President touts military operation that freed American; Study ties Trump rallies to 30K COVID cases: Live election updates

President Donald Trump and Democratic candidate Joe Biden are in the home stretch of this election. Refresh this blog all day for updates as the candidates make their final push. 

Trump slams Supreme Court decision on Pennsylvania ballots

President Donald Trump on Saturday slammed a recent U.S. Supreme Court decision that will allow ballots in Pennsylvania to be received for several days after Election Day.

The Supreme Court refused for a second time Wednesday to change Pennsylvania’s election rules at the 11th hour, handing state Republicans a defeat in their effort to reimpose an Election Day deadline for the return of absentee ballots.

“That is a terrible, political, horrible decision that they made,” Trump said during his first of four rallies in the Keystone State on Saturday. “We’re going to be waiting. November 3 is going to come and go, and we’re not going to know. And you’re going to have bedlam in our country.”

In fact, it often takes several days to count absentee ballots. In a normal year, states are frequently called based on in-person voting – but state officials nevertheless count mail ballots to arrive at an official tally. This year, counting mail ballots will take additional time in some states given the large number of Americans voting by mail due to the coronavirus pandemic.

Despite Trump’s accusations that a delay would amount to fraud, election experts of both parties have said it means only that officials are taking the time needed for an accurate count.

– John Fritze and Richard Wolf

Voting updates:

  •  In Texas, the number of early votes has already surpassed the total number of ballots cast four years ago. In Harris County — Texas’ most populous county — some innovative efforts were launched to make it easier to vote, including popular 24-hour polling sites.
  •  Of the nearly 6.2 million first-time voters who have cast their ballots, nearly 2.6 million are voters over 40, according to data from TargetSmart, a Democratic political data firm.
  • Businesses in DC are preparing for protests following the election results. Hotels, office buildings, coffee shops and restaurants are sheathed in plywood, with some of the makeshift barriers stretching nearly entire blocks.

Trump touts Nigeria operation in Pennsylvania stop

President Donald Trump used a campaign rally Saturday in Pennsylvania to tout a military operation in Nigeria that freed an American citizen who had been kidnapped days earlier.

“Last night our brave special forces rescued an American hostage in a faraway country,” Trump told a crowd in Pennsylvania during the first of four rallies he has scheduled in the state Saturday. “The other side suffered greatly.”

A Pentagon spokesman confirmed Saturday that U.S. forces conducted a hostage rescue Saturday in Northern Nigeria to recover an American citizen who was kidnapped in the neighboring West African nation of Niger.

No U.S military were injured, the spokesman said.

Speaking in an unusually restrained tone, Trump reiterated familiar campaign themes: Arguing the nation was improving its response to the COVID-19 pandemic and that Democratic nominee Joe Biden would be unable to jump start a U.S. economy battered by the virus.

Underscoring the significance Pennsylvania has for both candidates, Trump is holding four rallies in the state Saturday. He held three events there on Oct. 26 and two additional events earlier this month.

Polls show Biden with a slim lead in the state.

Trump’s first rally took place at Keith House, George Washington’s headquarters during the Revolutionary War. The site is located in Bucks County, a politically important battleground and suburb of Philadelphia.

“Three days from now, this is the state that will save the American dream,” Trump said.

– John Fritze

Study: Trump rallies increasing COVID-19 spread, deaths

President Donald Trump’s campaign events may have caused some 30,000 new cases of COVID-19 and could lead to 700 deaths, according to a Stanford University study that relies on prediction models to measure the public health impact of more than a dozen rallies.

The study considers the trajectory of coronavirus cases in counties that hosted 18 of Trump’s rallies between June 20 and Sept. 22, and attempts to predict the difference with how the course of the virus changed after the event.

Trump has held more than two dozen rallies since recovering from his own bout with COVID-19 this month – and he is expected to hold several more before Tuesday’s election. The rallies are held outdoors, usually at airports, and supporters are packed in tight. While some rally attendees wear masks, many do not,  including Trump.

Nearly six in 10 Americans disapprove of Trump’s decision to continue to hold large rallies during the pandemic, a USA TODAY/Suffolk University poll found this week, while nearly 64% approve of Democrat Joe Biden’s decision to jettison those large events. Trump aides have dismissed the concerns raised by public health officials and Democrats, noting that the president’s supporters choose to attend.

“Americans have the right to gather under the First Amendment to hear from the president of the United States, and we take strong precautions for our campaign events,” said Trump campaign spokeswoman Courtney Parella, pointing to the temperature checks required and the masks and hand sanitizer that are offered.

A recent USA TODAY analysis showed that COVID-19 cases grew at a faster rate after at least five of Trump’s rallies since mid-August, including in counties in Minnesota, Pennsylvania and Wisconsin.

– John Fritze  

Where are the candidates today?

More:Where the presidential candidates are traveling in the run-up to Election day

President Donald Trump will travel through Pennsylvania.

Democratic nominee Joe Biden will campaign with President Barack Obama in Flint and Detroit Michigan. Stevie Wonder will also perform and join the Biden campaign in Detroit today.

The running mates will be busy today, too. Sen. Kamala Harris, D-Calif., will stump in Florida, while Vice President Mike Pence campaigns in North Carolina.

We’re three days away

There are now just three days to Election Day, and more than 85 million people have already voted, according to numbers compiled by @electproject.

However, millions of mail ballots are still outstanding. If voters still have mail-in ballots, officials are stressing that they be dropped off in person to make state deadlines.

More:How to make sure your mail-in ballot is counted and not discarded

Late Thursday night, a federal appeals court ruled in the battleground state of Minnesota that mailed-in ballots must be received by elections officials no later than Election Day to be counted. 

In coronavirus news, the United States has now surpassed 9 million cases. For the first time, the U.S. added cases faster than one every second on Thursday and reported 88,521 new coronavirus cases, a record for one day. 

Early in-person voting ends in some states today, including VirginiaNorth Carolina, New Mexico, Oklahoma, West Virginia and parts of Florida.

– Savannah Behrmann 

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