More than 22 million ballots already cast: US election news

As early voting expands across the US, Joe Biden and Donald Trump hit out at each other in a day of campaign events.

Trump and Biden campaign composite [AP Photo]
Donald Trump and Joe Biden each held a day of campaign events Friday, just over two weeks ahead of the November 3 election [File: AP]
  • Early voting expanded across the US, with more than 22 million people voting already.
  • Donald Trump spoke to seniors in Florida before a rally in Georgia.
  • Joe Biden focused on unity at campaign events in Michigan.
  • Biden’s campaign outraised Trump’s by $135m in September.

Hello and welcome to Al Jazeera’s continuing coverage of the United States elections. This is Steve Chaggaris, Jihan Abdalla and Saba Aziz.

Friday, October 16:

20:35 ET – More than 22 million voters cast ballots already: AP

More than 22 million US voters have cast their ballots already in the US presidential election, the Associated Press news agency has reported.

That corresponds to 16 percent of all the votes that were cast in 2016, the news agency said.

The high early turnout – propelled partly by the COVID-19 pandemic – is leading election experts to predict that a record 150 million votes may be cast this year and turnout rates could be higher than in any US presidential election since 1908.

19:45 ET – Trump touts ‘economic success’ in Georgia rally

Speaking at a campaign rally in Macon, Georgia, Trump said “we have the most successful economy” in the world.

“Our economy is setting records,” he told the crowd.

“I would never give up what we have achieved. Nobody has achieved in the history of our country what we have achieved with the military, tax cuts … space force.”

Trump gestures during a campaign rally at Middle Georgia Regional Airport in Macon, Georgia [Carlos Barria/Reuters]

19:18 ET – Mnuchin to lead US delegation to Middle East

Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin will lead a US delegation travelling to Israel, Bahrain and the United Arab Emirates (UAE) from October 17-20, the Treasury Department said in a statement.

The visit comes one month after the UAE and Bahrain signed agreements to establish formal ties with Israel, becoming the first Arab states to do so in a quarter of a century, in deals that were denounced by Palestinian leaders.

19:15 ET – New campaign advertisement lauds ‘Joe Biden’s neighbourhood’

The Democratic Coalition, a group that opposes Donald Trump’s re-election bid, has released a new advertisement in support of Democratic presidential nominee Joe Biden.

The advertisement plays on an insult Trump campaign adviser Mercedes Schlapp levied against the former vice president this week, saying Biden’s town hall event felt like an episode of popular US kids show, Mister Rogers’ Neighborhood.

19:00 ET – ‘We’ll always have your back,’ says Biden

Joe Biden hit out at his presidential opponent Trump again on Friday, accusing the president of “fanning the flames of hatred and division” in the US.

During a campaign stop in Detroit, Michigan, Biden also urged people to cast their ballots in the tightly-contested election.

“We’ll always have your back, I promise you,” Biden said. “Don’t let anyone discourage you and tell you your vote doesn’t count, because it does.”

18:30 ET – Trump administration approves relief for California wildfires

President Trump’s administration has abruptly reversed course and approved California’s application for disaster relief funds to clean up damage from six recent deadly and destructive blazes that have scorched the state, Governor Gavin Newsom said.

“Just got off the phone with President Trump who has approved our Major Disaster Declaration request. Grateful for his quick response,” Newsom said in a brief statement.

Neither he nor the White House gave details on why the administration shifted positions only hours after it initially denied the state’s request for a declaration that officials said could provide the state with hundreds of millions of dollars.

Federal major disaster declarations allow for cost-sharing for damage, clean-up and rebuilding between the state and federal governments [Gene Blevins/Reuters]

18:20 ET – Biden calls Trump silence on white supremacists ‘stunning’

Joe Biden has described Trump’s reluctance to denounce white supremacists as “stunning” in a hard-hitting speech in battleground state of Michigan with 18 days to go until the election.

Standing by the side of the Democratic presidential candidate as he spoke was Governor Gretchen Whitmer, a fierce Trump critic who was recently found to be the target of a well-planned kidnapping plot by a heavily armed right-wing group.

“Make no mistake, that’s who they are, domestic terrorists,” Biden told a group of some 20 guests and reporters in the town of Southfield.

“The failure to condemn these folks is stunning.”

18:00 ET – Georgia vote count surpasses 1 million

More than one million people have already cast their ballots in the US state of Georgia.

Early polling began on October 12 in the state that has historically voted Republican and it will run until October 30.

Republicans have dominated presidential elections for a generation in Georgia, but Democrat Joe Biden’s 2020 bid for the White House has made this southern GOP stronghold competitive for the first time in nearly 30 years.

Voters wearing masks wait in line to vote early outside the Chatham County Board of Elections office in Savannah, Georgia [Russ Bynum/AP]

17:05 ET – Supreme Court to hear Trump bid to exclude noncitizens from census

The United States Supreme Court has agreed to hear oral arguments in President Trump’s attempt to exclude undocumented immigrants from a countrywide population count that determines how congressional seats are allocated.

The country’s top court said it would hear the case on November 30.

Read more here.

17:00 ET – Trump predicts ‘red wave’ of voting in Florida

President Trump is predicting a “red wave” of Republican voting in Florida.

Most polls show a close race in the important battleground state that both the Republican incumbent and Democrat Joe Biden are courting heavily.

“Addressing a campaign rally Friday in Ocala, a city in central Florida, Trump reminded thousands of supporters that “I live here, too.” He recently switched his legal residence from New York.

He said in 18 days “we’re going to win the state of Florida. We’re going to win the White House.” Trump won Florida in 2016.

Trump supporters gathered in Ocala, central Florida, for his campaign rally [Rob Crilly/Washington Examiner via Pool]

16:30 ET – Biden campaigns in Michigan

Joe Biden has promised to invest in jobs and infrastructure projects across the US if elected on November 3, and he stressed the need for unity in the deeply divided country.

“If we can’t unite the country, we’re in trouble,” Biden said during a campaign stop in Michigan, a state that will be key in the upcoming election.

“America and our system runs on consensus. Compromise is not a dirty word. I’m running as a proud Democrat but I’m going to govern as an American president. I’ll work as hard for those who don’t support me as hose who do.”

Biden speaks at Beech Woods Recreation Center, in Southfield, Michigan [Carolyn Kaster/AP]

15:30 ET – US surpasses eight million COVID-19 cases: Johns Hopkins

The US has recorded more than eight million cases of COVID-19, Johns Hopkins University said, a grim milestone that comes a little more than two weeks before the presidential election on November 3.

The US case tally hit 8,008,402 on Friday afternoon, the highest in the world – followed by India and Brazil, who have recorded the second and third-highest number of cases, respectively.

Read more here.

15:00 ET – Obama to campaign for Biden in Philadelphia on October 21

Former President Barack Obama is scheduled to campaign for Democratic presidential candidate Joe Biden in Philadelphia next week ahead of the November 3 election against President Donald Trump, the Biden campaign said.

The campaign said additional details will be released later. The popular former president criticised Trump in a podcast this week as an “accelerant to” misinformation.

Obama also campaigned twice in Philadelphia for Hillary Clinton in 2016.

Obama Biden
Biden served as Obama’s vice president for two terms from 2009 to 2017 [File: Saul Loeb/AP]

14:40 ET – Biden tests negative for COVID-19: Campaign

Joe Biden has tested negative for COVID-19, his campaign said.

“Vice President Biden underwent PCR testing for COVID-19 today and COVID-19 was not detected,” a campaign statement said.

13:30 ET – Trump addresses seniors, blasts opponents

In an address on issues affecting seniors, Trump acknowledged that seniors have “born the heaviest burden” of the coronavirus, which he repeatedly called the “China virus”.

“I am moving heaven and earth to safeguard our Seniors from the China Virus, to deliver life-saving therapies in record time, and to distribute a SAFE and EFFECTIVE vaccine BEFORE the end of the year,” Trump said according to excerpts of advance remarks in an event in Fort Myers.

“Seniors will be the FIRST in Line for the vaccine and we will soon END the pandemic.”

According to the excerpts, Trump also planned to allege that his political opponents are seeking to prolong the pandemic.

“As we gather today, seniors are under threat from a Radical Left movement that seeks to destroy the American Way of Life,” he plans to say. “Their plan to delay the vaccine, delay therapies, and prolong the pandemic will cost thousands of lives.”

Trump is greeted by Florida Governor Ron DeSantis as he arrives at Southwest Florida International Airport ahead of a campaign stop in Fort Myers, Florida [Carlos Barria/Reuters]

13:15 ET – At least 25 congressional candidates with links to QAnon to appear on ballots

In a batch of QAnon-linked Republican congressional candidates on ballots across the US this general election season, experts see a product of increased polarisation and a new form of conservatism fostered by the conspiracy-theory friendly Trump.

The web of convoluted conspiracies known as QAnon, which began in 2017 when a shadowy figure known as Q began posting fringe ideas and breadcrumb narratives on sites like 4chan, has gone increasingly viral, although its support offline has been harder to quantify. Researchers say it remains relatively small.

Read more here.

13:00 ET – Biden ahead of Trump in early ratings for duelling town halls

Early data showed Biden led a TV ratings battle with Trump at their competing town hall events, according to Hollywood publication Variety.

More than 12 million viewers followed Joe Biden’s town Hall on Thursday night, while President Donald Trump attracted roughly 10.4 million, Variety magazine said [Carlos Barria/Leah Millis/Reuters]

Biden pulled in more than 12 million viewers on Walt Disney Co’s ABC on Thursday night, while Trump attracted roughly 10.4 million on Comcast Corp’s NBC, Variety said.

Updated figures, including the addition of viewership on Comcast-owned cable networks that simulcast the Trump event, were expected later on Friday.

12:25 ET – Pennsylvania rejects 372,000 ballot applications

Pennsylvania, one of the most hotly contested battleground states, has rejected 372,000 requests for mail-in ballots.

Local media reported that more than 90 percent of those applications, or about 336,000, were denied as duplicates, primarily because people who had requested mail-in ballots for the state’s June 2 primary did not realise that they had checked a box to be sent ballots for the general election, too.

Voters have also been baffled by unclear or inaccurate information on the state’s ballot-tracking website, and by a wave of mail ballot applications from political parties and get-out-the-vote groups.

County offices across the state have been forced to hire temporary staff and work seven days a week to cope with the confusion.

12:20 ET – ‘Hamilton’ cast to host a virtual fundraiser for Biden campaign

Biden’s presidential campaign announced that it will be holding a virtual grassroots fundraiser with the cast of the hit musical Hamilton on Friday night.

12:00 ET – Biden draws more town hall viewers

Biden drew 12.7 million total viewers during Thursday night’s duelling town halls, while Trump drew 10.4 million, according to initial figures.

11:40 ET – Trump retweets satirical post about Joe Biden

Trump retweeted a satirical story about Twitter shutting down over reporting on Biden.

“Wow, this has never been done in history. This includes his really bad interview last night. Why is Twitter doing this. Bringing more attention to Sleepy Joe & Big T.”

Twitter, did not shut down, as the article was written by the satire news site, Babylon Bee.

The Tweet also caused Big T and Babylon Bee to trend on the site. Some users thought “Big T” was a reference to “Trump”. But Trump later clarified that Big T was a reference to Big Tech.

11:15 ET – Rapper launches Black party

Rapper Diddy, born Sean Combs, via a series of Tweets has announced that he is launching a Black political party, named Our Black Party, calling it the “boldest thing” he has ever done.

The party’s website lists nine core values that lay out the rights of Black people in America.

And with early voting already under way across the country, the party says it is aimed at “getting Trump out of office”.

“This man literally threatened the lives of us and our families,” he said in a video.

In another Tweet, Combs said, “we need to get Biden in and hold him accountable”.

10:35 ET – Republican governor says he voted for Ronald Reagan

Larry Hogan, a Republican Governor of Maryland said he “voted for Ronald Reagan” in this year’s election – writing in the name of the late president and conservative icon.

Hogan said Reagan is his “hero in politics” and he made the decision after concluding that he could support neither Trump nor Biden.

“I know it’s simply symbolic. It’s not going to change the outcome in my state. But I thought it was important to just cast a vote that showed the kind of person I’d like to see in office,” Hogan said in an interview with the Washington Post.

10:30 ET – Christie says he was wrong not to wear mask in White House

Former New Jersey Governor Chris Christie said he was wrong not to wear a mask at the White House after he and Trump both contracted the coronavirus.

In a statement, Christie said he has recovered from COVID-19 after a week-long stay in a hospital’s intensive care unit. He called on all political leaders to advocate for face coverings, with the practice becoming increasingly politicised even as the pandemic has killed more than 218,000 Americans.

“I believed that when I entered the White House grounds, that I had entered a safe zone, due to the testing that and I and many others underwent every day,” Christie said. “I was wrong.”

FILE PHOTO: US President-elect Donald Trump stands with New Jersey Governor Chris Christie before their meeting at Trump National Golf Club in Bedminster, New Jersey, US, November 20, 2016. REUTERS/Mike Segar/File Photo

10:20 ET – Nebraska Senator rips into Trump over COVID-19, foreign policy

Ben Sasse, a Republican US senator, told Nebraska constituents in a telephone town hall meeting that Trump has “flirted with white supremacists,” mocks Christian evangelicals in private, and “kisses dictators’ butts”.

Sasse, who is running for a second term representing a reliably Republican state, made the comments in response to a question about why he has been willing to publicly criticise a president of his own party.

He also criticised Trump’s handling of the coronavirus pandemic and said Trump’s family has treated the presidency “like a business opportunity”.

10:00 ET – It has been one year since Trump and Pelosi have spoken

An emblem of political polarisation in Washington: Trump and House Speaker Nancy Pelosi have not spoken directly since October 16, 2019 – exactly one year ago.

On that date, Pelosi and other Democratic leaders walked out of a meeting at the White House about Trump’s decision to withdraw US troops from Syria. As tensions rose, Trump called Pelosi a “third-rate politician” and shortly thereafter, the Democratic leaders left the meeting.

Pelosi this week said any negotiations she has with the White House are through Trump’s intermediaries, not with Trump himself.

09:45 ET – White House was warned Russia targeted Giuliani as misinformation messenger: Report

The Washington Post is reporting the White House was warned last year that Trump’s lawyer and adviser, Rudy Giuliani, was the target of a Russian intelligence disinformation operation.

The warnings led National Security Advisor Robert O’Brien to alert Trump that any information Giuliani brought back from his trips to Ukraine – including information about Joe Biden’s son Hunter’s business dealings – should be considered as having Russia’s fingerprints on it. Trump reportedly “shrugged his shoulders” and dismissed the concerns.

Giuliani is reportedly one of the sources of a disputed New York Post report that was published this week about Hunter Biden’s dealings in Ukraine.

Trump reportedly was warned about info Rudy Giuliani gathered in Ukraine [File: Sarah Silbiger/Reuters]

09:30 ET – Biden significantly outraises Trump in September

Joe Biden and the Democrats have announced their record-breaking September fundraising haul: $383m, and it was suspected this would put him far ahead of Trump’s campaign. Now we know how much further ahead Biden is.

Trump’s campaign and Republicans raised $247.5m in September and ended the month with $251.4m cash on hand. Biden’s campaign announced having $432m in the bank as of September 30.

The campaigns will have one final pre-election fundraising disclosure next week which will give a snapshot of how much they have on hand as of October 14.

09:15 ET – Trump’s smile and Mister Rogers

Two moments from last night’s duelling Trump-Biden town halls touched on one unlikely subject: Smiles.

Before asking a question about immigration, a voter said to Trump: “I have to say, you have a great smile … You’re so handsome when you smile,” prompting a wide grin from the president.

Interestingly, after the town hall, the Miami New Times caught up with that voter, Paulette Dale, who told the newspaper that she is voting for Biden. “I wish he would smile more and talk less,” she said about Trump.

As for Biden, the Trump campaign senior adviser, Mercedes Schlapp, was growing frustrated with the tone of the Biden town hall and compared it with “watching an episode of” Mister Rogers Neighborhood. She was referring to Fred Rogers, the late children’s television show host who continues to bring smiles to the faces of children and adults and is lauded for his kindness and patience.

Her remarks caused Mister Rogers to trend on Twitter with many responses finding humour in Schlapp’s attempt at an insult turning into an inadvertent compliment of Biden.

09:00 ET – Twenty-one million Americans have already voted

Turnout totals for early voting – expanded across the US due to the pandemic – has shot past 21 million, far outpacing this point in previous elections.

The US Elections Project, which tracks early voting across the country, has reported that 21,231,821 people have already voted ahead of Election Day, November 3. In 2016, the total number of Americans who voted early by mail or in-person early voting was 47 million.

Early voters wait to cast their ballots at the South Regional Library polling location in Durham, North Carolina, October 15, 2020 [Gerry Broome/AP]

More Democrats than Republicans have cast their ballots so far, however, election experts caution that it is unknown exactly who those voters voted for until those votes are counted. In addition, Republicans historically have participated less in early voting and traditionally turn out in larger numbers in person on Election Day.


Read yesterday’s updates here.

Source: Al Jazeera and news agencies