2020 Election Live Updates: Early Voting Begins in Four States

2020 Election Live Updates: Early Voting Begins in Four States


Credit…Carlos Bernate for The New York Times

Early voting began in four states on Friday, 46 days before Election Day on Nov. 3.

Among the states where voters can now vote in person is Minnesota, where both President Trump and Joseph R. Biden Jr. will be making campaign stops on Friday. Voters also began casting ballots in South Dakota, Virginia and Wyoming.

Elected Democrats, aiming to encourage their supporters to vote early, are eschewing the traditional Election Day photo-op for appearances at early voting sites. In Virginia, Senators Tim Kaine and Mark Warner voted in Richmond and Alexandria, while Gov. Ralph Northam cast his ballot in Richmond, where he was the fifth person in line at 8 a.m.

Mr. Kaine, who was Hillary Clinton’s running mate in 2016, tweeted — unsurprisingly — that he had voted early for Mr. Biden and Democrats down the ballot. “What a great day!” Mr. Kaine wrote, describing the experience as “easy” and “convenient.”

Mr. Northam said in a statement that “Virginians can be confident their vote is secure, and will be counted,” and urged “every Virginia voter to know their options and make a plan for safely casting their ballot.”

In most places early voting means going to a City Hall or a local board of elections, though some larger jurisdictions will arrange for regional early vote centers. The pandemic has brought even larger early-vote locations, with some major league sports franchises opening their vacant arenas and stadiums for early voting.

In 2012, Barack Obama became the first president to vote early, casting a ballot for himself at an early-voting site near his home on the South Side of Chicago. President Trump has voted by mail, a process he has publicly denigrated, for recent elections in Florida, which he made his permanent address last year.

Reports on social media suggested that lines to vote in Virginia were long, though that perception may be fueled in part by social-distancing requirements, which require people to space themselves out more than usual.

Credit…Erin Schaff/The New York Times

The question for Joseph R. Biden Jr. came from a high school teacher standing somewhere in a parking lot in Moosic, Pa., looking at the candidate as he stood on a brightly lit stage. Would Mr. Biden, as president, support mandatory coronavirus vaccination of students before they could return to school?

Mr. Biden maneuvered a bit — that is a tricky question in this political environment — before coming up with a nuanced non-answer: It depends on the safety and efficiency of the vaccine. Besides, he noted, vaccine testing on children has not even begun yet.

Mr. Biden and President Trump, both of whom will campaign in Minnesota on Friday, each held town-hall-style events with voters this week, Mr. Trump with George Stephanopoulos on ABC on Tuesday and Mr. Biden with Anderson Cooper on CNN on Thursday. But this was just not a standard stop on the television interview circuit.

The first of three debates that could determine the outcome of the presidential race is less than two weeks away. And in a campaign environment constricted by the pandemic, neither Mr. Trump nor Mr. Biden has had much opportunity for the kind of spontaneous interaction with voters that can be invaluable for sharpening answers, preparing them for questions that even the most experienced debate preparation teams might not anticipate (such as whether vaccines for high school students should be mandatory).

In a normal contest, which this is not, campaign aides might have slipped a town hall onto the schedule for precisely this purpose. So these events were no doubt welcomed by both campaigns.

Mr. Trump and Mr. Biden are going to go through mock debates in the days ahead, in studios set up to replicate the real-life debate setting and with someone serving as a stand-in for their opponent. (Mr. Biden dodged when asked if someone was playing Mr. Trump.) They will be asked every tough question their aides can think of, and their responses will be critiqued and tested with focus groups.

But that is simply not the same as what happened at this week’s events. Granted, questions from voters can be softballs. But often, people with real-life concerns come up with queries that even the most sophisticated debate team might not have anticipated. The sheer exercise of these forums — standing in front of an audience and live television cameras, with no chance of a do-over — is hard to beat.

How does one get better at debates? The same way you get to Carnegie Hall. For proof of that, go back and look at one of Mr. Biden’s faltering early debate performances during the primary campaign, and compare it with his final debate in March.

President Trump’s effort to court suburban women by promising to protect their neighborhoods is encountering one sizable hitch: Most suburban women say their neighborhoods aren’t particularly under threat.

Their communities feel safe to them, and they’re not too concerned about poorer neighbors moving in, according to polls in key battleground states by The New York Times and Siena College. They say in a national Monmouth University poll that racial integration is important to them, and unlikely to harm property values or safety. Many have never heard of the federal fair-housing rule encouraging integration that the president has often cited by name in arguing that Joseph R. Biden Jr. would abolish the suburbs.

They’re not even all that worked up about the idea of new apartments nearby, sullying suburbs dominated by single-family homes.

“Nope, not at all. I have no concern whatsoever about it,” said Diane Wonchoba, an independent in the Minneapolis suburb of Blaine. She pointed to an apartment recently built half a mile from her house. “It’s beautiful. Way to go. We built our home, so we were the new people on the block 20 years ago.”

“I don’t even think about it,” said Judy Jones, sounding surprised that she was supposed to be troubled by a series of apartment buildings half a block from her home in the Minneapolis suburb of Bloomington.

Not even for the traffic they cause? Or the strain they put on local schools? “Oh, no,” she said.

Demographic change and new development in the suburbs have no doubt unnerved some longtime residents (and studies suggest those unnerved residents speak the loudest in local politics, often blocking housing that would make communities more integrated and affordable). But those anxieties are hardly proving a decisive force in the presidential election.

If Mr. Trump hopes that fanning fears of suburban decline, following a summer of urban unrest, will help coax back some of the suburban women who have turned away from the Republican Party over the past four years, there is little evidence that it’s working.

In last week’s Times/Siena College polls in Minnesota and Wisconsin — two states particularly affected by unrest — Ms. Wonchoba, Ms. Jones and a majority of other suburban women said they would not be concerned if new apartments, subsidized housing developments or new neighbors with government housing vouchers came to their neighborhoods.

They also said, by a two-to-one margin, that they support government vouchers for lower-income families to live in more affluent communities.

The New York Times /
Siena College poll

Democrats hold a lead over Republican incumbents in three key Senate races.

Dem. Rep. Margin




8 Dem.

7% undecided





5 Dem.

6% undecided

North Carolina




5 Dem.

16% undecided

Based on a New York Times/Siena College poll of likely voters from Sept. 10 to Sept. 16.

President Trump’s mismanagement of the coronavirus pandemic has imperiled both his own re-election and his party’s majority in the Senate, and Republican lawmakers in crucial states like Arizona, North Carolina and Maine have fallen behind their Democratic challengers amid broad disapproval of the president, according to a poll conducted by The New York Times and Siena College.

Former Vice President Joseph R. Biden Jr. led Mr. Trump by wide margins in Arizona, where he was ahead by nine percentage points, and Maine, where he led by 17 points. The race was effectively tied in North Carolina, with Mr. Biden ahead by one point, 45 percent to 44 percent.

In all three states, Democratic Senate candidates were leading Republican incumbents by five percentage points or more. Senator Susan Collins of Maine, a Republican seeking a fifth term, is in a difficult battle against Sara Gideon, trailing by five points as voters there delivered a damning verdict on Mr. Trump’s stewardship: By a 25-point margin, 60 percent to 35 percent, they said they trusted Mr. Biden over Mr. Trump on the issue of the pandemic.

The poll, conducted among likely voters, suggests that the most endangered Republican lawmakers have not managed to convince many voters to view them in more favorable terms than the leader of their party, who remains in political peril with less than 50 days remaining in the campaign. Democrats appear well positioned to gain several Senate seats, and most voters say they would prefer to see the White House and Senate controlled by the same party. But it is not yet clear that Democrats are on track to gain a clear majority, and their hopes outside the races tested in the poll largely depend on winning in states Mr. Trump is likely to carry.

Credit…Al Drago for The New York Times

The Trump administration said Friday it would bar the Chinese-owned mobile apps WeChat and TikTok from U.S. app stores as of Sunday, striking a harsh blow against two popular services used by more than 100 million people in the United States.

The restrictions will ban the transferring of funds or processing of payments through WeChat within the United States as of Sunday. In the case of WeChat, the restrictions will also prevent any company from offering internet hosting, content delivery networks, internet transit or peering services to WeChat, or using the app’s code in other software or services in the United States.

Those same prohibitions on providing services go into effect on Nov. 12 for TikTok.

“Today’s actions prove once again that President Trump will do everything in his power to guarantee our national security and protect Americans from the threats of the Chinese Communist Party,” Commerce Secretary Wilbur Ross said in a statement.

The actions follow an Aug. 6 executive order by President Trump, in which he argued that TikTok and WeChat collect data from American users that could be accessed by the Chinese government. With the president trailing badly in the polls as the election nears, his national security officials have intensified their attack on China in recent weeks, targeting its officials, diplomats and executives.

TikTok is currently in talks to be acquired by the American software maker Oracle, and could announce a deal that assuages the administration’s national security concerns. In its announcement, the Commerce Department said that the president had given until Nov. 12 for TikTok’s national security concerns to be resolved, and if they were, the prohibitions in the order could be lifted.

TikTok declined to comment. Tencent and Oracle did not immediately respond to requests for comment.

Ad Watch

Ads backed by Michael R. Bloomberg, the former New York City mayor who briefly ran for president this year, began running in Florida on Friday, part of his pledge to spend $100 million in the key battleground state to support Joseph R. Biden Jr.’s candidacy. One of the first two Bloomberg-backed ads, from Priorities USA Action, attacks President Trump’s bungled response to the coronavirus.

Priorities USA Action, the largest Democratic super PAC, already ran a version of this ad earlier this year — and Mr. Trump hated it so much that his campaign filed a defamation lawsuit in April against a local Wisconsin television station for carrying it.

With deaths from the coronavirus nearing 200,000 in the United States, the updated ad is intended to underscore the extent to which Mr. Trump publicly dismissed the coronavirus even as the death toll in the United States from the virus continued to rise. As ominous music plays, recordings of Mr. Trump’s past remarks about the coronavirus are superimposed over a timeline showing the number of deaths:

“This is their new hoax.”

“We think the deaths will be at a very low number.”

“We have it totally under control.”

“One day, it’s like a miracle, it will disappear.”

The updated version of the ad includes a recording of Mr. Trump’s damning admission to the journalist Bob Woodward that he had intentionally played down the threat of the virus: “I wanted to always play it down. I still like playing it down.” It concludes with Mr. Trump asserting that he does not take any responsibility “at all” for the pandemic.

Mr. Trump has consistently minimized the dangers of the coronavirus and asserted that it would disappear on its own. He has dismissed the efficacy of wearing masks, despite overwhelming evidence to the contrary, gleefully flouted public health guidelines and just this week, publicly undermined Dr. Robert R. Redfield, the director of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, for contradicting his suggestion that a potential vaccine could be ready for Americans before Election Day.

The trend line shown in the ad tracks with the rising death toll, although Mr. Trump’s quotes do not appear to be pegged to the timeline itself.

The ad is airing in markets across Florida.

Mr. Trump’s mismanagement of the coronavirus pandemic has become one of the Democratic Party’s most preferred attack lines with just weeks until the general election. And it is one they hope will be particularly resonant with voters: Polls show many voters are unhappy with how Mr. Trump’s responded to the public health crisis.

Credit…Erin Schaff/The New York Times

Joseph R. Biden Jr. has strategically ceded center stage to President Trump — until recently adopting a shelter-in-place strategy that minimized mistakes but maximized angst among Democrats who questioned his capacity to generate enthusiasm.

Mr. Biden, appearing at a mask-mandatory CNN town hall before Mr. Trump’s flashier outdoor rally in Wisconsin later that evening, seemed relieved to be out of lockdown, and delivered a sturdy, if not especially electrifying, 90-minute performance that is likely to neither undermine nor boost his standing in the polls.

It was one of Mr. Biden’s first opportunities so far as the Democratic nominee to take questions directly from voters and to press his candidacy to a broad audience.

Here are three takeaways:

Mr. Trump and his backers have spent months suggesting, without proof, that Mr. Biden is in cognitive decline. Mr. Trump has baselessly insinuated that Mr. Biden is taking performance-enhancing drugs — and his campaign even put together a mocking worst-of video of Mr. Biden’s verbal stumbles.

Making fun of a fellow septuagenarian seems to delight Mr. Trump, who has also faced questions about his mental fitness. But Republican officials outside Mr. Trump’s inner circle fret that the attacks set the bar laughably low for Mr. Biden at the upcoming debates.

Despite a few miscues on Thursday night, Mr. Biden was lucid, sprightly, relaxed and conversant with granular details on energy policy, international relations, the economy and agricultural policy.

At one point, he had to stop himself from going on a tangent about “fertilizer and water tables.”

Mr. Trump’s town hall on ABC earlier in the week had the feel of a confrontation between a chef and a restaurant full of angry patrons who hated what they were served. One of the first questions he faced was why he had thrown America “under the bus” during the pandemic. It did not get much better from there.

CNN scheduled Mr. Biden’s event near Scranton, Pa., his hometown, and Mr. Biden took fullest home-field advantage — defusing potentially uncomfortable moments with folksy banter. When a former local police chief started to ask him a question about his stance on law and order, Mr. Biden interrupted with, “Didn’t I meet you when you were chief?”

“We did, sir,” the man responded.

There were a lot of questions like this one, from Susan Connors, who runs a small business in Scranton: “I look out over my Biden sign in my front yard and I see a sea of Trump flags and yard signs and my question is, what is your plan to build a bridge with voters from the opposing party to lead us forward toward a common future?”

Mr. Biden, who has long cited his history of working across the aisle, answered by noting that while he was “running as a Democrat,” he would be “America’s president” if elected.

A problem that vexed Hillary Clinton’s team for much of 2016 was this: How could a Manhattan billionaire developer, born into wealth, out-populist Democrats (like her) with actual working-class roots?

Mr. Biden has made millions since leaving office, but his entire political career has been based on his “Amtrak Joe” persona, and he wore it easily on Thursday.

Mr. Trump tends to aggrandize his intellectual and collegiate credentials, referring to his business degree from Wharton as “super genius stuff.” On Thursday, Mr. Biden, who went to the University of Delaware and Syracuse Law School, took it in the other direction.

“Who the hell makes you think I need an Ivy League degree to be president?” he asked. “I really do view this campaign as a campaign between Scranton and Park Avenue.”

Here are the daily schedules of the presidential and vice-presidential candidates for Friday, Sept. 18. All times are Eastern time.

Former Vice President Joseph R. Biden Jr.

Afternoon: Tours a union training center in Duluth, Minn.

Afternoon: Delivers remarks in Duluth.

President Trump

7 p.m.: Hosts a campaign rally in Bemidji, Minn.

Senator Kamala Harris

5:45 p.m.: Delivers remarks for the Congressional Black Caucus Political Action Committee’s “Turn Up and Turn out the Vote Virtual Bus Tour.”

Vice President Mike Pence

Early afternoon: Participates in a policy forum hosted by the Libre Initiative in Phoenix.

3 p.m.: Appears at a “Veterans for Trump” event in Litchfield Park, Ariz.

Credit…Zach Gibson for The New York Times

Twenty-four winners of the Turing Award — often called The Nobel Prize of computing — have endorsed Joseph R. Biden Jr. for president, citing concerns that Donald Trump’s immigration policies are harming the progress of American technology.

“The most brilliant people in the world want to come here and be grad students,” said David Patterson, a Google distinguished engineer, former University of California, Berkeley professor, and Turing Award winner who helped organize the endorsement. “But now they are being discouraged from coming here, and many are going elsewhere.”

The 24 also include the executive chairman of Google’s parent company, Alphabet, another Google employee, the top artificial intelligence researcher at Facebook, two Microsoft employees, and many academics who played key roles in the creation of technologies that are now fundamental to the global internet.

The endorsement comes days after the research journal Scientific American endorsed Mr. Biden, citing Mr. Trump’s response to the coronavirus pandemic and his skepticism over climate change. It was the publication’s first presidential endorsement in its 175 years history. Likewise, this is a first for the Turing winners.

Tech researchers have expressed concern over Mr. Trump’s immigration policies since he was elected. For decades, much of the country’s tech talent has come from overseas.

Anti-immigration rhetoric from the administration, its efforts to ban travel from certain countries and reports of slowdowns in the visa process have already pushed foreign nationals away from American universities and companies.

The Postal Service has agreed to destroy undelivered postcards intended for Colorado residents to settle a lawsuit brought by the state that claimed the postcards contained misleading information about voting by mail.

The settlement, which was filed with the United States District Court in Denver late Thursday, also requires the Postal Service to seek input from Colorado officials on other public outreach related to mail-in voting.

The settlement comes amid escalating political and legal battles over voting by mail, which is expected to be used at record rates this year because of the coronavirus pandemic. President Trump has claimed without evidence that mail-in voting will lead to massive fraud, and Democrats have countered that he is trying to use the Postal Service to undermine mail voting.

Colorado’s lawsuit accused the Postal Service of attempting to disenfranchise voters in the state by offering misleading information on the postcard about how to vote by mail, including requirements for receiving a mail ballot and recommendations about when to return it.

The Postal Service cast the mailer, which was sent to addresses nationwide, as a good-faith effort to encourage people voting by mail to do so early to lessen the prospect of having their ballots disqualified for missing deadlines.

But the post office nonetheless agreed in the settlement to “take all reasonable measures not to deliver, to Colorado residents, the Notices that are currently undelivered.”

The settlement was reached as the Postal Service has worked to tamp down rising tensions with state elections officials. In a private call on Thursday, Louis DeJoy, the postmaster general, apologized to dozens of state elections officials for failing to share the mailer before it was sent out, and sought to distance himself from Mr. Trump’s attacks on mail-in voting.

In a statement on Friday morning, Floyd Wagoner, a Postal Service spokesman, said the agency was “pleased that through open dialogue and communication with the state of Colorado we have resolved this matter, and look forward to working with the state and others across the country as we prepare for the election.”

Voting Rights Update

A Michigan judge on Friday extended a Nov. 3 deadline for receipt of mail ballots, the latest in a flurry of election-related court rulings around the country that benefited the Democrats.

Judge Cynthia Diane Stephens of the Michigan Court of Claims cited mail delays and, in one case, a ballot that was detoured to Illinois, in her ruling that Michigan ballots postmarked by November 2 and received in elections offices before November 23 will be counted.

The Democrats and liberal organizations are locked in dozens of last-minute court disputes over voting with Republicans and other conservative groups. Friday’s ruling followed a string of decisions set to expand voting rights and access to the polls that were handed down Thursday.

“We just had our fourth win of the day, this time in Michigan!” Marc Elias, the Washington lawyer who heads up voting litigation for the Democrats, wrote in an email Thursday night.

Among the developments:

  • In Michigan, a court overturned a state ban on providing transportation to polls.

  • In Illinois, a federal judge denied a request by the Cook County Republican Party, giving the go-ahead to a state plan to expand vote-by-mail options by sending mail ballot applications to voters. Arguing against the mail ballot applications, the Republicans had cited the potential for voting fraud. The court found that the Republicans had “provided no basis for concluding that the alleged harms are anything but speculative.”

  • In Nevada, a state court rejected a lawsuit filed by a conservative group that had challenged recent state legislation making it easier to vote during the coronavirus pandemic.

  • And in Pennsylvania, in a decision that Mr. Elias called the best news of the day, the Supreme Court extended the deadline for mail-in ballots, agreeing that ballots postmarked on or before Election Day will be counted if they are received within three days after Election Day.

Credit…Ruth Fremson/The New York Times

President Trump said he was giving an additional $13 billion of aid to America’s farmers at a campaign rally in Wisconsin on Thursday night, doling out government resources to key supporters as he looks to solidify his rural base ahead of Election Day.

“I’m proud to announce that I’m doing even more to support Wisconsin farmers,” Mr. Trump said, adding that some of that money would go to dairy, cranberry and ginseng farmers in the state that have been hurt by the coronavirus pandemic.

The money is the latest round of relief for American farmers, who received $19 billion from the economic relief package signed by Congress in March and more than $20 billion over the last two years in payments to mitigate the impact of Mr. Trump’s trade wars.

The Department of Agriculture said on Friday that the money would be coming from the Commodity Credit Corporation fund, which was replenished as part of the relief legislation.

“America’s agriculture communities are resilient, but still face many challenges due to the COVID-19 pandemic,” Sonny Perdue, the Agriculture secretary, said in a statement.

Farmers were already struggling with the lingering effects of Mr. Trump’s trade war with China. After initial concerns about food shortages, many farmers have been dealing with a glut of unused food and crops. Some have resorted to dumping milk in manure pits, burying onions or plowing ripe vegetables back into soil.

A report from the Government Accountability Office that was released this week raised questions about how some of the stimulus aid was distributed. The report from the nonpartisan agency suggested that a disproportionate amount of money went to farmers in southern states and that small farms received less generous payments than big agribusinesses.

Mr. Trump said, without evidence, on Friday that Speaker Nancy Pelosi wants to take money away from farmers.

“Pelosi wants to take 30 Billion Dollars away from our great Farmers,” the president said on Twitter. “Can’t let that happen!”

Credit…Brittany Greeson for The New York Times

There may be no better microcosm for the national mood than Michigan, a state that tipped for President Trump in 2016 by just over 10,000 votes — making it the geographic and symbolic center of the country’s political realignment.

College-educated voters and women voted overwhelmingly Democratic in the 2018 midterm elections, flipping the House blue. This year, the president’s inability to contain the coronavirus has added to many voters’ frustration with him, and he has struggled to find a message that can draw back Americans at the political center. With voter enthusiasm surging, political observers say this could be the highest-turnout election in the country’s history, despite the pandemic.

And in Michigan, a poll released Friday by The Detroit Free Press showed Joseph R. Biden Jr. leading Mr. Trump by eight percentage points in the state, roughly in line with his advantage in other polls — powered by the same anti-Trump sentiment that helped Democrats flip two suburban House districts in 2018.

Still, the Republican base in Michigan is strong, and it shows up at the polls more consistently than Democratic voters. That was part of what carried Mr. Trump to victory in 2016, when voter enthusiasm was low across the board.

This year, however, conscious that their ballots could again help decide the election, Michiganders of all political persuasions report being heavily motivated to vote. That’s a bad sign for Mr. Trump, who has never received a predominantly positive review from the roughly four in 10 Americans who identify as independents.

In 2016, polls were so faulty in Michigan that they whiffed in both the Democratic primary and the general election, overestimating Mrs. Clinton’s strength both times. In the general, many polls failed to correct for the fact that white men without college degrees — a key part of Mr. Trump’s base — are among the most difficult to reach.

But pollsters have sought to correct for the kinds of mistakes that led to an underestimation of Mr. Trump’s strength four years ago, adjusting to account for his support among less educated white voters and in some cases striving to reach more cellphone respondents.

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