Election 2020 updates: Postal Service ordered to ensure ballot delivery on time; Pennsylvania vote count could face delays

The coverage in this live blog has ended.

There are four days until Election Day. Tens of millions of voters have already cast their ballots, with turnout surpassing overall 2016 totals in some places. President Trump and Democratic nominee Joe Biden are both heading to the Midwest today. Both men are heading to Minnesota and Wisconsin, while Biden is also scheduled to stop by Iowa. Biden's lead in national polls stands at a little more than 8 percentage points as of this morning, according to NBC News. The Democrat also holds leads in several key battleground states, while some remain close.

The 2020 election race is still tight between Trump and Biden
The 2020 election race is still tight between Trump and Biden

Judge orders Postal Service to adopt "extraordinary measures" as mail ballot deadlines approach

Mail-in ballots sit in containers from the US Postal Service waiting to be processed by election workers at the Salt Lake County election office in Salt Lake City, Utah on Oct. 29, 2020.
George Frey | AFP | Getty Images

A federal judge on Friday ordered the U.S. Postal Service to adopt "extraordinary measures" at some processing locations to ensure the timely delivery of mail ballots as Election Day approaches.

U.S. District Judge Emmet Sullivan said he was ordering the measures in places where processing scores for mail ballots sent by voters were below 90% for at least two days from October 26 to 28.

The "extraordinary measures" refer to a USPS memorandum sent Oct. 20. They include extending retail hours in designated office locations, establishing a drive-through ballot postmark or drop option, utilizing the Express Mail network and more.

The list of districts includes Alabama, Alaska, Appalachian, Atlanta, Central Pennsylvania, Colorado/Wyoming, Detroit, Ft. Worth, Greater Indiana, Greater Michigan, Greater S. Carolina, Greensboro, Gulf Atlantic, Kentuckiana, Lakeland, Louisiana, Mid-Carolinas, Mississippi, Northern New England, Oklahoma, Rio Grande, and Triboro. 

There will be a hearing Friday at 5 p.m. on this case.

As of Friday afternoon, more than 35.5 million requested mail ballots have yet to be returned, according to the U.S. Elections Project.

Mail ballot deadlines vary from state to state. Some boards of elections require ballot receipt by Election Day while others require ballots to be postmarked by Nov. 3. and received by a following date.

Hannah Miao

Business Roundtable begins engaging with Biden campaign as Election Day nears

Democratic Presidential Candidate Joe Biden arrives to speak at a drive-in campaign event at the Iowa State Fairgrounds in Des Moines, Iowa, on October 30, 2020.
Jim Watson | AFP | Getty Images

The Business Roundtable has started speaking with Joe Biden's presidential campaign.

The massive business advocacy and lobbying organization has had a "strong engagement with both the Biden campaign and the Trump Administration," according to the group's spokeswoman.

It's the latest example of the Biden team beginning  to position themselves with business leaders as the former vice president heads down the final stretch of the 2020 election.

Lobbyists with corporate clients have separately been meeting with Biden campaign advisors.

The group's members consists of more than 100 chief executive officers. It's chairman is Doug McMillon, the President and CEO of Walmart. Jamie Dimon, the CEO of JPMorgan Chase, and Tim Cook, the CEO of Apple, are among the group's board of directors.

The Business Roundtable did not say what they have spoken with the Biden campaign about, but they did note, if he was to win, that they are looking to work with him on fighting the coronavirus pandemic.

"No matter who is elected to the White House and Congress, the most urgent and pressing need is stopping the spread of COVID-19 and ensuring a safe and rapid recovery from the pandemic," the organization said. 

The group of CEOs previously called on businesses to stop solely focusing on serving their shareholders.

— Brian Schwartz

Polls show Biden leading Trump heading into final weekend

Trump is lagging behind Biden in the polls, both nationally and in a series of crucial swing states, with just four days left to campaign.

Here's what national polling trackers said Friday afternoon:

The president also trails Biden, though by narrower margins, in a handful of key swing states that Trump won over then-Democratic nominee Hillary Clinton in 2016.

Polls of voters in Florida, North Carolina, Wisconsin, Michigan and Pennsylvania show Biden ahead on average, according to RCP's battleground tracker. Only one state in that list, Arizona, shows Trump and Biden tied.

Other states that are not usually considered swing states, such as the traditionally Republican-leaning Georgia and Texas, appear to be in play as well, according to political ratings organizations.

But Trump is making a full-court press in his final weekend. His campaign announced Friday morning that Trump will give speeches at more than a dozen of his signature rallies between Saturday and Monday, in Pennsylvania, Michigan, Iowa, North Carolina, Georgia, Florida and Wisconsin.

Kevin Breuninger

Multiple Pennsylvania counties will delay mail-in ballot counting

A voter casts her early voting ballot at drop box outside of City Hall on October 17, 2020 in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania.
Mark Makela | Getty Images

Prepare for a wait to hear who wins Pennsylvania in the 2020 election.

At least seven of the Keystone State's 67 counties expect not to tally mail-in ballots until the day after Election Day, according to NBC News. Two or more other counties could follow suit.

All of the counties that have confirmed plans to delay counting votes by mail have more registered Republicans than Democrats. Local officials have cited the difficulty of both running Election Day polling sites and counting votes by mail, NBC reported.

Mail-in ballots during the coronavirus pandemic have become a flashpoint in Pennsylvania, a presidential election prize with 20 electoral votes. Republicans see winning the state as essential to President Donald Trump winning another term.

The GOP has pushed to slow or limit the counting of mail-in ballots as Trump trails Democrat Joe Biden in Pennsylvania polls. Potential delays in counting votes cast by mail, which are expected to skew Democratic, may open the door for Trump to claim victory before the state tallies all ballots.

The Supreme Court has declined to fast track a challenge to a Nov. 6 deadline for receiving absentee ballots in Pennsylvania.

— Jacob Pramuk

Georgia Gov. Brian Kemp and his wife are quarantining

U.S. President Donald Trump is greeted by Georgia Governor Brian Kemp as he arrives at Hartsfield-Jackson Atlanta International Airport in Atlanta, Georgia, U.S., July 15, 2020.
Jonathan Ernst | Reuters

Republican Gov. Brian Kemp of Georgia and his wife, Marty Kemp, are in quarantine after being exposed to a person who tested positive for coronavirus, a spokesman said Friday.

Shortly before Kemp's press secretary, Cody Hall, made the announcement, Republican Rep. Drew Ferguson of Georgia revealed that he had tested positive for the virus that morning. Ferguson had shaken hands with Kemp days earlier at an outdoor campaign event, where both men spoke to a crowd of dozens of President Trump's supporters.

Hall's statement did not specify the person to whom the Kemps had been exposed.

"Today, our office was informed that Governor Kemp and the First Lady were recently exposed to an individual who received a positive test result for COVID-19," Hall said on Twitter.

"Upon notification, the Governor and the First Lady received a COVID-19 test. Per [Georgia Department of Public Health] guidance, both the Governor and the First Lady are currently quarantining," Hall said.

Ferguson, in his own statement, said that he began experiencing "mild" cold-like symptoms on Thursday night.

"This morning when I began running a slight fever, I immediately took a COVID test which has come back positive," Ferguson said.

"Following the advice of my physician, I will be self-quarantining and working from home," he said.

Video of the "MAGA Meet up" event Tuesday, which was posted by local news outlets, shows Ferguson introducing Kemp, who wore a mask as he stepped over to the lectern and gave the congressman a hearty handshake before beginning his speech.

In his remarks, Kemp mocked Democratic presidential nominee Joe Biden for leaving his "basement" to visit the Peach State.

"I think you should be applauding yourselves for getting Joe to come out of the basement and experience freedom in America!" Kemp told the crowd.

— Kevin Breuninger

It's anyone's guess when coronavirus stimulus will pass

The three most powerful people in Washington have three different outlooks on when the next coronavirus stimulus package could pass.

Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell hopes to take care of relief "right at the beginning" of 2021. Pelosi thinks aid could pass soon after Inauguration Day on Jan. 20, but added that "we don't want to have to wait that long."

President Donald Trump, meanwhile, claimed stimulus will pass "immediately" after the 2020 election.

Congress has failed to send Americans fresh aid for months despite record numbers of new Covid-19 infections and an economic recovery that has left many people behind. A last-ditch effort by Pelosi and Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin to strike a deal before Election Day failed to yield much progress.

The election, during which both Senate control and the presidency could change hands, may influence the political appetite for reaching a deal during the lame duck session before inauguration.

— Jacob Pramuk

Here's where Trump is set to campaign in the final days before Election Day

US President Donald Trump speaks at a "Make America Great Again" rally at Raymond James Stadium's parking lot on October 29, 2020, in Tampa, Florida.
Brendan Smialowski | AFP | Getty Images

President Donald Trump is set to campaign in several states he won in 2016 over the next few days — and one he narrowly lost.

Trump is set to speak at rallies in Michigan, Wisconsin and Minnesota on Friday. Michigan and Wisconsin helped deliver him a victory in 2016, while he narrowly lost Minnesota to then-Democratic nominee Hillary Clinton.

He's making several stops in Pennsylvania on Saturday, a swing state he won in 2016 but where polls have shown former Vice President Joe Biden leading.

On Sunday he's expected to return to Michigan and make stops in Iowa, North Carolina, Georgia and Florida.

On Monday, he'll return to Michigan, North Carolina, Pennsylvania and Wisconsin to visit several other cities, including Kenosha, Wisconsin, the site of violent clashes in the wake of the police shooting of Jacob Blake, a Black man who is now paralyzed from the waist down.

—Lauren Feiner

Trump's DC hotel is set to see business boom on Election Day

The Trump International Hotel is seen in Washington, U.S. September 28, 2020.
Erin Scott | Reuters

President Donald Trump's hotel in Washington D.C. is on track to see a wave in business on Election Day.

The Trump International Hotel is supposed to be the venue for the Trump campaign's party on election night. Rooms at the 263-room hotel are sold out that night, according to the hotel's website. When CNBC reached out to the hotel Friday morning, a reservation specialist confirmed there were no rooms available for that night.

Though it's unclear how much rooms went for on Election Day, standard guest rooms start at just over $1,000 this weekend.

It's not clear whether the president himself will attend the festivities at the hotel. He said Friday that he has not decided where he will spend the evening and suggested the event could be moved to the White House.

Nonetheless, Trump's campaign has prodded donors to give some cash and win a chance to be at the hotel on election night.

"I've arranged with my team to fly one of my BEST SUPPORTERS to Washington, DC to join Team Trump at the Election Night Party in my favorite hotel," a recent email to supporters says, while asking them to contribute to the campaign.

Critics have questioned how the hotel will be able to pull off a party given the coronavirus pandemic and Washington's restrictions on gatherings.

— Brian Schwartz

Biden has 6-point edge over Trump in North Carolina

Democratic presidential nominee Joe Biden speaks during a drive-in campaign rally at Riverside High School on October 18, 2020 in Durham, North Carolina.
Drew Angerer | Getty Images

Joe Biden has a 6-percentage point lead over incumbent President Donald Trump in North Carolina, a key swing state in the race for the White House, according to a new NBC/Marist poll.

The same North Carolina poll shows Biden's fellow Democrat, Cal Cunningham, with a 10-point lead in his Senate race against Sen. Thom Tillis, the one-term GOP incumbent.

The poll suggests that Cunningham might have survived a scandal over his sending sexual text messages to a woman who is not his wife.

Biden has the support of 52% of likely voters in the Tar Heel State, compared to 46% for Trump, the poll showed.

That gap is within the poll's margin of error.

Trump won North Carolina by four points in 2016. The state has 15 Electoral College votes at stake on Election Day.

— Dan Mangan

Donald Trump Jr. dismisses Covid deaths as ‘almost nothing'

Donald Trump Jr. delivers a pre-recorded speech to the largely virtual 2020 Republican National Convention in Charlotte from Washington, U.S., August 24, 2020.
Kevin Lemarque | Reuters

Donald Trump Jr. downplayed the coronavirus outbreak, saying that the number of new Covid-19 deaths in the U.S. is "almost nothing."

Over the past seven days, more than 800 people have died from the disease, on average, every day, up 14% compared with two weeks ago, according to a CNBC analysis of Hopkins data. That's a much lower number of daily deaths than the country saw in the spring, when the U.S. reported more than 2,600 deaths in a single day, but the figure is trending upward.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention updated its forecast of Covid-19 deaths earlier this week. It now projects "an uncertain trend in new COVID-19 deaths reported over the next four weeks and predicts that 3,900 to 10,000 new deaths will likely be reported during the week ending November 21, 2020."

"The reality is this: If you look, I put it up on my Instagram a couple days ago, because I went through the CDC data, because I kept hearing about new infections," Trump Jr., the president's eldest son, said on Fox News host Laura Ingraham's show.

"But I was like, 'Well, why aren't they talking about deaths?' Oh, oh, because the number is almost nothing," he said. "Because we've gotten control of this and we understand how it works. They have the therapeutics to be able to deal with this."

—Will Feuer

Kamala Harris will visit Georgia and North Carolina on Sunday

U.S. Democratic vice presidential nominee Kamala Harris speaks during a campaign event in Detroit, Michigan, U.S., October 25, 2020.
Rebecca Cook | Reuters

Sen. Kamala Harris, Democratic candidate Joe Biden's running mate, will travel to Georgia and North Carolina on Sunday, the campaign announced.

Harris' scheduled visit to Georgia is the latest confirmation of the state's battleground status in 2020. The state has long been considered a Republican stronghold, but a growing young and non-white electorate has made the race for Georgia's 16 electoral votes competitive this election. President Donald Trump beat Democrat Hillary Clinton by a 5% margin in 2016, but recent polling averages show that Biden has a chance at winning Georgia.

Harris will also travel to Goldsboro and Fayetteville, North Carolina on Sunday. The swing state was critical to Trump's 2016 victory and polling averages indicate a close race in 2020.

Hannah Miao

Biden and Obama to campaign together in Flint and Detroit

US President Barack Obama and US Vice President Joe Biden wave during a campaign event at the University of Iowa in Iowa City, Iowa, on September 7, 2012.
Saul Loeb | AFP | Getty Images

President Barack Obama and Democratic nominee Joe Biden will make two campaign stops together on Saturday in Michigan, a state that Republican President Donald Trump won in 2016, but which is central to Biden's path to victory.

Obama and his former vice president will hold drive-in rallies in Flint, and later in Detroit, two majority-Black cities that have been deeply impacted by structural racism.

The Biden campaign's choice to send the popular former president to Flint and Detroit underscores both its strategist's belief that Black, urban voters are key to winning Michigan this year, and Obama's singular prowess in mobilizing Black voters.

Detroit was one of the cities hardest hit by the subprime mortgage crisis of the late aughts, owing in part to lenders' tendency to offer minorities subprime mortgages even if they had the same borrower profiles and incomes as White borrowers. Tens of thousands of homes in Detroit were foreclosed upon during the crisis, and large swaths of the cities poorer neighborhoods were essentially abandoned to blight.

In Flint, a water crisis that began in 2014 when the city began using corrosive water from the Flint River still reverberates today. More than 100,000 Flint residents were exposed to toxic levels of lead from aging water pipes, and as of 2020 efforts are still underway to replace the lead pipes.

— Christina Wilkie

2016 Democratic vice presidential nominee Tim Kaine calls for peaceful transition of power

Sen. Tim Kaine makes plea for peaceful transition of power
Sen. Tim Kaine makes plea for peaceful transition of power

Virginia Sen. Tim Kaine, running mate of 2016 Democratic candidate Hillary Clinton, urged political leaders to "preach a message of calm" in the 2020 presidential election.

"I was real disappointed after 2016. But I introduced Hillary Clinton on Wednesday morning, and she conceded. We didn't like the outcome, but we gave calm concessions speeches to suggest that there was now going to be a peaceful transfer of power," Kaine told CNBC's Squawk Box.

"We should hold all of our electeds and all of our candidates to that standard. Deliver a calm message that's consistent with our country's democratic traditions," he said.

In September, President Donald Trump refused to commit to a peaceful transition of power if he loses the 2020 election to Democratic candidate Joe Biden. —Hannah Miao

Cook Political Report chief: Contested election unlikely, Biden lead 'more like 9 or 10 points'

Democratic U.S. presidential nominee and former Vice President Joe Biden gestures before he departs on campaign travel to Iowa, from the airport in New Castle, Delaware, U.S., October 30, 2020.
Brian Snyder | Reuters

The political analyst behind the widely followed Cook Political Report newsletter said he believes Biden's lead over Trump is larger than polling averages suggest.

In a column for National Journal, analyst Charlie Cook pushed back on predictions of Trump scoring another come-from-behind victory, as he did four years earlier. Cook also said the prospect of a contested election, in which Trump might challenge the outcome if his loss is narrow, has grown increasingly unlikely.

"Every day that Trump remains behind in the polls, outspent badly and with the early vote gushing in, the cone of uncertainty narrows, and the odds of such an upset goes down," Cook wrote.

With four days left until Election Day, Biden currently holds a 7.6-point edge over Trump in RealClearPolitics' national polling tracker — a significantly wider gap than Hillary Clinton held at this point in the 2016 race.

But Cook said he believes Biden's "actual lead is more like 9 or 10 points," based on his assessment of what he considers higher-quality surveys.

"Any way you slice it, these are pretty good leads," he wrote.

He also noted that Democrats and Biden's campaign have far outspent the GOP and the Trump campaign in this cycle, and added that Democrats look more likely to win back majority control of the Senate.

"In my judgement, a landslide is more likely than a contested election," Cook wrote.

— Kevin Breuninger

GOP hopes Cuban voters flip a Dem House seat in Florida

Democrats are favored to win the House majority again this year, but Republicans see a few opportunities to flip some seats. One big opportunity is in Florida's 26th District.

The heavily Latino district comprises Miami suburubs and some parts of the Florida Keys. Rep. Debbie Mucarsel-Powell, who was swept into office during the Democratic "blue wave" of 2018, is facing a stiff challenge from Miami-Dade County Mayor Carlos Gimenez.

Read more about the fight for the 26th District here. – Mike Calia

Here's where in-person early voting ends Friday

In-person early voting ends Friday in several states across the country, according to the National Conference of State Legislatures.

  • Arizona
  • Georgia
  • Idaho
  • Massachusetts
  • Nevada
  • Texas
  • Utah

Votes cast in person have made up about 34.6% of total early voting so far, the U.S. Elections Project reports. While Democrats have dominated mail voting, Republicans lead with in-person voting. In states reporting party affiliation, registered Republicans make up 41.6% of in-person voters compared with 36.5% Democrats, according to project totals.

Hannah Miao

Texas surpasses 2016 vote total with more than 9 million ballots cast

People cast their ballots at a polling location on October 13, 2020 in Austin, Texas.
Sergio Flores | Getty Images

Texas has surpassed its total 2016 voter turnout with four days before Election Day, according to totals released by state election officials Friday morning.

Voters have cast more than 9 million ballots in person and by mail. About 8.9 million Texans voted in the 2016 presidential election, according to the state's official tally.  Since the last presidential election, Texas has gained about 1.9 million registered voters, The Texas Tribune reported. 

Early voting in Texas has been led by Harris County, the Houston metropolitan area and third most populous county in the country. Harris County voters have cast more than 1.3 million ballots in 2020. In-person early voting ends on Friday.

Democrats have hoped that high voter turnout in Texas could signal a blue shift in the state.

While the state does not report party registration, NBC News has modeled that 53% of early votes come from registered Republicans while 37% come from registered Democrats and 10% from unaffiliated voters.

Polls are suggesting the Republican stronghold may be a battleground in 2020. Real Clear Politics' polling average gives Trump a lead of just 3.2 percentage points over Biden. In 2016, Trump won Texas over Democratic nominee Hillary Clinton by 9 points.

Hannah Miao

Cash floods key Senate races

This election cycle is expected to generate nearly $14 billion in spending when all is said and done. While much of the focus has been on the presidential race, the battle for control of the Senate has been no fundraising slouch, either.

The GOP, which holds a 53-47 edge in the Senate, is defending 23 seats compared to 12 held by Democrats. Several are up for grabs, and there is a good chance the Democrats can take control of the chamber even if, as expected, Sen. Doug Jones loses to Republican challenger Tommy Tuberville in Alabama.

The Senate race in South Carolina, between longtime incumbent Lindsey Graham and Democrat Jaime Harrison, has easily raked in the most cash. It has become a surprisingly close campaign in the reliably red state – Mike Calia; graphic by John Schoen

Phony persona, fake document fueled Hunter Biden conspiracy theories

Joe Biden and his son Hunter Biden attend an NCAA basketball game between Georgetown University and Duke University in Washington, January 30, 2010.
Jonathan Ernst | Reuters

NBC News is reporting that a intelligence dossier alleging a conspiracy theory involving Joe Biden's son Hunter Biden, which went viral over several months in right-wing corners of the internet, is actually a fake. The sources of the document, an intelligence firm and a Swiss security analyst, are also phony, according to the report.

The dossier's purported author, Martin Aspen, doesn't exist, according to a professor and blogger named Christopher Balding who was one of the earliest people to post the document online. Balding also said he wrote part of the document. Aspen's profile photo was created with an artificial intelligence program, NBC added.

Former Trump advisor Steve Bannon, the pro-Trump Epoch Times publication and the QAnon conspiracy theory community helped spread the document and its allegations online, including on Facebook and Twitter, NBC reported.

The dossier made its rounds in the months before the New York Post published contents of a hard drive that allegedly belonged to Hunter Biden, who pursued business interests in China and Ukraine. Neither NBC News nor CNBC has viewed the hard drive and could not verify it.

Trump and his allies have sought to use Hunter Biden's business entanglements against his father, although there has been no evidence of wrongdoing by the senior Biden. The former vice president has condemned the attacks on his son, calling the a "smear."

Read the full NBC News report here. – Mike Calia

Trump and Biden storm the Midwest

US President Donald Trump speaks during a campaign rally at Waukesha County Airport in Waukesha, Wisconsin on October 24, 2020.
Mandel Ngan | AFP | Getty Images

The president is making two stops in Wisconsin today as he attempts to defend a state he narrowly won in 2016 in a shocking upset of Hillary Clinton. At 2 p.m. ET, Trump will hold a rally in Waterford Township before he heads to Green Bay to make a speech at 4 p.m. ET. Biden, meanwhile, is looking to avoid the mistakes of Clinton's campaign, and is also hitting Wisconsin today in a bid to flip back the state's 10 electoral votes.

In an intriguing development, both Biden and Trump will also visit Minnesota today. Traditionally considered a solid blue state, the president's campaign has made an aggressive play for its10 electoral votes, hoping that he can achieve a similar upset there to his win in Wisconsin four years ago. Clinton won Minnesota narrowly in 2016.

Biden's visit there shows that his campaign isn't taking things for granted, even as he also looks to expand his map by stopping by Iowa today, as well. Trump won that state easily in 2016, but polls have shown a tighter race this time. – Mike Calia