to spend hundreds of millions of dollars on new machines ahead of the 2020 election.

This year's purchases will probably amount to the biggest buying wave since right after the 2000 presidential election, when officials rushed to replace discredited punch card machines with touchscreen voting equipment. Those machines are rapidly aging and are being replaced with machines that leave a paper backup as a result of security concerns about purely electronic voting.

Copyright 2019 NPR. To see more, visit https://www.npr.org.

LULU GARCIA-NAVARRO, HOST:

While the headlines about special counsel Robert Mueller's report have focused on the question of whether President Trump obstructed justice, the report also gave fresh details about Russian efforts to hack into U.S. election systems.

The United States is almost alone among industrial countries and other democracies in putting most of the onus of registering to vote on individual voters, a sometimes cumbersome process that may explain a large portion of why turnout rates in the U.S. are lower than in many other countries.

Lawmakers told Housing and Urban Development Secretary Ben Carson Wednesday that there's little chance Congress will accept the Trump administration's plan to make deep cuts in housing and development programs.

Three-quarters of a million people would likely lose their food stamps later this year under a new proposal by the Trump administration. The goal is to encourage able-bodied adults to go to work and get off government aid. But opponents predict people would go hungry instead, if the rule goes into effect.

A public comment period, which ends Tuesday, has so far drawn more than 28,000 comments overwhelmingly against the proposed rule.

The House on Friday approved a sweeping measure that would, among many others things, expand voters' access to the polls. But Senate Republican leaders say that chamber will not take up the bill, calling it a power grab.

Copyright 2019 NPR. To see more, visit https://www.npr.org.

STEVE INSKEEP, HOST:

Child poverty in the U.S. could be cut in half over the next 10 years with a few simple steps, according to a new report from the National Academies of Sciences, Engineering and Medicine.

About five years ago, immigration attorneys started contacting Pennsylvania election officials to report that many of their clients had gone to get a driver's license and, a few weeks later, received a voter registration card in the mail.

Sundrop Carter, executive director of the Pennsylvania Immigration and Citizenship Coalition, says it was especially disturbing for immigrants who were trying to become citizens.

Copyright 2019 NPR. To see more, visit https://www.npr.org.

MARY LOUISE KELLY, HOST:

On Nov. 6, I'll join almost a million other Americans who have volunteered — for a minimal fee — to help man the polls.

It's an extraordinary thing when you think about it. This army bands together for a single day (or several, if you include early voting) to make sure every American can exercise one of their most fundamental rights. For all the talk of "rigged" elections, cyberthreats, voter suppression and fraud, it's often those on the front lines who most affect your voting experience. And that responsibility has only become more complicated.

If anyone knows how easily voting can be disrupted, it's a county election supervisor in the state of Florida. That's one reason several dozen of them gathered in Orlando recently to discuss ways to protect against the most recent threat — cyberattacks by Russia or others intent on disrupting U.S. elections.

Marion County elections supervisor Wesley Wilcox said he realizes the threat has evolved far beyond the butterfly ballots and hanging chads that upended the 2000 presidential race. And even beyond the lone hacker.

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