With 50 days until the election, the Wisconsin Supreme Court ruled on Monday that the Green Party will not be on the ballot in the state during the general election. According to CBS News campaign reporter Adam Brewster, that means clerks will not have to reprint 2.3 million ballots and can begin sending absentee ballots to voters who have requested them. Clerks are required to begin sending ballots by Thursday to the more than 1 million Wisconsinites who have requested absentee ballots. In a court filing last week, the Wisconsin Elections Commission (WEC) reported that clerks recorded sending more than 378,000 ballots, though it wasn’t clear how many, if any, had actually been mailed. In the 4-3 decision, the court said it would be too chaotic to change the ballot at this point. “We agree with the Commission that requiring municipalities to print and send a second round of ballots to voters who already received, and potentially already returned, their first ballot would result in confusion and disarray and would undermine confidence in the general election results,” the court said in its decision. “Under the circumstances presented here, it would be unfair both to Wisconsin voters and to the other candidates on the general election ballot to interfere in an election that, for all intents and purposes, has already begun.”
In August, the WEC declined to put Green Party candidates Howie Hawkins and Angela Walker on the ballot over questions about whether the party had submitted enough valid signatures to qualify. A complaint filed with the WEC said Walker’s address wasn’t correctly listed on some of the paperwork, making those signatures invalid. Conservative Justice Brian Hagedorn joined the three liberal justices in ruling that the Green Party would not be on the ballot. Liberals narrowed the conservative majority on the court from 5-2 to 4-3 in April when current liberal Justice Jill Karofsky defeated conservative former Justice Daniel Kelly. The Green Party played a significant role in the 2016 election in Wisconsin. Jill Stein, the party’s nominee in 2016, got more than 31,000 votes in an election where President Trump won the state by less than 23,000 votes.
Meanwhile, Pennsylvania can’t certify its November ballot until the state Supreme Court decides whether the Green Party will be on it. The Court’s order that the Secretary of State not finalize the ballot came on the deadline for counties to begin processing applications for mail-in ballots. At issue is whether the Green Party properly filed affidavits when nominating their candidates with the state. A Commonwealth Court judge last week ruled that the party’s presidential but not vice-presidential nominee met the requirements to be on the ballot. A local Democratic politician and county chair, represented by a Pittsburgh lawyer who has litigated for the Pennsylvania Democratic Party, appealed to the Supreme Court and requested a stay to keep the ballot from being certified ahead of a decision.
CBS News campaign reporter Zak Hudak says the results of the case could have major impacts on the outcome of the presidential election, considering that in 2016, the Green Party’s nominee received over twice as many votes as President Donald Trump won by in the state. The case has also held up elections offices in Pennsylvania as they receive more mail-in ballot applications than ever before. Statewide, counties have already received over 1.8 million applications, more than voted by mail in the primary three months ago. Wanda Murren, a spokesperson for the Pennsylvania Department of State, said all of the state’s counties began processing applications before today’s deadline and they will begin sending ballots as soon as they’ve been certified and printed.
FROM THE CANDIDATES
Fifty days from Election Day, President Trump made a rare California stop on Monday, as wildfires rage in there and in Oregon and Washington, CBS News digital White House reporter Kathryn Watson and campaign reporter Nicole Sganga report. At a wildfire briefing in McClellan Park, California, the president blamed the fires on poor forest management, even though many of the forests in California are federally managed. “When trees fall down after a short period of time, about 18 months, they become very dry,” the president said. “They become really like a matchstick.. you know, there’s no more water pouring through and they become very, very — they just explode. They can explode.” Dozens of fires burning more than 3 million acres – roughly equivalent to the size of Connecticut – have killed at least 35 from California to Washington State, as hundreds of thousands have been forced to evacuate their homes. Plumes of smoke is destroying air quality up and down the West Coast, and last week yielded hazy, orange images of San Francisco. Mr. Trump has approved emergency declarations for West Coast states. The president claimed Monday that the climate will “start getting cooler,” contrary to scientific evidence of global warming. Mr. Trump has long denied man-made effects on climate change. Secretary of the California Natural Resources Agency, Wade Crowfoot, told Mr. Trump at Monday’s briefing that “if we ignore that science and sort of put our heads in the sand and think it’s all about vegetation management, we’re not going to succeed together in protecting California.” Mr. Trump replied, “It’ll start getting cooler. You just watch. ” Crowfoot countered, “I wish science agreed with you.” The president rebutted, “Well, I don’t think science knows actually.” And while the coronavirus pandemic, economic downfall and struggle against racial injustice sit central stage ahead of this year’s election, a survey released last month shows 81% of the American public believes global warming is probably happening. This measure has remained stable and largely bipartisan over the past two decades according to Resources for the Future, an American nonprofit that conducts independent research into the environment and energy.
Countering the president’s trip to California, Joe Biden spoke in Delaware today on what he is labeling a fourth national crisis — climate change — confronting the nation alongside the pandemic, the economic fallout and the push for more racial equality. CBS News campaign reporter Bo Erickson reports that Biden claimed the Trump administration’s lack of focus on climate issues has allowed large fires and worse storms to barrel through the country. Using a frequent criticism of the president’s on the safety of America’s suburbs, the Democratic nominee argued it was not “integration” but natural disasters posing the biggest threat to Americans at home. “Wildfires are burning the suburbs in the west. Floods are wiping out suburban neighborhoods in the Midwest. Hurricanes are imperiling suburban life along our coast,” Biden said. “If you give a climate arsonist four more years in the White House, why would anyone be surprised if we have more of America ablaze? If you give a climate denier four more years in the White House, why would anyone be surprised when more of America is underwater?” As he left the speech, Biden was asked about his middling support among Hispanic voters in recent polls. Biden said his support among Hispanics was “much higher than” the president’s but admitted his numbers “gotta go higher.” He hopes that will start tomorrow as he makes his first general election visit to Florida on Tuesday.
Black women are often considered the “backbone” of the Democratic Party, but Black men could play an equally crucial role in the upcoming presidential election. In 2016, 13% of African American men voted for Mr. Trump compared to 4% of African American women. Those data points are not lost on the Biden campaign, which unveiled a series of testimonial-style ads Monday featuring African American men “chopping it up” inside a black-owned barbershop in North Carolina. CBS News correspondent Nikole Killion got an exclusive preview of some of the ads, which will air on TV and digital platforms nationally and in the battleground states of Florida, Michigan, North Carolina, Pennsylvania and Wisconsin. Campaign officials say they offer a snapshot of how some African-Americans view the president’s policies, such as his handling of the coronavirus pandemic. “We see what this president’s currently doing. We’ve got 170,000 Americans dead because of COVID. There’s this lack of trust,” a man named Antoine says to a group of men seated in socially-distanced barber chairs around the shop. Another man chimes in, saying, “This country is starving for good leadership right now.” The 30-second spot, entitled “Trust,” builds on the campaign’s “ShopTalk” series, an initiative that has also featured roundtables to engage Black men. A second ad, “Get This Right,” touts Biden’s plan on criminal justice reform, including ending mandatory minimum sentences and changes to private prisons and cash bail. Kamau Marshall, director of strategic communications for the Biden-Harris campaign, says the ads highlight the candidates’ proposals for “real change.” Marshall added, “These latest ads showcase genuine conversations happening across the country about those plans amongst families and friends, during a critical time.” The campaign plans additional outreach this week to African-American voters through a mix of virtual events.
The Service Employees International Union (SEIU) is releasing two new digital ads supporting the Biden-Harris campaign, and specifically targeted towards minority voters. The ads, shared first with CBS News political unit broadcast associate Aaron Navarro, argue a Biden-Harris administration can provide positive change for minority communities. “Okay you’re right, voting can’t fix everything. It can’t even fix most things. But your vote can…” one ad says before listing numerous policy proposals such as universal pre-K and forgiving student debt. Another ad centered around healthcare costs starts out with a clip from Harris about disproportionate COVID-19 deaths among minority communities. “Here, if the disease doesn’t get you, the hospital bills will. It’s the same old story,” the ad opens up with, before talking about Biden’s loss of his son, Beau, to cancer. “He almost had to sell his house to pay the bills, he knows the struggle we face,” the ad says.
The ads are running digitally and on audio streaming services (such as Spotify) in English and Spanish in six battleground states: Colorado, Florida, Minnesota, Nevada, Pennsylvania and Virginia. SEIU has invested $150 million to mobilize 32 million Black, Hispanic and Asian American and Pacific Islander voters who didn’t vote in 2016, and says they’ll be running ads through election day. “Unlike the traditional swing voter whose support shifts between Democrats and Republicans, infrequent voters of color are more likely to align with Democrats on issues, but swing between voting and not voting at all,” said SEIU’s national political director Maria Peralta. “Boosting their turnout is an opportunity not only to affect the election, but to build power that lasts beyond the election.” These ads, which begin running on Tuesday, make it now 14 total ads the group has ran for the presidential race.
The Florida Democratic Party called out Miami-Dade County’s Republican Mayor Carlos Gimenez Monday, questioning why the Trump-backed mayor won’t allow the American Airlines arena–home to the Miami Heat–to be used as a mail ballot drop-off location. In a tweet on Monday, the Florida Democrats posted an article about the Pinellas County Supervisor of Elections allowing for the Tampa Bay Rays’ Tropicana Field to be used as a mail ballot drop-off location with the question to Gimenez, “Another stadium being used as a secure ballot drop-off location. Why wouldn’t [Carlos Gimenez] want to open [the Miami Heat’s] stadium for voting as well?” Gimenez, a two-term mayor in Miami-Dade County, is running against Democratic incumbent Representative Debbie Mucarsel-Powell to represent Florida’s 26th Congressional District in the U.S. House of Representatives in the upcoming election. CBS News campaign reporter LaCrai Mitchell reports that, according to information provided by the Miami-Dade County supervisor of elections, mail ballots can be returned in person at the Dade County Elections Department or the Elections Department’s branch office before 7 p.m. on Election Day, by mail, at an early voting location secure drop box, or at a voter’s precinct on Election Day. Early voting begins on October 19 in Miami-Dade County and there are currently more than 30 early voting sites listed on the county’s website.
Also in Florida, former Tallahassee Mayor Andrew Gillum made headlines Monday after announcing for the first time publicly that he identifies as bisexual during an interview with his wife on the ‘Tamron Hall Show.” In July, Mitchell reported that the former Florida gubernatorial candidate spoke about recovery from alcoholism and steps forward in a video posted on Instagram just months after an incident at a Miami hotel in March, where police found him “inebriated” alongside another man who may have overdosed on crystal methamphetamine. Gillum’s wife and the mother of his three children, R. Jai, said in the recent interview with Hall that many people don’t understand bisexuality. “Bisexuality is just something different,” said Mrs. Gillum. “I just believe that love and sexuality exist on a spectrum. All I care about is what’s between us and what agreement we make.”
The Michigan Senate is planning to vote this week on a bill that would allow clerks to begin processing absentee ballots on the Monday before Election Day, reports CBS News campaign reporter Adam Brewster. A spokesperson for state Senate Majority Leader Mike Shirkey, a Republican, said the Senate plans to vote on the bill, but expects the bill to be changed to include a sunset clause so that it would only apply to the election this November. Republican state Senator Ruth Johnson, who sponsored the bill, tells CBS News she expects there are enough votes for it to pass the Senate. The bill that would allow clerks in cities with at least 25,000 people to begin opening ballot envelopes the Monday before the election. Ballots would have to stay in their secrecy sleeves to prevent anyone from seeing actual votes ahead of time. Michigan is one of the battleground states where election officials have called for being able to start processing ballots, but not counting them, before Election Day to help speed up results.
CBS News campaign reporter LaCrai Mitchell reports that North Carolina Attorney General Josh Stein warned voters in a tweet on Saturday to not listen to the president, who directed North Carolinians in a tweet to vote early and to go to their polling places to ensure their ballot was counted and to vote again if it wasn’t. Stein countered the president’s message with his own thread of tweets. “To make sure your ballot COUNTS, sign and send it in EARLY. Then track it ONLINE with BALLOTTRAX. Do NOT vote twice (it’s a felony), or waste your time, or unnecessarily risk exposure to more people,” Stein said in a tweet. “The only GOOD thing about the President’s tweet is that he FINALLY encourages voters to VOTE BY MAIL. It’s an easy, safe & secure way to cast a ballot.” As CBS News reported Saturday, Twitter placed a public interest notice on the president’s tweet from Saturday, citing that it violated Twitter’s Civic Integrity Policy, specifically for encouraging people to potentially vote twice. As previously reported by Mitchell, the North Carolina State Board of Elections warned voters in a statement earlier this month that it is a felony for North Carolinians to vote twice in an election, after the president suggested voters “test” the mail-in voting system by purposefully attempting to vote-by-mail and in-person during a visit to the state earlier this month.
The Ohio Controlling Board voted to deny a request from state Secretary of State Frank LaRose to provide postage paid on absentee ballot envelopes for the November general election. During the controlling board meeting, LaRose said he believed he had the legal authority to implement postage paid for this election, but argued that he needed the spending authority from the controlling board to provide first class postage to Ohio’s county boards of elections. CBS News campaign reporter Jack Turman reports LaRose’s proposal included $3 million from his budget to carry out the request. During the hearing, LaRose argued that providing paid postage “incentivizes getting the ballots back quickly” and he added that if the controlling board authorized his request on Monday, his office could logistically provide first class postage stamps to its county boards of elections. Absentee ballots will be mailed out to voters who requested them on October 6, which is the first day of early voting in the state. In a statement, LaRose said the controlling board’s decision was a “missed opportunity” for Ohioans. “Ohio has a sound elections system, but today was another missed opportunity by the legislature to make a small change, without an impact on our state budget, that would yield a big improvement,” he said. Democrats in the state legislature were quick to respond to the decision, criticizing Republican state legislators for failing to act. “Republicans have repeatedly made it clear that they are not interested in making this general election as accessible as possible during a pandemic,” Ohio House Minority Leader Emilia Strong Sykes said in a statement.
IN THE HOUSE
The National Republican Congressional Committee announced sixteen new candidates on their “Young Guns” program, the highest level of the committee’s program to support challengers. CBS News political unit broadcast associate Aaron Navarro reports that seven of their challengers are running against House Democrat incumbents in districts Mr. Trump won, while five of them are in open seats due to resignations or incumbents being upset in the primary process. A couple of these open seat candidates are facing competitive races this November, such as Dr. Rich McCormick in Georgia’s 7th and Bob Good in Virginia’s 5th. For Democrats, Biden threw his support behind a group of House challengers this weekend and Monday. A good amount of them are candidates in the Midwest: Hillary Scholten in Michigan’s 3rd, Kate Schroder in Ohio’s 1st, Desiree Tims in Ohio’s 10th and Betsy Dirksen Londrigan in Illinois’ 13th.
Virginia Lieutenant Governor Justin Fairfax has officially jumped into the governor’s race. He held a pair of announcement events over the weekend in the cities of Fairfax and Hampton. A spokesperson told CBS News correspondent Nikole Killion he filed his candidacy paperwork last Friday. Fairfax, who aspires to become the Commonwealth’s second Black governor, joins a growing Democratic field that includes two other African-American candidates – State Senator Jennifer McClellan and Delegate Jennifer Carroll Foy. Former Governor Terry McAuliffe has also hinted at a possible run for his old job. Fairfax still faces unresolved sexual assault allegations that came to light following the Blackface scandal that enveloped Governor Ralph Northam and Attorney General Mark Herring in 2019. An attorney for one of Fairfax’s accusers, Dr. Vanessa Tyson, renewed calls for the Virginia Legislature to hold a public hearing to allow Tyson and a second accuser, Meredith Watson, to testify. “It is imperative that these women be given the opportunity to speak the truth publicly,” said Tyson’s lawyer Deborah Katz. “This type of transparency is critical to ensure accountability – especially now that Mr. Fairfax seeks to be governor.” Fairfax has denied the decades-old accusations and requested an investigation. He sued CBS News for defamation following an interview with Tyson and Watson conducted by CBS This Morning’s Gayle King. A judge dismissed the suit earlier this year. Fairfax filed an appeal in July.