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.

Tens of thousands of Americans with disabilities have lost their voting rights. It usually happens when a court assigns a legal guardian to handle their affairs. Now, some of those affected are fighting to get back those rights.

David Rector recently went to Superior Court in San Diego, Calif., to file a request to have his voting rights restored. Rector lost those rights in 2011 when his fiance, Rosalind Alexander-Kasparik, was appointed his conservator after a brain injury left him unable to walk or speak.

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It's been another big week for voting laws — especially when it comes to the courts. More twists and turns are likely before the election. But for now, here's an update:

Twenty years ago, welfare as Americans knew it ended.

President Bill Clinton signed a welfare overhaul bill that limited benefits and encouraged poor people to find jobs.

"We're going to make it all new again, and see if we can't create a system of incentives which reinforce work and family and independence," Clinton said at a White House bill signing ceremony.

The goals were admirable: help poor families get into the workforce so they'd no longer need government aid. They'd get job training and support, such as help with child care.

Twenty years ago this week, President Clinton signed legislation to end "welfare as we know it." The new program set limits on benefits and gave states broad discretion on how to spend the funds. Now, far few people get welfare, even though poverty rates are higher. In most states, dollars allocated for welfare benefits have declined.

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The recent hacking of Democratic Party databases — and strong suspicions that the Russian government is involved — have led to new fears that America's voting systems are vulnerable to attack and that an outsider could try to disrupt the upcoming elections.

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Civil rights groups are having a good day. A federal appeals court has struck down a controversial North Carolina voting law. Opponents called it the most restrictive in the country. NPR's Pam Fessler has more.

It's not often — if ever — that presidential nominees use footnotes in their acceptance speeches.

But Thursday night, Donald Trump used 282 of them in the written version of his acceptance speech — to bolster what he promised would be a presentation of the "facts plainly and honestly." I was footnote No. 145.

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More than 9,000 former felons have registered to vote in Virginia since April, when the governor issued an executive order restoring voting rights to more than 200,000 ex-offenders. Democrat Terry McAuliffe said the residents, who are no longer in prison, had paid their debt to society.

But Republicans are suing the governor. They say McAuliffe overstepped his authority and that trying to restore rights to so many people all at once has led to mistakes. The state Supreme Court is scheduled to hear the case July 19.

As the presidential election nears, a number of important voting law cases are still up in the air. And that can be confusing — for voters trying to figure out what they do or don't need to cast their ballots, for election officials trying to figure out how to run elections, and for politicians trying to make sure supporters get out and vote.

Here's a brief guide on where some of the big cases stand, as of the end of June. More rulings are expected, although courts are reluctant to make major voting law changes too close to Election Day.

Local communities are increasingly passing laws to control crime and nuisances on rental properties. They do so mostly by limiting the number of times police can be called to a residence. But it turns out that crime victims — especially victims of domestic abuse — are often the ones who end up being penalized.

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This week, as part of the Nation Engaged project, NPR and some member stations will be talking about what the 2016 primary season has revealed about voters' confidence in the American electoral system.

This year's primaries have been filled with complaints about the voting process. Voters in Arizona were furious that they had to wait up to five hours to cast ballots. Thousands of New Yorkers had their names mistakenly dropped from voter registration rolls.

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MARY LOUISE KELLY, BYLINE: Some surprising research about poverty, researchers in New York are testing a new way to measure poverty, as NPR's Pam Fessler reports.

It looks like more bad news for the new executive director of the U.S. Election Assistance Commission. Brian Newby is already being sued by the League of Women Voters for his decision earlier this year to allow Kansas and two other states to require residents to show proof of citizenship when they register to vote using a federal form. The move effectively reversed a long-standing EAC policy.

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Baltimore's poorest neighborhoods have long struggled with a lack of decent housing and thousands of abandoned homes.

Things recently took a turn for the worse: Five vacant houses in the city collapsed in high winds several weeks ago, in one case killing a 69-year-old man who was sitting in his car.

The city needs to do more about decaying properties if it wants to revitalize neighborhoods like those where Freddie Gray grew up, says Marvin Cheatham, president of the Matthew Henson Neighborhood Association in West Baltimore.

It certainly looks suspicious that more than 125,000 Democrats were dropped from Brooklyn's voter rolls between last November and Tuesday's primary. New York City Comptroller Scott Stringer said that the Board of Elections confirmed the voters were removed and that his office would conduct an audit to see if anything improper was done.

Election officials around the country are nervously planning how to avoid long lines at the polls this year, after voters waited for hours at some Wisconsin sites earlier this week. That came after voters in Maricopa County, Ariz., had to wait up to five hours last month, in part because the county cut back on the number of polling sites. Those delays led to raucous protests at the state capital and a voting rights investigation by the U.S. Department of Justice.

LaToya Fowlkes is standing outside rent court in Baltimore. A judge has just ruled that Fowlkes has to pay her landlord $4,900 in rent and fees despite her complaints that the house has leaky water pipes, chipped paint, rodents and a huge hole in the living room wall.

But Fowlkes didn't notify her landlord of the problems by certified mail — something the judge said she should have done to avoid eviction.

Terrell Walker lives in a one-bedroom apartment in Southeast Washington, D.C., with her 9-year-old and 2-year-old daughters.

Walker stopped paying her rent last September because, she says, her apartment is in horrible condition — and she is fighting her landlord's eviction threat in court.

But when tenants don't pay, landlords say they have less money to fix things up.

Every morning for weeks, Meagen Limes made the same phone call: to a court in Washington, D.C., to see if that day was the day she'd be evicted from her home.

Limes faced eviction because she couldn't pay rent on her three-bedroom apartment in Southeast Washington, where many of the city's poorest residents live.

It can sometimes take weeks before the marshals actually show up at your door, and Limes fully expected to be homeless any day.

Today, more than 11 million families spend over half of their incomes on rent, and for the poor, it can be as much as 80 percent. That means millions of Americans face the threat of eviction, or they live in substandard housing because it's all they can afford. NPR's Pam Fessler has been spending time at the rent court in Washington, D.C., where the struggle between low-income renters and landlords over affordable housing often comes to a head.

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Former first lady Nancy Reagan died Sunday at her home in Los Angeles of congestive heart failure, according to the Reagan Foundation. She was 94.

Early voting began this week in North Carolina for the March 15 primary. And for the first time, most voters in the state have to show a government-issued photo ID at the polls. It's one of several states with new voting laws this year. But in North Carolina, the rules have changed so much that confusion could be a voter's biggest hurdle.

Across the state, election officials, voter advocacy groups and others have been trying to make sure things go smoothly, despite the changes.

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