The 5th US Circuit Court of Appeals on Wednesday night reinstated rules issued by Gov. Greg Abbott allowing voters and poll workers to forego masks at voting sites. The appeals court ruling means that as of now, mask-wearing at the polls cannot be enforced in Texas.
The appeals court issued a temporary stay, reinstating the rules, while it considers other appeals. A federal district judge previously invalidated that part of Abbott’s statewide directive about masks and face-coverings. That lower court ruling paved the way for counties to start enforcing mask-wearing at the polls.
United States District Judge Jason Pulliam in the Western District of Texas, had previously ruled that Abbott’s exemption at polling locations violates the Voting Rights Act by imposing a “voting practice or procedure which results in a denial or abridgement of the right of Black and Latino citizens to vote on account of race or color.”
The suit was brought by liberal groups. Abbott and the state officials defending his directive are Republicans.
Like in many states, the number of Covid-19 cases in Texas is on the rise, with El Paso seeing an especially strong surge. The state is building tents and a makeshift hospital to house Covid-19 patients in the city.
Given the expectation of a stay, Harris County Clerk Chris Hollins said in a statement that while he applauded the initial ruling that supported mask-wearing policies, the county will not enforce it. Harris County, which includes Houston, is the largest county in Texas.
“To avoid confusion, we will continue our policy of accommodating all voters, providing those who need it with protective equipment, and strongly encouraging all voters to wear masks at the polls,” Hollins said.
Pennsylvania Secretary of State Kathy Boockvar is telling voters who still have ballots to hand-deliver them now following last night’s Supreme Court ruling that allows the state to count ballots received after Election Day.
“We know the court rulings are confusing but there is one simple way to ensure your vote is counted: Submit your ballot today,” Boockvar said in a statement.
She also reminded voters that in Pennsylvania their ballots must include a privacy envelope so that they aren’t rejected.
About the ruling: The court declined to take up a challenge from Pennsylvania Republicans over the state’s mail-in ballot deadline, leaving in place — for now — a state Supreme Court decision that ballots can be received up to three days after the election, even if there is no legible postmark.
But that may not be the end of the mail-in ballot court fight.
The Supreme Court’s decision in Pennsylvania, an important state in the presidential election, came one day after the court rejected an appeal from Democrats to allow mail-in ballots in Wisconsin to be received three days after Election Day, so long as they were postmarked by Nov. 3.
The Hispanic vote could be crucial for both candidates’ election victory, especially in the state of Florida. But they are an extremely diverse group.
Ahead of President Trump and Democratic nominee Joe Biden’s dueling campaign events in the Sunshine State today, CNN’s Rosa Flores explained some of the biggest policy issues that differentiate Hispanic voters and spoke to voters at an early voting location at the Westchester Regional Library in Miami.
She also answered viewers’ questions in both English and Spanish.
Louisiana Gov. John Bel Edwards said an election task force has been created to make sure there are alternate polling places if normal sites are out of service following Hurricane Zeta.
He said the task force has identified the polling places without electricity, and those will be priority locations to get power turned back on. The task force is also looking at polling sites that have storm damage.
“As we get closer to Tuesday, obviously, a determination is going to have to be made whether they’re going to be able to power those locations back up or not and that has to be done in advance of Tuesday, far enough so that if it can’t happen, that the voters who would typically vote at those locations can be given instructions to vote elsewhere,” Edwards said.
Early voting in Arizona is scheduled to end Friday, but elections officials in Phoenix’s Maricopa County said that, because of the Covid-19 pandemic, the county Board of Supervisors decided to keep around 90 voting centers open on Saturday, about 20 on Sunday and 150 on Monday.
The decision to allow for emergency voting was made back in September, anticipating it would be needed.
Maricopa County is the state’s most populous county, with about 2.6 million registered voters.
Each county decides whether to open locations from Saturday through Monday, Arizona’s “emergency voting” period.
Any voter who has an issue preventing them from voting on Election Day may vote at those locations over the weekend.
Voters who received ballots by mail also may return their ballots at those locations.
Voting by mail? USPS says it needs seven days to safely deliver ballots.
We’re five days to the election.
Bottom line: If you’ve got a mail-in ballot, you probably shouldn’t mail it. If you haven’t requested a mail-in ballot, it may be too late to count on one arriving in time, even though some states still allow those asks.
Kathy Boockvar, the secretary of the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania, told CNN’s Jake Tapper on Tuesday that even though Pennsylvania can count mail-in ballots received up until Nov. 6 (three days after Election Day), she’d rather people just drop their ballots off.
“At this point, we’re a week out, right? We’ve all heard of stories of ballots being delayed in the mail. I don’t want anybody to lose their opportunity to vote, so I want every voter who has the ability to drop it off in person,” Boockvar said.
So what are your options? Voters in most places can also deliver their ballots directly to their election offices to sidestep any potential mail delays. There’s usually also the option to vote early or on Election Day.
In states that allow the counting of ballots received after Election Day — including the battleground states of Ohio, Iowa and Nevada — it’s still possible to use the postal system and be outside that seven-day recommended time period. But the mail-in window is about closed. There are other options.
You can read more from CNN’s voter guide is here, and see a list of which states will accept mail-in ballots after Election Day is here.
Joe Biden’s campaign says they are keeping their “foot on the gas” and “aggressively” courting Latino voters in the final stretch before Election Day as the Democratic nominee visits Florida to make his closing argument to the community Thursday.
Following the release of a new ad highlighting Biden’s plan to issue an executive order to reunite separated children from their families, the Biden campaign’s Cristobal Alex called the subject a “top priority” for Biden if he were to be elected.
“This is an issue that has had a profound impact on the vice president,” Alex said on a call held with reporters. “The centerpiece and core focus on Joe Biden’s immigration policy is family unification.” He called the Trump administration’s handling of the situation “criminal.”
Across every state, the campaign is launching Latino-specific get out the vote efforts, including bilingual phone banks and text banks and hosting car caravans that end at polling locations.
Volunteers are launching socially distant rosarios, or prayer circles, in East Las Vegas, and the campaign is holding horse parades in Las Vegas and socially distanced rallies in Pennsylvania and Florida with well-known DJs.
The campaign’s pollster, Matt Baretto, pushed back on publicly available polling that show Biden underperforming with Latinos compared to Hillary Clinton in 2016, arguing that the campaign’s own polls have consistently shown a strongly consistent lead that is “right on track” with Barack Obama’s numbers in 2012.
Christian Ulvert, the campaign’s senior advisor in Florida, shared that the campaign has forty events planned between today and Election Day to drive turnout in the state.
It’s hosting community-specific events and harnessing star power to encourage early voting, including hosting an event with actress America Ferrera in central Florida and “parties at the polls” with DJs and food trucks at polling locations in the Tampa area.
In the Miami market, which also includes Broward County, Ulvert says they are hosting 25 events alone.
In Arizona, the campaign highlighted the recent trip by Democratic vice presidential nominee Kamala Harris, and shared that it recently hosted a “Low Riders for Biden” event in their efforts to encourage Latino voters to cast their ballot early.
More than 8.4 million people have cast their vote in Texas, including the first 16 days of early voting, according to data posted on the Texas Secretary of State website Thursday morning.
That represents 49.84% of registered voters. The state could eclipse the 2016 overall vote in the 2020 early vote.
So far, the number of early votes this cycle is 94% of the overall vote in Texas in 2016 — with two days of early voting plus Election Day remaining. In addition to the enthusiasm in the state, the number of registered voters has grown 12% since 2016 or almost 1.9 million people.
If this trend holds, the state is on track to far surpass the 59% of registered voters who cast a ballot in 2016.
On Wednesday, at least 243,350 people voted in person, bringing the total in-person votes to 7,543,086. Cumulative ballots-by-mail so far this cycle were 906,772.
Democratic nominee Joe Biden tested negative for Covid-19 Wednesday night ahead of his trip to Florida today.
“Vice President Biden underwent PCR testing for COVID-19 last night and COVID-19 was not detected,” the campaign said, according to pool.
Biden is holding a drive-in event in Broward County at 1:30 p.m. ET and will then head to Tampa for another drive-in event at 6:30 p.m. ET.