The latest on the 2020 election

By Veronica Rocha and Melissa Mahtani, CNN

Updated 1:17 p.m. ET, November 23, 2020
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4:25 p.m. ET, October 22, 2020

Debate commission releases details on podium spacing and first question order

From CNN's Brian Rokus 

Lecterns for President Donald Trump and Democratic presidential candidate, former Vice President Joe Biden stand onstage as preparations take place for the second presidential debate at Belmont University, Thursday, October 22, in Nashville.
Lecterns for President Donald Trump and Democratic presidential candidate, former Vice President Joe Biden stand onstage as preparations take place for the second presidential debate at Belmont University, Thursday, October 22, in Nashville. Patrick Semansky/AP

The Commission on Presidential Debates has released additional details about tonight’s debate between President Trump and Democratic presidential nominee Joe Biden in Nashville.

Here are some key details via the pool:

  • The lecterns are 12’ 8” center to center from candidate to candidate.
  • The lecterns to the moderator's desk are approximately 16’ 8” apart.
  • The first question will go to President Trump, and he will have the first two minutes of uninterrupted time.
  • Former vice president Biden will then get the same question, and he will have two minutes of uninterrupted time.
  • The size of the audience is still in the works.
4:22 p.m. ET, October 22, 2020

Trump tested negative for Covid-19 while en route to Nashville, White House says

From CNN’s Sarah Mucha and Jason Hoffman

 President Donald Trump waves upon arrival at Nashville International Airport in Nashville on October 22.
President Donald Trump waves upon arrival at Nashville International Airport in Nashville on October 22. Mandel Ngan/AFP/Getty Images

White House press secretary Kayleigh McEnany told reporters today that President Trump was tested on the flight to Nashville and has tested negative, according to CNN's Kaitlan Collins.

Earlier today, Joe Biden's campaign said the Democratic presidential nominee tested negative for Covid-19.

“Vice President Biden underwent PCR testing for COVID-19 today and COVID-19 was not detected," according to a campaign statement.

The candidates are set to share a debate stage in Nashville this evening for their second and final presidential debate.

2:10 p.m. ET, October 22, 2020

President Trump will vote on Saturday in Florida

From CNN's Kevin Liptak

President Donald Trump walks to Marine One on the South Lawn of the White House on October 1 in Washington, DC.
President Donald Trump walks to Marine One on the South Lawn of the White House on October 1 in Washington, DC. Drew Angerer/Getty Images

President Trump will cast his vote Saturday in Florida, the White House said

"President Trump plans to early vote on Saturday in West Palm Beach, Florida," White House spokesperson Judd Deere said.

2:14 p.m. ET, October 22, 2020

North Carolina Republicans appeal election deadline to the Supreme Court

From CNN's Ariane De Vogue and Dianne Gallagher

Fog blankets the city around the United States Supreme Court on October 22 in Washington, DC.
Fog blankets the city around the United States Supreme Court on October 22 in Washington, DC. Samuel Corum/Getty Images

Lawyers for the Trump campaign, the Republican National Committee and Republicans in North Carolina asked the Supreme Court on Thursday to block a lower court opinion that allows absentee ballots to be counted if they are received up to nine days after the election as long as they are postmarked by Election Day. 

Earlier this week, the Fourth Circuit Court of Appeals allowed the extension that was set by the State Board of Elections amid the pandemic, as part of a legal settlement. “The extension simply makes it easier for more people to vote absentee in the middle of a global pandemic that has killed over 200,000 Americans,” the court said.  

But three judges on the appeals court dissented. “Allowing the Board’s changes to go into effect now, two weeks before the election and after half a million people have voted in North Carolina would cause yet further intolerable chaos,” Judge Harvie Wilkinson wrote for his dissenting colleagues.   

In two new petitions lawyers for the Republicans cited Wilkinson's dissent and argued that the board’s actions “offend the Constitution and pose an immediate threat to the integrity of the federal election process.”

They said that the board’s extension of the ballot deadline “violates core separation-of-powers principles, intrudes on the power of the state legislature under the United States Constitution, and offends the guarantee of equal protection."

The new petitions, one filed by the Trump campaign among other parties and another filed on behalf of Republican legislators, come as parties have been flooding the Supreme Court with emergency requests related to the election. Late Wednesday, the justices voted 5-3 to block a voter accommodation in Alabama. 

Lawyers for the Republicans want the justices to reinstate a deadline set by the state legislature in June that allowed ballots to be counted if they are received three days after Election Day as long as they are postmarked by Election Day.

1:29 p.m. ET, October 22, 2020

USPS says it has processed over 100 million ballots since Sept. 4

From CNN's Paul P. Murphy

Pallets filled with mail-in ballots fill an unloading area at a U.S. Postal Service processing and distribution center on October 14 in Portland.
Pallets filled with mail-in ballots fill an unloading area at a U.S. Postal Service processing and distribution center on October 14 in Portland. Nathan Howard/Getty Images

The United States Postal Service said it has transported over 100 million ballots since Sept. 4.

Justin Glass, USPS' election mail executive director, said this tally includes ballots heading to voters, and ballots being returned to election offices.

The remarks came during an ongoing presentation about election mail.

So far this year, USPS says they've mailed over 523 million pieces of election mail of all varieties. That's an increase of 162%, or 323 million more, than 2016, it said. 

USPS defines election mail as anything that comes from "authorized election officials that enables citizens to participate in the voting process — including ballots, voter registration cards, absentee voting applications and polling place notifications."

1:08 p.m. ET, October 22, 2020

What you need to know about tonight's final presidential debate

From CNN's Kate Sullivan

The stage for the final Presidential debate of 2020 is prepared at Belmont University on October 22 in Nashville.
The stage for the final Presidential debate of 2020 is prepared at Belmont University on October 22 in Nashville. Eric Baradat/AFP/Getty Images

Less than two weeks from Election Day, Joe Biden and Donald Trump are scheduled to appear onstage for the final general election presidential debate of 2020.

Tonight's televised event may be the last opportunity for both candidates to reach a massive national audience before Nov. 3.

Here's everything you need to know about the final debate:

  • The location: The debate will take place at Belmont University in Nashville, Tennessee. It is scheduled to run from 9 p.m. to 10:30 p.m. ET without commercial breaks.
  • The topics: Debate moderator, NBC's Kristen Welker, will bring six topics: "Fighting COVID-19," "American Families," "Race in America," "Climate Change," "National Security" and "Leadership."
  • The debate structure: Each segment will last about 15 minutes, and the candidates will have two minutes to respond after the moderator opens each segment with a question. Welker will then use the rest of the time in the segment to facilitate further discussion on the topic.
  • How this debate is different: The Commission on Presidential Debates recently announced that Biden and Trump would have their microphones muted during portions of the debate. At the start of each of the six segments, each candidate will be given two minutes to answer an initial question, and during that portion, the opposing candidate's microphone will be muted. The rule change was made after the first debate devolved into chaos, with Trump frequently interrupting and heckling Biden and the moderator, Chris Wallace of Fox News.
  • How to watch and follow: The debate will air live on CNN, CNN en Español and CNN International. It will stream live in its entirety, without requiring log-in to a cable provider, on CNN.com's homepage, across mobile devices via CNN's apps for iOS and Android, and via CNNgo apps for Apple TV, Roku, Amazon Fire, Chromecast and Android TV. You can also follow CNN's live debate coverage on CNN.com, which will include analysis and fact checking.
12:56 p.m. ET, October 22, 2020

Democratic congressman says Biden won't "get in the mud" with Trump during debate

From CNN's Adrienne Vogt

CNN
CNN

Rep. Cedric Richmond, the national co-chair for Joe Biden's 2020 campaign, says that the Democratic presidential nominee will avoid mudslinging with President Trump during tonight’s debate.  

“I think the vice president will look straight past Donald Trump and his theatrics,” the Louisiana congressman told CNN’s John King.

Trump is expected to bring up unproven allegations about Biden’s son Hunter during the debate.  

“If I had a big bully like Donald Trump who wants to…talk about family, I’d have a field day on Eric Trump, Don Jr., and the rest of his family. I mean, it’s nepotism at its highest. But I don't think you'll see that from Joe Biden. That's not who he is. He is so much better than getting in the mud. I think he's going to keep it focused on the American people,” Richmond said. 

Richmond added that Democrats are “focused” going into the final stretch before Election Day.

“We don't want to concede anywhere. We don't want to concede Texas. … We feel good about where we are. I think people in Texas will look at things like the debate tonight and get a feel for who they want to trust with their future,” he said. 

In an interview clip released today, Biden said that if he is elected, he will form a bipartisan commission to recommend changes to the Supreme Court. Richmond said that Biden’s response shows that he “wants to take a real thoughtful look at it.” 

WATCH:

12:28 p.m. ET, October 22, 2020

What to watch for in tonight's final Trump-Biden presidential debate

From CNN's Gregory Krieg, Eric Bradner and Dan Merica

Clear protective panels stand onstage between lecterns as preparations take place for the second Presidential debate at Belmont University on October 21 in Nashville.
Clear protective panels stand onstage between lecterns as preparations take place for the second Presidential debate at Belmont University on October 21 in Nashville. Patrick Semansky/AP

President Trump and Democratic presidential nominee Joe Biden will face off tonight for their final presidential debate before the election.

After an initial match up that quickly descended into a glorified shouting match, with Trump repeatedly interrupting Biden and running roughshod over the moderator, the second debate, scheduled for last week, was canceled after the President tested positive for the coronavirus and subsequently refused to take part in a virtual meeting.

The Commission on Presidential Debates has given the green light to an in-person face-off, but with one unprecedented change: The candidates will have their microphones cut off while their opponents respond to the first question of each of the debate's six segments.

The topics slated for discussion over 90 uninterrupted minutes, beginning at 9 p.m. ET, include "Fighting COVID-19," "American Families," "Race in America," "Climate Change," "National Security" and "Leadership."

But that's just where the moderator, NBC's Kristen Welker, will begin. Where the candidates go from there, especially in Trump's case, is the wild card.

Here are five things to watch in the debate:

Debate rules: In order to enforce the debate's rule, the commission has resorted to something familiar to a country operating by video conferences: The mute button. But there are questions over how effective the new guardrails will really be. Trump and his allies have been teeing up his plans to attack Welker and the commission by flouting the rules wherever they can. How Trump executes that strategy could provide the voters who haven't already cast a ballot with their last memory of the President before they make a decision.

How Trump handles coronavirus questions: Trump wants to avoid the constant drumbeat of coronavirus news. Surging numbers across the country — including swing states central to his victory — make that impossible. Coronavirus remains the most important issue in the minds of voters. How Trump handles questions about the issue will have significant implications in this election.

Biden tries to pass one more test: Thursday night's debate is effectively the last major hurdle that must be cleared by Biden, a candidate who — despite his reputation for gaffes, and some minor stumbles along the way — has largely stuck to the same message since launching his campaign in April 2019.  If Biden emerges largely unscathed tonight, he'll likely have successfully weathered every key moment with the potential to alter the dynamics of a presidential race polls show he is winning.

How Biden handles personal attacks: In the alternate universe of right-wing media, Biden is currently embroiled in scandal — most of it focusing on unproven allegations about his son Hunter Biden. There's also a bogus "Obamagate" conspiracy theory that Trump has promoted, despite its underpinnings all having been knocked down in the real world. None of it seems to have moved voters who aren't already part of Trump's base, and attacking Biden's surviving son could also backfire. But Trump is sure to try to use it all to attack Biden — a candidate who has at times flashed a temper.

Who will they direct their closing statements to? With the beginning of early in-person voting and millions of American casting their ballots by mail, the number of undecided voters still up for grabs is likely much smaller than it was just a few weeks ago. Even in more conventional circumstances, debates are as much about narrowcasting your message to potential supporters as they are about "winning" the argument on a given issue.

12:15 p.m. ET, October 22, 2020

Ohio's secretary of state says Trump's spreading of disinformation makes his job more difficult 

From CNN's Gregory Lemos  

CNN
CNN

Ohio Secretary of State Frank LaRose told CNN that the President's spreading of disinformation regarding the American voting process makes his job more difficult.   

"Oh sure it does. Anytime somebody is spreading unfounded information about elections, it's something I have to push back against and speak out against," LaRose said.  

LaRose said Ohio's absentee system is a "secure and safe way to cast your ballot" and is trusted by both parties.

He told CNN he doesn't see evidence of early voting favoring one party over the other, but what he does see is, "it’s favoring the democratic process though, because we've seen double the number of voters than we've seen casting previously." 

Asked about foreign interference in the election, LaRose said they haven't seen any evidence yet but he remains "constantly vigilant."   

"What I remind our team, and this is a saying I took from the army, the bad guys only have to be right once. The good guys and gals have to be right every single day," LaRose said. 

LaRose said all 88 counties are "up to speed" and he feels like the state is prepared other than an on-going need for poll workers, which the state is experiencing a shortage of.   

He was emphatic that Ohio voters can be confident their vote is counted. 

"We run better, more accessible, and more secure elections as we speak today in this county and here in Ohio that we ever have before. Every Ohioan should feel confident casting their vote," LaRose said.