The latest on the 2020 election

By Meg Wagner, Melissa Macaya, Melissa Mahtani and Veronica Rocha, CNN

Updated 8:00 p.m. ET, October 16, 2020
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7:08 p.m. ET, October 16, 2020

Minnesota traces outbreak of 20 Covid-19 cases to September Trump rally events

From CNN’s Nadia Kounang

President Donald Trump speaks during a "Great American Comeback" rally at Bemidji Regional Airport in Bemidji, Minnesota, on September 18.
President Donald Trump speaks during a "Great American Comeback" rally at Bemidji Regional Airport in Bemidji, Minnesota, on September 18. Brendan Smialowski/AFP/Getty Images

The Minnesota Department of Health said it has so far traced 20 cases of Covid-19 back to a rally held by President Trump in Bemidji last month, or to related events.

Of the 20 cases, 16 are among people who attended the rally, including two who are now hospitalized. Four people said they participated in counter-protests that same day, the state department of health told CNN. The state is describing it as an “outbreak.”

The rally took place on Sept. 18 in an airplane hangar. According to a CNN producer who attended the event, at least 2,000 people were in attendance.

The state has traced another eight cases to other campaign events held throughout the state. One case has been linked to a rally for Democratic presidential nominee Joe Biden on Sept. 18 in Duluth. Three cases have been linked to a Vice President Mike Pence’s speech in Minneapolis on Sept. 24. Another three cases have been traced to attendants of a Trump rally in Duluth on Sept. 30 and one more case linked to an event featuring a speech by Eric Trump in Becker, Minnesota, on Oct. 1.

The state has a tracked a total of 28 Covid-19 positive cases to various campaign events in the last few weeks.

“We determined this through contact tracing case interviews,” Kris Ehresmann, infectious disease director for the Minnesota Department of Health, told CNN previously. Ehresmann noted that it’s not possible to reach everyone who might have been infected because people may not remember or they may not be willing to say where they were. 

6:23 p.m. ET, October 16, 2020

Pence slams Biden-Harris campaign in North Carolina speech

From CNN's Daniella Diaz

Vice President Mike Pence speaks at a campaign event in Selma, North Carolina, on Friday, October 16.
Vice President Mike Pence speaks at a campaign event in Selma, North Carolina, on Friday, October 16. Pool

Vice President Mike Pence slammed the Biden-Harris campaign’s stances on several key issues, including the Supreme Court, health care and taxes, in a campaign speech in Selma, North Carolina.

He criticized Joe Biden's remarks on court-packing at last night's ABC town hall, saying it's time that he "come clean. Give the American people a straight answer."

On the issue, Biden said he is "not a fan" of court-packing, but whether he ultimately seeks to push for more seats on the Supreme Court depends on how Senate Republicans handle the confirmation process of Amy Coney Barrett.

Biden said he would take a clearer position on court-packing before the election, after seeing how the confirmation process plays out.

Pence again defended Barrett and her faith, telling his supporters: “(Trump) nominated a brilliant, principled, conservative woman who loves the Constitution to the Supreme Court of the United States, Judge Amy Coney."

6:09 p.m. ET, October 16, 2020

Hope Hicks briefly addresses Ocala rally

From CNN's Nikki Carvajal 

 

Hope Hicks speaks during a campaign rally for President Donald Trump at Ocala International Airport on October 16 in Ocala, Fla.
Hope Hicks speaks during a campaign rally for President Donald Trump at Ocala International Airport on October 16 in Ocala, Fla. Evan Vucci/AP

At President Trump's insistence, Hope Hicks, one of the President's top aides, very briefly addressed a Make America Great Again Rally in Ocala, Florida, Friday night. 

Trump himself started chanting "we want Hope" to get his adviser to come to the stage. 

"We can share a microphone now," she quipped to Trump. Both Hicks and the President tested positive for Covid 19 a little more than two weeks ago. 

"Thank you all so much and thank you President Trump. I have stage fright, so..." Hicks said, before leaving the stage. 

6:05 p.m. ET, October 16, 2020

Florida moves to remove felons with unpaid debts from voting rolls

From CNN's Curt Devine

Election officials in Florida are taking steps to remove ex-felons from the voter rolls if they still owe court debts, according an email sent this week to county elections officials obtained by CNN. 

The state’s elections director, Maria Matthews, told local elections supervisors on Tuesday that they would begin to receive files on convicted felons “whose potential ineligibility is based on not having satisfied the legal financial obligations of their sentence.” The email added that if local officials received information about registered voters who are ineligible from sources other than the Florida Department of State, “you should act on it.”

The email was first reported by Politico. 

The move comes after more than 1 million Floridians with felony convictions had their voting rights restored through a constitutional amendment approved by voters in 2018. But Florida’s GOP-controlled legislature later passed a bill saying ex-felons must settle all financial obligations such as fines, fees and restitution before their voting rights are restored.

A federal judge ruled in May that that state law amounted to an unconstitutional "pay-to-vote system,” but in September a federal appeals court overturned that decision.

Local officials told CNN that the new directions from the state might not impact voter rolls for the 2020 election. 

Leon County Supervisor of Elections Mark Earley said Friday that he “wasn’t really surprised that they’re starting up the process of felon review,” but he said the lengthy removal process would prevent his office from actually taking anyone off the rolls by Election Day. 

He said the county has seven days to send a letter to the registered voter, and then the voter has 30 days to respond. “And if they don’t respond we have to advertise… so there are various different requirements that would prevent us from taking someone off before November 3rd.” 

Though he didn’t think many Florida voters would actually be removed before election day, Earley said it’s possible that if felons with court debts end up voting, their ballots could be challenged after the election.

Florida Secretary of State Laurel Lee, a Republican appointee, said in a statement that the federal appeals court rulings makes it clear that, “the law, with respect to legal financial obligations, is now clear, and there is no legal basis for the department to ignore the obligations spelled out in Florida Statutes." 

Lee said her department is legally required to review information from a number of sources related to felons whose voting rights have not been restored, and if that information is credible and reliable, that is shared with local supervisors.

A coalition of liberal-leaning voting rights and advocacy groups, including the American Civil Liberties Union, Brennan Center for Justice at NYU Law and the NAACP Legal Defense and Educational Fund, condemned the state’s efforts to remove people with felony convictions and legal financial obligations.

“Florida’s proposed action is simply an attempt to scare people with felony convictions away from voting and constitutes voter intimidation — par for the course in Florida,” the groups’ statement said.
6:23 p.m. ET, October 16, 2020

Eye-popping turnout as more states begin in-person voting

From CNN's Hannah Rabinowitz and Cat Gloria

Voters wait to vote in Chattanooga, Tennessee, on Wednesday, October 14. Early voting opened in Tennessee on Wednesday, and some people said they waited 90 minutes to just reach the entrance.
Voters wait to vote in Chattanooga, Tennessee, on Wednesday, October 14. Early voting opened in Tennessee on Wednesday, and some people said they waited 90 minutes to just reach the entrance. C.B. Schmelter/Chattanooga Times Free Press/AP

As more states begin in-person voting this week, there appears to be a trend of eye-popping turnout compared to this point in 2016. This is in addition to the record-shattering interest in vote-by-mail. 

Here is a collection of data from some states that show the best available comparisons to 2016:

  • Georgia: More than 687,000 people have already voted in-person, as of Friday night. That is a 62% increase compared to this point of in-person voting in 2016, according to the Georgia Secretary of State.
  • North Carolina: Over 333,000 people voted in-person on the first day of in-person voting. This is a 10% increase compared to the first day in 2016, according to the North Carolina State Board of Elections. 
  • Illinois: More than 900,000 people have already voted by mail and in-person, as of Friday. This is a 400% increase compared to this point of voting in 2016, according to the Illinois State Board of Elections. 
  • Tennessee: More than 273,000 people already voted in-person and by-mail, as of Thursday night. That is a 91% turnout increase from this point in 2016, according to the Tennessee Secretary of State. 
  • Kansas: More than 3,200 people have already voted in-person, as of Thursday afternoon. This is a 69% increase compared to this point of in-person voting in 2016, according to the Kansas Secretary of State. 
3:29 p.m. ET, October 16, 2020

Harris tests negative for Covid-19 again today

From CNN's Jasmine Wright

Democratic vice presidential nominee Kamala Harris arrives on stage for the vice presidential debate in Kingsbury Hall at the University of Utah on October 7 in Salt Lake City, Utah.
Democratic vice presidential nominee Kamala Harris arrives on stage for the vice presidential debate in Kingsbury Hall at the University of Utah on October 7 in Salt Lake City, Utah. Robyn Beck/AFP/Getty Images

Democratic vice presidential nominee Kamala Harris underwent PCR testing for Covid-19 Friday and Covid-19 was not detected, according to a Harris aide.

This comes just a day after the campaign halted the California senator's travel through the weekend after a non-staff flight crew member and Harris' own communications director, Liz Allen, tested positive for coronavirus.

3:18 p.m. ET, October 16, 2020

Biden tested negative for Covid-19 today

From CNN's Jessica Dean

Democratic presidential candidate Joe Biden waves as he arrives at Detroit Metropolitan Wayne County Airport on October 16 in Detroit.
Democratic presidential candidate Joe Biden waves as he arrives at Detroit Metropolitan Wayne County Airport on October 16 in Detroit. Carolyn Kaster/AP

Democratic presidential nominee Joe Biden tested negative for coronavirus Friday.

“Vice President Biden underwent PCR testing for COVID-19 today and COVID-19 was not detected," the Biden campaign said.

Biden is touching down in Michigan at this hour for a pair of campaign events in the Detroit area. He is expected to deliver remarks on health care and participate in a voter mobilization event.

2:51 p.m. ET, October 16, 2020

Obama will campaign for Biden in Philadelphia on Wednesday

From CNN's Jeff Zeleny

Former President Barack Obama speaks to guests at the Obama Foundation Summit on the campus of the Illinois Institute of Technology on October 29, 2019 in Chicago.
Former President Barack Obama speaks to guests at the Obama Foundation Summit on the campus of the Illinois Institute of Technology on October 29, 2019 in Chicago. Scott Olson/Getty Images

Former President Barack Obama will make his first campaign stop for Democratic presidential nominee Joe Biden next week on Wednesday in Philadelphia, an official tells CNN.

This is a solo campaign stop for Obama, the first of a handful he is poised to make in the final two weeks of the campaign and comes on the eve of the final debate.

Biden is scheduled to be in debate prep that day, the official said, and the two are not expected to campaign together — until possibly the final weekend or days of the race.

2:45 p.m. ET, October 16, 2020

These will be the topics for the last presidential debate

From CNN's Elizabeth Hartfield

The Commission on Presidential Debates has released the topics for the final presidential debate that will take place next Thursday in Nashville, Tennessee.

The six topics are:

  • "Fighting COVID-19"
  • "American Families"
  • "Race in America"
  • "Climate Change"
  • "National Security"
  • "Leadership"

As was also the case with the first debate, the topics list is subject to change based on news. 

The debate will start at 9:00 p.m. ET and run for 90 minutes without commercial breaks. NBC journalist Kristen Welker will be the moderator.