The latest on the 2020 election

By Melissa Macaya, Meg Wagner and Mike Hayes, CNN

Updated 10:42 PM ET, Tue October 20, 2020
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8:00 p.m. ET, October 20, 2020

Mic muting is necessary after "disappointment" in Cleveland, debate commission co-chair says

From CNN's Keith Allen

Commission on Presidential Debates co-chair Frank Fahrenkopf.
Commission on Presidential Debates co-chair Frank Fahrenkopf. Source: CNN via Cisco Webex

Frank Fahrenkopf, co-chair of the Commission on Presidential Debates, told CNN's Wolf Blitzer that muting a non-speaking candidate’s microphone during portions of Thursday’s debate is a necessary move after what took place during the first debate in Cleveland. 

“There’s no question that the first debate was a disappointment for everybody, I think particularly for the American people,” Fahrenkopf said on the "Situation Room" Tuesday night. “We as a commission knew we couldn’t change rules without the consent of both [campaigns] but saying to the candidates that what’s going to happen is when the moderator asks candidate number one to begin their two minutes to talk uninterrupted, the candidate’s mic will not be live. When those two minutes are up, it is then candidate B’s chance to talk.”

“We're not making a new rule, we’re just enforcing the rule that both candidates agreed to in the first place, he added.

Fahrenkopf also said that both candidates will be tested for Covid-19 prior to Thursday’s debate in Nashville, and that their guests must wear masks throughout the event.

“The testing will be done, HCA, which has been designated to be the health group in Nashville, I think it’s Health Corporation of America, designated by the Cleveland Clinic, will be meeting with and working with the doctors for the White House and for former Vice President Biden,” Fahrenkopf said. “In Cleveland, we had some of the first family remove their masks and not wear the masks, both candidates have now agreed, their campaigns, that everyone will leave their masks on for the whole — if the first family is there, I’m not sure at this point in time — and will not take their masks off.”

“Both candidates have committed that their guests will wear their masks throughout.”

6:21 p.m. ET, October 20, 2020

Harris holds virtual rally for Milwaukee voters on her birthday

From CNN's Jasmine Wright and Nick Neville

Biden for President
Biden for President

Democratic vice presidential nominee Kamala Harris celebrated her 56th birthday by participating in a virtually rally for Milwaukee to kick off the first day of early voting. 

In true Midwest nice fashion, Democratic Sen. Tammy Baldwin presented Harris with a cupcake and had the California senator blow it out virtually. 

“So we are 14 days away from this election. And today's the first day of early voting in Wisconsin, my birthday. That was my little indulgence,” Harris said.

She pushed the Badger state viewers to early vote and described how excited she was about the numbers from the first hour.

6:16 p.m. ET, October 20, 2020

Absentee ballots in Ohio are being returned at nearly double the 2016 rate

From CNN's Devon Sayers

Franklin County Board of Elections employee Braydon Galliers delivers blank absentee ballots to the US Postal Service in Columbus, Ohio, on October 5.
Franklin County Board of Elections employee Braydon Galliers delivers blank absentee ballots to the US Postal Service in Columbus, Ohio, on October 5. Jay LaPrete/AP

More than 675,000 absentee ballots have been returned in Ohio, which is nearly double the more than 344,000 absentee ballots returned at this point in 2016, according to the secretary of state’s office.

Overall, more than 1.1 million early ballots have been cast so far, the office said in a news release. 

The office also said more than one out of three voters have requested to vote early in the state.

6:14 p.m. ET, October 20, 2020

Senior DHS officials call for patience following Election Day

From CNN's Alex Marquardt and Geneva Sands

 

Signs are seen outside of a polling location in Coral Springs, Florida, on October 19.
Signs are seen outside of a polling location in Coral Springs, Florida, on October 19. mpi04/MediaPunch/IPX/AP

Senior Homeland Security officials on Tuesday urged patience from voters and warned that election results won't likely be known on Election Day. 

"There's very good chance that we will not know the winner of the presidential election for instance, on election night itself. And that's not because something isn't working. It's because of the additional security measures in place," DHS Senior Official Performing the Duties of the Deputy Secretary Ken Cuccinelli said during a briefing. 

Pressed on whether President Trump's comments calling for results on Nov. 3 make it harder to get out the "patience" message, Cuccinelli said all Americans want quick results.

"He's a candidate. I've been one. We'll have some results on Election Day. The question is: how much and how much will it tell us?" he said, adding that exit polls aren't "going to be worth much." 

"We're all Americans, we want it all yesterday. The President is no exception in that respect, even more so because he's a candidate," Cuccinelli said.  

CISA Director Christopher Krebs echoed those remarks, saying, "let's let the official process, the official results play itself out."

Krebs said that the most likely election-related cyber incidents will be "highly visible" and intended to undermine confidence in the voting process. "It's to get the voter to think 'oh, my God,' the elections have been hacked," said Krebs. He told reporters that if there are issues, they anticipate "perception hacks," such as website defacements DDoS attacks, "just to get undermine confidence in the process."

5:55 p.m. ET, October 20, 2020

Here's a look at early voting numbers by state

From CNN's Hannah Rabinowitz, Austen Bundy and Paul LeBlanc

A person votes in Detroit, Michigan, on October 15.
A person votes in Detroit, Michigan, on October 15. Salwan Georges/The Washington Post/Getty Images

Election Day is only two weeks away, and more than 27 million ballots have already been cast, according to a survey of election officials by CNN, Edison Research, and Catalist.

The ballots cast so far represent almost 20% of the more than 136 million total ballots cast in the 2016 presidential election.

Some of the voter information comes from Catalist, a company that provides data, analytics and other services to Democrats, academics and nonprofit issue-advocacy organizations and is giving new insights into who is voting before November.

Here's a snapshot of early voting numbers by state:

Georgia  

  • Total ballots: 1,777,947 
  • Total at this point in 2016: 820,766  
  • There is a 142% increase in total turnout, with 62.5% increase in early in-person and 640.5% increase in mail ballots.

Colorado 

  • Total ballots: 924,735 

Virginia 

  • Total ballots: 1.44 million 
  • Total 2016 absentee ballots: 566,000 
  • The 1.44 million votes cast so far are 34.3% of total turnout in 2016.   

Texas 

  • Total ballots: More than 4.6 million  
  • When looking at the data from the first seven days of early voting in the top five most populous counties in 2016 and 2020, turnout has increased by about 13.5%.  
  • More than 27% of registered voters have now cast ballots.

New Hampshire 

  • Total ballots: 136,137 absentee 
  • Total 2016 absentee ballots: 75,305 
  • Requests for absentee ballots: 200,834  

Mississippi 

  • Total ballots: 89,499 absentee 
  • Total 2016 absentee ballots accepted: 101,339 
  • Nearly all absentee ballots have now been returned (115,848 sent). 

North Carolina 

  • Total ballots: 2,024,883  
  • Total at this point in 2016: roughly 700,000 
  • More than half of votes so far in 2020 were cast in-person.
  • Between 7,000 and 10,000 mail ballots have corrections that need to be made.

Michigan 

  • Total ballots: 1.5 million absentee 
  • Total 2016 overall votes in Michigan: Just under 4.8 million 
  • About 20,000 people are still waiting to receive their absentee ballots.
5:49 p.m. ET, October 20, 2020

Miami mayor and police chief condemn officer who wore "Trump 2020" mask to polls while in uniform

From CNN's Curt Devine

A photograph of a uniformed Miami police officer wearing a “Trump 2020” protective mask at a polling place Tuesday sparked condemnation from the city’s mayor and police chief.

Miami Police Chief Jorge Colina said in a statement that the officer’s behavior was “unacceptable, a violation of departmental policy, and is being addressed immediately.” 

Mayor Francis Suarez tweeted that the officer involved is under investigation and that “disciplinary measures will be taken.” 

Steve Simeonidis, chairman of the Miami-Dade Democratic Party, said he photographed the officer, who he identified as Officer Daniel Ubeda, wearing the mask at voting site in Miami’s Government Center Tuesday. A Miami police spokesperson declined to confirm the name of the officer.

Simeonidis said he did not know what Ubeda was doing there or if he was voting. 

“Essentially it was taxpayer-funded voter intimidation,” Simeonidis told CNN. “He was within feet of people voting. He was inside of the polling location wearing a ‘Trump 2020 No More Bull----’ mask, in full view of voters, with badge and gun.”  

manual from the Florida Division of Elections says that while poll workers and election staff are prohibited from wearing campaign-related material while on duty, voters are permitted to do so when they enter polling places. 

Ubeda could not immediately be reached for comment. 

Matt Reyes, vice president of the Miami Fraternal Order of Police, told CNN the matter would become an open investigation, so he couldn’t discuss details. 

Reyes shared a statement from the union that said, “Police Officers also have first amendment rights under the US Constitution as well as the right to vote in uniform pursuant to Florida State Law.”

CNN's Tina Burnside contributed to this report.

5:44 p.m. ET, October 20, 2020

USPS cuts made without analysis of impact on mail service, inspector general says

From CNN's Jeremy Herb

The US Postal Service inspector general released a new report today criticizing USPS service reductions implemented under Postmaster General Louis DeJoy, charging that they were done without a proper analysis of the impact the cuts would have.

“No analysis of the service impacts of these various changes was conducted and documentation and guidance to the field for these strategies was very limited and almost exclusively oral,” the report says. “The resulting confusion and inconsistency in operations at postal facilities compounded the significant negative service impacts across the country.”

The inspector general notes that three changes DeJoy made after he started in June, including the elimination of late and extra trips to transport mail, were compounded by more than 50 other cost-cutting initiatives that also went into effect.

“These initiatives undertaken individually may not have been significant. However, launching all of these efforts at once, in addition to the changes instituted by the Postmaster General, had a significant impact on the Postal Service,” the report says.

CNN is reaching out to USPS for comment.

5:43 p.m. ET, October 20, 2020

No coordinated campaign targeting elections at this point, DHS official says

From CNN's Geneva Sands

The top cybersecurity official at the Department of Homeland Security said on Tuesday—two weeks ahead of Election Day—that there hasn't been a “coordinated campaign” purposely targeting the election systems like in 2016.

Chris Krebs, director of the Department of Homeland Security's Cybersecurity and Infrastructure Security Agency, said that is important to note because they have "better visibility now than we did then" and "we have better reporting pipelines now."

Krebs, who made the comments Tuesday in a pre-recorded message at the Cyber Talks conference, said officials have not been seeing the level of activity as of today, but “that's not to say that state local systems aren't getting hit every single day.”

“And other cyber-criminal activity is definitely on a trend line upwards,” he said. “Again, we're not seeing this coordinated, coordinated campaign by the adversary that that we saw in 2016.”

Still, Krebs noted that the election is two weeks away and, “I don't know what's going to happen, if anything,” between now and then.

He also reiterated the agency’s concerns about ransomware attacks, which have evolved over the last several years and ransomware gangs are on the upswing.

“They're really kind of finding that groove,” Krebs said. “And we're seeing some really crazy ransom demands from some of the whales out there.”

Krebs said they have seen organizations in the private sector get hit for as much as $30 million.

“We're seeing big ones,” he said. “So what we've been worried about is how these criminals have been targeting; the cyber criminals have been targeting state local systems. Again, they tend not to have the capital of the investment that the private sector organizations do. And so, in a couple cases, they're going to be easy pickings. And we really wanted to make sure that that intersection of ransomware in the 2020 election didn't manifest in a way that would disrupt the vote that would disenfranchise you as the voter.”

Echoing other officials, Krebs urged patience on Election Day. 

“Let's not get caught up in the hysteria of election night or election week. And just have a little bit of patience here,” he said. ”Let's let the officials count the ballots. Let's let the pros do their job. So remember, please prepare, participate and have a little patience.”

5:39 p.m. ET, October 20, 2020

North Carolina surpasses 2 million votes

From CNN's Dianne Gallagher

Voters cast their ballots in Charleston, South Carolina, on October 16.
Voters cast their ballots in Charleston, South Carolina, on October 16. Logan Cyrus/AFP/Getty Images

More than two million voters in the state of North Carolina have already successfully cast their ballots for the 2020 election. 

As of 3:30 p.m. on Tuesday, at least 2,024,883 North Carolinians had voted, according to the State Board of Elections.

By comparison, the NCSBE says that at this time in 2016, roughly 700,000 total votes had been cast. 

Of the two million ballots cast so far in 2020, more than half were cast in person. A total of 1,369,041 people voted early in-person. The early in-person voting period started five days ago on Oct. 15 in North Carolina. 

A total of 655,842 absentee by mail ballots have been returned and accepted by county boards. 

According to the NCSBE Director Karen Brinson Bell, there are between 7,000 to 10,000 ballots have corrections that need to be made, either with a cure certificate or by spoiling and issuing a new ballot.  

The state’s ballot curing process had been on hold since Oct. 4 due to several lawsuits. 

The NCSBE announced new guidance Monday on which ballot deficiencies can be cured and which will require the voter to start over with a new ballot. County election officials began notifying voters with ballot deficiencies Monday. 

Brinson Bell noted that it is possible, based on their projections, that North Carolina could possibly have more than 80% of all votes cast before the polls even open on Nov. 3.