President Trump visited Ohio on Thursday on his first trip to the state since the start of the pandemic, arriving after Ohio Gov. Mike DeWine (R) announced he had tested positive for coronavirus but did not have symptoms. Meanwhile, presumptive Democratic nominee Joe Biden delivered a virtual address to Latino leaders, continuing his outreach to a key demographic.

Tennessee Republicans selected a Trump-backed former ambassador to run for the state’s Senate seat in November. Also Thursday, New York City finally certified some races, six weeks after voters cast their ballots. Officials also reported that more than 1 in 5 mail-in ballots were invalidated due to errors like a missing signature or a missing postmark.

Here are some significant developments:
August 6, 2020 at 10:26 PM EDT

Nevada election official disputes claim by former senator that people can vote twice

Former U.S. senator Dean Heller warned earlier in the week that a new law in Nevada will allow voters to fraudulently vote twice, but a top election official told the Associated Press on Thursday that there are safeguards in place to protect against that.

The state passed a law requiring that every voter receive a mail-in ballot for the November election.

Heller, during an interview Wednesday on Fox Business, said he worried about voters sending back their mail-in ballots and voting again at their polling place. The accusation held particular weight because Heller served as Nevada secretary of state, a role that oversees elections.

Heller claimed that he spoke to Nevada Secretary of State Barbara Cegavske and that she told him “nothing” would happen to someone who voted twice. The AP didn’t reach Cegavske but spoke to Deputy Secretary of State for Elections Wayne Thorley, who said there are “safeguards that ensure no voter is allowed to cast more than one ballot in any given election.”

Those include the requirement that voters “surrender their mail ballot” before voting in person or signing “an affirmation under penalty of perjury stating that they have not already voted,” as well as an “election management system” that prevents duplicate voting, according to the AP.

By Colby Itkowitz
August 6, 2020 at 9:53 PM EDT

Biden seeks to clarify earlier remark, says African Americans not a ‘monolith’

After a day-long drubbing over his comments comparing the diversity in the Latino community to African Americans, Biden explained that he did not mean that the Black community wasn’t diverse.

“Earlier today, I made some comments about diversity in the African American and Latino communities that I want to clarify,” Biden tweeted a little after 9 p.m. Thursday. “In no way did I mean to suggest the African American community is a monolith—not by identity, not on issues, not at all.”

Biden made the comparison while speaking virtually to a panel of Hispanic and Black journalists.

“And by the way, what you all know but most people don’t know, unlike the African American community with notable exceptions, the Latino community is an incredibly diverse community with incredibly different attitudes about different things,” Biden said. “You go to Florida you find a very different attitude about immigration in certain places than you do when you’re in Arizona. So it’s a very different, a very diverse community.”

President Trump and his allies seized on the remarks, with the president calling them “very insulting.” Biden’s campaign said it was clear the former vice president was referring to the diversification of viewpoints among Latinos from different countries.

Biden didn’t reference that explanation in his nighttime tweets, focusing instead on how they’d been interpreted.

“Throughout my career I’ve witnessed the diversity of thought, background, and sentiment within the African American community. It’s this diversity that makes our workplaces, communities, and country a better place,” Biden wrote. “My commitment to you is this: I will always listen, I will never stop fighting for the African American community and I will never stop fighting for a more equitable future.”

By Colby Itkowitz
August 6, 2020 at 9:35 PM EDT

Biden pushes back on Trump comments that Biden is ‘against God’ and ‘against the Bible’

In a late-night statement, Biden criticized the president for suggested that Biden hates the Bible.

“For President Trump to attack my faith is shameful,” Biden said in a statement. “It’s beneath the office he holds and it’s beneath the dignity the American people so rightly expect and deserve from their leaders. However, like the words of so many other insecure bullies, President Trump’s comments reveal more about him than they do about anyone else.”

:My faith teaches me to love my neighbor as I would myself, while President Trump only seeks to divide us. My faith teaches me to care for the least among us, while President Trump seems to only be concerned about his gilded friends,” Biden wrote. “My faith teaches me to walk humbly, while President Trump teargassed peaceful protestors so he could walk over to a church for a photo op.”

In remarks in Cleveland on Thursday afternoon, Trump attacked Biden on a number of fronts before proceeding to claim without evidence that the former vice president would “hurt the Bible” and “hurt God” should he win the White House.

“No religion, no anything,” Trump said, describing his view of the consequences of a Biden win. “Hurt the Bible, hurt God. He’s against God, he’s against guns, he’s against energy, our kind of energy. I don’t think he’s going to do too well in Ohio.”

Trump’s campaign had released an ad Wednesday featuring a photo of Biden praying at a Delaware church that was altered to make it appear he was alone.

Biden, who is Catholic, has frequently credited his faith in God for helping him cope with the deaths of his first wife and his 1-year-old daughter in 1972 and his adult son in 2015.

Trump does not belong to a church in Washington, although he refers to himself as a Presbyterian. In June, he triggered sharp condemnation from religious leaders for holding photo ops outside a D.C. shrine honoring Pope John Paul II and at St. John’s Episcopal Church across from the White House. The latter event set off a controversy because it involved aggressively clearing peaceful protesters ahead of Trump’s appearance, during which the president held up a Bible in front of the cameras.

Hours ahead of his Ohio remarks, Trump offered a similar broadside against Biden during a morning radio interview with Geraldo Rivera on his Cleveland-based show.

Referencing a poll that showed a tight race in Texas, Trump expressed disbelief.

“I’m in favor of oil and gas, I’m in favor of the Bible, I’m in favor of Second Amendment, right,” Trump said. “Biden’s against all of those things. He’s against oil, he’s against the Bible — essentially against religion, but against the Bible — and he’s against the Second Amendment.”

“That may be a little harsh, him being against the Bible,” Rivera interjected.

“Well, people who control him totally are,” Trump responded.

By Felicia Sonmez and John Wagner
August 6, 2020 at 9:23 PM EDT

DNC convention workers tested positive for the coronavirus

Three people working at the Democratic National Convention site in Milwaukee tested positive for the novel coronavirus, Democratic officials confirmed.

The news was first reported by the Daily Beast, which notes that the results were known before the final decision was made Wednesday that Biden would not be speaking in person at the convention.

The Biden campaign referred questions about the tests to the convention organizers, but said the choice to not have Biden attend “was made by listening to the science and assessing the entirety of the situation on the ground.” A Democratic official said that the positive test results did not influence the decision.

President Trump will also skip his party’s convention and scrapped plans for a big event in Florida, a coronavirus hot spot.

Democrats attending the convention, which begins on Aug. 17, will be tested daily.

“Ensuring the safety and well-being of everyone involved with the convention is our top priority,” a convention spokesperson said in a statement. “In consultation with public health officials and experts, the Democratic National Convention Committee has implemented stringent health and safety protocols — including daily testing for anyone accessing the convention complex and contact tracing.”

The DNCC began testing individuals at the site last week, and this week identified the three positive cases.

“The protocol we put in place is working,” a Democratic official said. “It’s been set up to identify cases early, before they enter the site or come into contact with people and spread widely.”

By Michael Scherer, Colby Itkowitz and Matt Viser
August 6, 2020 at 8:17 PM EDT

Georgia Democratic Senate candidate raises money after WNBA players wear his name on shirts

A Democratic candidate for a Senate seat representing Georgia raised his national profile and added to his campaign coffers this week thanks to WNBA players who started wearing black T-shirts emblazoned with “Vote Warnock.”

That is Rev. Raphael Warnock, who is running to unseat Republican Sen. Kelly Loeffler in a state Democrats are desperate to flip. Loeffler is a co-owner of the WNBA’s Atlanta Dream. The women’s basketball players singled out the Senate race in protest of Loeffler, who has spoken out against the league’s embrace of the Black Lives Matter movement.

Warnock announced on social media that in the 48 hours since the WNBA players began posting images of themselves wearing the tees, his campaign raised $183,000.

The race is already on pace to be one of the most expensive in the country. Loeffler has raised $17.5 million this cycle, spent $10.5 million and has $7.3 million on hand. Warnock has raised $4.3 million, spent $1.4 million and has $2.8 million on hand.

Warnock is the senior pastor at Ebenezer Baptist Church, where the Rev. Martin Luther King Jr. preached. The funeral of late civil rights icon John Lewis was held there last week and Warnock spoke.

“In a moment when there is so much political cynicism and narcissism that masquerades as patriotism,” he said in his sermon, “here lies a true American patriot who risked his life and limb for the hope and the promise of democracy.”

By Colby Itkowitz
August 6, 2020 at 8:10 PM EDT

Left-wing activists attack potential VP pick Susan Rice as too hawkish

There will be no floor fight at this year’s Democratic National Convention, and no “floor” to have it on. For the first time in 92 years, the party’s nominee won’t even appear in person to thank the delegates and dodge balloons.

That has not quieted the resistance to Biden’s policies and the personnel inside his party, coming from activists who say they will work to get him elected but are still working to influence the type of president he’ll be. As former national security adviser Susan E. Rice is touted as a potential vice president for Biden, hundreds of delegates out of nearly 4,000 are begging him not to pick her, urging him to sideline “hawks” inside the party and warning that he will lose votes if he doesn’t.

“Susan E. Rice would be a travesty if she were chosen to be his VP candidate, or for any position in his Cabinet,” said Marcy Winograd, a California delegate for Sanders who has distributed a letter urging Biden to ditch Rice and six other veterans of previous Democratic administrations. “She pushed for every war, against Iraq, Libya, Yemen. She has left a trail of carnage in her wake. Elevating her would be a death wish for the Democratic Party.”

Biden’s campaign declined to comment on the criticism of Rice. There’s no evidence that Rice “argued for the war” as carried out in 2002, when she was serving as a fellow for the Brookings Institution. While she advocated for limited military involvement, also opposed by the left, she stopped short of endorsing invasion. But her record on Libya and Syria is undisputed and a source of bafflement for anti-interventionists as they watch the “veepstakes” unfold.

Read more here.

By David Weigel
August 6, 2020 at 7:19 PM EDT

March for Our Lives targets younger voters with new ad in battleground states

March for Our Lives, a youth movement launched by student activists after a 2018 school shooting that killed 17 people in Parkland, Fla., is unveiling a new ad Thursday targeting Generation Z voters in nine key states: North Carolina, Pennsylvania, Arizona, Florida, Georgia, Michigan, Wisconsin, Texas and Colorado.

Narrated by Emma González, a survivor of the Parkland shooting and co-founder of March for Our Lives, the ad urges young activists and protesters to continue to embrace their “power” in the fight against gun violence and systemic racism.

The ad comes as New York Attorney General Letitia James filed a lawsuit Thursday calling for the dissolution of the National Rifle Association and the ouster of its chief executive, Wayne LaPierre. The suit alleges LaPierre and others raided the group’s coffers to the tune of $64 million over three years to finance a luxury lifestyle.

The head of the NRA’s lobbying arm and political action committee told the Washington Free Beacon that it would spend “tens of millions of dollars” in battleground states in the 2020 election.

Read more here.

By Jacqueline Alemany
August 6, 2020 at 7:12 PM EDT

Postmaster general acknowledged new policies that workers say are delaying mail, according to Democrats

The head of the U.S. Postal Service acknowledged in a meeting with top Democrats that he instituted new policies restricting overtime and extra mail processing trips, moves that the agency previously played down and that postal workers say have caused mail backlogs, according to a letter released Thursday by House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (Calif.) and Senate Minority Leader Charles E. Schumer (N.Y.).

Pelosi and Schumer met with Postmaster General Louis DeJoy, Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin and White House Chief of Staff Mark Meadows on Wednesday to discuss reports of those delays, which have reverberated through this year’s primaries by slowing the delivery of absentee ballots.

Internal Postal Service documents obtained by The Washington Post show that postal employees have been barred from working overtime hours and instructed to leave mail behind if it is processed late. Experts worry these changes could make it particularly challenging to execute November’s election, which will likely rely heavily on mail-in voting because of the coronavirus pandemic.

The Postal Service had previously played down the changes to lawmakers and the press. In a July 22 letter to Sen. Gary Peters (Mich.), the ranking Democrat on the Senate committee responsible for postal oversight, Postal Service general counsel and executive vice president Thomas J. Marshall wrote, “Neither document . . . should be characterized as being ‘official Postal Service memoranda,’ ” and that “neither document originated from Postal Service Headquarters.”

But Pelosi and Schumer wrote Friday that the postmaster general, a former logistics executive and major Republican donor, acknowledged that the Postal Service had implemented the procedures. They called on him to immediately rescind the directives.

Read more here.

By Jacob Bogage
August 6, 2020 at 5:27 PM EDT

Mail-in ballot applications in Va. with faulty instructions tap into worries about fraud

A voter registration group with a history of sending error-ridden mailers has again sown confusion in Virginia, this time tapping into concerns about mail-in ballots sparked by Trump’s repeated allegations — without evidence — of election fraud.

The Washington-based Center for Voter Information, a nonprofit geared toward increasing voter participation among underrepresented groups, mailed 2.25 million applications for absentee ballots to voters across the state, with a quarter of them containing a return envelope addressed to the wrong election office, the group said Thursday.

Read more here.

By Antonio Olivo
August 6, 2020 at 5:16 PM EDT

New York primary messiness has left a race in limbo

The messiness of the New York primary has left at least one race in limbo.

In the 12th Congressional District, Democratic Rep. Carolyn B. Maloney has declared victory over two-time challenger Suraj Patel. But Patel is part of a lawsuit that a federal judge ruled on this week, ordering that some of the invalidated ballots be counted.

The Board of Elections is appealing that judgment, citing an undue burden of labor that likely won’t change any outcomes.

More than 1 in 5 mail-in ballots in New York City were invalidated in the June 23 primary.

More than 13,000 ballots were invalidated in the 12th district, and Maloney’s margin of victory was around 3,700. The certified results show that 19 percent of mail-in votes were invalidated districtwide. A disproportionate number — 25 percent — were rejected in the part of the district that falls in Brooklyn, where Maloney tends to be weaker than in her stronghold of the Upper East Side.

Testimony in the lawsuit also revealed that the Board of Elections dropped off 34,000 ballots to the U.S. Postal Service on June 22 to reach voters, who had to then mail them in less than a day for them to be counted in the June 23 election. Sixty percent of those late-mailed ballots were going to voters in Brooklyn.

The votes that the judge ordered to be counted are those that arrived on June 24 and June 25 without a postmark showing they were mailed on June 23 — because USPS workers testified that there was 60 percent chance that ballots dropped off on June 23 would not get postmarked for that day. Ballots that arrived on June 25 are to be counted if they have a postmark of June 23 or earlier — or no postmark.

Patel maintains that the election board rushed to certify the results against the orders of a federal judge. He refuses to concede until he has exhausted all legal avenues to count “the maximum number of votes” in the district and has stressed that he is fighting voter disenfranchisement.

By Jada Yuan
August 6, 2020 at 4:38 PM EDT

New poll finds tough road ahead for McConnell, Graham and Collins

Three high-profile Republican senators up for reelection this year are in tight competitions to hold onto their long-held jobs and keep the Senate in GOP control.

New Quinnipiac University polls in Kentucky, South Carolina and Maine found that against their respective Democratic challengers, Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell is ahead by five points, Lindsey O. Graham is in a virtual dead heat and Susan Collins is down by four points.

Amy McGrath in Kentucky, Jaime Harrison in South Carolina and Sara Gideon in Maine are the Democratic opponents.

Some of McConnell’s, Graham’s and Collins’s fate rests in how voters in their states feel about the man at the top of the ticket. The more people who come out to vote against President Trump, the greater the chance they could lose their seats. In each of their states, more voters say their senator has been “too supportive” of Trump, while very few say they haven’t been supportive enough.

Ironically, Collins, the one of the three who hasn’t been in lockstep with the president and even voted to hear more witnesses in Trump’s impeachment hearing, is viewed by nearly 50 percent of the Maine electorate as too supportive of Trump.

The presidential head-to-heads also forecast the biggest challenge for Collins. Joe Biden is leading Trump by 15 points in Maine. Trump is up nine points in Kentucky and five points in South Carolina, narrow margins for traditionally conservative states that Trump won handily by double digits in 2016.

By Colby Itkowitz
August 6, 2020 at 4:36 PM EDT

More than 1 in 5 New York City mail-in ballots were invalidated

It took six weeks for the New York City Board of Elections to certify results in races citywide.

And those results have revealed that the ballots of a fifth of Democrats who voted by mail were invalidated due to errors like a missing signature or a missing postmark. This means that 84,000 voters were not counted. These are the first officially released numbers of the count.

This is significantly higher than in other places. In Wisconsin and Georgia, the rates of invalidated ballots were 1.8 percent and 3 percent, respectively.

At the heart of the issue are the more than 403,000 mail-in ballots the elections board had to sort through with limited resources and staff. The Postal Service also appears to have been overwhelmed.

By Jada Yuan
August 6, 2020 at 4:13 PM EDT

Facebook halts advertising from pro-Trump super PAC, citing repeated falsehoods

Facebook on Thursday said it was putting on hold advertising by a pro-Trump super PAC for “repeated sharing of content determined by third-party fact-checkers to be false.”

Andy Stone, a spokesman for the company, did not say how long the ban would last or what specifically had prompted it.

But recent ads by the super PAC, the Committee to Defend the President, have been taken down for violating Facebook policies. The ads in question deceptively use language from former president Barack Obama to suggest he was criticizing Joe Biden, the presumptive Democratic nominee. They resemble an ad from the group targeting voters in South Carolina with a similar message in February, drawing the former president’s rebuke.

Facebook has taken action against the group before. In response to questions from The Washington Post, the Silicon Valley giant last fall removed paid posts by the Committee to Defend the President that included misleading claims about voting.

Facebook has taken a light touch when it comes to most falsehoods spread by politicians, arguing the claims have news value, but has provided greater enforcement for organizations and interest groups. One exception has been the coronavirus, an area in which Facebook has held even politicians to more rigorous standards. On Wednesday, the social network removed from Trump’s account the post of a video clip from a Fox News interview in which he said children are “almost immune” from covid-19.

In a statement, the super PAC’s chairman, Ted Harvey, condemned the move by Facebook.

“The Committee will not be silenced by ‘woke’ Silicon Valley elites, as we expose the real Joe Biden,” Harvey said. “We have reallocated our entire Facebook budget to other online platforms, so Americans can see the whole truth — not just Facebook’s truth.”

By Isaac Stanley-Becker
August 6, 2020 at 3:47 PM EDT

Debate commission rejects Trump’s request for earlier, additional debate

The Presidential Commission on Debates denied the Trump campaign’s request to add an earlier debate to the three already scheduled between President Trump and Joe Biden but said it would be willing to consider adding a debate if that were desired by both presidential candidates.

“The Commission has found that three 90-minute debates work well to fulfill the voter education purposes the debates are intended to serve,” the three-person commission wrote in a letter Thursday. “If the candidates were to agree that they wished to add to that schedule, the Commission would consider that request but remains committed to the schedule of debates it has planned as reflected in the attached release.”

Rudolph W. Giuliani wrote to the commission on Wednesday in his role as a Trump campaign representative asking that either a fourth debate be added in early September or, if that wasn’t possible, to move one of the three confirmed debates sooner. Giuliani claimed that waiting to hold the first debate until Sept. 29 failed to consider the people in early-voting states who may cast ballots before ever seeing the two candidates face off.

The commission rejected that premise, citing statistics that in 2016 only .0069% of voters had cast ballots before the first debate, which occurred the last week in September.

“While more people will likely vote by mail in 2020, the debate schedule has been and will be highly publicized. Any voter who wishes to watch one or more debates before voting will be well aware of that opportunity,” the commission members wrote.

They also tersely rejected the Trump campaign’s suggestion of moderators it deems worthy to run the debates, writing that “the Commission will adhere to our long-standing procedure of selecting the debate moderators.”

“It will do so with great care, as always, to ensure that the selected moderators are qualified and fair,” they wrote in closing.

By Colby Itkowitz