The latest on the 2020 election

By Melissa Macaya, Meg Wagner and Mike Hayes, CNN

Updated 0242 GMT (1042 HKT) October 21, 2020
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1:33 p.m. ET, October 20, 2020

Here's how Joe Biden is preparing for Thursday's debate

From CNN’s MJ Lee

Workers set up a tent outside of the Curb Event Center at Belmont University on October 19 in Nashville, Tennessee.
Workers set up a tent outside of the Curb Event Center at Belmont University on October 19 in Nashville, Tennessee. Justin Sullivan/Getty Images

Democratic presidential nominee Joe Biden is off the campaign trail for the second day in a row today, meeting with advisers and preparing for Thursday night’s second and final presidential debate. 

A campaign adviser tells CNN that Biden is getting ready for President Trump to “bully and deflect” from the debate stage, and is also preparing for the President to go after not just Biden but his family as well as we saw in the first debate. 

Biden’s overarching goal is similar to the first debate, the adviser added: talk directly to the American people about how he would contain Covid-19 and build back the economy.

He’ll also be pointing out that Trump has been avoiding the reality on how bad the virus is right now. We’ll likely hear him emphasize the “Park Ave. vs. Scranton” theme that he’s been hitting on in recent weeks.

In addition, the adviser said they still view the 2020 race as being a stable one overall. 

Asked about the mic muting decision by the debate commission, the adviser repeated that they expect Trump to “bully and deflect” regardless of the rules. As for Trump getting a negative Covid-19 test before the debate, the adviser said those questions should be directed to the commission and the Cleveland Clinic.

1:30 p.m. ET, October 20, 2020

NYPD plans to have hundreds of additional cops on duty for the election

From CNN's Brynn Gingras

CNN
CNN

The New York City Police Department will have hundreds of additional officers on duty starting Oct. 26 to assist with anything involving voting locations, Police Chief Terence Monahan said at a news conference.

The NYPD, he said, expects a heavy voter turnout. The chief went on to say that there are no current threats to voting locations and the NYPD does not expect any in the next few weeks. 

“Ensuring that every New Yorker casts their ballot is a top priority,” Monahan said. “We will have cops ready to deploy, teams will be out there. If anything happens, we will be quickly able to take care of it.”

The NYPD will have uniformed officers at all 1,021 polling locations on Election Day as well as 88 early voting locations that will open Oct. 24.  

The NYPD deputy commissioner of intelligence and counter intelligence, John Miller, said that the department is aware of issues in other states but has seen no activity of groups planning to disrupt the election in NYC.

“We’re aware of contentious relations and we’re relying on two things: the extreme right and extreme left both agree that everyone needs to vote and that actually hopefully helps us,” Miller said. 

Miller also said that the NYPD is monitoring the election for any possible cyberattacks. 

“We will be running a cyber command post in the background to make sure we are monitoring all systems against anything that can be election fraud or tampering,” he said.

1:47 p.m. ET, October 20, 2020

Melania Trump cancels her attendance at tonight's rally, cites health

From CNN's Kate Bennett 

First Lady Melania Trump attends an event to mark National Alcohol and Drug Addiction Recovery Month in the East Room of the White House on September 3 in Washington, DC.
First Lady Melania Trump attends an event to mark National Alcohol and Drug Addiction Recovery Month in the East Room of the White House on September 3 in Washington, DC. Drew Angerer/Getty Images

First lady Melania Trump had been scheduled to make her first campaign appearance in months tonight at President Trump’s rally in Pennsylvania, but she has decided not to go, based on how she is feeling.

Melania Trump has not attended a rally or campaign appearance since June 2019.

“Mrs. Trump continues to feel better every day following her recovery from Covid-19, but with a lingering cough, and out of an abundance of caution, she will not be traveling today," the first lady's spokesperson, Stephanie Grisham, told CNN. 

CNN's Kaitlan Collins has more:

12:40 p.m. ET, October 20, 2020

Texas voters cast more than 4.6 million votes in first week of early voting

From CNN's Ashley Killough

Voters wait to cast a ballot at the American Airlines Center during early voting on October 15 in Dallas.
Voters wait to cast a ballot at the American Airlines Center during early voting on October 15 in Dallas. LM Otero/AP

More than 4.6 million people cast their vote in Texas during the first seven days of early voting, according to data posted on the Texas Secretary of State website Tuesday morning. That represents a little more than 27% of registered voters.

On Monday, about 502,042 people voted in person, bringing the total in-person votes to just under 4 million. Meanwhile, approximately 36,772 mail-in ballots were added to the count, bringing the total ballots-by-mail to 619,017.

These numbers do not include Harris County – the largest county in Texas – which still hasn't reported its data for Monday to the state website.

How this stacks up: Comparing early voting data from 2016 can be complicated for multiple reasons, in addition to the pandemic.

First, Texas has three weeks of in-person early voting this cycle compared to two weeks in 2016. Second, the state is tracking early voting data from all 254 counties this cycle, but it only collected data from the top 15 most populous counties in 2016.

Still, when looking at the data from the first seven days of early voting in the top five most populous counties in both cycles, turnout has increased by 228,937 in those counties – an increase of about 13.5%. It's worth noting that those counties represent 42% of all registered voters. 

11:58 a.m. ET, October 20, 2020

NYC mayor and NYPD in talks on how to prepare for potential unrest post-election

From CNN's Kristina Sgueglia

NYC Media
NYC Media

New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio and and the New York Police Department have been in talks about how to prepare for potential unrest following Election Day and in the likelihood of a lingering final count, the mayor said. 

“We are going to have a very clear approach, because I’m not going to be surprised if there’s a prolonged count, recount, whatever it may be in this election and extremely strong views and a lot of people out expressing themselves and we have to protect the right to protest and we expect and should be ready for a lot of peaceful protest," he said.

If anyone attempts violence “we have to stop that violence,” de Blasio added. 

He also said it's “bluntly false” that anything the leader of the Police Benevolence Association says reflects the tenor of the NYPD. He was responding to a question remarking that the PBA have endorsed the President. 

“They hold a broad broad range of views,” he said of the police force reminding that they are a majority “people of color” police force that is “very substantially city residents,” and should not be “stereotyped.” 

He believes what has been seen “overwhelmingly” is that officers “leave their politics at home and they go and do what has to be done to keep people safe and respect peaceful protest.”

He added that peaceful protest is a long respected tradition in NYC. He was pressed repeatedly on the notion that some in the police force may not be on the side of potential demonstrators. 

De Blasio countered that saying that that “it’s a very professional police force.”

While there are individuals in the force that he acknowledged have “done some things absolutely wrong,” with the regard to the police force on the whole it’s not the “reality.”

He continually touted the NYPD and upper ranks as a very “professional” group of people with “diverse views” who "believe deeply that their job is to protect the democratic process and protect peaceful protest," he said.

The NYPD has a briefing later this afternoon on post-election preparedness

12:50 p.m. ET, October 20, 2020

In-person voting started in Wisconsin today. Here's what voters are telling us about the experience so far.

From CNN's Paul P. Murphy

The key swing state of Wisconsin kicked off early in-person voting today.

Here's what voters on the ground are telling CNN about the experience so far:

Early voting line in Milwaukee.
Early voting line in Milwaukee. Source: Milwaukee

"It took about an hour for me to get in and out, I was out there pretty early," Ken Hughes told CNN.  

He voted at the Midtown Center in Milwaukee.

"I voted early because I wanted to get It out of the way to avoid a lot of the longer lines on election day," he said.

A drive thru voting line in Eau Claire, Wisconsin.
A drive thru voting line in Eau Claire, Wisconsin. Source: Michael Koehn

Michael Koehn is in the drive thru voting line in Eau Claire, Wisconsin, today because he doesn't "want to risk a trip to the poll and I want to make certain an actual poll worker takes my ballot. It's that important."

Early voting line in Greenfield, Wisconsin.
Early voting line in Greenfield, Wisconsin. Source: Jesus Hernandez

"I believe waiting times are just going to get longer," Jesus Hernandez told CNN, explaining why he's in line today.

He voted at City Hall in Greenfield, Wisconsin.

Meanwhile, Zach Byrne, who is in the Village of Caledonia, Wisconsin, told CNN he has "always voted early as I traditionally travel for work."

"I kept the tradition going as I figured that I should take advantage of decent weather in Wisconsin as it isn’t getting any warmer (and lines will be outside). I wanted to make sure I didn’t take a chance in not getting it done so that is why I went first day," he added.

HEAR FROM WISCONSIN VOTERS:

11:23 a.m. ET, October 20, 2020

Nearly double the number of absentee ballots returned in New Hampshire than all of 2016

From CNN's Sarah Jorgensen

Two weeks before Election Day, New Hampshire has received nearly double the amount of absentee ballots than it received in total during the 2016 general election. 

New data from the New Hampshire Secretary of State’s office show that 136,137 have already been returned to county clerks out of 200,834 absentee ballots have been requested as of the morning of Oct. 20. 

In 2016, 75,305 absentee ballots were cast total during the general election cycle, according to Election Day tallies from the New Hampshire Secretary of State’s office.

Absentee ballots accounted for about 10% of the total votes cast in New Hampshire during the 2016 general election. 

Absentee ballot rules have been expanded in the Granite State to accommodate those with concerns about the Covid-19 pandemic, in addition to those who may be out of state during Election Day and in other categories.

11:12 a.m. ET, October 20, 2020

Wisconsin opens in-person voting today as Covid-19 cases hit record-breaking spike

From CNN's Jeremy Herb, Casey Tolan, Caroline Kenny and Ellie Kaufman

Kamil Krzaczynski/AFP/Getty Images
Kamil Krzaczynski/AFP/Getty Images

The key presidential battleground of Wisconsin kicks off early voting today — just as the state is grappling with a record number of Covid-19 cases, a stark echo of the state's chaotic April primary in the midst of shelter-in-place restrictions.

That election went forward over Democratic Gov. Tony Evers' objections after the state Supreme Court rejected his effort to delay the primary due to coronavirus, and the US Supreme Court reversed a lower court allowing extra days for voters to return ballots by mail.

The resulting election was marred by widespread reports of problems with absentee ballots, a dire shortage of poll workers, lines that stretched for hours at some polling places and warnings that voting may have ended up spreading coronavirus.

State and local election officials said they've learned from the problems that hampered the primary and are better prepared for the November election. But the two-week early voting period begins Tuesday as the state's coronavirus case rates are setting records. Johns Hopkins University reported a record of 3,861 new cases on Friday, which beat the previous record of 3,743 set just a day earlier.

Even the deadline for the state's absentee ballots remains up in the air. A federal judge ruled last month that Wisconsin could tally mail-in ballots postmarked by Election Day if they arrived up to six days later. But an appeals court panel blocked that decision this month, ruling in favor of the Republican-led Legislature, and Democratic groups have appealed to the Supreme Court.

Wisconsin was one of three Rust Belt states that gave Presiden Trump the White House in 2016, and he and Democratic nominee Joe Biden have made the state a frequent campaign stop, including Trump's Saturday visit to Janesville.

Like other states, Wisconsin has seen a major influx of absentee ballots returned: As of Monday morning, Wisconsin voters had returned more than 863,000 absentee ballots, according to data from the state Elections Commission.

State and local election officials say they believe the steps they've taken will make for a smoother election this time around, including ramping up the number of poll workers in each county, keeping voters outside if possible and giving poll workers protective equipment and plexiglass barriers.

The Wisconsin Election Commission has focused on hiring poll workers for Election Day, and Meagan Wolfe, the commission's chief official, said last week the state was only about 180 workers short out of 30,000 needed.

Madison, the state's capital, has doubled the number of people to work the polls, signing up 6,000, compared with 3,000 in the last three presidential elections, said Maribeth Witzel-Behl, the city clerk.

CNN's Omar Jimenez is on the ground in Wisconsin speaking to voters:

10:37 a.m. ET, October 20, 2020

Over 3 million have requested to vote early in Michigan, state official says

From CNN's Aditi Sangal

More than 3 million voters have requested to vote early in Michigan, according to the Michigan Secretary of State Jocelyn Benson.

“This is extraordinary if you consider the fact that in November 2016, 4.7 million voters participated total in that entire election,” Benson told CNN. “We are on track to see record turnout in Michigan just like so many states around the country, and that’s a great thing for democracy.”

Benson also issued a directive to ban openly carrying guns at polling places on Election Day. This has been met with criticism and in response, she cited the federal law and state law that deems it illegal to intimidate or harass voters at the polls.

“Open carrying a firearm into a polling place or in a voting area is something that very clearly can be intimidating to voters,” she said.

“My job as the state’s chief election officer is simply to ensure that every voter is protected. That's exactly what we're doing here, issuing a very narrowly-tailored regulation to ensure that the open carry of firearms to polling places, which can be intimidating or potentially threatening or harassing for voters, is simply not appropriate and not allowed,” she added.

Watch: