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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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.

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.