First Thing election special: 14 million Americans have already voted

Key swing states have seen record turnout, despite Republican efforts to stifle early voting. Plus, the most important criminal justice race of this election cycle

Voters lining up in Austin, Texas on Tuesday.




Voters lining up in Austin, Texas, on Tuesday.
Photograph: Mario Cantu/CSM/Zuma Wire/Rex/Shutterstock

Good morning. At least 14 million Americans have already voted in the presidential election, according to an analysis by the US Elections Project, which says more than 2 million of those votes were in key swing states such as Florida. In Georgia, where the Republican administration has been accused repeatedly of voter suppression as it tries to stop the state turning blue, some voters are standing in line for eight hours or more to cast their ballots.

Early returns show Democrats racking up a big lead, but GOP supporters are traditionally more committed to voting in person on election day. “The numbers are pretty staggering for us and the return rates and the polling look good,” a Florida Democratic strategist told Politico. “But there’s just a lot we don’t know.”

  • Sign up for the Fight to Vote, the Guardian’s new weekly newsletter explaining the powerful yet often hidden forces trying to keep Americans from casting their vote – be it by spreading misinformation, intimidating poll watchers, election security breaches or kneecapping the US Postal Service.

Another October surprise: Twitter blocked a Biden story

Rudy Giuliani hosts a Trump campaign event in Philadelphia earlier this week. The former New York mayor was the source of the Post’s Hunter Biden story.


Rudy Giuliani hosts a Trump campaign event in Philadelphia earlier this week. The former New York mayor was the source of the Post’s Hunter Biden story. Photograph: Jacqueline Larma/AP

Conservatives have responded with outrage after Twitter and Facebook both took steps to limit the online spread of a Wednesday report by the New York Post, which purported to have uncovered information that could be damaging to Joe Biden in the closing weeks of the election.

Twitter said it had blocked sharing of the Post link over questions about “the origins of the materials” in the article, which contained information supposedly pulled from a computer left by Hunter Biden at a Delaware computer repair shop in 2019 – whose unnamed owner claims to have then passed the information to Donald Trump’s personal lawyer, Rudy Giuliani.

The Twitter CEO, Jack Dorsey, admitted his firm’s handling of the issue was “not great”, after even some non-conservatives criticised the move as playing into the rightwing narrative that big tech companies censor conservative views.

An ‘open-minded’ Barrett stays tight-lipped on climate change

Amy Coney Barrett vowed to keep an “open mind” when considering cases as a supreme court justice during the third day of her confirmation hearings on Wednesday. Yet she again declined to give direct answers on how she might rule on some of the most important issues likely to face the court. In a telling exchange with Kamala Harris, Barrett refused to state an opinion on whether climate change was real, describing the topic as “a very contentious matter of public debate.”

The Democrats already appear resigned to losing this particular confirmation battle, writes David Smith, but they believe they can win the war:


Republicans seemed confident that Barrett is cruising towards confirmation as a conservative star of the court for decades to come. Democrats, who realise the same thing, are using their time to highlight that she would be a bulwark of minority rule, and therefore defeating Trump in next month’s election is an even bigger priority.

  • People of Praise expels members who have gay sex, the faith group’s current leader said in a 2018 interview. Barrett, who has served as a female leader in the group, told senators this week that she “would not ever discriminate on the basis of sexual preference.”

How Trump’s Obamacare attacks could cost him Texas

Protesters demonstrate against Trump’s plans to end Obamacare in 2017.


Protesters demonstrate against Trump’s plans to end Obamacare in 2017. Photograph: Kevin Lamarque/Reuters

Trump has vowed to decimate the Affordable Care Act ever since 2016, but his repeated attacks on Barack Obama’s signature presidential achievement could have unintended consequences in 2020. Florida and Texas have both recorded sharp rises in the numbers of uninsured under the Trump administration – and healthcare is one of the top electoral issues for the large Latino populations in both states, as Mark Kreidler reports.

  • As a Muslim, millennial Texan, Erum Salam says he and his peers are exhausted by the politics of the Trump era: “What terrifies me is not the rampant, full-throated Trump supporters,” he writes. “It’s the people around me who seem so fed up with politics, they seem not to care about anything at all.”

In other election news…

  • Trump has scheduled a televised town hall on NBC on Thursday at the same time as Biden’s identical ABC event, as the two candidates duel for viewers on what was originally to be the night of the second presidential debate.

  • Barron Trump had coronavirus, his mother, Melania, has revealed. The president’s youngest son, who is 14, did test positive for Covid-19, Mrs Trump said in a statement, but he exhibited no symptoms and subsequently tested negative.

Stat of the day

The Biden campaign has broken the fundraising record it set last month, bringing in $383m in September. The Trump campaign has yet to announce its September figures, but in August it raised $155m less than Democrats: $365m to $210m.

View from the right

Biden’s vast poll lead is an illusion promulgated by his Trump-hating allies in the media – and this election is still all to play for, argues Conrad Black, the former newspaper publisher, Trump biographer and convicted felon.


This mighty fest of mudslinging and defamation has undoubtedly denied the president the heavy reelection that he has earned. Having had as brilliant a first term as Franklin D Roosevelt and Richard Nixon, he deserves, as they did in 1936 and 1972, to take over 60 percent of the vote.

Don’t miss this

Jackie Lacey, the first woman and the first African American to serve as Los Angeles district attorney, is deeply unpopular with progressive activists.


Jackie Lacey, the first woman and the first African American to serve as Los Angeles district attorney, is deeply unpopular with progressive activists. Photograph: Damian Dovarganes/AP

Black Lives Matter has turned the race to be Los Angeles district attorney into America’s most closely watched criminal justice election, reports Sam Levin. The contest is between the current LA DA, Jackie Lacey – the first woman and the first African American to serve as the city’s top prosecutor – and George Gascón, a progressive former San Francisco DA who has pledged greater police accountability.

Last Thing: how Obama’s photographer became a star

The Obamas watch TV at home in the White House residence in 2011, photographed by Pete Souza.


The Obamas watch TV at home in the White House residence in 2011, photographed by Pete Souza. Photograph: The White House/Getty Images

President Barack Obama’s official staff photographer, Pete Souza, spent eight years as a fly on the wall in the White House. A new documentary shows how he chronicled the Obama years, and then took on the Trump era with his slyly, savagely critical Instagram posts contrasting the two commanders in chief.

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