Election Live Updates: In Final Stretch, Trump and Biden Court Voters in Critical States

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Credit…Erin Schaff/The New York Times

President Trump, hoping to recapture the energy that lifted him to a surprise win four years ago, rallied crowds in Ohio and Wisconsin on Saturday, as he and Joseph R. Biden Jr. focused on battleground states in the final days of a race shadowed by surging coronavirus cases.

Arriving in Circleville, Ohio, on Saturday evening, Mr. Trump played down the threat of the virus, pointing to his own family’s experience as an example of why a pandemic that has killed more than 220,000 Americans is not so bad. He also reminisced about his victory in the bellwether state four years ago, raising the question of why he had chosen to campaign there 10 days before Election Day.

The answer: an erosion of his support in suburbs like Circleville, outside Columbus. While exit polls four years ago showed Mr. Trump winning the suburbs in Ohio by 20 points, a Fox poll earlier this month put him 10 points behind Mr. Biden.

On Sunday, Mr. Trump is campaigning in New Hampshire, the lone state on his weekend itinerary that he did not carry in 2016. He will also make a trip to Maine.

Mr. Biden had no in-person events scheduled for Sunday but planned to speak at a virtual concert in support of his campaign.

Mr. Biden spent much of Saturday in Pennsylvania, holding two drive-in rallies as he tried to flip a major electoral prize that Mr. Trump narrowly won four years ago.

Mr. Biden traveled to the Philadelphia suburbs, where he hopes to improve upon Hillary Clinton’s performance in 2016, propelled by college-educated voters turned off by Mr. Trump. Then he flew to Luzerne County in northeastern Pennsylvania, a county that Mr. Trump won by double digits after former President Barack Obama had won it twice.

Speaking from a stage decorated with pumpkins and hay bales, Mr. Biden lay into Mr. Trump about a number of subjects, including his handling of the coronavirus, noting that more new cases were reported across the country on Friday than on any other day since the pandemic began. Mr. Biden also tried to fend off attacks from Mr. Trump over his position on hydraulic fracturing, or fracking.

“I’m not banning fracking in Pennsylvania or anywhere else,” he said. “And I’m going to protect Pennsylvania jobs, period.”

Credit…Stefani Reynolds for The New York Times

Speaking in front of a tightly packed crowd outside an airport hanger in New Hampshire, President Trump declared that “we’re rounding the turn” on the coronavirus, two days after more than 85,000 new cases of the virus were reported across the country on Friday, a new daily record.

Mr. Trump’s returd to New Hampshire, the state that delivered his first win of the 2016 primaries, comes amid a campaign in need of a similar good turn of fortune as he remains stubbornly stuck behind Joseph R. Biden Jr. in nearly every national poll and most key battleground state polls.

But New Hampshire, where Mr. Trump lost by just 2,736 votes in 2016, is unlikely to be as welcoming to the president as it was in the last presidential election.

A recent poll from Suffolk University found Mr. Biden ahead of Mr. Trump in New Hampshire, 51 percent to 41 percent. And the New Hampshire Union Leader, a reliably conservative newspaper anchored in Manchester, recently endorsed Mr. Biden for president.

“President Trump is not always 100 percent wrong, but he is 100 percent wrong for America,” the paper wrote in the editorial.

The rally in the state marks Mr. Trump’s second of the general election, having visited there immediately after the Republican National Convention in August. Mr. Biden has not visited the state during the general election.

Mr. Trump’s in-person rally comes while the country is experiencing record cases of the coronavirus as another wave of the pandemic engulfs the country. On Saturday, several members of Vice President Mike Pence’s staff, including his chief of staff Marc Short, tested positive for the virus.

Later on Sunday, Mr. Trump will travel to Bangor, Maine, a state that splits its Electoral College votes by congressional district. Bangor, the third biggest city in the state, sits in the Maine’s second congressional district, where polls show a tight race between Mr. Biden and Mr. Trump. Earlier this month, Mr. Pence held a campaign event in Hermon, a town just outside of Bangor.

Credit…Pete Marovich for The New York Times

Speaker Nancy Pelosi of California on Sunday confirmed she plans to run for another term as speaker should Democrats maintain control of the House, as they are widely expected to do. Ms. Pelosi confirmed her intentions in an appearance on CNN’s “State of the Union,” before urging voters to help Democrats flip control of the Senate, saying that “all this discussion of the virus takes us to the importance of this election.”

In 2018, as part of her strategic bid to secure support from a small, but vocal, faction of opposition within the Democratic caucus who had called for a change in leadership, Ms. Pelosi agreed to limit herself to four years as speaker in her second round as the most powerful lawmaker in the House. While it appears unlikely that Ms. Pelosi will face the same amount of resistance that she did in 2018, at least a few lawmakers are expected to break with the majority of the party and refuse to speak her name on the House floor come the next Congress.

Representative Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, Democrat of New York and one of the lawmakers who has publicly clashed with Ms. Pelosi during the 116th Congress, offered a caveat when asked later in the CNN program if she would support Ms. Pelosi.

“I am committed to making sure that we have the most progressive candidate there, but if Speaker Pelosi is that most progressive candidate, then I will be supporting her,” she said, echoing comments she made in 2018 before Ms. Pelosi formally reclaimed the gavel. But Ms. Pelosi, intent on keeping the largest possible Democratic majority, has long given members of her party leeway to break with her if that meant it would be easier for individual lawmakers to hold onto their seats. She will need 218 votes come January 2021 to maintain the position.

Credit…Ruth Fremson/The New York Times

Gov. Gretchen Whitmer of Michigan sought to keep momentum going for former Vice President Joseph R. Biden Jr.’s campaign on Sunday, as polling in her state showed him in the lead. Asked on “Fox News Sunday” whether Mr. Biden was going to win Michigan, Ms. Whitmer, who is also the campaign’s national co-chair, said: “I think so.”

She added that “we’re not taking anything for granted. We know Michigan; it always is closer than any poll will tell you that it is.” Current polling averages show Mr. Biden up eight points.

Senator Kamala Harris, Mr. Biden’s running mate, is campaigning in the state on Sunday, beginning in Detroit before heading to Troy and Pontiac.

Ms. Whitmer also noted the difference between the candidates’ campaign styles, with Mr. Trump holding large events without social distancing and Mr. Biden offering more careful events such as drive-in rallies where supporters stayed in their cars and honked to show support. “I think it’s being smart. We are still in the midst of a global pandemic,” Ms. Whitmer said. “We respect the health and the safety of the people that we’re hopeful that Joe Biden and Kamala Harris will be representing soon.”

She also touched on fracking and recent confusion around Mr. Biden’s stance on the fossil fuel industry. “Joe Biden pays attention to science — we know that whether it’s Covid-19 or climate change,” she said. She added that Mr. Biden did not want to eliminate the industry, but that he did want to eliminate subsidies for it. “We shouldn’t be subsidizing an industry that is continuing to contribute to climate change.”

Credit…Stefani Reynolds for The New York Times

Mark Meadows, the White House chief of staff, said on Sunday that the campaign was not going to control the spread of the coronavirus, which has killed more than 224,000 Americans and is surging across the country.

“We’re not going to control the pandemic,” Mr. Meadows said on CNN’s “State of the Union” when asked about the lack of mask wearing at President Trump’s campaign events. “We are going to control the fact that we get vaccines, therapeutics and other mitigations.”

Face masks can significantly reduce coronavirus transmission, and wearing them is one of the most basic precautions public health experts recommend while scientists work to develop a vaccine and better treatments. But Mr. Trump and his aides have repeatedly laid out a false choice, implying that the only two options are to flout public health guidelines as he has, or to “lock everybody down” and “quarantine all of America,” as Mr. Meadows put it on Sunday.

Infections have surged across the United States since the beginning of October, when President Trump announced that he had Covid-19 and it became clear that there was an outbreak in the White House. There now appears to be a second outbreak among aides to Vice President Mike Pence, and on Friday the country set a single-day record for new confirmed cases.

Despite this, an ABC News/Ipsos poll released Sunday found that Republicans were less likely to be concerned about the virus now than they were at the beginning of the month. Sixty percent of Republicans said they were concerned that they or someone they knew would be infected, compared with 70 percent who said the same in an ABC/Ipsos poll in early October.

Democrats moved in the opposite direction: 96 percent said they were somewhat or very concerned, up from 86 percent.

Mr. Pence is continuing to travel for campaign events even though he was in close contact with his chief of staff, Marc Short, who tested positive. Mr. Meadows defended that decision on Sunday by claiming the vice president was performing “essential” duties that exempted him from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s guidance to quarantine after exposure to the virus.

The C.D.C. guidelines allow “critical infrastructure workers” to continue working after an exposure if they are asymptomatic. But campaigning is not essential work, and Mr. Meadows did not identify the ostensibly essential activities he said Mr. Pence would be performing.

The guidelines also state that a critical worker who has been exposed should “wear a face mask at all times,” which neither Mr. Pence nor others in the Trump administration have done.

Credit…Anna Moneymaker for The New York Times

The Senate reconvened on Sunday to push Judge Amy Coney Barrett to the brink of confirmation to the Supreme Court.

Despite fierce Democratic objections, Republicans are expected to win a vote early Sunday afternoon to cut off debate on the nomination and lock in a vote Monday evening to send her to the Supreme Court.

The gathering is anticipated to be a more forceful show than on Saturday, when a dourly divided Senate met in a rare session to discuss the Supreme Court vacancy left by Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg. But the debate was diverted to discussing Democrats’ $2.4 trillion coronavirus stimulus bill, and had very little to do with Judge Barrett.

The anticipated confirmation vote on Monday will deliver Republicans a coveted 6-to3 conservative majority on the Supreme Court just 8 days before the election.

And in a boost to Senate Republicans, Senator Lisa Murkowski, the Alaska Republican who has vocally opposed filling the vacant seat on the court until the next president is chosen, said on Saturday she would nonetheless vote to confirm Judge Barrett next week. She still planned, however, to join Democrats on Sunday in an attempt to filibuster the nomination.

“While I oppose the process that has led us to this point,” Ms. Murkowski said in a speech on the Senate floor, “I do not hold it against her as an individual who has navigated the gauntlet with grace, skill and humility.”

After meeting with Judge Barrett, Ms. Murkowski said she came away impressed and was unwilling to punish a qualified nominee because her party insisted on moving ahead with a vote just days before “a pitched presidential election.”

Ms. Murkowski’s support means that only one Republican will defect when the roll is called on Monday: Senator Susan Collins of Maine, who is in a tough re-election battle.

After a boisterous clash over President Trump’s nominee on Friday, the Saturday session was quite a bit more somber. Democrats tried to force consideration of their $2.4 trillion coronavirus stimulus bill, legislation granting protections from deportation to Dreamers, election security and anti-corruption measures and a handful of other policy proposals they believed might catch the attention of voters. The result was a debate that had very little to do with Judge Barrett.

“All we ask during the most desperate, desperate of times is to debate something that really matters to the American people instead of rushing through a judge, a Supreme Court nominee, when the American people want the decision to be made by them, not by Republican senators,” Senator Chuck Schumer of New York, the Democratic leader, said as he asked for a vote on the stimulus bill.

Credit…Cooper Neill for The New York Times

Deep in the suburbs northeast of Fort Worth, Texas, Democrats trying to win the State House for the first time in years have been getting help from a surprising source: Republicans.

For 16 years, until he left office in 2013, Todd A. Smith was a Republican representing these suburbs in the Texas House of Representatives. But when it came time to decide whom he would support for his old seat, Mr. Smith said he had no hesitation — he threw his endorsement to the Democrat in the race, Jeff Whitfield.

“This is no longer my Republican Party,” Mr. Smith said last week while sitting outside his house, which has a “Republicans for Biden 2020” sign on the front lawn.

“This is the Trump party,” he said. “If you give me a reasonable Republican and a crazy Democrat, then I will still vote for the Republican. But if you give me a lunatic Republican and a reasonable Democrat, then I’m going to vote for the Democrat, and that applies in the presidential race, and it applies in the Whitfield race.”

After a generation under unified Republican control, Texas is a battleground at every level of government this year. President Trump and Senator John Cornyn are fighting for their political lives, and five Republican-held congressional seats are in danger of flipping.

But some of the most consequential political battles in Texas are taking place across two dozen contested races for the Texas State House, which Republicans have controlled since 2003. To win a majority, Democrats must flip nine of the chamber’s 150 seats.

Control of the Texas House comes with huge implications beyond the state’s borders. A Democratic State House majority in Texas would give the party one lever of power in the 2021 redistricting process, when the state is expected to receive as many as three new seats in Congress. It would also give the majority a voice in drawing Texas state legislative lines for the next decade.

“Flipping the Texas House this year can be the key that unlocks a Democratic future in Texas,” said John Bisognano, the executive director of the National Democratic Redistricting Committee. “With fair maps, Democrats will be able to compete all over the state and build a deep bench of candidates who can run and win statewide.”

Credit…Jim Watson/Agence France-Presse — Getty Images

Bill Johnson knew, before he reached out to Joseph R. Biden Jr.’s campaign last spring, that things had changed between the former vice president and the nation’s police unions. A once-close alliance had frayed amid clashes over police brutality and racism in the justice system. Still, Mr. Johnson, the executive director of the National Association of Police Organizations, invited Mr. Biden to address the group as it weighed its 2020 endorsement.

For weeks, Mr. Johnson said, the campaign was politely noncommittal. Finally, he recalled, on the day NAPO was deciding its endorsement, he heard from a campaign aide asking if there was still time to send a message. “Not to be a jerk, but we were literally starting the meeting,” Mr. Johnson said. “It’s kind of a little late.”

The police federation, which twice endorsed the Obama-Biden ticket and stayed neutral in 2016, backed President Trump in July. Soon after, its president told the Republican convention that Mr. Biden and Senator Kamala Harris of California were “the most radical anti-police ticket in history.”

That attack marked a low point in a political relationship that had endured for most of Mr. Biden’s career.

If elected, Mr. Biden would bring to the White House a long career’s worth of relationships with police chiefs, union leaders and policy experts that is unmatched by any other major figure in the Democratic Party, according to more than a dozen current and former law-enforcement officials who have worked with Mr. Biden in various capacities.

During a late-summer speech in Pittsburgh, Mr. Biden pledged to draw both racial-justice activists and police leaders “to the table” to forge durable solutions.

Yet the 2020 election has also underscored the difficulty that Mr. Biden may have in achieving that goal. He is presenting himself as both a criminal-justice reformer and a friend to diligent police officers, a critic of racism and rioting alike.

Credit…Saul Martinez for The New York Times

The conventional wisdom about the Florida electorate has long been that Miami-Dade County’s unavoidable political destiny was to turn even more Democratic as younger Cuban-Americans replaced the older Cuban exiles who formed a powerful Republican stronghold.

That fate may not have been as predetermined as everyone once thought.

Second- and third-generation Cuban-Americans born in the United States have continued to drift away from their parents’ and grandparents’ Republican Party. But, in a trend that went largely unnoticed by Democrats until lately, more recent Cuban immigrants who previously displayed little engagement in American politics have started to identify as Trump Republicans.

They are not enough to flip Miami-Dade, which Hillary Clinton won by a record margin of nearly 30 percentage points in 2016. But their potential impact to the race has led in part to an unusually pitched electoral battle in Florida’s most populous county this year, as President Trump’s campaign fights to narrow the Democrats’ lead and compensate for his expected losses elsewhere, including among older voters and suburban women.

If they can bring Joseph R. Biden Jr.’s advantage down to, say, 20 percentage points, the political math suggests that Florida, a must-win state for Mr. Trump, could remain in the president’s column, even if the Tampa and Orlando regions swing slightly toward Mr. Biden.

Narrowing the margins in Miami-Dade would be a “huge win,” said State Senator Manny Díaz Jr., Republican of Hialeah, the most heavily Cuban city in the country. “How do you make that up anywhere else in the state?”

Credit…Tom Williams/CQ Roll Call, via Associated Press

Emma Gonzalez, an activist and one of the survivors of the 2018 school shooting at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland, Fla., is participating in Vote With Us, a three-hour virtual rally on Sunday that is aimed at boosting turnout among young people in the weeks leading up to the presidential election.

The event, which will be streamed on YouTube and other social media channels, will emphasize the importance of voting early and safely in person this year. It will also include a preview of the forthcoming documentary “Us Kids,” which follows Gonzalez and other Parkland students who became activists ahead of the 2018 midterm elections.

Gonzalez, who uses they/them pronouns, is voting in their first presidential election this year. “There’s definitely a relationship between various forms of activism, and voting is a form of activism, and political demonstrations is a form of civic duty,” they said. “They’re all very closely related.”

During the virtual rally, Gonzalez and other organizers plan to answer questions about the documentary and encourage young people to vote.

“We add so much to the conversation,” Gonzalez said.

Credit…Melissa Melvin-Rodriguez for The New York Times

When residents of Gaston County heard that President Trump was planning a rally in their community, they reacted with a mix of small-town pride and general confusion. He won the county in 2016 with 64 percent of the vote; have things gotten so bad for Mr. Trump in the suburbs of America that he needed to spend time here two weeks before Election Day?

“What I’m seeing in my online communities is that people immediately laughed,” said Courtney Phillips, a stay-at-home mother who has been involved in grass-roots organizing for the Biden-Harris campaign. “Why is he coming here? Is he really worried about Gaston County?” Tens of thousands of people ultimately turned out for Wednesday night’s rally, indicating that this red county, at least, had an energized Trump base.

In this final sprint of the campaign, Mr. Trump is now holding up to three rallies a day to try to “juice” his base, in the words of advisers, as he bleeds support among the suburban voters who helped fuel his victory in 2016. His trip to this bedrock Trump county, and to Wisconsin and Ohio suburbs and exurbs on Saturday where his once-solid support is sliding, reflect his need to energize as much of his base as he can since many swing voters are now behind former Vice President Joseph R. Biden Jr. and there are few undecided voters left.

Gastonia is only about a half-hour west of downtown Charlotte, but once you cross the county line at the Catawba River, you are in die-hard Trump country. The only Democrat elected countywide here is the sheriff, who shares the president’s positions on guns and immigration.

Four years ago, Mr. Trump’s outsized win in this district helped him toward an overall victory in North Carolina by a slim margin of 3.6 percentage points. A New York Times/Siena College poll this month of likely voters in the state showed Mr. Biden leading Mr. Trump by four points.

Mr. Trump’s appearance in this town of 77,000 on Wednesday night was not intended to win back the suburban women voters who have drifted away from him over the past four years. That is a hill too steep to climb at this point, in this state: Some internal polls show Mr. Trump trailing Mr. Biden by double digits in the suburbs. The rally’s purpose, campaign aides said, was to activate his base.

Many voting rules have changed this year because of the coronavirus pandemic, making it harder than usual to figure out how to cast your ballot. So we did the work for you, in hopes of helping to make sure your vote is counted.

If you still have questions about the voting process or the election process in general, check out our frequently asked questions.




Why Voting in This U.S. Election Will Not Be Equal

The first episode of our four-part series, Stressed Election, focuses on voter suppression in Georgia, where a growing Black and Latino population is on the precipice of exercising its political voice, if they get the chance to vote.

“Seven hours, 45 minutes, and 13 seconds it took for me to vote in Fulton County, Ga. As soon as I saw the line, I hit the stopwatch on my phone. I spent the first couple hours listening to a new Run the Jewels album. And then I ended up listening to the entire discography. And then I started watching season eight of ‘Curb Your Enthusiasm.’ And that’s five hours. It was one o’clock in the morning, and somebody was like, ‘Hey, y’all remember we came to vote yesterday, right?’” “Look at it.” When it comes time to vote in November, would you rather stand in a line like this … “Somebody please help us. We are at our polling place in Atlanta, Fickett Elementary School. The systems are down.” … or like this? “Oh look, there’s no line. There’s no line at all out here in suburban white country.” Seven years ago, a controversial Supreme Court ruling struck down a key part of the Voting Rights Act. “If you hear me, the voting machines were not working.” And after that, many states passed laws that ended up making it harder for people of color to vote. “We have all these barriers that aren’t in place for other people. It’s 2020. Why is it this difficult for someone to go to and vote?” To understand why, we go to Georgia. “I think Georgia has become a kind of hotbed for voting rights questions.” “How voting takes place has become one of the most explosive issues in Georgia. Georgia is the largest state by landmass east of the Mississippi River. It’s dominated by the reality of Atlanta. It’s multicultural. It’s growing. It’s dynamic, this sort of throbbing megalopolis where you’re seeing Democrats in large numbers. And then beyond these urban centers, you have a much more traditional, rural Georgia, where you have seen a massive shift of white voting behavior from conservative Democrat to full-on Republican.” Georgia has historically been a pretty conservative state, but as it becomes more culturally and racially diverse … “In this presidential election, there is some thought that Democrats have a shot here.” … but one fact still remains. “Republicans control the State House. Republicans control the Legislature, and they are free, frankly, to implement the voting laws they see fit.” As Republicans fight to remain in control of the state, some say it’s no longer a fight over who people vote for, but who is allowed to vote. The U.S. Commission on Civil Rights, an independent federal agency, says these are the five most common voter suppression tactics. They happen across the country, but the only state that has ticked every box is Georgia. “The term voter suppression —” “Voter suppression.” “Voter suppression.” “Voter suppression.” ”— embedded in that word is the very question of what the motivation is for these kinds of laws and procedures.” “The Republican argument, that they say, is that they are worried about voter security. They are worried about voter fraud.” “Voter fraud is all too common.” “We don’t have evidence of that.” “And then they criticize us for saying that.” “Federal law actually requires us to make sure that we keep our voter rolls updated, clean, fresh and accurate.” Secretary of State Brad Raffensperger is Georgia’s lead elections official. It’s his job to maintain the state’s voter lists. “Many people don’t realize that, nationwide, about 11 percent of all people move every year. And that’s why you want to update your voter rolls. We just send notices out to people that haven’t voted for a long period of time.” “There’s an argument to be made that purging voter rolls serves a legitimate purpose. And that is to make sure that people are alive. The counter-argument, of course, is that these voter rolls in some states are being aggressively purged by Republicans in an effort to keep them from coming to the polls.” In 2017, 560,000 voters were purged from Georgia’s voter rolls. A report later found that Black voters were purged at a higher rate in more than half of Georgia’s counties. “This is happening in the context of the American South, where there is a long and well-documented history of using trickery.” “The kind of Jim Crow-era — things like poll taxes —” “— voting tests, literacy tests to keep people of color away from the polls.” “You know, it’s important to recognize that, until the 1960s, African-Americans were pretty much shut out of voting in the state of Georgia. That began to change when the Voting Rights Act was passed in 1965.” “Voting Rights Act of 1965 basically says that states cannot make laws that infringe on people’s rights to vote.” A key part of the law with something called Section 5 preclearance, which said — “States with a history of racist legislation cannot make laws that infringe on people of color without the federal government’s permission.” After the Voting Rights Act passed in 1965, the number of African-Americans who registered to vote in Georgia doubled. “It changed Southern politics.” “At the most basic level, bigger participation from Black Americans.” And for a while, that’s how things went. But … “It’s not as if the South loved the preclearance.” Many of the states felt it was an unfair burden, especially when voter participation increased. “What was true is that they, frankly, couldn’t do much about it.” Well, until a challenge to the law brought the issue all the way to the Supreme Court. Announcer: “— the 1965 Voting Rights Act.” [crosstalk] “Shelby v. Holder.” Shelby v. Holder. “I just get wound up when you ask me about voting rights.” Here to help explain is Debo Adegbile, the lawyer who argued that preclearance was still necessary. But the other side argued that the standards used to measure discriminatory voting practices were outdated. In a 5 to 4 decision, the justices ruled to strike down the preclearance, which effectively meant that states could pass new voting laws without federal oversight. “So it was a resounding loss, and perhaps one of the most significant civil rights decisions of the United States Supreme Court in recent memory.” “The decision of Shelby took away the federal government’s most effective tool in regulating state voting rights.” “After the Shelby decision, there were almost immediate attempts to change the way voting works.” Some states passed voting legislation just hours after the ruling. Alabama implemented new voter ID laws. North Carolina eliminated seven days of early voting. And the list goes on. “Without the preclearance provision, there were many, many elections where those discriminatory laws affected our politics.” Voting rights advocates say this was a key ruling that had the power to impact the outcome of an election. And that’s what many believe happened in Georgia in 2018. “The governor’s race in Georgia in 2018 was …” “Bitter.” “On one side, you had …” “I’m Stacey Abrams, and I’m running for governor. I have a boundless belief in Georgia’s future.” “Her strategy was based on signing up people of color. And then on the other side …” “I’m Brian Kemp.” “— because you’re a proud, hardcore Trump conservative on spending, immigration and guns.” “So you had a secretary of state, who had come under criticism for voter suppression, running the election that he’s in.” “That puts them at odds.” “We’ve seen jurisdictions consolidate and close precincts. We’ve seen voter ID laws come into play. There was a system in Georgia called Exact Match, where if your information doesn’t 100 percent match databases that the state uses, that you can be purged from the voter rolls. That tends to target people with ethnic names. A lot of these new suppression schemes seem race-neutral, but they have the same impact.” “Georgia has 159 counties.” “It’s a staggering number of counties.” “And we are hearing reports from all over the state.” [phones ringing] “There was a county in Georgia called Randolph County.” “Randolph County tried to close seven out of nine —” “Seven out of the nine.” “— polling places in a county that’s 60 percent Black.” “Jeff Davis County polling location consolidations. I mean, I should say that, like, this could take a while.” “Chatham County allowed the city of —” [crosstalk] “Fighting voter suppression is very much like fighting a hydra. You chop off one head, and three grows in its place.” Here’s one impact: The 2017 Exact Match law prevented 53,000 Georgians from having their registrations accepted. Nearly 70 percent were Black. “The evidence is very clear to us that the ones most impacted by these new laws are Black Georgians, are people in Democratic communities.” All of this results in a contested election. And then … “But I’m here tonight to tell you, votes remain to be counted.” “Make no mistake, the math is on our side to win this election.” “So Brian Kemp squeaks out a victory.” “And he is now the governor of Georgia. It was two figures who have represented the opposite sides of the voting rights argument.” “The question that dogged Georgia throughout 2018 was whether or not these tactics were fundamentally fair.” “So what happened in 2018 really is a preview, where democracy is under a stress test.” One that may get even more stressed in the lead-up to 2020, with the added elements of coronavirus and a country on edge after nationwide protests. “If you want change in America, go and register to vote. Show up at the polls on June 9.” In April, in response to the pandemic, Georgia Secretary of State Brad Raffensperger sent out absentee ballot applications to nearly seven million registered voters in an attempt to reduce in-person voting. “And what that really has done is it’s taken the pressure off it today, so that instead of having those, you know, million people that were voted absentee show up today, we now have something that is more manageable.” But many of those absentee ballots were never delivered. In Atlanta, this contributed to Election Day wait times that were reminiscent of 2018 and 2016. “We got here before six o’clock this morning.” “Since six this morning. It’s almost 9 a.m., and I have not moved.” In Fulton County, Georgia’s largest, election director Rick Barron had to contend with both a 9,000 percent increase in absentee ballots, and the rollout of a new voting machine system. “We became an absentee-by-mail state. We still had to do our full complement of Election Day infrastructure. We did our early-voting infrastructure. And it stretched us.” With many usual polling sites, like churches and schools, dropping out because of the pandemic, an estimated 16,000 voters in Fulton County were redirected here, to this restaurant, Park Tavern. “Take a look behind me. This is the Park Tavern precinct.” “This polling place is serving multiple locations that are supposed to be separate locations.” And these problems stretched all across metro Atlanta. “The impact of having problems at the voting booth in high-density areas in Georgia means that people of color are going to be disproportionately affected.” One study showed that in communities where more than 90 percent of registered voters were minorities, the average minimum wait time at the polls was 51 minutes. When whites made up more than 90 percent of voters, it was just six minutes. “So how are things running now?” “Well, by and large, they’re running very smoothly throughout the state, except, obviously, Fulton County has had multiple failures.” Each county in Georgia runs its own election, with Georgia’s secretary of state as the top official. But after the massive failures in the primary, a blame game commenced. “They should be embarrassed with their performance.” “Whatever Secretary Raffensperger’s opinion is, he’s the head election official in the state, and he can’t wash his hands of all the responsibility.” “In this environment, incompetence does have the effect of voter suppression.” Things would have looked different before the Shelby decision. Even in an emergency situation like the pandemic, the implementation of all of these changes — new voting machines, poll place closures and the absentee balloting — still would have required federal oversight through Section 5 preclearance, meaning voters of color would have had … “A front-end protection that stops discrimination before it can take root. What we’ve lost with the Shelby County ruling is that, now when changes are made to take account of the public health crisis, they are not being made toward, are those changes harming minority voters.” Which means … “Your only option, now, is to go case by case, to try and find every bad thing that’s happening and try and figure out if you can bring a case to stop it. That’s costly. Litigation is slow. Can they happen quickly enough in proximity to an election to make a difference?” “Voting rights and questions of voter suppression are not limited to the South. It’s happening in Texas, in Wisconsin, Ohio, Pennsylvania, and other places. The political power of 1776 to 1960 was one that excluded huge communities of people in this country. And so history tells us the same thing the current day tells us. If you are Black, brown in this country, to exercise your democratic rights is harder than if you are white. It’s not just a foregone conclusion that everyone who is an American gets to vote.” “You know, this is America. We can put a Tesla in space, but we can’t vote? I mean, what do we think is going to happen in November?” “This is Alex.” “And I’m Kassie.” “We produced this episode of Stressed Elections.” “There’s a lot going on in this election, and we want to make sure we take a deep dive into the major issues. So stick around for the next episodes.” “We’re going to cover voting technology, disinformation and voting by mail.”

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The first episode of our four-part series, Stressed Election, focuses on voter suppression in Georgia, where a growing Black and Latino population is on the precipice of exercising its political voice, if they get the chance to vote.

In Alabama, a long line of voters waited in the rain outside a courthouse, as a dance troupe in pink masks, pink T-shirts and clear plastic ponchos kept them entertained. In New York, voters waiting to cast ballots kept themselves occupied by knitting, sipping coffee or thumbing their smartphones. Outside a polling place in Ohio, the line to get inside was so long it snaked along the shoulder of a road.

Across the country, Americans have been transfixed by images of voters enduring huge lines to cast ballots, as states across the country have begun opening up sites for early, in-person voting.

The lines — many in urban areas — are a reflection of voter enthusiasm generated by the Trump presidency, which has inspired fervent passion among the president’s base, and a significant backlash.

But amid concerns about the coronavirus, most experts believe the election will feature more Americans voting outside of the in-person ballot box than ever before. Voting by mail has already been underway in multiple states for weeks.

More than 56 million ballots have already been cast in the 2020 election, according to a Times analysis, more than the previous early turnout record set in 2016. Roughly 86 million absentee ballots have been requested or sent to voters.

Several states — including Georgia and North Carolina — have already broken early voting turnout records.

But long lines at polling sites do not mean that Joseph R. Biden Jr. is assured victory.

Both parties expect Mr. Trump’s supporters to favor in-person voting on Election Day, Nov. 3. That’s because Democrats tend to live in more urban areas and have longer wait times. It is also because Mr. Trump and Republicans have railed against mail-in voting.

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