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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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.

3:03 p.m. ET, October 16, 2020

In appeal to Florida seniors, Trump strikes empathetic tone on Covid-19 as cases continue to surge

From CNN’s Nikki Carvajal, Christina Maxouris and Jason Hanna

President Donald Trump speaks during an event on "Protecting America's Seniors," on October 16 in Fort Myers, Florida.
President Donald Trump speaks during an event on "Protecting America's Seniors," on October 16 in Fort Myers, Florida. Evan Vucci/AP

As the US surpassed 8 million Covid-19 cases, President Trump struck a noticeably different and more empathetic tone in an appeal to seniors in Fort Myers, Florida, on Friday, telling Americans he feels their pain. 

“My heart breaks for every grieving family that has lost a precious loved one,” Trump said, addressing the burden Covid-19 has placed on seniors. “I feel their anguish and I mourn their loss. I feel their pain. I know that the terrible pain that they have gone through, and you lose someone, and it’s nothing to describe what you have to bear. There’s nothing to describe it.” 

The President doesn’t often address the human toll the virus has taken on Americans, other than to say that one death from the virus is too many.

Trump also spoke of unity, saying that “in times of challenge we turn to our fellow Americans for a shoulder to lean on. We turn to god for healing and strength, and together we will overcome.” 

But Trump soon returned to more familiar territory, claiming once again the US is “rounding the turn” on the pandemic and attacking those who point to rising cases across the country. 

“My message to America’s seniors today is one of optimism, confidence and hope. Your sacrifice has not been in vain. The light at the end of the tunnel is here. We are rounding the turn,” he said. “Don’t listen to the cynics and angry partisans and professional pessimists. We are Americans and we will prevail. We are prevailing, we are.” 

Latest US Covid-19 data: The US has recorded more than 8,008,000 cases, Johns Hopkins University says. That total is likely a vast undercount of actual infection totals because of a low testing capacity early in the pandemic, researchers have said in several reports.

Perhaps more concerning than Friday's milestone is a recent rise in cases per day. The country's one-week average of new daily cases has moved above 53,000 — an increase of more than 55% in just over a month, Johns Hopkins data show.

Watch the moment:

 

2:29 p.m. ET, October 16, 2020

Thousands of Virginians register to vote after deadline extended

From CNN's Greg Wallace

"I Voted" stickers lie in a box for voters after they place their ballots at an early voting site in Arlington, Virginia, on September 18.
"I Voted" stickers lie in a box for voters after they place their ballots at an early voting site in Arlington, Virginia, on September 18. Al Drago/Reuters

The reopening of voter registration in Virginia this week allowed more than 14,000 people to newly register or update their registration, an official said Friday. 

Department of Elections spokesperson Andrea Gaines told CNN that 7,293 voters registered or updated their registrations on Wednesday, and 7,044 registered or updated their registrations on Thursday.  

The registration window was reopened after the state’s citizen’s portal website was unavailable for much of the day on Tuesday, the final scheduled day to register. The issue was caused by a construction crew hitting a data cable, officials said, and service was restored Tuesday afternoon. 

There are nearly 6 million voters registered for the November election in Virginia. 

2:15 p.m. ET, October 16, 2020

Trump's speaking in Florida

From CNN’s Nikki Carvajal

Pool
Pool

Moments ago, President Trump took the stage in Fort Myers, Florida, to speak at a "Protecting America’s Seniors" event.

According to excerpts of his speech from the White House, Trump will give a message of "optimism, confidence, and hope" to the nation's seniors.

"America’s seniors remind us that we have inherited an extraordinary legacy. You are the generation that defeated fascism, triumphed over communism, sent American astronauts to the moon, and built our country into the greatest and most powerful nation the world has ever known," Trump will say according to the prepared remarks.

1:25 p.m. ET, October 16, 2020

Here's how many people watched the Biden and Trump town halls

From CNN's Brian Stelter

NBC/ABC
NBC/ABC

Joe Biden's town hall on ABC averaged 13.9 million viewers on Thursday night, easily surpassing the Nielsen ratings for President Trump's town hall on NBC.

That alone was a result virtually no one in the TV business expected. And that's not even the most surprising part.

The Trump town hall was simulcast by two of NBC's cable channels, MSNBC and CNBC, but even when those channels are included in the total, Biden — on only one network — still prevailed.

The Trump town hall averaged 10.6 million viewers on the NBC broadcast network. On MSNBC, Trump reached 1.74 million viewers, and on CNBC, about 671,000 viewers. So Trump's gross audience across the three channels was 13 million, about one million fewer than Biden's audience on ABC alone.

Staffers at ABC News privately admitted to their surprise when the preliminary ratings came in on Friday.

The Nielsen ratings only measure viewership on TV sets. Both town halls were also live-streamed to phones, computers and other devices.

In the run-up to Thursday night, the Biden campaign embraced the popular ratings narrative and predicted that Trump would outrate Biden. Trump campaign senior adviser Jason Miller said "we're gonna have a much bigger audience than Joe."

Trump has been a Nielsen connoisseur for decades. While hosting "The Apprentice" on NBC, he paid close attention to the performance of his show and routinely exaggerated its success. He has continued to fixate on TV ratings during his years in the White House and has frequently congratulated Fox News for its ratings victories.

But when the TV ratings have disappointed him, he has also shifted to other metrics; when Biden had a bigger TV audience for his convention, Trump complained that "Online Streaming Numbers" weren't being counted in the totals.

Read more here.

1:08 p.m. ET, October 16, 2020

Young activists to protest Barrett’s Supreme Court nomination

From CNN's Rachel Janfaza

Judge Amy Coney Barrett testifies before the Senate Judiciary Committee on the third day of her Supreme Court confirmation hearing on Capitol Hill on October 14 in Washington, DC.
Judge Amy Coney Barrett testifies before the Senate Judiciary Committee on the third day of her Supreme Court confirmation hearing on Capitol Hill on October 14 in Washington, DC. Anna Moneymaker/Pool/Getty Images

Young Americans from across the country will protest the nomination of Judge Amy Coney Barrett on the steps of the Supreme Court on Saturday, organizers tell CNN. 

The rally, which organizers are calling “McConnell v. Justice,” will show elected officials that young people are committed to holding their elected officials accountable, organizers say. 

Progressive activists from Alabama, Colorado, California, Florida, Louisiana, Missouri, Michigan, Ohio, Pennsylvania, New York, Texas, Virginia and more are traveling to Washington, DC, for the event. 

These leaders care about a number of issues including racial justice, police reform, LGBTQIA rights, disability rights, access to reproductive rights, immigrant rights, environmental justice and gun violence prevention – all of which, they say, are at stake with Barrett’s nomination. 

The organizers are also calling for the Senate to halt the nomination process of Barrett, demanding that there should be “no confirmation until inauguration.”

“We have the most at stake in whomever is nominated and confirmed to the Supreme Court of the United States,” organizers of the rally wrote in a press release, noting that young people will be around the longest to witness the impact of Barrett becoming a justice if she is confirmed.

The youth-led rally will feature a number of speakers including: Aalayah Eastmond, 19-year-old gun violence prevention activist; Mari Copeny, 13-year-old environmental justice activist who has fought for clean drinking water in Flint, Michigan; Rachel Gonzalez, 21-year-old disability justice activist who has advocated for the Affordable Care Act; and Ty Hobson-Powell, 25-year-old leader in the fight for DC statehood. 

In addition to the featured speakers, young people from across the country are joining the McConnell v. Justice coalition. 

Tay Anderson, 22-year-old director-at-large on the Denver School Board, told CNN that he has traveled to D.C. with 60 young Coloradans between the ages of 13 and 45.  

“If we have to travel 1,600 miles from Colorado, we will,” Anderson said, adding that many in his group had never been to DC prior to their arrival Thursday. 

Jonathan Sweeney, a 22-year-old from Ohio, told CNN that he is joining the McConnell v. Justice protest because as a gay man, he “can't afford to have Amy Coney Barrett on the Supreme Court.” Sweeney added that, as an Ohioan, his vote could end up in the hands of the Supreme Court. 

Likewise, Deja Foxx, a 20-year-old advocate for reproductive rights, traveled from California for the protest. 

Foxx told CNN she cast her first ever presidential election ballot for Biden and Harris before getting on the plane to DC Friday.  

“I’m protesting because I know that when you have control over your body, you have control over your future,” Foxx said Friday, adding that she believes Barrett “poses a serious threat to choice for my generation and those to come,” she said.  

12:53 p.m. ET, October 16, 2020

Mitt Romney blasts Trump’s refusal to denounce QAnon

From CNN’s Manu Raju and Maegan Vazquez

Sen. Mitt Romney speaks during a Senate Foreign Relations committee hearing on the State Departments 2021 budget in the Dirksen Senate Office Building in Washington, DC on July 30.
Sen. Mitt Romney speaks during a Senate Foreign Relations committee hearing on the State Departments 2021 budget in the Dirksen Senate Office Building in Washington, DC on July 30. Greg Nash/Pool/AFP/Getty Images

Republican Sen. Mitt Romney released a statement responding to President Trump’s refusal to denounce conspiracy theories during his NBC Town Hall Thursday night. 

“The President’s unwillingness to denounce an absurd and dangerous conspiracy theory last night continues an alarming pattern,” the statement reads, “politicians and parties refuse to forcefully and convincingly repudiate groups like antifa, white supremacists and conspiracy peddlers.” 

Romney urged parties to “expel the rabid fringes” and warned both parties “may be opening a door to a political movement that could eventually eclipse them both.”  

Some context: Trump doubled down on his refusal to denounce QAnon conspiracy theorists, saying in last night's nationally televised town hall that "they are very much against pedophilia" and he agrees with that sentiment.

QAnon's main conspiracy theories — none based in fact — claim dozens of Satan-worshipping politicians and A-list celebrities work in tandem with governments around the globe to engage in child sex abuse. Followers also believe there is a "deep state" effort to annihilate Trump and that the President is secretly working to bust these pedophilic cabals.

Read Romney's statement:

6:07 p.m. ET, October 16, 2020

Ivanka Trump is holding a rally in Ohio today. Here's how it will look different than the President's events.

From CNN’s Kate Bennett

Ivanka Trump speaks at a campaign rally on October 16 at Ault Park in Cincinnati, Ohio.
Ivanka Trump speaks at a campaign rally on October 16 at Ault Park in Cincinnati, Ohio. Kareem Elgazzar/The Enquirer/USA Today Network

Ivanka Trump is holding what her team is calling a “socially distanced rally” in Cincinnati, Ohio, today – but it will be different from the rallies President Trump holds, as well rallies and events headlined by Pence, Donald Trump Jr., and Women for Trump.

A campaign official tells CNN that Ivanka’s rally will include temperature checks and the audience is being told to wear masks and keep them on. The chairs also appear to be spaced. It is unclear if these measures will be enforced, or how, as the rally has yet to get underway. 

Around her father, however, Ivanka Trump’s behavior regarding masks is another story.

She did not wear a mask at his presidential debate, and at a large Trump rally in Pennsylvania last month, she did not wear a mask or social distance, taking the stage to wave with her husband and young children. More recently, while campaigning solo in Nevada, Wisconsin, Georgia and North Carolina, Ivanka Trump hosted maskless campaign events in semi-outdoor structures.

Trump has mocked Joe Biden for holding socially distanced campaign stops and for consistently wearing a mask.

11:45 a.m. ET, October 16, 2020

Michigan bans open-carry of guns at polling sites on Election Day

From CNN's Annie Grayer

Michigan Secretary of State Jocelyn Benson talks about voting and the upcoming elections in Detroit on September 24.
Michigan Secretary of State Jocelyn Benson talks about voting and the upcoming elections in Detroit on September 24. Paul Sancya/AP

Michigan Secretary of State Jocelyn Benson announced Friday that open-carry of guns will be banned on Election Day at polling places, clerk’s offices and other locations where absentee ballots are counted.

Benson’s directive prohibits Michigan residents from open-carrying firearms “in a polling place, in any hallway used by voters to enter or exit, or within 100 feet of any entrance to a building in which a polling place is located."

“The presence of firearms at the polling place, clerk’s office(s), or absent voter counting board may cause disruption, fear, or intimidation for voters, election workers, and others present,” Benson said in a press release.

Benson continued, “I am committed to ensuring all eligible Michigan citizens can freely exercise their fundamental right to vote without fear of threats, intimidation or harassment. Prohibiting the open-carry of firearms in areas where citizens cast their ballots is necessary to ensure every voter is protected.”

This guidance only applies to Election Day itself, when long lines and large crowds are expected across the state. Early voting in Michigan is limited to people dropping off or filling out absentee ballots at election offices, and Benson’s guidance on firearms does not apply to these situations.

Michigan Attorney General Dana Nessel supported this decision, according to the press release. Nessel and Benson are both Democrats, and said the directive was necessary to clarify state laws already on the books. 

Michigan State Police is expected to issue accompanying guidance to law enforcement following the announcement of this directive. 

This announcement comes after 14 people were charged in a domestic terror plot to kidnap Michigan Gov. Gretchen Whitmer. Since then, pressure has been mounting on state’s top election and law officials to ensure a safe election in November.

President Trump and his allies have also encouraged supporters to join an “army” of poll watchers, stirring fears of voter intimidation.