Voting for many is burdensome. Americans wait in line for hours to vote. Celebrities urge followers to make a voting plan in order to accommodate the inconveniences of voting. How can it be made easier? Some, mostly Democrats and voting rights advocates, believe Election Day should be a holiday. But when CBS News campaign reporter Cara Korte looked into the topic, voting experts urged that declaring Election Day a federal holiday wouldn’t solve any of the frustrating problems we’re seeing today. In fact, it might lead to further congestion at polling places. “I’m not a fan,” said Eddie Perez, an election administration and election technology expert at the Open Source Election Technology (OSET) Institute. He said it’s more important to spread voting out over a period of days and methods. Concentrating voters into a single day risks congesting polling places, even more so than some already are. Early and at-home voting “helps prevent bottlenecks for election administrators because it ‘flattens the curve’ for when ballots are cast by large numbers of voters,” Perez said. Executive director and founder of the Center for Election Innovation & Research David Becker argues that increasing turnout is a nuanced problem that can’t be fixed by declaring a holiday. Like Perez, Becker thinks giving voters more time and opportunity to vote is the best approach. “We already know how to make voting convenient to voters — that’s by offering them options, like making an election season rather than election day,” he said. “And we actually have more options than ever before.”
With those options — early in-person voting and more voter awareness on how to vote by mail — voter turnout appears to be trending upward. By Monday evening, more than 62 million had already voted early across the country, closing in on half of 2016’s total voter turnout. Election officials in various states have predicted historic levels of turnout in 2020, with a chance to reach the highest ever. Experts told CBS News that it’s no coincidence this is occurring in a year when Americans have more time and more ways to vote than ever before. Election Day is already a holiday for state employees in more than a dozen states including Kentucky, Michigan, and New York. But none of those states have considerably high turnout compared to those where it isn’t a holiday. And even if it were a federal holiday, that wouldn’t ensure that all voting-age Americans would have the day off. Consider the pandemic, which has not given essential workers more time off. “Election Day as a national holiday would mean things like perhaps reduced schedules for public transportation, schools being closed, hourly workers perhaps being incentivized to work more with time and a half. And so while it’s very understandable that people are trying to find ways to make it more convenient for people to vote, it’s very likely that Election Day as a national holiday would actually hurt the voters who most need more options,” Becker said. Modern life operates around the clock. Americans are working all the time. So, focusing voting efforts to one day doesn’t do enough to accommodate everyone, Becker argues. He thinks the increased options afforded by early and mail-in voting could be undermined by making Election Day a holiday, creating “a solution in search of a problem.”
FROM THE CANDIDATES
President Trump barnstormed Pennsylvania on Monday on a three-pronged rally tour built around predominantly White, conservative areas of the state necessary to drive up his turnout margins in the battleground state, reports CBS News campaign reporter Nicole Sganga. The trip comes as Democrats have outpaced Republicans in returning absentee ballots, with more than three times the number of Democrats voting by mail to date, according to the U.S. Elections Project. Republicans are hopeful the tides will turn on Election Day, as more of their voters cast an in-person ballot. That wish extends to the top of the ticket. “You know, Pennsylvania is known as a very late voting state,” Mr. Trump told crowds gathered at his rally in Lititz, Pennsylvania. “Very late voting. Like Election Day.” Supporters cheered. “Very unusual actually, but I understand it.” On Monday, Trump campaign manager Bill Stepien told reporters, “Voting is a habitual exercise.” He added, “If you vote absentee, you vote absentee. If you vote at the polls, you vote at the polls.” Pennsylvania voters lining up at today’s rallies told CBS News they plan to cast a ballot in person. “I still believe in old school voting in person,” said Doug Fisher of Lititz. “With everything we’ve been hearing about mail in ballots, I just feel better with old school voting.” The construction worker knows Election Night in America will look and feel a little different this year after he casts his in-person vote. And, he concedes he is a “little worried” about the system of counting ballots. “I remember last year, my kids were up late watching on the TV,” Fisher said. “I’ve been telling them it might not be that way this year.” Karen Essick from nearby Berks County told CBS News, “It’s something different.” “With the record number of votes prior to Election Day. It’s a lot that they’re going to have to deal with.” And Anita Rank remarked, “If I can show up to Walmart, or I can show up to anything and use my mask, I can show up to vote.” Monday marks the president’s 11th visit to Pennsylvania in 2020. For their part, the Trump campaign announced an additional $6 million ad blitz to hit Pennsylvania, Wisconsin and Michigan this week. Meanwhile, the Biden campaign has flooded the airwaves, investing nearly $10 million on television ads in Pennsylvania this past week alone. Trump supporters have taken note. “I’m worried because all you see is Biden ads,” salesman Dennis Ashcroft of Lititz told CBS News before taking his temperature test ahead of Monday’s rally in his hometown. “I think the media is promoting Biden. They’re putting a lot of money behind Biden.”
Vice President Mike Pence said Monday that he would be in Washington D.C. in case he is needed to cast a tie-breaking vote for the confirmation of Judge Amy Coney Barrett, reports CBS News campaign reporter Musadiq Bidar. As the president of the senate, Pence would get the chance to cast a tie-breaking vote, but he did not say if he would president over the senate, regardless. On Sunday, while campaigning in Florida, Pence said he will be there in person and wouldn’t miss it for the world. Since then, five of his close aides have tested positive for coronavirus, including his chief of staff, who is deemed a close contact. On Monday morning, members of the Senate Democratic Leadership called on Pence to “abandon plans to preside” over the confirmation vote. Senate Democrats argued it “would be a clear violation” of CDC guidance. Pence’s office said the vice president and second lady Karen Pence tested negative for COVID Monday morning. Pence campaigned in Minnesota on Monday, where he told supporters that having a Republican majority in the senate has made a big difference as the administration looks to confirm a third justice to the Supreme Court. Pence also offered his prayers and wished a speedy recover to Minnesota Congressman Jason Lewis, who is running for senate. Lewis underwent emergency hernia surgery on Monday, and is expected to recover.
During a stop at a field office in Chester, Pennsylvania, on Monday, Joe Biden criticized Trump chief of staff Mark Meadows for saying on CNN Sunday that we’re not going to control the pandemic.” Biden said, “No caveats, just a deadly admission.” The former VP added, “He waved the white flag all the way back then. He wasn’t doing much at all. Some people said I was being harsh. That I was being unfair. The White House is coming right out now and admitting what I said months ago was absolutely true.” Biden also took questions on his campaign stops and said he’s not “overconfident about anything” and that he’ll be traveling to Michigan, Wisconsin, Georgia, Florida and Iowa soon. On Pennsylvania, Biden said “it’s a matter of great deal” for him to win the state, “personally, as well as politically.” He drew contrasts with Mr. Trump’s campaign rallies, and said the “reason why it looks like we’re not traveling [is] we’re not putting on super spreaders. We are doing what we’re doing here. Everyone’s wearing a mask and doing their best we can to be socially distanced.” Biden also scolded Mr. Trump for looking to hold another public event after the Senate’s confirmation of Amy Coney Barrett to the Supreme Court, reports CBS News political unit broadcast associate Aaron Navarro. “I don’t blame him for celebrating, there’s a lot of things we could be doing having massive crowds, but the fact is it’s just not appropriate now,” he said. He added that it shouldn’t be a huge crowd, attendees should be wearing masks, be tested prior to the event and be socially distanced. Biden preempted the questions by talking about his energy policy, a frequent attacking point used by Republicans since last week’s debate. “Let me make it clear, I’m not shutting down oil fields. I’m not eliminating fracking. I’m investing in clean energy and we’re going to make sure that we don’t continue to subsidize the oil companies,” he said.
BATTLEGROUNDS IN THE BATTLEGROUNDS
ARIZONA – *LATINO VOTERS*
Congressman Ruben Gallego of Arizona said Monday that Biden’s campaign is “ahead of schedule” in turning out Latino voters in Arizona, a key demographic in the battleground state that Democrats hope will fuel a victory there come November 3rd, reports CBS News campaign reporter Alex Tin. As a share of eligible voters, only Texas (30%) of the battleground states has a larger slice of Latino voters than Arizona (24%). And boosted turnout among the state’s sweeping Hispanic electorate is often cited as a key factor for wins by Arizona Democrats in 2018. The Trump campaign for months has touted its own outreach to Latino supporters across the Grand Canyon state, with both campaigns buoyed by bilingual organizers and millions in ad spending on Spanish-language advertising. The Biden campaign has poured nearly $3.9 million into Arizona’s Hispanic broadcast television airwaves, according to Kantar/CMAG ad tracking data, more than any other state except Florida. The Trump campaign has spent more than $2.8 million on the airwaves targeting these Arizonans. But an overwhelming majority of Hispanic voters in Arizona have for months told our CBS News Battleground Tracker that they plan to back the former vice president. As in 2018, the main goal for Democrats and their allies remains the same: Increasing turnout in majority-Hispanic communities like Arizona’s 7th Congressional District, represented by Gallego. So far, more than 60% of requested Democratic ballots have been returned in the district, according to early voting data compiled by local data firm OH Predictive Insights, above Democrats’ countywide return rate of 41%. “This district, when it turns out, turns the state,” said Gallego.
Billed as Mr. Trump’s return to Southern Nevada this week, which would have been the president’s third visit to the battleground state of the general election, the president’s supporters will actually rally just over the state’s border in Bullhead City, Arizona, reports CBS News campaign reporter Alex Tin. Unlike in Nevada, “constitutionally protected activities” are explicitly exempted from Arizona’s COVID-19 restrictions. The Las Vegas Review-Journal reported that plans to host Mr. Trump’s rally near Las Vegas had been stymied by the rules, though a similar event has been announced for this week in Northern Nevada with Pence. The vice president’s event in Washoe County will occur the same afternoon as an “emergency meeting” with the area’s health officials over “increasing COVID-19 trends in the county.”
Also in Arizona, election officials in Maricopa County are addressing concerns raised over the weekend by a local data firm, after they raised the potential for “Election Day complications” in Arizona’s most populous county. Citing an analysis of voter turnout and voting sites in Maricopa County, Data Orbital President George Khalaf warned of “hours of long lines at some of the most populated locations and very little foot traffic at others.” But spokesperson Megan Gilbertson downplayed concerns, citing booming early vote turnout and several reforms to elections in Maricopa County. Past cycles in the Phoenix area drew frustration over long lines and sites turning away voters. “With historic turnout, voters can expect to see some lines on Election Day. But our larger locations are designed to serve 1,500 – 2,200 voters,” Gilbertson said in an email, asked for comment on Data Orbital’s post. “If turnout exceeds our projections, we will have a poll worker assigned to provide voters with wait times and address for other Vote Centers in the area.”
After having been dealt a setback in court Friday after a Nevada judge rejected their request to force the battleground state’s most populous county to pause counting early ballots, the Trump campaign and Nevada Republicans have turned their pleas to Nevada Secretary of State Barbara Cegavske. CBS News campaign reporter Alex Tin reports that in a letter released over the weekend, the GOP urged Cegavske – the state’s sole statewide elected Republican -to “exercise your authority as Secretary of State to safeguard our election” and block Clark County from “any further signature verification of mail ballots unless and until” their concerns are addressed. Democratic elected and party officials have repeatedly criticized recent GOP suits over rules governing poll observation and ballot counting as little more than efforts to undermine confidence in the elections, including over a filing announced Monday by Republicans in nearby New Mexico. “We will always protect the right to vote, and we won’t let it be suppressed,” Nevada Attorney General Aaron Ford, a Democrat, said Friday in a post celebrating their court win.
Clerks from northeast Wisconsin are asking the state Supreme Court to issue an order with instructions about how to handle an error on ballots that is causing them to not be read by tabulating machines, reports CBS News campaign reporter Adam Brewster. The clerks in Outagamie and Calumet County said that about 13,500 ballots were sent to voters with a scratch in the timing mark, which is causing the problem. The error has been fixed on the rest of the ballots. The clerks said filling in ASthose scratch marks with black pen or marker would be the easiest solution. During a meeting last week, the Wisconsin Elections Commission (WEC) endorsed that approach. Clerks need approval from the Wisconsin Supreme Court, though, in order to do that because state law requires defective ballots to be recreated by election officials. Clerks are worried that process may take too long and the WEC commissioners expressed concern last week that there could be errors in the duplicating process.
IN THE HOUSE
A Siena College poll released Sunday found the race between Republican incumbent John Katko and Democrat Dana Balter in New York’s 24th tied at 45% a piece, with Working Families Party candidate Steven Williams getting 5%. CBS News political unit broadcast associate Aaron Navarro reports the two major party candidates had their third and final debate Sunday night, as Balter tried to tie Katko to Mr. Trump in a district Hillary Clinton won by 4 points. “As I’ve said, Donald Trump is the most dangerous and corrupt president of our lifetime and is making us less safe with every passing week… And it says a lot about the congressman’s judgment that he chooses to endorse him,” Balter said. Katko is one of only two Republican incumbents running for reelection in Clinton-won districts. He is portraying himself as the more moderate candidate and has often associated Balter with the “far left.” Katko said, “I think I’ve earned the right for another term. For those who are undecided, keep in mind that I’ll work with anybody, including President Biden if he makes it in.” He added, “We don’t need someone from the far left in this district.” When pressed about his January endorsement of Mr. Trump, Katko defended his support, saying he’d help prevent Medicare for All or a tax increase. “It’s not so much about President Trump and what he’s done and hasn’t done, and of course you factor that into the mix, it’s about where we’re going as a country,” he said. Katko has used Biden in past ads to draw contrast with Balter. The same Siena College poll showed Biden leading Mr. Trump by 14 points, down from his 19-point lead in a September poll.
Several polls released Monday showed incredibly tight margins for the most competitive House races this cycle, reports CBS News political unit broadcast associate Aaron Navarro.A poll by NBC 4 New York/Marist shows Republican State Assemblywoman Nicole Malliotakis up by 2 points with likely voters against freshman Democrat Max Rose. Rose holds a 1-point edge when it comes to registered voters. Both campaigns released statements about the poll, with Malliotakis’ spokesperson Rob Ryan saying the gap “confirms what our internal polling has been showing in recent weeks; this is an extremely tight race and Max Rose is in deep trouble.” Meanwhile, Rose’s campaign said the poll confirms the election is going to come down to turnout, and that internal data from the campaign shows high Democrat turnout and Malliotakis trailing Mr. Trump. “Polls and pundits didn’t think we could win in 2018 and we proved them all wrong. We look forward to doing so once again,” said Rose spokesperson Jonas Edwards-Jenks. In Oklahoma’s 5th, a poll by Amber Integrated shows Republican candidate Stephanie Bice up by 4 points against freshman Democrat Congresswoman Kendra Horn, 49% to 44%. Previous polls have shown either Horn or Bice with a margin of error lead. Meanwhile, Democrats and Republicans are optimistic after statewide polls in California and Texas. In California, where Republicans are looking to flip back several Orange County and Central Valley seats, a poll by the Public Policy Institute of California show Republicans with a two-point lead with likely voters in the state’s competitive House districts. In Texas, a New York Times/Siena College poll showed Biden leading Mr. Trump by 5 points in 12 competitive and “predominantly suburban” House districts. The Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee is specifically targeting ten seats in Texas, the most out of any state.
Amid the state’s spike in COVID-19 cases and deaths, Democrat Gubernatorial candidate Chris Peterson halted in-person campaigning on Monday. “Politicians have failed to keep Utahans safe with their patchwork pandemic response, leading to overrun hospitals, uncertainty in our public schools, and shuttered businesses across the state,” Peterson’s campaign said. “I hope that my opponent and other campaigns will join us in putting Utahans’ health and safety first during this critical time.” The Peterson campaign said they will still be campaigning online. A campaign spokesperson for Lieutenant Governor and Republican candidate Spencer Cox told CBS News political unit broadcast associate Aaron Navarro they don’t have any more in-person campaign events until election day, a decision made prior to Peterson. “We have carefully followed state and local health guidelines, holding events outdoors and rigorously enforced mask requirements at our events. Given that the current cold weather makes outdoor events unpredictable, we will not be holding any additional in-person events,” said campaign spokesperson Austin Cox. The race has been rated as “Solid Republican” by the Cook Political Report.