Supreme Court won't expedite review of Pennsylvania ballot extension

1

With less than a week before Election Day, the U.S. Supreme Court ruled that it will not grant an expedited review of a Pennsylvania GOP appeal of a mail-in ballot extension in the state. The court previously split 4-4 on a request from Pennsylvania Republicans to halt the state high court’s decision to order the extension. The court could still decide to hear the case, however, reports CBS News campaign reporter Zak Hudak.

Joined by two other justices, Justice Samuel Alito acknowledged there was little time remaining to make a change, but said they were open to it. “I reluctantly conclude that there is simply not enough time at this late date to decide the question before the election,” he wrote. “That does not mean, however, that the state court decision must escape our review.”

The ruling came after Pennsylvania Secretary of State Kathy Boockvar told counties to separate ballots received within the 3-day extension after the election, meaning that a court decision could theoretically come after Election Day. “The Secretary continues to defend the extension to ensure that every timely and validly cast mail-in and absentee ballot is counted,” Boockvar wrote in the guidance to counties. But Boockvar, a Democrat, said that because the issue is still pending before the court, the action was necessary.

Trump campaign senior counsel Justin Clark called Boockvar’s guidance “a big victory” in a statement. In Las Vegas today, President Trump said he hopes the ballots received after Election Day aren’t counted.

“Hopefully, the few states remaining that want to take a lot of time after Nov. 3 to take ballots, that won’t be allowed by the various courts because as you know, we’re in courts on that,” he said. Over twice as many Democrats as Republicans have applied to vote by mail in Pennsylvania. In the state’s primary, counties received over 100,000 ballots after Election Day, over twice Mr. Trump’s 2016 margin of victory in the state.

FROM THE CANDIDATES

TRUMP-PENCE CAMPAIGN

President Trump is hoping to drum up support in the battleground state of Nevada, holding a rally Wednesday afternoon across the border in neighboring Arizona due to the Silver State’s coronavirus restrictions.

The president’s Western swing comes with just six days left until the election, as early voting totals continue to show high turnout across the country. Early votes in Arizona and Nevada account for more than 60% of the total ballots cast in those states four years ago.

A senior Trump campaign official told CBS News campaign reporter Nicole Sganga the president plans to visit 10 states during the last week of the campaign, and hold 11 rallies in the 48 hours before Election Day. At a rally in Bullhead City, Arizona, the president renewed his promise for a “return to normal” and a COVID-19 vaccine.

“A safe vaccine is coming very quickly,” Mr. Trump said. “You are going to have it momentarily.”

Operation Warp Speed, the Trump administration’s unprecedented effort to accelerate production and distribution of a coronavirus vaccine, is already producing tens of millions of vaccine doses, even before any vaccine candidate has been proven safe and effective.

Retired Lieutenant General Paul Ostrowski, director for supply, production and distribution of Operation Warp Speed told CBS News senior medical correspondent Dr. Tara Narula, “We will have vaccines, we anticipate, prior to the turn of the new year.”

The president, speaking from his hotel in Las Vegas Wednesday, also commented on the violent protests in Philadelphia, criticizing the city’s Democratic mayor and governor for not doing more to enforce the laws there. He said the federal government is ready to step in at the governor’s request, CBS News digital White House reporter Kathryn Watson reports.

The unrest began after police shot a Black man, Walter Wallace, on Monday. The city’s mayor and police commissioner have pledged an investigation into the incident. Violent clashes have followed for two nights, with roughly 30 police officers reportedly injured on the first night. The president said the violence had to stop, and claimed without evidence that Biden would be “weak” on crime and criminals.

BIDEN-HARRIS CAMPAIGN

Like millions of other Americans, Joe Biden joined in on early voting and officially cast his vote for president on Wednesday, alongside his wife, Jill, in Delaware. The two flaunted their “I Voted” stickers after Biden attended a COVID-19 briefing with his health adviser team.

Biden’s message is rooted in contrast with Mr. Trump regarding the current response to the pandemic. Biden’s campaign broadcast large graphs of COVID hospitalizations for Biden to appear next to as the candidate warned the cases of COVID will be a “bigger wave of anything we’ve experienced to date.”

Biden said, “The refusal of the Trump administration to recognize the reality we’re living through at a time when almost 1,000 Americans are dying every single day is an insult to every single person suffering from COVID-19, and to every family who has lost a loved one.”

The Democratic nominee is heading back to Florida on Thursday, marking his fourth trip to the state during the general election. By the end of the week, if his schedule holds, the tallies of Biden’s battleground trips since June 1, according to CBS News campaign reporter Bo Erickson, include: 16 trips to Pennsylvania, four trips to Michigan, three trips to Wisconsin, two trips to North Carolina and Ohio, and one trip each to Minnesota, Arizona, Nevada, Georgia and Iowa.

Senator Kamala Harris began her Wednesday in Tucson and was asked about the expanded map the Biden-Harris campaign is playing with in the remaining 6 days.

She listed where she’s been in the past week and where she’ll go: Michigan, Pennsylvania, Ohio, Wisconsin, Nevada and Arizona. “There are people all over our country who want to know that they are being seen and heard on some of the most challenging times in the history of our country,” she told CBS News campaign reporter Tim Perry.

Harris also addressed the split screen rallies Trump would be holding in Arizona and Nevada on Wednesday and said she and Biden “are going to talk to voters, but we’re not going to do it in a way that we don’t risk their safety and their health.” At a drive-in rally in Tucson, Harris invoked the name of the late Arizona Sen. John McCain (“Let’s start with a little straight talk…”) and addressed some of the “talk about my values,” in reference to her being labeled as a liberal or socialist. “Let me just tell you Tucson, I am a proud, patriotic American. I love my country. And our values reflect the values of America. Our values tell us we have witnessed the worst, the biggest disaster of any presidential administration in the history of this country, our values tell us that, ” she said.

During a discussion of climate change, Harris seemed to address some of the blowback Biden got from the last debate on phasing out fossil fuels, notes CBS News political unit broadcast associate Aaron Navarro.

“Understand we need to set time limits. Net zero emissions by 2050. We need to set goals that include an investment in renewable energies. And guess what? That’s about jobs! Millions of jobs,” she said. Harris’ last event Wednesday is another drive-in rally alongside musician Alicia Keys in Phoenix.

BATTLEGROUNDS IN THE BATTLEGROUNDS

OHIO – *TRUMBULL COUNTY*

Trumbull County in eastern Ohio voted for President Obama by a large margin in 2012, but flipped in 2016 for President Donald Trump.

Mr. Trump pitched an ‘America First’ economic message that resonated with Ohioans in 2016. After his election, the president visited the county, which was the home to General Motors Lordstown plant, in 2017 and told industrial workers that jobs would return and urged them not to sell their homes.

Two years later, the plant closed its operation, which resulted in extensive job losses for those employees. Kathy DiCristofaro, the vice chair of the Trumbull County Democratic party, told CBS News campaign reporter Jack Turman that she believes that Biden will carry the county, citing voter registration efforts and new volunteers.

“People coming into the office were all new faces,” she said “They were not people that generally offered to volunteer before. We always have our core group of volunteers that work every cycle. But these were new people coming in and saying, ‘I’ve never been politically involved.'”

At a recent rally in Circleville, Ohio, which is not in Trumbull County, President Trump continued to pitch an economic message, but it was focused on retaining the fracking industry in the state. The president and his campaign seized on Biden’s comments in the last presidential debate that he would “transition away from the oil industry.”

Biden has only made two visits to Ohio since June 1 and he recently said that he believes he has a “fighting chance” in the state. DiCristofaro said that voters in the county “know Joe,” adding that Biden is taking precautions due to the COVID-19 pandemic. “Voters know that he realizes COVID is real and he’s trying to protect, you know, people,” DiCristofaro said.

ON THE $$$

CAMPAIGN CASH

2020 is breaking records and then some in terms of political spending. On Wednesday, the Center for Responsible Politics revised its previous estimate of the cost of the 2020 election from $11 billion to $14 billion. This comes amid a flood of cash in the final months of the election cycle which the Center for Responsive Politics attributes to both the Supreme Court battle as well as the closely watched presidential and Senate races.

The $14 billion is more than double the cost of the previous most expensive election, which was in 2016, and is actually more than twice the cost of the past two presidential cycles combined. This comes amid unprecedented spending in the presidential race, reports CBS News political unit associate producer Sarah Ewall-Wice.

The Center for Responsible Politics estimates that race will see $6.6 billion in total spending alone. In 2016, that number was $2.4 billion. “Donors poured record amounts of money into the 2018 midterms, and 2020 appears to be a continuation of that trend — but magnified,” said Center for Responsive Politics executive director Sheila Krumholz. “Ten years ago, a billion-dollar presidential candidate would have been difficult to imagine. This cycle, we’re likely to see two.”

Democratic presidential nominee Joe Biden will be the first candidate in history to raise $1 billion directly from donors. Joe Biden in August and September broke monthly fundraising records. According to the Center for Responsible Politics, both parties are raising more from small-dollar donors who gave $200 or less which make up about 22% of all money raised this cycle as compared to 15% of money raised in 2016. But Democrats are raking in more from small-donors with nearly $1.7 billion raised while Republicans raised $1 billion from small-dollar contributors.

Meanwhile, the Center for Responsible Politics points out, the 2020 North Carolina Senate race is the most expensive congressional race of all time, and the 2020 Iowa Senate race is in second place. The South Carolina and Arizona Senate races are closely behind. As of mid-October, eight of the top ten most expensive Senate races of all time have been in the 2020 cycle.

STATE-BY-STATE

MICHIGAN

A federal judge is ordering conservative operatives Jack Burkman and Jacob Wohl to make “curative” robocalls to anyone who received a previous robocall that pair allegedly organized which spread misinformation about mail voting, reports CBS News campaign reporter Adam Brewster.

The new calls must be made by 5:00 p.m. ET tomorrow night and are required to say, “At the direction of a United States District Court, this call is intended to inform you that a federal court has found that the message you previously received regarding mail-in voting from Project 1599, a political organization founded by Jack Burkman and Jacob Wohl, contained false information that has had the effect of intimidating voters, and thus interfering with the upcoming presidential election, in violation of federal voting-rights laws.”

Burkman and Wohl are both facing felony charges in Michigan for their alleged involvement in the robocalls that targeted urban areas with large minority populations. The Michigan Attorney General’s office says the calls went out to almost 12,000 people in Detroit and almost 85,000 calls were made nationally.

“We applaud the court’s order that these defendants be made to issue a new robocall to correct the misinformation they disseminated,” Michigan Attorney General Dana Nessel said in a statement. “Voting is a cornerstone of our democracy and all voters should be able to cast their ballot without confusion or fear.”

NEBRAKSA

President Trump held a rally in Omaha, Nebraska, on Tuesday night – but it’s what happened after the rally that many reporters and attendees are talking about says CBS News campaign reporter Nicole Sganga.

Police said the last person was loaded into a bus from the site of the rally close to midnight, hours after it ended, CBS News digital producer Caitlin O’Kaine reports. According to a preliminary report, seven people were transported to area hospitals “with a variety of medical conditions,” Michael Pecha, public information officer for the Omaha Police Department, said in an email to CBS News. He said 30 people were contacted for medical reasons. Pecha said 40 buses took about 25,000 people to the event site over a 10-hour period, from 10:00 a.m. to the start of the rally at 8 p.m.

In an emailed statement to CBS News, Samantha Zager, deputy national press secretary for Mr. Trump’s campaign, said: “Because of the sheer size of the crowd, we deployed 40 shuttle buses – double the normal allotment – but local road closures and resulting congestion caused delays. At the guest departure location, we had tents, heaters, generators, hot cocoa, and hand warmers available for guests. We always strive to provide the best guest experience at our events and we care about their safety.”

Kris Surface Beckenbach, who was a volunteer at the rally, told CBS News that “attendees waiting for transport had no information until an officer started providing updates.” She said there was a 90-minute stretch where they saw no buses, and she saw people who needed assistance, but did not see any emergency situations. “I was alone and it was dark,” Beckenbach told CBS News via Facebook message, adding that some of her friends chose to walk to their cars in the cold. “It was no one’s fault that traffic was a mess,” Beckenbach said. “No one expected the number of attendees and vehicles.” 

PENNSYLVANIA

The chair of the Butler County, Pennsylvania, commissioners says USPS reached out to the county elections director to say they were investigating why “many, many” voters didn’t get the mail ballots they were approved for reports CBS News campaign reporter Zak Hudak.

A USPS spokesperson said the Postal Service is unaware of any delays or issues with mail ballots in the county. The chairwoman, Leslie Osche, said she didn’t know how many ballots could have been lost, but that the county is taking action when voters call and say they didn’t receive their ballot, including sending sheriff’s deputies to hand-deliver ballots.

Those voters can also vote in person if they fill out a paper provisional ballot. Osche, in her fifth year as a commissioner, said the wide-ranging election changes in Pennsylvania this year have caused confusion and frustration for voters. Their elections call center took 2,000 calls in a 4-hour period last week, she said. “I have never seen anything like this in my lifetime.”

TEXAS

The Texas Supreme Court on Tuesday upheld Governor Greg Abbott’s order that limits counties to one mail ballot drop-off location, reports CBS News campaign reporter Adam Brewster.

The order, which has sparked legal and political controversy in the state, prevents some of the state’s largest counties from setting up multiple drop-off sites. The unanimous decision from the all-Republican court overturned a lower court’s decision to issue an injunction on Abbott’s order. A state appeals upheld the lower court’s decision last week.

The battle began after Abbott issued an order in late July that allowed Texans to hand-deliver their mail ballots before Election Day. Normally, absentee ballots in the state must be returned through the mail, except on Election Day, when voters can deliver their ballots in person. After that announcement, some counties — including Harris County, home to Houston — announced plans to have multiple ballot drop-off locations.

On October 1, Abbott issued a separate order saying counties could only set up one drop-off site, saying it would “strengthen voting safety in Texas.”

The lawsuit, which was filed by the Anti-Defamation League and Common Cause, argued that Abbott didn’t have the authority to put limits in place and imposed “an unconstitutional burden on voters’ right to vote.”

But the state Supreme Court disagreed. “In the end, the plaintiffs’ complaint is that the Governor ultimately decided not to increase their voting options quite as much as he initially announced,” the justices wrote, adding, “The Governor’s October Proclamation provides Texas voters more ways to vote in the November 3 election than does the Election Code. It does not disenfranchise anyone.”

CONGRESSIONAL COVERAGE

IN THE HOUSE

NORTH CAROLINA

Though he’s only served four terms so far, North Carolina Republican Congressman Richard Hudson is facing his third iteration of a Congressional district this year. After judges ruled in 2019 that the state’s Republican legislature created “extreme partisan gerrymanders” with their district lines, Hudson’s 8th district was redrawn to include all of Cumberland County, which voted for Hillary Clinton by 16 points in 2016.

And with Democrats poised to pick up the 2nd and 6th District with the new maps, Hudson’s race in the 8th district is set to be the most competitive House race in the state. “25% of the district is brand new to him. So he’s having to introduce himself to one fourth of the district population, just as I am,” said Pat Timmons-Goodson, the Democrat challenging Hudson.

Timmons-Goodson brings with her a stacked judicial background, serving on various state district and appellate courts before becoming the first black woman to serve on the North Carolina Supreme Court. She also served in the U.S. Commission on Civil Rights during President Obama’s tenure and was nominated to be a U.S. District judge for the state, though her nomination was never taken up. “A combination of those professional experiences, I would argue make me a good candidate and one for such a time as this,” she told CBS News political unit broadcast associate Aaron Navarro in an interview.

Hudson has acknowledged Timmons-Goodson’s achievements, telling the Charlotte Observer she’s a “historic figure in our state.” His campaign and other Republican allies in the state have also used her record in the courts to portray her as “soft” on crime . “As a judge, Timmons-Goodson opposed electronic monitoring of convicted sex offenders…Liberal Pat Timmons-Goodson, she’ll never keep us safe,” says one ad by the Congressional Leadership Fund.

In response, Timmons-Goodson said the attacks have a “fundamental misunderstanding” of her role in the appellate process for those cases. She said the biggest policy contrast with Hudson is with healthcare, pointing to the Republican party’s mission to repeal the Affordable Care Act without having a concrete plan on protecting pre-existing conditions. “Taking healthcare from anyone is bad enough, but during a doggone pandemic? When you should be trying to increase those, and he has yet to call for an expansion of Medicaid in North Carolina,” she said.

Hudson has dubbed himself as “Fort Bragg’s Congressman” in reference to the large army base and veteran population in the district. But Timmons-Goodson’s allies ran an ad attacking Hudson for not voting on an annual Department of Defense spending bill, though a CBS17 fact check found it lacked the context that Hudson had helped write parts of the bill, was under quarantine and refused to use a proxy vote (he was part of a lawsuit against the practice).

The fundraising between the two candidates has been tight, though Hudson does lead with his cash on hand. There’s also been more than $6.1 million in outside spending for this race, with at least $2 million of it coming from CLF last week. Released internal polls from both campaigns have the race within the margin of error.

Hudson’s campaign is confident his record of veteran support will help turn out the Republican base in the central part of the district.Meanwhile, Timmons-Goodson sees Cumberland County and the Charlotte suburbs as key to her victory and was encouraged by the registration uptick in the state.

“I just don’t believe that those folks are turning out like that to register their support for the status quo. I believe that they’re out there to register their interest in change,” she said.

UTAH

Republican Burgess Owens, who is challenging freshman Democrat Ben McAdams in Utah’s 4th, has had an interesting 48 hours. On Wednesday, the New York Times reported that Owens exceeded the contribution limit by over $130,000, breaking federal campaign finance laws.

Campaign spokesperson Jesse Ranney told CBS News political unit broadcast associate Aaron Navarro that the amount of donors and electronic donations (over 50,000) “can occur without the campaign’s knowledge. That is why the FEC has processes in place to handle this situation.”

In the latest fundraising report, Owens has closed his fundraising gap with McAdams and only slightly trails the incumbent’s cash on hand. On Thursday, the liberal non-profit Media Matters reported that Owens said Democrats often conflate the QAnon conspiracy theory network with child trafficking.

“One of the things we need to recognize with the left is if they ever say the word conspiracy, let’s look into it much deeper because there’s something they’re trying to keep us away from,” he said on a conservative radio program.

Owens had appeared on a podcast tied to QAnon in September, though he said about QAnon on the radio show, “Whatever this other group is, I have no idea.” McAdams held a press conference Thursday calling on Owens to condemn QAnon, while talking about the need to protect children from predators and combat child sex trafficking. “He seems to think he can say one thing when he’s amongst his friends and fringe media, and another things when he’s talking to Utah voters,” McAdams said. “We should hear from him directly, and unequivocally, not saying he doesn’t know what it is but Google it and come tell us and reaffirm to anybody who might be questioning it – this is a debunked and false conspiracy theory that is getting in the way of the very real work of child exploitation, child trafficking.”

Owens’ campaign said he had addressed QAnon in a debate, and said he has denounced all radical groups. “Ben must not have been paying attention.The real question is how much money does Ben stand to make off of his next deal with Zions Bank?” referring to an accusation by the Salt Lake County Republican Party. Trent Christensen, a former vice president at Zion’s Bank, aimed to challenge McAdams but lost to Owens in the Republican primary. The Cook Political Report rates the race here in Utah’s 4th as a toss-up.

View original post