7:34 PM - October 22, 2020
7:34 PM - October 22, 2020

Latinos in Pennsylvania worry the Biden campaign’s outreach is coming too late

ALLENTOWN — A handwritten “Latinos For Biden” sign directed about a dozen people into the campaign’s newly opened office in Allentown on Tuesday night. Julio Guridy greeted people at the door with a smile, thanked them for coming, and asked them to please keep their masks on and stay spaced out once inside.

Behind his polite greeting was a sense of worry.

The office opening, coming just two weeks before Election Day, concerned Guridy, a city councilman in Allentown for the last 20 years. He has organized political outreach here for decades and said there’s been next to no presence from Joe Biden’s campaign in the Latino community.

“We are the majority of Latinos in Pennsylvania,” Guridy said of the Lehigh Valley, which includes Allentown, Bethlehem, and Reading. “We were not getting any support.”

The Biden campaign is funding the office, which will offer stipends of $15 an hour to people who canvass the area every day from 1 to 5 p.m. ahead of Nov. 3. It also has a separate satellite office a few blocks away used for staff. A caravan is planned for Saturday to drum up support for the campaign, and Spanish-language radio and TV stations now feature a steady stream of Biden ads.

But Latino leaders in the Lehigh Valley and Philadelphia said that prior to two weeks ago, there was little outreach — in person or otherwise. And there’s concern that this final push could be coming too late to attract support from a voting bloc that has traditionally been difficult to turn out.

Julia Terruso

5:51 PM - October 22, 2020
5:51 PM - October 22, 2020

Trump campaign is warned about videotaping Philly voters dropping off mail ballots

Pennsylvania Attorney General Josh Shapiro is warning President Donald Trump’s campaign that videotaping voters depositing mail ballots in drop boxes is not covered by the state’s Election Code provisions for poll watching.

“Our entire system of voting is built on your ballot being private and your choice to vote being a personal one,” Shapiro said in a statement to The Inquirer. “Depending on the circumstance, the act of photographing or recording a voter casting a ballot could be voter intimidation — which is illegal.”

Shapiro’s statement mirrors comments he made to The New York Times on Thursday about the Trump campaign videotaping voters in Philadelphia.

That report said Trump campaign attorney Linda Kerns wrote to city officials last Friday complaining that the campaign had surveilled three voters who deposited more than one mail ballot in a drop box.

The Times also reported that a deputy city solicitor responded with a letter Monday, noting that “third party delivery” of mail ballots is permitted in certain circumstances.

Chris Brennan

4:44 PM - October 22, 2020
4:44 PM - October 22, 2020

Candidates and their surrogates plan weekend trips to Pa.

This weekend will be full of campaign events in Pennsylvania, including a visit from Joe and Jill Biden to Bucks County.

Some confirmed campaign events in Pennsylvania this weekend include:

  • Vice President Mike Pence will host a “Make America Great Again! Victory Rally” Friday in West Mifflin, near Pittsburgh. The event will begin at 4:30 p.m.
  • Sen. Bernie Sanders is expected to campaign for Biden in Pennsylvania on Saturday, according to the Biden campaign. No location or details have been disclosed for his visit.
  • Eric Trump will hold a rally in the Poconos on Saturday.
  • Joe and Jill Biden will visit Bucks and Luzerne counties on Saturday, according to the Biden campaign, “to speak about building back the economy better for working families.”

Republicans have hung onto more support in Bucks County than elsewhere in the Philadelphia suburbs. President Donald Trump lost to Hillary Clinton in Bucks County by less than one percentage point.

Luzerne County, which Biden also plans to visit Saturday, is also a key swing area. President Barack Obama won the county in 2012 but it shifted to supporting Trump in 2016.

Laura McCrystal, Jonathan Tamari

3:55 PM - October 22, 2020
3:55 PM - October 22, 2020

‘A tough, scrappy Philadelphian’: NBC’s Kristen Welker hopes to keep order during tonight’s presidential debate

NBC News White House correspondent Kristen Welker.
/ AP
NBC News White House correspondent Kristen Welker.

When President Donald Trump and former Vice President Joe Biden face off tonight in the final presidential debate, it’ll be up to a NBC reporter from Philadelphia to maintain control.

Kristen Welker, a White House corespondent for NBC News, is known in media circles as a dogged but fair reporter. Tonight, she will become just the second Black woman to moderate a presidential debate after drawing widespread praise for her performance as a co-moderator during a 2019 Democratic primary debate on MSNBC.

“She’s got all the virtues of a tough, scrappy Philadelphian,” said NBC News chief foreign affairs correspondent and MSNBC anchor Andrea Mitchell. “She’s very down to Earth, very connected to home and family, and I think she combines all of the great talents you’d want in a superb journalist.”

Welker was raised in Fairmount and graduated from Germantown Friends School and Harvard University. She’s been at NBC since 2005, when she was hired as a reporter for NBC10. Since then she’s moved up the ranks, joining NBC News in 2010 and the Weekend TODAY show earlier this year.

Mitchell and Welker have become close friends (the two worked closely together during the 2016 presidential campaign) and said the bipartisan praise Welker has received in shows the level of respect that can be hard to earn in such a divisive town.

“She is universally liked because of who she is,” Mitchell said. “Consciousness, diligent, smart as can be, and one of the most collegial people I’ve ever met in this profession.”

Rob Tornoe

2:34 PM - October 22, 2020
2:34 PM - October 22, 2020

It could take days to count votes, county commissioners warn

It’s one more indication that voters may have to exercise patience awaiting the results of this year’s election. Bucks County, which could be pivotal in the presidential race, won’t begin releasing results until around 10 p.m. on election night, the county commissioners said in a press briefing Thursday.

“We believe we’ll be able to have most things counted by Friday certainly,” Commissioner Robert J. Harvie Jr. said.

That work will be delayed as commissioners expect staff to spend the morning and afternoon of Election Day opening envelopes before they can even start counting ballots. Once they begin to upload those mail-in results, they’ll have to interrupt that work in order to input the results from machines used for in-person voting.

Samantha Melamed

2:18 PM - October 22, 2020
2:18 PM - October 22, 2020

Postal Service reports 162% increase in election mail compared to 2016

With less than two weeks until Election Day, the U.S. Postal Service has already handled 523 million pieces of election mail, a 162% increase in volume compared to four years ago, according to data presented Thursday. In a virtual media briefing Thursday, officials from the Postal Service and the Postal Inspection Office assured voters that the agency is deploying all available resources to ensure election materials are delivered timely and handled securely.

Kristin Seaver, chief retail and delivery officer, said that “extraordinary measures will be deployed the last week leading up to the election,” including expedited handling, extra deliveries, and special mail pick-ups on Sundays and on Election Day.

The message could come as a calming mechanism for voters across the country, especially Philadelphians, who watched their mail delivery deteriorate over the summer amid postal operational changes, an employee shortage, and a parcel boom. Seaver said that in areas of concern, like Philadelphia and Detroit, the agency has “deployed additional resources,” though did not specify what that includes.

“Election mail will not be delayed,” she said.

Carroll Harris, Postal Service inspector in charge, made a firm commitment to the security of ballots. “We will protect the buildings and the flow” of election mail, he said. “We will protect it all."

”This is a criminal’s worst nightmare," he said. “We are consistently managing for attacks … and we will enforce the law.”

Ellie Rushing

2:12 PM - October 22, 2020
2:12 PM - October 22, 2020

More than 1.3 million Pa. voters have returned mail ballots

More than 1.3 million Pennsylvania voters have returned mail ballots to county election offices, according to data released Thursday by the Department of State.

A total of 2,904,555 ballots have been requested, and the vast majority of those have been printed and mailed to voters. Voters have returned 1,329,838 ballots.

Registered Democrats have requested more than 1.8 million ballots, or 64% of the total, while Republicans have requested about 728,000 (25%).

About 330,000 voters (11%) unaffiliated with either party have submitted applications for mail ballots, according to the data.

Andrew Seidman

2:03 PM - October 22, 2020
2:03 PM - October 22, 2020

How Amy Coney Barrett could be key to new lawsuit to block Pa.'s mail-in ballot extension

An envelope of a mail ballot in Pennsylvania.
Matt Slocum / AP
An envelope of a mail ballot in Pennsylvania.

HARRISBURG — A new federal lawsuit seeks to block Pennsylvania officials from counting mail-in and absentee ballots received within three days after Election Day, an extension approved by the state’s highest court and recently allowed to stand by the U.S. Supreme Court.

The latest challenge came as the state’s top elections official, Kathy Boockvar, urged voters not to count on the extension, and instead mail in their ballots right away to get their votes counted.

“I want to make it clear, I honestly don’t care what the Supreme Court said or didn’t say,” Boockvar said Wednesday. “Ballots need to be mailed. If they’re going to be put in the mail, they need to be put in the mail this week. If they need to be dropped off, it needs to be done on Nov. 3.”

In the latest lawsuit, filed Thursday in federal court in Pittsburgh, a Republican congressional candidate and four voters argue that extending the deadline was unconstitutional, and the state Supreme Court overstepped its authority when it enacted the change.

“Despite the exclusive grant of authority to the state legislatures to regulate the ‘time, place, and manner’ of federal elections and the ‘manner’ of selecting presidential electors, the Pennsylvania Supreme Court usurped this authority,” the lawsuit from Jim Bognet, who is running for Congress in northeastern Pennsylvania, and the four voters states. “This is unlawful under both the Elections Clause and the Presidential Electors Clause.”

The lawsuit is the latest in a series of high-profile legal challenges in the run-up to the election in Pennsylvania, which could be pivotal in deciding who wins the presidency. Last month, a majority of state Supreme Court justices issued a sweeping decision that set the tone for how Pennsylvanians can vote under the state’s year-old law that greatly expanded mail-in voting.

Angela Couloumbis and Marie Albiges of Spotlight PA

11:05 AM - October 22, 2020
11:05 AM - October 22, 2020

Booker calls confirmation process of Supreme Court nominee Amy Coney Barrett ‘a sham’

Despite a boycott by Democratic senators, Republicans on the Senate Judiciary Committee advanced the Amy Coney Barrett’s Supreme Court nomination to the full Senate Thursday morning on a 12-0 vote.

Among the Democrats to boycott the vote was New Jersey Sen. Cory Booker, who called the process of pushing Barrett’s nomination less than two weeks before Election Day “a sham."

Earlier this week, Sen. Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R., Ky.) said a full Senate vote on Barrett’s confirmation was being scheduled for Monday.

— Rob Tornoe

10:00 AM - October 22, 2020
10:00 AM - October 22, 2020

Pennsylvania now lets everyone vote by mail. But poor people in Philadelphia remain forgotten.

People register and vote at the satellite election office at Julia De Burgos Elementary in the Fairhill section of North Philadelphia on Monday, Oct. 19, 2020.
HEATHER KHALIFA / Staff Photographer
People register and vote at the satellite election office at Julia De Burgos Elementary in the Fairhill section of North Philadelphia on Monday, Oct. 19, 2020.

In the poorest big city in America, a 2019 law that expanded voting by mail and passed with bipartisan support and was touted as providing historic access to the ballot box. But it is doing little to boost turnout among low-income Philadelphians, according to a data analysis by The Inquirer and ProPublica.

Instead, they are casting ballots in person when they do vote — even during a deadly pandemic that has disproportionately affected low-income people and people of color.

The law has enhanced access for middle-class and affluent voters who would likely have voted anyway, attracting much higher use in Philadelphia’s wealthier neighborhoods, The Inquirer/ProPublica review found. More than 392,000 Philadelphians had requested general election mail ballots by Oct. 20. In the 10 highest-income zip codes, 47% of voters have requested mail ballots. In the city’s 10 lowest-income areas, only 27% of voters have done so.

— Jonathan Lai, Samantha Melamed and Michaelle Bond

8:00 AM - October 22, 2020
8:00 AM - October 22, 2020

Biden says he’s asked a commission to make recommendations about Supreme Court

Former Vice President Joe Biden sits for a "60 Minutes" interview with CBS Evening News anchor Norah O'Donnell.
Aaron Tomlinson / For "60 Minutes"
Former Vice President Joe Biden sits for a "60 Minutes" interview with CBS Evening News anchor Norah O'Donnell.

Former Vice President Joe Biden said if elected, he would appoint a bipartisan commission to the study the Supreme Court and U.S. court system, and make recommendations about possible reforms.

“It’s not about court packing,” Biden said in an interview with CBS that will air on 60 Minutes Sunday. “There’s a number of other things that our constitutional scholars have debated, and I’ve looked to see what recommendations that commission might make.”

“The last thing we need to do is turn the Supreme Court into just a political football, whoever has the most votes gets whatever they want,” Biden added. “Presidents come and go, Supreme Court justices stay for generations.”

Biden has avoided answering questions about the possibility of adding Supreme Court justices to the bench after Republicans refused to consider former President Barack Obama’s Supreme Court nominee Merrick Garland, and are pushing through nominee Amy Coney Barrett just weeks before the election.

— Rob Tornoe

7:30 AM - October 22, 2020
7:30 AM - October 22, 2020

Latest Pennsylvania polls show that Trump is stuck

President Donald Trump arrives in Philadelphia, Pa. on Tuesday, September 15, 2020.
MONICA HERNDON / Staff Photographer
President Donald Trump arrives in Philadelphia, Pa. on Tuesday, September 15, 2020.

A new wave of Pennsylvania polls Wednesday all showed Joe Biden still holding a solid but not insurmountable lead over President Donald Trump, ranging from a five percentage point edge (per Fox News) to 10 (CNN).

In between were USA Today/Suffolk (Biden +7) and Quinnipiac University (Biden +8).

The numbers are consistent with what most polls of Pennsylvania have shown for months and right around the average crunched by FiveThirtyEight (Biden +6.2). Still, the difference between a five-point lead and a 10-point lead is significant. At five, a small polling error plus a little movement in Trump’s direction could suddenly make the race neck-and-neck. At eight or 10, Biden has some breathing room and might be on the verge of a rout.

Enter Christopher Nicholas, a longtime Pennsylvania Republican political consultant who chimed in on Twitter. “Always look at an incumbent’s poll numbers as they matter most,” he wrote.

That lens shows a much more uniform picture. Trump’s support registered at 42% (Suffolk), 43% (Quinnipiac), 43% (CNN) and 45% (Fox). “Trump is in a narrow trading range,” Nicholas said. “Fairly consistent.”

In other words, the president, at the moment, looks stuck. And, as we saw in his two Pennsylvania rallies in the past two weeks, he is relying on the same message he has used the past four years, the same style, the same politics that have won him support in the 40s — but no better.

It’s possible, of course, that Trump still pulls off a victory. We know he did it in 2016. Maybe the polls are off (his campaign insists they are) and it’s closer than it looks and all he needs is slight movement in his direction, or a late twist.

But throughout Trump’s presidency, polls have shown pretty fixed opinions of him. The Quinnipiac margin (Biden up eight) is the exact same as it was in early September, despite everything that has happened in between.

Jonathan Tamari

7:30 AM - October 22, 2020
7:30 AM - October 22, 2020

Democrats are looking for a rebound in Erie, a symbol of Trump’s Rust Belt appeal

On West 12th Street across from the Erie International Airport, Steven Lantz-Gordon, 24, at left, of Harborcreek Township, waves a flag in support of President Donald Trump near David Oberg, 60, at right, of Grand Valley, who raises a flag in support of Democratic presidential candidate and former Vice President Joe Biden.
Christopher Millette / AP
On West 12th Street across from the Erie International Airport, Steven Lantz-Gordon, 24, at left, of Harborcreek Township, waves a flag in support of President Donald Trump near David Oberg, 60, at right, of Grand Valley, who raises a flag in support of Democratic presidential candidate and former Vice President Joe Biden.

The rural portions of Erie County look a lot like other areas in Western Pennsylvania these days: Roads and homes are loaded with Trump signs.

But there’s something different here in the northwest corner of the state: A significant number of Joe Biden signs stand in response, on lawns, at intersections, on barns, and even in a small office in Union City — a rural town where no one can remember seeing a Democratic presence before.

“Farmers for Biden” and “Christians Against Trump” signs hang on the building.

Signs, political professionals point out, don’t vote. But both Republicans and Democrats here say they do indicate what they’ve seen for months: Democrats are now much more active and visible in one of the places that stunned the party in 2016, and helped seal Donald Trump’s victory.

Of the areas in Pennsylvania that swung to Trump in 2016, Erie is one of the few that has shown signs of a potential Democratic rebound.

— Jonathan Tamari

7:00 AM - October 22, 2020
7:00 AM - October 22, 2020

Thursday morning roundup

  • Former President Barack Obama delivered a punishing rebuke of his successor Donald Trump’s tenure at a drive-in event for Joe Biden in Philadelphia on Wednesday, telling rallygoers that “character matters.”
  • A year ago, voting machines malfunctioned in a pivotal Pennsylvania county. Have the problems been fixed?
  • President Donald Trump and his advisers have repeatedly discussed whether to fire FBI Director Christopher Wray after Election Day, as the president grows increasingly frustrated that federal law enforcement has not delivered his campaign the kind of last-minute boost that the FBI provided in 2016, the Washington Post reports.
  • Political media stars who also happen to be Eagles fans, such as CNN’s Jake Tapper or Fox News host Jesse Watters, face a difficult TV choice tonight — Birds game or presidential debate?