A Week Before Election Day, More Than Half the 2016 Vote Is Already In

A Week Before Election Day, More Than Half the 2016 Vote Is Already In

Credit…Mark Makela/Getty Images

With a week left until Election Day, the flood of people moved to cast their ballots early has grown so strong that the early vote has already exceeded half of the number of votes that were counted during the entire 2016 presidential election, according to data compiled by the United States Elections Project.

The coronavirus pandemic, the fear of postal delays and the passions inspired by the presidential candidates, both pro and con, have all contributed to the record early vote. As of Tuesday afternoon more than 69.5 million Americans had already mailed in their ballots or voted early in person, according to the data compiled by the project. That is 50.4 percent of the total number of votes that were counted during the entire 2016 election.

The early vote is even more dramatic in a number of key battleground states, including several that polls have suggested are unusually close this year. Texas has already received nearly 87 percent of the votes it counted in the 2016 election, Florida has already received more than two-thirds, North Carolina has received 72 percent and Georgia 71 percent. Wisconsin and Michigan are both approaching the halfway mark.

“The numbers are stunning,” Michael P. McDonald, a professor of political science at the University of Florida who gathers the data for the elections project, wrote in a recent analysis for the United States Elections Project, which tracks the early vote closely.

Not all states report the party affiliations of those who vote early. Those which do show a dichotomy in how the members of the two major parties choose to vote, though: Democrats have been much more likely to vote early by mail than Republicans, while Republicans have been a bit more likely to vote early in person than Democrats. President Trump has repeatedly railed against mail-in voting, making baseless claims that it is subject to fraud.

This trend means that the in-person vote reported on Election Day is more likely to show early Republican leads, and that Democrats may gain ground as absentee votes are tabulated in the days afterward.

Campaign officials and elections experts are still trying to determine the extent to which the high turnout so far reflects voters simply casting their ballots earlier than they normally would and to what extent it reflects high enthusiasm that could translate into a record turnout.

Dr. McDonald wrote in his analysis that the pace of early voting in some states suggests that they could surpass their 2016 vote totals this week.

President Trump’s campaign website was briefly taken over by hackers who defaced the site on Tuesday.

The defacement lasted less than 30 minutes, but the incident came as Mr. Trump’s campaign and that of his opponent, Joseph R. Biden Jr., as well as law enforcement and intelligence agencies, have been on high alert for digital interference ahead of next week’s election.

In a statement, Tim Murtaugh, a spokesman for the Trump campaign, confirmed the website’s defacement and said it was “working with law enforcement authorities to investigate the source of the attack.” He added, “There was no exposure to sensitive data because none of it is actually stored on the site. The website has been restored.”

The F.B.I. did not immediately comment on the incident. The defacement was first noted on Twitter by Gabriel Lorenzo Greschler, a journalist at the Jewish News of Northern California, while researching an article on climate change.

It was not clear whether the defacement was the work of foreign hackers or cybercriminals. But in a screed posted to Mr. Trump’s website — donaldjtrump.com — the hackers claimed to have compromised “multiple devices” that gave them access to the president and his relatives “most internal and secret conversations,” including classified information.

The hackers also accused the Trump administration, without proof, of having a hand in the origins of the coronavirus and cooperating with “foreign actors manipulating the 2020 elections.”

The hackers appeared to be looking to generate cryptocurrency. They invited visitors to donate cryptocurrency to one of two funds — one labeled “Yes, share the data,” the other labeled “No, Do not share the data.” They solicited payments in Monero, a hard-to-trace cryptocurrency.

“After the deadline, we will compare the funds and execute the will of the world,” they wrote, without specifying a deadline. The hackers also posted what they said was their encryption key to Mr. Trumps’ campaign site. The key corresponded to an email address at a nonexistent internet site.

Though the defacement appeared to be part of a common cryptocurrency scam to get people to irreversibly donate money online, the incident took on added urgency one week before the election.

Intelligence agencies have been closely monitoring hacking groups, including teams backed by Iran and Russia, that have tried to break into election-related systems and have been involved in influence operations in recent weeks.

Last week, John Ratcliffe, the director of national intelligence, identified Iran and Russia as two nations responsible for disinformation and some limited intrusions into voter registration databases.

He cited threatening emails, ostensibly from the far-right group the Proud Boys, that were sent to voters in Florida and elsewhere. But the emails relied on publicly-available information; no hacking was necessary. And they were written in broken English — as was the defaced Trump website.

Last week, Mr. Trump told a campaign rally in Tucson, Ariz., “Nobody gets hacked. To get hacked you need somebody with 197 I.Q. and he needs about 15 percent of your password.”

Julian E. Barnes, Adam Goldman and David E. Sanger contributed reporting.

Credit…Doug Mills/The New York Times

OMAHA — Nebraska’s second election district could play a decisive role in a close presidential race. Unlike most other states, Nebraska awards Electoral College votes by congressional district instead of a winner-take-all system. The statewide winner receives two votes, and the winner of each district receives one. In a tight election, every electoral vote counts, and Nebraska has five up for grabs.

Recent polls have favored Joseph R. Biden Jr. in the second district, which includes Omaha and many of its suburbs.

But on Tuesday night, President Trump’s supporters lined up by the hundreds to wait for his arrival at a rally in a state where coronavirus cases are surging and thousands of supporters were expected to cram together at what Jane Kleeb, the Nebraska State Democratic Party chairwoman, called “a potential superspreader event.”

A few people who lined up for the event wore masks, but most did not. Most of the president’s supporters were subdued as a chilly wind whipped around them, yet they were confident polls that showed Mr. Trump trailing behind Mr. Biden were wrong.

They said Mr. Trump needed to merely keep showing up at events like this in the final days of the election and voters would turn out for him.

“Most of the polls anymore, I think, are pushing an agenda,” said Dillon Bloedorn, a farmer who drove an hour and 15 minutes from his home in Wisner, Neb., to see the president.

He’s confident Mr. Trump will win because of “stuff like this when he’s pulling 5,000 or 10,000 people at a rally,” Mr. Bloedorn said.

When Mr. Trump arrived, he repeatedly emphasized the size of the crowd, which he claimed was 29,000 people at the outdoor setup.

He offered only a few area-specific entreaties to the crowd, saying at one point, “As president, I will always defend ethanol,” referring to the gasoline additive that is made from corn and which has long been a political topic in neighboring Iowa.

Mr. Trump then said, “Does Nebraska like ethanol too, by the way?” The crowd replied loudly that the answer was yes. “Good, I need that little assurance,” said Mr. Trump, who is trailing Mr. Biden by seven percentage points in Nebraska’s second district.

He urged supporters at different points to vote. “I’m standing here freezing,” he said of the 32-degree weather. “I ask you one little favor: get the hell out and vote.”

And he continued to mock the news media for covering the coronavirus. “With the fake news, everything is Covid. Covid. Covid. Covid. I had it. Here I am right?” said Mr. Trump, who was treated with a cocktail of experimental medicine and a heavy steroid.

Some supporters who were there said it mattered to them that Mr. Trump would appear in a state in the middle of the country that is often ignored by candidates who focus on swing states or even its neighbor to the east, Iowa, which hosts caucuses.

For his part, Mr. Biden will most likely not appear in Nebraska in the final days of the election, a sign he is confident about victory in this state’s second district. He announced plans to visit Iowa, and in lieu of visiting Omaha, he gave a statement to the Omaha World-Herald, Nebraska’s largest newspaper.

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‘I Know We Can Unite,’ Biden Says

On Tuesday, Joseph R. Biden Jr., the Democratic nominee, held a campaign rally in Georgia and called upon the memory of President Franklin D. Roosevelt.

Have we passed the point of no return? Has the heart of this nation turned to stone? I don’t think so. I refuse to believe it. I know this country. I know our people. And I know we can unite and heal this nation. Warm Springs is a good place to talk about hope and healing — it’s where Franklin Roosevelt came, quote, “to use the therapeutic waters.” F.D.R. came looking for a cure. But it was the lessons he learned here that he used to lift a nation — humility, empathy, courage, optimism. This place represented a way forward, a way of restoration, of resilience, of healing. I’m running as a proud Democrat, but I will govern as an American president. I’ll work with Democrats and Republicans. I’ll work as hard for those who don’t support me as for those who do. That’s the job of a president, a duty of care for everyone. This place, Warm Springs, is a reminder that though broken, each of us can be healed, that as a people and a country, we can overcome this devastating virus, that we can heal a suffering world. And yes we can restore our soul and save our country.

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On Tuesday, Joseph R. Biden Jr., the Democratic nominee, held a campaign rally in Georgia and called upon the memory of President Franklin D. Roosevelt.CreditCredit…Erin Schaff/The New York Times

One week before Election Day, Joseph R. Biden Jr. stormed into Georgia to deliver his campaign’s closing argument, invoking faith and history to promise a new chapter of national unity as he cast President Trump as a charlatan who has surrendered in the face of crisis.

In his first stop in Georgia, a traditionally red state that is now a battleground, Mr. Biden, the Democratic presidential nominee, appeared in Warm Springs, long a destination for candidates seeking to embrace the legacy of Franklin D. Roosevelt, who had hoped the therapeutic waters would help him recover after polio left him paralyzed.

“This place, Warm Springs, is a reminder that though broken, each of us can be healed,” Mr. Biden said. “That as a people and a country, we can overcome this devastating virus. That we can heal a suffering world. And yes, we can restore our soul and save our country.”

Roosevelt guided the nation through the Great Depression and World War II, and Mr. Biden described the nation, deeply divided and grappling with crises of public health, economic devastation and racial injustice, as being on wartime footing again, of a different kind.

Mr. Biden outlined the stakes of the election in among his starkest terms to date, likening his opponent to the “charlatans, the con men, the phony populists, who have sought to play to our fears, appeal to our worst appetites, and pick at the oldest scabs we have for their own political gain” throughout the nation’s history.

“This election is about who we are as a nation, what we believe, and maybe most importantly, who we want to be,” Mr. Biden said, seeking to deepen his appeal to independent voters and moderate Republicans who are disillusioned by Mr. Trump. “It’s about our essence. It’s about what makes us Americans.”

In a speech flecked with references to faith, Mr. Biden, a practicing Catholic, invoked a recent encyclical from Pope Francis that, he said, “warns us against this phony populism that appeals to, quote, the ‘basest and most selfish’ instincts.”

“The Bible tells us, there is a time to break down, and a time to build up. A time to heal,” Mr. Biden said. “This is that time. God and history have called us to this moment and to this mission.”

That Mr. Biden is traveling to Georgia at all, let alone in the final stretch of the presidential race, suggests that his campaign sees an opportunity to expand its electoral map. Recent polls show Mr. Biden and Mr. Trump, who won Georgia by five points in 2016, locked in a virtual tie.

At the same time, two Democratic candidates, Jon Ossoff and the Rev. Raphael Warnock, are in tight races for the state’s two Senate seats. Some Democrats are even optimistic about the party’s chances of taking the State House.

Georgia, like several other battlegrounds, is shading more purple as its electorate becomes more diverse, with young voters, suburban women and people of color driving the political change.

Later on Tuesday, Mr. Biden and his running mate, Senator Kamala Harris, weighed in on the fatal shooting of a Black man, Walter Wallace Jr., by the police Monday night in Philadelphia, which touched off violent protests. Mr. Wallace, whom the authorities said was armed with a knife, struggled with mental health issues, his family told The Inquirer.

“We cannot accept that in this country a mental health crisis ends in death,” Mr. Biden and Ms. Harris said in a statement. “Walter Wallace’s life, like too many others’, was a Black life that mattered — to his mother, to his family, to his community, to all of us.

The Democratic running mates said Mr. Wallace’s death did not justify the violence.

“Attacking police officers and vandalizing small businesses, which are already struggling during a pandemic, does not bend the moral arc of the universe closer to justice,” they said.

Credit…Mark Lambie/The El Paso Times, via Associated Press

AUSTIN, Texas — In a victory for Gov. Greg Abbott, the all-Republican Texas Supreme Court on Tuesday upheld his order to restrict Texas counties to only one drop-off site for mail-in ballots.

With Election Day only a week away, the ruling gives Mr. Abbott, a Republican, what appears to be the last word in a legal battle that has meandered through both federal and state courts through much of October. The Supreme Court decision and a ruling by the Fifth Circuit Court of Appeals earlier this month overturned lower court rulings that sided with voter rights advocates who claimed Mr. Abbott’s order amounted to unconstitutional voter suppression.

“We knew it was coming,” said Susan Hays, legal counsel for the Harris County Clerk’s Office in Houston, which opposed the order. “We don’t expect anything to change between now and the election.”

Mr. Abbott said his Oct. 1 order limiting ballot drop boxes to one per county enhanced election security and maintained that he was expanding voter access by extending early voting from two to nearly three weeks, ending on Friday. But Democratic-backed lawsuits by civil rights and voter groups contended that reducing the number of ballot drop-off sites imposed hardships on older and disabled Texans and increased voters’ potential risk of exposure to the coronavirus.

Texas Attorney General Ken Paxton, a Republican, issued a statement praising the ruling, saying the decision “rightfully bolsters the security of dropped-off ballots” and “preserved election integrity.”

But Democrats blasted the ruling and said it was an incentive to propel their voters to the polls.

“The Texas Republican Supreme Court continues to bend the law in any which way to secure Republican political power,” said Gilberto Hinojosa, the chairman of the Texas Democratic Party. “The only option for free and fair government is to vote Democrat all the way down the ballot.”

Credit…Nicole Hester/Ann Arbor News, via Associated Press

A judge in Michigan blocked the state’s top elections official on Tuesday from banning gun owners from bringing their firearms to the polls with them on Election Day next week under the state’s open carry law.

Judge Christopher M. Murray of the Michigan Court of Claims granted a preliminary injunction to several gun rights groups, which had sued Secretary of State Jocelyn Benson, a Democrat, over the ban.

The groups argued that Ms. Benson had overstepped her authority when she ordered local election clerks on Oct. 16 to prohibit the open carrying of firearms in polling places, clerk’s offices and absent voter counting boards.

“That smacks of an attempt at legislation,” Judge Murray said during an emergency hearing that was conducted on Zoom. “This is the kind of thing where public input is required.”

Judge Murray noted that voter intimidation was already against the law in Michigan.

“If anyone feels intimated by someone brandishing or carrying an open weapon, there’s already statutory authority to take care of that problem,” he said.

The state’s lawyer, Assistant Attorney General Heather Meingast, said there were legitimate concerns about voters being allowed to bring their guns with them to the polls. She cited the alleged plot to kidnap Gov. Gretchen Whitmer of Michigan that was thwarted by the F.B.I. earlier this month and the tempestuous rhetoric over the election in the battleground state.

“We’ve had numerous complaints,” Ms. Meingast said. “There are voters who are afraid. There are election workers who are afraid to go to work on Election Day.”

In Michigan, it is illegal to bring a firearm to a school or church, which are widely used as polling places. The law makes exceptions for anyone who is licensed to carry a concealed weapon, though lawyers for the plaintiffs in the case asserted that they would also be adversely affected.

The plaintiffs said that Ms. Benson’s duties as the secretary of state were limited to the administration of elections and said that the ban could subject law-abiding gun owners to arrest while exercising their right to vote and bear arms. One of the plaintiffs was the Michigan Coalition for Responsible Gun Owners, an advocacy group that fought for changes to the state’s concealed carry laws in the early 2000s.

“What they’re concerned about specifically is the bypassing of the normal procedure for making such rules and laws, and the demonization of gun owners in general by somehow determining that the mere presence of a firearm is going to be an issue with intimidation or assault,” said Steven Dulan, a lawyer for the group.

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Crowd Chants ‘Lock Her Up’ After Trump Lashes Out at Whitmer

President Trump lashed out at Michigan’s governor, Gretchen Whitmer, during his rally in Lansing, Mich. Tuesday criticizing her for imposing too many restrictions to prevent the spread of the coronavirus.

“But it’s a choice between a Trump boom or a Biden lockdown. But you’re already locked down. I mean, this state, we gotta get her going, I don’t know. We gotta get her going. I don’t think she likes me too much.” Crowd: “Lock her up. Lock her up. Lock her up. Lock her up. Lock her up.” “Hey Governor, let your state open, get your kids back to school, Governor — not a good governor. And you know what else, I’m also getting your husbands — they want to get back to work right? They want to get back to work. We’re getting your husbands back to work, and everybody wants it. And the cure can never be worse than the problem itself.”

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President Trump lashed out at Michigan’s governor, Gretchen Whitmer, during his rally in Lansing, Mich. Tuesday criticizing her for imposing too many restrictions to prevent the spread of the coronavirus.

President Trump lashed out at Gretchen Whitmer, Michigan’s Democratic governor, during a rally in the state capital on Tuesday, accusing her of imposing too many restrictions to limit the spread of the coronavirus and saying she is “not a good governor.” He smiled broadly as his supporters chanted “lock her up.”

“Hey governor, let your state open, get your kids back to school. Not a good governor,” Mr. Trump said in Lansing during an hour-long rally, the first of three campaign stops for the president as he began the final week of his re-election campaign. Ms. Whitmer lifted the state’s stay-at-home order on June 1, and schools have been allowed to reopen, with local school districts determining when and how to do so.

“I’m also getting your husbands, they want to get back to work, right? They want to get back to work. We’re getting your husbands back to work,” Mr. Trump said, adding: “It’s a choice between a Trump boom or a Biden lockdown, but you’re already locked down. I mean this state. We got to get her going, I don’t know.”

His comment prompted the crowd to begin loudly chanting “lock her up,” and Mr. Trump stopped speaking to allow the chants to continue. After a few moments, he joked that he would be criticized if he encouraged their chant.

“See I don’t comment on that because every time, if I make just even a little bit of a nod, they say the president led them on,” he said, smiling. “I don’t have to lead you on.”

Some supporters of Mr. Trump at the rally were also organizing a recall effort against the governor and collected signatures for a petition to limit her powers next to signs that read, “the governor is an idiot.”

Federal officials announced in early October that they had foiled a plot by an extremist, right-wing group to kidnap Ms. Whitmer out of frustrations over virus lockdowns in the state. Earlier this year, Mr. Trump had tweeted that he wanted people in Michigan and elsewhere to “liberate” their states from such restrictions.

On Tuesday, Ms. Whitmer laid the blame for the alleged kidnapping plot firmly at Mr. Trump’s feet, accusing him of “sowing division and putting leaders, especially women leaders, at risk” with his divisive rhetoric.

In an op-ed published in The Atlantic, Ms. Whitmer, a Democrat in her first term, wrote that she was “not surprised” by the scheme and vowed not to “stand back and let the president, or anyone else, put my colleagues and fellow Americans in danger without holding him accountable.”

“Every time the president ramps up this violent rhetoric, every time he fires up Twitter to launch another broadside against me, my family and I see a surge of vicious attacks sent our way,” she wrote. “This is no coincidence, and the president knows it. He is sowing division and putting leaders, especially women leaders, at risk. And all because he thinks it will help his re-election.”

In an interview with CBS’s “60 Minutes” that aired on Sunday, Mr. Trump denied that he had attacked Ms. Whitmer even though he has repeatedly insulted her and made derisive comments about her leadership.

“I haven’t gone after her,” he said. When Lesley Stahl, who gave the interview, asked if he wanted to “lock her up,” he replied: “Of course, I don’t want to lock her up. Why would I lock her up?”

Michigan, which Mr. Trump won narrowly in 2016, is grappling with record high numbers of new coronavirus infections. The state is key to his re-election hopes, but he has been steadily behind there in opinion polls.

In recent days Michigan has begun averaging more than 2,000 new coronavirus cases a day for the first time since the pandemic struck, and the number of hospitalizations there has been steadily climbing, according to a New York Times database. Over the past seven days the state has added 15,569 new cases, the eighth highest tally in the nation, and 187 more people have died, the ninth highest tally.

Michael Cooper, Sydney Ember and Kathy Gray contributed reporting.

Credit…Jay Janner/Austin American-Statesman, via Associated Press

Officials in the sprawling county around Fort Worth have learned that nearly a third of the county’s mail-in ballots are being rejected by ballot scanners because of illegible bar codes, but they are reassuring voters that every ballot will ultimately be counted.

Because of a printing error, 20,000 to 25,000 of the approximately 85,000 mail-in ballots distributed in Tarrant County, Texas, may have flawed bar codes that will not scan properly, Tarrant County Judge Glen Whitley, the county’s chief executive, said in a telephone interview. County officials learned of the problem over the weekend and were scrambling to make duplicate ballots to correct the problem in the final week before Election Day on Nov. 3, Mr. Whitley said.

“It’s going to be counted and it’s going to be just as they marked it,” he said of the duplication process that he said would be carried out under bipartisan supervision by the county’s ballot board. He said two-person teams with representatives from different parties would compare the duplicate with the original to make sure the selections were identical and that the ballot was ready to be counted.

The problem came to light on Saturday as officials discovered that roughly a third of the ballots produced by a state-authorized vendor were “not read properly by the scanner,” Mr. Whitley said.

Credit…Shawn Thew/EPA, via Shutterstock

The Supreme Court decision on Monday effectively barring the counting of mail-in ballots in Wisconsin after Election Day was not a surprise for many Democrats, who had pressed for it but expected to lose.

But a concurring opinion by Justice Brett M. Kavanaugh set off alarm among civil rights and Democratic Party lawyers, who viewed it as giving public support to President Trump’s arguments that any results counted after Election Day could be riddled with fraudulent votes — an assertion unsupported by the history of elections in the United States.

In a concurring opinion attached to the 5-3 ruling against the deadline extension in Wisconsin, Justice Kavanaugh wrote that Election Day mail-in deadlines are devised “to avoid the chaos and suspicions of impropriety that can ensue if thousands of absentee ballots flow in after election day and potentially flip the results of an election.”

He added, “Those states also want to be able to definitively announce the results of the election on election night, or as soon as possible thereafter.”

Justice Kavanaugh’s statement mirrored in some ways Mr. Trump’s efforts to suggest that only ballots counted by Election Day should decide the result, and more generally to push unfounded claims about widespread voter fraud.

Earlier on Monday, the president tweeted that election officials “must have final total on November 3rd,” alleging without evidence that there are “big problems” with mail-in ballots. The tweet was labeled “misleading” by Twitter.

The concept that counting late arriving ballots could “flip the results” misconstrues the voting process, where official results often are not fully tabulated for days or even weeks following the election.

And, this year, both sides expect that Democrats will vote by mail in greater numbers than Republicans will, and that Republicans will vote in person in greater numbers than Democrats will — leading to a potential scenario in which initial results could appear to favor Mr. Trump, only to move in Mr. Biden’s direction as the counts of mailed ballots are made public.

Rick Hasen, a professor of law and political science at the University of California, Irvine, said Justice Kavanaugh’s reference to “suspicions of impropriety” revealed a “Trumpian mind-set.” More substantively, Mr. Hasen said, his opinion augured a harder climb for civil rights groups and Democrats in election-year cases that go before the Supreme Court.

THE EARLY VOTE

Credit…Gregg Newton/Reuters

With Election Day still a week away, more than 6.4 million people have already voted in Florida — which is more than two-thirds of the votes that were counted there in the entire 2016 election, according to data compiled by the United States Elections Project.

The Florida data collected so far shows that Democrats initially built up a big advantage by mailing in more ballots than Republicans, but Republicans have eaten into their lead by turning out in greater numbers to cast early in-person votes. (The data shows the party of the people who cast ballots, but not whom they voted for.)

There is still much to be determined, Michael P. McDonald, a professor of political science at the University of Florida who runs the elections project, wrote in a recent analysis.

“There are a lot of Democratic mail ballots still outstanding,” he wrote. “Will Democrats return them by Election Day, as is required for all but military and overseas civilian voters? How much will Republicans make up ground with in-person early voting? Will African-Americans show up to vote in-person early during Sunday’s Souls-to-Polls events, offsetting some Republican in-person gains? What will happen on Election Day?”

Here is what the data showed late Tuesday:

  • 6,440,993 Floridians have voted, which is 68.6 percent of all the votes counted in 2016.

  • Democrats have cast 2,688,867 votes, or 41.7 percent of the votes cast so far.

  • Republicans have cast 2,389,846 votes, or 37.1 percent of the votes cast so far.

  • Unaffiliated voters have cast 1,281,839 votes, or 19.9 percent, of the votes cast, and members of minor parties have cast just over 80,000 votes.

  • When it came to voting by mail, Democrats cast more 614,547 more mail ballots than Republicans, and led the mail-in vote by 46.8 percent to 31.1 percent.

  • When it came to voting early in person, Republicans cast 315,526 more in-person votes than Democrats did, and led early in-person voting by 46.4 percent to 34 percent.

With Tropical Storm Zeta expected to strengthen into a hurricane again and make landfall along Florida’s panhandle, three Gulf Coast counties that are heavily Republican will close all of their early-voting sites on Wednesday afternoon as a precaution.

David H. Stafford, the supervisor of elections in Escambia County, announced the closure of all 10 early voting sites at 3 p.m. on Wednesday. The sites are scheduled to reopen at 11 a.m. on Thursday. The county’s seat is Pensacola, Fla., where President Trump held a campaign rally last Friday.

Santa Rosa and Okaloosa counties, which are north and east of Pensacola, will also close their early-voting sites on Wednesday at 3 p.m. and 5 p.m., respectively. Santa Rosa will reopen at 11 a.m. on Thursday, and Okaloosa will reopen at 9 a.m. on Thursday.

Mr. Trump won all three counties overwhelmingly in 2016.

Credit…Logan Cyrus/Agence France-Presse — Getty Images

A federal judge in South Carolina on Tuesday ordered local election officials in the state to stop the practice of analyzing voter signatures on absentee ballots, an inexact science that had been used in some counties to disqualify votes.

The ruling, by Judge Richard Mark Gergel of U.S. District Court in Charleston, found that the practice caused a “high risk of erroneous deprivation of the right to vote by unskilled and untrained election officers attempting to match voter signatures.”

The League of Women Voters of South Carolina had filed a suit complaining that at least nine of the state’s 46 counties had a practice of examining voter signatures with an eye toward whether they matched those on file, even though South Carolina election law does not authorize the practice.

In a similar case, the Pennsylvania Supreme Court ruled on Friday that mail ballots in that state could not be rejected on the basis of perceived mismatches on signatures.

The Pennsylvania court ruling was regarded as a blow to President Trump’s campaign because it eliminated a possible avenue for challenging ballots in a state he won by fewer than 45,000 votes in 2016.

Mr. Trump is ahead of Joseph R. Biden Jr. in public polls in South Carolina, but the Senate race between Lindsey Graham, the Republican incumbent, and his Democratic challenger, Jaime Harrison, is more competitive.

Credit…Jefferson Siegel for The New York Times

A federal judge ruled on Tuesday that President Trump can be personally sued for defamation over a statement he made during his presidency denying a decades-old rape allegation, rejecting a maneuver by the Justice Department that would have likely led to the dismissal of the suit.

The ruling by Judge Lewis A. Kaplan of Federal District Court in Manhattan allows a lawsuit by the writer E. Jean Carroll to move forward against Mr. Trump, in his capacity as a private citizen, for the time being.

Ms. Carroll has accused Mr. Trump of raping her in a department-store dressing room in the 1990s. Her lawsuit claims he harmed her reputation when he denied the attack last year and called her a liar.

Last month, the Justice Department intervened on Mr. Trump’s behalf in the suit, which had been filed in state court in New York, citing a law designed to protect federal employees against litigation stemming from the performance of their duties.

The Justice Department argued last week that Mr. Trump’s denial was issued in his official capacity as president because it “addressed matters relating to his fitness for office as part of an official White House response to press inquiries.” And it sought to move Ms. Carroll’s suit to federal court and to substitute the United States for Mr. Trump as the defendant, which would likely lead to the charges being dismissed.

But Judge Kaplan ruled that Mr. Trump was not acting in his official capacity when he denied the accusation, writing, “His comments concerned an alleged sexual assault that took place several decades before he took office, and the allegations have no relationship to the official business of the United States.”

Credit…Anna Moneymaker for The New York Times

What little hope Americans had remaining that they would get a needed coronavirus relief package before the election was dashed late Monday when Mitch McConnell, the majority leader, adjourned the Senate for two weeks after its vote to confirm Judge Amy Coney Barrett to the Supreme Court.

Already stalled for three months, prospects for a deal had largely faded, with Democrats, Senate Republicans and President Trump’s negotiators unable to come together on a deal to help keep struggling Americans afloat.

The first round of stimulus, which included beefed-up unemployment benefits, support to small businesses and $1,200 checks to individuals, was considered largely successful in staving off a worse economic calamity in the spring, with tens of millions of Americans relying on it to pay their bills, avoid evictions and keep their businesses running.

In a poll conducted this month by The New York Times and Siena College, a majority of likely voters said they supported a new $2 trillion stimulus package, while economists and the chair of the Federal Reserve have said an infusion of federal money would fuel an economic recovery now on shaky ground.

Mr. Trump abruptly pulled the plug on the talks early this month, only to reverse course in recent weeks. Without offering specifics, Mr. Trump said he had instructed Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin to “go big or go home.”

That statement put him at odds with Mr. McConnell, who cautioned the president against striking a deal with House Democrats.

Senate Republicans did not want to spend more than $500 billion.

Speaker Nancy Pelosi spoke with Mr. Mnuchin for nearly an hour on Monday but failed to reach a deal, her deputy chief of staff, Drew Hammill, wrote on Twitter.

While both the House and Senate can be called back for a vote with 24 hours notice, that appeared unlikely with Election Day less than a week away.

The Senate will reconvene on Nov. 9 and could take up negotiations again.

But by then, the backdrop could be vastly different, depending on what happens on Election Day.

Credit…Andrew Harnik/Associated Press

A group of 20 Republican former federal prosecutors endorsed former Vice President Joseph R. Biden Jr. on Tuesday, calling President Trump “a threat to the rule of law in our country” who uses the Justice Department “to serve his personal and political interests.”

“He has politicized the Justice Department, dictating its priorities along political lines,” the signatories said in an open letter. “We do not support his re-election.”

The letter, organized by Ken Wainstein, who served as a top national security adviser to President George W. Bush and as the U.S. attorney in Washington, is the latest example of prominent Republicans supporting Mr. Biden. Others include former governors, Congress members and national security officials.

The letter from the former U.S. attorneys includes signatures from appointees of every Republican administration since President Eisenhower’s.

“The president has clearly conveyed that he expects his Justice Department appointees and prosecutors to serve his personal and political interests in the handling of certain cases — such as the investigations into foreign election interference and the prosecution of his political associates — and has taken action against those who have stood up for the interests of justice,” the letter said.

The prosecutors accused Mr. Trump of “picking political fights with state and local officials in a naked effort to demonize and blame them for the disturbances in our cities,” a posture that they say has made it harder for the federal government to quell the unrest over policing that has broken out across the country in recent months.

The letter argued that Mr. Biden would work to unify the country, rather than stoke division — “the key to meeting the challenges that our country is facing.”

“Joe Biden and his Justice Department will make every effort to unite law enforcement and the nation in the pursuit of justice,” the letter said, “and to build a criminal justice system that provides equal justice under the law.”

The Trump campaign dismissed the letter. “No one should be surprised establishment elitists are supporting Joe Biden,” said Hogan Gidley, a spokesman for the Trump campaign. “President Trump has the support of brave men and women of law enforcement across this country and the unions representing those groups.”

While Mr. Trump has the strong backing of police unions and sheriffs, the letter said that it is Mr. Biden who has “devoted his career to supporting law enforcement,” noting that protecting law enforcement also includes preserving the independence of the Justice Department and the fair and impartial application of the law.

Credit…Pete Marovich for The New York Times

Pushing further into Republican territory one week before Election Day, Democrats are poised to expand their majority in the House while Republicans, weighed down by President Trump’s low standing in crucial battlegrounds, are scrambling to offset losses.

Bolstered by an enormous cash advantage, a series of critical Republican recruitment failures and a wave of liberal enthusiasm, Democrats have fortified their grip on hard-fought seats won in 2018 that allowed them to seize control of the House. They have trained their firepower and huge campaign coffers on once-solid Republican footholds in affluent suburban districts where voters have become disillusioned with Mr. Trump.

That has left Republicans, who started the cycle hoping to retake the House by clawing back a number of the competitive districts they lost in 2018, straining to meet a bleaker goal: limiting the reach of another Democratic sweep by winning largely rural, white working-class districts where Mr. Trump is still popular.

Depending on how successful those efforts are, Republican strategists, citing a national environment that has turned against them, privately forecast losing anywhere between a handful of seats to as many as 20.

That is starkly at odds with Mr. Trump’s own prediction just days ago that Republicans would win back control of the House, which Speaker Nancy Pelosi declared “delusional,” echoing the private assessments of many in the president’s own party.

Democrats currently outnumber Republicans in the House 232 to 197.

“The Democrats’ green wave in 2018 has turned into a green tsunami in 2020, which combined with ongoing struggles with college-educated suburban voters, makes for an extremely challenging environment,” said Corry Bliss, a Republican strategist who helped lead the party’s failed 2018 effort to protect its House majority, referring to the torrent of Democratic campaign cash.

“There are about a dozen 50-50 races across the country, and the most important factor in each is if the president can close strong in the final stretch.”

The terrain for House Republicans was not supposed to be this grim. But Mr. Trump’s stumbling response to the pandemic and inflammatory politics have alienated critical segments of the electorate, particularly suburban voters and women, dragging down congressional Republicans and opening inroads for Democrats in districts that once would have been unfathomable.

Credit…Scott McIntyre for The New York Times

In America, spikes in firearms purchases are often driven by fear. And now, the nation is on track in 2020 to stockpile at record rates, according to groups that track background checks from F.B.I. data, which showed sales rising earlier this year as virus fears spread.

But when it comes to gun ownership, there’s something uniquely American that cuts across party affiliation and social boundaries — leaving liberals and conservatives jostling for ammunition because they want to brace for whatever comes next.

“This is a giant room of ‘you never know,’” said Bert Davis, looking around earlier this month at people streaming inside a convention hall in Virginia to peruse weaponry at the Nation’s Gun Show, one of the biggest events of its kind.

A human resources worker for the city of Richmond, Va., Mr. Davis had come to the show with his sister Toni Jackson, who had been having difficulty finding 9-millimeter ammunition at local gun shops; they were all sold out.

“Everybody is arming themselves against their neighbor,” Ms. Jackson said, looking at the diverse lot of fellow shoppers, some pushing strollers and wheelchairs, one wearing a “Black Lives Matter” mask, one donning a “Keep America Great” mask and people standing in a line for background checks that snaked along the room. “This feeds the separatism of the country.”

“What’s going on in the country right now, I’m afraid to be out by myself as a Black woman,” Ms. Jackson said, describing unrest in her city of Richmond and beyond. “There are a lot of people not necessarily excited that Confederate monuments have been taken down.”

Other shoppers said they had bought a weapon because they were scared that calls to defund the police would be heeded. Some said they were scared of the police. Some were scared that Joseph R. Biden Jr. would become president. Others were scared of four more years of President Trump.

Don Woodson was overseeing the Trojan Arms and Tactical table of dozens of black, pink and Tiffany turquoise semiautomatic handguns. He estimated 70 percent of his sales at the show were to new gun owners, many of whom told him that they are afraid of rioters.

“People who never ever would have had guns before,” he said. “Now, they’re looking for security.”

Credit…Kathryn Gamble for The New York Times

If you still haven’t mailed your completed ballot, the U.S. Postal Service says today may be your last chance.

The agency’s general recommendation is that ballots be mailed at least a week before the deadline, which in more than half the states is Election Day on Nov. 3, one week from today. Some states will accept ballots by mail for a certain period afterward as long as they are postmarked before the election, while in Louisiana the deadline is Nov. 2. (Find the deadline for your state here.)

And think twice before using an express carrier like FedEx or UPS, which could run afoul of the different rules states have for voting by mail.

“If you have a mail ballot but you haven’t mailed it back yet, vote it today and return it in person if you can,” said David Becker, the founder and executive director of the Center for Election Innovation & Research, a nonprofit, nonpartisan group that seeks to increase voter participation and improve the efficiency of elections.

“Get your ballot back as soon as possible in a drop box, or an election office if at all possible,” he added. “Or alternatively, take it with you to an early voting location and drop it off there, or surrender it and cast an in-person ballot.”

Some states don’t accept ballots if they are delivered by a private carrier. And states generally require ballot envelopes to carry a postmark, which only the Postal Service can apply. (The rules are different for Americans voting from overseas, who are allowed to mail their ballots back by private carrier and even encouraged to at this late stage.)

Using an express carrier can also cost more. The Postal Service treats ballots as first-class mail, meaning they can be returned with a 55-cent “Forever Stamp.” In many cases, voters are able to return completed ballots in a prepaid envelope at no cost.

Both UPS and FedEx suggest that voters check the rules in their states.

Credit…Alex Brandon/Associated Press

President Trump will hold his election night party at his hotel in Washington, a senior Republican official with knowledge of the plans confirmed Monday night, setting up a potential standoff with the city’s Democratic mayor over the district’s limits on gatherings.

The White House has largely ignored those limits during the coronavirus pandemic, most notably in August when Mr. Trump hosted more than a thousand supporters on the White House lawn for the speech in which he accepted the Republican nomination for president.

At another event on Sept. 26, Mr. Trump introduced his Supreme Court nominee, Justice Amy Coney Barrett, in front of a crowd of several hundred people in the Rose Garden. The president and the first lady are among at least 11 people who have tested positive since attending the ceremony, which the health authorities later called a “super-spreader event.”

The District of Columbia has little say over events on the White House grounds, but the campaign’s selection of the Trump International Hotel as the venue for the president’s election night festivities could be different.

Gatherings are capped at 50 people in Washington under the city’s emergency orders. At a news conference on Monday outlining the city’s plans for dealing with a second wave of virus cases, the city’s mayor, Muriel Bowser, said she had become aware of the plans for the election night gathering, and suggested that the city could take action against the hotel.

“I heard about something this morning,” Ms. Bowser said. “We will be in touch with our licensee, which is the hotel.”

A Trump campaign spokesman and the hotel did not respond to requests for comment on Monday night.

The president and the mayor have clashed on a number of fronts this year, from the White House’s lack of cooperation with contact tracing efforts after the earlier outbreak of the virus in the West Wing to the federal government’s use of National Guard units in June to disperse protests that followed the police killing of George Floyd.

The Trump hotel, a destination for lobbyists, foreign politicians, religious groups and Fox News personalities, has been the source of multiple disputes during Mr. Trump’s first term, including complaints that the president was blurring the lines between his businesses and his office. It is a few blocks from the White House in a federally owned building on Pennsylvania Avenue. The Trump organization signed a 60-year lease to operate it in 2013.





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