By LIBBY CATHEY, ABC News
(WASHINGTON) — With six days until Election Day, and President Donald Trump and former Vice President Joe Biden racing toward Nov. 3, more than 71 million have voted early so far — a record.
The president continues an aggressive, defensive campaign as polls show him trailing nationally and in several battleground states key to his reelection hopes. He has back-to-back rallies in Arizona Wednesday.
Sen. Kamala Harris, the Democratic vice-presidential nominee, is also in Arizona making stops in Tucson and Phoenix. Biden will deliver remarks on his plan to beat COVID-19 from Wilmington, Delaware.
Vice President Mike Pence, meanwhile, has campaign rallies in the battleground states of Wisconsin and Michigan.
Here is how Wednesday is developing. All times Eastern:
Oct 28, 8:02 pm
How DC officials perform signature verifications
ABC News Live got an exclusive look at how election officials in Washington, D.C., perform signature verifications before mail-in ballots are counted.
BALLOT WATCH: @ABC News got an exclusive look at how election officials in Washington, D.C., perform signature verifications before mail-in ballots are counted.@devindwyer has more. https://t.co/bvZuIWOYht #Election2020 pic.twitter.com/S0rFfyMWF1
— ABC News Live (@ABCNewsLive) October 28, 2020
Trained staff manually inspect each handwritten script and visually compare it to an electronic version associated with the voter’s driver’s license or other official record.
Oct 28, 7:54 pm
Supreme Court allows NC ballot deadline extension, rejects GOP request to block
The Supreme Court has denied a GOP request to block a six-day extension of the mail ballot deadline in North Carolina which was imposed by the state board of elections.
The decision was 5-3, with Chief Justice John Roberts and Justice Brett Kavanaugh joining the liberal justices. Justices Clarence Thomas, Samuel Alito and Neil Gorsuch would have granted an emergency injunction.
“Such last-minute changes by largely unaccountable bodies invite confusion, risk altering election outcomes, and in the process threaten voter confidence in the results,” Gorsuch wrote in the dissent.
Justice Amy Coney Barrett took no part in the decision, the court said, because “of the need for a prompt resolution and because she has not had time to fully review the parties’ filings.”
-ABC News Senior Washington Reporter Devin Dwyer
Oct 28, 7:46 pm
Some National Guardsmen to be called up to help at polling places
National Guardsmen will be called up in some states on Election Day as election workers or to facilitate the opening of polling places to help make up for shortfalls of poll workers as a result of the coronavirus pandemic.
Voters won’t know that they are National Guardsmen, however because they’re being called to active duty to serve as state government employees helping out on Election Day, so they won’t be wearing uniforms or carrying weapons.
Behind the scenes, National Guard cyber units have helped with the security of state computer systems and will be able to help out state IT teams if there are issues on Election Day.
Wisconsin and Tennessee will have National Guardsmen helping out at polling centers. In Wisconsin they’ll be working as poll workers and helping with cleaning and providing sanitary supplies to the locations. Guardsmen in Tennessee are not allowed to serve as poll workers, so they’ll be facilitating the opening of polling centers.
Nebraska’s Maj. Gen. Daryl Bohac reiterated that guardsmen helping out as poll workers will essentially be civilians and if there’s a need for security assistance because of violence or a threat of violence, they’ll be calling 911 for law enforcement assistance, just like any other civilian.
In Washington state, “the biggest thing they’re looking at is potential intrusion into the system. So looking at firewalls, looking at the status of the Vote Washington system,” said Brig. Gen. Gent Welsh, Washington’s Assistant Adjutant General. “Looking for anomalies in the system, basically typical network hygiene that you would usually expect to see anywhere and in a company, or even in the military.”
Washington state is a vote-by-mail state, so on Election Day, Welsh said five guardsmen will be part of the team ensuring that the tabulation of votes is safe. They’ve been there for the past month preparing for Election Day and they’ll remain on duty for four to five days after that to ensure the system’s security. Welsh said cyber teams first started working on assessing vulnerabilities to the state’s systems. “Most all of it is done over the shoulder of the Secretary of State teams, their own IT staff, teach them how to do these things as well. But again, just another extra set of eyes,” he said.
In Tennessee, 30 Guardsmen have been providing “subject matter expertise” ensuring the counties have a “very robust support system” as they upgrade their software and assist with “the basic protocols of insurance,” said Maj. Gen. Jeff Holmes, Tennessee’s adjutant general. He said that six or seven counties had asked for specific assistance.
Wisconsin’s assistant adjutant general, Brig. Gen. Robyn Blader, also added that, “the extent of Wisconsin National Guard’s role in the November election, is still being determined.”
-ABC News’ Luis Martinez
Oct 28, 6:14 pm
Supreme Court rejects GOP attempt to block extended ballot deadline
The Supreme Court has rejected Pennsylvania Republicans’ second attempt to block an extended deadline for mail-in ballots for the 2020 election.
The high court announced the 5-3 decision Wednesday evening that it will not expedite a Republican request to stop the state’s extended deadline for receiving mail-in ballots, a small and potentially temporary victory for Democrats who believe mail-in ballots in the battleground state could determine the election.
Justice Amy Coney Barrett did not participate in the case “because of the need for a prompt resolution of it and because she has not had time to fully review the parties’ filings,” the court’s spokeswoman said.
The court’s order did leave open the possibility that the justices could take up the measure again and decide after voting whether a three-day extension to receive and count absentee ballots ordered by the state’s high court was proper. The decision leaves open a potential question as to the validity of any ballots received after Election Day.
Justice Samuel Alito, writing for the three dissenting justices — himself, Justice Neil Gorsuch and Justice Clarence Thomas — indicated he would support the court’s eventual review of the issue but wrote, “I reluctantly conclude that there is simply not enough time at this late date to decide the question before the election.”
Earlier in the month, the Supreme Court deadlocked 4-4 on whether to block the extension — effectively leaving in place a Pennsylvania Supreme Court decision that mandated the extension. Republicans were hoping Barrett’s place on the court could produce a different outcome. In the end, Justice Brett Kavanuagh joined the majority in this decision.
Experts say due to the expected record amount of mail-in voting, election night could be more like election week, but Trump said earlier in the day he expects the courts would “hopefully” block any ballot deadline extensions.
Oct 28, 5:14 pm
Trump, Harris campaign in Arizona as coronavirus cases surge
Trump held a rally with hundreds of supporters in Bullhead City, Arizona, this afternoon as coronavirus cases in the state surge and the situation begins to resemble the early stages of the summer spike that made Arizona one of the worst hot spots in the world.
“You are so lucky, people, that I took you on this journey with me,” Trump told the enthusiastic crowd, aiming to pitch himself both to Arizona voters and Nevadans just across the Colorado River.
At one point, Trump defended what he called his “reputation” for stiffing people, saying people who do a “lousy job” don’t deserve to be paid — using whoever set up his microphone at the rally as an example.
“Whoever did this microphone, don’t pay them. You know, I have a reputation for not paying. And it’s a false reputation. When somebody does a lousy job like a microphone that is no good or like teleprompters that fly with the wind, I say don’t pay them,” Trump said.
Sen. Kamala Harris is also campaigning in the Cooper State this afternoon, opting for drive-in style rallies and roundtable events, as opposed to the shoulder-to-shoulder events the Trump campaign has hosted. In a parking lot at Pima Community College earlier in the day, Harris pushed back on Trump calling her a “female socialist.”
“You know there has been some talk about my values. Let me just tell you, Tucson, I am a proud patriotic American. I love my country and our values reflect the values of America,” Harris said.
-ABC News’ Averi Harper
Oct 28, 4:05 pm
2020 election cost projected to near $14 billion, twice the amount spent in 2016 cycle
The Center for Responsive Politics now estimates nearly $14 billion will be spent on federal elections across the country by the end of the 2020 election cycle, nearly twice the total amount spent during the 2016 election cycle.
The center earlier this month projected $11 billion in total spending for the 2020 cycle but updated the number after seeing a huge influx of political spending reported in the third quarter of this year.
This means that even if committees had stopped all spending at the end of September, the 2020 election would still be the most expensive ever.
“Donors poured record amounts of money into the 2018 midterms, and 2020 appears to be a continuation of that trend — but magnified,” CRP Executive Director Sheila Krumholz wrote in a statement. “Ten years ago, a billion-dollar presidential candidate would have been difficult to imagine. This cycle, we’re likely to see two.”
-ABC News’ Soorin Kim
Oct 28, 3:35 pm
Trump, Biden condemn violence in Philadelphia
At an event with truckers in Las Vegas, Trump was asked about the unrest in Philadelphia following the death of Walter Wallace Jr., a Black man, at the hands of police. After condemning riots in what he called the “Democrat run” state, he said the federal government is looking into the fatal shooting.
“It’s a terrible thing,” Trump said. “What I’m witnessing is terrible, and, frankly, that the mayor or whoever it is, that’s allowing people to riot and loot and not stop them is also just a horrible thing.”
“We’re looking at the shooting and if asked to go in and help, we will do that,” Trump said, urging Philadelphia Mayor Jim Kenney, a Democrat, to call in the National Guard — which the state has already done.
Looking to the election, Trump also said that “hopefully” the courts will stop ballots from being counted past Nov. 3 — but experts say to expect record amount of mail-in voting, election night could be more like election week.
Biden, asked earlier about the ongoing situation in Philadelphia, gave a general answer to the ongoing clashes between police officers and protesters as he tries to walk a fine line of supporting both Black Lives Matter protesters and law enforcement.
“There is no excuse whatsoever for the looting and the violence. None whatsoever. I think to be able to protest is totally legitimate, totally reasonable,” Biden said, going on to pitch his idea of a national commission on policing. “But there’s no excuse for the looting.”
Oct 28, 2:22 pm
Trump campaign blames Omaha post-rally scene, which Biden slammed, on ‘local road closures’
The former vice president slammed Trump for the botched scene after his rally in Omaha, Nebraska, Tuesday night, saying the president “gets his photo op then he gets out” leaving “everyone else to suffer the consequences of his failure to make a responsible plan.”
Hundreds of Trump supporters were stranded for hours in near-freezing weather following Trump’s Tuesday rally, waiting for buses to return them from Eppley Airfield hanger to their cars, resulting in some requiring medical attention and being taken to the hospital.
Forty buses had hauled approximately 25,000 people from parking lots to the airport hanger throughout the day, according to officials. When the rally finished around 9 p.m., people flooded out of the venue to be transported by the Trump campaign in charter buses back to their cars 2.5 miles away, but many ended up walking back or waiting hours in 30-degree weather well into the night hours after Trump had left the state.
The mismanaged post-rally scene by the campaign resulted in attendees, including some elderly, requiring medical attention on-site and at least seven being transported to the hospital, according to the Omaha Scanner, a local police tracker that monitors official radio traffic. A preliminary report from the Omaha Police Department also confirmed that number.
Since many attendees chose to walk back to their cars instead of waiting for buses, foot traffic slowed bus trips “considerably,” according to officials who attempted to clear the congestion. Police said the last person was loaded into a bus from the rally site around 11:50 p.m. and traffic returned to normal at about 12:30 a.m.
The Trump campaign blamed the delay on “local road closures” in a statement to ABC News.
“Because of the sheer size of the crowd, we deployed 40 shuttle buses instead of the normal 15, but local road closures and resulting congestion caused delays. We always strive to provide the best guest experience at our events and we care about their safety,” said Trump campaign spokesperson Samantha Zager.
-ABC News’ Will Steakin and Terrance Smith
Oct 28, 12:06 pm
Pence tests negative for COVID-19, campaigning in states with Biden advantage
Ahead of the vice president’s trips to two battleground states Trump narrowly won in 2016, Pence’s office announced he tested negative for the coronavirus again today — as the Trump administration struggles with voter trust on its handling of the pandemic.
Pence will continue traversing the country as an “essential worker,” according to the White House, despite five of his aides testing positive for COVID-19 over the weekend and Pence coming into close contact with at least one of those infected individuals. He has rallies this afternoon in Wisconsin and Michigan — states where Biden leads Trump among likely voters, according to new ABC News/Washington Post polls.
Trump campaign national press secretary Hogan Gidley appearing on CNN this morning said that it wasn’t a concern for the vice president to go to Wisconsin — which had a record number of hospitalizations on Monday — since his doctors have cleared him for travel.
“The vice president has the best doctors in the world around him. They’re obviously contact traced and have come to the conclusion it’s fine for him to be out on the campaign trail,” Gidley said. “The American people have the right under the First Amendment to peaceably assemble, too.”
Oct 28, 12:03 pm
Some swing state officials urge voters to bypass the mail to return ballots
With millions of absentee ballots still outstanding less than a week until Election Day, state election officials in at least six in critical swing states are revising their message for voters, now urging them to bypass the Postal Service and instead vote in person or hand-deliver their ballots to ensure they are delivered in time to be counted.
Officials in Michigan, Pennsylvania, Florida, Wisconsin, Georgia and Ohio have all put out calls in recent days warning voters about potential postal delays, encouraging voters to use drop boxes or deliver ballots by hand.
“It’s now important to return your ballots in person. Don’t rely on the mail,” Michigan Secretary of State Jocelyn Benson told ABC News Live Prime Anchor Linsey Davis on Tuesday, adding the state is still waiting on more than 1 million absentee ballots to be returned.
Mail-in voting is expected to reach unprecedented levels this election cycle due to the health concerns of the novel coronavirus pandemic. But of the 88 million ballots voters requested, only half have been returned so far.
The last-minute push to bypass the Postal Service comes after months of concern from critics about the reliability of the mail in the electoral process, budgetary concerns with the agency and threats to cut services in a presidential election year — fears that postal officials said were misguided. This summer, though, the post office warned state election officials that voters should send in their ballots no later than Oct. 27th in order to get them in on time in accordance with delivery standards.
The move also comes amid a background of litigation over extending mail-in ballot deadlines past Election Day, which Democrats generally favor and a push by Republicans and the Trump administration to end the process on Nov. 3.
-ABC News’ Olivia Rubin, Kendall Karson and Lucien Bruggeman
Oct 28, 10:39 am
Trump pitches himself out West, Biden off the trail
As Trump continues to downplay the realities of the coronavirus pandemic on his path to re-election, he will pitch himself to Nevada voters this afternoon but he will do it from Arizona — after a rally in the Silver State last month violated coronavirus restrictions and left his campaign with hefty fines.
The shifting of his event, this time, across the banks of the Colorado River to Bullhead City, Arizona, comes as polls show Biden with a nationwide lead, advantage in swing states and with more trust in voters than Trump to handle the coronavirus pandemic.
Trump in a three-state tour Tuesday condemned Democratic leaders in Michigan and Wisconsin for imposing restrictions to combat the coronavirus crisis — and is expected to do the same with Nevada’s governor Wednesday while on Arizona soil, where Republican Gov. Doug Ducey, a close ally to Trump, leads.
But Democrats aren’t ceding the Western states to the GOP. Biden’s running mate, California Sen. Kamala Harris, was in Nevada on Tuesday in an push to prevent the state from flipping to Trump and will campaign in Arizona Wednesday — stopping in the cities of Tucson and Phoenix.
Biden, meanwhile, is off the trail, spending the day in Wilmington, Delaware. He’s expected to receive a virtual briefing on the pandemic from public health experts, then give a speech on protecting health care and his plan to tackle the coronavirus crisis.
Democrats are playing on the offense in the homestretch — focusing on states that Trump won in 2016. Biden took a trip to the red state of Georgia Tuesday and has plans to visit Florida, Iowa, Wisconsin and Michigan later this week. Trump’s pitch to Nevada voters, where Clinton won by less than 2.5 percentage points, shows the campaign thinks the state’s six electoral votes are within reach.
Oct 28, 10:40 am
Biden leads Trump in Michigan, Wisconsin: POLL
A surge in coronavirus cases has damaged Trump’s re-election campaign in Wisconsin, with growing criticism of his work on the pandemic and preference for Biden to handle it. Biden holds a slighter advantage in Michigan, with sizable leads among women, moderates and independents in ABC News/Washington Post polls in both states.
Biden leads Trump by 57-40% among likely voters in Wisconsin, a state that’s now reported to be third in the nation in per capita COVID-19 cases, with a 53% increase in average daily cases in the past two weeks, a record number of hospitalizations and a 112% jump in deaths. That compares with a closer 52-46% in mid-September.
In Michigan, it’s 51-44%, Biden-Trump, among likely voters, a slight Biden lead in this poll produced for ABC by Langer Research Associates.
Behind it all, an atypical election clock is ticking. Thirty-seven percent of likely voters in Wisconsin, and 38% in Michigan, say they’ve already voted. And an additional 23% in Wisconsin, and 18% in Michigan, say they will vote early or absentee. Early voters are strong Biden groups. The share planning to vote on Election Day — broadly for Trump — has fallen from 51% last month to 39% now in Wisconsin. It’s 43% in Michigan.
-ABC News’ Polling Director Gary Langer
Oct 28, 10:46 am
Ahead of Arizona rallies, Trump’s testing czar directly contradicts him on testing
Adm. Brett Giroir, a member of the White House coronavirus task force who was charged with leading the country’s testing efforts at the beginning of the pandemic and has been careful not to break from the White House message, directly contradicted the president this morning when he acknowledged U.S. coronavirus cases are on the rise — and not due to testing.
Trump said Tuesday, as he has throughout the pandemic, that the virus is going away and cases are rising due to increased testing — but Giroir countered both of those points and warned “Draconian measures” may be required “if we don’t make a change.”
“We do believe and the data show that cases are going up. It’s not just a function of testing,” Giroir said in an interview this morning on NBC. “Yes, we’re getting more cases identified, but the cases are actually going up. And we know that, too, because hospitalizations are going up.”
“It’s not just a function of testing,” Giroir added, calling the current moment a “critical point” in the country’s pandemic response. He went on to remind Americans to practice social distancing, wear a face mask and avoid crowded, indoor spaces — CDC guidelines which the Trump campaign itself has scantily adhered to.
“If we don’t do those things, it may force local officials or government officials in the states to have more draconian measures because cases will go up if we don’t make a change,” Giroir warned. “The virus isn’t acting on its own.”
Covid, Covid, Covid is the unified chant of the Fake News Lamestream Media. They will talk about nothing else until November 4th., when the Election will be (hopefully!) over. Then the talk will be how low the death rate is, plenty of hospital rooms, & many tests of young people.
— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) October 28, 2020
The president has increasingly sought to tune out that reality as he holds mass gatherings day-after-day in the final stretch of his campaign, including in some of the hardest hit states. At those rallies, Trump has lamented over media coverage of COVID-19, claiming the coverage is intended to hurt his reelection chances. It comes as the U.S. reported a record of more than 500,000 new cases over the past week alone.
-ABC News’ Brian Hartman
Oct 28, 10:48 am
COVID-19 disconnect looms over Trump in Midwest
Trump hit Michigan Tuesday with what’s already become a familiar complaint about TV news.
“With them, you can’t watch anything else,” he said. “You turn on – COVID, COVID, COVID, COVID, COVID, COVID. COVID, COVID, COVID. COVID!”
There’s a reason, of course, for the coverage. And new ABC News/Washington Post polling out Wednesday morning shows how extensively COVID-19 perceptions are impacting the race — particularly in a few states that are likely to matter the most.
Biden leads Trump 57-40 among likely voters in Wisconsin, and 52-46 in Michigan. That’s a sizable lead with less than a week to go in both critical states, with the Wisconsin number striking on its own because it shows a larger margin than other recent polls.
One thing that is driving the story in Wisconsin, in particular — the pandemic. The state is in the midst of a full-on coronavirus crisis, setting new records for hospitalizations and sitting near the top of the list for per capita cases.
The president is 20 points underwater on his handling of the pandemic in Wisconsin, and Biden is trusted more than Trump on the subject by a similar 20 points. The poll shows Trump’s support among suburban voters cratering in Wisconsin, particularly in comparison to Michigan.
The polling also shows Trump trailing among seniors in Wisconsin by 24 points and in Michigan by 12 points. He carried voters 65 and older narrowly in both states four years ago, according to exit polls.
Biden can win the presidency by rebuilding the blue wall — Wisconsin, Michigan and Pennsylvania — without carrying a single other Trump state. It might wind up being rebuilt with help from the crisis that has defined Trump’s presidency.
-ABC News’ Political Director Rick Klein
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