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Election 2020 live updates: SCOTUS rejects attempt to block extended ballot deadline

yorkfoto/iStockBy LIBBY CATHEY, ABC News

(WASHINGTON) -- With six days until Election Day, and President Donald Trump and former Vice President Joe Biden racing toward Nov. 3, more than 71 million have voted early so far -- a record.

The president continues an aggressive, defensive campaign as polls show him trailing nationally and in several battleground states key to his reelection hopes. He has back-to-back rallies in Arizona Wednesday.

Sen. Kamala Harris, the Democratic vice-presidential nominee, is also in Arizona making stops in Tucson and Phoenix. Biden will deliver remarks on his plan to beat COVID-19 from Wilmington, Delaware.

Vice President Mike Pence, meanwhile, has campaign rallies in the battleground states of Wisconsin and Michigan.

Here is how Wednesday is developing. All times Eastern:

Oct 28, 8:47 pm
Trump wraps up Goodyear, Arizona, rally

After relentlessly downplaying the virus at recent rallies this week, disparaging testing, and complaining about the media's continued coverage of the worst pandemic in a century that continues to surge -- Trump at his Goodyear, Arizona, rally appeared to pull back those comments a bit.

The president did not mention the word “COVID,” as he has been, often repeating it multiple times seemingly exasperated by having to discuss the virus.

Trump also didn't explicitly say “we are rounding the turn” or try to uses testing as an excuse for the surging cases. But the president did continue to claim he’s done “a great job we've done in fighting the China virus," and claimed he was "immune" while sharing a fist-bump on stage with Sen. Rand Paul. The immunity duration after contracting COVID-19 remains unknown, according to experts.

-ABC News' Will Steakin

Oct 28, 8:16 pm
Vermont asks Justice Kavanaugh to correct Wisconsin opinion

The state of Vermont has formally requested that Justice Brett Kavanaugh correct his concurring opinion from Monday's controversial Supreme Court decision blocking a mail ballot deadline extension in Wisconsin.

While arguing that the court should not "second-guess" state legislative judgements during the pandemic, he attempted to draw a comparison between Wisconsin and other states which he claimed had decided against changes to mail ballot rules.

"States such as Vermont," Kavanaugh wrote, "have decided not to make changes to their ordinary election rules, including to the election-day deadline for receipt of absentee ballots. The variation in state responses reflects our constitutional system of federalism. Different state legislatures may make different choices."

While it's true that Vermont has not extended its Election Day postmark requirement for mail ballots, the state has in fact made substantive changes to the rules aimed at allowing greater participation during a public health crisis, including mailing every voter a ballot and prepaid return envelope.

-ABC News Senior Washington Reporter Devin Dwyer and Benjamin Siegel

Oct 28, 8:02 pm
How DC officials perform signature verifications

ABC News Live got an exclusive look at how election officials in Washington, D.C., perform signature verifications before mail-in ballots are counted.


BALLOT WATCH: @ABC News got an exclusive look at how election officials in Washington, D.C., perform signature verifications before mail-in ballots are counted.@devindwyer has more. https://t.co/bvZuIWOYht #Election2020 pic.twitter.com/S0rFfyMWF1

— ABC News Live (@ABCNewsLive) October 28, 2020


Trained staff manually inspect each handwritten script and visually compare it to an electronic version associated with the voter's driver's license or other official record.

Oct 28, 7:54 pm
Supreme Court allows NC ballot deadline extension, rejects GOP request to block

The Supreme Court has denied a GOP request to block a six-day extension of the mail ballot deadline in North Carolina which was imposed by the state board of elections.

The decision was 5-3, with Chief Justice John Roberts and Justice Brett Kavanaugh joining the liberal justices. Justices Clarence Thomas, Samuel Alito and Neil Gorsuch would have granted an emergency injunction.

"Such last-minute changes by largely unaccountable bodies invite confusion, risk altering election outcomes, and in the process threaten voter confidence in the results," Gorsuch wrote in the dissent.

Justice Amy Coney Barrett took no part in the decision, the court said, because "of the need for a prompt resolution and because she has not had time to fully review the parties’ filings."

-ABC News Senior Washington Reporter Devin Dwyer

Oct 28, 7:46 pm
Some National Guardsmen to be called up to help at polling places

National Guardsmen will be called up in some states on Election Day as election workers or to facilitate the opening of polling places to help make up for shortfalls of poll workers as a result of the coronavirus pandemic.

Voters won't know that they are National Guardsmen, however because they're being called to active duty to serve as state government employees helping out on Election Day, so they won't be wearing uniforms or carrying weapons.

Behind the scenes, National Guard cyber units have helped with the security of state computer systems and will be able to help out state IT teams if there are issues on Election Day.

Wisconsin and Tennessee will have National Guardsmen helping out at polling centers. In Wisconsin they'll be working as poll workers and helping with cleaning and providing sanitary supplies to the locations. Guardsmen in Tennessee are not allowed to serve as poll workers, so they'll be facilitating the opening of polling centers.

Nebraska's Maj. Gen. Daryl Bohac reiterated that guardsmen helping out as poll workers will essentially be civilians and if there's a need for security assistance because of violence or a threat of violence, they'll be calling 911 for law enforcement assistance, just like any other civilian.

In Washington state, "the biggest thing they're looking at is potential intrusion into the system. So looking at firewalls, looking at the status of the Vote Washington system," said Brig. Gen. Gent Welsh, Washington's Assistant Adjutant General. "Looking for anomalies in the system, basically typical network hygiene that you would usually expect to see anywhere and in a company, or even in the military."

Washington state is a vote-by-mail state, so on Election Day, Welsh said five guardsmen will be part of the team ensuring that the tabulation of votes is safe. They've been there for the past month preparing for Election Day and they'll remain on duty for four to five days after that to ensure the system's security. Welsh said cyber teams first started working on assessing vulnerabilities to the state's systems. "Most all of it is done over the shoulder of the Secretary of State teams, their own IT staff, teach them how to do these things as well. But again, just another extra set of eyes," he said.

In Tennessee, 30 Guardsmen have been providing "subject matter expertise" ensuring the counties have a "very robust support system" as they upgrade their software and assist with "the basic protocols of insurance," said Maj. Gen. Jeff Holmes, Tennessee's adjutant general. He said that six or seven counties had asked for specific assistance.

Wisconsin's assistant adjutant general, Brig. Gen. Robyn Blader, also added that, "the extent of Wisconsin National Guard's role in the November election, is still being determined."

-ABC News' Luis Martinez

Oct 28, 6:14 pm
Supreme Court rejects GOP attempt to block extended ballot deadline

The Supreme Court has rejected Pennsylvania Republicans' second attempt to block an extended deadline for mail-in ballots for the 2020 election.

The high court announced the 5-3 decision Wednesday evening that it will not expedite a Republican request to stop the state's extended deadline for receiving mail-in ballots, a small and potentially temporary victory for Democrats who believe mail-in ballots in the battleground state could determine the election.

Justice Amy Coney Barrett did not participate in the case "because of the need for a prompt resolution of it and because she has not had time to fully review the parties' filings," the court's spokeswoman said.

The court's order did leave open the possibility that the justices could take up the measure again and decide after voting whether a three-day extension to receive and count absentee ballots ordered by the state's high court was proper. The decision leaves open a potential question as to the validity of any ballots received after Election Day.

Justice Samuel Alito, writing for the three dissenting justices -- himself, Justice Neil Gorsuch and Justice Clarence Thomas -- indicated he would support the court's eventual review of the issue but wrote, "I reluctantly conclude that there is simply not enough time at this late date to decide the question before the election."

Earlier in the month, the Supreme Court deadlocked 4-4 on whether to block the extension -- effectively leaving in place a Pennsylvania Supreme Court decision that mandated the extension. Republicans were hoping Barrett's place on the court could produce a different outcome. In the end, Justice Brett Kavanuagh joined the majority in this decision.
Experts say due to the expected record amount of mail-in voting, election night could be more like election week, but Trump said earlier in the day he expects the courts would "hopefully" block any ballot deadline extensions.

Oct 28, 5:14 pm
Trump, Harris campaign in Arizona as coronavirus cases surge

Trump held a rally with hundreds of supporters in Bullhead City, Arizona, this afternoon as coronavirus cases in the state surge and the situation begins to resemble the early stages of the summer spike that made Arizona one of the worst hot spots in the world.

“You are so lucky, people, that I took you on this journey with me,” Trump told the enthusiastic crowd, aiming to pitch himself both to Arizona voters and Nevadans just across the Colorado River.

At one point, Trump defended what he called his "reputation" for stiffing people, saying people who do a “lousy job” don’t deserve to be paid -- using whoever set up his microphone at the rally as an example.
“Whoever did this microphone, don't pay them. You know, I have a reputation for not paying. And it's a false reputation. When somebody does a lousy job like a microphone that is no good or like teleprompters that fly with the wind, I say don't pay them,” Trump said.

Sen. Kamala Harris is also campaigning in the Cooper State this afternoon, opting for drive-in style rallies and roundtable events, as opposed to the shoulder-to-shoulder events the Trump campaign has hosted. In a parking lot at Pima Community College earlier in the day, Harris pushed back on Trump calling her a “female socialist.”
“You know there has been some talk about my values. Let me just tell you, Tucson, I am a proud patriotic American. I love my country and our values reflect the values of America,” Harris said.
-ABC News’ Averi Harper

Oct 28, 4:05 pm
2020 election cost projected to near $14 billion, twice the amount spent in 2016 cycle

The Center for Responsive Politics now estimates nearly $14 billion will be spent on federal elections across the country by the end of the 2020 election cycle, nearly twice the total amount spent during the 2016 election cycle.
The center earlier this month projected $11 billion in total spending for the 2020 cycle but updated the number after seeing a huge influx of political spending reported in the third quarter of this year.

This means that even if committees had stopped all spending at the end of September, the 2020 election would still be the most expensive ever.
“Donors poured record amounts of money into the 2018 midterms, and 2020 appears to be a continuation of that trend -- but magnified," CRP Executive Director Sheila Krumholz wrote in a statement. "Ten years ago, a billion-dollar presidential candidate would have been difficult to imagine. This cycle, we’re likely to see two.”
-ABC News’ Soorin Kim

Oct 28, 3:35 pm
Trump, Biden condemn violence in Philadelphia

At an event with truckers in Las Vegas, Trump was asked about the unrest in Philadelphia following the death of Walter Wallace Jr., a Black man, at the hands of police. After condemning riots in what he called the "Democrat run" state, he said the federal government is looking into the fatal shooting.

"It's a terrible thing," Trump said. "What I'm witnessing is terrible, and, frankly, that the mayor or whoever it is, that's allowing people to riot and loot and not stop them is also just a horrible thing."

"We're looking at the shooting and if asked to go in and help, we will do that," Trump said, urging Philadelphia Mayor Jim Kenney, a Democrat, to call in the National Guard -- which the state has already done.

Looking to the election, Trump also said that "hopefully" the courts will stop ballots from being counted past Nov. 3 -- but experts say to expect record amount of mail-in voting, election night could be more like election week.

Biden, asked earlier about the ongoing situation in Philadelphia, gave a general answer to the ongoing clashes between police officers and protesters as he tries to walk a fine line of supporting both Black Lives Matter protesters and law enforcement.

“There is no excuse whatsoever for the looting and the violence. None whatsoever. I think to be able to protest is totally legitimate, totally reasonable," Biden said, going on to pitch his idea of a national commission on policing. "But there's no excuse for the looting."

Oct 28, 2:22 pm
Trump campaign blames Omaha post-rally scene, which Biden slammed, on 'local road closures'

The former vice president slammed Trump for the botched scene after his rally in Omaha, Nebraska, Tuesday night, saying the president "gets his photo op then he gets out" leaving "everyone else to suffer the consequences of his failure to make a responsible plan."
Hundreds of Trump supporters were stranded for hours in near-freezing weather following Trump's Tuesday rally, waiting for buses to return them from Eppley Airfield hanger to their cars, resulting in some requiring medical attention and being taken to the hospital.
Forty buses had hauled approximately 25,000 people from parking lots to the airport hanger throughout the day, according to officials. When the rally finished around 9 p.m., people flooded out of the venue to be transported by the Trump campaign in charter buses back to their cars 2.5 miles away, but many ended up walking back or waiting hours in 30-degree weather well into the night hours after Trump had left the state.

The mismanaged post-rally scene by the campaign resulted in attendees, including some elderly, requiring medical attention on-site and at least seven being transported to the hospital, according to the Omaha Scanner, a local police tracker that monitors official radio traffic. A preliminary report from the Omaha Police Department also confirmed that number.

Since many attendees chose to walk back to their cars instead of waiting for buses, foot traffic slowed bus trips "considerably," according to officials who attempted to clear the congestion. Police said the last person was loaded into a bus from the rally site around 11:50 p.m. and traffic returned to normal at about 12:30 a.m.

The Trump campaign blamed the delay on "local road closures" in a statement to ABC News.
"Because of the sheer size of the crowd, we deployed 40 shuttle buses instead of the normal 15, but local road closures and resulting congestion caused delays. We always strive to provide the best guest experience at our events and we care about their safety," said Trump campaign spokesperson Samantha Zager.
-ABC News’ Will Steakin and Terrance Smith

Oct 28, 12:06 pm
Pence tests negative for COVID-19, campaigning in states with Biden advantage

Ahead of the vice president's trips to two battleground states Trump narrowly won in 2016, Pence's office announced he tested negative for the coronavirus again today -- as the Trump administration struggles with voter trust on its handling of the pandemic.

Pence will continue traversing the country as an "essential worker," according to the White House, despite five of his aides testing positive for COVID-19 over the weekend and Pence coming into close contact with at least one of those infected individuals. He has rallies this afternoon in Wisconsin and Michigan -- states where Biden leads Trump among likely voters, according to new ABC News/Washington Post polls.

Trump campaign national press secretary Hogan Gidley appearing on CNN this morning said that it wasn't a concern for the vice president to go to Wisconsin -- which had a record number of hospitalizations on Monday -- since his doctors have cleared him for travel.

"The vice president has the best doctors in the world around him. They're obviously contact traced and have come to the conclusion it's fine for him to be out on the campaign trail," Gidley said. "The American people have the right under the First Amendment to peaceably assemble, too."

Oct 28, 12:03 pm
Some swing state officials urge voters to bypass the mail to return ballots

With millions of absentee ballots still outstanding less than a week until Election Day, state election officials in at least six in critical swing states are revising their message for voters, now urging them to bypass the Postal Service and instead vote in person or hand-deliver their ballots to ensure they are delivered in time to be counted.

Officials in Michigan, Pennsylvania, Florida, Wisconsin, Georgia and Ohio have all put out calls in recent days warning voters about potential postal delays, encouraging voters to use drop boxes or deliver ballots by hand.

"It's now important to return your ballots in person. Don't rely on the mail," Michigan Secretary of State Jocelyn Benson told ABC News Live Prime Anchor Linsey Davis on Tuesday, adding the state is still waiting on more than 1 million absentee ballots to be returned.

Mail-in voting is expected to reach unprecedented levels this election cycle due to the health concerns of the novel coronavirus pandemic. But of the 88 million ballots voters requested, only half have been returned so far.

The last-minute push to bypass the Postal Service comes after months of concern from critics about the reliability of the mail in the electoral process, budgetary concerns with the agency and threats to cut services in a presidential election year -- fears that postal officials said were misguided. This summer, though, the post office warned state election officials that voters should send in their ballots no later than Oct. 27th in order to get them in on time in accordance with delivery standards.

The move also comes amid a background of litigation over extending mail-in ballot deadlines past Election Day, which Democrats generally favor and a push by Republicans and the Trump administration to end the process on Nov. 3.

-ABC News' Olivia Rubin, Kendall Karson and  Lucien Bruggeman

Oct 28, 10:39 am
Trump pitches himself out West, Biden off the trail

As Trump continues to downplay the realities of the coronavirus pandemic on his path to re-election, he will pitch himself to Nevada voters this afternoon but he will do it from Arizona -- after a rally in the Silver State last month violated coronavirus restrictions and left his campaign with hefty fines.
The shifting of his event, this time, across the banks of the Colorado River to Bullhead City, Arizona, comes as polls show Biden with a nationwide lead, advantage in swing states and with more trust in voters than Trump to handle the coronavirus pandemic.

Trump in a three-state tour Tuesday condemned Democratic leaders in Michigan and Wisconsin for imposing restrictions to combat the coronavirus crisis -- and is expected to do the same with Nevada’s governor Wednesday while on Arizona soil, where Republican Gov. Doug Ducey, a close ally to Trump, leads.
But Democrats aren't ceding the Western states to the GOP. Biden's running mate, California Sen. Kamala Harris, was in Nevada on Tuesday in an push to prevent the state from flipping to Trump and will campaign in Arizona Wednesday -- stopping in the cities of Tucson and Phoenix.

Biden, meanwhile, is off the trail, spending the day in Wilmington, Delaware. He’s expected to receive a virtual briefing on the pandemic from public health experts, then give a speech on protecting health care and his plan to tackle the coronavirus crisis.

Democrats are playing on the offense in the homestretch -- focusing on states that Trump won in 2016. Biden took a trip to the red state of Georgia Tuesday and has plans to visit Florida, Iowa, Wisconsin and Michigan later this week. Trump's pitch to Nevada voters, where Clinton won by less than 2.5 percentage points, shows the campaign thinks the state's six electoral votes are within reach.

Oct 28, 10:40 am
Biden leads Trump in Michigan, Wisconsin: POLL

A surge in coronavirus cases has damaged Trump's re-election campaign in Wisconsin, with growing criticism of his work on the pandemic and preference for Biden to handle it. Biden holds a slighter advantage in Michigan, with sizable leads among women, moderates and independents in ABC News/Washington Post polls in both states.

Biden leads Trump by 57-40% among likely voters in Wisconsin, a state that's now reported to be third in the nation in per capita COVID-19 cases, with a 53% increase in average daily cases in the past two weeks, a record number of hospitalizations and a 112% jump in deaths. That compares with a closer 52-46% in mid-September.

In Michigan, it's 51-44%, Biden-Trump, among likely voters, a slight Biden lead in this poll produced for ABC by Langer Research Associates.

Behind it all, an atypical election clock is ticking. Thirty-seven percent of likely voters in Wisconsin, and 38% in Michigan, say they've already voted. And an additional 23% in Wisconsin, and 18% in Michigan, say they will vote early or absentee. Early voters are strong Biden groups. The share planning to vote on Election Day -- broadly for Trump -- has fallen from 51% last month to 39% now in Wisconsin. It's 43% in Michigan.

-ABC News’ Polling Director Gary Langer

Oct 28, 10:46 am
Ahead of Arizona rallies, Trump's testing czar directly contradicts him on testing

Adm. Brett Giroir, a member of the White House coronavirus task force who was charged with leading the country's testing efforts at the beginning of the pandemic and has been careful not to break from the White House message, directly contradicted the president this morning when he acknowledged U.S. coronavirus cases are on the rise -- and not due to testing.

Trump said Tuesday, as he has throughout the pandemic, that the virus is going away and cases are rising due to increased testing -- but Giroir countered both of those points and warned "Draconian measures" may be required "if we don’t make a change."

"We do believe and the data show that cases are going up. It’s not just a function of testing," Giroir said in an interview this morning on NBC. "Yes, we’re getting more cases identified, but the cases are actually going up. And we know that, too, because hospitalizations are going up."

"It's not just a function of testing," Giroir added, calling the current moment a "critical point" in the country's pandemic response. He went on to remind Americans to practice social distancing, wear a face mask and avoid crowded, indoor spaces -- CDC guidelines which the Trump campaign itself has scantily adhered to.

"If we don't do those things, it may force local officials or government officials in the states to have more draconian measures because cases will go up if we don't make a change," Giroir warned. "The virus isn't acting on its own.”


Covid, Covid, Covid is the unified chant of the Fake News Lamestream Media. They will talk about nothing else until November 4th., when the Election will be (hopefully!) over. Then the talk will be how low the death rate is, plenty of hospital rooms, & many tests of young people.

— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) October 28, 2020


The president has increasingly sought to tune out that reality as he holds mass gatherings day-after-day in the final stretch of his campaign, including in some of the hardest hit states. At those rallies, Trump has lamented over media coverage of COVID-19, claiming the coverage is intended to hurt his reelection chances. It comes as the U.S. reported a record of more than 500,000 new cases over the past week alone.

-ABC News' Brian Hartman

Oct 28, 10:48 am
COVID-19 disconnect looms over Trump in Midwest

Trump hit Michigan Tuesday with what's already become a familiar complaint about TV news.
"With them, you can't watch anything else," he said. "You turn on – COVID, COVID, COVID, COVID, COVID, COVID. COVID, COVID, COVID. COVID!"
There's a reason, of course, for the coverage. And new ABC News/Washington Post polling out Wednesday morning shows how extensively COVID-19 perceptions are impacting the race -- particularly in a few states that are likely to matter the most.

Biden leads Trump 57-40 among likely voters in Wisconsin, and 52-46 in Michigan. That's a sizable lead with less than a week to go in both critical states, with the Wisconsin number striking on its own because it shows a larger margin than other recent polls.
One thing that is driving the story in Wisconsin, in particular -- the pandemic. The state is in the midst of a full-on coronavirus crisis, setting new records for hospitalizations and sitting near the top of the list for per capita cases.

The president is 20 points underwater on his handling of the pandemic in Wisconsin, and Biden is trusted more than Trump on the subject by a similar 20 points. The poll shows Trump's support among suburban voters cratering in Wisconsin, particularly in comparison to Michigan.

The polling also shows Trump trailing among seniors in Wisconsin by 24 points and in Michigan by 12 points. He carried voters 65 and older narrowly in both states four years ago, according to exit polls.
Biden can win the presidency by rebuilding the blue wall -- Wisconsin, Michigan and Pennsylvania -- without carrying a single other Trump state. It might wind up being rebuilt with help from the crisis that has defined Trump's presidency.
-ABC News’ Political Director Rick Klein

Copyright © 2020, ABC Audio. All rights reserved.

Signature verification could complicate massive mail ballot count, experts say

Spiderstock/iStockBy DEVIN DWYER, ABC News

(WASHINGTON) -- Move over dimpled chads.

The historic surge of mail-in ballots in 2020 means slope, slant and pen lifts in voter signatures could pose a major new flashpoint in the tabulation of election results.

"There will be partisan challenging of signature verification and signatures in the days following the election in many states. We can prepare ourselves for it now," said Tammy Patrick, a senior adviser at the Democracy Fund, a nonpartisan election advocacy group.

Mail-in ballots in every state must arrive with a voter signature on the envelope in order to be counted. Dozens of states perform an analysis of those signatures to make sure they match a real voter on file.

ABC News got an exclusive look at how election officials in Washington, D.C., perform signature verifications before mail-in ballots are counted. Trained staff manually inspect each handwritten script and visually compare it to an electronic version associated with the voter's driver's license or other official record.

"If it's not that as signed, then we have a process where we notify the voters," said D.C. Board of Elections executive director Alice Miller. "They can cure it. They have so much time to cure it. And we send them a document, they can sign it and send them back to us."

Watch ABC News Live Prime at 7 and 9 p.m. ET for an exclusive look at how election officials in Washington, D.C., perform signature verifications before mail-in ballots are counted.

Twenty-two states notify voters and give them a chance to cure, or fix, ballot signature defects within a few days of the election, according to the Brennan Center, a nonpartisan law and policy institute. But 28 states -- including the key battlegrounds of Michigan and Wisconsin -- do not.

"We often say one vote, every vote, matters and counts. And sometimes that vote can really make an impact more than at other times," said Patrick. "We need to make sure that every eligible American has their ballot counted even if they didn't cross a 't' or forgot to dot an 'i.'"

An ABC News analysis of the last two election cycles found more than 750,000 mail-in ballots were thrown out nationwide -- many for not having a valid signature, or for arriving late. During this year's primaries, more than 500,000 were tossed for the same reasons.

"Individuals who are inexperienced with mail voting tend to have their ballots rejected at higher rates," said Dartmouth College government professor Michael Herron, who specializes in quantitative analysis of voter behavior. "It's a pretty big bump and that's an important thing right now because so many people are new to voting by mail."

Researchers say signature errors disproportionately trip up younger voters and minority voters, and rarely reflect attempted fraud.

"Sadly, what we have found is that signatures may vary for all kinds of reasons: someone's age, someone may have had a stroke, somebody may be just moving too fast," said Kristen Clarke, executive director of the Lawyers' Committee for Civil Rights Under Law, a leading nonpartisan voter advocacy group. "In those instances, we're really pushing officials to give voters notice and an opportunity to cure any issue that you may have identified."

While several states have detailed guidelines for signature matching, others do not, leading some experts to worry that a subjective analysis of a voter's handwriting could unfairly compromise their vote.

"Staff are under-trained, they're under-resourced, and they'll be under tremendous pressure to get results quickly and they're moving through thousands or millions of signatures in the state," said Brennan Center attorney Raul Macias. "To verify signatures very quickly, mistakes can happen."

One analysis conducted by Carroll College political scientist Alexander Street estimates a 97% likelihood that a ballot rejected for an unsuccessful signature comparison should have been counted.

The findings are one reason why the Pennsylvania Supreme Court last week unanimously ruled that no ballots can be thrown out this year over an alleged signature mismatch. A federal judge in South Carolina ruled Tuesday that that state is also prohibited from rejecting mail-in ballots over an alleged invalid signature.

"If you're applying online you need to use a state driver's license or photo ID. If you're applying for a mail-in ballot via paper application, you need the voter social security number. So there are already multiple steps in the process that prevent voter fraud," said Bethany Hallam, a member of the Allegehny County, Pennsylvania, Board of Elections. "And, remember if you attempt to commit voter fraud, that's a felony, and you will be prosecuted."

Copyright © 2020, ABC Audio. All rights reserved.

'Anonymous,' author of White House tell-all book, revealed to be Miles Taylor

TriggerPhoto/iStockBy KATHERINE FAULDERS, ABC News

(WASHINGTON) -- "Anonymous," the author of a tell-all book who was serving in the Trump administration, has revealed himself to be Miles Taylor.

Taylor, a former senior Trump administration official, went public with his criticism of the president in August, in a video released by Republican Voters for Trump, making him the highest-ranking former administration official to endorse former Vice President Joe Biden.

Taylor, who had served as Homeland Security chief of staff, launched a group called the Republican Political Alliance for Integrity and Reform or REPAIR for short, made up of "former U.S. officials, advisors, and conservatives -- organized by ex-Trump administration officials -- calling for leadership change in the White House and seeking to repair the Republican Party," according to its website.

As it turns out, Taylor is also the author of the book “A Warning” and the 2018 New York Times op-ed that claimed there was a “resistance” within the Trump administration.

After the op-ed was published, President Donald Trump blasted it as "gutless," tweeting, "TREASON?" "If the GUTLESS anonymous person does indeed exist," he wrote on Twitter that day, "the Times must, for National Security purposes, turn him/her over to government at once!"

In a Medium post published Wednesday titled "Why I’m no longer 'Anonymous,'" Taylor wrote that his book was "a character study of the current Commander in Chief and a caution to voters that it wasn’t as bad as it looked inside the Trump Administration — it was worse."

He said that while he penned it anonymously, "I made clear I wasn’t afraid to criticize the President under my name. In fact, I pledged to do so. That is why I’ve already been vocal throughout the general election."

Still, he addressed the issue of having concealed his identity.

"Much has been made of the fact that these writings were published anonymously. The decision wasn’t easy, I wrestled with it, and I understand why some people consider it questionable to levy such serious charges against a sitting President under the cover of anonymity. But my reasoning was straightforward, and I stand by it. Issuing my critiques without attribution forced the President to answer them directly on their merits or not at all, rather than creating distractions through petty insults and name-calling. I wanted the attention to be on the arguments themselves."

He also applauded the public servants who have spoken out against Trump.

"These public servants were not intimidated. And you shouldn’t be either. As descendants of revolutionaries, honest dissent is part of our American character, and we must reject the culture of political intimidation that’s been cultivated by this President. That’s why I’m writing this note — to urge you to speak out if you haven’t.

White House press secretary Kayleigh McEnany responded in a statement, calling Taylor a "low-level, disgruntled former staffer" and a "liar and coward who chose anonymity over action and leaking over leading."

Copyright © 2020, ABC Audio. All rights reserved.

Amid record early voting turnout Georgia could hit 6 million ballots cast after Election Day, secretary of state says

adamkaz/iStockBy QUINN SCANLAN, ABC News

(WASHINGTON) -- Georgia has already seen record turnout during early voting, and on Wednesday, Secretary of State Brad Raffensperger predicted that after Election Day, as many as 6 million voters could have cast ballots in this year's general election, up from 4.1 million in 2016.

"We very well could hit 4.1 million voters before we hit Tuesday," Raffensperger, a Republican, told ABC News' "Powerhouse Politics" podcast. "Back in January, we predicted 5 million voters. Obviously, we should've aimed a little bit higher... I think now we'll be probably in the neighborhood of 6 million voters."

The secretary told the podcast's co-hosts, Chief White House Correspondent Jonathan Karl and Political Director Rick Klein, that they're seeing increases across the board, among "voters of all ages, all backgrounds, (and) both political persuasions."

Since the 2016 election, at least 1.2 million Georgians have registered to vote, according to data from the secretary of state's office, making a potential increase of 1.9 million more voters casting ballots this election compared to last even more notable.

The state has had no excuse absentee voting since 2005, but that method normally only makes up about 5% of total voters in an election. In 2016, only about 200,000 voters cast absentee ballots by mail, but so far this cycle, already more than 1 million absentee ballots have been returned. These ballot must be received by 7 p.m. on Nov. 3 in order to be counted.

With just six days until those ballots are due, Raffensperger said drop boxes are a great option for voters who still need to return their absentee ballots, which were newly allowed for the 2020 election cycle.

More than 2.2 million have voted during the state's three-week early voting period, which ends on Friday, and historically, the last two days are the busiest across the state.

Along with that record turnout, though, comes more pressure on election officials to deliver results quickly. But Raffensperger was confident that Georgia is well-positioned to have timely results.

"We'll get voters their results, you know, as soon as we can that Tuesday night, or Wednesday morning," he said on the podcast. "I think the sooner we can get results that are accurate out to everyone, I think that helps calm things down. And it really just gives people that sense of comfort that there is a safe, secure assessment process in place."

Over the summer, the State Election Board, which Raffensperger chairs, passed an emergency rule allowing county election officials more time to process the expected influx in absentee ballots. Beginning 15 days before the election, officials could open the returned absentee ballot envelopes and conduct every step of the process up to the actual tabulation of those votes.

The tabulation, though, is a "relatively fast operation," Raffensperger said, and as simple as pressing a button on the machine after polls close.

The secretary said that counties are working through the absentee ballots now, mentioning that in Columbus, Georgia, the county election director said her goal is to "have no backlog" of absentee ballots by 7 p.m. on Election Day.

"That is huge. That will give us a very quick response," Raffensperger said.

He said he was grateful for the rule change to allow this pre-canvassing of the votes.

"At the end of the day, we're putting the voters in the driver's seat and voters... they know that their vote counts, but they need to hear from us sometimes," he said. "We understand how important they are in the process, and everyone wants to get those results as soon as possible."

As coronavirus cases are increasing across the country, Klein asked Raffensperger about what COVID-19 precautions are in place for early voting, and on Election Day.

Raffensperger said that poll workers and voters "by-and-large" will be separated by plexiglass screens during the check-in process. Poll workers will wear masks and often, gloves, Voting machines will be disinfected after each voter, red dots will be on the ground marking 6 feet to help voters adhere to social distancing, including while in line, and the voting machines will also be spaced out, which is good for safety precautions, but also means that less voting machines can fit in the voting locations.

The secretary was also asked about the 1,300 instances of alleged double voting during the primary and runoff elections over the summer, and how to prevent that from happening during the general election.

Raffensperger said the instances are still being investigated, but part of the problem was poll workers not checking to see if voters had already voted absentee.

He said the main reason they went public with the information, and later followed up with specific data about in which counties and how the alleged double voting occurred, was to make clear to voters that voting twice "is a serious violation."

"We need voters to understand that we will prosecute when we find people who double vote because every time someone posts twice, you in effect, have robbed someone else's lawful vote," Raffensperger said. "We just want to make sure that elections are run safely, sensibly and responsibly."

At the beginning of this month, the secretary of state's office released data outlining in which counties and in what way the alleged double voting occurred. None of the alleged instances have been proven yet as the investigation is ongoing. Raffensperger said the State Election Board will hold a hearing on the alleged violations once the general election is complete.

Copyright © 2020, ABC Audio. All rights reserved.

COVID surge hurts Trump in Wisconsin; Biden leads in a closer Michigan contest: Poll

Official White House Photo by Shealah CraigheadBy GARY LANGER

(NEW YORK) -- A surge in coronavirus cases has damaged President Donald Trump's re-election campaign in Wisconsin, with growing criticism of his work on the pandemic and preference for former Vice President Joe Biden to handle it. Biden holds a slighter advantage in Michigan, with sizable leads among women, moderates and independents in ABC News/Washington Post polls in both states.

Biden leads Trump by 57-40% among likely voters in Wisconsin, a state that's now reported to be third in the nation in per capita COVID-19 cases, with a 53% increase in average daily cases in the past two weeks, a record number of hospitalizations and a 112% jump in deaths. That compares with a closer 52-46% in mid-September.

In Michigan, it's 51-44%, Biden-Trump, among likely voters, a slight Biden lead in this poll, produced for ABC by Langer Research Associates. The Senate race there stands at 52% for incumbent Democrat Gary Peters versus 46% for Republican John James, not a statistically significant difference, thus a rare chance this cycle for a GOP pickup, with control of the Senate in the balance.


Vote preference results look very much like views on Trump's performance as president overall, seemingly cementing the contest as a referendum on the incumbent. In Wisconsin, registered voters disapprove rather than approve of his work in office, 58-41%. In Michigan, it's 52-46%. Both nearly match vote preferences.

Behind it all, an atypical election clock is ticking. Thirty-seven percent of likely voters in Wisconsin, and 38% in Michigan, say they've already voted. And an additional 23% in Wisconsin, and 18% in Michigan, say they will vote early or absentee. Early voters are strong Biden groups. The share planning to vote on Election Day -- broadly for Trump -- has fallen from 51% last month to 39% now in Wisconsin. It's 43% in Michigan.

One wildcard is whether voting and vote-counting are aligned. The U.S. Supreme Court on Monday effectively barred the counting of mail-in ballots received in Wisconsin after Election Day, raising the question of how many late-arriving votes will be disqualified.

Copyright © 2020, ABC Audio. All rights reserved.

'Dark money,' used by both parties, featured in $100 million pro-Biden ad blitz

Heidi Gutman/ABC NewsBy SOO RIN KIM, ABC News

(WASHINGTON) -- As an influx of 11th-hour outside money pours in to boost both presidential candidates, so-called "dark money" groups, which don't have to disclose the source of their funding, and a host of Silicon Valley executives are quietly fueling a massive last-minute ad campaign in support of Democratic presidential nominee Joe Biden.

Future Forward, the super PAC fronting the effort, has mostly remained under the radar until late September, when it began rolling out a six-figure television ad blitz in support of the former vice president. The group is now on track to spend more than $108 million on pro-Biden television ads across the country in the final five weeks of the presidential race, becoming the single biggest political ad spender entering the home stretch of the 2020 election, according to ad placement data.

Super PACs like Future Forward are required to disclose their donors to the Federal Election Commission, but the group reported nearly half of the $74 million it has brought in through mid-October as coming from politically active nonprofits, or so-called "dark money" groups that are not required to disclose their donors to the FEC the same way as PACs and super PACs do -- a tactic used increasingly frequently to mask who's funding political campaigns. The rest of the money that's been reported to the FEC is from a handful of Silicon Valley influencers and major Democratic donors.

In early September, a similar last-minute boost for President Donald Trump popped up as the president repeatedly trailed his Democratic challenger in fundraising and spending. The super PAC, called Preserve America, backed by big-name GOP donors like casino mogul Sheldon Adelson, has since aired and reserved a whopping $82 million worth of television ads in support of Trump, but it has not reported receiving contributions from dark money groups and instead reported receiving most of its funding -- $75 million -- from Adelson and his wife.

Future Forward's move underscores the critical role that controversial "dark money" has played in recent elections and the increasing use of that money to make a push as campaigns enter the home stretch.

During the 2016 cycle, dark money groups spent at least $66.8 million on the presidential election, with more than twice the amount spent to benefit Republicans than Democrats, according to data from the Center for Responsive Politics, though the murky nature of dark money spending disclosure makes it difficult to gauge the full picture.

The last-minute boost from Future Forward has provided critical additional support for Biden and the Democrats in some of the key battleground states like Pennsylvania, Michigan and Wisconsin, as the campaign and the party invest heavily in Florida and North Carolina, ad data from media research firm Kantar/CMAG shows.

Future Forward, led by Chauncey McLean, the Democratic Party’s director of media tracking in 2012, has been around since 2018 but has only begun making significant moves late this election cycle.

The group has quickly risen to become one of the biggest players in the presidential race, on par with longtime Democratic super PAC Priorities USA Action's operation, which has already spent $130 million so far this election cycle, as well as billionaire Michael Bloomberg's pledge to spend $100 million toward helping Biden win Florida in November.

60,000 spots

According to CMAG's ad data, Future Forward has already aired 14 different ads over nearly 60,000 spots in the past few weeks, many of them zeroing in on the state of the coronavirus pandemic.

Several ads feature medical experts and healthcare workers criticizing the president's response to the public health crisis, such as failing to make the right moves early in the pandemic, contrasting it to Biden's plan to ramp up testing operation.Those ads also highlighted Biden's plan to offer free vaccines.

Back in September, Paul Mango, deputy chief of staff for policy at the Department of Health Human Services said the administration's goal is that "no American has to pay a single dime out of pocket to get a vaccine," but on Tuesday, the government is reportedly preparing to provide "early vaccines" for those covered by Medicare and Medicaid.

A few ads also criticize Trump and the Republicans' move to try to repeal the Affordable Care Act, saying the president is trying to kick 23 million Americans off of health insurance during the pandemic and to repeal protections for pre-existing conditions. The president has repeatedly committed to preserve protections for those with pre-existing conditions, even signing an executive order promising to do so, but health experts say the president has done little to actually protect them, let alone put forward an actual alternative proposal to the Affordable Care Act.

One of Future Forward's most recent ads features a mash-up of Trump speaking, saying that "one day," the virus will "disappear" like a "miracle," that the president has "always wanted to play it down" -- and that he still likes playing it down -- and that he told his team to "slow the testing down." The president has defended his efforts to downplay the pandemic saying he wanted to avoid panicking the public, and Trump's advisers have said the president was joking when he said he wanted to slow down the testing, though Trump later said he "[doesn't] kid."

In another ad, an unknown narrator calls the sitting president erratic, subsequently playing Trump's own voice saying he's has "five different strategies that he can change any moment."

Silicon Valley heavily invested

Future Forward's disclosure filings offer a glimpse of some of the donors -- mostly a rolodex of Silicon Valley influencers that are increasingly becoming a major part of the Democratic mega-donorslist.

Facebook co-founder Dustin Moskovitz has put in at least $22 million of his money into Future Forward. Longtime Google CEO Eric Schmidt also gave more than $2.5 million, while communications platform Twilio's chief Jeff Lawson and his wife Erica Lawson, a physician at University of California-San Francisco, also together gave $6 million, according to the FEC filings.

Kathryn Murdoch, daughter-in-law of billionaire media mogul Rupert Murdoch, who, along with her husband James, split from the Murdoch family to come out in support of Biden earlier this summer, also gave $540,000.

Several of the Future Forward donors have also given more than $600,000 to Biden's campaign and the Democratic Party's joint fundraising committee, past FEC reports filed by Biden's committees show.

Funding a mystery

But a good chunk of Future Forward's money is coming from is still shrouded in mystery.

Future Forward, which reports to the FEC under the name of FF PAC, has so far reported bringing in $74 million from June last year through mid-October, $66 million of which came just since September, disclosure reports filed to the FEC show.

But at least $29.3 million of that, according to the filings, is from its own nonprofit arm Future Forward USA Action. Organizations across the spectrum like Future Forward often have a super PAC that is fully dedicated to political activities and are required to report all their fundraising and spending to the FEC, and a social welfare nonprofit arm, also known as 501(c)(4) group or politically active nonprofit, which are allowed to engage in some political activities and contribute to political organizations but are not required to disclose all of their donors and spending. Landmark Supreme Court case Citizens United from 2010 has allowed super PACs to bring in an unlimited amount of money from individuals and entities like politically active nonprofits.

Another $3.9 million of Future Forward's money is also shrouded in mystery, because it's from Sixteen Thirty Fund, another prominent Democratic politically-active nonprofit that has funneled tens of millions into liberal groups, the reports show.

Sixteen Thirty Fund, which does not have to report funding because it is a politically-active nonprofit, is led by veteran Democratic operative Eric Kessler, a Clinton administration adviser.

Future Forward and Sixteen Thirty Fund did not immediately respond to ABC News' request for comment.

The Biden campaign did not immediately respond to ABC News' request for comment.

Dark money increasingly common

Donations and spending from such non-disclosing political groups are often called "dark money" or "gray money" because the source of funding is not revealed to the public unless it's disclosed voluntarily by the groups or as part of spending reports from other groups that are required to disclose their expenditures that have been given to them.

The practice of super PACs circumventing donor disclosure rules by receiving money from dark money groups has become increasingly common, including major pro-Trump super PAC America First Action, which has received more than $15 million so far this year from its affiliated non-disclosing nonprofit America First Policies (a smaller fraction of its $129 million haul this year than Future Forward).

The practice is also common on the congressional side. One Nation, a conservative political nonprofit that does not disclose its donors, has given nearly $22 million over the years to pro-Senate GOP leadership super PAC, Senate Leadership Fund, FEC filings show. On the Democratic side, Majority Forward and House Majority Forward, non-disclosing liberal political nonprofits, have given more than $12 million to Senate Majority PAC and House Majority PAC, super PACs linked to the Senate and House Democratic leadership, according to FEC reports.

While numerous groups have used this method to mask their source of funding over the years, Brendan Fischer, the federal reforms director at government ethics group Campaign Legal Center, said the sheer level of dark money that is fueling this massive last-minute operation is unprecedented.

"I can't recall such a huge infusion of dark money from an affiliated [nonprofit] in the final in the final stretch of an election," Fischer said.

"This is an increasingly common way that these groups are able to add an extra layer of insulation between the ultimate source of funding and the groups that are doing the spending to influence elections," Anna Massoglia, a political nonprofit expert at the Center for Responsive Politics, told ABC News.

"Political committees that are really required disclose their donors have taken a record-breaking amount of dark money contributions during the 2020 election cycle, with hundreds of millions of dollars flowing from dark money groups into political contributions to contributions to political committees," Massoglia added.

Copyright © 2020, ABC Audio. All rights reserved.

Some swing state officials urge voters to bypass the mail to return ballots


(WASHINGTON) -- With less than a week until Election Day and millions of absentee ballots still outstanding, state election officials in at least six in critical swing states are revising their message for voters, now urging them to bypass the Postal Service and instead vote in person or hand-deliver their ballots to ensure they are delivered in time to be counted.

Officials in Michigan, Pennsylvania, Florida, Wisconsin, Georgia and Ohio have all put out calls in recent days warning voters about potential postal delays, encouraging voters to use drop boxes or deliver ballots by hand.

"It's now important to return your ballots in person. Don't rely on the mail," Michigan Secretary of State Jocelyn Benson told ABC News Live Prime Anchor Linsey Davis on Tuesday.

Benson said the state is still waiting on more than one million absentee ballots to be returned.

Mail-in voting is expected to be at unprecedented levels this election cycle due to the health concerns of the novel coronavirus pandemic. But of the 88 million ballots voters requested, only half have been returned so far.

The last-minute push to bypass the Postal Service comes after months of concern from critics about the reliability of the mail in the electoral process, budgetary concerns with the agency and threats to cut services in a presidential election year -- fears that postal officials said were misguided. This summer, though, the post office warned state election officials that voters should send in their ballots no later than Oct. 27 in order to get them in on time in accordance with delivery standards.

The move also comes amid a background of litigation over extending mail-in ballot deadlines past Election Day, which Democrats generally favor and a push by Republicans and the Trump administration to end the process on Nov. 3.

'Find other options'

Nearly three million requested ballots have yet to be returned in the key Rust Belt battleground states of Michigan, Pennsylvania and Wisconsin, according to data compiled by the Election Project. Those states were long-regarded to be part of a Democratic Party "blue wall," but they narrowly swung to President Donald Trump in 2016. That year in Michigan, just over 10,000 votes tilted the state in his favor.

Trump won Wisconsin by about 22,000 votes in 2016. Now there are more than 300,000 ballots still outstanding, and the chief elections official there warned voters they are now up against the Postal Service's "practical" one-week deadline for voters to return absentee ballots.

"Your ballot must arrive by Election Day to be counted and the US Postal Service says it can take up to seven days for a letter to arrive, so if you're planning to mail your ballot back, you should mail it back as soon as possible," Meagan Wolfe, administrator for the Wisconsin Elections Commission, said Tuesday.

The U.S. Supreme Court declined to reinstate a lower court ruling that would have extended the mail-in ballot deadline six days.

After Tuesday, she advised, voters should "find other options" for returning their ballots to ensure they arrive by 8 p.m. on Nov. 3, such as returning them by hand to their local clerk's offices or placing them in a secure ballot drop box.

In Pennsylvania, Democratic Gov. Tom Wolfe strongly urged voters to immediately turn in their ballots to their local election clerk, keenly aware that the state remains embroiled in a legal battle over vote-by-mail deadlines. Ballots in the state must be post marked by Election Day and arrive within three days after the election.

"If you haven't already, voters with mail ballots should immediately hand-deliver your ballot to your county-designated location," he said. "Don't wait until Election Day. Hand-delivering your own ballot now will give you the peace of mind that your vote will be counted, and your voice will be heard in this historic election."

Both campaigns are viewing Pennsylvania as a pivotal electoral prize in the presidential contest. Trump won the state by just 44,000 votes in 2016, a tiny fraction of the more than six million votes cast.

In Florida, another state that both campaigns believe could help provide a pathway to victory, local officials are alerting voters to leave themselves extra time to return ballots. Kaiti Lenhart, Flagler County Supervisor of Elections, told a local CBS affiliate in Orlando, she considered Tuesday, Oct. 27, the last day voters could reliably return a ballot by mail. Officially, ballots in the state must arrive by 7 p.m. on Election Day.

In Ohio, an elections official in Cuyahoga County this week warned voters who waited until the Oct. 31 deadline to request an absentee ballots would be "testing the system" and may not have time to return those in the mail.

"If you are someone who's going to do that, I think you realistically need to be prepared to drive your ballot down here on Election Day because you may not get it till Election Day," said Tony Perlatti, the Cuyahoga County Board of Elections director. "And if you're not willing to do that, you may run into some challenges there."

Ballot deadlines uncertain in some cases

The renewed calls for urgency also come as Democrats and Republicans have multiple lawsuits pending over mail-in-ballot receipt deadlines. Uncertainty about the fate of those legal fights has only complicated matters, election officials said, especially as they have sought to educate voters on the mostly unfamiliar patchwork of rules that differ in each state.

Litigation to extend the deadlines for mail-in ballots to arrive has wound through the courts as Democrats have pushed to give voters more time and Republicans have sought to enforce strict Election Day deadlines.

Courts in Pennsylvania and North Carolina have upheld the deadline extensions, while in Georgia, Wisconsin and Michigan proposed extensions were struck down. The U.S. Supreme Court has declined to overturn rulings in Pennsylvania and Wisconsin, but the justices have not ruled out the possibility of weighing in on the question in coming days and weeks.

The challenge election officials face in effectively communicating new or unfamiliar rules for voting by mail has also been compounded by concerns about the reliability of timely mail delivery across the country.

Mail data provided to Congress last week by the U.S. Postal Service indicates that on-time delivery for first class mail -- which includes all election mail -- remains well below standards in place prior to a controversial overhaul of the agency enacted earlier this year by Postmaster General Louis DeJoy. After DeJoy put in place a series of cost-cutting measures over the summer, first-class mail performance plummeted to 81.5% in August, according to the report.

"It is unacceptable that on-time mail delivery has not been restored to levels prior to the Postmaster General carelessly instituting his disastrous operational changes," said Michigan Sen. Gary Peters, the ranking Democrat on the Senate Committee on Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs.

The Postal Service has consistently maintained that it is committed to delivering election mail on time, but in a letter to lawmakers in August, DeJoy acknowledged that his reforms had led to some "unintended consequences."

In September, DeJoy apologized to state leaders after the Postal Service distributed postcards encouraging voters to return mail-in ballots at least one week before Election Day. Various state leaders accused DeJoy of sowing confusion for voters in states where mail-in ballots could be returned closer to Nov. 3.

'Now's the time'

Over the years, there is a long record of ballots being rejected for arriving late, according elections experts speaking to FiveThirtyEight. And an ABC News analysis found that to be one of the primary reasons absentee ballots were rejected in the 2016 and 2018 elections.

Now, voting rights activists say the risks are even higher that forces beyond a voter's control could lead to their disenfranchisement.

"There is no telling how many that could be but it may be tens of thousands of ballots will come in late and not be counted even if they were mailed and postmarked before or on Nov. 3," Jay Heck, the Wisconsin executive director of Common Cause, a nonpartisan organization dedicated to protecting and improving voters' rights and access to the ballot, told ABC News.

In Georgia, where late-arriving ballots were the most common reason for ballot rejections in the primary, according to the Atlanta Journal-Constitution, the secretary of state, a Republican, is also raising similar alarm bells.

"If you are one of those 640,000 voters who have an absentee ballot -- it's sitting on your kitchen table -- please, if you haven't returned it, do it this week. Now's the time," he said. Ballots are due by 7 p.m. on Nov. 3.

The Democratic Party of Georgia is urging the same -- noting that the state is going to "come down to the wire" and every vote will be critical.

The party "strongly recommends" that voters should now avoid the post office and hand deliver their ballots to a drop box or clerk's office in order "to make sure they get their ballot counted," Maggie Chambers, the party's communications director, told ABC News on Tuesday.

"The Postal Service has not provided a deadline for mailing a return ballot, and will continue to accept ballots as they are presented to us. However, voters should consider state deadline requirements when deciding how to return their ballots,” the Postal Service told ABC News in a written statement.

Copyright © 2020, ABC Audio. All rights reserved.

Can you change your vote? Trump thinks people should


(WASHINGTON) -- President Donald Trump, apparently believing the trajectory of the race has moved in his favor since the last debate, on Tuesday encouraged voters who may have already voted absentee to look into changing their votes.

"Strongly Trending (Google) since immediately after the second debate is CAN I CHANGE MY VOTE? This refers changing it to me. The answer in most states is YES. Go do it. Most important Election of your life!" he tweeted Tuesday morning.

On the campaign trail Monday in Pennsylvania, Trump mused about people wanting to change their vote, but this appears to be the first time this election he’s actually encouraged people to do so.

"You know, did you hear the number one thing on Google was: 'How do I change my vote?' Did you know that? How do I change my vote? Something like hashtag -- Did you hear that? Hashtag: 'How do I change my vote?' They watched the debate. I wanted -- remember I wanted that debate to move way up, you know, because a lot of people voted by this crazy ballot deal. Wait until you see the mess that thing is going to be in," he said.

There was a spike in search interest on this topic Monday -- but Trump's claim that it was because of last Thursday's debate is misleading because Google doesn't specify what candidate people are searching around in terms of changing their vote.

Trump made this same pitch -- about early voters switching their votes -- in the final days of the 2016 election.

Can people actually change their votes? In at least some states, the is yes, under certain conditions.

In Michigan, state law allows for voters to "spoil" their ballots (essentially asking election officials to invalidate a ballot so a voter can get a new one). "Voters can vote absentee and then "spoil" their ballot to re-vote. Spoil ballot requests by voters who have already voted may request a new ballot by mail until 5 p.m. on the Friday before Election Day or can request a new ballot in-person until 10 a.m. on the Monday prior to the election. There is no option on Election Day to spoil an absentee ballot that has already been cast," according to state law.

In Wisconsin, according to a memo released by the Wisconsin Elections Commission for this year, "absentee voters can request to spoil their absentee ballot and have another ballot issued as long as the appropriate deadline to request the new absentee ballot has not passed. In addition, voters can request to have their returned absentee ballot spoiled and instead vote in person, either during the in-person absentee period or at their polling place on Election Day, but they must request their ballot be spoiled by the appropriate deadlines. Once that deadline has passed, a returned absentee ballot cannot be changed, and the voter cannot be issued another ballot on Election Day."

In Minnesota, voters are allowed to change their votes but on a tighter deadline, which has already passed.

"You can ask to cancel your ballot until the close of business two weeks before Election Day. After that time, you cannot cancel your ballot. To cancel your ballot, contact the election office that sent your ballot. Your options are to have a new ballot mailed; vote in person at your local election office; or vote at your polling place on Election Day," the secretary of state's website reads.

Unlike other states above which allow for voters to change their minds after casting a ballot, in Pennsylvania a voter can only show up in-person on Election Day to vote after requesting a mail-in ballot if the voter has not returned the ballot.

"If you already submitted a mail-in or absentee ballot, you cannot vote at your polling place on election day," the state's election website and a poll worker manual reads. "If you did not return your mail-in or absentee ballot and you want to vote in person, you have two options: Bring your ballot and the pre-addressed outer return envelope to your polling place to be voided. After you surrender your ballot and envelope and sign a declaration, you can then vote a regular ballot. If you don't surrender your ballot and return envelope, you can only vote by provisional ballot at your polling place."

In New York, the state elections board website outlines procedures for voters who have a change of heart.

"Even if you request or cast and return an absentee ballot, you may still go to the polls and vote in person. The Election Law recognizes that plans change. The Board of Elections is required to check the poll book before canvassing any absentee ballot. If the voter comes to the poll site, on Election Day or during early voting and votes in person, the absentee ballot is set aside and not counted," the website says.

In Connecticut, a local town clerk's office in Fairfield confirmed to ABC News that voters can request for their ballots to be rescinded and can be issued a new ballot if they change their mind. But this may vary by town.

In New Hampshire, the process is slightly more complicated. A voter can request a second ballot, and if there is enough time to do return it, the first ballot will be voided, according to the secretary of state's office. A voter can also show up in-person on Election Day at their polling place, and is recommended to go in the first hour that polls are open before the absentee ballot processing begins, in order to void their first ballot. If their ballot has been marked as voted, they won't be able to cast a new ballot, the office said.

And in a few other states, including Delaware, Idaho, Illinois, Indiana, New Mexico, some form of spoiling a mail ballot may happen, but not after a ballot is returned and processed -- which is similar to Pennsylvania. Some of these states require voters to sign an affidavit.

In at least two states, it appears that voters can request multiple ballots if they make a mistake, but before they in fact cast the ballot.

In Arkansas, voters may "spoil" up to two ballots and receive another (three ballots total), but the secretary of state's website adds, "once you drop your ballot in the ballot box, no changes can be made." Voters may also be asked to sign a Spoiled Ballot Affidavit. To have it spoiled, voters can also take an absentee ballot packet to the county clerk’s office and cast a ballot in-person. "If they do not have the packet, they would have to vote a provisional ballot until the County Board of Election Commissioners can ascertain if the other ballot came back," Chris Powell, press secretary for the Arkansas secretary of state, told ProPublica.

In Mississippi, the secretary of state's county elections handbook reads, "a voter who mistakenly marks a paper ballot is entitled to receive a total of three (3 ballots. If a ballot is spoiled, write “Spoiled” across the face of the ballot and place it in the spoiled ballot envelope."

Copyright © 2020, ABC Audio. All rights reserved.

Key Senate races that could tilt the balance of power


(WASHINGTON) -- As President Donald Trump and former Vice President Joe Biden battle for the presidency in November, Republicans and Democrats are wrestling over the Senate -- with a handful of races likely to determine which party will control the chamber in 2021, and with it, influence over the next president’s agenda, Cabinet and judicial nominees.

With Republicans holding a 53-47 majority, Democrats need to win back at least four seats -- three, if they also win the White House since the vice president breaks 50-50 ties -- for control of the Senate. They will also have to grapple with the likely loss of Democratic Sen. Doug Jones in Alabama as they try to flip the chamber.

As Biden consistently leads in the polls, and the president’s handling of the coronavirus pandemic sinks his popularity, the number of competitive races across the map has expanded into traditionally red territory like Texas, Georgia and even South Carolina, where Democrats and aligned outside groups have also outspent their GOP opponents thanks to record-breaking fundraising hauls.

The outlook is looking increasingly bleak for Republicans -- so much so that even Trump admitted it will be "very tough" to keep the Senate, according to a Washington Post report about his remarks at a private fundraiser last week.

Of the dozen races that are competitive in 2020 for either party, here is a look at six key Senate races this year:

Democrats hope for a 2018 repeat in Arizona

While Trump won Arizona in 2016 against Hillary Clinton by roughly 90,000 votes, Democratic Rep. Kyrsten Sinema’s victory over Rep. Martha McSally in the 2018 Senate race gave Democrats confidence that the rapidly-changing Sunbelt state could be in play in 2020 on the presidential level, too.

And McSally, who was appointed to fill the seat held by the late Sen. John McCain in December 2018, is in danger of losing a second Senate race to Mark Kelly, a former Navy captain and NASA astronaut who became a leading gun-control activist after his wife, former Rep. Gabby Giffords, was shot in the head and nearly killed by a gunman while meeting with constituents in 2011.

Kelly, who is running as a moderate, has led McSally in nearly every public poll of the race in the final months of the election, a more consistent lead than Biden’s slimmer margin over Trump in the state.

For the second consecutive cycle, McSally is tying her political fortunes to Trump, hoping that the support of his base is enough to offset the movement of Latinos, women and suburban voters toward Democrats.

It’s led to a difficult balancing act underscored in a response she gave when asked at an Oct. 6 debate if she was proud of her support for Trump.

"I'm proud that I'm fighting for Arizonans on things like cutting your taxes," she said, without mentioning the president. "I'm proud to be fighting for Arizona every single day.”

Democrats confident in Colorado

First elected to the Senate in 2014 on a wave of backlash to the Obama administration’s handling of the Ebola virus and the ascent of ISIS, Sen. Cory Gardner is in a similar position as McSally: running for reelection in a state where the president is deeply unpopular.

While Arizona is in the midst of a potential political realignment, Colorado has already made the shift. No Republican presidential candidate has won the state since 2004, and the Trump campaign has abandoned its early vows to compete here.

Gardner has worked to cultivate his own brand to distinguish himself from the president in the minds of independent voters. He led a bipartisan effort to secure funding to address the backlog of maintenance issues at national parks -- a law repeatedly touted in his campaign ads.

But it’s unlikely that his efforts will be enough to keep his Senate seat in a state Trump is expected to lose handily, even as his opponent, former Gov. John Hickenlooper -- who entered the race after his long-shot White House bid fizzled -- has faced criticism for violating state ethics rules by accepting a jet flight and other benefits he didn’t pay for on a trip to Italy. (Hickenlooper paid a $2,750 fine and acknowledged wrongdoing.)

“This isn’t a question of pride, this is a question of getting through this together,” Gardner said when asked in an Oct. 9 debate whether he was proud of Trump’s coronavirus response. “I believe we must get through this by staying together, staying united.”

The last New England Republican?

Sen. Susan Collins, R-Maine, helped tank Trump’s plans to repeal and replace the Affordable Care Act by voting against the GOP health care proposal in 2017 and voted to hear witnesses in the president’s Senate impeachment trial. She also said she couldn’t support the president’s campaign four years ago.

Republicans argue that her record over the last four years has added up to boost her independent credentials, but Democrats have seized on the pro-choice senator’s votes for Supreme Court Justice Brett Kavanaugh and to acquit the president in his impeachment trial to cast her as an enabler of the president’s agenda, despite her occasional criticisms of his words and actions.

Collins, the only Republican holding federal office in New England, has deep institutional support in Maine -- most notably from the Bush clan -- but the state, like many other battlegrounds, has trended increasingly blue since 2016, when Trump nabbed an electoral vote by winning Maine’s 2nd Congressional District.

Maine House Speaker Sara Gideon, the Democratic candidate, has repeatedly outraised Collins, and public polling has shown Gideon ahead of the four-term senator.

Could the GOP lose a seat in the Hawkeye State?

It's a state that Trump won by 10 points in 2016, senior senator Chuck Grassley won reelection by over 20 points the same year.

Four years later, Sen. Joni Ernst, who was first elected in 2014 when she catapulted onto the national stage with a promise to "make Washington squeal," is now fighting for her political life. In a race with Democrat Theresa Greenfield, a businesswoman, recent polling shows the two women neck-and-neck.

Ernst has remained loyal to Trump, sticking by him even as other Republicans put distance between them and the president and as his polling in the state slumps. But as the president currently trails former Vice President Joe Biden in a New York Times/Siena College by a three-point margin, her campaign tells ABC News that the senator has been running her own campaign and is willing to work with both Democrats and Republicans to deliver for Iowa.

Heading into the final stretch, Ernst has sought to cast Greenfield as out of step with Iowa voters, accusing her of representing the views of voters on the coasts, rather than in rural America, on issues like abortion.

But Ernst recently struggled over an issue that is critical to Iowa voters -- soybeans. Asked for the breakeven price for soybeans in Iowa twice, the senator first deflected, before responding, "probably about $5.50."

"Well, you're a couple dollars off I think here because it's $10.05," the moderator said.

In addition to Ernst’s stumbling over a question about a product that is crucial to Iowa's economy, Greenfield’s significant edge in the money race -- bringing in $21 million more than Ernst in their most recent filings -- has worried Republicans who once considered Ernst one of the safer incumbents earlier this year.

One week out, Greenfield, who describes herself as a "scrappy farm kid," is looking to make gains in rural areas, win over those counties that voted both for Trump and former President Barack Obama and run up the score in the suburban Iowa.

The Senate could hinge on North Carolina's Senate race

In the all-important Tar Heel state that is crucial to Trump's pathway to reelection, Sen. Thom Tillis is in a tight race for a second term against Cal Cunningham, a former Democratic state lawmaker and Army veteran.

Tillis was widely seen as endangered from the race's onset -- a Democratic strategist told ABC News last year that Tillis is a top target for Democrats in 2020, who see him as "one of the weakest incumbents." An ABC News/Washington Post poll released last week shows Cunningham with a slight edge, 49% to 47%.

Tillis, whose electoral fortune is likely tied to Trump's, is navigating a delicate balancing act between running his own race without alienating Trump's base. He even pointed out the importance of keeping the Senate in GOP hands in the event that Trump loses, recently telling Politico the “best check on a Biden presidency is for Republicans to have a majority in the Senate. And I do think 'checks and balances' does resonate with North Carolina voters."

But a number of late-breaking episodes have reverberated in North Carolina, including Tillis’ battle with COVID-19 in early October, and text messages revealing Cunningham’s extramarital affair with a woman who claimed they had at least one intimate encounter. (The Army Reserves is investigating the allegations about Cunningham, who is a lieutenant colonel in the Army Reserves. Cunningham has confirmed sending romantic text messages to a woman who is not his wife, but he has neither confirmed nor denied the alleged encounter.)

Cunningham has kept a low profile in the final days of the race, using his appearances to focus on the issue of health care -- and the role Judge Amy Coney Barrett could play in determining the fate of the Affordable Care Act once seated on the Supreme Court.

Both candidates are hoping to capitalize on the coalitions forming around Trump and Biden: Cunningham is hoping to drive up turnout in the cities and suburbs, particularly among minorities and women, while Tillis is looking to the white enclaves in rural parts of the state and conservatives energized by the Supreme Court confirmation battle and the president’s repeated visits to the state. The race is essentially tied among independents and suburban voters, the ABC News/Washington Poll survey found.

Democrats don’t need North Carolina to capture the majority, but their path becomes harder without it.

Democrats on defense in Michigan

Sen. Gary Peters, a low-key incumbent who arrived in the Senate after winning in a wave year for Republicans in 2014, is seeking a second term in one of the most critical states for Democrats.

In his race against John James, a former Apache combat helicopter pilot in Iraq, Peters is largely spending his time highlighting his accomplishments for Michigan and tethering his opponent to Trump, who is behind Biden in a recent poll by eight points.

James, who lost a Senate bid two years ago, has tried to cast Peters as too liberal for the Rust Belt state won by Trump in 2016.

Despite Democrats’ chances of capturing Michigan in the presidential race, the Senate campaign has come into more focus, with recent polling showing a tighter contest -- and fundraising numbers -- than the presidential polling would suggest.

James has yet to publicly contrast himself with Trump or criticize him in any significant way -- in the hopes of shoring up support from Trump's base to capture a long-held Democratic seat. But he's also sought to retain independence from Trump.

"Look, I put my life on the line for the Constitution. Not any party or president. So when any president is doing right by Michigan, I'll help them. When they're not, I'll fight back," he said in a closing ad.

Michigan will certainly be a key barometer of Democrats' strength in the suburbs and among minorities in urban centers, with their hopes hinging on high turnout in Detroit and significant margins in its suburbs to rebuild their "blue wall." Before Trump carried the state by the thinnest of margins -- just under 11,000 votes -- the state was firmly in the Democrats' grip for two decades.

The wildcard races: South Carolina, Alaska, Georgia, Texas, Kansas

Biden’s surprisingly strong performance in Texas and Georgia has buoyed Democrats’ hopes in races to unseat Sens. John Cornyn of Texas, and Kelly Loeffler and David Perdue in Georgia.

In Texas, MJ Hegar has recently outraised Cornyn -- and wiped out his cash advantage too -- and could benefit from surging early turnout that has worried Republicans and potentially put the Lone Star State in play once again for Democrats, after Sen. Ted Cruz’s slim victory in 2018.

In Georgia, Raphael Warnock, the pastor of Ebenezer Baptist Church, the church of Martin Luther King Jr., is running ahead of Loeffler, who is fending off Rep. Doug Collins in the crowded race. Jon Ossoff, a former Democratic House candidate, is also in a neck-and-neck contest with Perdue.

Both races are likely to lead to runoffs with the top two finishers if no candidate secures at least 50% of the vote in November.

Trump-foe-turned-ally Sen. Lindsey Graham, R-S.C., is in a surprisingly close race with Jamie Harrison, the former South Carolina Democratic County Chair, who is banking on Black voter turnout, Trump’s unpopularity in suburbia and some Republicans’ wariness of Graham -- along with his record-breaking fundraising haul -- to deliver an upset in a state Trump is expected to win.

In a sign of Graham’s vulnerability, Vice President Mike Pence is scheduled to travel to South Carolina ahead of the election.

Alaska, where GOP Sen. Dan Sullivan is running against Dr. Al Gross, an independent aligned with Democrats, is another late-breaking state where Republicans have been put on the defensive.

Notoriously difficult to poll, its independent-minded voters and Gross’ fundraising advantage have left both parties preparing for a nail-biter.

And in Kansas, a state where Sen. Jerry Moran, won reelection by 30 points the last time Trump was on the ballot, an open seat vacated by Sen. Pat Roberts, has left Republicans on unsteady footing. GOP Rep. Roger Marshall is running against state Sen. Barbara Bollier, who boasts cross-party appeal as a Republican-turned-Democrat.

After Secretary of State Mike Pompeo, who would have been a heavy favorite to capture the seat, passed on a Senate bid, Bollier, a former doctor, is reaching for what once seemed impossible but is now a competitive race that only slightly favors Republicans.

Copyright © 2020, ABC Audio. All rights reserved.

Justice Department no substitute for Trump in defamation case, judge says

robertcicchetti/iStockBy AARON KATERSKY, ABC News

(WASHINGTON) -- A federal judge on Tuesday rejected the Justice Department’s attempt to represent the president in E Jean Carroll’s defamation lawsuit against President Trump.

Carroll, a former Elle columnist, claimed in a book Donald Trump raped her in a Bergdorf Goodman dressing room in the 1990s, allegations he has denied. She sued him for defamation last year after he called her a liar and said she made up the accusation to sell books.

“While the president possesses all of the executive power of the United States, he is not an 'employee' within the meaning of the FTCA,” Judge Lewis Kaplan said, referring to the Federal Tort Claims Act, which shields federal employees from individual damages claims. “The FTCA’s definition of that term does not include presidents.”

Carroll has described the Justice Department’s attempted intervention in her case as part of a pattern of the Justice Department acting as President Trump’s personal law firm.

“There is not a single person in the United States — not the president and not anyone else — whose job description includes slandering women they sexually assaulted,” Carroll’s attorney, Roberta Kaplan, wrote earlier this month in a legal brief.

Judge Kaplan, no relation, appeared to agree.

“The government thus asserts that this case is virtually identical in principle to a lawsuit against a Postal Service driver for causing a car accident while delivering the mail," he said in the decision. "But the word 'virtually' in the last sentence is necessary because there is an important difference between this case and the case of the hypothetical mail driver."

Roberta Kaplan, Carroll's lawyer, said in a statement Tuesday: “The simple truth is that President Trump defamed our client because she was brave enough to reveal that he had sexually assaulted her, and that brutal, personal attack cannot be attributed to the Office of the President. Judge Kaplan’s words speak for themselves."

After Carroll made public her allegation, the president said in June of 2019: "No. 1 she’s not my type. No. 2 it never happened.”

Carroll sued Trump in 2019, accusing him of defaming her with his denials.

In the mid-1990s Carroll said she and Trump were in the lingerie department, where, according to the complaint, Trump insisted that she try on a bodysuit. Carroll alleged that what she first perceived as playful banter took a dark turn when Trump closed the door of a dressing room, pushed her against a wall and began kissing her without her consent. She then claimed he pressed her against the wall once more, pulled down her tights and forcibly raped her for several minutes until she managed to push him off and flee the store.

Roughly two hours after New York magazine published an excerpt from Carroll’s book in which she described the above, the president issued a public statement to media outlets. It said in part: “Regarding the ‘story’ by E. Jean Carroll, claiming she once encountered me at Bergdorf Goodman 23 years ago. I’ve never met this person in my life. She is trying to sell a new book – that should indicate her motivation.”

Copyright © 2020, ABC Audio. All rights reserved.

Following confirmation to Supreme Court, Barrett takes first oath at White House

Official White House Photo by Andrea HanksBy TRISH TURNER, BEN GITTLESON AND DEVIN DWYER, ABC News

(WASHINGTON) -- Following the Senate's confirmation of Judge Amy Coney Barrett to the Supreme Court on Monday, the White House hosted a ceremony where Justice Clarence Thomas administered the official constitutional oath to Barrett.

Supreme Court justices are required to take two oaths before they may execute the duties of their appointed office: the constitutional oath and the judicial oath.

Barrett will take the judicial oath on Tuesday in a private ceremony at the Supreme Court. Following that oath, she will officially become an active participant in court proceedings.

After taking the constitutional oath, Barrett used her brief remarks at the White House ceremony Monday night to speak about the need for a federal judge to case aside her policy preferences in her decision-making.

"The confirmation process has made ever clearer to me one of the fundamental differences between the federal judiciary and the United States Senate. And perhaps the most acute is the role of policy preferences," Barrett said. "It is the job of a senator to pursue her policy preferences. In fact, it would be a dereliction of duty for her to put policy goals aside. By contrast, it is the job of a judge to resist her policy preferences. It would be a dereliction of duty for her to give into them. Federal judges don't stand for election. Thus, they have no basis for claiming that their preferences reflect those of the people. This separation of duty from political preference is what makes the judiciary distinct among the three branches of government."

As Barrett gets ready to join the court just one week before the election -- and Democrats fear she’ll intervene in any disputes arising from the vote -- Barrett added, “A judge declares independence not only from Congress and the president but also from the private beliefs that might otherwise move her.”

"The oath that I have solemnly taken tonight means at its core that I will do my job without any fear or favor, and that I will do so independently of both the political branches and of my own preferences," said said.

In his opening remarks, President Donald Trump called it a momentous day for America, the Constitution and the fair and impartial rule of law.

"The Constitution is the ultimate defense of American liberty, the faithful application of the law is the cornerstone of our republic. That is why as president I have no more solemn obligation of no greater honor than to appoint Supreme Court justices," Trump said at the beginning of the ceremony on the South Lawn.

"It is highly fitting that Justice Barrett fills the seat of a true pioneer for women, Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg," Trump continued. "Tonight, Justice Barrett becomes not only the fifth woman to serve on our nation's highest court, but the very first mother of school-aged children to become a Supreme Court justice. Very important."

Face coverings were required for all those attending, a senior White House official said in a statement, and the seated audience was socially distanced on the South Lawn. People "in close proximity" to the president were to be tested in advance.

The White House declined to comment on the number of attendees, but a pool report indicated there were about 200 chairs set up on the lawn.

Sen. Mike Lee, who tested positive six days after attending Barrett's Sept. 26 nominating event in the Rose Garden, attended Monday night's ceremony clad in a face mask. He was seen talking to national security adviser Robert O'Brien ahead of the event. O'Brien, also wearing a mask, tested positive for COVID-19 in July.

After the ceremony concluded, Barrett and Trump walked up to the South Portico and posed for cameras before being joined by their respective spouses. All were mask-less. The four of them, joined by a mask-less Thomas, proceeded into the White House.

The Senate floor vote began shortly before 8 p.m. and was completed in minutes. The vote was 52-48. Sen. Susan Collins, R-Maine, was the lone Republican to join the Democrats who unanimously voted against the confirmation. It was one of the narrowest Supreme Court confirmation votes in American history.

The count was the same as the confirmation vote for Thomas in 1991. Justice Brett Kavanaugh was confirmed by a vote of 50-48 in 2018. Ginsburg was confirmed 96-3 in 1993.

It's "the most conservative court in 100 years," Kate Shaw, Cardozo School of Law professor and ABC News Contributor, said on ABC News Live Prime.

At 48, Barrett becomes the youngest member of the court and will be there for generations. She's made history as the 115th justice -- and just the fifth woman to serve. She is the first mother of school-aged children and the only member of the court who did not graduate from the Ivy League.

On Sunday, senators voted along party lines to quash a Democratic filibuster of Barrett to replace the late liberal icon, Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg. Collins, R-Maine, and Sen. Lisa Murkowski, R-Alaska, joined Democrats in the vote.

Murkowski had initially opposed moving a nominee so close to the election, saying "fair is fair" given that her own party had blockaded President Barack Obama's pick in 2016 to replace the late Justice Antonin Scalia eight months before the election, but with Republicans securing the necessary votes for confirmation, Murkowski changed course.

"While I oppose the process that has led us to this point," Murkowski said in a Saturday floor speech. "I do not hold it against her as an individual who has navigated the gauntlet with grace, skill and humility."

That move left Collins alone among the GOP opposition who voted against Barrett on Monday. Collins is in an extremely difficult fight for reelection in a moderate state where she has been lambasted for her past support of conservative jurists, including Trump's highly contentious nominee, Justice Brett Kavanaugh.

Copyright © 2020, ABC Audio. All rights reserved.

What you need to know about Election Day exit polls

Prostock-Studio/iStockBy DAN MERKLE, ABC News

(NEW YORK) -- Anyone who has watched Election Day coverage in the past, or is excited to do so in a hotly contested 2020 election, has probably heard anchors or analysts refer to exit polls. But what are they and how do they work?

Exit polls are surveys conducted as voters leave their polling places on Election Day. Reaching voters at that moment helps ensure that the people surveyed have actually voted.

Critical questions of who won and why are answered from exit poll results.

How are exit polls conducted?

Interviewers stand outside polling places at randomly selected precincts across the country and approach voters at specific intervals as they exit, for example every fifth or ninth voter.

Voters who agree to participate fill out a short, confidential questionnaire and place it in a ballot box.

Interviewers phone in the results three times during the day. When a voter refuses to participate, interviewers note the gender and approximate age and race of that voter. This information is used to statistically adjust the exit poll to ensure that all voters are fairly represented in the final results.

What sort of questions are asked in an exit poll?

The exit poll questionnaire asks who people voted for, their demographics, opinions about the candidates and opinions on important issues. Here's an example of a 2020 exit poll issue question:

Do you think the condition of the nation's economy is:

1. Excellent

2. Good

3. Not so good

4. Poor

Are exit polls accurate?

Exit polls, like any other survey, are subject to sampling and nonsampling error. Before news organizations report exit poll results or make projections, they compare results to pre-election polls and the voting history in that precinct, and have statisticians and political experts carefully review the data.

After polls close, exit poll results are weighted using the actual vote to make the data more accurate. Exit polls may be used to project the winners of races where the margin between the candidates is large. But most election projections are made after the polls close and incorporate actual vote data.

How do exit polls account for the people who vote early or by mail?

In the 2016 election, 42% of Americans voted before Election Day using some form of absentee or early voting. That number will be higher for this November's election.

Exit polls miss those who vote before Election Day. However, it is important to include them in the data in order to have accurate information about all voters.

Exit polls include those who vote absentee or early in two ways. The first is by conducting phone polls among those who have voted absentee or early. Second, in some states with a high proportion of early in-person voters, exit polls are conducted in the weeks leading up to Election Day as these voters leave the polling place. Data from the telephone polls and early voter exit polls are combined with the Election Day exit poll to provide a complete picture of all voters, regardless of when they voted.

How has exit polling changed because of coronavirus?

Some exit polling procedures have been modified this year to help ensure a safe experience for the interviewers and voters. Typically, the exit poll interviewer walks right up to the selected voter and hands them the exit poll questionnaire and a pen. This approach has been modified.

This year, the interviewer, who will be wearing a mask at all times, will approach the voter from a distance of at least 6 feet. Voters who agree to fill out the exit poll will be directed to a nearby table to get the questionnaire and a single use golf pencil.

The table will also have hand sanitizer, sanitizing wipes and disposable gloves available for the interviewer and voters to use. These procedures were tested successfully during the recent primaries.

When will exit poll results be reported?

On Election Day, there is a strict embargo on any data coming from the early waves of exit poll data until 5 p.m. ET. By about 5:45 p.m., some initial demographic information about voters and their views on key issues in the election will be available on ABCNews.com. After the polls close in a state, the complete exit poll crosstabs will be posted on ABCNews.com.

ABC News will not project a winner until the last scheduled poll closing time in each state. If a race is not projected at poll closing time, the projection will incorporate actual vote data and will be made as soon as the data warrant. Information will be constantly updated throughout the evening on ABCNews.com and on all ABC News programs.

Copyright © 2020, ABC Audio. All rights reserved.

What issues will win the Latino vote on Election Day?


(NEW YORK) -- Renato Ramirez is living the American dream along the United States-Mexico border, running the ranch his parents bought the year he was born eight decades ago.

“I'm an American of Mexican descent,” Ramirez told ABC News. “I’m proud of my race, proud of heritage, my ethnicity. I’m proud of what my family has done.”

His family made a successful living off the 4,000-acre ranch in Texas, and with that success, they provided for their children, he said.

Ramirez is now a millionaire, a vaquero and businessman. He’s one of 32 million Latinos eligible to vote -- the country’s largest non-white electorate -- in the upcoming election, according to a 2019 paper from Pew Research.

For his vote, he says “the bottom line is the economy.”

“I think that most of us have the same common goal, that we all want to educate our children,” he said. “We all want them to have a good economic life.”

He’s not alone. Eighty percent of Hispanic workers say the economy is their top priority in the 2020 election, followed closely by health care, according to Pew.

“The issues that matter to the Hispanic community are the issues that matter to all Americans, right?” Julian Castro, former secretary of housing and urban development, told ABC News.

Castro, a Democrat, was the only Latino to run for president in 2020. His campaign ran on progressive policies, like “Medicare for All” and raising the federal minimum wage.

His presidential bid failed but those progressive policies proved popular with many Latino voters.

Progressive Latino voters helped Bernie Sanders win Nevada, Colorado and California and kept Sanders in the Democratic primary in Texas. Sanders came within just five points of beating Democratic nominee Joe Biden in Texas, winning 40% of the Latino vote, according to an exit poll by the Washington Post.

By the 2024 presidential election, the number of Latinos in Texas is expected to surpass the white population. They could make the difference between the state turning blue or staying red.

“We are a swing state,” Castro said. “You know, the last 10 to 12 polls showed the presidential race here basically tied. If we can win here, then it's game over for the Republicans.”

Nationwide, Biden is outpacing President Donald Trump by more than 30 points among registered Latino voters.

“The Hispanic vote is going to be crucial,” Castro said. “It is a young population. It's a growing population. But it's one that is getting out, I think, in 2020 more than it did in 2016.”

In 2016, less than half of registered Latino voters showed up to the polls. This year, there’s a focused effort to mobilize this group.

Celebrities like America Ferrera, Jennifer Lopez and Alex Rodriguez have pushed people to vote on social media, endorsed candidates, appeared at conventions and hit the campaign trail.

Turnout among Latino voters is expected to increase by 15% in the upcoming election.

“The key to getting Latinos to the ballot box is a full-court press on voter registration,” Castro said.

Groups like Latino Justice are also working hard to reach Spanish-speaking voters. However, many voters are now faced with a new, formidable voting challenge: the pandemic.

“In our countries, voting by mail is not necessarily something that happens [in other elections],” Ricardo Negron, legal service coordinator for the organization, told ABC News. “While it may be a new system for some people, we want to make sure that people know down here in Florida, it has been happening for years. It's not something that has been implemented because of COVID.”

It’s because of COVID-19 that long lines have formed for early voting, leading to a record-breaking voter turnout before Election Day, according to the United States Elections Project. Ramirez was one of these people who voted early.

He is among the nearly 30% of Latino voters who support Trump. Today, his family’s wealth extends into the millions. For that reason, Ramirez says a vote for Trump isn’t personal, it’s simply smart business.

For him, it matters less that Trump has said in the past that Mexican immigrants bring crime to the U.S. Ramirez says, “the thing is, he's not a politician.”

“Those are kind of stupid remarks that he has made. It's a very small portion of Mexico,” Ramirez said. “Most people want to work. Most Mexicans want to work.”

But what about the many Latinos who seek the success Ramirez has found but don’t have the leg up he received?

“I don't know what to tell them. I just don't know,” he said. “Develop commitment and develop a discipline. Work hard. That's basically how I did it.”

Sema Hernandez, another Texas native, says voting for Trump was never an option as a Latina.

“He is actually detrimental to the Latino community,” she said. “They [sh]ould vote for their interests as a Latino, as a culture, as a people, instead of voting for their financial interests.”

Hernandez is a political activist and mother of four who ran for U.S. Senate in 2018 but lost in the Democratic primary against Beto O’Rourke.

“Before I started running for office, I was coaching little league baseball and breastfeeding my baby in the dugout,” she said.

She spent just $4,000 on her campaign, but garnered a good portion of the vote.

“I outperformed in places where most Democrats don't perform very well,” she said.

She credits her success to appealing to Latinos as Americans. That was a winning strategy for President George W. Bush, who won 40% of the Latino vote in 2004, according to Pew.

In exactly one week, Biden, Trump and other local candidates across the country will also see if they were able to gain the crucial support of Latino communities.

Copyright © 2020, ABC Audio. All rights reserved.

Election 2020: How to spot voter intimidation and what to do

hermosawave/iStockBy BRIANA STEWART and ABBY CRUZ, ABC News

(NEW YORK) -- With the presidential election just days away, record voter turnout is being met with the specter of voter intimidation, leaving some Americans with fears of confrontation at the polls from now until Nov. 3.

Civil rights advocates, election experts and government officials have expressed heightened concerns following President Donald Trump's recent call for his supporters to "go into the polls and watch" for possible voting fraud, as well as his reelection campaign's recruitment and training what it has called an "army" of supporters to become poll watchers. And they are working hard to make sure Americans know their rights when they get to the polls and know how to protect them.

"Voter intimidation is against the law, period," Vanita Gupta, CEO of the Leadership Conference on Civil and Human Rights, told ABC News. "In the current political environment, there's a palpable concern about voter intimidation that should not be understated, and there's a genuine need for good-faith poll observers to be on alert for threats to the most fundamental aspect of our democracy: free and fair elections."

While experts say the overwhelming majority of voters will not experience intimidation, there are a few factors that make this election cycle stand out: the expiration of the 1981 consent decree that limited the Republican National Committee's ability to engage in what it called "ballot security measures" following allegations of voter intimidation, and the rise of far-right armed groups and Trump's reluctance to distance himself from them.

The concern is particularly acute for voters of color, who have historically been targeted by voter intimidation efforts. But experts say that voter intimidation will not be pervasive, despite the environment -- and that there is a good deal that individuals can do to counter it.

"I hope that most voters in most places won't encounter anything like this. They will go to the polls, they will have the experience that every American is entitled to have, which is a peaceful chance to cast a constitutionally protected vote," said Joshua Geltzer, executive director of the Institute of Constitutional Advocacy and Protection at Georgetown University. "But there's reason to ensure that those who might not have that experience know what to do this cycle, because this cycle is at least raising the possibility that it won't unfold that way for every American."

Here's what to know about potential voter intimidation efforts this election cycle, what states and other authorities are doing to counter them, and what you can do:

Increased reports of intimidation

For the first time, the Institute of Constitutional Advocacy and Protection at Georgetown University is partnering with the Lawyers' Committee for Civil Rights Under Law, the lead civil rights advocacy group that runs the Voter Protection Hotline, to respond to calls from voters who report seeing armed groups patrolling around polling locations.

Kristen Clarke, president and executive director of the Lawyers' Committee for Civil Rights Under Law, told ABC News that the Committee has, through its hotline, seen a rise in complaints of voter intimidation, including reports of militia activity.

"The work is now intersecting with the election cycle. It is clear that these groups not only feel emboldened generally, but they feel emboldened specifically in relation to voting and specifically in relation to people going to the polls," Geltzer said.

"And while of course there are legitimate poll watchers authorized by law in various states, that is a far cry from encouraging just anyone to show up and cause problems at the polls, which is what the president seems to be doing," he added.

Geltzer told ABC News that the orientation of these armed groups, which he said are often white supremacist in nature, leaves communities of color vulnerable to intimidation.

Despite the heightened chatter about possible intimidation, Clarke says she doesn't believe "there is a systemic national voter intimidation campaign underway."

Still, she said she believes it's important to call out any concerns.

"We want to ensure that voters feel free to cast their ballots, but when an incident of intimidation arises, we believe it's important that people report it to election officials, report it to our nonpartisan hotline, and report it to local law enforcement if they feel threatened," she said, adding that voters need not be worried but should remain on alert.

What should voters do?

Federal law states that "no person, whether acting under color of law or otherwise, shall intimidate, threaten, or coerce, or attempt to intimidate, threaten, or coerce any person for voting or attempting to vote."

Asked what constitutes voter intimidation, Geltzer told ABC News that "the answer is a pretty wide array of activity that is impermissible, so certainly violent behavior in or near a polling site."

"Confronting voters, especially doing so in military-style uniforms, brandishing firearms to intimidate voters from approaching a polling station or casting a vote, verbally threatening violence, all of this is the type of conduct that would constitute voter intimidation," he said.

The ability for licensed gun owners to carry a firearm at a polling place varies around the country. Roughly a dozen states, including Georgia, California, Arizona and Florida explicitly ban concealed or open-carry guns at a polling place. In light of the increased concerns, some state officials have taken precautionary measures, including Michigan Secretary of State Jocelyn Benson, whose office now faces a civil lawsuit after banning open-carry firearms at polling sites -- a measure she said would "protect our voters from intimidation, threats, and harassment."

Sarah Brannon, managing attorney of the American Civil Liberties Union's Voting Rights Project, says states also have varying laws and specific regulations designed to protect voters and ensure an orderly polling place.

"All states have a rule about how close you can get to the polling place if you are not a voter. So if you're there protesting or supporting your candidate, you have to stay, in many circumstances, 50 to 75 feet away from the door of the polling place, so that people can go in and out of the place without feeling obstructed," she said.

What poll watchers are and aren't

Though statutes vary from state to state, certified poll watchers are generally appointed by political parties, or candidates on the ballot to oversee the voting process and report any issues to election officials or party officials.

While poll watchers can closely monitor voting, they can't campaign inside a precinct, or interfere with the voting process beyond reporting an issue, according to the National Conference of State Legislatures.

Even with the right certifications, the ACLU stresses that poll watchers cannot "aggressively ask voters about their citizenship, criminal record, or other qualifications in a manner that interferes with a person's voter rights."

"If somebody were to ask that kind of a question of you, you can just sign [a sworn statement] to affirm the truth of who you are and your eligibility. So there's a mechanism that will allow you to vote, even if somebody is asking questions," Brannon said.

Brannon advised that people should educate themselves about the voting process and know the federal and state laws so that they're well-informed and not influenced by rhetoric.

Experts say they expect a mostly peaceful Election Day, but in case you feel threatened, or encounter violence, call 911 immediately. Law enforcement and local authorities should be able to help you address any immediate threat or attempts of voter suppression you might face while trying to cast your vote.

If it's "something short of the fear of imminent violence," Geltzer says, then he advises telling a poll worker or an election official if you feel you're experiencing any coercion or voter suppression.

"It may be worth documenting it because campaigns themselves, or others who assess after the fact, will want to know whether voting unfolded fairly," Geltzer noted, adding that you can also contact the Election Protection Hotline by dialing 1-866-OUR-VOTE.

Brannon says she wants Americans to feel confident knowing that attempts to intimidate voters are "not as easy to do as some of the rhetoric might suggest."

"It's very important that everybody votes in the election and we hope people know and feel comfortable knowing that even if there are protests or people at a polling place who are supporting their candidate and being loud, that there are rules about what they can and cannot do so that people casting their ballot can have some level of protection in that environment," Brannon said.

Copyright © 2020, ABC Audio. All rights reserved.

Women of color will play crucial role in both presidential and local elections

Aimee Allison, the founder of "She the People." (ABC News)By JESSICA HOPPER, STEPHANIE LORENZO and ALLIE YANG, ABC News

(NEW YORK) -- Earlier this month, 600 women from 38 states sent out thousands of text messages to women of color living in key battleground states. Their message was simple: get out and vote.

Aimee Allison led the charge. She’s the founder of a group called She the People, which has launched what she says is the first national voter mobilization effort focused exclusively on women of color.

“I’m going to tell you something right now: Women of color can make this happen,” Allison told the women gathered in person and on Zoom from across the country.

“We have never had in electoral politics history in this country a strategic and targeted effort to reach women of color, and yet, women of color are the critical vote,” she told ABC News' Nightline. “This is the moment.”

This demographic is the fastest growing voting bloc in the country. Allison believes that based on data from 2016, women of color could prove themselves pivotal in delivering Democrats a decisive victory.

“Just take Michigan, for example. Trump won the state by 10,000, and women of color who did not vote: over 205,000 people,” she said. “In Pennsylvania, Trump won by 44,000, yet women of color who did not cast a vote: 268,000. ... Trump won Texas in 2016 by 807,000. Women of color [who were] eligible but didn't vote: over two million.”

While the history-making nomination of Kamala Harris generated excitement among many women of color, it’s actually the down ballot races that could impact who wins at the top of the ticket. It’s these races that Allison says “fuel the organizing.”

“It fuels the issues, the conversations with the community that drive higher turnout,” Allison said.

This year, a record 115 women of color are running for Congress. Dallas’ Candace Valenzuela is one of them.

“We run on behalf of our communities to lift them up,” Valenzuela, who is running for Texas’ 24th District, said. “Women of color have been doing this for years. It's just time that they now have a seat at the table.”

If Valenzuela wins, she’d not only flip her district northwest of Dallas but she’d also become the first Afro-Latina to serve in Congress.

“Seeing Donald Trump in the Oval Office, I think, was a wake-up call for a lot of women who may have considered running for public office but thought that they didn't quite have enough degrees, they didn't quite have enough qualifications,” she said.

Valenzuela herself never thought she’d run for office.

“When I moved out to the suburbs of Dallas, I was resigned to thinking that this was just going to be a red area and that we weren't going to see a lot of other changes,” she said. “I was just trying to make a good life for my family.”

Now, she believes Texas might not go red like it did in 2016.

“I've believed this for a couple of years now, but I've never felt it more than I do in this moment,” she said.

Texas hasn't voted for a Democratic presidential candidate since Jimmy Carter. A Quinnipiac University Poll on Wednesday showed President Donald Trump and former Vice President Joe Biden in a dead heat.

The “Lone Star State” is an electoral gold mine with 38 electoral votes. If Biden pulls off a win here, Trump would have virtually no path to victory.

“This is a state with a quarter of the electorate being women of color who are the most likely Democrats with a vote eligible population that dwarfs the numbers that Trump won that state,” Allison said. “It's a true battleground state.”

Valenzuela’s campaign hopes to drive voter turnout in the mostly suburban 24th Congressional District.

Her opponent, Beth van Duyne, is a former Trump administration official who calls herself part of a “conservative squad.” Most experts rate this race as a “toss up.” Some view the dueling campaigns as a battle to define the suburban vote.

“There is a huge misconception about the nature of folks in all of the suburbs, but particularly in Texas's 24th District,” Valenzuela said. “This district is a completely suburban, majority person-of-color district. It is a very well-educated district.”

“I am a soccer mom. I am a suburban mother. I am a wife in the suburbs,” she said. “What I want for my children, for my family, for my community, is the safety and the prosperity that's afforded within the American promise. And the color of my skin does not change that.”

Valenzuela grew up on the border in El Paso, Texas. Her Mexican American mother met her Black father in the Army. She said her childhood wasn’t always easy. At times, she and her family were homeless.

“We lived in a homeless shelter, on relatives' couches and, at one point, me as a toddler and my brother as a baby ended up living in a kiddie pool outside of a gas station with my mom,” she said. “But we were able to get things together through some key programs.”

She said her family received housing through the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development, food stamps that helped put food on the table and that she went to public schools that “became a home for us.”

“But when I think about my dream -- going to college, becoming an educator -- there was so much hard work,” she said. “But there was also so much luck. And when you're working hard, and you're doing everything that you're supposed to do, luck shouldn't give you a stable life.”

After serving on the local school board for two years, she launched her congressional bid earlier this year, shortly after giving birth to her second son, who’s now a year old.

“[He] has essentially known nothing other than this congressional campaign in his entire life,” she said. “And so, like many working moms, I just tried to extract as much value as possible from the little bits of time I had with my kids or with my job.”

The mom of two -- her other child is 5 years old -- has shifted to a mostly virtual campaign because of the pandemic. As election day draws nearer, the thought that she could make history is not lost on her.

To young people of color, she said “the House of Congress is theirs” as well as “the halls of government.”

“All of these places, these rooms in which decisions occur, belong to everybody in this country who is seeking out the American dream,” she said. “I know that people may know this intellectually, but they don't feel it viscerally, and I want them to know deep down that this is their country, too.”

More than seven million people have voted early in Texas. It’s a record-shattering number in a state that has traditionally had low turnout and has made it even more difficult to vote in the last four years.

This year, Texas is one of only five states not allowing the pandemic to be an acceptable reason to vote by mail-in ballot. The state’s governor, Republican Greg Abbott, also tried, unsuccessfully, to limit the number of dropoff boxes for absentee ballots.

“Women of color are right in the nexus of the most targeted folks for voter suppression,” Allison said. “In Texas, the early turnout numbers that are really crushing the 2016 numbers is remarkable. This is the way that democracy really is revitalized and gives me a lot of hope.”

Across Texas, at least 639,000 more women of color have voted at this point in the election compared to 2016, according to She the People.

“That's really, really good news for Candace Valenzuela, and for Democrats overall, because Democrats win with higher turnout,” Allison said.

Voter Shannon Creekmur told Nightline she’s voting for candidates who believe in women’s rights.

“I’m also really excited to vote for my sorority sister Kamala Harris so I’m wearing my pearls so I’m getting ready to stroll to the poll,” she said.

Voter Swati Narayan told Nightline she didn’t expect to “feel this emotional about voting in this election but so much has changed in our country, especially these last four years.”

“As an African American woman, today is very special,” voter Yvonne Davis told Nightline on the day she voted. “Out of everything I think our foreparents have gone through, I’m determined to make my vote count.”

It’s that renewed energy from women of color who are voting that some groups are hoping to capture and carry forth in the week leading up to the election.

Veronica Torres and her Dallas-based group Hey Chica are cheering on Latina voters at the polls.

“When you celebrate someone, you're acknowledging them,” Torres said. “It's a way of saying, ‘Continue on.’ You want to feel good celebrating this... It's acknowledging, it's making memories and it's actually encouraging you to do it again.”

Torres started Hey Chica to help connect and empower Latinas like herself. This year, she’s focused on registering and encouraging Latinas to vote, no matter who they plan to vote for.

“We invite women to be a part of something that's bigger than just the vote,” she said. “It's about the sisterhood ... to stand up and have their voice be heard. It may not seem big; a movement starts from small.”

Allison hopes that the impact of women of color voters and candidates will persist far beyond Election Day.

“What we're doing is we're diffusing a centuries-old practice of prioritizing [the] white guy vote and interests over everybody else because we want an equal share of the society and we want to govern [and] 2020 is a year where so much of that is coming together,” she said. “We're helping lead the country into a new era.”

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