Politics Headlines

3dfoto/iStockBy LIBBY CATHEY and EMILY SHAPIRO, ABC News

(WASHINGTON) -- With three days until Election Day, and President Donald Trump and former Vice President Joe Biden racing toward Nov. 3, more than 90 million Americans have already cast their ballots -- an early voting record.

On Saturday, Biden's top surrogate, former President Barack Obama, will join him for the first time on the trail with drive-in rallies in Flint and Detroit to encourage Michiganders to vote.

Trump has four rallies in Pennsylvania as both candidates plan to "barnstorm" the state they deem critical in the final days before the election with the contest overshadowed by coronavirus cases rising there and in nearly every battleground territory.

Vice President Mike Pence has a pair of rallies in North Carolina -- a state Trump won by four points in 2016. California Sen. Kamala Harris is campaigning in Florida as Democrats vie for the state's 29 electoral votes key to Trump's pathway to the White House.

Oct 31, 6:33 pm
Trump slams SCOTUS absentee ballot decision

At the second of his four Pennsylvania rallies on Saturday, President Donald Trump railed over a recent Supreme Court ruling allowing absentee ballots in the state to be counted after Election Day in Pennsylvania and North Carolina.

“I've had many disappointing opinions from the Supreme Court, I will tell you,” Trump said at the rally in Reading. "That was a terrible decision."

He also conflated the likely delay in election results due to the historic increase in mail-in ballots with voter fraud, of which there is very little evidence, and baselessly claimed votes counted after Election Day would be “when the cheating’s gonna take place."

"Do you know when the cheating’s gonna take place? From the third to whatever the date it is that they gave," he said, calling the deadline extension "disappointing."

"That was a very political decision, I have to say," he said.
 
-ABC News' Will Steakin and Elizabeth Thomas

Oct 31, 6:29 pm
Who Trump is courting in Pennsylvania on Saturday

President Trump's Pennsylvania rally blitz on Saturday is primarily taking him to GOP strongholds to excite supporters and activate Republicans who may not have voted four years ago -- a bid to supercharge Election Day turnout to offset any Democratic gains in the suburbs.

Stop 1: Bucks County
Bucks County is 25 miles north of Philadelphia and the fourth-most-populous county in the state. It's Trump's only stop on Saturday to an area that isn't reliably Republican. While it's gone blue in every presidential election since 2000, the margin has tightened in recent years. Hillary Clinton won Bucks County by fewer than 3,000 votes in 2016. Demographically, Bucks County is 88.1% white, with 40.5% of residents holding bachelor's degrees or higher, according to the 2019 census.
 
Stop 2: Berks County

Trump stopped next in Reading, the seat of Berks County and the fifth-largest city in Pennsylvania. Berks County came close to flipping for former President Barack Obama in 2012, where he lost by under 2,000 votes. Trump closed that gap four years ago, seizing the lion's share of the vote by 18,000. Demographically, Berks County is a little more diverse than Bucks. The census estimates that as of 2019, 86.9% of Berks County residents identified as white and 22.5% identified as Latino -- compared to 5.7% in Bucks County. Only about 24.5% of Berks County residents hold degrees.

Stop 3: Butler County

Trump will travel next to Butler County in western Pennsylvania, another Republican stronghold since 2000. He handily trounced Clinton here in 2016, receiving more than 61,000 votes compared to Clinton's 26,834. According to The Associated Press, more than 10,000 Republicans in the county did not vote in 2016. Butler County is overwhelmingly white, according to census estimates (95.8%), and only 35.4% of residents hold bachelor's degrees or higher.

Stop 4: Lycoming County

The final stop will be Montoursville in Lycoming County -- yet another GOP area that has not been hotly contested to as far back as 2000.

Bonus: Luzerne County

First lady Melania Trump was also heading to Wapwallopen in Luzerne County this evening -- one of three "pivot" counties that went for Trump four years ago after backing Obama twice.

-ABC News' Benjamin Siegel

Oct 31, 3:41 pm
Biden tests negative for COVID-19 Saturday


Former Vice President Joe Biden tested negative for COVID-19 on Saturday, according to the pool.

This was his 18th negative test announced since Trump's positive diagnosis earlier this month.

-ABC News' John Verhovek

Oct 31, 2:51 pm
Melania Trump on COVID-19: US has 'made great progress'


First Lady Melania Trump made a campaign visit to Wisconsin Saturday, stressing that the pandemic “is not a partisan issue” and claiming “the Democrats want to project feelings of fear and doubt, purely for political reasons."

As the U.S. reaches its highest number of daily coronavirus cases, the first lady said, “We have made great progress in our fight against COVID-19… When COVID-19 invaded our country, we first had to learn what it was, how it spreads and how to prevent it.”

“Joe Biden said this will be a dark winter … his solution is to move backwards and to shut things down,” she said. “When my husband talks about the future, it is filled with continued possibility and forward thinking.”

Oct 31, 2:44 pm
Obama joins Biden, slams Trump's COVID-19 response


Former President Barack Obama and Vice President Joe Biden are campaigning in Detroit and Flint, Michigan, Saturday in their first in-person appearance together on the 2020 campaign trail.

At the first event in Flint, Obama removed his “VOTE” mask to tell the drive-in crowd, “this Tuesday, everything is on the line.”

“Our jobs are on the line, our health care is on the line,” Obama said.

Obama bashed President Trump's response to the pandemic, saying, "If Trump were focused on COVID from the beginning, cases wouldn't be reaching new record highs."

"Trump cares about feeding his ego," the former president said.

"Joe's not going to call scientists idiots," Obama said. "He's not going to host super-spreader events."

"Tweeting at the TV doesn't fix things," Obama said, but "Biden has concrete plans."

"Joe's plan will guarantee paid sick leave for workers and parents affected by the pandemic. He'll make sure the small businesses in every community ... can reopen safely," he said.

Biden then joined Obama, telling the crowd, "It's time for Donald Trump to pack his bags and go home. We're done with the chaos ... the failure, the refusal to take any responsibility."

"Imagine where we'd be if we had a president who wore a mask instead of mocking it," Biden said.

Both Detroit and Flint are Democratic strongholds. But in 2016, declines among some of the Democrats’ core constituencies helped Trump win Michigan by under 11,000 votes.

Hillary Clinton won both Wayne and Genesee counties, home to Detroit and Flint, but her margins were significantly less than Obama in 2012.

-ABC News' Kendall Karson

Oct 31, 1:36 pm
Pence says vaccine 'just a short time away'

Vice President Mike Pence jogged to the stage for his first rally of the day in Elm City, North Carolina, where he asked supporters to repeat the 2016 outcome and vote to reelect President Donald Trump.
 
Pence wore a mask before and after his remarks, only taking it off to speak. There were a few hundred supporters in attendance, but the majority were not wearing any face masks and were not social distancing.
 
Pence said that a COVID-19 vaccine is “just a short time away” and that nurses and doctors would have the supplies needed to continue treating patients as cases rise across the country.

Although Trump said the U.S. is "rounding the turn" Saturday, Pence admitted, "we continue to contend with this pandemic, we see cases rising in communities around the country."
 
“We are just a short time away, before the end of this year, of having the first safe coronavirus vaccine, and tens of millions of doses for the American people," Pence said. "We’re gonna continue to move heaven and Earth to make sure that our doctors and nurses have all the supplies and resources they need."
 
-ABC News' Justin Gomez

Oct 31, 1:27 pm
Trump supporter disrupts Kamala Harris’ remarks in Miami

When vice presidential candidate Sen. Kamala Harris spoke to supporters in Miami on Saturday, she was interrupted by a male protester who shouted pro-Trump and anti-Biden slogans.

Biden supporters tried to intervene by putting Biden signs in the protester's face. The protester was escorted out by security.

Amid the disruption, Harris urged those in the audience not to be distracted.

“We're not gonna be distracted by what's at hand," Harris said, as the crowd cheered. "We're not gonna be distracted by the stakes.... We know what we have to do."

Supporters listen as Democratic vice presidential nominee Kamala Harris speaks during a drive-in rally at Florida International University in Miami, Oct. 31,2020.

"You gotta ask, why are these powerful people trying to make it so difficult for us to vote?" she said.

Harris also has stops in Fort Lauderdale and Lake Worth, Florida, Saturday.

-ABC News' Averi Harper

Oct 31, 1:25 pm
Trump says Pennsylvania 'will save the American dream'


At the first of his four Saturday rallies in the battleground state of Pennsylvania, President Donald Trump told the crowd, "this is the state that will save the American dream."

"A great red wave ... is forming," Trump said in Bucks County. "And there's not a thing they can do about it."

Supporters say the pledge of allegiance before President Donald Trump holds a rally in Newtown, Penn., Oct. 31, 2020.

When Trump brought up Democratic nominee Joe Biden, some in the crowd yelled "lock him up!"

"I fought harder for you than any president," Trump said.

"Nobody has done in three-and-a-half years, nobody, no administration, no president what we've done and what we've accomplished... Nobody even challenges that," Trump said, without mentioning the coronavirus pandemic.

Supporters applaud as President Donald Trump speaks at a campaign rally at Keith House, Washington's Headquarters, Newton, Pa., Oct. 31, 2020.

Trump, in a calm, subdued, voice, continued, "Do not be intimidated by our opponent's angry and menacing tone. Because if we were, we would never have been able to accomplish what we've accomplished. In truth, they are actually terrified of you, the people.

Trump later mentioned COVID-19, saying "we're rounding the turn," even though the U.S. on Friday set a new daily case record for the second straight day.

The Bucks County rally was held outside but social distancing was not enforced. Many were seen without masks.

In 2016, Trump narrowly won Pennsylvania by 44,000 votes – less than 1% of the total ballots cast in the state.

Oct 31, 1:13 pm
Trump says Pennsylvania 'will save the American dream'


At the first of his four Saturday rallies in the battleground state of Pennsylvania, President Donald Trump told the crowd, "this is the state that will save the American dream."

"A great red wave ... is forming," Trump said in Bucks County. "And there's not a thing they can do about it."

When Trump brought up Democratic nominee Joe Biden, some in the crowd yelled "lock him up!"

"I fought harder for you than any president," Trump said.

"Nobody has done in three-and-a-half years, nobody, no administration, no president what we've done and what we've accomplished... Nobody even challenges that," Trump said, without mentioning the coronavirus pandemic.

Trump, in a calm, subdued, voice, continued, "Do not be intimidated by our opponent's angry and menacing tone. Because if we were, we would never have been able to accomplish what we've accomplished. In truth, they are actually terrified of you, the people.

The rally was held outside but social distancing was not enforced. Many were seen without masks.

In 2016, Trump narrowly won Pennsylvania by 44,000 votes – less than 1% of the total ballots cast in the state.

Oct 31, 11:57 am
Obama to campaign in Georgia and Florida on Monday


Former President Barack Obama will hit the campaign trail solo on Monday, visiting the battleground states of Georgia and Florida, the Biden campaign announced Saturday.

In Atlanta, Obama will campaign with U.S Senate candidates Jon Ossoff and Rev. Raphael Warnock.

Obama's plans for Florida were not released, but the Biden campaign said the former president will be in South Florida.

-ABC News' John Verhovek

Oct 31, 11:03 am
Absentee ballot rate of return in 11 competitive states


As Americans are urged by election officials to return their absentee ballots as soon as possible, several states have begun reporting the number of mail-in ballots they have received to date.
 
Using data collected by United States Elections Project, ABC News calculated the absentee ballot rate of return for 11 states deemed as competitive.

Arizona rate of return: 68.1% (as of Oct. 29)
Florida rate of return: 72.5% (as of Oct. 30)
Georgia rate of return: 68.88% (as of Oct. 29)
Iowa rate of return: 92.8% (as of Oct. 30)
Michigan rate of return: 79.94% (as of Oct. 30)
Minnesota rate of return: 80.27% (as of Oct. 30)
(Minnesota does not distinguish between mail and in-person ballots on their state reports. The statistics reported here thus combine all in-person early and mail ballot votes.)
North Carolina rate of return: 60.8% (as of Oct. 30)
New Hampshire rate of return: 80.7% (as of Oct. 27)
Nevada rate of return: 26.5% (as of Oct. 29)
Pennsylvania rate of return: 74.2% (as of Oct. 29)
Wisconsin rate of return: 83.9% (as of Oct. 30)
 
-ABC News’ Arielle Mitropoulos

Oct 31, 10:02 am
Harris County, Texas sets new record for early voting


In Harris County, Texas, a new record has been set for early voting numbers, with 1.43 million ballots cast early for the presidential election.

Harris County has already exceeded the total voter turnout from 2016, County Clerk Chris Hollins said Thursday, ABC Houston station KTRK reported.

Harris County’s early voting started on Oct. 13 and has now come to an end, KTRK said.

Early voting data is hitting record numbers across the country. In the states reporting data, at least 85.7 million ballots have been cast in the 2020 general election. In 2016, 43 million people voted early.

-ABC News’ Kelsey Walsh

Copyright © 2020, ABC Audio. All rights reserved.

0
comments



chpua/iStockBy ARMANDO GARCIA and WILL MCDUFFIE, ABC News

(TALLAHASSEE, Fla.) -- As a record-breaking early voting cycle winds down in Florida, and with the race for president between Donald Trump and former Vice President Joe Biden remaining close in the state, both campaigns are hoping to squeeze as many votes out of their candidate's supporters as possible in the final days.

Combining mail-in votes and early in-person votes, over 8.2 million ballots have already been cast in Florida as of Saturday morning, according to the Florida Division of Elections, surpassing the 6.6 million early votes in the 2016 presidential election.

Democrats hold a lead by 116,051 votes over Republicans in turnout among registered voters, a result of a monthslong campaign by the state Democratic Party to encourage voters to vote by mail ahead of Election Day. But Republicans have been closing the gap, out-voting Democrats in person by 528,000 during the early voting period.

With only two days left of early voting in many counties (and just one in some), the GOP is trying to capitalize on the momentum so it's better poised to earn a victory on Tuesday in a state that has historically been won by thin margins.

"[Democrats] did a great job of having their voters register for absentee ballots, and then did a great job of having those voters return those ballots," a Trump campaign adviser in Florida told ABC News. "We worked very hard to register more Republicans than had ever been registered before."

According to data released this month by Florida election officials, Republicans narrowed their deficit in voter registration to 134,242 voters, down from 327,483 in 2016.

To turn out those voters, Republicans have relied on campaign methods that Democrats in Florida have largely avoided during the coronavirus pandemic: in-person voter contact and packed -- mostly maskless -- rallies across the state.

"I know people like to roll their eyes at the rallies, but they do energize the voters," according to the campaign adviser, who said officials provide masks and encourage social distancing, though attendees rarely adhere to the guidance. "People like to say they energize the base -- they don't. They energize voters, and sometimes the voters are the base, but not always."

Democrats, for their part, say it's important to supplement their vote-by-mail advantage with strong in-person turnout between now and Election Day.

"Obviously we are pushing our voters out for early vote, but we'll make sure that once we have a sense come Sunday night what's missing, we'll be making sure we keep our foot on the gas Monday as well," said Karen Andre, a senior adviser for the Biden campaign in Florida. "We're going to make sure we're banking as many of our votes as possible, but have a readymade program to push all the way through the end of the day on Election Day."

The Biden campaign and Democratic organizers have launched a myriad of get-out-the-vote events throughout the state, from golf cart parades in The Villages, the largest senior retirement community in the nation, to "parrandas to the polls," a musical and festive tradition in the Puerto Rican community.

Biden's Florida campaign has also enlisted an army of surrogates -- like rapper Common and Latin American actress America Ferrera -- and Republican backers, like former Republican state Sen. Paula Dockery, to criss-cross the state and make sure voters have a plan to get to the polls early.

This week, former President Barack Obama stumped for his former vice president along the Interstate 4 corridor, one of the most hotly contested regions of swing voters in Florida, where Puerto Ricans are the largest Latino community, according to a Pew Research Center analysis of U.S. Census Bureau Data.

"We got one week, Orlando, one week -- si se puede -- one week until the most important election of our lifetimes," said Obama. "And you don't have to wait until next Tuesday to cast your ballot."

A whopping 1.7 million ballots have been cast by independents or unaffiliated voters, according to Florida's Division of Elections. Although it's impossible to know who they voted for until results are released, both parties see an opportunity to court the unaffiliated voters, whose political preferences may not be so cut and dry.

Florida Democratic strategist Steven Schale has been analyzing early vote data and thinks that while registered Republicans might continue to close the turnout gap in the following days, Democrats have an opportunity to win over unaffiliated voters, referred to sometimes as NPAs.

David Odenwald, 61, an unaffiliated voter in Atlantic Beach, a suburb of Jacksonville in Duval County, voted early for Biden after casting a ballot for Trump in 2016.

"I was ready for a change [in 2016]," Odenwald, who drives for Uber, told ABC News. "I had nothing to go on with Trump; I just was no way going to vote for Hillary Clinton. The outright lies, deception. The whole family is out for themselves."

But Trump's handling of the coronavirus pandemic became too much for Odenwald, who used to work in health care. "This pandemic is real, the numbers are going up, and he's trying to play like it's almost over. It's far from over," he said.

As for Trump's rallies? "They're like a super-spreader, and he doesn't care," said Odenwald. "To me, he's going to be responsible for a lot of deaths."

Schale said Biden may have an edge with the unaffiliated voters due to their demographics.

"More and more younger voters of color are registering as NPAs, so the non-party affiliate voters are probably a little bit more Democratic in their party orientation than they were 10 years ago," said Schale.

Twenty-one percent of unaffiliated voters are Hispanic and 7% are Black, according to Schale. Over one-fourth of them are new or sporadic voters. Many of them, he says, are Puerto Ricans.

At a drive-in rally in North Miami, Obama took a shot at the president's handling of Hurricane Maria, which devastated Puerto Rico in 2017.

"When a hurricane devastates Puerto Rico, a president is supposed to help it rebuild, not toss paper towels, withhold billions of dollars in aid until just before an election. We've got a president who actually suggested selling Puerto Rico," he said.

Yet turnout so far in Miami-Dade County, where Obama spoke, is causing anxiety for Democrats, who worry that Biden is not in position to carry the heavily Democratic county by a large enough margin.

"The biggest cause for concern for Democrats is the gap in Hispanic voting in Miami-Dade," Matthew Isbell, a Democratic data analyst, told ABC News.

According to Isbell, turnout by Hispanic Democrats in the county lags behind 2016's numbers.

"That's pretty significant," said Isbell. "I think it's finally starting to spark some alarm bells among some of the different Democratic organizations down there."

Florida is a "war for turnout," according to Josh Mendelsohn, CEO of Hawkfish, a Democratic data and technology firm. He said it's all going to come down to what candidate can rally support among voters who have yet to vote.

"Campaigns ought to reorient themselves to take advantage of the fact that they can now narrow those last persuasive arguments they're trying to make -- the proverbial closing arguments," he said.

Copyright © 2020, ABC Audio. All rights reserved.

0
comments



sabthai/iStockBy KATHERINE FAULDERS and OLIVIA RUBIN, ABC News

(WASHINGTON) -- In the final countdown to Election Day, Republicans have surged resources to key battleground states, gearing up for legal battles that could decide the outcome of the 2020 presidential election, and are in the process of finalizing plans for post-election litigation and potential recounts, according to Republican officials and sources familiar with the legal strategy.

Republicans have deployed 50,000 volunteers, attorneys and staff across the country -- primarily in presidential battleground states -- to support their Election Day operations, according to a GOP official.

"They're there to focus on ensuring transparency, the ability to observe the voting and counting processes," a Republican official said during a call with reporters Friday. "So that's really why these folks are there is to make sure the law's being followed, make sure that our voters aren't being prevented. Make sure that every lawful vote is counted."

Dozens of lawyers are in states such as Pennsylvania, Minnesota, North Carolina, Nevada and Florida in preparation for a barrage of legal battles that could be mounted on Election Day or in the following days. They have been prepping for potential recounts, pouring through election statutes and lengthy guidance documents from various secretary of state offices, Republican officials said.

"There are full legal teams already deployed across the country and a Supreme Court team is ready should it become necessary," a source on the Trump legal team told ABC News.

President Donald Trump told reporters that he's hopeful the courts will stop ballots from being counted post-Election Day.

"Hopefully, the few states remaining that want to take a lot of time after Nov. 3 to count ballots, that won't be allowed by the various courts because, as you know, we're in courts on that," the president said Wednesday.

This week, the Supreme Court said it would not grant a pre-election review on Pennsylvania's plan to accept ballots that arrive up to three days after Election Day, as long as they are postmarked by Election Day -- a major win for Democrats in the state on an issue that has become the center point for litigation in battleground states around the country.

But Republicans say the ruling allowed for the issue to be reopened after the election, if necessary and they know the legal fight in the state is far from over.

"We already have dozens of people deployed to Pennsylvania to monitor the situation there," a Republican official said. "It's the epicenter right now for problems."

Pennsylvania -- among other states -- has Trump's team on edge. Sources familiar with the campaign data privately concede the race will be extremely tight, with one source predicting it could come within 10,000 votes.

Republican officials said that any likely legal battles they try to mount in the days after Election Day will be isolated to states where such challenges could swing the state in Trump's favor.

"I think that if ... the margin of victory is not sort of dependent on these ballots that may be questionable, there's a good chance you won't see any litigation," the official said.

"But if it's really close, to be frank, these things -- these ballots -- are going to become a point of contention."

Trump and former Vice President Joe Biden are also locked in a close contest in North Carolina and on Wednesday the U.S. Supreme Court denied a GOP request to block a six-day extension of the mail ballot deadline, which was imposed by the state board of elections.

Trump, unhappy with the ruling, tweeted on Friday that the decision "is CRAZY and so bad for our Country."

"Can you imagine what will happen during that nine day period," he wrote. "The Election should END on November 3rd."

In Wisconsin, another battleground state, the U.S. Supreme Court refused to green light a six-day extension ordered by a lower court judge because of the pandemic.

And in Minnesota, the 8th Circuit Court of Appeals ruled that absentee ballots will need to be received by local officials by 8 p.m. on Election Day in order to be counted.

"There is no pandemic exception to the Constitution," the court ruled Thursday evening.

Minnesota Secretary of State Steve Simon had argued that because of the coronavirus pandemic -- and the high number of absentee ballots requested -- that ballots should be counted as long as they were postmarked by Election Day and received within seven days.

Copyright © 2020, ABC Audio. All rights reserved.

0
comments



3dfoto/iStockBy LIBBY CATHEY, ABC News

(WASHINGTON) -- With four days until Election Day, and President Donald Trump and former Vice President Joe Biden racing toward Nov. 3, more than 82 million Americans have already cast their ballots -- an early voting record.

Friday brings both Trump and Biden to Minnesota and Wisconsin, revealing how crucial the states are to both campaigns, with the contest overshadowed by coronavirus cases rising there and in nearly every battleground state.

The president's aggressive, defensive strategy -- visiting states he won in 2016 including a first stop in Michigan Friday afternoon -- comes as polls show him trailing nationally and in swing states key to his reelection hopes. Vice President Mike Pence returns to Arizona for a pair of rallies in Flagstaff and Tucson.

Biden will see his busiest travel day to date of the general election. With a stop in Iowa too, it's the first time the former vice president has made plans to campaign in three states in one day for the 2020 cycle. Running mate California Sen. Kamala Harris is in Texas as Democrats play offense and sense an opportunity to snatch the GOP-stronghold for the first time in more than four decades.

Here is how the day is developing Friday. All times Eastern:

Oct 30, 5:56 pm
In Arizona, crowd chants 'lock her up' after Pence says Pelosi 'has got to go'


At his first of two stops in Arizona on Friday, Vice President Mike Pence threw his support behind congressional candidates and told Arizonans to elect them so House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, D-Calif., can be removed from her post.

"So right after you reelect President Donald Trump for four more years and right after you reelect Sen. Martha McSally to the United States Senate, we all need you to send Paul Gosar, Congressman Markwayne Mullin and Tiffany Shedd to a new Republican majority in the House of Representatives, and retire Nancy Pelosi once and for all. Out! She has got to go," Pence said at the outdoor rally in Flagstaff.
 
That caused some supporters to chant "lock her up!"

Mullin, it should be noted, is not on the ballot in Arizona, but represents Oklahoma's 2nd Congressional District.
 
McSally, who is competing in one of the most-watched Senate campaigns this cycle, introduced Pence. The vice president said it was "an honor" to share the stage with her, and that she has "emerged as one of the greatest champions" for Republicans.
 
On the coronavirus, Pence said that a vaccine is "just a short time away." He acknowledged that COVID-19 cases are increasing in the state, which reported 1,565 new cases Friday.  
 
"And as we see cases rise, particularly across the heartland and even somewhat here in Arizona," he told of the crowd of about 500, the majority of whom were not wearing masks or social distancing. "I want to assure you, we're going to continue to move heaven and earth to make sure that our doctors and nurses, and here in Arizona and everywhere in America, that every family has access to the health care that we'd want any member of our family to have."  
 
-ABC News' Justin Gomez

Oct 30, 4:17 pm
ABC's race ratings update: Texas is now a toss-up in campaign's final days


With only four days until Nov. 3, Texas has moved this week in Biden's favor -- shifting from lean Republican to a toss-up, according to ABC's race ratings.

Here's where the race to 270 currently stands: Biden - 290; Trump - 125; Toss-up -123.

Click here for ABC's interactive electoral map, which is updated weekly.

-ABC News' Kendall Karson

Oct 30, 3:56 pm
Trump mocks COVID-19 public health precautions at Minnesota rally

Trump kicked off his rally in Waterford Township, Michigan, by commenting on the cold weather but saying he felt “very warm in this group” before confidently declaring, “Four days from now, we're going to win this state and we're going to go on to win four more great years in the White House.”

An ABC News/Washington Post [poll] () out this week shows Biden narrowly ahead of Trump among likely voters in Michigan, 51% to 44%.

Speaking to the packed crowd of mostly maskless supporters, Trump mocked the size of Biden’s crowds when compared with his, saying “nobody shows up.”

He also took aim at Biden's running mate, and though he regularly mispronounces Kamala Harris’ name, Trump added the false claim that Harris can't pronounce her own name either.

At one point the president called out to Fox News’ Laura Ingraham, who was present and expressed disbelief that she was wearing a mask -- though coronavirus cases are rising in Michigan and nearly every other battleground state.

"Where is Laura? Where is she? I can't recognize you. Is that a mask? No way. Are you wearing a mask? I've never seen her in a mask. Look at you. She's being very politically correct. Whoa!" Trump said.

Ahead of more rallies in Wisconsin and Minnesota, Trump complained that local officials in Minnesota are “scamming” him by not allowing his campaign to hold a rally of more than 250 people in order to adhere to the state's COVID-19 restrictions.

“You know what, that maybe will give us the final victory. We haven't won Minnesota since 1972, OK?" Trump said. "That's not good odds, but we are very popular because I helped with that disaster in Minneapolis."

-ABC News’ Jordyn Phelps

Oct 30, 3:55 pm
Harris praises record voting in Texas, says it's still not time to 'let up on the pedal'


Harris’ first stop in Texas was Fort Worth, where she gave remarks to a socially distanced and masked crowd of about 300 supporters outside of First St. John’s Cathedral -- her presence in the state significant as she’s the first Democrat vice presidential candidate to campaign there since 1988.
 
After the state shattered its 2016 voting record this morning, Harris praised the more than nine million votes already cast in Texas -- but reminded the race isn’t over yet.

“Today is the last day of early voting in Texas and you all have been doing your thing! What did I hear? Was it 9 million people have voted so far?" Harris said. "Now, we know this is no time to let up on the pedal though, right?"
 
Urging Texans to vote whether early or on Election Day, she repeated her mantra that voting is one of the best ways to “honor the ancestors,” paying special tribute to the late Congressman John Lewis.

“John Lewis lived a life that was about a commitment to fighting for equal rights and civil rights, and it was fight that was born out of being a patriot and loving our country,” she said. “Knowing the best way we achieve our ideals, is to fight for those ideals, to do it in every way by standing up, showing up and speaking up -- so we must vote to honor the ancestors.”

Though winning the state’s 29 electoral college votes is a longshot for the party, some Democrats sense an opportunity to snatch the GOP-stronghold for the first time in more than four decades, while others warn the campaign should stay focused on states Clinton narrowly lost in 2016.
 
“You are strong, you have power, and at election time, that power will be through your vote. And you will tell them when they ask that you elected Joe Biden the President of the United States,” Harris said closing her remarks. “Thank you Fort Worth, and God bless Texas.”

-ABC News’ Averi Harper

Oct 30, 11:18 am
COVID-19 election battleground state tracker


As the country enters what many scientists are calling a new wave of the coronavirus pandemic and the presidential candidates make their final pitches to voters in battleground states, here’s an update of the COVID-19 situation in 13 states ABC News rates as competitive for the presidential election (either toss-ups, leaning Democrat or leaning Republican).

Eight battleground states -- Iowa, Michigan, Minnesota, North Carolina, Ohio, Pennsylvania, Texas and Wisconsin -- are experiencing a rise in all three metrics: cases, hospitalizations and deaths.

Rate of positivity:

Increased in 12 states: Arizona, Florida, Georgia, Iowa, Minnesota, Michigan, North Carolina, Nevada, Ohio, Pennsylvania, Texas, Wisconsin


Current hospitalizations:

Increased in 10 states: Arizona, Georgia, Iowa, Minnesota, Michigan, North Carolina, Ohio, Pennsylvania, Texas, Wisconsin

Daily deaths:

Increasing in eight states: Iowa, Michigan, Minnesota, North Carolina, Ohio, Pennsylvania, Texas, Wisconsin

Decreasing in four states: Arizona, Florida, New Hampshire, Nevada

Oct 30, 10:24 am
Biden departs for 3-state tour, says he's not taking 'anything for granted'


Just before he boarded his plane with his granddaughter, Maisy, the former vice president took a quick question from the press about why he was visiting Minnesota, a state Democrats won by 2.5 points in 2016, and if that signaled concern about the state.

“No, I’m not concerned. We’re gonna be in Iowa, we’re gonna be in Wisconsin, so I thought I’d stop in Minnesota. I don’t take anything for granted. We’re gonna work for every single vote up til the last minute,” Biden said.

Biden will now head out for Iowa -- a state Trump won in 2016 by nearly 10 points and one Biden hasn't seen since the Iowa caucuses -- his first of three stops in the Midwest Friday.

Oct 30, 10:15 am
Texas shatters 2016 voting record on last day of early voting

Texas has shattered its voting record with four days to go until Nov. 3, reporting 9,009,850 votes already cast as of Friday morning, beating the state's all-time record of 8,969,226 votes cast in 2016.

In a final push to encourage early voting, Harris County, the state's most populous county which includes Houston and the surrounding area, kept eight locations open for 24 hours. The 24-hour period started Thursday morning. Between 7 p.m. Thursday and 7 a.m. Friday, 10,250 people voted there.

Harris County Clerk Chris Hollins tweeted late Thursday that the county -- home to roughly 4.7 million people -- had surpassed its entire voter turnout from 2016 with nearly 1.4 million votes already cast.

Friday is the final day Texans can vote early in the 2020 election. It comes as California Sen. Kamala Harris takes to the GOP-stronghold for the day as Democrats sense an opportunity -- though a long shot -- to win the state's 38 electoral votes.

Oct 30, 9:38 am
Overview: Trump, Biden battle for the Midwest as COVID-19 cases rise

Heading into the final weekend before Election Day, both candidates are doing a final blitz through the battleground states they hope will determine the outcome of the race in their favor -- but the barnstorming comes as coronavirus cases rise in every competitive state they’re vying for.

Friday brings the candidates to Minnesota and Wisconsin -- revealing the importance both campaigns are placing on those states. Trump also stops in Michigan -- where Biden will campaign on Saturday with former President Barack Obama -- and Biden will also take to Iowa -- a state he hasn’t seen since the Iowa caucuses and one that Trump took in 2016 by nearly 10 points.
 
Trump’s and Biden’s campaign events in the homestretch have also illustrated their different outlooks on the coronavirus pandemic, with Trump insisting to packed crowds of mostly maskless supporters that the virus is disappearing, while Biden has acknowledged the pandemic will continue even if he’s elected and has repeatedly thanked his supporters for wearing masks and social distancing at his drive-in rallies.

But Trump’s rally in Minnesota Friday afternoon may change that trend and force the president to face the realities of the pandemic.

In the first time the campaign has limited attendance at a rally in accordance with local COVID-19 guidelines, the Trump campaign will allow just the first 250 people in line to attend Trump's rally in Rochester, Minnesota, due to restrictions by the governor to control the virus, which the campaign called "free speech-stifling."

The weekend blitz comes after the candidates converged in Florida Thursday to court the Latino vote and in which each offered conflicting realities of COVID-19 at their dueling rallies down the I-4 corridor. The weather threw both of them curve balls by the evening with Biden’s second Florida rally being cut short due to rain and Trump’s North Carolina rally also scrapped due to weather.

The vice president and vice-presidential candidate, too, are out on the trail with Republicans on offense -- defending the map that led them to victory in 2016 -- and Democrats seeking to expand theirs.
 
California Sen. Kamala Harris travels in Texas as Democrats play offense and sense an opportunity to snatch the GOP-stronghold for the first time in more than four decades. Vice President Mike Pence, meanwhile, has two rallies in Arizona -- a state Trump won in 2016 by four points.
 
With just four days to go and more than 82 million votes already cast, time is running out for Trump and Biden to sway voters.

Oct 30, 9:32 am
Biden to 'barnstorm' Pennsylvania in final days

Biden’s campaign has announced that he will be spending at least part of the last 72 hours in the 2020 race in Pennsylvania -- an indication of just how important Democrats believe the Keystone State will be in determining a winner.

On Sunday, Biden will travel to Philadelphia to “discuss bringing Americans together to address the crises facing the country and win the battle for the soul of the nation.”

On Monday, Biden and former second lady Jill Biden, along with Sen. Kamala Harris and her husband Doug Emhoff, plan to "barnstorm" the state, spreading out across all the four corners.
 
Biden’s speech on Sunday offers a bit of a full circle moment for the former vice president, who held his "campaign launch rally" in Philadelphia on May 18, 2019, and laid out his campaign vision for unifying the country in the remarks just under a month after launching his third run for president.

Pennsylvania is by far the state Biden has visited the most in the 2020 general election and one that holds a particular importance to him.
 
"I'm going to win Pennsylvania. It's a matter of a great deal to me, personally as well as politically," Biden told reporters Monday.

Trump will take to Pennsylvania Saturday for three rallies, and he’s still planning to barnstorm nearly a dozen events in the final 48 hours across states he carried in 2016.
 
FiveThirtyEight currently places Pennsylvania as the likeliest "tipping-point state" in its forecast or the state that could determine the winner of the Electoral College.

Copyright © 2020, ABC Audio. All rights reserved.

0
comments



JPecha/iStockBy DEVIN DWYER and JANET WEINSTEIN, ABC News

(WASHINGTON) -- The U.S. Supreme Court, with newly confirmed conservative Justice Amy Coney Barrett, will face its first major test on religious liberty and LGBT rights just one day after the 2020 election.

The justices on Wednesday will hear oral arguments on whether the city of Philadelphia can enforce a non-discrimination policy for sexual orientation on Catholic Social Services, a leading faith-based child welfare agency that does not work with same-sex foster parents.

Philadelphia refused to renew its contract with CSS for the city's foster care program in 2018 because of the group's refusal to accept gay or lesbian applicants. The agency and several Catholic foster parents sued the city, alleging it targeted their religious beliefs in violation of the First Amendment.

"I was devastated. I just couldn't believe it," said plaintiff Sharonnell Fulton, a foster parent with Catholic Social Services who abruptly could no longer take in children after the city severed ties with the organization.

"I have room in my house and time in my life and I want to make a difference," said Fulton, who's fostered more than 40 children over nearly 30 years. "Catholic Social Service does wonderful work and we have children that hurt and we need to serve."

Lower federal courts rejected CSS claims of religious discrimination, upholding the city's ability to set neutral terms for all contracts involving taxpayer funds. But now the Supreme Court will take another look at whether the city went too far.

"There had been no complaints against Catholic Social Services," said Lori Windham, an attorney with the Becket Fund for Religious Liberty, which is representing Fulton and Catholic Social Services. "No same-sex couple had ever approached them. But if one did, they would help them to find an agency that could serve that family and help them on their foster care journey."

Of the 24 private agencies in Philadelphia's foster care network, Catholic Social Services is the only one that would deny applications from same-sex couples as a matter of faith.

"This is a voluntary contract. We don't hold any provider to commit to having to sign if they don't want to adhere to the contract language," said Philadelphia Deputy Mayor Cynthia Figueroa. "The city is pretty straightforward. You've entered into a contract that says very explicitly that you are to serve all and that's mutually applied to all providers."

Catholic teaching says that marriage is between one man and one woman. The church does not consider LGBT families morally compliant.

Figueroa, who is Catholic, maintains that even if other organizations will accept LGBT prospective foster parents the city's faith-neutral non-discrimination policy is valid and important.

"There's LGBTQ youth in the system. And I think it sends a very strong message to them that they're supported and protected as children, but as adults, their rights would be discriminated against," Figueroa said of the situation.

Caught in the middle are at-risk Philadelphia children and teens. There are currently 4,300 kids in the city's resource homes, including nearly 1,900 with foster families, according to the Philadelphia Department of Human Services Data Report. About 300 children are in group facilities awaiting placement.

The case has prompted strong feelings from foster families on both sides of the dispute, including those without a direct stake in the case.

"We have kids dying in the street every single day. And you want to fight about who can foster a child? By god, let's get past that," said retired police officer Kevin Bernard, who recently became a foster parent for the first time when he and his wife Patti took in a 5-month-old girl from a family with ties to their non-denominational Christian church.

"I'm not a lawyer, but I say this: Catholic Services, they signed a contract and the contract specifically states that you're going to include all types of families," said Paige Davis, who has been fostering Philadelphia children with her wife Shannon for seven years.

The Davises, who are LGBT Catholics but did not attempt to work with Catholic Social Services, say having same-sex parents in the foster system is critical.

Studies show LGBT young people are disproportionately in need of foster care and that many who were removed or ran away from foster placements did so because of a caregiver's hostility toward their sexual orientation or gender identity.

"If we could have been that intermediary between a child transitioning into their adulthood and into their own identity and show them that is safe, we want to be there for those children in order to do that," said Davis. "To eliminate families based on them being same-sex is eliminating a loving home for a child."

But after nearly 200 years of Catholic Social Services working with children and families in Philadelphia, Bernard wonders whether the city's move to cut ties with the agency over its beliefs on homosexuality is fair and constitutional.

"Freedom is both sides. There's two sides of freedom, right? And this country was founded on religious freedom. And as such, you should be able to help where you can help and still practice your faith," Bernard said. "And so if the church wants to help, but they can't do it in another area, then there should be somebody that can help those people also do that."

Fulton said she hopes the court will agree and allow her to get back to work fostering children through the agency she loves.

"At this age and in my life, I don't want to start all over again with somebody else's rules and regulations who don't respect my religious values. And I believe in what I'm saying," Fulton said. "It would be difficult for me to continue fostering through a new agency."

The Supreme Court is expected to hand down its decision by the end of June 2021.

Copyright © 2020, ABC Audio. All rights reserved.

0
comments



ABC NewsBy ALLISON PECORIN, ABC News

(NEW YORK) -- Amy McGrath, the Democratic candidate for U.S. Senate in Kentucky, said Thursday that she is confident voters want to bring about change as they head to the polls this week, despite facing long odds against Sen. Mitch McConnell.

McConnell, the Senate majority leader and a 36-year veteran of the Senate, wields significant power over the Congress and frequently touts that he is the only senior leader in Congress not from New York or California.

McGrath told ABC News' Lindsey Davis Thursday that she believes voters can tell that McConnell is too entrenched in Washington politics to get things done for Kentucky.

"You can't drain the swamp until you get rid of the guy who built it, and that's Mitch McConnell," McGrath said. "My fellow Kentuckians don't come up to me and say, 'Wow, Sen. McConnell's power is really working for us.'"

A Quinnipiac poll from mid-September showed McConnell leading McGrath by 12 points. President Donald Trump, a close ally of the senator, is also expected to win Kentucky; he did so handily in 2016.

McGrath is a former Marine fighter pilot who has made public service a centerpiece of her campaign.

On Thursday, she focused on the need to secure health care for vulnerable citizens. She also took aim at McConnell's push to quickly install Amy Coney Barrett on the Supreme Court without successfully passing another round of coronavirus relief.

"The Supreme Court nominee that he just rammed through is all about health care," McGrath said. "He couldn't take away the Affordable Care Act legislatively for a decade and now he's trying to do it in court."

The Senate voted to confirm Barrett's confirmation on Monday, just eight days before the Nov. 3 election.

McConnell was a major force in moving the nomination through despite objection from Democrats, who argued that the winner of the election should nominate the next person to fill the vacancy.

Central to Democrats' arguments against Barrett was the threat they felt she posed to health care. Barrett testified repeatedly that she is "not hostile" to the Affordable Care Act during her testimony before the Senate Judiciary Committee, though Barrett criticized a ruling by Chief Justice John Roberts that upheld the landmark Obama-era health care bill in a 2017 academic article.

McConnell, meanwhile, has touted the Barrett nomination as one of his most significant accomplishments in his time serving in the Senate. He's called Barrett a "sterling" nominee and celebrated the Senate's accomplishments at a press stop earlier this week. The confirmation gives conservatives a 6-3 advantage on the nation's highest court.

"It was a proud moment when we confirmed her Monday night," McConnell said this week. "We worked through the weekend ... and we made an important difference for the country."

Despite her opposition to Barrett's installation on the court, McGrath told Davis that she's not interested in the proposal from some progressives to add additional justices to the court if Democrats win the White House and Senate next week.

"I'm not interested in packing the courts right now," McGrath told ABC News Live. "I'm interested in unpacking the Senate."

McGrath accused McConnell of leading the Senate toward dysfunction and said he has made it impossible for Congress to pass a new round of COVID-19 relief despite months of negotiation. McConnell has opposed the House-passed coronavirus relief bill, calling it a "liberal wish list" that is too expensive. Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi and members of the administration have been negotiating a deal for months, with no clear outcome in site.

McConnell meanwhile has proposed more targeted relief measures that haven't gained support of Democrats. He's led the Senate on two separate failed votes on this relief plan.

The majority leader has placed the blame for these failed attempts squarely on the shoulders of Democrats. In recent campaign stops around Kentucky, McConnell has touted his accomplishments to constituents, including the passage of the $2 trillion coronavirus relief bill in March.

After an interview McGrath gave in July, a spokesperson for McConnell's campaign fired back at McGrath in a statement to ABC News, saying she's "living in an alternate reality narrated by talkshows."

"McGrath is a failed candidate whose only chance to be relevant is by falsely attacking Leader McConnell's indisputable record of delivering for Kentucky," said Kate Cooksey, press secretary for McConnell's reelection campaign.

Copyright © 2020, ABC Audio. All rights reserved.

0
comments



Official White House Photo by Shealah CraigheadBy ANNE FLAHERTY and STEPHANIE EBBS, ABC News

(WASHINGTON) -- In a bizarre twist on the Trump administration's handling of the pandemic, House Democrats have released documents detailing a $250 million plan by political aides at the Department of Health and Human Services to seek out celebrities to talk about COVID-19 -- and it appears their politics might have mattered.

Among the documents kept by a government contractor hired to run the public health campaign was a list of the political leanings of some 274 celebrities, including their positions on gun legislation, abortion rights and same-sex marriage.

Oscar winner Julianne Moore, for example, was marked down as "pending" in participation, and noted as a "Liberal Democrat, pro-choicer, LGBT rights supporter, gun control campaigner." The Office actor John Krasinski was listed as a "maybe" with the note that the "team is checking with him; has some conservative political views."

The contractor that maintained the list, Atlas Research, did not respond to requests for comment.

A public service campaign wouldn't be unusual in a nationwide pandemic, and some government documents show one intention was to use credible sources to educate Americans on masks, social distancing and vaccination. The documents released by the Congress also don't allege any wrongdoing by the celebrities. It's not clear many of the celebrities were even aware they were being vetted for the campaign.

But that list -- called the "PSA Celebrity Tracker" -- along with notes following meetings with administration officials, raises serious questions about whether taxpayer money was being used to educate the public on a deadly virus or bolster President Donald Trump's reelection chances by voicing support for him.

Trump has falsely claimed since spring that the virus would "go away" and has declined to wear a mask in public, eventually testing positive.

"Helping the President will Help the Country," one contractor wrote down as a potential "theme" of the campaign after meeting with Michael Caputo, a Trump appointee and top communications official at the Department of Health and Human Services at the time. Caputo is on temporary leave, citing medical reasons.

Other themes listed were "Keep America Well" and that COVID-19 was the "public health challenge of all time."

Politico first reported on the potential $250 million proposal last August, obtaining a letter from the administration to a communications firm that stated the goal of the contract would be to "defeat despair and inspire hope" about the coronavirus pandemic.

An HHS spokesperson said Thursday that the program was undergoing a "strategic review."

"The plan has always been to only use materials reviewed by a department-wide team of experts including scientists from CDC who will ensure the latest scientific information is used to provide important public health, therapeutic and vaccine information," according to the HHS statement.

The list of celebrities doesn't make clear the extent to which their political views factored into their potential involvement in the program, such as the assessment of Krasinski.

But other documents obtained by the House Oversight and Reform Committee suggest their political leanings did pose problems, such as when it came to comedian George Lopez, a vocal supporter of Democrat Joe Biden and target of conservatives.

"George Lopez PSA – Not moving forward due to previous concerns regarding his comments regarding the President," said meeting notes from Sept. 29 logged by contractor Atlas Research.

Any celebrities considering participation have since backed out of the campaign, according to Democratic investigators.

"Of course, it is completely inappropriate to frame a taxpayer-funded ad campaign around 'helping' President Trump in the weeks and days before the election," wrote House Democratic chairs Carolyn Maloney, Jim Clyburn and Raja Krishnamoorthi in an Oct. 28 letter to Health Secretary Alex Azar.

"This theme also ignores the reality that more than 220,000 Americans have died from coronavirus -- a fact that should not be whitewashed in a legitimate public health message," the House Democrats stated.

Ultimately, only three celebrities wound up sitting down for a videotaped interview: actor Dennis Quaid, gospel singer CeCe Winans and singer Shulem Lemmer.

In an Instagram video, Quaid said he taped an interview with Dr. Anthony Fauci, the nation's top infectious disease expert, to raise awareness about the importance of wearing a mask and social distancing.

"It was in no way political," Quaid said on Instagram, blaming "cancel culture media" for the effort's demise.

Winans has also said her involvement was not political. Lemmer said Thursday that he agreed to participate in the interest of unity.

"To my understanding and knowledge, this project had no political affiliation nor was it ever mentioned before, during or after my involvement," he wrote in an email to ABC News.

Other celebrities couldn't be immediately reached for comment. Moore's publicist said he was not aware of the list, but confirmed the actress is a Democrat who supports LGBTQ and abortion rights as well as gun safety legislation.

Earlier this year, Caputo, the political appointee who led the effort as a top communications official at HHS, denied the program was aimed at giving Trump a political boost: "This project is about public health, not politics, and America deserves no less."

Copyright © 2020, ABC Audio. All rights reserved.

0
comments



TriggerPhoto/iStockBy DEENA ZARU, ABC News

(WASHINGTON) -- Lil Wayne said that he had a "great meeting" with President Donald Trump on Thursday to discuss the Trump administration's proposed "Platinum Plan" for Black America, just days ahead of the 2020 presidential election.

"Just had a great meeting with (President Donald Trump) besides what he's done so far with criminal reform, the platinum plan is going to give the community real ownership," the rapper tweeted, along with a photo of himself with Trump. "He listened to what we had to say today and assured he will and can get it done."

Just had a great meeting with @realdonaldtrump @potus besides what he’s done so far with criminal reform, the platinum plan is going to give the community real ownership. He listened to what we had to say today and assured he will and can get it done. 🤙🏾 pic.twitter.com/Q9c5k1yMWf

— Lil Wayne WEEZY F (@LilTunechi) October 29, 2020

The meeting between the president and the rapper took place at the Trump National Doral Miami resort, White House deputy press secretary Judd Deere confirmed to ABC News on Thursday.

As a business mogul, Trump was an icon in hip-hop music for more than three decades and rappers, including Lil Wayne, hailed his wealth and power in hundreds of lyrics, but once he jumped into the political ring in 2015, he was fervently rejected by the hip-hop community.

Lil Wayne, who name dropped Trump in songs like "Racks on Racks," rapping, "get money like Donald Trump," voiced support for Democratic presidential nominee Hillary Clinton in 2016. He did not indicate whether he is voting for Trump in 2020.

Lil Wayne's meeting with the president comes after rapper Ice Cube repeatedly defended his role in advising the Trump administration on the proposed plan.

Intense backlash was leveled against the NWA legend earlier this month after Trump adviser Katrina Pierson revealed on Twitter that he advised the campaign.

Ice Cube, who has been a vocal critic of Trump, famously releasing a song titled "Arrest the President" in 2018, said that he did not endorse anyone in 2020, but had spoken with both the Trump and Biden campaigns after releasing his "Contract With Black America" in July.

Arguing that "Black progress is a bipartisan issue," the rapper urged politicians to back the 13-point document, which is described as "a blueprint to achieve racial economic justice" and touches on a wide range of issues, including finance, police, criminal justice and education reform.

Lil Wayne and Ice Cube's conversations with the Trump campaign come as the Democratic Party and presidential nominee Joe Biden grapple with criticism from progressives and conservatives -- including presidential candidate and hip-hop star Kanye West -- that its politicians have been taking Black voters for granted for decades and have not done enough to earn it by working to uplift Black communities.

West, who is running for president under the newly formed Birthday Party, had battled backlash from fans over the past few years after he voiced support for the president and famously met with him at the Oval Office in October 2018.

Several operatives who have been prominently involved in the Republican political world have been linked to West's presidential bid, raising questions about West's motives to run.

After announcing his presidential bid, West walked back his support for Trump during an interview with Forbes over the summer, saying, "I'm taking the red hat off, with this interview."

He also acknowledged that his presidential bid could bleed out Biden's Black voters saying, "To say that the Black vote is Democratic is a form of racism and white supremacy."

ABC News' Ben Gittleson contributed to this report.

Copyright © 2020, ABC Audio. All rights reserved.

0
comments



natasaadzic/iStockBy LIBBY CATHEY, ABC News

(WASHINGTON) -- With five days until Election Day, and President Donald Trump and former Vice President Joe Biden racing toward Nov. 3, nearly 80 million Americans have already cast their ballots -- an early voting record.

Thursday brings both Trump and Biden to Tampa, Florida, revealing how crucial the swing state is to both campaigns, with the contest overshadowed by coronavirus cases rising there and in every battleground state.

The president's aggressive, defensive strategy comes as polls show him trailing nationally and in battleground states key to his reelection hopes. First lady Melania Trump joins him for the first time. After his rally in Tampa, Trump holds a rally in Fayetteville, North Carolina, while Vice President Mike Pence is in Iowa and Nevada.

At his Tampa rally, Biden is expected to continue branding the race as a "battle for the soul of the nation" at a drive-in event, after an earlier event in Broward County. Running mate California Sen. Kamala Harris has a virtual voter mobilization event with the "Divine Nine" -- historically Black fraternities and sororities -- then an evening virtual rally with Sen. Bernie Sanders, I-Vt.

Here is how the Thursday is developing. All times Eastern:

Oct 29, 8:24 pm
Biden rally cut short abruptly by pouring rain


In front of a crowd of 285 cars, and in a speech that was prematurely ended by a classic Florida thunderstorm, former Vice President Joe Biden addressed a drive-in rally with five days to go until Election Day with a familiar message to get out and vote.

"Look, folks, five days left. Five days, but who's counting, right? But who's counting?" Biden began his speech.

"Millions of Americans have already voted. Over 75, I'm told, 75 million. And millions more are gonna vote before this is over. And I believe when you use your power, the power of the vote, we literally are going to change the course of this country for generations to come," Biden added.

Biden delivered much of the same stump speech as he did in Broward County, Florida, earlier today, hitting on several of his big ticket campaign pitches, including dealing with COVID-19, his tax policy, the Supreme Court, health care and climate change.

In a moment of true Florida weather, the sky opened up into sudden downpour, catching Biden and the crowd by surprise, causing the former vice president to wrap up his remarks early to get out of the rain.

The onset of the rain led Biden to end his speech on a slight variation of his line that he cribs from John F. Kennedy’s speech about going to the moon and not “postponing” American greatness.

"Let’s not postpone and get out of the rain! God Bless you all! Thank you!" Biden said as he departed the stage.

Biden’s blue suit was completely soaked as he quickly departed the stage.

Oct 29, 5:59 pm
At Iowa rally, Pence acknowledges COVID-19 cases are rising

Pence returned to Iowa this afternoon, his second visit this month, and with coronavirus cases, hospitalizations and deaths trending up in the state, he tried to reassure Iowans that "we’ll get through this together" -- taking a different tone on the pandemic from the president's.
 
"And even as we're seeing cases rising in parts of the country, people of Iowa can be confident that we're going to continue -- we're going to continue to work around the clock to assure that all of our doctors and nurses have all the support they need to give any Iowa family impacted by the coronavirus the level of care we'd want for a member of our family," Pence said.

The White House coronavirus task force, which Pence leads, has placed Iowa in the "red zone" for new cases, advising Iowans to wear masks, practice social distancing and avoid large gatherings, which was not completely adhered to at Pence’s rally held on the tarmac of Des Moines International Airport. More than half of supporters were wearing masks, but there was no social distancing.
 
The vice president did continue to wear his mask as he walked from Air Force Two to the stage at the event, only removing it to speak, and giving an elbow bump to Iowa Sen. Joni Ernst, R-Iowa -- facing a competitive race of her own -- who introduced him.

He closed his remarks by harkening back to Biden's warning of a "dark winter" at the last debate if the virus continues to spread, telling Iowans instead, "under President Donald Trump, the best is yet to come.”

Pence's rally in Des Moines, ahead of another rally this evening in Reno, Nevada, comes just days after at least five people in his inner circle tested positive for COVID-19. The vice president continues to test negative, according to his office.

-ABC News' Justin Gomez

Oct 29, 5:47 pm
Biden points to diversity in Latino community for scattered polling on his support


Before departing Fort Lauderdale in Broward County for Tampa, Biden made a stop at a voter activation center to greet volunteers and voter, telling them it "feels good" to be back in Florida, his third trip to the Sunshine State this month, as he pitches himself to senior and Latino voters in the state.

When asked by ABC News’ Karen Travers about the recent poll of the Latino community in Florida that showed a range of support, and if he were concerned that his message was not breaking through in the community, Biden pointed to the diversity of voters in the bloc.

Democratic presidential candidate former Vice President Joe Biden speaks to people outside a campaign victory center, Oct. 29, 2020, in Fort Lauderdale, Fla.

"No, look, the Latino community here is the most diverse Latino community in the country," Biden said. "It's all across the board. It’s Caribbean. It's Mexican. It's Latin American. It’s across the board. And what you got to do is go to where the people live. And every one of these Latino and Hispanic organizations are slightly different."

Biden also took aim at Trump in is answer, slamming the president for his treatment of Latino and Hispanic Americans.

"He's sending Cuban Americans back to the dictatorship. He's sending -- he’s sending Venezuelan-Americans back to the dictatorship. He’s trying to send Haitian-Americans back. This is a guy who's not doing much of anything to be very helpful," Biden said.

The former vice president also stressed the importance of Florida to his potential victory in the Electoral College, telling reporters if he wins the state, the race is “over.”
 
-ABC News Molly Nagle

Oct 29, 5:45 pm
Melania Trump joins Trump at a rally for the first time of the 2020 cycle


First lady Melania Trump joined her husband on the campaign trail for the first time of the 2020 cycle, introducing him to thousands of mostly maskless supporters at an afternoon rally in Tampa.

The first lady, also not modeling a mask, began by saying, "In a time when hate, negativity and fear are the messages the media streams into our homes and the large tech companies are protecting political censorship," her husband's administration is focused on "the health and safety of the American people."

As coronavirus cases rise in Florida, she said Trump is working "not only destroying the virus and building back the economy" but "on creating ways for people to safely stop isolating and start gathering with friends again on a safe distances."

However, public health experts say mask wearing and social distancing should continue with greater diligence to avoid a surge of new cases and have noted distribution of a vaccine to the general public is expected to go well into 2021 at the earliest.

The first lady went on to say those not supportive of her husband’s efforts to produce a coronavirus vaccine are not supportive of the American people -- a swipe as some Democrats have questioned whether they’d take a vaccine if Trump alone said it was safe.

"If you are not supporting the safe production of a vaccine, you are not supporting the health and safety of the American people," she said to roaring applause. "There is no room to play politics on this topic in the midst of pandemic.”

“This country deserves a president with proven results, not empty words and promises," she added. "I ask that you join us in continuing to put America first."

The first lady offered her husband a kiss as he then took the stage.

While this is their first joint appearance on the 2020 trail, the first lady also attended the presidential debates and made a solo campaign stop in Pennsylvania Tuesday, arguing in her most political speech to date that Biden promotes a "socialist agenda."

Oct 29, 4:08 pm
Trump campaign postpones North Carolina rally due to Zeta

The Trump campaign said it has postponed Trump’s Fayetteville, North Carolina, rally set for this evening due to "50 miles per hour winds and other weather conditions” related to tropical storm Zeta.

The rally was set to start at 6:30 p.m.

The campaign said it will reschedule the rally for Monday.

-ABC News' Will Steakin

Oct 29, 3:57 pm
At dueling Trump and Biden rallies, dueling realities about COVID-19

At a crowded rally in Tampa this afternoon, Trump painted Biden as a candidate who will "destroy the Florida tourism industry and lock down our entire country" -- though Biden argued the opposite campaigning at a drive-in rally down the I-4 corridor in Florida, a state where COVID-19 cases are rising.

After touting the latest GDP economic growth report and once again insisting the country is "rounding the turn," Trump dug into the crowd sizes Biden attracts at his events.

"They say the fact that he has nobody at all show up is because COVID? No, it's because nobody shows up. And I think that's the ultimate poll and based on the numbers we are getting, we're going to do really well on Tuesday," Trump said, touting the size of the crowds at his events.

Without giving specifics, Trump said that he would win a record share of the Latino vote and claimed “Biden's agenda will devastate the Hispanic-American community.”

Speaking to voters in Broward County at a drive-in rally, Biden continued to differentiate his campaign from Trump’s mostly maskless, packed rallies, kicking off his remarks by thanking supporters for wearing masks and social distancing, before slamming Trump’s rallies -- like his dueling one in Tampa -- as "superspreader events."

"Millions of people out there are out of work, on the edge, can’t see the light at the end of the tunnel, and Donald Trump has given up," Biden said, pitching himself as the unity candidate. “He’s spreading more virus around the country and here in Florida today. He's spreading division, in addition, division and discord."

While Trump argued the future of American holidays is uncertain under Biden, the former vice president repeated what’s become a new mantra: that he will not shut down the economy or the country, even as he says, "I am going to shut down the virus."

As both campaigns vie for the Latino vote, Biden appealed to Cuban voters specifically, arguing that the country needs a new Cuba policy and that Trump has "embraced so many autocrats around the world."

There were 201 cars at Biden’s drive-in rally outside Broward College, while Trump’s rally outside Raymond James Stadium saw thousands of supporters packed shoulder-to-shoulder.

ABC News' Adia Robinson contributed to this report.

Oct 29, 1:25 pm
COVID-19 election battleground state tracker


As the country enters what many scientists are calling a new wave of the coronavirus pandemic and the presidential candidates make their final pitches to voters in battleground states, here’s today’s update of the COVID-19 situation in 13 states ABC News rates as competitive for the presidential election (either toss-ups, leaning Democrat or leaning Republican).

Eight battleground states -- Iowa, Michigan, Minnesota, North Carolina, Ohio, Pennsylvania, Texas and Wisconsin -- are experiencing a rise in all three metrics: cases, hospitalizations and deaths.

Rate of positivity:

  • Increased in 12 states: Arizona, Florida, Georgia, Iowa, Minnesota, Michigan, North Carolina, Nevada, Ohio, Pennsylvania, Texas, Wisconsin
  • Decreased in one state: New Hampshire
  • Increased in ten states: Arizona, Georgia, Iowa, Minnesota, Michigan, North Carolina, Ohio, Pennsylvania, Texas, Wisconsin
  • Flat in three states: Florida, New Hampshire, Nevada
  • Increasing in eight states: Iowa, Michigan, Minnesota, North Carolina, Ohio, Pennsylvania, Texas, Wisconsin
  • Decreasing in four states: Arizona, Florida, New Hampshire, Nevada
  • Flat in one state: Georgia

Oct 29, 1:14 pm
Election officials warn Trump's Tampa rally may cause traffic delays for early voters


Trump's rally in Tampa on Thursday may cause traffic delays which could lead to longer wait times for potential early voters, Hillsborough County Supervisor of Elections Office warned in a statement.

The president's rally is set to be held in a parking lot at Raymond James Stadium, which is also being used as an early voting site in Hillsborough County.

The Hillsborough Supervisor of Elections office said the event "could cause traffic delays" on Thursday for those looking to vote and the office reminded voters that there are 26 early voting sites available around the county.

The elections office also pointed out that while "electioneering" is not allowed within 150 feet of an early voting site, they say the "rally and campaigners will be outside of this zone" and that the Supervisor of Elections Office "cannot prohibit campaign activities outside this '"no solicitation zone.'"

The Trump campaign did not respond to a request for comment from ABC News.

-ABC News' Will Steakin


Oct 29, 12:28 pm
Trump, Biden appeal to Latino voters in Florida


For the first time in the 2020 race both presidential candidates will actively campaign in the same state on the same day to court the all-important senior and Latino votes in the swing state of Florida. Latinos, in particular, are expected to make up the largest minority group in the 2020 electorate.

While Florida isn’t a must-win state for Biden, Trump generating strong numbers among Latino voters in Florida strengthens his path to the state’s 29 electoral votes, which he won in 2016 by just 1 percentage point.

And a new NBC News/Marist poll in Florida out today shows Biden trailing Trump by six-points in support from the Latino community, though he still maintains a slight edge nationally.

Because of GOP ground efforts, Republicans have out-registered Democrats in the state -- and the Trump campaign is hoping his firm anti-lockdown stance might appeal to some working class Latinos and turn out more support for the president. Stumping to Latino voters in Arizona Wednesday, Trump talked about the "American Dream Plan," a new plan targeted toward Latino and Hispanic communities nationwide that he’s expected to tout again today.

But the Biden campaign is pushing back on that notion that Trump is ahead with Latinos in Florida, arguing in a call with reporters this morning that internal numbers show Biden on par with the support former President Barack Obama had in 2012 and claiming that samples of Latinos in external polling aren’t representative of the actual Latino community.

When asked by ABC’s Senior White House Correspondent Cecilia Vega what specifics it is taking issue with in the Marist/NBC poll, the campaign argued the polling only sampled a small portion of the community and weighted the results.

“I think pollsters often times... see our community as a monolith. And I think campaigns, up until ours have done the same," said Julie Chavez-Rodriguez, Biden’s Deputy campaign manager.

While the NBC poll shows Trump ahead with Latinos and Biden up with seniors, an ABC News poll of Florida voters just one month ago found the exact opposite -- with Biden up 13 points with Latinos and Trump up eight points with senior voters.

Oct 29, 12:07 pm
DNC running mobile billboards around Trump's rally that focus on COVID-19 cases


With both Trump and Biden hitting the trail in Tampa this afternoon, Democrats -- hoping to divert attention from Trump's rival rally -- are circling the president's venue with counterprogramming highlighting what they view as his failed response to the coronavirus pandemic.
 
In new billboards that are set to be unveiled at the Raymond James Stadium, the Democratic National Committee blames the president for his handling of the virus, which it contends has led to more than 16,500 deaths in Florida alone and more than a million lost jobs in the state.

"COVID cases are spiking. This administration failed us," a mobile billboard deployed by the Democratic National Committee reads. The DNC also set up a digital billboard two miles south of the stadium to target a wider swath of potential Democratic voters.

"We’re delivering a message to voters in Tampa they won’t be able to miss: Trump’s failed, incompetent coronavirus response has cost too many Floridians their lives and livelihoods," said DNC Chair Tom Perez. "Floridians of every political persuasion will hold him accountable for this record of failure and his years of broken promises by following through on their plan to vote and making him a one-term president."

It's not just Trump the DNC is trolling, billboards are also set for Reno to greet Vice President Mike Pence on Thursday.

-ABC News' Kendall Karson


Oct 29, 9:51 am
Overview: Trump, Biden hold dueling rallies in battleground Florida


Even as markets plunge and a new surge in coronavirus cases sweeps the country -- with some states imposing new restrictions -- Trump continues to close his reelection campaign by urging largely maskless crowds of supporters to dismiss the evidence. Trump insists the nation is "rounding the turn" on the pandemic, and to take his word that the economy is swiftly recovering.

The president is expected to continue that message today with campaign rallies in Florida and North Carolina -- states he won in 2016 -- seeking to defend his electoral map to a potential win. For the first time in the 2020 cycle, first lady Melania Trump will join her husband on the trail, attempting to bring an appeal to suburban women, a demographic Trump is struggling with.

He's also expected to tout the gross domestic product (GDP) report out this morning showing the economy grew at an annual rate of 33.1% during the third quarter -- the largest ever quarterly growth in data -- but this figure comes on the heels of the biggest drop ever when the economy shrank 31.4% as the country shut down.

Like the president, Biden is also in the Sunshine State vying for Florida’s 29 electoral votes -- hosting drive-in rallies in Broward County and Tampa.

The two will appear just hours apart in Tampa, near the western end of the I-4 corridor -- the interstate that cuts through the middle of Florida from Dayton Beach through Orlando and down to St. Petersburg -- that's thought to be a bellwether region in the swing state. It's the first time both candidates have actively campaigned in the same state on the same day in the presidential race.

Biden's has framed his closing argument to voters on responsible pandemic management, acknowledging to voters Wednesday that even if he’s elected, the path to normal won’t be like "flipping a switch." He has also hammered his plan for a national strategy to beat the virus and tried to set an example by wearing a mask and holding drive-in rallies to maintain social distancing.

The former vice president heads later this week to three more states Trump won in 2016 -- Iowa, Wisconsin and Michigan -- where he’ll hold a drive-in rally Saturday with former President Barack Obama, their first joint appearance of 2020.

Biden’s running mate, California Sen. Kamala Harris will participate in a virtual voter mobilization event with the Divine Nine -- known formally as the National Pan-Hellenic Council and consisting of nine historically Black fraternities and sororities, including Alpha Kappa Alpha which Harris joined at Howard University. In the evening, she has a virtual rally with another former Democratic primary opponent, Sen. Bernie Sanders, I-Vt. as the ticket makes its final pitch to more progressive voters.

Pence speaks at campaign rallies in Des Moines, Iowa, and Reno, Nevada -- a state which Hillary Clinton won by only 2.5 points in 2016 as Republicans seek to maintain their map and potentially pick up the Copper State.

Oct 29, 9:54 am
Contrasting images match competing themes in final election stretch


This time next week -- give or take a few days, perhaps -- the images of the closing days of this election will be held out as evidence that of course things would turn out the way they did.

Thursday will bring both Trump and Biden to Tampa, Florida, for rallies just five days before Election Day.

Trump will draw an enormous crowd. He will almost certainly mock Biden for not doing the same -- hoping his ability to draw a crowd inspires enthusiasm among his supporters.

Biden will hold a "drive-in rally" where honks will be more prevalent than chants. He will almost certainly attack Trump for holding a massive public gathering in the midst of the pandemic -- hoping his choices match better with how voters are living their lives.

On one level, Trump and Biden have adapted their campaigns to the extraordinary circumstances of the moment. Considered another way, they are using images to say something more about themselves as leaders -- in how they view the severity of the crisis, and how a leader should act.

The numbers -- polling, early vote and even COVID-19 spikes -- point toward a favorable environment for Biden and his view of the race. Trump's political career, though, has been built on a sense that he knows better than any numbers might suggest. If nothing else, as the campaign ends, he will act like he has from the start.

-ABC News’ Political Director Rick Klein


Copyright © 2020, ABC Audio. All rights reserved.

0
comments



3dfoto/iStockBy CHEYENNE HASLETT, ABC News

(MADISON, Wis.) -- Hackers stole $2.3 million from the Wisconsin Republican Party intended for President Donald Trump's reelection effort, state party officials confirmed to ABC News Thursday.

"Cybercriminals, using a sophisticated phishing attack, stole funds intended for the re-election of President Trump, altered invoices and committed wire fraud," Wisconsin Republican Party Chairman Andrew Hitt said in a statement.

The Republican National Committee reported the hack to the FBI and the state party said it's investigating. The FBI has not returned a request for comment. The story was first reported by the Associated Press.

The $2.3 million hit to Republican efforts comes just days before the election in a battleground state where Trump has consistently trailed Biden in the polls for months and where the state Republican party has trailed state Democrats in fundraising by over $35 million this cycle.

According to Hitt, hackers used a phishing scam to gain access to the state party system and then changed invoices and routing numbers so that money intended for vendors instead went to the hackers.

The state party discovered the stolen funds on Thursday, Oct. 22. The money that went to the hackers was supposed to go to vendors in charge of mailers and Trump campaign "swag," the party said.

Officials said the money stolen came only stolen from the Wisconsin GOP's federal account, which goes toward President Trump's reelection in the state.

"These criminals exhibited a level of familiarity with state party operations at the end of the campaign to commit this crime," Hitt said.

A separate account for statewide campaigns, which aids local, down-ballot races, was untouched, said Wisconsin GOP spokesperson Alec Zimmerman.

And no proprietary information or voter information was stolen, Zimmerman said.

Even before the $2.3 million loss, the Wisconsin GOP was tens of millions of dollars behind state Democrats, who have raised $59 million to the GOP's $23 million.

Hitt told the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel that it was "devastating" when they discovered the hack.

"Anytime you lose $2.3 million, I think that's probably an accurate way to describe it," Zimmerman said.

But the GOP maintained confidence in its efforts to reach voters, specifying that the products they'd intended to pay vendors for have already been distributed, though they haven't been paid for.

They'll now have to issue another $2.3 million to the vendors.

"While a large sum of money was stolen, our operation is running at full capacity with all the resources deployed to ensure President Donald J. Trump carries Wisconsin on November 3rd,” Hitt said.

The RNC, which said it will continue to aid the Wisconsin state party as the investigation continues, also projected confidence, despite the setback.

"The RNC never left Wisconsin after 2016, and we are confident that our ground game and the millions we are spending on TV and digital will deliver us another win there in 2020," RNC Communications Director Michael Ahrens said in a statement.

ABC News' Will Steakin contributed to this report.

Copyright © 2020, ABC Audio. All rights reserved.

0
comments



Marilyn Nieves/iStockBy AARON KATERSKY, ABC News

(NEW YORK) -- David Correia, a Florida businessman and one-time golf pro, pleaded guilty Thursday to conspiracy to commit wire fraud in connection with a scheme to dupe investors in a company he founded with Lev Parnas, a former associate of President Trump's personal attorney Rudy Giuliani.

Correia and Parnas tried to lure potential investors to Fraud Guarantee, the firm for which Parnas unsuccessfully attempted to hire Giuliani as a pitchman to attract investors and business, according to federal prosecutors in Manhattan who brought the case.

"I agreed with another person to give potential investors wrong information," Correia said in a brief statement.

At least seven victims invested a total of more than $2 million in Fraud Guarantee because, they said, Correia and Parnas misled them about the financial arrangements.

"The majority of investor funds were withdrawn as cash and were spent on personal expenditures such as Mr. Parnas' rent," Assistant U.S. Attorney Douglas Zolkind said.

The defense did not dispute what became of the money but characterized Parnas as the primary recipient.

"Mr. Correia got very little of that money," defense attorney Bill Harrington said.

Correia, 45, also pleaded guilty to making false statements to the Federal Election Commission in connection with an illegal $325,000 donation to a PAC supporting Trump's candidacy that allegedly was primarily arranged by Parnas and Igor Fruman.

Prosecutors say the donation was made through Global Energy Producers, a company Correia was helping Parnas and Fruman launch. At the time of the donation GEP had no operations or bank account, yet Correia told the FEC the company was "funded with substantial bona fide capital investment," Zolkind said.

"The statements that were false, were they important, would have been material to the FEC?" Judge Paul Oetken asked.

"I was under the impression everything in that affidavit was important to the FEC," Correia replied.

Correia, the first defendant to plead guilty among four charged last October with illegal campaign contributions, faces a maximum 25 years in prison, but the plea agreement called for a sentence of between 33 and 41 months. Correia, Parnas, Furman and Andrey Kakushkin, a Ukrainian-born business associate of Correia's, were indicted last October on charges that they allegedly funneled $1-2 million from a Russian donor into the U.S. political system between June 2018 and April 2019.

Correia is due to be sentenced Feb. 8. Parnas, Furman and Kakushkin have entered not guilty pleas and are scheduled for trial next March.

Correia's plea deal does not include a provision that requires him to cooperate with the ongoing investigation.

Copyright © 2020, ABC Audio. All rights reserved.

0
comments



Alexander_Volkov/iStockBy ADIA ROBINSON, ABC News

(WASHINGTON) -- This Election Day, voters in Washington, D.C., will consider a measure that, if approved, would effectively decriminalize the use of psychedelic plants, like ayahuasca and psilocybin mushrooms, more commonly known as magic mushrooms.

Initiative 81, or the Entheogenic Plant and Fungus Policy Act of 2020, would make the investigation and arrest for adult cultivation and use of psychedelic plants one of the lowest law enforcement priorities for the district's police department. It also contains a non-binding clause asking the D.C. attorney general to not prosecute anyone charged with an offense related to the substances.

Melissa Lavasani, a mom and D.C. government employee who proposed the initiative, called the measure a "small step" toward ending the war on drugs.

"We believe that there is a growing body of research around these substances, and there's a lot of interest in the research community," she said. "And our laws should adapt to what the research has indicated."

The district would follow Denver, Oakland, California and Santa Clara, California, in decriminalizing some or all psychedelic plants. Voters in Oregon are also considering a similar measure, which would set up treatment facilities using psilocybin mushrooms, but would not decriminalize them.

Lavasani saw the success of the decriminalization campaign in Denver and began advocating for a similar measure in the district. She knew the therapeutic value of psychedelics personally after using psilocybin mushrooms and ayahuasca to treat severe postpartum depression.

"I had zero experience with depression or any real mental health issues," Lavasani said. "I've had a pretty regular, good life. And I had never been in that situation before and I was struggling terribly."

At the time, she sought a more natural way of treating depression (through cognitive behavioral therapy and other methods), but nothing was working for her.

"At that point in time, I was contemplating suicide because I was so miserable, and my family was really suffering with me," she said. "I didn't really see a way out."

Then, Lavasani came across an interview with mycologist Paul Stamets on the Joe Rogan podcast, in which Stamets talked about the therapeutic benefits of psilocybin mushrooms. After doing her own research, Lavasani decided to try them.

"I would take it in the morning and within a matter of days I started to get my humanity back," she said. "I started to feel like I used to. I was engaging with my children and I was engaging with my husband again, and the whole world lit up for me."

But despite how much her mental health improved, the fear of being arrested for using the Schedule I drug persisted.

"It's a frightening thought to work your entire life for your career and to build your family and to know that it can all be wiped out with one person finding this information out and reporting it to the police," Lavasani said. "I really could have lost everything in my life, just as I was getting my life back."

Matthew Johnson, the associate director of Johns Hopkins University's Center for Psychedelic and Consciousness Research, told ABC News that while the FDA has not approved psychedelics for therapeutic use, there is "very strong evidence" they have anti-addiction effects and can treat depression and anxiety in some patients.

"The remarkable thing, which really is the paradigm shifting thing in psychiatry, is that you can have one session where we've seen behavioral effects over a year afterwards," he said.

Johnson said that the biggest risks associated with psychedelics are susceptibility to psychotic disorders and people panicking in response to "bad trips," which he refers to as challenging experiences.

These are generally short term risks, Johnson said, and they can be mitigated in a clinical setting. Because it only takes a few sessions for patients to see effects, clinicians can monitor a person's reaction more closely than they could with daily psychiatric medication.

The most vocal opponent of the initiative is Republican Maryland Rep. Andy Harris. At a House Appropriations Committee mark-up in July, he introduced, but later withdrew, an amendment that would restrict Initiative 81 to medical use only.

"This is a bald-faced attempt to just make these very serious, very potent, very dangerous -- both short-term and long-term -- hallucinogenic drugs broadly available," he told the New York Post in July.

"Public health has to be maintained," he added. "We know, of course, once you make it a very low enforcement level and encourage prosecutors not to prosecute it, what would prevent people from using hallucinogens, getting behind the wheel of a car and killing people?"

Lavasani responded to Harris' criticism by noting that nothing in the district's laws about driving under the influence would change.

"This isn't really like a party drug that we're talking about. I think in his mind he's thinking, 'Well, people are going to be out eating mushrooms and partying,' but what we're talking about is the therapeutic use of them," she said. "We're talking about people with really serious issues that they haven't been able to find solutions for that this can help."

Copyright © 2020, ABC Audio. All rights reserved.

0
comments



yorkfoto/iStockBy LUCIEN BRUGGEMAN, ABC News

(WASHINGTON) -- Local election administrators are scrambling to keep up with a crush of ongoing litigation winding its way through the courts, with some saying they feel like "yo-yos" caught in the middle of politically fraught legal battles over ballot deadlines and other voting rules.

County and municipal clerks are already navigating an election season burdened by unprecedented challenges -- with the coronavirus pandemic bearing down on key swing states and a record-setting number of voters casting their ballots by mail.

The blizzard of legal challenges, conflicting rulings, deadline extensions and last-minute rule changes, has only compounded the confusion, several officials told ABC News.

"It's like a yo-yo," said John Gleason, the election clerk in Genessee County, Michigan -- a key swing state. "We get a directive, then a judge says 'no.' We get another directive, and the appeals court says 'no.' It has not been easy."

Partisans in at least 44 states have filed an unprecedented number of lawsuits tied to voting rules changes during the pandemic, according to a tally gathered by the Stanford-MIT Project on a Healthy Election -- more than half of which remain pending or on appeal.

At issue in many of these cases are how voting is conducted during the pandemic and deadlines for absentee ballots being sent and received.

Democrats are generally seeking to extend ballot deadlines while Republicans are looking to impose a strict deadline of Election Day, a politically charged and consequential issue that could leave votes uncounted.

Many of the initial rulings in those cases have been appealed and overturned in higher state courts, placing the burden of the accompanying rule changes on election administrators, some of whom are volunteers. On top of that, some state courts have issued rulings that conflict with federal courts -- a common occurrence under normal circumstances, but with just days before the election has contributed to the confusion.

"Election officials have already had to deal with tremendous changes this year to make sure elections run safely and securely for voters," said Larry Norden, the director of the Election Reform Program at the Brennan Center for Justice.

"Last-minute changes are a burden to them and to their voters," Norden added, "especially when courts are adding new restrictions that are confusing and lead to disenfranchisement."

'Extra work' and 'extra stress'

A development in Pennsylvania demonstrates the pressure on local officials. Before the Supreme Court on Wednesday declined to rule on litigation over mail-in voting deadlines, the state's chief elections office directed county officials earlier that day to "segregate" any ballots received by mail after 8 p.m. on Election Day. The high court effectively granted the extension by deciding not to accept the case, which the majority justified by saying it was too close to the election to change the rule.

As a result of the Supreme Court decision not to wade into the case before the election, votes submitted on or before Nov. 3 will still be counted if received within three days of Election Day -- as the state Supreme Court previously decided. The high court left the door open to revisiting the matter post-election.

In Michigan, after a state appeals court overturned a lower court's ruling that allowed an extension to mail-in voting deadlines, election clerks across the state "to backtrack and communicate that to voters." The ruling threatened to disenfranchise voters who waited to submit their ballots, and the onus again fell to election officials to get the word out. after a state appeals court overturned a lower court's September ruling that green-lit the extension.

"That type of thing can be confusing to voters and it can be a challenge for clerks to explain," said Fred Miller, the election clerk in Macomb County, Michigan. "It has certainly been challenging, but in such a fluid environment, it's to be anticipated."

In Wisconsin, officials are grappling with similar challenges. The rule changes have "been constant," said Sandy Juno, the Brown County clerk.

"If it's not one thing, it's another," Juno said, "Can you vote in person two weeks before an election? Can you vote in person from the time the municipal clerks get the ballots? All these things going back and forth. It just gets ridiculous."

With just days until polls close, the particularly arduous back-and-forth court rulings is wearing down clerks -- many of whom work only part-time and hold down other jobs. The cumulative stress brought on by the pandemic and the elections work is, for these purveyors of democracy, compounded by the uncertainty of these court-ordered rule changes.

"It's extra work, it's extra stress. Psychologically, it's been a tough year for everybody – and we see it playing out with our clerks," said Sue Ertmer, the Winnebago County, Wisconsin clerk.

More questions from voters

Part of the challenge for election administrators is to follow new rules and adjust practices to accommodate changes. But perhaps a more important responsibility is to the voters -- informing them of important updates that may impact their vote.

"We have noticed a higher than normal amount of questions from voters," said Miller, of Macomb County, Michigan.

In Brown County, Wisconsin, Juno, the clerk, said that it is "electors who are hurt the most" by the 11th-hour rule changes.

"As election officials, we're following these issues and we have access to a lot more information," Juno explained. "It becomes really important to get that consistent message throughout the state."

In some cases, Miller added, rulings in other states have forced clerks to play the additional role "correcting misinterpretations and misconceptions voters have" about rules that have no bearing on their home states.

In Ohio and Texas, for example, courts are grappling with how to handle the number of election mail drop boxes in each county. In Florida, a federal appeals court in September reinstated a requirement that paroled felons pay all court fines before regaining the right to vote.

Neither of those disputes have any bearing on voters in Michigan or Wisconsin, for example. But that hasn't stopped voters from asking about them -- placing an even greater burden on the clerks.

Despite the fallout from the deluge of litigation, there's a silver lining: Election workers remain confident in their ability deliver a free and fair election.

"Although it's frustrating, it's not unexpected," said Steven Urlich, the elections director in York County, Pennsylvania, where a slew of pandemic-related election cases are making their way through the courts on topics such as mail-in voting deadlines to alleviating signature-matching requirements for absentee ballots.

Earlier this week, the Supreme Court declined to review a lower court ruling that would have extended the deadline in Wisconsin for returning ballots in Wisconsin up to six days after Nov. 3.

The ruling infuriated voting rights advocate, but Juno viewed the decision in a different light.

"I'm actually kind of relieved that we're not going to accept any [ballots] after Election Day," Juno explained. "Because if we did, we would probably end up with more lawsuits."

Copyright © 2020, ABC Audio. All rights reserved.

0
comments



JillianCain/iStockBy IVAN PEREIRA and CATHERINE SANZ, ABC News

(WASHINGTON) -- With voting in the 2020 election well underway across the country, Americans are anxious to make sure their choices are counted with as few problems as possible.

Despite the mail-in and early voting processes appearing to go smoothly for the vast majority of people, there have been reports circulating on social media (as there have been in other election cycles) that have raised concerns.

Videos of long lines of people, even in the thousands, outside voting sites and reports of glitches with voting machines have gone viral over the last couple of weeks.

Despite these stories, election integrity experts told ABC News that voters should not necessarily panic or believe those instances are examples of voter fraud or intimidation. Most of those issues can be quickly addressed and resolved, according to Sylvia Albert, the director of voting and elections for the non-partisan watchdog group Common Cause.

"First and foremost, elections aren't perfect," she told ABC News. "Just like anything else, stuff happens and there are a lot of ways people can deal with that."

Albert and another expert said most of these circumstances have been sporadic historically, but voters should alert poll workers and election officials if they believe there are any problems. They added that voters should be aware of a possible spread of misinformation and disinformation campaigns that use reports of problems at poll sites on social media and guard against possibly amplifying those false messages online.

Here are some of the most common potential issues seen at the polls, and tips from the experts on how to navigate them:

Long lines

The most common reports from states with early voting this year are of people waiting to cast their ballots in long lines outside polling places.

In some recent cases, like in Florida, voters waited in the rain.

Albert said the long lines are a result of several factors, including limited polling locations put in place by election districts and large voter turnout. This year, COVID-19 has played a role in the lines as well, as polling sites limit the number of people allowed indoors at one time and require voters to be 6 feet apart.

The key thing that voters should be on the lookout for in this situation is how fast the line is moving, according to Albert.

"A long line that moves fast isn't bad," she said.

Myrna Perez, director of voting rights and elections program for the nonpartisan law and policy institute the Brennan Center for Justice, also reiterated that long lines might not be an immediate cause for concern. She noted that election offices across the country are not funded well enough and do not have the resources to plan for large turnouts.

"Talk to your election officials and leaders to do an autopsy on what went wrong and urge them to address it," Perez told ABC News

Perez did note that while line issues at polling places may not necessarily signal an acute problem, they do speak to the larger issue of declining polling sites. And research from the Brennan Center released this summer found that Latino and Black voters are more likely to face long lines at the polls compared to their white counterparts, because of the insufficient polling locations in their communities.

Latino voters waited on average 46% longer than white voters, and Black voters waited on average 45% longer than white voters, according to the report. The report recommends that election administrators expand polling site maps to include more neighborhoods and plan for those elections where turnout is expected to spike.

"We don't have enough responsiveness in the system to community needs," Perez said.

Broken machines

In every election, there are reports of voting machines breaking down, leaving voters frustrated in line.

Albert said Common Cause's research has found that these issues are sporadic throughout the country, since many of the machines are over a decade old, and that they are not a sign of malfeasance. She did note that the federal government approved two separate $400 million funding measures this year to help with election security and to make the sites COVID ready.

"That includes money for better machines," Albert said.

Albert noted that one complaint that frequently comes up during elections is malfunctioning touchscreen machines, which she said happens when those machines need recalibration.

In some previous cases, voters touched the screen for their preferred candidate, but the machine indicated that they selected another candidate, she said.

Albert said when that happens, voters should know that the erroneous vote is not logged until they give a final confirmation.

"If you're in midst of voting and there is a calibration error, none of that is recording," she said.

The voter should flag an election worker, report the problem and asked to be taken to a different machine, she said.

Piles of ballots

This year, election offices have reported a record number of applications for paper ballots, and voters have already begun to return their ballots.

Most states do not allow for paper ballots to be counted until Election Day, and voters may start to see images of unopened ballots piling up in election offices.

Perez said this should not raise alarms if voters see these images on Election Day or the following days, since the officials are following the rules and counting ballots accordingly. In a number of cases, ballots postmarked through Election Day are counted, even if they arrive afterward.

She added that many districts are gearing up for the increased paper ballot turnout.

"Many of those election boards are hiring staff and purchasing machines to make things faster," she said.

Resources

The experts said voters should be prepared for all types of scenarios at the polls, and should not hesitate to report problems.

In addition to poll workers, election offices and attorney general offices, Common Cause has a hotline, 866-OUR-VOTE (866-687-8683), with staff who have direct lines to election officials, according to Albert.

"There are tons of organizations and lawyers who are out there and have your back," she said.

Copyright © 2020, ABC Audio. All rights reserved.

0
comments



adamkaz/iStockBy LAURA ROMERO and MATTHEW MOSK, ABC News

(WASHINGTON) -- When Ohio authorities indicted two men this week accused of trying to deceive and threaten voters with more than 85,000 misleading robocalls to residents of Michigan, New York, Pennsylvania, Ohio and Illinois, the crackdown was in part meant to send a message.

"The right to vote is the most fundamental component of our nation's democracy," Cuyahoga County Prosecutor Michael O'Malley said in a news release on Tuesday. "These individuals clearly infringed upon that right in a blatant attempt to suppress votes and undermine the integrity of this election. These actions will not be tolerated."

As Election Day nears, those indictments are part of a broad effort across numerous states to combat a range of last-minute tactics that campaigns may try and use to trick or intimidate people who plan to vote. Election officials are especially focused on the unique aspects of the 2020 elections -- as voters may be navigating unfamiliar new ways to cast ballots safely amid the pandemic.

Bhaskar Chakravorti, the dean of global business at The Fletcher School at Tufts University, told ABC News that this year has been the "perfect storm" for misinformation.

"We are in the middle of a pandemic which has been accompanied by its own surge of misinformation and now we are in the last stages in the countdown to the election," Chakravorti said. "Those parts of the country that are more important for election outcomes are going to be bombarded by misinformation."

Jesse Littlewood, vice president of campaigns at Common Cause, a nonpartisan watchdog group, told ABC News that because of the pandemic, "bad actors are taking advantage" and flooding voters with misleading information because the way people are accustomed to vote "may have been altered."

"We've seen false narratives about voting by mail and attempts to disenfranchise people based on their political affiliation," Littlewood said. "This leaves people confused and many of them give up and choose not to participate."

Voter suppression is not new

In 2008, a phony State Board of Elections flier advised Virginians to vote on different days. And in an effort to keep Black voters from the polls during Maryland's 2010 gubernatorial election, thousands of robocalls made to Democratic voters announced falsely that the election had already been decided.

In the last presidential election, targeted robocalls tried to trick some Oregon voters, telling them they were not registered to vote and their ballots would not be counted.

"The attempts of voter suppression in the history of our democracy predate social media," Littlewood said. "We have seen misinformation through billboards, flyers and robocalls attempting to suppress votes."

This week's indictment in Ohio involved allegations of improper robocalls produced by right-wing political agitators Jacob Wohl and Jack Burkman. The indictments for telecommunications fraud alleges that the men set up robotic calls that warned potential voters that police and debt-collection companies would exploit their personal information if they voted.

"If you vote by mail, your personal information will be part of a public database that will be used by police departments to track down old warrants and be used for credit card companies to collect outstanding debts," a recording of one call said, according to local news accounts.

Wohl and Burkman pleaded not guilty to similar allegations in Michigan and their first court appearance in Ohio is scheduled for Nov. 13.

While many of the tactics are familiar, elections officials say the ubiquity of social media has made it harder than ever to police.

"Citizens across the country are being inundated with misinformation on a daily basis," said Aneta Kiersnowski, press secretary for Michigan Secretary of State, Joselyn Benson. "Misinformation suppresses voters by sowing seeds of doubt in our elections to scare them into not voting."

Michigan officials, she said, have been encouraging voters to report false information so the state's attorney general can investigate and, when necessary, prosecute bad actors.

In some cases, misinformation surrounding the election may not be malicious, but come from individuals who think they are being helpful, according to Littlewood.

"We've seen some viral social media comments that have to do with when to mail your ballot or how to do it or what you should or shouldn't do," Littlewood said. "And this is problematic because people are not getting the correct information because most states have slightly different rules."

To prevent deceptive tweets and other forms of misinformation threatening Colorado's election, Secretary of State Jena Griswold announced a statewide initiative last week that includes a digital outreach to help voters identify false information and tips on how Coloradans can stop the spread of incorrect material.

In Maryland, the U.S. Attorney's Office partnered with the Justice Department and the FBI to launch a National Voter Disinformation Initiative to identify misinformation and potential voter suppression schemes nationwide.

"Nearly every FBI field office will be conducting open source searches on the internet and social media to identify disinformation," said Marcy Murphy, a spokesperson for the Maryland U.S. Attorney's Office.

According to Murphy, voters in the state have been exposed to social media posts that identify the wrong day for the election, posts that incorrectly tell voters that a polling place is closed or posts that tell voters they can only vote by mail when in-person voting is an option.

In North Carolina, Attorney General Josh Stein released a fact sheet to inform voters of their rights and is working with state officials to stamp out all sources of misinformation that might target voters.

Stein called President Donald Trump the leading source of misinformation after he held a rally in the state and suggested to his supporters that they attempt to vote both by mail and in person.

"Let them send it in and let them go vote, and if their system's as good as they say it is, then obviously they won't be able to vote," the president said at the early October rally. "If it isn't tabulated, they'll be able to vote."

Intentionally voting twice is illegal in North Carolina and elsewhere.

"North Carolinians have been subject to dangerous misinformation about this election," Stein said in a statement. "Here's the truth -- you can vote safely; your vote will count; and the winner will be the one with the most votes -- the election is not rigged."

White House press secretary Kayleigh McEnany later insisted the president was not encouraging voter fraud.

"The president does not condone unlawful voting," McEnany told ABC News' Jonathan Karl in September.

In California, a law passed by Gov. Gavin Newsom ahead of the upcoming election makes spreading misinformation about voting by mail a misdemeanor criminal offense. Sen. Henry Stern who authored the bill, told ABC News that without direct criminal liability, "it was going to be very hard to find these needles in a haystack."

"Everything is at stake," Stern said. "The spread of misinformation is a giant threat to our elections and we need to protect voters."

In Ohio, a spokesperson for Secretary of State Frank LaRose said the state has been ahead of the curve since last year in the fight against misinformation. And while indictments like the ones this week involving the misleading robocalls make headlines, Ohio officials said their main focus has been to police the rhetoric about absentee voting.

"We've held a number of informational sessions and briefings with community leaders, especially in the minority community, to train them on what to look for and how to respond," said Maggie Sheehan, a spokesperson for the secretary of state. "The best way to combat misinformation and disinformation is to train as many as possible to recognize it and share what they've learned with their community."

Copyright © 2020, ABC Audio. All rights reserved.

0
comments



Keep Informed
Local News

News Headlines for Sat., Oct. 31, 2020

Chautauqua County adds 22 new cases of COVID-19, and 14th death in the pandemic... There are 22 new confirmed cases of the COVID-19 virust in Chautauqua County today... and, 124 total over the past w...

Read More