The latest on the 2020 election

By Melissa Macaya, Meg Wagner and Mike Hayes, CNN

Updated 10:42 PM ET, Tue October 20, 2020
7 Posts
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9:13 a.m. ET, October 20, 2020

Trump calls SCOTUS Pennsylvania mail-in ballot ruling "ridiculous" and "very strange"

From CNN's Allie Malloy

Sarah Silbiger/Getty Images
Sarah Silbiger/Getty Images

President Trump called yesterday’s Supreme Court ruling on mail-in ballots in Pennsylvania “ridiculous” and “very strange” in an interview on Fox and Friends Tuesday.

“We got a ruling yesterday that was ridiculous- where they can count ballots after the election’s over. What kind of a thing? So we’re gonna wait until after November 3rd and start announcing states? It’s crazy,” Trump said of the ruling. 

More on the ruling: On Monday, the Supreme Court ruled that mail-in ballots in the critical state of Pennsylvania will be counted if they are received within three days of Election Day even if they do not have a legible postmark.

The ruling is a loss for state Republicans who sought to require that only ballots received by Election Day be counted.

The order could also set the tone for other pre-election challenges and highlights the fact that once again, Chief Justice John Roberts has moved left to side with his liberal colleagues in an area where he has a very conservative record.

It also comes just two weeks before Election Day and intensifies the Supreme Court confirmation battle over Judge Amy Coney Barrett, who could well prove to be a deciding vote on election night challenges.

“We got a strange ruling from the Supreme Court. Very strange,” Trump added.

8:58 a.m. ET, October 20, 2020

Why early vote trends can't tell you who will win the presidency

Analysis from CNN's Harry Enten

People in Chattanooga, Tennessee, wait to vote on October 14.
People in Chattanooga, Tennessee, wait to vote on October 14. C.B. Schmelter/The Chattanooga Times Free Press/AP

ou'vu've seen the pictures of early voting lines out the door. You may have read the stats of the high number of voters requesting absentee ballots. All of this is certainly consistent with the long standing belief of record turnout in 2020.

Still, you should be very careful trying to translate early and absentee voting statistics into trying to understand whether President Trump or former Vice President Joe Biden is going to win the presidential race.

We know from the polls that a record number of people will probably be casting a ballot before Election Day this year.

The problem is that the same polls indicate that there will be a massive difference between the percentage of Biden and Trump supporters who will vote early. Biden supporters are much likely to cast an early ballot.

We see this well in an ABC News/Washington Post poll conducted late last month. Biden was ahead of Trump by 36 points among those voting before Election Day, while Trump was up by 19 points among those who said they'd vote on Election Day.

The issue is that we really don't know the extent to which the early vote will be more Democratic-leaning than the overall tally. There's no history of early voting during a pandemic. Moreover, just because we know the party affiliation of the voters returning ballots in some states doesn't mean we know they're voting for.

And indeed, nothing we're witnessing in the early vote so far suggests that the polls are off. Democrats are voting early at a much higher level than Republicans.

And remember: A vote cast on Election Day is worth the exact same as a vote cast early.

Democrats learned that the hard way back in 2016. In a year in which the partisan split between early and Election Day voters was much smaller, Hillary Clinton won voters who cast their ballots before Election Day in two pivotal battlegrounds: Florida and North Carolina.

I can recall a lot of Democrats were giddy that more registered Democrats had voted early in Florida. But it was Trump who won overwhelmingly with Election Day voters and carried both states.

You could see how a similar situation might unfold in Florida this year. A lot more Democrats are voting early in Florida than Republicans, while Republicans seem to want to wait in the Sunshine State.

Read the full analysis here.

9:03 a.m. ET, October 20, 2020

Trump says he "may" try to interrupt Biden less at Thursday's debate

From CNN's Allie Malloy

President Donald Trump talks to reporters at Phoenix Sky Harbor International Airport in Arizona on October 19.
President Donald Trump talks to reporters at Phoenix Sky Harbor International Airport in Arizona on October 19. Alex Brandon/AP

President Trump, when asked whether he will try to interrupt Joe Biden less during Thursday’s debate said he “may do that” adding: “There’s a lot of people that say let him talk because he loses his train — he loses his mind frankly.”

Speaking on Fox and Friends this morning, President Trump would not get into specifics when asked if his debate prep strategy has changed after the first meeting between him and Biden but did say, “Actually the interesting thing is they said if you let him talk, he’ll lose his chain of thought because he’s gone-zo.”  

Trump also criticized the Presidential Debate Commission and the announcement that his and Biden’s mics will be muted for a portion of the debate, saying “These are not good people. This commission — a lot of funny things go on with them.”

“I think the whole thing is crazy. This commission I’ve had problems with them four years ago where they stifled out my mic during my conversation with crooked Hillary. And you know they muted my mic… they did this to me already,” Trump said referring to an audio issue at a debate in 2016 that only effected Trump’s volume in the debate hall and not for the 84 million people who watched at home.

Trump also continued to falsely attack Thursday’s moderator Kristen Welker and claimed the debate is “so set up.”

8:33 a.m. ET, October 20, 2020

Pennsylvania attorney general says he is "pleased" with Supreme Court ruling on mail-in ballots

From CNN's Gregory Lemos  

Pennsylvania Attorney General Josh Shapiro told CNN's Alisyn Camerota Tuesday that he is "pleased" with the Supreme Court's rejection of the Republican push to require all ballots be received in Pennsylvania by Election Day. 

"I'm pleased with the reaction because the voters here in Pennsylvania deserve clarity and confidence in an election that's already under way," Shapiro said on "New Day."   

Shapiro took aim at Trump and "his enablers" who he said have "tried to make it actually harder for people to vote" in Pennsylvania.  

"Look, time and time again the president and his enablers have tried to make it actually harder for people to vote here in Pennsylvania and time and time again. I've told the people of Pennsylvania that I would secure and protect their vote and we've beaten them in court just to be able to do that," Shapiro said. "Now the rules are set. Voting is under way. We're deep in the fourth quarter. And I'm pleased that the people can now have confidence and trust the process going forward." 

Asked when the nation can expect to learn of the election result in Pennsylvania, Shapiro said he expects they won't have a precise number for a few days but will "have a good sense of where things are going" early.  

"I think you're going to have a real good sense of where Pennsylvania is going in the early, early hours of Wednesday morning, between the precinct votes and the overall trends of the votes by mail, l think you'll have a real good sense statewide. You won't have the precise number, certainly, for a few days, but think you'll have a real good sense of where things are going," Shapiro said.  


9:06 a.m. ET, October 20, 2020

Trump says Barr must "appoint somebody" before election to investigate baseless Biden claims

From CNN's Kevin Liptak

Attorney General William Barr attends a meeting in St. Louis on October 15.
Attorney General William Barr attends a meeting in St. Louis on October 15. Jeff Roberson/Pool/AP

President Trump called Tuesday on his attorney general to "appoint somebody" to investigate baseless claims about Democratic rival Joe Biden. 

Appealing on William Barr to move before the election, Trump said the work must proceed quickly.  

"We’ve gotta get the attorney general to act. He’s gotta act. And he’s gotta act fast," Trump said during a morning phone-in to Fox News. "He’s gotta appoint somebody." 

Remember: Earlier this year, Barr said is was unlikely that Biden and former President Barack Obama would come under criminal investigation.

Today, Trump made no attempt to veil the political necessity of his request.

"This is major corruption and this has to be known about before the election," he said. "And by the way we’re doing very well. We’re going to win the election."

What this is all about: Trump has harped upon recent allegations against the Bidens, claiming they prove Biden is a criminal. US authorities are investigating whether recently published emails that purport to detail the business dealings of Biden's son in Ukraine and China are connected to an ongoing Russian disinformation effort targeting the former vice president's campaign, a US official and a congressional source briefed on the matter said.

Still, Trump said the matter must be investigated.

"This has to be done early," he said. "The Attorney General has to act."


8:21 a.m. ET, October 20, 2020

Early voting numbers are breaking records. Here are the key things we still don't know.

Analysis from CNN's Zachary B. Wolf

The facts are overwhelming. More than 28 million Americans have already voted for president, as an election system tweaked for the pandemic meets an electorate that doesn't want to wait for Nov. 3 to be heard.

But what does it mean? Here's the most basic nutshell of what we know, what we think we know and what we know we don't know.:

  • We know a ton of people are voting early.
  • We think we know more Democrats than Republicans are voting early in states that report party breakdowns.
  • We don't know if there's a larger voting surge going on or if these are all people who would have voted on Election Day anyway in a non-Covid environment.
  • We don't know if Democrats' apparent early edge will be offset by a wave of Republican voters on Election Day.
  • We don't know how much longer it's going to take to count all the votes as a result of all this early voting.

Democrats have requested more ballots in key places: It is possible for data firms to determine the party affiliation of absentee ballots requested in certain states and Democrats are hopeful the data suggests tremendous support for Democratic nominee Joe Biden.

Take North Carolina, the state seen as a key battleground in 2020, but which went Republican in 2012 and 2016.

In 2016 around this time, North Carolina early ballots cast were: 40% by Democrats, 32% by Republicans and 27% by people who did not identify with a party.

In 2020, there is a huge contrast that so far favors Democrats — 46% of absentee ballots cast have been by Democrats, 28% by someone who does not identify with a party and just 25% by Republicans.

Similarly, in Florida, 49% of the pre-election ballots cast are by Democrats, up from 41% in 2016, when Trump won the state. There is a corresponding dip in pre-election ballots cast by Republicans.

The Democratic advantage in absentee ballot requests extends across the states CNN rates as battlegrounds, and for which Catalist has data — 42% of the requests have come from Democrats and 31% from Republicans and 24% from people who don't identify with a party.

In 2016, the requests were more evenly divided in those key states — it was 39% Democrat to 37% Republican and 21% not identifying with a party.

Read the full story here

8:14 a.m. ET, October 20, 2020

Trump and Biden will have their mics muted during parts of the last debate. Here's how it will work.

From CNN's Dan Merica

Former Vice President Joe Biden and President Trump will have their microphones muted during portions of the second and final presidential debate on Thursday night, the Commission on Presidential Debates announced on Monday.

The decision came after the commission met met Monday afternoon to discuss potential rule changes to the debate format. They decided that the changes were needed because of how the first debate between Biden and Trump devolved into chaos, with the President frequently interrupting the former vice president.

"I'll participate. I just think it's very unfair," Trump said when asked by reporters about the change on Monday.

The muting will work like this:

  • At the start of each of the six segments of the debate, each candidate will be given two minutes to answer an initial question.
  • During that portion, the opposing candidate's microphone will be muted.
"Under the agreed upon debate rules, each candidate is to have two minutes of uninterrupted time to make remarks at the beginning of each 15 minute segment of the debate. These remarks are to be followed by a period of open discussion," the commission said in a statement. "Both campaigns this week again reaffirmed their agreement to the two-minute, uninterrupted rule."

The statement continued: "The Commission is announcing today that in order to enforce this agreed upon rule, the only candidate whose microphone will be open during these two-minute periods is the candidate who has the floor under the rules. For the balance of each segment, which by design is intended to be dedicated to open discussion, both candidates' microphones will be open."

A source close to the commission told CNN the decision on muting the microphones was unanimous by its members and stressed that "this is not a change to rules but rather a move to promote adherence to rules that have been agreed to by both campaigns."

"A change to the rules would have required protracted and ultimately, in our view, unworkable negotiations between the two campaigns," the source said.

Still, the change drew a quick rebuke from Trump campaign communications director Tim Murtaugh who charged, without evidence, that the decision from the commission is an "attempt to provide advantage to their favored candidate."

But Trump, Murtaugh said in a statement, is still "committed to debating Joe Biden" regardless of the change.

The commission's second presidential debate was canceled after Trump declined to participate in a virtual contest, a change that was made because of his positive coronavirus diagnosis.

Read more here