In Final Stretch, Trump and Biden Court Voters in Critical States

In Final Stretch, Trump and Biden Court Voters in Critical States

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President Trump and former Vice President Joseph R. Biden Jr. appeared on the news program “60 Minutes” on Sunday.
Credit…Doug Mills/The New York Times; Erin Schaff/The New York Times

Nine days before Election Day, President Trump and Joseph R. Biden Jr. offered sharply divergent visions for the country — including the coronavirus pandemic, the economy and foreign policy — in wide-ranging interviews on “60 Minutes.”

In both substance and demeanor, the two presidential candidates cut strikingly different figures during one of their last big opportunities to reach a national television audience during the campaign.

Mr. Trump was combative and testy during his interview with the “60 Minutes” correspondent Lesley Stahl, insisting, as he has done repeatedly in recent days despite surging coronavirus cases, that the country was “rounding the corner” on the pandemic.

“We’ve done a very, very good job,” he said at one point, falsely arguing that the increase in cases was because “we’re doing so much testing.”

Speaking at a time when family, business and government finances have been battered by the pandemic, the president also painted a rosy picture of the nation’s economy, which he said was “already roaring back.” Pressed to specify his biggest domestic priority, Mr. Trump responded that it was to “get back to normal” and “have the economy rage and be great with jobs and everybody be happy.”

But perhaps the biggest headline to emerge from his interview was his behavior. As he became increasingly irritated with the questioning, he cut off his interview with Ms. Stahl, then taunted her on Twitter and posted a 38-minute clip of the interview on Facebook.

“Look at the bias, hatred and rudeness on behalf of 60 Minutes and CBS,” Mr. Trump tweeted on Thursday with a link to the clip.

Mr. Biden, for his part, was more measured in his interview with Norah O’Donnell of CBS News.

But Mr. Biden was direct in his criticism of Mr. Trump. Asked what the biggest domestic issue facing the country was, he responded “Covid.”

“The way he’s handling Covid is just absolutely, totally irresponsible,” he said about Mr. Trump.

As he has done before, he also rejected the suggestion from Mr. Trump and Republicans that he was a “Trojan horse” for the Democratic Party’s left wing.

“Mr. President, you’re running against Joe Biden. Joe Biden has a deep, steep and successful record over a long, long time,” he said.

In answer to a question about whether Mr. Trump could still win the election, Mr. Biden said he could.

“It’s not over till the bell rings,” he said, saying Mr. Trump could win because of “how he plays.” Mr. Trump, he added, is “trying to sort of delegitimize the election” in a way that is “designed to make people wonder whether or not they should — whether it’s worth going to vote.”

Mr. Biden’s newsiest answer was about the Supreme Court. Asked whether he would expand the number of justices on the nation’s highest court if he were elected — a question that he has repeatedly faced since the death of Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg last month — Mr. Biden gave his clearest answer in weeks, saying he would establish a bipartisan commission of scholars to study a possible overhaul of the court system.

“I will ask them to, over 180 days, come back to me with recommendations as to how to reform the court system because it’s getting out of whack,” Mr. Biden said.

For “60 Minutes,” the episode continued its tradition of interviewing the major candidates for president of the United States before the presidential election. It also featured interviews with Vice President Mike Pence, who is Mr. Trump’s running mate, and Senator Kamala Harris, Mr. Biden’s running mate.

The interviews were aired on a day when the candidates had very different schedules, reflecting their differing approaches to campaigning during the pandemic.

Mr. Trump swung through New England, addressing a crowd at an airport hangar in New Hampshire and then visiting an apple orchard in Maine. He attacked Mr. Biden’s economic proposals, which he called a “missile aimed at the heart of the middle class.”

Mr. Biden did not hold any in-person campaign events on Sunday, though he went to church near his Delaware home. And on Sunday night, he and his wife, Jill, made a brief appearance during a virtual concert held by his campaign, which included performances from a long list of artists, including Sara Bareilles, Jon Bon Jovi, Cher and John Legend. Mr. Biden emphasized the stakes of the election and told the concert’s hosts, in a nod to the star-studded lineup, “You’re making us heroes with our granddaughters.”

President Trump at Treworgy Family Orchards in Levant, Maine, on Sunday.
Credit…Doug Mills/The New York Times

In a more than 90-minute speech that meandered through lengthy digressions about the negotiations to purchase a new Air Force One and his personal voting experience in Florida, President Trump spoke on Sunday before a tightly packed crowd outside an airport hangar in New Hampshire, calling Joseph R. Biden Jr.’s set of economic proposals a “missile aimed at the heart of the middle class.”

The president focused in particular on the Biden campaign’s tax platform, painting it as a pledge to raise taxes. (Mr. Biden has said his tax plan calls for increases only on those making more than $400,000 a year.) Mr. Trump aired a new video about an hour into his rally, using clips of past statements by Mr. Biden that proclaimed, “Joe Biden has a tax problem.”

Mr. Biden has been maintaining his own relentless attack on Mr. Trump’s economic platform, framing it as a race between “Park Avenue vs. Scranton.” The former vice president has embraced some economic populist messages as he makes a similar pitch for the middle class with promises to create jobs, especially in his response to the coronavirus.

Mr. Trump, meanwhile, repeatedly declared that “we’re rounding the turn” on the coronavirus in his speech on Sunday, just hours after his chief of staff, Mark Meadows, told CNN that “we are not going to control the virus” and as an outbreak spread among the staff of Vice President Mike Pence.

On Friday, more than 85,000 new cases of the virus were reported across the country, a single-day record.

Mr. Trump’s return 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 Mr. Biden in nearly every national poll and most polls of key battleground states.

The president noted his 2016 victory in his opening remarks at the rally, saying “We love this place, this was my first victory.”

Indeed, his speech in New Hampshire recalled his 2016 campaign in many ways, notably in the extended off-the-cuff deviations from his remarks that extended the rally past the hour-and-a-half marker. At one point, Mr. Trump responded to a call from a supporter in the crowd who shouted “Armenians for Trump!”

“The problems that they have and the death and the fighting, we’ll get that straightened out,” Mr. Trump said, referring to the decades-long conflict between Armenia and Azerbaijan over the enclave of Nagorno-Karabakh that has seen an increase in violence. “I call that an easy one.”

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 on Sunday was Mr. Trump’s second visit to New Hampshire in the general election, the first being immediately after the Republican National Convention in August. Mr. Biden has not visited the state during the general election.

Later on Sunday, Mr. Trump made an unscheduled detour to Maine, a state that splits its Electoral College votes by congressional district and where polls show a tight race in the Second District. He visited an apple orchard outside Bangor, signing autographs for some of the several hundred supporters there. Many of them were not wearing masks or socially distancing, including Mr. Trump.

Mr. Trump used a bullhorn to address his supporters and took a swipe at his predecessor, former President Barack Obama. He asserted that Maine’s lobster industry had benefited from his trade war with China (it experienced declining revenues during Mr. Trump’s first three years in office), and lauded his contentious decision to lift restrictions on commercial fishing at a marine monument created during Mr. Obama’s presidency.

“You know who it was a monument to, your last president?” Mr. Trump said of the Northeast Canyons and Seamounts Marine National Monument.

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

Vice President Mike Pence spoke at a campaign rally in Kinston, N.C., on Sunday.
Credit…Jonathan Drake/Reuters

Standing in the rain in Kinston, N.C., on Sunday, a day after it was revealed that his chief of staff and four other staff members had tested positive for the coronavirus, Vice President Mike Pence read aloud the address of the closest early voting site, telling the wet crowd it would be open at 8 a.m. on Monday.

His presence in a small city in Lenoir County, despite having had direct contact with those in his close circle who had tested positive, was the latest sign of how concerned the Trump campaign is about holding onto the state President Trump won four years ago by a slim margin of 3.6 percentage points.

While some in the campaign and in the White House had expressed concern that Mr. Pence’s sticking to his travel schedule would only keep the story of the White House’s inability to contain the virus in the news, others said the latest outbreak would be in the news either way. They ultimately decided that deploying Mr. Pence to a state like North Carolina, where campaign aides think the race will come down to fewer than 100,000 votes, was crucial in the final days.

Mr. Pence made no reference to the cases that had infiltrated his own staff. Instead, he defended the administration’s coronavirus response, calling it the “greatest national mobilization since World War II.” He also promised a vaccine would be available soon, “in tens of millions of doses for the American people.” Until then, he said, “we’re going to keep opening up America again.”

Mr. Pence also said the Senate would vote on Monday to confirm Judge Amy Coney Barrett, Mr. Trump’s Supreme Court nominee.

“It’s about law and order, it’s about standing strong for the rule of law,” Mr. Pence told the crowd, noting that the president had appointed more than 200 conservative judges to the courts.

Speaker Nancy Pelosi said she was going to run for another term.
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…Boston Police Department, via Associated Press

Massachusetts officials have ordered increased security around drop boxes used to collect mail-in ballots after what they said was an arson attack on one of the receptacles in Boston.

The city’s mayor and the state’s top elections official called the act of vandalism a “disgrace to democracy” and asked the F.B.I. to help find the arsonist, who was visible on security camera images that were released by the Boston Police Department.

The episode happened around 4:11 a.m. on Sunday near Copley Square, according to the police, who said officers saw smoke coming from the drop box.

The drop box is in one of the busiest parts of the city, outside the Boston Public Library’s Central Branch. It held 122 ballots at the time of the fire, 35 of which were damaged, election officials said. The drop box was filled with water as firefighters extinguished the blaze.

Mayor Martin J. Walsh and the secretary of state, William F. Galvin, condemned the arson attack in a joint statement on Sunday.

“What happened in the early hours of this morning to the ballot drop box in Copley Square is a disgrace to democracy, a disrespect to the voters fulfilling their civic duty, and a crime,” they said. “Our first and foremost priority is maintaining the integrity of our elections process and ensuring transparency and trust with voters, and any effort to undermine or tamper with that process must be prosecuted to the fullest extent of the law.”

Mr. Galvin’s office referred the matter to the F.B.I., which said on Sunday night that it had opened an investigation.

“Voters in Massachusetts can feel confident in the success of the information sharing protocols that we have established with our local, state and federal election security partners in advance of the 2020 election,” the F.B.I. special agent in charge in Boston, Joseph R. Bonavolonta, said in a joint statement with the U.S. attorney for Massachusetts, Andrew E. Lelling.

Election officials advised that anyone who used the drop box after 2:30 p.m. on Saturday, when ballots were last collected, should check the status of their ballot. The city will mail new ballots to all of those voters whose ballots were identified in the drop box and will hand-count those ballots that were still legible if new ones are not recast.

With tens of millions of Americans expected to vote by mail this year, in part because of the coronavirus pandemic, many states have set up drop boxes for voters to hand deliver them. The ballot box in Copley Square was not destroyed and is back in use.

Voters lined up to cast their ballots at the Barclays Center in Brooklyn on Sunday.
Credit…Earl Wilson/The New York Times

Thousands of New Yorkers turned out for a second day of early voting on Sunday, with lines outside polling places stretching for several blocks as people expressed worries about the reliability of voting by mail and sought to avoid Election Day crowds amid the pandemic.

After more than 93,000 voters cast ballots early on Saturday, inundating polling places and leading to wait times of four hours or more, the lines on Sunday appeared to be much shorter.

Still, at Kings Theater in Flatbush, Brooklyn, Aronce Casseus, 47, waited for more than an hour on Sunday afternoon. Mr. Casseus was not concerned: The line was moving fast, and he had heard about longer waits the day before.

He said he wanted to vote early because he did not trust voting by mail, especially after the city experienced problems with some voters being mailed incorrectly labeled absentee ballots.

“I want to make sure my vote counts,” he said, adding that he was voting for Joseph R. Biden Jr. because he thought President Trump had mishandled the response to the pandemic and was hostile to immigrants. Mr. Casseus noted that he had immigrated to the United States from Haiti in 2010.

This is the first presidential election in which New Yorkers are allowed to vote early. Voting began Saturday and will end on Nov. 1. Early voting sites will open as early as 7 a.m. and remain open as late as 8 p.m.

After waiting about 20 minutes in a short line outside the Rego Park Community Center in Queens, Anca Barbulescu, 52, said the process was better than she expected. Like Mr. Casseus, Ms. Barbulescu expressed worries about her vote being counted should she vote by mail, and she said she wanted to lessen the load for poll workers who might be overwhelmed by the turnout on Election Day.

Ms. Barbulescu, who immigrated from Romania in 1996, said she was concerned about the health of the political system in the United States.

“I’m talking about democracy going down right now,” she said.

At Barclays Center in Brooklyn there was no line on Sunday afternoon. Neighbors Diane Stephen, 62, and George Robinson, 63, who typically vote on Election Day, said they were encouraged by the reports of high turnout, and hoped it would continue.

“I hope that the people that were protesting with Black Lives Matter, at least half of them come out to vote,” Mr. Robinson said.

Also Sunday, supporters of President Trump clashed with counterprotesters in Times Square, leading to seven arrests, and a New York City police officer was suspended without pay after using a police loudspeaker on Saturday to voice support for the president.




How Homegrown Disinformation Could Disrupt This U.S. Election

In 2016, Russia developed a simple, effective playbook to undermine U.S. elections with disinformation on social media. Four years later, Americans are using the same playbook on each other.

Quick, think about disinformation. What comes to mind? “Vladimir Putin, president of Russia.” But in 2020, many experts are more concerned with disinformation coming from our very own backyard. Like this guy, who, with a single tweet, disrupted a governor’s race in Kentucky. “Oh I’m just a broke college student, basically.” “He had 19 followers. It’s slightly absurd. But it’s also slightly terrifying.” What makes misinformation truly dangerous is that it doesn’t need to hack into the actual infrastructure of an election. It only needs to hack the brains of voters. “A seed of doubt is sowed into the democratic process of elections. People just don’t trust the process anymore.” “The purpose is to confuse people, to cause chaos and to cause division. The hope with disinformation is that a country will kind of fall in on itself.” And the coronavirus pandemic has made things even worse. To understand how we got here, we have to go to a key battleground in this election, one that has no state boundary. The internet. Remember the internet in 2016? The year that gave us these? “Damn, Daniel.” “What steps will your energy policy take to meet our energy needs?” Well, it also gave us a flood of election disinformation created by a Russian troll factory, a.k.a. a Kremlin-linked company called the Internet Research Agency. “It was essentially a gray office building in St. Petersburg in Russia.” This is Claire Wardle. She’s a disinformation expert and educator. “People were paid to sit all day, pretending to be Americans, creating social posts and memes and videos, and pushing that out. They could just throw spaghetti at the wall. Many of the posts didn’t succeed, but other things really did.” Russians developed a simple, but effective playbook. “They basically inflamed existing American divisions. A lot of these accounts actually got in the hundreds of thousands of followers.” By the end of the 2016 election, Russian trolls could reach millions of Americans through their social media accounts. Crucially, what they managed to do was use online disinformation to organize dozens of real-life political rallies. Attendees had no idea they’d been set up by Russians. This was one of them, filmed by a Houston TV station. “I’m in downtown Houston right by the Islamic Da’hwa Center. There’s protests going on, on both sides of the street.” Russian trolls did all of this, not with particularly sophisticated spycraft, but with tools available to everyone. Pretty soon, their disinformation, spread with the intent to deceive, became misinformation, as real people unwittingly started engaging with the material. All the while, social media companies denied there was a problem. Speaking days after the 2016 election, Facebook C.E.O. Mark Zuckerburg struggled to articulate a defense. “I think the idea that fake news on Facebook — of which, you know, it’s a very small amount of the content — influenced the election in any way, I think is a pretty crazy idea.” In the years since, there has been a slow recognition. “We didn’t take a broad enough view of our responsibility, and that was a big mistake. And it was my mistake. And I’m sorry.” “We found ourselves unprepared and ill-equipped for the immensity of the problems that we’ve acknowledged. And we take the full responsibility to fix it.” Some lessons were learned. “The companies have been a lot tougher on election misinformation, especially when they can tie it to foreign interference.” But those policies aren’t applied in the same way when the source of the misinformation is within U.S. borders. In certain cases, like with an unsubstantiated New York Post report, some platforms have taken drastic measures to restrict access, and face charges of censorship. But generally, the platforms try to avoid being seen as arbiters of truth. “When it comes to domestic and homegrown misinformation, social media companies still do err on the side of free speech.” So in the last four years, America’s election disinformation problem didn’t go away. It evolved. “Unfortunately, the landscape looks and feels very different now, because you’ve got all sorts of actors using the platforms in the ways that we learned the Russians did in 2016. And we see that playbook being used by political operatives in the U.S. And we see that same playbook being used by individuals in their basements who are angry and frustrated with life.” Sometimes it’s just one guy, sending one tweet from hundreds of miles away. That actually happened in 2019 in Kentucky. To tell this story, let’s first meet three people. The New York Times reporter who covered the Kentucky election. “My name is Nick Corasaniti.” The election administrator. “My name is Jared Dearing.” And the internet troll. “I am @Overlordkraken1.” We’re not showing his face, and only using his first name, because he says he’s afraid for his safety. On Nov. 5, 2019, Kentucky voters went to the polls to pick their next governor. “The race for governor in Kentucky in 2019 featured a very unpopular governor, Matt Bevin, who is a Republican.” “We’re just getting started.” “Facing off against Andy Beshear, the Democratic attorney general.” “We can’t take four more years.” “Every Democrat in the country was viewing the opportunity to deliver a blow to Mitch McConnell, and give him a Democratic governor as a real win. National money flooded this election.” “The day started well. I drove in around 4 a.m. Election Day is more like game day for me.” “I woke up, got ready for school, went to school.” “When the polls close at 6, the day’s not even halfway through at that point.” “I got on Twitter, and I saw the Kentucky election, what’s going on. And then I saw that the race was very close.” “It was neck and neck. They were maybe 1,000 votes here, 100 votes there, separating them.” “When an election is close, there’s a lot of pressure and stress that’s put onto the system.” “As soon as Republicans in the state started to see the possibility that they might lose the Statehouse, social media kind of erupted a little bit. People were looking for reasons as to how this could possibly be happening. How could a Democrat be winning in deeply red Kentucky? Emotions were high. It was kind of the perfect environment for any kind of disinformation or misinformation about the results to take hold.” “I decided that it would be a funny idea that if I made a fake tweet, spread it out to bigger accounts. I thought it was the perfect situation for it to go viral. I don’t remember how many followers I had, but I know it was less than 20.” “He had 19 followers.” “I set my geolocation to Louisville, Ky.” “He claimed he was from Louisville, but it was misspelled.” “It was just a typo. I’ve never been to Kentucky.” “And he sent out a simple tweet that said, ‘Just shredded a box of — ” “‘Republican mail-in ballots. Bye bye Bevin.’” “There’s so many checks and balances that we’ve built into the system over the past decades that we kind of know where all the ballots are at all times. So this is obviously a false claim.” “I’ve never seen a mail-in ballot.” “I probably never will know what their intentions were.” “All I really wanted to do was just get a few reactions out of some Boomers.” “Irresponsible. Frustrating. Damaging. Not helpful.” “I just thought it was funny.” “So Kentucky election officials found this tweet about an hour after polls closed, and they immediately notified Twitter.” And like that, the tweet was gone. But the story didn’t end there. It had actually just begun. “A few conservative accounts began screenshotting the tweet. And and when they screenshot that tweet and sent it around to their tens of thousands of followers, hundreds of thousands of followers, it was like a spark in a brushfire. And the tweet was everywhere.” “When we called Twitter to then take those screengrabs down, Twitter then said that it was commentary on the original tweet itself, and were unwilling to take the screengrabs down. So it’s a pretty big loophole, as far as I’m concerned.” “Election security officials kind of refer to these networks of accounts as a Trump core. And what they do is they wait until there is a debate, or a discussion, or a controversy, and they will immediately go to the conservative side and amplify it.” Throughout the evening, a single atom of disinformation opened the door for more stories that muddied the waters in an already close election. “While this was happening, it was now reaching a pretty broad narrative. It wasn’t only restricted to the conservative internet. There were normal voters who were seeing this, there was news outlets who were seeing this.” At the end of the night, Matt Bevin, who was trailing behind his opponent by just 5,000 votes, contested the results. “There have been more than a few irregularities.” “He didn’t offer any evidence. He didn’t say what those irregularities were. But it was because of those irregularities that he requested a re-canvass of all of the vote.” Bevin never specifically mentioned the tweet, but it was one of the most viral pieces of disinformation raising doubts about the election. “Bevin basically refused to concede, and left the election in question.” “My intention was never for it to get as big as it did. But I guess it was a lot easier than I thought.” For the next few days, talks of election fraud hurting Bevin kept going. “There was a time in the middle there, where there was a lot of squoosh. Both sides had the opportunity to create their own narrative. And unfortunately, part of that narrative was being driven by misinformation.” Bevin’s supporters staged a press conference, alleging fraud. But again, offered no evidence. “Are you really under the belief that hackers couldn’t hack our votes that are uploaded to a cloud?” “There is no cloud involved in the election tabulations in Kentucky.” Eventually, after re-canvassing of the results concluded nine days later, Bevin conceded the race. “We’re going to have a change in the governorship, based on the vote of the people.” Andy Beshear is now the governor of Kentucky. But it’s hard to remove the various claims casting doubt on the election, once they’re out there. Videos alleging fraud in Kentucky’s governor’s race are still gaining more views and comments. Fast forward to 2020. “I don’t think the question of misinformation is whether it’s going to happen. It will happen.” Election officials across the country are gearing up for a difficult fight against disinformation ahead of the election. Like in Michigan. “We anticipate challenges coming from multiple different angles. Whether they come from the White House, whether they come from foreign entities, whether they come from social media voices.” And Colorado. “We really need federal leadership. There’s bills just sitting in the House and in the Senate that are never going to get heard, never going to get their chance. And meanwhile, our democracy is under attack.” After countless investigations, hearings and public grillings of social media executives over the past four years, the U.S. is still ill-equipped to deal with the problem. “I feel like the analogy here is someone taking a bucket of water and throwing it in the ocean.” Election officials are competing on social media against people with larger followings, like President Donald Trump himself. “President Trump has used his Twitter account and his Facebook account to spread falsehoods about voting.” In 2020, President Trump has tweeted election misinformation or claims about rigged elections about 120 times. Twitter has put warnings on some of President Trump’s tweets and Facebook has added labels that direct people to accurate election information. “There really isn’t a uniform policy that they apply evenly across the different social media companies.” “It’s pretty depressing to sit where we sit right now, heading into this election. We have failed to do enough to secure the election in a way that we needed to.” On top of that, the Covid-19 pandemic is making the misinformation problem even worse. For example, the pandemic has forced many states to expand vote-by-mail on a large scale for the first time. And that’s resulted in a surge in false or misleading claims about mail-in voting, according to media insights company Zignal Labs. Of the 13.4 million mentions of vote-by-mail between January and September, nearly one-quarter were likely misinformation. The pandemic has led to another important shift, as different conspiracy communities are emerging and working together. Here’s a look at how domestic misinformation gained more reach on Facebook during a single month this summer. These are groups that are prone to share misinformation about the election. These are anti-mask groups that tend to share content like this. Then there are the QAnon groups, a pro-Trump conspiracy group that promotes, among other things, the false idea that America is controlled by a cabal of globalist pedophiles. Facebook says all QAnon on accounts would be banned on its platforms. But what we found is these seemingly disparate conspiracy groups are increasingly connected by crossposting the same content, forming — “A huge tent conspiracy.” For example, this piece of disinformation, claiming that Barack Obama created antifa, was shared in all three types of communities. “A lot of people who will believe that the coronavirus is a hoax will also believe that the elections process is not to be trusted.” “The theme here is that more and more Americans feel like they cannot trust institutions.” And that could have serious consequences around Election Day. “What that does is that will create a big uncertainty, and allow any bad actors to spread more disinformation in an already charged electorate. It will also give people the opportunity to say they’ve rigged an election, when it’s so much harder to actually rig an election.” Social media companies are preparing for the scenario that President Trump, or other candidates, will falsely declare victory. Or worse, where the losing candidate refuses to concede, and claims election fraud. The 2019 Kentucky election avoided that, but the 2020 presidential election may not. “If we were to insert President Trump and months of undermining the electoral process into the Kentucky election, there probably would have been even more users who believed @Overlordkraken1’s tweet that he shredded ballots. It could have gone from thousands to millions.” “Will you pledge tonight that you will not declare victory until the election has been independently certified?” “I hope it’s going to be a fair election. If it’s a fair election, I am 100 percent on board. But if I see tens of thousands of ballots being manipulated, I can’t go along with that.” “It’s something we’ve never seen before, and it sets a runway for the kind of disinformation that has disrupted other elections to really take off at a level we’ve never seen.” “I’m Isabelle Niu, one of the producers of this episode. There’s a lot going on in this election, and we want to make sure we take a deep dive into the major issues. Check out the other episodes of Stressed Election. We cover voting rights, voting technology and vote-by-mail.”

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In 2016, Russia developed a simple, effective playbook to undermine U.S. elections with disinformation on social media. Four years later, Americans are using the same playbook on each other.CreditCredit…Nicole Fineman
Representative Elissa Slotkin speaking in Lake Orion, Mich., in September.
Credit…Sylvia Jarrus for The New York Times

Representative Elissa Slotkin, Democrat of Michigan, on Sunday warned of “significantly worse” hostility toward politicians as she reported that her campaign headquarters had received a voice mail message that included “sexually explicit and violent language, including a threat to ‘shoot my way to victory.’”

Ms. Slotkin, a former C.I.A. analyst running her first campaign for re-election, said her staff had reported the incident to the police in Lansing and Washington, and that they had traced the call to a “young person in Ingham County.”

“Upon investigation, they determined that the individual was unlikely to pose an actual threat, which was a relief,” Ms. Slotkin said. “This is not the first time violent threats have been directed at me or members of my team. I am making this threat public because the climate has gotten significantly worse in the last few weeks.”

“We cannot let it be normal that political differences are metered out with threats of violence,” she added.

The threat comes amid heightened concern about potential attacks on elected officials, after 14 men were charged this month in connection with a plot to kidnap Gov. Gretchen Whitmer of Michigan, a Democrat who has become a focal point of antigovernment views and anger over coronavirus control measures.

President Trump has encouraged vitriol in the state. At a recent rally he demanded that Ms. Whitmer reopen the state and then said “Lock them all up” after his supporters chanted “Lock her up!”

Gov. Gretchen Whitmer of Michigan at an event for Joseph R. Biden Jr. this month.
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-chairwoman, 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, campaigned 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 President Trump holding large events without social distancing and Mr. Biden offering more careful events such as drive-in rallies where supporters stay in their cars and honk 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.”

Mark Meadows, the White House chief of staff, falsely said on CNN’s “State of the Union” that it was futile to try to control the coronavirus.
Credit…Stefani Reynolds for The New York Times

Mark Meadows, the White House chief of staff, said on Sunday that the United States was not going to control the spread of the coronavirus, which has killed more than 225,000 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.

Democrats responded quickly to Mr. Meadows’s comments, saying they showed that the Trump administration was not even trying to slow transmission of the virus.

“They’ve given up on their basic duty to protect the American people,” former Vice President Joseph R. Biden Jr., the Democratic nominee for president, said in a statement. “This wasn’t a slip by Meadows. It was a candid acknowledgment of what President Trump’s strategy has clearly been from the beginning of this crisis: to wave the white flag of defeat and hope that by ignoring it, the virus would simply go away. It hasn’t, and it won’t.”

Infections have surged across the United States since the beginning of October, when Mr. Trump announced that he had tested positive for the coronavirus 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.




Republicans Cut Off Barrett Debate, Setting Up Final Confirmation Vote

Senate Republicans secured a 51-to-48 vote to limit debate on Judge Amy Coney Barrett’s Supreme Court nomination, setting up the final confirmation vote for Monday, eight days before the election.

“The yeas are 51, the nays are 48. The motion is agreed to.” “We’ve made an important contribution to the future of this country. A lot of what we’ve done over the last four years will be undone sooner or later by the next election. They won’t be able to do much about this for a long time to come. The Senate is doing the right thing. We’re moving this nomination forward, and colleagues, by tomorrow night we’ll have a new member of the United States Supreme Court.” “Republicans are rushing to hold a confirmation vote tomorrow night, eight days, eight days before the election, and after more than 50 million Americans have voted. We’re talking about the lives and freedoms of the American people, the right to affordable health care, to make their own private medical decisions, to join a union, vote without impediments, marry who they love. And Judge Amy Coney Barrett will play a part in deciding whether those rights will be sustained or curtailed for the next generation of Americans. So I want to be very clear with the American people about what’s going on here. The Republican Senate majority, America, is breaking faith with you, doing the exact opposite of what it promised just four years ago, to cement a majority on the Supreme Court that threatens your fundamental rights.”

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Senate Republicans secured a 51-to-48 vote to limit debate on Judge Amy Coney Barrett’s Supreme Court nomination, setting up the final confirmation vote for Monday, eight days before the election.CreditCredit…Samuel Corum for The New York Times

A sharply divisive drive to confirm Judge Amy Coney Barrett to the Supreme Court before Election Day wound on Sunday toward its expected end, as Senate Republicans overcame Democratic protests to cut off debate and set up a final confirmation vote for Monday.

Two Republicans, Susan Collins of Maine and Lisa Murkowski of Alaska, joined united Democrats in an attempt to filibuster President Trump’s nominee, and Democrats once again planned a flurry of parliamentary tactics to protest a vote that they say should wait until after the election. But Republicans had the simple majority they needed to blow past them, setting up the vote to confirm Judge Barrett just eight days before the election and a month to the day after she was chosen.

The tally was 51 to 48. Republicans were expected to win back Ms. Murkowski’s vote on Monday, though not that of Ms. Collins. In a turnabout, Ms. Murkowski on Saturday said she would vote to confirm Judge Barrett.

Republicans, who have been on a mad dash to fill the vacancy caused by the death last month of Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg, planned to keep the Senate in session overnight to speed things up further. Thirty hours must elapse between the vote to limit debate and final confirmation. For an aging body that prefers light working hours, the unusual all-nighter only underscored what was at stake.

Judge Barrett’s ascension would lock in a 6-to-3 conservative majority on the court, a Republican accomplishment decades in the making that could reshape abortion rights, immigration law, and corporate and government power, as well as put a check on Democrats should they win back the White House and Senate next week. It could also have immediate implications as the court continues to act on emergency voting-related cases before the Nov. 3 balloting.

“It’s a big deal for the president,” said Senator Lindsey Graham, Republican of South Carolina and chairman of the Senate Judiciary Committee. “It’s one of his legacies.”

Joseph R. Biden Jr. with a police officer in Wilmington, Del., this month. Mr. Biden has pledged to draw both racial-justice activists and police leaders “to the table” to forge solutions. 
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.

Cuban-American supporters of President Trump in Westchester, Fla., on Saturday. Trump supporters there have organized caravans with trucks that blare popular Cuban music.
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 on this year’s race has led in part to an unusually pitched electoral battle in Florida’s most populous county, 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?”

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.

Trump supporters handing out voter guides in Cramerton, N.C., on Thursday.
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; had 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 the rally on Wednesday night, 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, reflects 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 outsize 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 female 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.




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.

Former Vice President Joseph R. Biden with his granddaughter Natalie in Wilmington, Del., on Sunday.
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 this month put him 10 points behind Mr. Biden.

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.”

Former Representative Todd Smith of Texas has a “Republicans for Biden 2020” sign on his front lawn.
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.”

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