The latest on the 2020 election

By Melissa Macaya, Mike Hayes and Veronica Rocha, CNN

Updated 0234 GMT (1034 HKT) October 20, 2020
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8:32 p.m. ET, October 19, 2020

Commission on Presidential Debates approves plan that includes muting mics

From CNN's Dan Merica

President Donald Trump and Democratic presidential nominee Joe Biden participate in the first presidential debate at the Health Education Campus of Case Western Reserve University on September 29, in Cleveland, Ohio. 
President Donald Trump and Democratic presidential nominee Joe Biden participate in the first presidential debate at the Health Education Campus of Case Western Reserve University on September 29, in Cleveland, Ohio.  Win McNamee/Getty Images

The Commission on Presidential Debates has agreed to a plan to mute an opposing candidate’s microphones while the other candidate speaks during the second and final presidential debate on Thursday, according to a release from the commission. 

“Under the agreed upon debate rules, each candidate is to have two minutes of uninterrupted time to make remarks at the beginning of each 15 minute segment of the debate. These remarks are to be followed by a period of open discussion. Both campaigns this week again reaffirmed their agreement to the two-minute, uninterrupted rule. The Commission is announcing today that in order to enforce this agreed upon rule, the only candidate whose microphone will be open during these two-minute periods is the candidate who has the floor under the rules. For the balance of each segment, which by design is intended to be dedicated to open discussion, both candidates’ microphones will be open,” the statement reads.

The decision comes after the commission met on Monday afternoon to discuss changes to the debate format. 

The commission believed the changes were needed because of how the first debate between Joe Biden and Donald Trump devolved into chaos, with the President frequently interrupting. 

Watch highlights from 2020 presidential debate

9:08 p.m. ET, October 19, 2020

Supreme Court rejects GOP attempt to limit time mail-in ballots can be accepted in Pennsylvania

From CNN's Ariane de Vogue

In this Oct. 13, 2020, photo, an envelope of a Pennsylvania official mail-in ballot for the 2020 general election in Marple Township, Pennsylvania.
In this Oct. 13, 2020, photo, an envelope of a Pennsylvania official mail-in ballot for the 2020 general election in Marple Township, Pennsylvania. Matt Slocum/AP

Mail-in ballots in Pennsylvania will be counted if they are received three days within Election Day, even if they do not have a postmark, the Supreme Court ruled Monday.

Four justices dissented from the order, signaling that the court was equally divided, with Chief Justice John Roberts siding with the court's three liberals.

The ruling is a loss to state Republicans who sought to require that only ballots received by Election Day be counted.

Watch:

6:54 p.m. ET, October 19, 2020

Colorado activating National Guard members to assist with election cybersecurity defense

From CNN's Raja Razek

Colorado Governor Jared Polis speaks during a news conference about the the state's efforts to protect the process of casting a vote in the upcoming general election Thursday, Oct. 15, in downtown Denver.
Colorado Governor Jared Polis speaks during a news conference about the the state's efforts to protect the process of casting a vote in the upcoming general election Thursday, Oct. 15, in downtown Denver. David Zalubowski/AP

Colorado Gov. Jared Polis signed an executive order to activate members of the Colorado National Guard Defensive Cyber Operations Element "to assist with election cybersecurity defense efforts during the 2020 Presidential election," according to a news release from the governor's office. 

The order activates up to 10 members of Colorado National Guard Defensive Cyber Operations Element, according to the release.

"The National Guard members may participate in training activities and assist with election cybersecurity defense efforts from October 19, 2020, through November 4, 2020, and will help ensure that Colorado remains a model for elections," the release said. 

6:47 p.m. ET, October 19, 2020

Trump distances himself from Senate candidates

From CNN's Allie Malloy 

President Donald Trump speaks to members of the media before departing from Phoenix Sky Harbor International Airport in Phoenix, Arizona on October 19.
President Donald Trump speaks to members of the media before departing from Phoenix Sky Harbor International Airport in Phoenix, Arizona on October 19. Mandel Ngan/AFP/Getty Images

In his second underwing gaggle Monday, President Trump told reporters he doesn’t think his reelection is tied to Senate Republicans or vice versa, telling reporters he’s doing “very well as an individual.”

Trump also called the race in the Senate “close” adding, “I think they’re very untied — it’s not — a lot of people think, oh are they tied with Trump? Meaning tied together. I think that’s highly overrated. Highly overrated. But I think we have some really good races that are happening.”

Asked whether his behavior on the trail recently shows him running scared or running angry, Trump told reporters, “ No I’m not running scared. I’m running angry — I think I’m running angry. I’m running happy and I’m running very content because I’ve done a great job and I think that’s the reason you have such crowds like this.”

Trump also told reporters while walking away that he may hold five rallies on the last two or three days before the election.

6:06 p.m. ET, October 19, 2020

Harris gives stump speech to Jacksonville voters in the pouring rain

From CNN's Jasmine Wright

Vice Presidential candidate Kamala Harris in Jacksonville.
Vice Presidential candidate Kamala Harris in Jacksonville. Source: Pool

Democratic vice presidential nominee Kamala Harris spoke to Democrats in the pouring rain in Jacksonville, Florida, today, where the first day of in-person early voting was underway.

At one point, she pleaded with attendees at the outdoor drive-in rally to get back in their cars to avoid the downpour, and that she would just speak louder.

Harris made a point to talk about covering those with pre-existing conditions and reiterate that Joe Biden will not raise taxes on those who make less than $400,000. She explained that she wasn’t wearing her mask when addressing the crowd because they were far away from each other. According to pool reports, about 94 cars attended the rally.

During her speech, Harris slammed President Trump for his response to the coronavirus pandemic and sowing discord into the electoral process.

5:47 p.m. ET, October 19, 2020

L.A. officials call ballot drop box fire "attempt to disenfranchise voters"

From CNN’s Topher Gauk-Roger

Los Angeles County Supervisor Hilda Solis and Los Angeles County Registrar-Recorder/County Clerk Dean C. Logan responded to the suspected arson fire at a Southern California ballot box, calling the incident “an attempt to disenfranchise voters and call into question the security of our elections.”

The L.A. County Registrar’s office has requested an investigation through local law enforcement and reported the incident to the FBI and the attorney general for investigation and to obtain all available footage to determine the cause of the fire, the registrar’s office said in a statement.

The registrar’s office is reviewing all material collected from the Baldwin Park ballot box to determine the appropriate notifications to voters whose ballots may have been impacted. Officials said county staff last picked up ballots at the affected drop box location on Saturday at 10:10 a.m. The fire was reported the following day at 8 p.m.

“The arson of an official ballot drop box by the Baldwin Park Library in the First District has all the signs of an attempt to disenfranchise voters and call into question the security of our elections,” said Solis. “Tampering, or attempts to tamper, with our democracy will not be tolerated.”

Voters who submitted their ballot at the Baldwin Park Library Dropbox can call the county Registrar-Recorder/County Clerk to verify their ballot was received and take any remedial measures, the officials said.

“The Los Angeles County Registrar will continue to do everything possible to ensure the integrity of local elections,” Logan said. “Tampering with vote by mail drop boxes and ballots is serious criminal offense and we will vigorously seek the prosecution of individuals who engage in such behavior.”

The incident is being investigated as arson. The damaged drop box location has been closed.

4:48 p.m. ET, October 19, 2020

Biden slams Trump's repeated attacks on Fauci 

From CNN's Sarah Mucha, Kaitlan Collins and Kevin Liptak

Democratic presidential nominee Joe Biden speaks during a drive-in campaign rally at Riverside High School on October 18, 2020 in Durham, North Carolina. 
Democratic presidential nominee Joe Biden speaks during a drive-in campaign rally at Riverside High School on October 18, 2020 in Durham, North Carolina.  Drew Angerer/Getty Images

Democratic presidential nominee Joe Biden released a statement on President Trump’s repeated attacks on Dr. Anthony Fauci, the director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases.

"Coronavirus infections are spiking across the country, but President Trump decided to attack Dr. Fauci again today as a ‘disaster’ and call public health experts ‘idiots’ instead of laying out a plan to beat this virus or heeding their advice about how we can save lives and get our economy moving again," Biden said in the statement. “President Trump even criticized me yesterday for listening to the scientists — that’s not an attack, that’s a badge of honor."

The former vice president also used the statement to slam Trump's Covid-19 response.

“Mr. President, you’re right about one thing: the American people are tired,” Biden said. “They’re tired of your lies about this virus. They’re tired of watching more Americans die and more people lose their jobs because you refuse to take this pandemic seriously. Now, more than ever, we need a leader to bring us together, put a plan in place, and beat this virus — but you have proven yourself yet again to be incapable of doing that.”

Earlier today: Trump claimed on a campaign call that people are tired of hearing about the deadly pandemic which has killed more than 215,000 Americans and trashed Fauci as a "disaster" who has been around for "500 years."

Referring to Fauci and other health officials as "idiots," Trump declared the country ready to move on from the health disaster, even as cases are again spiking and medical experts warn the worst may be yet to come.

Baselessly claiming that if Fauci was in charge more than half a million people would be dead in the United States, Trump portrayed the recommendations offered by his own administration to mitigate spread of the disease as a burdensome annoyance.

2:29 p.m. ET, October 19, 2020

What Florida's early voting data shows so far 

From CNN's Liz Stark, Adam Levy and Ethan Cohen

People wait in line to vote in Coral Gables, Florida, on Monday, October 19.
People wait in line to vote in Coral Gables, Florida, on Monday, October 19. Joe Raedle/Getty Images

Early returns in Florida show the critical battleground state's pre-Election Day electorate is currently trending younger than four years ago.

In ballots returned before in-person voting opened on Monday, Florida voters under 65 years old accounted for about half the ballots cast, marking a 12-point uptick in their share of the early vote compared to this time in 2016. The share of seniors aged 65 or older has dropped from about 64% of the pre-election vote then to just 52% now.

This boost in early turnout among younger voters may reflect nationwide organizing efforts to mobilize young people to vote early, while seniors in the state may already be accustomed to voting early in previous cycles.

This shift comes as both President Trump and Democratic presidential nominee Joe Biden have been courting the highly coveted senior vote in the Sunshine State. In 2016, Trump won about 57% of their vote, according to exit polls, which helped boost his one-percentage point victory in the state.

This detailed voting information comes from Catalist, a company that provides data, analytics and other services to Democrats, academics and nonprofit issue-advocacy organizations and is giving new insights into who is voting before November.

Here is some more data on the state from Catalist, which analyzed over 24 million ballots cast in 36 states so far:

  • The number of ballots already cast in the Sunshine State has doubled compared to this point in 2016.
  • Democrats are significantly outpacing Republicans in their share of ballots cast so far, marking a turnaround from 2016. Currently, Democrats account for nearly half the votes, with Republicans making up about 30%. Around the same time four years ago, the 43% of ballots cast by Republicans just topped Democrats' 40% of ballots cast. This is not predictive of the ultimate outcome, however, as polling nationwide indicates Republicans strongly prefer to vote in person on Election Day.
  • The racial composition of Florida's early voting electorate has shifted somewhat since 2016, with White voters making up a slightly smaller share of those who've already cast ballots and Black voters making up a slightly larger share. At this point four years ago, White voters comprised 77% early voters, but they now represent 71%. Black voters have increased their share of the early vote from 8% in 2016 to 11% currently. Hispanic voters comprise about 13% of those who've already voted in Florida, about the same as this point four years ago.

Some background: More than 28 million general election ballots have been cast, according to a survey of election officials in 46 states and the District of Columbia by CNN, Edison Research, and Catalist.

These pre-Election Day votes represent almost 20% of the more than 136 million presidential ballots cast overall in 2016, although this cycle's turnout is expected to be much higher.

With roughly two weeks until Nov. 3, the already-skyrocketing ballot return numbers reflect a major shift towards early voting amid the coronavirus pandemic, coupled with high interest in the general election.

1:56 p.m. ET, October 19, 2020

North Carolina issued new guidance on fixing absentee ballot problems. Here are the key changes. 

From CNN's Dianne Gallagher and Pamela Kirkland

An election worker stuffs absentee ballot applications at the Mecklenburg County Boards of Elections office in Charlotte, North Carolina, on September 4.
An election worker stuffs absentee ballot applications at the Mecklenburg County Boards of Elections office in Charlotte, North Carolina, on September 4. Logan Cyrus/AFP/Getty Images

The North Carolina State Board of Elections on Monday issued new guidance to county boards on how voters can fix problems with their absentee by mail ballots.  

The latest memo aims to not only set a standard, but with two weeks until Election Day, clear up a near-constant cloud of confusion that has been hanging over parts of the state’s absentee ballot process for the past month. However, there are still other pending lawsuits and opportunities to appeal the court orders cited in the memo. 

In a previous memo, dated Oct. 4, the NCSBE directed county election boards to take no action on absentee by mail ballots with deficiencies on the return envelope, to avoid confusion while several lawsuits around which ballot envelope issues can be cured played out in various courts.  

An attorney representing the NCSBE in court Friday dubbed the situation as “paralysis,” estimating that at least 10,000 absentee ballots with various deficiencies are on hold due to deficiencies and the county boards have been unable to even notify voters about their ballots status due to lawsuits. 

The new guidance, revised on Oct. 17 and issued to county boards today, lists various deficiencies that fallen under two main categories: those that can be cured with a certification and those that cannot be cured. Those that cannot be cured must be spoiled, with a new ballot issued before Election Day. There are also some deficiencies, like a missing zip code, that do not require any action to be accepted. 

There are three listed deficiencies in the new memo that require a new ballot be issued because they cannot be cured by certificate: 

  • A missing witness or assistant signature
  • The envelope is unsealed
  • The envelope indicates the voter is requesting a replacement ballot

The missing witness signature had been the center issue in courtroom drama involving several legal challenges. A federal judge ruled last week that allowing voters to cure a missing witness signature would amount to circumventing the witness requirement, which is state law. 

Deficiencies that are deemed curable by certification in the memo include a voter signature that is missing or in the wrong location, a witness or assistant signature on the wrong line, a witness or assistant that did not also print their name or print their address. 

The memo instructs that county boards must notify voters in writing within one business day of identifying the deficiency and include a cure certification or a new ballot, depending on the issue being resolved. The written notice must also include information on how to vote in-person during early voting and on Election Day, as a voter can choose this option instead of fixing or filling out a new ballot. 

Some background: Voting rights advocates and election officials have grown anxious as the clock ticks down to Election Day, concerned the legal battles could leave affected voters without enough time to fix their issues through the mail. A voter with a pending absentee by mail ballot can cancel it by voting in person — something groups are now encouraging them to do as lawsuits play out —but there is likely a small number of voters who won’t or can’t utilize that option due to the pandemic.

The memo does note that if the voter has an email address on file, the board “shall also send the cure certification to the voter by email.” If no email address is available, the board is instructed to call the voter and let them know a cure certification has been mailed. 

Cure certifications may be submitted by fax, email, in person or by mail. It must be received by a county board of elections by the ballot deadline, a date that is currently tied up in court. 

For ballots with issues that cannot be cured, county boards must also notify those voters by phone or email, if available, that their ballot has an issue that cannot be cured and a new ballot has been issued.  That voter must fill out and mail in a new ballot by Nov. 3 or they can choose to vote in person instead.