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Barnwell solves Week 7's biggest mysteries: How did DK do that? What's wrong with Cam?

Monday October 26th, 2020 06:47:39 PM

Let's run through the week's unsolved (or misunderstood) mysteries, from a touchdown-saving sprint to a quarterback in a major funk.

Judging Week 7 overreactions: Should Mike McCarthy be on the hot seat? What about Cam Newton?

Monday October 26th, 2020 02:42:40 PM

The Cowboys got blown out -- again. Cam Newton had another rough day. Tom Brady looked great without Antonio Brown. Let's overreact to Week 7.

OBJ has torn ACL in left knee, will miss season

Monday October 26th, 2020 06:34:02 PM

Wide receiver Odell Beckham Jr. will miss the rest of the season with a torn ACL in his left knee, the Browns announced Monday morning.

'Embarrassed' Cam admits job may be in jeopardy

Monday October 26th, 2020 04:28:05 PM

Patriots quarterback Cam Newton is approaching this week as if his job is in jeopardy after being pulled early in the fourth quarter of Sunday's 33-6 loss to the 49ers.

ESPN nixes plans to host hoops events at Disney

Monday October 26th, 2020 07:03:45 PM

ESPN is canceling plans to host eight of its men's college basketball events at the ESPN Wide World of Sports property at Walt Disney World in Orlando, which was the site for the NBA's bubble.

Source: Bostic suspension unlikely for Dalton hit

Monday October 26th, 2020 05:17:36 PM

After being ejected Sunday, Washington Football Team linebacker Jon Bostic is not expected to be suspended for his hit on Cowboys QB Andy Dalton, a source told ESPN's Adam Schefter.







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US to Get 9th Justice With Dems Powerless to Block Barrett

Monday October 26th, 2020 06:06:02 AM Lisa Mascaro

A divided Senate is set to confirm Amy Coney Barrett to the Supreme Court, giving the country a ninth justice Monday as Republicans overpower Democratic opposition to secure President Donald Trump’s nominee the week before Election Day.

Democratic leaders asked Vice President Mike Pence to stay away from presiding over her Senate confirmation due to potential health risks after his aides tested positive for COVID-19. But although Pence isn’t needed to break a tie, the vote would present a dramatic opportunity for him to preside over confirmation of Trump’s third Supreme Court justice.

Senate Democratic leader Chuck Schumer and his leadership team wrote that not only would Pence’s presence violate Centers for Disease Control and Prevention guidelines, “it would also be a violation of common decency and courtesy.”

But Senate Republicans control the chamber and Barrett’s confirmation isn’t in doubt.

The 48-year-old Barrett would secure a conservative court majority for the foreseeable future, potentially opening a new era of rulings on abortion, gay marriage and the Affordable Care Act. A case against the Obama-era health law is scheduled to be heard Nov. 10.

Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell scoffed at the “apocalyptic” warnings from critics that the judicial branch was becoming mired in partisan politics as he defended its transformation under his watch.

“This is something to be really proud of and feel good about,” the Republican leader said Sunday during a rare weekend session.

McConnell said that unlike legislative actions that can be undone by new presidents or lawmakers, “they won’t be able to do much about this for a long time to come.”

Schumer, of New York, said the Trump administration’s drive to install Barrett during the coronavirus crisis shows “the Republican Party is willing to ignore the pandemic in order to rush this nominee forward.”

To underscore the potential health risks, Schumer urged his colleagues Sunday not to linger in the chamber but “cast your votes quickly and from a safe distance.” Some GOP senators tested positive for the coronavirus following a Rose Garden event with Trump to announce Barrett’s nomination, but they have since said they have been cleared by their doctors from quarantine. Pence’s office said the vice president tested negative for the virus on Monday.

The confirmation was expected to be the first of a Supreme Court nominee so close to a presidential election. It’s also one of the first high court nominees in recent memory receiving no support from the minority party, a pivot from not long ago when a president’s picks often won wide support.

Barrett presented herself in public testimony before the Senate Judiciary Committee as a neutral arbiter and suggested, “It’s not the law of Amy.” But her writings against abortion and a ruling on “Obamacare” show a deeply conservative thinker. She was expected to be seated quickly on the high court.

“She’s a conservative woman who embraces her faith. She’s unabashedly pro-life, but she’s not going to apply ‘the law of Amy’ to all of us,” the Judiciary Committee chairman, Sen. Lindsey Graham, R-S.C., said on Fox News Channel.

At the start of Trump’s presidency, McConnell engineered a Senate rules change to allow confirmation by a majority of the 100 senators, rather than the 60-vote threshold traditionally needed to advance high court nominees over objections. It was escalation of a rules change Democrats put in place to advance other court and administrative nominees under President Barack Obama.

On Sunday, the Senate voted 51-48 to begin to bring the process to a vote as senators, mostly Democrats, pulled an all-night session for the final 30 hours of often heated debate. Two Republicans, Lisa Murkowski of Alaska and Susan Collins of Maine, voted against advancing the nominee, and all Democrats who voted were opposed. California Sen. Kamala Harris, the vice presidential nominee, missed the vote while campaigning in Michigan.

Monday’s final tally was expected to grow by one after Murkowski announced her support for the nominee, even as she decried filling the seat in the midst of a heated race for the White House. Murkowski said Saturday she would vote against the procedural steps but ultimately join GOP colleagues in confirming Barrett.

“While I oppose the process that has led us to this point, I do not hold it against her,” Murkowski said.

Collins, who faces a tight reelection fight in Maine, remains the only Republican expected to vote against Trump’s nominee. “My vote does not reflect any conclusion that I have reached about Judge Barrett’s qualifications to serve,” Collins said. “I do not think it is fair nor consistent to have a Senate confirmation vote prior to the election.”

By pushing for Barrett’s ascension so close to the Nov. 3 election, Trump and his Republican allies are counting on a campaign boost, in much the way they believe McConnell’s refusal to allow the Senate to consider Obama’s nominee in February 2016 created excitement for Trump among conservatives and evangelical Christians eager for a Republican president to replace the late Justice Antonin Scalia.

Barrett was a professor at Notre Dame Law School when she was tapped by Trump in 2017 for an appeals court opening. Two Democrats joined at that time to confirm her, but none is expected to vote for her now.

___

Associated Press writers Mary Clare Jalonick in Washington, Meg Kinnard in Columbia, South Carolina, and Becky Bohrer in Juneau, Alaska, contributed to this report.


Trump Charges Into Battleground States Despite Rising Virus

Monday October 26th, 2020 05:43:30 AM Zeke Miller, Alexandra Jaffe and Kevin Freking

President Donald Trump embarked Monday on a final-week charge through nearly a dozen states ahead of the election, overlooking a surge of coronavirus cases in the U.S. and a fresh outbreak in his own White House. His Democratic rival, Joe Biden, is holding far fewer events in an effort to demonstrate that he’s taking the worsening pandemic seriously.

The final days of the campaign are crystalizing the starkly different approaches Trump and Biden have taken to address the worst public health crisis in a century — with risks for each candidate.

“It’s a choice between a Trump boom or a Biden lockdown,” Trump claimed Monday in Pennsylvania.

For Trump, the full-speed-ahead strategy could spread the virus in places that are already setting new records and leave him appearing aloof to the consequences. And if Biden comes up short in the election, his lower-key travel schedule will surely come under scrutiny as a bad choice.

Both men are making points with their travel plans. Trump was holding three events in Pennsylvania alone on Monday, suggesting he’s on defense in a state that he won in 2016 and that will be critical to his reelection. Biden, meanwhile, is demonstrating more confidence with signals that he’s hoping to expand his campaign map.

Though the Democrat was remaining close on Monday to his Wilmington, Delaware, home, on Tuesday he will visit Georgia, a state that hasn’t voted for a Democratic presidential candidate since 1992. He’s dispatching his running mate, Kamala Harris, later this week to Texas, which hasn’t backed a Democrat for the White House since Jimmy Carter in 1976.

With more than a third of the expected ballots in the election already cast, it could become increasingly challenging for Trump and Biden to reshape the contours of the race. But both men are fighting for any endgame advantage. Biden is leading Trump in most national polls and has an advantage, though narrower, in many key battlegrounds.

While the final week of the campaign is colliding with deepening concerns about the COVID crisis in far-flung parts of the U.S., Trump is anxious for voters to focus on almost anything else. He’s worried that he will lose if the election becomes a referendum on his handling of the pandemic. Biden, meanwhile, is working to ensure the race is just that, hitting Trump on the virus and presenting himself as a safer, more stable alternative.

The stakes were clear this past weekend as the White House became the locus for a second outbreak of the virus in a month. Several close aides to Vice President Mike Pence tested positive, including his chief of staff, Marc Short. Pence, though, was insistent on maintaining his aggressive political calendar, even though he was deemed a “close contact,” claiming the status of an “essential employee.”

Trump was set to receive a boost Monday evening, when the Senate is expected to confirm Judge Amy Coney Barrett to the Supreme Court, completing the president’s efforts to bring about conservative transformation of the federal bench. But in the closing days of the race, the Trump accomplishment was struggling to break through the renewed virus concerns.

With Election Day just over a week away, average deaths per day across the country are up 10% over the past two weeks, from 721 to nearly 794 as of Sunday, according to data from Johns Hopkins University. Confirmed infections per day are rising in 47 states, and deaths are up in 34.

The latest national outbreak has provide a potent sign of the divergent approaches the Trump and Biden campaigns have taken to the virus. On Sunday, White House chief of staff Mark Meadows said that “we’re not going to control the pandemic” and the focus should be on containment and treatment. Trump aims to pack thousands of people, most without face coverings, into rallies across some of the upper Midwestern states bearing the brunt of the surge.

Biden, in a statement, said Meadows’ comments continued with the Trump administration waving “the white flag of defeat” in the face of the virus.

Trump fired back Monday as he arrived in Pennsylvania, saying Biden, with his concerns about the virus spread, has “waved a white flag on life.”

Biden’s team argues the coronavirus is likely to blot out any other issues that might come up in the final days of the campaign — including his recent debate-stage comment in which he affirmed he’d transition away from oil, later walking that back as a transition away from federal subsidies. That strategy appeared to pay off as the outbreak in Pence’s staff refocused the national conversation once again on the pandemic.

Trump and his team, meanwhile, have struggled to settle on a closing message, with the undisciplined candidate increasingly trusting his instincts over his advisers. He’s grasped for dirt on his Democratic rival and used apocalyptic terms to describe a Biden presidency, but Biden has thus far proven more resistant to such attacks than Trump’s 2016 rival, Hillary Clinton.

“You can certainly expect that (Biden) will focus on COVID as it continues to, unfortunately, rise all across the country,” Biden deputy campaign manager Kate Bedingfield said in an interview. “It is disrupting people’s lives and people are looking for a leader to put in place plans to get it under control.”

Anticipating a razor-thin Electoral College margin, Trump has an aggressive schedule including a visit Omaha, Nebraska, Tuesday after a Sunday visit to Maine, aiming to lock up one electoral vote in each of the states that award them by congressional district. Trump is scheduled hold a dizzying 11 rallies in the final 48 hours before polls close.

Biden is sitting on more campaign cash than Trump and is putting it to use, blanketing airwaves with a nearly 2-to-1 advantage over the final two weeks. The incessant campaign ads feature both upbeat messages and blistering criticism of Trump’s handling of the pandemic.

It’s part of what Josh Schwerin, the senior strategist for Democratic super PAC Priorities USA, says has helped Biden gain an advantage.

“Those dual messages — continuing to draw a contrast with Trump, but also offering that positive aspirational message, giving people a reason to vote for Biden and not just against Trump — continues to be the best way forward. And we’re seeing it work,” he said.

Democrats have been heartened by their lead in the record numbers of early votes that have been cast across a number of battleground states — though they caution that Republicans are more likely to turn out on Election Day and certain to make up ground.

Four years ago, Clinton also enjoyed a lead in national and some state polls, and Democrats say their complacency doomed their candidate.

___

Miller reported from Washington and Jaffe reported from Wilmington, Delaware. Associated Press writers Aamer Madhani and Jonathan Lemire in Washington contributed to this report.


Fact Check: Trump and His Familiar Falsehoods

Monday October 26th, 2020 05:30:31 AM Calvin Woodward and Hope Yen

President Donald Trump says Mexico is paying for the wall (it isn’t), health care choice for veterans came from him (it didn’t) and his tax cut stands as the biggest in American history (nowhere close).

These are among his touchstones — the falsehoods that span his presidency — and he’s giving them another go in the final days of his relentless campaigning.

He’s got fresher false material, too, claiming “incredible” numbers in the pandemic response despite record infections, rising deaths and a statement from his chief of staff Sunday that the government cannot bring the coronavirus under control. He warned darkly of voting fraud in the Nov. 3 election without offering evidence that malfeasance is in play.

In weekend rallies, Trump also portrayed Democratic rival Joe Biden as the helmsman of a Marxist party who lined his own pockets with $3.5 million via Moscow. This didn’t happen.

A look at rhetoric from the weekend:

THE VIRUS

TRUMP: “Even without vaccines, we’re rounding the turn. It’s going to be over.” — on C-SPAN, Sunday.

TRUMP: “We’re rounding the turn. It’s going to be over.” — New Hampshire rally Sunday.

TRUMP: “We’re rounding the turn, we’re doing great. Our numbers are incredible.” — North Carolina rally Saturday.

THE FACTS: The numbers have turned harrowing, not “incredible.”

The U.S. set a daily record Friday for new confirmed coronavirus infections and nearly matched it Saturday with 83,178, data published by Johns Hopkins University show. Close to 8.6 million Americans have contracted the coronavirus since the pandemic began, and about 225,000 have died; both totals are the world’s highest. About half the states have seen their highest daily infection numbers so far at some point in October.

“We’re not going to control the pandemic,” Mark Meadows, Trump’s chief of staff, said on CNN. “We are going to control the fact that we get vaccines, therapeutics and other mitigation areas.” He did not share his boss’ view that the pandemic is turning a corner or that it will, absent a vaccine.

___

TRUMP on how long he may be immune to reinfection from the coronavirus: “With me it was for four months. If it was anybody else they’d say for life.” — Ohio rally.

TRUMP: “Now it used to be that if you had it, you were immune for life, right? For life. With me, they say I’m immune for four months. In other words, once I got it, the immunity went down from life to four months. I don’t know. They don’t know either.” — North Carolina.

THE FACTS: The only truth in these statements is that “they don’t know.”

Trump is suggesting here that experts are saying he is only immune from reinfection for four months because they don’t like him. But the science of immunity is not about him and the uncertainty is not a conspiracy against him. Public-health authorities don’t have final answerson how long or well people who had COVID-19 are protected from it again.

While there’s evidence that reinfection is unlikely for at least three months even for those with a mild case of COVID-19, very few diseases leave people completely immune for life. Antibodies are only one piece of the body’s defenses, and they naturally wane over time.

___

THE WALL

TRUMP: “And by the way, Mexico is paying for the wall.” — New Hampshire rally.

TRUMP: “No, they are paying for it. Totally.” — North Carolina rally.

TRUMP: “We got it financed. Mexico will be paying for it because we’re going to charge a fee.”

THE FACTS: The U.S. is paying for it. Mexico isn’t. The Mexican government flatly refused to contribute to extending or reinforcing barriers on U.S. soil — “Not now, not ever,” Enrique Peña Nieto, then Mexico’s president, tweeted in May 2018.

Since the start, Trump has been fishing for ways to make it appear that he was keeping his promise to make Mexico pay for the project at the core of his 2016 campaign. But the money is coming from today’s U.S. taxpayers and the future ones who will inherit the federal debt.

___

VETERANS

TRUMP: “We passed VA Choice.” — New Hampshire rally.

TRUMP: “The last administration failed our veterans. I reformed the VA, passed VA Choice.” — North Carolina rally.

THE FACTS: He did not get the Choice program passed. President Barack Obama did. Trump expanded it. The program allows veterans to get medical care outside the Veterans Affairs system under certain conditions.

___

THE BIDENS

TRUMP on Biden when he was vice president: “So Russia, the mayor of Moscow’s wife, who’s a very wealthy man, she’s a very wealthy woman, retired, gave him three and a half million dollars.” — North Carolina rally.

THE FACTS: No she didn’t.

A Republican congressional report that investigated the Moscow business dealings of Biden’s son, Hunter, pointed to a $3.5 million investment made there to an investment firm linked to Hunter Biden.

The money didn’t go to Joe Biden at all. Nor is there evidence that Hunter Biden pocketed the sum. The GOP report said the money went to the investment firm. And Hunter Biden’s lawyer has said in a statement that his client had no interest in that firm.

___

CHINA

TRUMP: “I banned people from China, where it was heavily infected, from coming into a country. Biden was totally against that. He called me xenophobic. And now he goes out and says we should have done it sooner. Well he didn’t want to do it at all.” — North Carolina rally.

THE FACTS: That’s false. Trump never banned travel from China; he restricted it. Biden did not call the travel restrictions xenophobic; he used the term in regard to Trump’s other rhetoric about foreigners. And he did not oppose the restrictions, but rather took no clear position for many weeks, before supporting them.

___

FRACKING

BIDEN: “I never said I oppose fracking.” — presidential debate Thursday.

TRUMP: “You said it in the tape.” — presidential debate Thursday.

THE FACTS: Trump is correct; Biden said it on tape, telling a Democratic primary debate, “No new fracking.” Trump has been playing Biden’s remark at his own rallies.

A fracking ban wasn’t and still isn’t Biden’s policy, though. Biden’s campaign corrected his remark after the primary debate. Biden would ban new oil and gas permits on federal land only; most oil and gas does not come from those properties. He has said repeatedly he would not ban fracking.

Still, Trump called him out for shaping his stance to suit a more liberal primary audience and argued at his Ohio rally Saturday that Biden in office would be beholden to Democrats who want to ban fossil fuels, people he hyperbolically called “the communists, the Marxists and the left wing extremists.”

___

VOTING FRAUD

TRUMP: “In Nevada, they want to have a thing where you don’t have to have any verification of the signature.” — New Hampshire rally.

THE FACTS: Not true, despite his frequent assertions to the contrary. The state’s existing law requires signature checks on mail ballots. A new law also spells out a process by which election officials are to check a signature against the one in government records.

In Nevada’s June primary, nearly 7,000 ballots were thrown out due to mismatched or missing signatures.

___

TRUMP: “I say the biggest risk we have are the fake ballots.” — New Hampshire rally.

TRUMP: “If we don’t know the result on Nov. 3, that means — unlike it has always been where you generally find out the election that night or soon — we could be going on forever with this. It’s the craziest thing … and we shouldn’t let it happen.” — New Hampshire rally.

THE FACTS: His statements are overblown.

It’s true that many states are expecting a surge in mail-in voting because of the coronavirus pandemic, which may lead to longer times in vote counting. The U.S. Supreme Court, for instance, will allow Pennsylvania to count mailed-in ballots received up to three days after the election. But there is no evidence to indicate that massive fraud is afoot. Any delay in declaring a winner of the presidential race after Nov. 3 would not in itself be illegal.

Broadly speaking, voter fraud has proved exceedingly rare. The Brennan Center for Justice in 2017 ranked the risk of ballot fraud at 0.00004% to 0.0009%, based on studies of past elections.

In the five states that regularly send ballots to all voters who have registered, there have been no major cases of fraud or difficulty counting the votes.

Even if the election is messy and contested in court, the country will have a president in January — and not have vote counting going on “forever” as he asserts — because the Constitution and federal law ensure it.

___

AUTO INDUSTRY

TRUMP: “We brought in tremendous numbers of companies … I said to Prime Minister Abe, a great, great gentleman who retired … ’Shinzo, you got to open some factories in Michigan … You’re selling too many cars made in Japan, you got to make them in the U.S.’ He’d say ’Well, I don’t do that … this is done by the private sector …’ I said, ‘You have to do it.’ The next day, they announced five companies were opening up factories.” — New Hampshire rally.

THE FACTS: That’s a made-up story he’s told before.

No Japanese automaker assembly plants have been announced or built in Michigan, let alone in one day, and there are no plans to add any.

There is one manufacturing facility, a joint venture between General Motors and Honda, south of Detroit. It’s the $85 million expansion of an existing facility to make hydrogen fuel cells with about 100 new jobs, according to the Center for Automotive Research, an industry think-tank in Ann Arbor, Michigan. Subaru has a new research center with about 100 new jobs, and Renault-Nissan-Mitsubishi and Toyota have announced expansions of research facilities.

These are not new “car plants” run by Japanese automakers and these initiatives did not all materialize in one day.

___

IRAN

TRUMP: “We got off that crazy Iran deal, right? The Iran nuclear deal, where Obama gave them $150 billion for the privilege.” — North Carolina rally.

THE FACTS: No, Obama did not give the Iranians $150 billion for signing the multinational deal to constrain their nuclear development. The deal let Iran have access to $150 billion of its own assets that were frozen abroad until Tehran agreed to the terms.

The U.S. made a separate payout to Iran of about $1.8 billion. That was to settle an old debt over military equipment that Iran paid for but never received.

___

TAXES

TRUMP: “You know, you got the biggest tax cut in the history of our country. I got it for you.” — North Carolina rally.

THE FACTS: His tax cuts are not close to the biggest in U.S. history.

It’s a $1.5 trillion tax cut over 10 years. As a share of the total economy, a tax cut of that size ranks 12th, according to the Committee for a Responsible Federal Budget. President Ronald Reagan’s 1981 cut is the biggest, followed by the 1945 rollback of taxes that financed World War II.

Post-Reagan tax cuts also stand among the historically significant: President George W. Bush’s cuts in the early 2000s and Obama’s renewal of them a decade later.


Early Vote Total Exceeds 2016; GOP Chips at Dems' Advantage

Monday October 26th, 2020 12:02:50 AM Nicholas Riccardi and Angeliki Kastanis

With eight days before Election Day, more people already have cast ballots in this year’s presidential election than voted early or absentee in the 2016 race as the start of in-person early voting in big states led to a surge in turnout in recent days.

The opening of early voting locations in Florida, Texas and elsewhere has piled millions of new votes on top of the mail ballots arriving at election offices as voters try to avoid crowded places on Nov. 3 during the coronavirus pandemic.

The result is a total of 58.6 million ballots cast so far, more than the 58 million that The Associated Press logged as being cast through the mail or at in-person early voting sites in 2016.

Democrats have continued to dominate the initial balloting, but Republicans are narrowing the gap. GOP voters have begun to show up at early in-person voting, a sign that many heeded President Donald Trump’s unfounded warnings about mail-voting fraud.

On Oct. 15, Democratic registrants cast 51% of all ballots reported, compared with 25% from Republicans. On Sunday, Democrats had a slightly smaller lead, 51% to 31%.

The early vote totals, reported by state and local election officials and tracked by the AP, are an imperfect indicator of which party may be leading. The data only shows party registration, not which candidate voters support. Most GOP voters are expected to vote on Election Day.

Analysts said the still sizable Democratic turnout puts extra pressure on the Republican Party to push its voters out in the final week and on Nov. 3. That’s especially clear in closely contested states such as Florida, Nevada and North Carolina.

“This is a glass half-full, glass half-empty situation,” said John Couvillon, a Republican pollster who tracks early voting closely. “They’re showing up more,” he added, but “Republicans need to rapidly narrow that gap.”

In Florida, for example, Democrats have outvoted Republicans by a 596,000 margin by mail, while Republicans only have a 230,000 edge in person. In Nevada, where Democrats usually dominate in-person early voting but the state decided to send a mail ballot to every voter this year, the GOP has a 42,600 voter edge in-person while Democrats have an 97,500 advantage in mail ballots.

“At some point, Republicans have to vote,” said Michael McDonald, a University of Florida political scientist who tracks early voting on ElectProject.org. “You can’t force everyone through a vote center on Election Day. Are you going to expect all those Republicans to stand in line for eight hours?”

Campaigns typically push their voters to cast ballots early so they can focus scarce resources chasing more marginal voters as the days tick down to Election Day. That usually saves them money on mailers and digital ads — something the cash-strapped Trump campaign would likely want — and minimizes the impact of late surprises that could change the race.

Trump’s campaign has been pushing its voters to cast ballots early, but with limited success, delighting Democrats. “We see the Trump campaign, the RNC (Republican National Committee) and their state parties urging Trump’s supporters to vote by mail while the president’s Twitter account says it’s a fraud,” Tom Bonier, a Democratic data analyst, said on a recent call with reporters. “The Twitter account is going to win every time.”

But Bonier warned that he does not expect a one-sided election. “There are signs of Republicans being engaged,” he said. “We do expect them to come out in very high numbers on Election Day.”

That split in voting behavior — Democrats voting early, Republicans on Election Day — has led some Democrats to worry about Trump declaring victory because early votes are counted last in Rust Belt battlegrounds. But they’re counted swiftly in swing states such as Arizona, Florida and North Carolina, which may balance out which party seems ahead on election night.

Some of the record-setting turnout has led to long lines at early-vote locations, and there have been occasional examples of voters receiving mail ballots that are incorrectly formatted. But on a whole, voting has gone relatively smoothly. With more than one-third of the 150 million ballots that experts predict will be cast in the election, there have been no armed confrontations at polling places or massive disenfranchisement that have worried election experts for months.

One sign of enthusiasm is the large number of new or infrequent voters who have already voted — 25% of the total cast, according to an AP analysis of data from the political data firm L2. Those voters are younger than a typical voter and less likely to be white. So far similar shares of them are registering Democratic and Republican.

They have helped contribute to enormous turnouts in states such as Georgia, where 26.3% of the people who’ve voted are new or infrequent voters, and Texas, which is expected to set turnout record and where 30.5% are new or infrequent voters.

The strong share of new and infrequent voters in the early vote is part of what leads analysts to predict more than 150 million total votes will be cast and possibly the highest turnout in a U.S. presidential election since 1908.

“There’s a huge chunk of voters who didn’t cast ballots in 2016,” Bonier said. “They’re the best sign of intensity at this point.”


Health Experts Raise Concerns After 5 Pence Aides Test Positive for COVID-19

Sunday October 25th, 2020 10:14:14 PM Marilynn Marchione

Health policy specialists questioned White House officials’ claim that federal rules on essential workers allow Vice President Mike Pence to continue to campaign and not quarantine himself after being exposed to the coronavirus.

Campaigning is not an official duty that might fall under the guidelines meant to ensure that police, first responders and key transportation and food workers can still perform jobs that cannot be done remotely, the health experts said.

A Pence aide said Sunday that the vice president would continue to work and travel, including for campaigning, after his chief of staff, Marc Short, tested positive for the coronavirus on Saturday. Short and senior political advisor Marty Obst are among five aides to the vice president who have recently tested positive, NBC News reports.

That usually means isolating oneself for 14 days after exposure in case an infection is developing, to prevent spreading the virus to others.

Pence tested negative on Sunday and decided to keep traveling after consulting White House medical personnel, his aides said.

Pence was holding a rally Sunday in North Carolina, events in Minnesota and Pennsylvania on Monday and more events in North Carolina and South Carolina on Tuesday. The most recent numbers show COVID-19 cases are rising in 75% of the country.

On Sunday, National Security Advisor Robert O’Brien told reporters that Pence “is following all the rules” from federal health officials. He called Pence “an essential worker” and said, “essential workers going out and campaigning and voting are about as essential as things we can do as Americans.”

However, the guidelines on essential workers from the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention are aimed at folks like police, first responders and key transportation and food workers.

The Department of Homeland Security spells out16 categories of critical infrastructure workers, including those at military bases, nuclear power sites, courthouses and public works facilities like dams and water plants.

“I don’t see campaigning on the list,” said Dr. Joshua Sharfstein, vice dean for public health practice at Johns Hopkins University and former Maryland state health department chief. “Anything that does not have to be done in person and anything not related to his job as vice president would not be considered essential.”

Dr. Thomas Tsai, a health policy specialist at Harvard University, agreed.

Helping to maintain the function of the executive branch of government could be considered critical work, but “we’ve always historically separated campaigning from official duties,” he said.

The Ebb and Flow of New Coronavirus Cases and Deaths

The graphs below illustrate the distribution of new coronavirus cases and deaths in the U.S. While New York accounted for the lion’s share of new cases and deaths in March and April, its numbers have declined in May as some states have increased. Hover or tap to see new daily cases and deaths across the country. States with the most are ordered top to bottom.

Source: The COVID Tracking Project
Credit: Amy O’Kruk/NBC

Pence also serves as president of the Senate, a largely ceremonial role outlined in the Constitution but one that stands to come into focus Monday.

The Senate was expected to vote Monday evening to confirm Trump’s Supreme Court nominee Amy Coney Barrett. Pence’s vote is unlikely to be needed to break a tie, but his presence was expected for the vote.

If Pence’s official work as vice president was considered essential, the CDC guidelines say he should be closely monitored for COVID-19 symptoms, stay at least 6 feet from others and wear a mask “at all times while in the workplace.”

Lawrence Gostin, a public health expert at Georgetown University school of law, said Pence’s intention to continue campaigning flouts the spirit of the CDC guidelines.

Sharfstein said Pence “could be putting people at risk” because he’s at high risk of becoming infected.

“He should quarantine in order to protect other people,” Sharfstein said.


Associated Press writers Lisa Mascaro and Aamer Madhani contributed from Washington.


FBI Investigating Fire Set in Boston Ballot Drop Box

Sunday October 25th, 2020 09:04:55 PM Kaitlin McKinley Becker

Someone set fire to a ballot drop box in Boston’s Copley Square early Sunday morning, police said, prompting a search for the arson suspect, an FBI investigation and calls for increased security amid ongoing early voting in Massachusetts.

Thirty-five ballots were damaged, and up to 10 of those cannot be counted, according to Massachusetts’ top elections official, Secretary of State William Galvin, and Boston Mayor Marty Walsh, who urged people who used the box Saturday and early Sunday to contact them to get replacement ballots.

“We’re going to insist on prosecuting whoever did this and want them to know they’re going to be apprehended and go to jail,” Galvin said. 

The FBI announced it was investigating after Galvin informed them of what appears to be a deliberate attack.

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

Galvin has also directed all local election officials around the commonwealth to increase security of drop boxes by employing drop box guards, utilizing video surveillance, and emptying drop boxes frequently. 

“We had expressed previously our concern about drop boxes being in secure locations, I’ve intensified that this afternoon by issuing this directive: if it’s necessary to have police officers in front of drop boxes if they cannot be contained inside a building,” Galvin said. 

Boston police say they responded to the area of 700 Boylston Street around 4:10 a.m. where the city’s fire department was already on scene tending to smoke coming from the early voting ballot box outside of the Boston Public Library.

While the ballot box appeared to be on fire, firefighters were unable to determine if the fire was burning inside of the box, police said. Crews extinguished the fire by filling the ballot box with water.

The drop box had last been emptied by the Boston Elections Department at 2:29 p.m. on Saturday, the department said. According to their inventory, there were 122 ballots inside the drop box when it was emptied Sunday morning, 87 of which were legible and able to be processed.

Anyone who used the Copley Square drop box between 2:30 p.m. on Saturday and 4 a.m. on Sunday is urged to contact the Boston Elections Department immediately at 617-635-2211. They recommended using the website www.TrackMyBallotMA.com to see if your ballot was accepted.

Affected voters will be mailed a replacement ballot by the City of Boston and will have the option of casting that replacement ballot or voting in person until 8 p.m. on Election Day.

The ballot drop box at Copley Square did not suffer physical outer damage and continues to be available for voters to deposit their completed ballots.

“It’s really important that everyone gets a chance to put their ballot in so I think to take that away is very shocking,” Aaron Ponce said.

In their statement, Galvin and Walsh urged voters not to be intimidated by attempts to interfere with this election.

“We ask voters not to be intimidated by this bad act, and remain committed to making their voices heard in this and every election,” Walsh and Galvin said.

With federal authorities investigating the incident, U.S. Attorney Andrew Lelling and FBI Special Agent in Charge Joseph Bonavolonta said in a joint statement Sunday that “it is a top priority of our offices to help maintain the integrity of the election process in Massachusetts by aggressively enforcing federal election laws.”

In their statement, Lelling and Bonavolonta said Massachusetts voters can feel confident in the success of the information sharing protocols that they have established in advance of the 2020 election.

“We remain fully committed to working with these partners to protect our communities as Americans exercise their right to vote,” they wrote.

Lelling and Bonavolonta also said help from the public is vital to their effort, encouraging people to remain vigilant and immediately report any suspicious, election-related activity.

Early voting began last Saturday in Massachusetts, and more than 2 million residents have already cast their ballots in person or by mail. 

According to the Secretary of State’s office, 2,209,350 voters have applied to vote by mail or voted early. As of 4 p.m. Sunday, 2,197,310 ballots had been provided and 1,600,525 ballots have been returned. That accounts for over 34% of the registered voters in the state.

In Boston alone, more than 166,000 people applied to vote by mail or voted early. Over 100,500 had returned their ballots as of Sunday.

The Boston Fire Department is asking anyone with information related to this ballot box arson investigation to contact them at 617-343-3324.