A federal judge in Houston on Monday rejected Republican efforts to invalidate more than 127,000 votes that were cast at drive-through locations in Harris County, a Democratic stronghold that includes Houston, the nation’s fourth-largest city.
The lawsuit was one of the most aggressive moves by Republicans in an election marked by more than 400 voting-related lawsuits. And it came as Texas, long considered reliably Republican in presidential elections, has emerged as a swing state this year, with polls showing an unusually close race there.
Harris County, the most populous county in Texas, is home to one of the state’s largest concentrations of Democratic voters. It had set up 10 drive-through voting sites to offer a safe, in-person voting option amid the pandemic, and polls were open for 18 days.
But in a lawsuit, Republicans argued that Chris Hollins, the Harris County Clerk, did not have the authority to allow drive-through voting in the county.
Judge Andrew S. Hanen, a federal judge who was appointed by President George W. Bush, held an emergency hearing for the lawsuit on Monday and ruled against tossing the ballots. On Sunday, the all-Republican Texas Supreme Court had rejected a similar effort to get those ballots tossed out.
“We win,” Susan Hays, the elections counsel for Mr. Hollins, said in a text message.
Rebecca Acuña, the Biden campaign’s Texas director, praised the decision. “Make no mistake: This is not a partisan victory,” she said. “This is a victory for voters across the country who are exercising their constitutional right to make their voices heard.”
Hours after the decision was handed down, the Republican plaintiffs filed an appeal to the Fifth Circuit Court of Appeals.
In a motion on Friday asking to intervene in the case, Democrats said the suit threatened to “throw Texas’ election into chaos by invalidating the votes of more than 127,000 eligible Texas voters who cast their ballots” at the drive-through sites. The motion was filed by the Democratic Senatorial Campaign Committee, the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee and the campaign of M.J. Hegar, a Democratic Senate candidate in Texas.
The drive-through voting system was put in place for the first time this year by Mr. Hollins, the top elections official in Harris County, with unanimous approval by county commissioners, after being tested in a pilot program over the summer.
In a statement on Twitter on Saturday, Mr. Hollins said drive-through voting was “a safe, secure and convenient way to vote,” adding, “Texas Election Code allows it, the Secretary of State approved it and 127,000 voters from all walks of life have used it.”
State Representative Steve Toth, one of the Republican plaintiffs, said the judge ruled that the plaintiffs didn’t have standing in the case, which Mr. Toth said essentially means that “you don’t have a dog in the hunt.”
The effort to invalidate those votes had been met with bipartisan backlash. Democrats decried it as among the most brazen moves to disenfranchise voters in Texas. A coalition of 150 faith leaders in the state signed a letter decrying the effort. And Joe Straus, the former Republican speaker of the State House, called the lawsuit “patently wrong” and evidence of “desperate tactics.”
Gilberto Hinojosa, the chairman of the Texas Democratic Party, said in a statement after the ruling that the suit should never have been brought. “Texans who lawfully voted at drive-through locations should have never had to fear that their votes wouldn’t be counted and their voices wouldn’t be heard,” he said. “This lawsuit was shameful and it should have never seen the light of day.”
PHILADELPHIA — The Biden campaign on Monday moved to set a series of expectations about how Election Day results should be viewed, warning against President Trump’s inaccurate suggestion that states usually finish counting votes on election night and promising to “protect the vote.”
“Under no scenario will Donald Trump be declared a victor on election night,” said Jennifer O’Malley Dillon, Joseph R. Biden Jr.’s campaign manager, in a briefing on Monday.
“When Donald Trump says that ballots counted after midnight should be invalidated, he’s just making that up,” she added. “There is no historical precedent that any of our elections have ever run and been counted and completely verified on election night. We do not expect that to happen in 2020.”
Running through a Zoom presentation, she laid out the campaign’s expectations for the numbers they believe Mr. Trump will need to hit on Election Day in states including North Carolina, Wisconsin and Arizona — 62 percent, 61 percent and 60 percent respectively — and outlined a series of paths Mr. Biden has to the presidency.
She also stressed that Pennsylvania, Michigan and Wisconsin, three critical battleground states, may be slower to report results.
And she made clear repeatedly that the campaign will not be over, politically or legally, just because Mr. Trump may seek to declare a win early.
Bob Bauer, a former White House counsel who is helping to lead the Biden campaign’s election protection efforts, dismissed Mr. Trump’s suggestions that he will raise legal challenges.
“The case he’s turning over to his lawyers when the voters have spoken is a case that no lawyer can win,” Mr. Bauer said. “And his lawyers will not win it. So we’re going to match them, I assure you, and exceed them in quality and vigor, and we’ll protect the vote.”
Ms. O’Malley Dillon said she expected Mr. Biden to address the country on election night.
“What we’re going to see on Election Day is going to give us a very good sense of where we’re headed,” she said. “My expectation is that the vice president will address the American people. Probably late. But we’re not really concerned about what Donald Trump says on election night or what he might want to convey.
“What he says,” she added, “might have nothing to do with the reality of it.”
President Donald J. Trump returned again to the battleground state of North Carolina this morning, addressing a crowd that had almost entirely voted for him already, in a state that has had heavy early turnout.
North Carolina has been processing mail-in votes for weeks, in contrast to another closely watched state, Pennsylvania. Because of that, state officials said Monday that they expected at least 97 percent of all ballots cast in the election to be counted by Tuesday evening.
“Rough estimate, we had roughly 4.7 million voters in 2016, and we’re getting close to 4.6 right now,” Damon Circosta, the State Board of Elections chair, said Monday afternoon. “We anticipate beautiful weather in North Carolina tomorrow and very high turnout, so we’ll set another record.”
At Mr. Trump’s rally at the airport in Fayetteville, Senator Thom Tillis, a Republican facing his own tough election fight, asked the crowd, “How many of you’ve already voted?” Nearly every hand seemed to rise. But even with the vote processing well underway, not every race here may be decided Tuesday night.
The two most closely watched races in the state are the presidential election and the contest for the United States Senate, where Mr. Tillis is in a tight race with Cal Cunningham, a former state senator and Iraq war veteran. The race was upended a month ago after Mr. Cunningham admitted to exchanging flirtatious texts with a woman who is not his wife.
Polls give Joseph R. Biden, Jr., and Mr. Cunningham the edge in those races, but only slightly. Roy Cooper, the incumbent Democratic governor, has a more comfortable lead.
Mr. Trump spent much of his remarks Monday lamenting polls and pollsters, who were included among the grievances he brought up in a speech that also included a blooper reel of Mr. Biden’s gaffes. “We are looking good, we’re really look good all over, in the real polls, not the Fox polls,” Mr. Trump said, taking particular issue with Fox News. “Some of these pollsters work magic, and the amazing thing is they hang onto their job. They do horribly.”
Facebook, Twitter and YouTube plan to take a series of steps on Election Day to prevent the spread of misinformation, particularly around the results and the integrity of voting.
At Facebook, an operations center staffed by dozens of employees — what the company calls a war room — will work Tuesday to identify efforts to destabilize the election. The team, which will work virtually because of the coronavirus pandemic, has already been in action, Facebook said.
Facebook’s app also will look different on Tuesday. To prevent candidates from prematurely and inaccurately declaring victory, the company plans to add a notification at the top of News Feeds letting people know that no winner has been chosen until election results are verified by news outlets like Reuters and The Associated Press.
Twitter’s strategy is twofold. One group of employees will work to root out false claims and networks of bots that spread such information by using both algorithms and human analysts, while another team will highlight reliable information in the Explore and Trends sections of its service.
Twitter plans to add labels to tweets from candidates who claim victory before the election is called by authoritative sources. At least two news outlets will need to independently project the results before a candidate can use Twitter to celebrate his or her win, the company said.
YouTube said it would be especially sensitive about videos that attempt to challenge the election’s integrity. YouTube already does not allow videos that mislead voters about how to vote or the eligibility of a candidate, or that incite people to interfere with the voting process. The company said it would take down such videos quickly, even if one of the speakers was a presidential candidate.
As the polls close, YouTube will feature a playlist of live election results coverage from what it deems authoritative news sources.
ON THe TrAIL
Joseph R. Biden Jr. traveled to western Pennsylvania on Monday to close out his campaign, beginning with a stop outside Pittsburgh where he appealed to union workers and emphasized the importance of the election.
“What happens now, what happens tomorrow, is going to determine what this country looks like for a couple generations,” Mr. Biden said at a canvass kickoff in Beaver County. “That’s not a joke. I really genuinely believe that. There’s so damn much at stake.”
Appearing in a county that President Trump won by nearly 19 percentage points in 2016, Mr. Biden was introduced by an ironworkers’ union official, and the former vice president emphasized his middle-class roots. “I’ve never forgotten growing up in a hard-working family in Scranton,” he said, referring to his hometown in northeastern Pennsylvania.
Mr. Trump, he added, “can’t see what families like yours and mine have gone through.”
Mr. Biden also pushed back, once again, on the president’s false claims that Mr. Biden would ban hydraulic fracturing, or fracking, an important source of jobs in Pennsylvania and elsewhere. “No matter how many times Trump tries to lie about it, I will not ban fracking,” Mr. Biden said. “Never said I would.”
After visiting Ohio on Monday, a state that is seen as a stretch for him, Mr. Biden is devoting the rest of the day to Western Pennsylvania, a crucial region in a crucial state. His visit to the area was also slated to include a drive-in rally in Pittsburgh with Lady Gaga.
It was a full-circle moment for the former vice president, who gave the first speech of his presidential campaign at a union hall in Pittsburgh.
Mr. Trump won Pennsylvania in the 2016 campaign, and both he and Mr. Biden are focusing significant attention on the state in the final days of the campaign, underscoring the critical role that it plays in their Electoral College calculations.
Mr. Biden focused on the southeastern part of the state on Sunday, making a stop in Chester and rallying supporters in Philadelphia. His campaign said he would visit Scranton and Philadelphia on Election Day.
Mr. Trump held four rallies in Pennsylvania on Saturday, including one near Pittsburgh in Butler County, and he returned for another rally near Scranton on Monday afternoon.
On the Trail
President Trump used the first of his five rallies scheduled for Monday, the last day of campaigning before Election Day, to air grievances about polls, the media, the investigation into Russian interference in the election, President Obama and Hillary Clinton, and to say people should only go vote if they’re supporting him.
Speaking to a crowd in Fayetteville, N.C., he mentioned the coronavirus only to mock China and to call on the governor of North Carolina to open the state.
“I wonder what it would have been if all the nonsense wasn’t brought up,” Mr. Trump lamented at the rally, referring to the two-year investigation into possible conspiracy between his campaign and Russian officials. He suggested that everyone in the media, and among his detractors, is “corrupt.”
He called Representative Adam Schiff, Democrat of California, who helped lead some of the House investigations, a “psycho” and said, “I have to put up with it for three years.” He said he had seen “nothing but negative television — every night, every night, every night.” He added, “Then it’s no collusion.”
Then he concocted an imaginary conversation between Mr. Schiff and House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, Democrat from California, in which she read a transcript of a call that Mr. Trump had with the president of Ukraine and realized the president was innocent, and then got angry at Mr. Schiff.
Mr. Trump said of his predecessor, Mr. Obama, and of Mrs. Clinton, “These are criminals.”
The media, he said, “should be subject to campaign violations” for coverage that he believes is partial to his opponent. Then he complained about the type of topics that trend on Twitter.
The president complained that the media wasn’t covering questions about former Vice President Joseph R. Biden Jr.’s son, Hunter, and his business dealings. “How can you have a scandal if nobody’s talking about it?” Mr. Trump said.
At the end of the rally, Mr. Trump said that people should go out and vote. “You have the power to vote, so go out and vote unless you’re going to vote for somebody other than me, in which case, sit it out,” Mr. Trump said. And he spoke of politicians who tell voters to cast ballots regardless of who they’re supporting: “They’re such liars.”
At rally the night before — just after midnight on Monday at the Miami-Opa Locka Executive Airport in Florida — Mr. Trump suggested that he might fire Dr. Anthony S. Fauci after Election Day, further escalating the tension between his administration and the nation’s top infectious disease expert as the number of new coronavirus cases in the United States reaches record highs. (Dr. Fauci, the longtime director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases, has civil service protections, and it would be extremely difficult for the president to have him removed.)
Later, at a rally in Avoca, Pa., Mr. Trump criticized a recent Supreme Court decision that will allow election officials in Pennsylvania to accept absentee ballots for several days after Election Day, suggesting cryptically that it could be “physically dangerous.”
“They made a very dangerous situation,” he said. “And I mean, dangerous — physically dangerous.”
Joseph R. Biden Jr. kicked off the final day before the election with a foray into a state that for four years has been a symbol of Democratic disappointment: Ohio.
“Ohio: One more day!” Mr. Biden said at a drive-in rally at an airport hangar in Cleveland. “Tomorrow we have an opportunity to put an end to a presidency that’s divided this nation. Tomorrow we can put an end to a presidency that has failed to protect this nation. And tomorrow we can put an end to a presidency that’s fanned the flames of hate all across this country.”
“My message is simple,” Mr. Biden said. “The power to change the country is in your hands.”
His remarks there come amid record-setting early in-person voting in Cuyahoga County, a major Democratic county in a Trump-friendly state that his team has watched closely. Ohio, which helped deliver the presidency to Donald J. Trump in 2016, is still seen by many Democrats as a reach for Mr. Biden.
But his campaign is seeking to create as many pathways to 270 electoral votes as possible, and a number of officials on Mr. Biden’s team have personal connections to the state, including Steve Ricchetti, a top Biden adviser and Ohio native.
“Ohio is like Iowa, is like Texas,” said Jennifer O’Malley Dillon, Mr. Biden’s campaign manager, in a briefing later Monday. “These expansion states on both sides that, you know, frankly, are in play. And what we’ve seen coming into this final stretch is that more states are in play than less.”
“They’re in play even further,” she added, “if we keep pushing on turnout.”
At the rally, Mr. Biden also referenced the electoral success of Senator Sherrod Brown, Democrat of Ohio, in a state that has become increasingly challenging for Democrats. “So when Sherrod tells me to come to Ohio the day before, I come to Ohio,” Mr. Biden said.
Ohio twice voted for the Obama-Biden ticket, Mr. Biden reminded voters on Monday.
“In 2008, 2012, you placed your trust in me and Barack,” Mr. Biden said. “In 2020 I’m asking you to trust me again. I’m proud of the coalition this campaign has built. We welcome Democrats, Republicans and independents.”
In his remarks, Mr. Biden took aim at Mr. Trump’s remarks on Sunday in which he appeared to entertain the idea of firing Dr. Anthony Fauci, the nation’s top infectious diseases expert.
“Elect me and I’m going to hire Dr. Fauci,” Mr. Biden said. “We’re going to fire Donald Trump.”
In his address in Ohio, Mr. Biden hit many of the same things he has been stressing for months, even years in some cases: that Mr. Trump’s divisive presidency poses a unique threat to the nation’s character, that he does not respect even members of the military, that he does not grasp the threat of climate change and that he has mishandled the pandemic at every turn.
“The first step to beating the virus,” Mr. Biden said, “is beating Donald Trump.”
Mr. Biden then headed to Pennsylvania, where he, Senator Kamala Harris and their spouses, Jill Biden and Doug Emhoff, are fanning out across the state, seeking to promote his message to a broad coalition of voters and, in some cases, also targeting their message toward key House districts.
The U.S. Postal Service experienced some of its worst delays all year in the final week before the election, according to a Times project tracking first-class. An avalanche of late-arriving political pamphlets and advertisements appears to have added to backlogs for the Postal Service, after months of slowdowns.
The Postal Service reported that its workers have prioritized election mail, and that most ballots that are easily tracked have been processed on time. But there are also signs in the official data that even some ballot processing has slowed as Election Day approached.
The week beginning Oct. 26 was the slowest week recorded for local mail, which the Postal Service aims to deliver within two days. But a delay of even one day for ballots in the final stretch of the presidential election could make the difference between a vote that is counted and one that is not, especially as legal fights continue in crucial states over whether to count ballots that are postmarked before Election Day but arriving after it.
To see how often mail was late, and where in the country the delays have been most profound, click here.
BUFORD, Ga. — Senator Kelly Loeffler of Georgia has spent many weeks, and many of her own millions of dollars, trying to prove she is a more conservative candidate than her bitter rival, Representative Doug Collins, a fellow Republican. In fact, it almost seemed that Ms. Loeffler ran out of room to run rightward when, last month, she welcomed the endorsement of Georgia’s best-known proponent of the QAnon conspiracy theory, Marjorie Taylor Greene, a Republican congressional candidate.
But on Monday, Mr. Collins, who staunchly defended President Trump during his impeachment trial, found a way to at least match Ms. Loeffler in terms of right-wing sizzle when he arranged a campaign event that featured a joint appearance with Roger J. Stone Jr., Mr. Trump’s former campaign adviser who was convicted of numerous felonies related to his obstruction of a congressional investigation into potential ties between Mr. Trump and Russia. In July, Mr. Trump commuted Mr. Stone’s sentence.
Dressed in a dark gray double-breasted flannel suit, Mr. Stone, 68, appeared with Mr. Collins Monday afternoon in Buford, a city in the Atlanta suburbs, outside of a rambling old house currently used as a law office. A few dozen people, mostly white and unmasked, gathered around and cheered while Mr. Stone put on an abbreviated version of the Mr. Stone show. He claimed he was the victim of a “Soviet-style show trial.” He made a few lewd puns based on the names of Democrats in Congress, and he exhorted everyone to vote for Mr. Trump and Mr. Collins in what he said was going to be a close race.
Mr. Collins, 54, has struggled to pull away from Ms. Loeffler as the two Republicans fight for a place in a likely January runoff against the Rev. Dr. Raphael Warnock, a Democrat who polls suggest is leading a crowded open field in the Nov. 3 special election.
Though Mr. Collins, a member of the House of Representatives since 2013, has more political experience, Ms. Loeffler, who was appointed to the Senate seat less than a year ago, is one of the richest people ever to serve in Congress, and her deep pockets have allowed her to dominate the airwaves and social media platforms with ads.
Whatever the outcome, the 2020 election is already one for the history books, with an astonishing 97.6 million ballots already submitted through in-person early voting and by mail — more than two-thirds of the number of votes cast in the entire 2016 election.
As of Monday afternoon, hours before Election Day, with some states still holding early voting, 35.5 million people had voted in person and 62.1 million had cast ballots by mail, according to the U.S. Elections Project, a nonpartisan website run by Michael McDonald, a University of Florida professor who tracks county-level data.
Those numbers represent a tectonic shift away from one-day voting, the staple of the American electoral system for centuries.
And they make it likely that the total turnout for 2020 will break the record set in 2016, when nearly 139 million people voted.
They also create fresh uncertainty for two presidential campaigns facing the prospect of motivating a smaller, more-volatile reservoir of available voters to tap on Election Day itself.
Democrats, buoyed by polls showing Joseph R. Biden Jr. with small but durable leads in battleground states, have focused on turning out Black and Latino voters, who typically prefer voting in person, to offset an expected Election-Day surge by Trump supporters.
Texas and Hawaii have already surpassed their total 2016 voter turnout, and the battleground states of North Carolina, Georgia and Florida have topped 90 percent of their 2016 turnout.
In the 20 states that report the party registration of early voters, the elections project found that 45 percent of those who have voted early are registered Democrats, 30 percent are Republicans and 24 percent list no party affiliation.
Officials with both the Biden and Trump campaigns have viewed the split between early voters and Election-Day voters as highly partisan, with Democrats in most states making up a clear majority of early voters and Republicans, motivated by President Trump’s effort to undermine the legitimacy of mail-in balloting, waiting to show up to the polls.
The Trump campaign continues to wage an all-fronts fight in court to limit the time states have count ballots, while Democrats, citing the challenges posed by the pandemic, have pressed for more time and for looser scrutiny of ballot signatures that could invalidate some votes.
On Sunday, Mr. Trump falsely suggested that states like Pennsylvania, which can take days to count mail-in ballots, needed to complete vote counts on Election Day. He vowed to mount a legal challenge to the Pennsylvania vote.
“We’re going to go in the night of, as soon as that election’s over, we’re going in with our lawyers,” the president said.
Presidential elections always provoke anxiety, but this year’s campaign is closing on an especially unnerving note, with reports of pre-election vandalism, the boarding-up of stores in anticipation of rioting and the specter of voter intimidation.
On Monday morning, officials arriving at the Democratic headquarters in Harris County, Tex., found the locks on the front door sealed with glue, and slogans and blobs of red paint smeared on windows.
In the suburbs of Pittsburgh, aides to Representative Conor Lamb, a Democrat, arrived at their storefront office to a similar scene: It was defaced with a red hammer-and-sickle sign and the words, “Don’t vote! Fight for revolution.”
Police are investigating both incidents but have not yet identified any perpetrators.
On Monday, the F.B.I. confirmed that its San Antonio office was investigating an incident in which a caravan of Trump supporters surrounded a Biden campaign bus on Friday — an act of intimidation that President Trump praised on Twitter.
Throughout the country, business owners and government officials — from the managers of Saks Fifth Avenue up to the president’s staff — are bracing for potential acts of vandalism or violence based on the outcome, or lack of an outcome.
In New York City, the windows of Saks Fifth Avenue, which have wowed tourists for decades, were boarded up on Monday morning. SoHo, where trendy shoppers once flocked to glittering stores, echoed with the sound of hammers. The sidewalk outside the Disney Store in Times Square was filled not with captivated children sporting mouse ears but with workers attaching plywood to the storefront.
The sea of plywood stretched into more modest commercial districts in the Bronx and Brooklyn, reflecting a broader national anxiety surrounding the contest between Mr. Trump and Joseph R. Biden Jr. There were growing fears that no matter who wins, the aftermath of the election could include violence.
The weekend saw tensions flare up. In North Carolina on Saturday, the police used a chemical spray to disperse a get-out-the-vote rally. On Sunday, cars and trucks with Trump flags halted traffic on the Garden State Parkway in New Jersey and jammed the Mario M. Cuomo Bridge in New York’s northern suburbs, and a pro-Trump convoy in Virginia ended in a tense shouting match with protesters as it approached a statue of Robert E. Lee in Richmond.
States are already on alert. On Monday, Gov. Charlie Baker of Massachusetts ordered 1,000 members of the National Guard to be on standby. In Oregon, which has seen months of sporadic unrest, Gov. Kate Brown ordered the state National Guard to remain on standby in case violent protests erupt.
“We know that there are some people who might use peaceful election night protests to promote violence and property destruction,” Ms. Brown said Monday. “That behavior is not acceptable.”
House Speaker Nancy Pelosi on Monday dismissed concerns that President Trump might decline to concede defeat in the election, even if he has clearly lost, calling Mr. Trump’s personal conduct irrelevant to the legal transfer of power in January.
Ms. Pelosi, who told reporters last week that she was confident Joseph R. Biden Jr. would win the presidency, said in an interview she was not worried about any sore-loser behavior on the part of the Republican incumbent.
“Joe Biden will be inaugurated as president of the United States on Jan. 20,” Ms. Pelosi said. “I don’t have any anticipation that this president will act in a way that is, for the first time, presidential — and why would I care?”
As a legal matter, Ms. Pelosi is right: A defeated president has no power to forestall his exit simply by refusing to acknowledge that he has lost an election. While Mr. Trump has threatened to file lawsuits after voting is over, his campaign has not articulated what that actually means, nor has it laid out any legitimate basis for his relentless attacks on the integrity of the voting process.
Still, Mr. Trump’s behavior has raised a sense of alarm — and not only among Democrats — about the possibility that he could deliberately stoke political divisions and even civil disorder after Election Day, in an effort to cast doubt on a disappointing result.
In the interview, Ms. Pelosi did not appear to share that worry, though she allowed that Mr. Trump might conduct himself irresponsibly after the election. Instead, she stuck to her oft-stated view that the president’s incendiary conduct should mostly be regarded as a sort of tantrum, arising from political and personal weakness.
“You’re introducing a whole new notion to me here, that I would care about something that he does,” Ms. Pelosi said. “Do I care that he concedes? I don’t know that he’s capable of conceding.”
Until November 2016, Maggie Dine-Jergens loved being a Republican.
In her early 20s, she cast her first vote for president for Ronald Reagan. During the 2016 Republican presidential primary, she made phone calls and distributed yard signs for Ted Cruz’s campaign.
There was nothing “conservative,” in her view, about Donald Trump, but she couldn’t stomach a vote for Hillary Clinton. And so during the general election, Ms. Dine-Jergens did something she never had before: She wrote in a candidate — Evan McMullin — for president.
Four years later, Ms. Dine-Jergens, 63, is checking off another first. She is supporting the Democratic nominee for president.
“Joe Biden is the first candidate I’ve been really excited about since Reagan,” Ms. Dine-Jergens said.
Ms. Dine-Jergens, who lives in the suburbs of Cincinnati and runs a national civics education organization, is among the 5.4 percent of Ohioans who supported a third-party or write-in candidate in 2016. And in a state where polling shows Mr. Trump and Mr. Biden neck-and-neck, Democratic and Republican campaigns are scrambling to convert third-party voters like her into major-party supporters.
The Democrats, at least in Ohio, appeared to be winning that contest recently. In early October, 51 percent of the state’s third-party voters said they had decided to back Mr. Biden, according to a New York Times and Siena College poll, while only 16 percent had swung to Mr. Trump, who carried the state by eight percentage points in 2016.
“To be candid, am I excited about Joe Biden? No, I’m not. But I am willing to give somebody who has some knowledge a chance,” Teresa Horstman, 57, said of her decision to support Mr. Biden this year. In 2016, she said, she cast her ballot for Gary Johnson, the Libertarian candidate.
Today, Ms. Horstman said she couldn’t help but feel some sense of responsibility for the worst parts of Mr. Trump’s presidency.
“I mean, literally, people are dying because of what Trump chose not to do,” Ms. Horstman said, referring to the coronavirus pandemic. “I feel like if I had voted for Hillary — at least Hillary was competent, you know?”
Ohio has recorded more than 220,000 cases of coronavirus and 5,340 deaths. Over the past week, there have been an average of 2,984 cases per day, an increase of 60 percent from the average only two weeks earlier.
“My little part, I didn’t do what I should have done,” Ms. Horstman said. “I’m remedying that now.”
WASHINGTON — Here is one early and unnerving election indicator: plywood.
In recent days, the ominous precaution has been evident all across downtown Washington, fanning out several blocks from the White House, spreading around Capitol Hill, transforming the nightlife corridors of 14th Street and Adams-Morgan and reaching up into the suburbs. Storefronts and office buildings were being boarded up throughout the weekend, and probably will be right up until this is all over, whenever that is.
Plywood is never a comforting sign. It suggests chaos and riots, hunkering down and hurricanes. Elections? That’s not how it is supposed to go here. Yes, the country is palpably on edge and there have already been scattered reports of ugly incidents across the country: Polling place confrontations, peaceful demonstrators getting pepper-sprayed in North Carolina, supporters of President Trump shutting down a New Jersey highway and reported fears of possible militia violence in Georgia.
But there’s something about seeing plywood in the nation’s capital that can seem especially chilling.
Theoretically, this should be the shining city of rituals, norms and orderly traditions. This should be a time — a presidential election — to celebrate an enduring democracy and peaceful transfer of power. Oh, but of course, this is 2020.
On Sunday, several news outlets reported that government security officials would be erecting a “non-scalable” fence around the White House complex in order to secure the area.
Nothing about the term “peaceful transfer of power” feels assured this week — neither the “peaceful” nor “transfer of power” parts.
That is perhaps the most unnerving part of this: the idea that plywood, suddenly, feels like a normal characteristic of the local architecture at certain times. That no one would flinch upon being warned that the next several days should be treated as a possible disaster.
On Sunday students at George Washington University received an email headlined “We Suggest Preparing for the Election Day Period as you Would for a Hurricane or a Snowstorm.” Reporters at The Wall Street Journal’s Washington bureau were issued gas masks and orange bike helmets marked “press.” It appeared that nearly every CVS, Walgreens and 7-Eleven within at least a mile or so of downtown was being heavily fortified.
In recent weeks, New Zealand’s ambassador to Washington sent a note to embassy staff reminding them to keep 14 days of food and essentials at home. This has been embassy protocol since the Covid-19 pandemic began, but in this note the ambassador said there was a new concern: the prospect that violent protests around the election could mean that embassy staff might need to avoid venturing onto the streets.
NOGALES, Ariz. — When the campaign bus for Joseph R. Biden Jr. rolled into Nogales, Ariz., about a mile from the U.S. border with Mexico, Tony Estrada, the longtime Democratic sheriff here, was waiting.
While national Democrats have invested millions getting out the vote in the heavily Latino suburbs of Phoenix, in Nogales, a city of about 20,000 people, politics is a mostly local affair.
National figures rarely set foot here — except to snap the occasional photo at the border — and Sunday was no exception. From the bus spilled not Mr. Biden or one of his high-profile surrogates, but a handful of campaign volunteers who lined up by the side of the road to wave signs, some of which showed support for the former vice president, while others read, “Vota,” and were adorned with Dia de los Muertos sugar skulls.
Mr. Estrada, 77, is retiring this year after nearly three decades as sheriff, but he’s still out on the campaign trail, lending his local star power to give Mr. Biden a boost in this heavily Latino and strongly Democratic community. Arizona is one of four key states where Mr. Biden leads President Trump, the latest poll from The New York Times and Siena College showed.
While Mr. Trump has moved away from his message of lawlessness on the border, Mr. Estrada said voters here haven’t forgotten his rhetoric during the 2016 campaign about Mexicans being rapists and murderers, and the border being a war zone.
“Obviously the rhetoric is completely off base. It’s a peaceful community. We don’t have gangs here. Drive-bys are very, very rare. Home invasions are very rare,” he said. “Are there drugs? Yes, mostly coming through the ports of entry — a wall won’t take care of that.”
Gesturing toward the border wall that separates the U.S. city of Nogales from its Mexican counterpart of the same name, Mr. Estrada argued that the president had made life more perilous for border residents by stoking fears that damaged the local economy, which depends on tourism and trade flowing freely across the border.
In 2016, Santa Cruz County, which includes Nogales, had one of the lowest voter-turnout rates in the state, second only to Navajo County, home to the Navajo Nation. Hillary Clinton won more than 71 percent of the vote in Santa Cruz County, more than anywhere else in the state.
Celeste Martin Wisdom, a local restaurateur and Democratic organizer, is hoping to increase turnout this year. “It’s a thing in Latino communities — ‘mi vota no cuenta,’ my vote doesn’t count — so we’re always fighting that,” she said.
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