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Wednesday, July 24, 2024 | Back issues
Courthouse News Service Courthouse News Service

Election Day in America

Here's what you need to know about what may be the most consequential election of our lifetime, from key battlegrounds across the nation.

Here's what you need to know about what may be the most consequential election of our lifetime, from key battlegrounds across the nation.

Trump Wins Battleground State of Florida
Trump Takes Bellwether State of Ohio
Hickenlooper Defeats Incumbent in Colorado Senate Race
Pennsylvania Vote Count Slow, Like Many Battlegrounds
Presidential Race a Slow-Burn Toss-Up in Wisconsin

Trump Wins Battleground State of Florida

Campaign signs are seen at a polling place in St. Petersburg, Fla., on Tuesday, Nov. 3, 2020. (Courthouse News photo/Alex Pickett)

President Donald Trump is projected to win Florida’s 29 electoral votes, defeating his Democratic rival Joe Biden in the country’s largest battleground state.

As of 10:30 p.m., more than 381,000 votes separated the president and Biden. According to the state’s division of elections, Trump has 51.29% of the vote and 47.81% have opted for Biden, with 98% of precincts reporting.

Trump’s margin is three times higher than 2016 when he faced Hillary Clinton.

More than a million Floridians cast ballots in person before the end of Election Day, adding to an already historic voter turnout. Before polls opened at 7 a.m. Tuesday, over 9 million Floridians already voted — accounting for 63% of all the state’s registered voters.

State election officials have counted 10.9 million ballots so far.

Supervisors of elections in some of the state’s larger counties still have thousands of mail-in ballots to tabulate, along with has overseas and absentee ballots to count. Florida law gives counties 10 days to certify the results.

Florida is a must-win swing state for Trump, who changed his residency from New York to the Sunshine State late last year. The president narrowly won Florida in 2016 by less than 1% of the vote.

Political analysts say Trump needs Florida’s 29 electoral votes to remain competitive in his bid for reelection, while Biden has a few other paths to victory.

Voter surveys in the run-up to the election found Trump and Biden in a statistical dead heat with very few undecided voters.

The closeness of the race has led to repeated trips by both candidates to this eternally purple state. Biden’s wife, Jill, made an appearance at a St. Petersburg voting location Tuesday afternoon.

St. Petersburg lies in Pinellas County, which political analysts have dubbed the swing state’s “swing county.” The county’s voters chose the winning president in the last four elections.

“Florida is a very important state,” the former second lady told a small crowd in the historic black neighborhood. “We’re hoping to win it. We’re not taking any vote for granted.”

Trump visited South Florida for a rally late Sunday night, illustrating the importance of the Cuban-American vote in the predominantly Democratic region.

“If Biden wins, then the country will turn more to the left and we do not want that,” voter Eugenio Perez said at the West Dade Regional Library in Miami-Dade County. “I am Cuban, so I come from a communist country, and I don’t want that in the U.S.”

In a press briefing Tuesday afternoon, Florida Secretary of State Laurel Lee said her department was monitoring election security and “there are no reported issues.”

“Misinformation and disinformation continues to be an active threat and it is essential that voters rely on trusted and verified sources about the election,” said Lee, a Republican. “Do not believe everything you read or see on social media.”

Lee also said there were only a few “isolated precincts” with technology issues.

“These issues did not prevent any voter from casting a ballot today,” she said.

Earlier in the day, Republican Governor Ron DeSantis activated the state’s National Guard to handle any possible security concerns. Some businesses in South Florida boarded up windows Tuesday morning in anticipation of possible protests, according to local news reports.

Earlier Tuesday, a federal judge ordered the U.S. Postal Service to go through some mail facilities in battleground states that showed low processing rates for mail-in ballots. Some of those facilities were in South and Central Florida.


In an evening press briefing, Kristen Clarke, president and executive director of the Lawyers’ Committee for Civil Rights Under Law, said the organization’s hotline received more than 30,000 complaints on Tuesday.

“We were bracing for the worst and have been pleasantly surprised,” said Clarke.

Still, Florida had the third most complaints, she said, including a truck blocking a polling place in Palm Beach County. That report could not be independently confirmed.

“Voter intimidation was at its height in Florida,” she said.

— Alex Pickett

Trump Takes Bellwether State of Ohio

President Donald Trump is projected to win the state of Ohio and its 18 electoral votes, and will do so by a margin nearly identical to the one he held in 2016.

With over 95% of precincts reporting, Trump has garnered 3,005,172 votes, good for 52.81% of the total number counted, while Biden has received 2,605,250 votes, or 45.78%.

The total number of votes counted in the Buckeye State sits at 5,690,931 according to Decision Desk HQ, which called the race at 11:19 p.m.

While the total number of outstanding absentee ballots sits at 266,052, there won’t be enough votes to swing the Buckeye State back in Biden’s favor. 

According to the most recent round of polling, including one conducted by Research Co. on Oct. 31 and Nov. 1, Ohio was up for grabs in 2020.

Each candidate received 47% of the vote in the poll, which included 450 likely voters.

However, it now appears Trump’s victory in the midwestern state will mirror that of his 2016 conquest of Hillary Clinton by 8 percentage points.

Ohio allows for no-excuse absentee voting, but the Covid-19 pandemic undoubtedly encouraged more voters to take advantage of the opportunity, as over 3.4 million Ohioans had cast absentee ballots or voted early on the eve of Election Day.

The number dwarfs the state’s previous record — which had not eclipsed the two million mark — and according to the website of Secretary of State Frank LaRose, just over 243,000 of the ballots remain outstanding.

“Ohioans,” LaRose said in a statement, “have refused to listen to the fear mongers who have spent months trying to convince them that it’s hard to vote — they’re proving it’s easy with every record broken.”

Each county was required to submit the results of all absentee ballots received by Election Day at 8 p.m., although late-arriving ballots will still be counted until Nov. 13.

Early in-person voting ended on Nov. 2, and the number of absentee ballots may prevent the results of the election from being finalized until later in the week.

The winning presidential candidate has carried Ohio in every election since 1960, although experts have said the state is more critical for Trump’s reelection campaign, while Biden has other paths to victory.

Voters in Ohio spoke to Courthouse News earlier today, where one Biden supporter expressed concerns about the president’s inability to contain the Covid-19 pandemic and also called 2020 “the most important election of my lifetime.”

Covid-19 cases have climbed steadily in Ohio over the past several weeks, and while the primaries were delayed earlier in the year, Election Day was conducted in much the same fashion as it always is, although county boards of elections were required to follow procedural guidelines to ensure voter safety.

Kevin Koeninger

Hickenlooper Defeats Incumbent in Colorado Senate Race

Voters fill out ballots at Hiawatha Davis Rec Center’s socially distanced polling center in Denver on Nov. 3. (Courthouse News photo / Amanda Pampuro)

With 91% of 3.1 million votes tallied, Colorado voters aimed a blue tide toward Washington, flipping the election’s first Senate seat in favor of former Governor John Hickenlooper with an 11-point lead over incumbent Republican Senator Cory Gardner.

Fifty-six percent of voters, or 1.6 million, also supported giving the states nine electoral votes to Democratic challenger Joe Biden over President Donald Trump.


“Tonight your message has been loud and clear that it’s time to put the poisonous politics behind us and come together to move forward,” Hickenlooper said in his victory speech, which sent a message of unity, economic growth and equity.

“Regardless of what party ends up controlling the Senate, I want you to know that I will work with anyone and everyone to help Coloradans. We’ve had enough leaders in Washington who think its their job to represent Red America or Blue America, Red Colorado or Blue Colorado, but I’ve always thought it was my job to represent all of Colorado,” Hickenlooper said. “I want to say to everyone who voted for Gardner, I will be your senator as well.”

As it stands, former Governor and Democrat John Hickenlooper also holds a 12-point lead over incumbent Republican Cory Gardner in the U.S. Senate race. Named the most vulnerable senator in Congress, Gardner’s defeat is key to the Democratic Party’s plan to flip control of the Senate.

A Democrat, two-term mayor of Denver and two-term governor of Colorado, Hickenlooper ended a run for the White House last year in time to pivot for a shot at Gardner’s Senate seat. With a background in geology, brewing and business, Hickenlooper was recruited to run last year by 314 Action, a pro-science political action committee based in Washington.

Before the night is over, Colorado will have reported 70 to 80% of the 3.1 million ballots received. About 290,000 more Coloradans voted this year compared to 2016. Over the last two weeks, 1,100 volunteers and election workers processed more than 377,798 ballots come into Denver alone.

Comparatively in 2016, Denver processed 342,023 ballots. Eight percent of Denver voters in 2016 cast ballots in person, while 20% mailed their ballots and 80% used ballot drop boxes. This year, 94% of voters statewide used remote options.

Colorado supported Vermont Senator Bernie Sanders in both the 2016 and the 2020 Democratic primary before pivoting to instruct electors to vote for Hilary Clinton in the 2016 general election.

Within an hour, a single election judge can count 15,000 ballots — once they’ve been verified, opened, flattened and imprinted. Preparing the ballots takes the longest with up to 600 envelopes opened and 250 flattened per hour per judge.

In the verification room, Ballot Operations Coordinator Stu Clubb said he discovered two ballots cast after the voters had died — clear red flags to send on to the District Attorney’s office for investigation. Other ballots await curing and signature verification.

While much of the process is automated, bipartisan teams double check signature mismatches and other discrepancies.

The Secretary of State’s office estimates it will have counted 70 to 80% of ballots by the end of the night though results won’t be certified until Nov. 30, following post-election audits and final ballot counts.

“In Colorado, county clerks process ballots prior to Election Day, which enables a high percentage of results to be reported on Election Night. But Election Night results are never final results,” said Secretary Jena Griswold in a statement.  “In the days after Election Day, military and overseas voters return their ballots, signature discrepancies can be fixed, and a risk-limiting audit is conducted to determine statistical confidence in the results.  Like any election, there is quite a bit of activity after Election Day.”

As of 7 p.m., the state reported receiving 3.1 million ballots, including 3 million ballots received remotely and 183,781 cast in person. Compared to previous years, the number of unaffiliated voters spiked 25%, alongside a slight increase in Democratic turnout and a 5% decrease in Republican votes.

In the midst of a record-breaking election, Colorado is also reporting its highest rates of positive tests for Covid-19 to date. More than 2,000 people tested positive each day for the last five days. Since March, 113,000 Coloradans have tested positive for Covid-19, a disease which has killed 2,320 Coloradans and is the third leading cause of death in the nation.


To prevent the spread of Covid-19, Denver added polling sites and spread out stations. Poll volunteers sanitized stations and worse face masks.

Early vote counts indicated slight leads in support for Colorado joining the popular vote pact and supporting wolf reintroduction in the southern Rocky Mountains.

Alton Dillard, communications manager for Denver Clerk and Recorder/Denver Elections Division said the reason Colorado is experiencing high voter turnout is simple.

“We make it easy for people to vote,” he said. “The fact that it is Votercentric, safe, secure, transparent and data driven.”

The system brought out first-time voters and lifelong voters alike.

“I felt like it was a civic duty, like I just needed to come out and vote so I’m here,” said Manny Moya, a Denver Democrat who voted for the first time. “I’m one of those who finally after 32 years of life, I’m voting. It feels good, I feel like I did something important.”

Kenneth Crowley, a tall middle-aged man, laughed through his bright blue surgical mask when asked what brought him out to vote.

“It’s my right. I’ve been voting since I was 18, I never missed a national election or a local election. I believe in democracy, I believe in exercising my right,” Crowley said. While he declined to say how he voted in the Senate race, he said it was easy for him to pick the candidate with “more of a presence in our community.”

— Amanda Pampuro

Pennsylvania Vote Count Slow, Like Many Battlegrounds

Philadelphia voters wait in line at a polling place at around 9 a.m. on Election Day, Tuesday, Nov. 3, 2020. (Courthouse News photo/Alexandra Jones)

As Pennsylvania votes begin to roll in, it remains to be seen whether President Donald Trump or Democratic challenger Joe Biden will take the state and 20 electoral votes that come with it.

At 44% reporting at 11 p.m., Trump held a lead over Biden, leading with 55.3% of the vote while Biden has 42.1%. Trump is ahead of Biden by approximately 390,000 votes.

Two of the first counties to begin to submit their votes were Allegheny County, which surrounds Pittsburgh, and Philadelphia County — both are considered the state’s democratic strongholds. According to the New York Times vote tracker, both counties have yet to report the majority of their estimated votes. Philadelphia County and Allegheny County had reported 22% and 16% of their estimated votes, respectively.

The state’s polls closed at 8 p.m., but at a polling place in the Northwest region of Philadelphia in the neighborhood of Manayunk, there was no line to vote at one polling place in the hour beforehand. Voters walked straight in to cast their ballots without waiting.

Voting there was easy, according to Dan Solomon, who trickled in after 7 p.m.

He arrived with his brother Cole Solomon, a first-time voter who had been occupied with school and extracurriculars during the day. They walked down to the polls so they could cast their ballots together.

“It seemed pretty normal,” Cole said, despite the pandemic. 

Both cast their ballots for Biden.

“We voted blue down the ticket,” Dan said, noting they were looking forward to watching the results unfold.

Jesse, another voter who opted not to give his last name for privacy reasons, said that he’d opted to vote after work after checking in the morning and seeing a line around the block.

“I timed it perfectly,” he said. “I was like, ‘As long as I’m in line by seven, I’ll be good.’ And there was no line, it was perfect.”

While he declined to share who he voted for, Jesse said the presidential race this year was one between “two geriatrics.”

“That’s what we had — it was terrible,” he said. “I wish we could have a third party, a fourth party. Multiple parties would be fantastic or rank voting, I really want that to be an option. I pretty much hated this entire election cycle. I voted just kind of out of obligation.”


He is not planning on watching the election unfold state-by-state.

“I don’t feel like dealing with all the craziness that’s going to go on,” Jesse said. “It was too much stress four years ago. I don’t want to go through the ups and downs of it.”

As he removed campaign signs from a fence outside the polling location, Joe Willard, a Democratic committee person who had spent the day campaigning for Biden outside, said it was hard to tell if voter turnout at this polling place had been especially high. He also said he wasn’t sure how many people had opted to mail-in ballots in the region. 

Pennsylvania is considered a key swing state as it has roughly the same amount of registered Republican and Democratic voters. Statistically, it’s also proven a rather remarkable indicator of which way the presidency will go. The state has sided with the presidential victor in 10 of the last 12 presidential elections, including Trump in 2016.

While Biden’s aides say he has multiple paths to the 270 Electoral College votes needed to win the state, taking the swing states of Michigan, Wisconsin and Pennsylvania would be the most clean-cut path. 

Biden has campaigned in Pennsylvania more heavily than he has in any other state — no exception being on Election Day, which he kicked off by greeting supporters at his childhood home in Scranton. Afterward, Biden stopped in Philadelphia for a lunch U.S. House Rep. Dwight Evans hosts every year in his Philadelphia neighborhood. There, he told voters that the country was ready for a new leader. 

“We’re going to have more people come this year than any time in American history,” Biden told the approximately 100 supporters who had shown up to see him.

He also bashed the possibility of Trump declaring victory early on election night.

“The president’s got a lot of things backwards. One of them is he thinks he gets to decide who votes,” Biden said. “Well guess what? We get to decide who’s president!”

Later that day, when asked by reporters about whether he would respond if Trump does declare victory prematurely, Biden said he would not. 

“No matter what he does, no matter what he says, the votes are going to be counted,” Biden said.

Regardless, he added that he was still hesitant to predict his own victory.

“I’m superstitious about predicting what an outcome will be before it happens, that’s sorta who I am and how I’ve always run,” he said. “But I’m hopeful.”

In 2016, Pennsylvania was one of six purple states — along with Iowa, Wisconsin, Michigan, Ohio and Florida — that tipped to Trump; he won the state by roughly 1% from Hillary Clinton. 

A Monmouth University poll released Monday had Biden leading the president 51% to 44% among the state’s likely voters. If a large number of ballots are rejected, the poll also lobbed a low-turnout prediction of Biden leading Trump 50% to 45% if a large amount of mail-in ballots are rejected. 

Of the 3 million Pennsylvania voters who requested to vote by mail, approximately 2.5 million returned their mail-in ballots. This is less than half of the voter turnout that Pennsylvania saw in 2016. Broken down by party, mail-in ballots were requested by Democrats, Republicans and independents at 63%, 25% and 12%, respectively. 

The state is set to accept mail-in ballots that arrive at polling places as late as Friday as long as they are postmarked by Election Day. Late last week, before the addition of Justice Amy Coney Barrett gave conservatives a 6-3 majority, the Supreme Court refused to let Republicans challenge that deadline extension. 


However, Trump has called the high court’s refusal to rule out the extension a “terrible decision” and warned Sunday that his campaign will be “going in with our lawyers” when polls close in Pennsylvania on Election Day.

Given the president’s track record, however, Pennsylvania Attorney General Josh Shapiro showed little concern.

“FACT CHECK: Our elections are over when all the votes are counted,” Shapiro tweeted Sunday. “But if your lawyers want to try us, we’d be happy to defeat you in court one more time.”

The Trump administration has been hit with an injunction against its Postal Service policy changes in another case with Shapiro at the helm, and the state Supreme Court kept the Election Day extensions in place with a 5-2 ruling.

Alexandra Jones

Presidential Race a Slow-Burn Toss-Up in Wisconsin

Socially distanced voting booths are seen inside Riverside University High School in Milwaukee, Wis., on Election Day, Tuesday, Nov. 3, 2020. (Courthouse News photo/Joe Kelly)

Presidential election results from Wisconsin remained too close to call at 11:20 p.m. Central Tuesday night, with President Donald Trump and Democratic challenger Joe Biden locked in a 51-47% dead heat with about two-thirds of the state’s votes counted.

The former vice president enjoyed healthy margins in liberal strongholds like those in Milwaukee and Madison, while the president maintained his bases in the Milwaukee suburbs and more rural northern regions, the breakdown closely resembling that of 2016 but providing little certainty as to the purple Midwest state’s final results.

The president took Wisconsin and its modest but critical 10 electoral votes by less than 23,000 votes over Hillary Clinton in 2016, and the state stands in 2020 as a key linchpin both candidates covet on their path to the White House.

Milwaukee County Board of Elections Director Julietta Henry commented around 8 p.m. Tuesday that the final results from Milwaukee will not be done earlier than 5 a.m. Wednesday morning, leaving the state of the race in the crucial battleground unsure as results trickled in the night of Election Day.

Milwaukee is anticipating around 165,000 absentee ballots, which election officials began opening and counting at the city’s central count facility downtown at 7 a.m. Tuesday, as state law does not allow them to start earlier. Wisconsin law also dictates that those results cannot be reported until the very last ballot is tabulated.

Because of this lag in reporting absentee ballots, election officials, including Milwaukee Election Commission chief Claire Woodall-Vogg, have been saying for weeks that results from these 39 jurisdictions will likely not be counted and reported until the early hours of Wednesday morning.

But the Cream City’s voter base is also overwhelmingly Democratic. This means there is a likelihood that the race will shift at least somewhat in Biden’s favor as these liberal-leaning absentee votes are added to the total turnout several hours after polls have closed.

Of the roughly 3.5 million registered voters in Wisconsin, nearly 2 million had already voted absentee or via mail before Election Day arrived. The Wisconsin Elections Commission, or WEC, reminded reporters Tuesday that official turnout results for the state will not be available for some time after Tuesday.

As of Tuesday afternoon, the WEC reported only roughly 970 absentee ballots that were returned and marked as having some kind of deficiency such as a bad signature, a commendable tally considering more than 2 million absentee ballots were issued throughout the state. Around 141,000 absentee ballots were in the wind as of Tuesday morning, but updated numbers on that count should be available Wednesday morning.

Reports from throughout Wisconsin Tuesday indicate in-person voting was by and large smooth and orderly. Many election officials, including those in the Milwaukee area, reported turnouts as either steady or slightly below average for a typical presidential election, due in no small part to the record levels of early voting. Instances of understaffed or undersupplied polling places and long lines to vote have been few and far between.

On the whole, concerns about voter intimidation and aggressive electioneering have largely been assuaged by a peaceful, productive Election Day.

The sunny, unseasonably warm weather throughout much of Wisconsin on Tuesday may prove to have driven up voter turnout. But surveys like one Pew Research Center put out in October show that Trump voters are much more likely to vote in person than those supporting Biden, so the benefit there could turn out to be the president’s.

WEC Administrator Meagan Wolfe reiterated during a 5 p.m. press briefing on Tuesday that “election night results are always unofficial,” a point that cannot seem to be emphasized enough as an anxious electorate awaits the results of what may prove to be the most consequential and historically fraught presidential election in generations.

Wolfe said Tuesday that if unofficial results are not available until Wednesday morning “it does not mean something went wrong … it means election officials are doing their job,” as those officials are going to value accuracy over speed at all costs.

One area of interest as results trickle in will be from the northeastern part of the state in Outagamie and Calumet counties, where clerks received thousands of ballots with printing errors on the ballots’ timing marks, some of which were returned voted. Clerks from these counties asked the Wisconsin Supreme Court for guidance on whether they should fix the blemishes by hand or duplicate all the misprinted ballots, but the conservative-majority high court split 4-3 and declined to weigh in last Wednesday.

Without the court’s guidance, clerks are reportedly duplicating these ballots by hand, and Wolfe said Tuesday that they are doing well and on track with that challenge. Wolfe offered that since this is part of the overall canvassing process, there’s no hard and fast deadline for getting them corrected by the time the polls close.

There was a raft of lawsuits in Wisconsin in recent months over how long people have to vote, how long clerks have to count their votes and what the role of state election officials should be in facilitating mail-in voting. Those pre-election suits pertaining to Election Day have been resolved, but it is not a stretch to imagine that litigation over which absentee and mail-in ballots should count after they have been cast and tallied could be in the cards, especially if the result is close.

— Joe Kelly

Categories / National, Politics

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