In Northeastern Pennsylvania’s Luzerne County, a longtime Democratic stronghold overtaken by Donald Trump in 2016, officials were still counting mail-in ballots two days after the state’s June 2 primary election. “I have this nightmare of CNN, Fox, CBS and everyone else waiting for these things to come in on election night, and we don’t have them,” said David Pedri, the county manager. The delay, Pedri said, was simply that the process of counting mail-in ballots is tedious and there’s little that can speed it up.
Luzerne’s experience was replicated across the state. On Thursday, Pennsylvania’s biggest county was still counting ballots it received by primary day, June 2. As the day began, Philadelphia elections officials hadn’t counted nearly 90,000 mail-in ballots they received over a week before, about double President Trump’s margin of victory over Hillary Clinton in the state in 2016. “News organizations and the public will need to adjust their expectations on when results will be announced,” Philadelphia Deputy Commissioner Nick Custodio said.
This was the first time all Pennsylvanians were allowed to vote by mail, and a surge of mail-in ballots driven by the coronavirus pandemic left some counties counting ballots days after the election. It’s a challenge that local election officials told CBS News campaign reporter Zak Hudak could continue into the November general election and delay the results of the presidential race if the state doesn’t let them start processing ballots earlier.
FROM THE CANDIDATES
At a socially-distanced round table in Philadelphia today, Joe Biden put into perspective the death of George Floyd. “Even Dr. King’s assassination did not have the worldwide impact that George Floyd’s had,” Biden said. The reason for the round table discussion was to release his own eight-part economic reopening plan, CBS News campaign reporter Bo Erickson reports.
Biden advocated for more safety protocols for workers returning to their jobs. He continues to call for more free COVID-19 tests for workers nationwide and longer federal paid sick leave if employees back at work contract the virus. Biden also said there should be more tailored work requirements for elderly workers. One of his biggest ideas is calling for the federal government to establish a 100,000-person “public health jobs corps” focused on contact-tracing the cases of COVID-19 nationwide.
Biden last night in an interview with Trevor Noah previewed a new plan to pay tens of thousands of Americans to care for their family members — whether they’re sick, their children, or elderly family members. He also was honest about his “greatest concern” ahead: “This president is going to try to steal this election,” Biden said. Asked what happens if Biden wins and Trump refuses to leave the Oval Office, Biden ruminated that military leaders would “escort him from the White House with great dispatch.”
PRESIDENT DONALD TRUMP
It’s official. The Trump campaign released details for its first campaign rally in over three months, after a temporary hiatus due to the ongoing coronavirus pandemic, reports CBS News campaign reporter Nicole Sganga. The rally will take place at the Bank of Oklahoma Center, a 19,199-seat indoor arena in the heart of downtown Tulsa.
As more Americans venture out to socialize or protest, 22 states are seeing higher rates of new coronavirus cases. Mr. Trump’s rallies have historically attracted thousands of supporters, with some stadiums filling beyond 10,000 attendees.
“The CDC certainly does not have guidelines for large gatherings of over 10,000 people,” said CBS News medical contributor Dr. David Agus. “I don’t know of any state guidelines that would enable that.” Registration for the Trump rally also comes with a warning label. A disclaimer on the campaign’s RSVP website reads in part, “By clicking register below, you are acknowledging that an inherent risk of exposure to COVID-19 exists in any public place where people are present.”
In a statement, Tulsa Mayor G.T. Bynum said, “Tulsans have managed one of the first successful re-openings in the nation, so we can only guess that may be the reason President Trump selected Tulsa as a rally site.” Bynum added, “The City of Tulsa continues to follow the State of Oklahoma’s OURS plan on COVID-19 response as it relates to events, which encourages the organizer to have enhanced hygiene considerations for attendees.” According to an Oklahoma health memo, those measures include social distancing “at the discretion of business owners” but zero mention of face coverings.
Abandoning its re-election mantra, “Keep America Great,” the president’s brand-centric campaign has reverted to its 2016 “MAGA” campaign slogan. “There is no better place than America’s Heartland to restart our Make America Great Again Rallies,” said Michael Glassner, Chief Operating Officer.
“President Trump is fired up and ready to rebuild, restore, and renew the American Dream. There’s no doubt that the Great American Comeback is here, and we are looking forward to the tremendous crowds and enthusiasm behind President Trump.”
The campaign stop also coincides with two important anniversaries. Trump supporters will gather on Juneteenth, a day commemorating the end of slavery in the United States and within the same month of the 99th anniversary of the Tulsa race massacre, when white Tulsans descended on the city’s thriving black district, known as Black Wall Street. White rioters killed as many as 300 black residents, and burned the neighborhood to the ground. “As the party of Lincoln, Republicans are proud of the history of Juneteenth, which is the anniversary of the last reading of the Emancipation Proclamation,” Senior Adviser to the Trump campaign Katrina Pierson told CBS News, in a statement. “President Trump has built a record of success for Black Americans, including unprecedented low unemployment prior to the global pandemic, all-time high funding for Historically Black Colleges and Universities, and criminal justice reform.”
The rally follows nationwide demonstrations against racial injustice, including in downtown Tulsa and the national mourning of the death of George Floyd, a black man killed in Minneapolis police custody.
President Trump appeared at a law enforcement roundtable ahead of his first in-person fundraiser in Dallas, Texas, Thursday. “We have to respect our police, we have to take care of our police, they’re protecting us,” Mr. Trump said. “And if they’re allowed to do their job, they’ll do a great job. And you always have a bad apple no matter you go, you have bad apples. And they’re not too many of them. I can tell you they’re not too many of them in the police department. We all know a lot of members of the police.”
The president announced he will issue an executive order suggesting police departments meet “current professional standards” for the use of force, including tactics for de-escalation. According to the president, the White House directive will also “encourage pilot programs that allow social workers to join certain law enforcement officers so that they work together.”
In an Instagram Live with Pete Buttigieg, Illinois Senator Tammy Duckworth said General Mark Milley called her and apologized for partaking in a photo op with President Donald Trump after peaceful protesters were cleared out of Lafayette Square in Washington, D.C. earlier this month, reports CBS News campaign reporter Jack Turman.
“General Milley called me and said he just regrets that happening. He took full responsibility for being there,” Duckworth said. Duckworth added that she was “very proud” that Milley apologized because that displayed leadership, which the troops needed. “Real leadership is admitting when you’ve made a mistake, acknowledging it, taking responsibility from it, learning from it, and then moving forward and never making that mistake again,” Duckworth said. “And General Milley showed some real leadership today.”
TRUMP V. BIDEN
President Donald Trump’s campaign is out with a new television ad taking aim at former Vice President Joe Biden for kneeling in solidarity with protesters calling for change in the wake of the killing of George Floyd by police. CBS News political unit associate producer Sarah Ewall-Wice says the ad begins with video of Biden wearing a mask and taking a knee recently as video of looting and fires play behind him.
“Antifa is destroying our communities, rioting, looting, yet Joe Biden kneels down and his staff sends money for bail,” the narrator claims in the ad. “With Biden kneeling to the left, we’d have chaos in the streets,” it goes on to claim. The ad also accuses the presumptive Democratic presidential nominee of “failing to stand up to the radical leftists fighting to defund and abolish the police,” despite Biden and his campaign both stating he does not believe the police should be defunded but has focused on other reforms. The narrator ends by claiming the president is “always standing for our flag,” which a is reference to athletes kneeling during the national anthem in protest of police brutality and the oppression of black people – something the President continually criticizes them for.
According to tracking by Kantar/CMAG, the ad first aired overnight on Fox News. It’s the latest in a number of ads the Trump campaign has released amid the pandemic, but is the first one taking aim at Biden over kneeling, defunding the police and the nationwide protests.
CBS NEWS COVID CHRONICLES
LOUISIANA FISHING INDUSTRY
CBS News is chronicling what has changed for the lives of residents of some of the biggest battleground states in 2020 amid the coronavirus pandemic. Alfred “Al” Sunseri is the co-owner of P&J Oyster Company and Cindy Mandina is the owner of Mandina’s in New Orleans. Both are the fourth generation heads of their families’ organization and have experienced massive financial setbacks in the wake of the pandemic.
“We had Hurricane Katrina and two years later we had Hurricane Gustav and then, you know, three years after that, we had the BP oil spill. And I’m going to tell you, after being in this business, as long as I have there is nothing — out of even those catastrophic things that we’ve dealt with — like COVID,” co-owner Sunseri told CBS News campaign reporter Tim Perry. “We had these terrible, devastating impacts on our business, but when they closed down restaurants to where you could not go inside. It’s not really the most conducive thing for oysters.” For more on both of their stories and the impacts COVID-19 has had on the $2.4 billion dollar Louisiana Fishing industry click here.
The executive committee of the Republican National Committee voted Wednesday night to simplify the official business that will take place in Charlotte in August, reports CBS News political unit associate producer Eleanor Watson. The committee has pared down the number of delegates who will attend meetings in-person from over 2,000 to just 336.
Every delegate will be able to vote for the president and vice-president, but just six from each state will travel to Charlotte. The committee has also decided the 2016 platform will serve at the Party Platform until 2024 and no changes to the platform are permitted. Politico was the first to report this. The acceptance of the nomination by the president will be held in a separate location.
ISSUES THAT MATTER
Another 2.2 million workers filed unemployment claims last week, signaling that the coronavirus continues to take a major toll on the American job market even as some people return to work, reports CBS News campaign reporter Adam Brewster. According to Labor Department data released on Thursday, more than 1.5 million workers filed traditional claims and over 700,000 workers filed for relief under the Pandemic Unemployment Assistance (PUA) program, a federal program that helps self-employed and gig workers. The numbers of initial claims are still significantly higher than any point in history before the COVID-19 pandemic, but have steadily declined over the past two months.
Nearly 21 million workers were still claiming traditional unemployment insurance benefits for the week ending May 30 and about 9.7 million people were claiming benefits under the PUA for the week ending May 23. Last week, the government reported the economy gained 2.5 million jobs in May to drop unemployment from 14.7% to 13.3%. On Wednesday, the Federal Reserve projected the unemployment rate would be 9.3% by the end of 2020 and 6.5% by the end of 2021. Before the coronavirus pandemic, unemployment was at 3.5% during February and was last above 6% in August 2014.
As vote-by-mail continues to lead national discussions on the heels of another round of primary elections where voters grappled with long lines amid the coronavirus pandemic, a group of former Tom Steyer staffers have launched a 501(c)4 that will focus on mobilizing black male voters ahead of the general election. CBS News campaign reporter LaCrai Mitchell says Amplify Action plans to increase voter registration, provide information about the election process, and help train and organize black men in communities throughout the Carolinas, Alabama, and Tennessee.
“With the unrest in our country caused by recent murders at the hands of police, this is the time to provide support to those impacted and move them to action to change the system,” said Amplify Action’s Executive Director Brandon Upson in a statement. Upson added that a lot of black men throughout the country don’t participate in the voting process for a variety of reasons. Amplify Actions plans to begin tackling some of the problems that make it harder for black men to reach the polls while giving “voice to an entire electorate that is not being represented accurately in our current governing body,” said Upson.
According to CBS News exit poll data, black men made up on 5% of the electorate in the 2016 presidential election.
Other platforms like Vote.Org are also working to provide voters with information. According to its website, Vote.Org has already registered more than 3.3 million new voters and has assisted more than 30 million website users by providing registration links and information including deadlines and polling location details for each state. Vote.org CEO Andrea Hailey told Mitchell that the long lines that have plagued recent primaries shows that voters are determined to participate in spite of breakdowns in the election process. Hailey added that “the resiliency of the American voter” will come into play when people begin ousting elected officials who fail to administer elections in a way that best suits the voter.
“We are not only fighting against systemic racism and a pandemic, we now have to worry about long lines and a clear lack of planning from our state leaders,” said Andrea Hailey, CEO of Vote.org. “It’s imperative that states prepare for November starting now, that includes considering expanded voting hours, providing PPE, increased training and better coordination with their county peers. Voters are showing up to do their job. It’s time for election officials around the country to do theirs.”
Lebron James and other prominent athletes are creating a new group, called More Than a Vote, focused on protecting Africa- Americans’ voting rights and encouraging African-Americans to register to vote in the November general election, according to a New York Times report. James told the New York Times in an interview, “Because of everything that’s going on, people are finally starting to listen to us — we feel like we’re finally getting a foot in the door. How long is up to us. We don’t know. But we feel like we’re getting some ears and some attention, and this is the time for us to finally make a difference.” A source familiar with the group confirms to CBS News campaign reporter Jack Turman that the group will partner with Fair Fight and When We All Vote, which are both voting rights advocacy organizations.
Democrats are asking a federal judge in Arizona to allow voters an opportunity to correct ballots they submit without a signature, arguing in a lawsuit filed this week that Arizona’s current policy of immediately rejecting such unsigned votes — which voided 3,014 ballots from Arizonans in 2016 — is unconstitutional, reports CBS News campaign reporter Alex Tin. Such a process for missing signatures had been outlined last year by the state’s Secretary of State Katie Hobbs, a Democrat, but Arizona Attorney General Mark Brnovich and Governor Doug Ducey, both Republicans, had questioned whether Hobbs had the authority to provide for the process. The suit marks the latest in a string of court battles being waged in Arizona by the party and its allies.
Assembly bill 860 passed the California state senate with bipartisan support on Thursday, marking another step forward for the state legislature’s attempt to make vote-by-mail (VBM) a part of California’s elections law, according to CBS News campaign reporter Musadiq Bidar. The bill, introduced by Assemblyman Marc Berman, amends California’s current election law and requires county officials to mail a ballot to every registered voter for the November presidential election. Currently, voters in California can request a VBM ballot for specific elections or apply to be permanent VBM voter. The bill also extends the deadline by which VBM ballots must be received from three to 17 days after Election Day and allows jurisdictions with the capability to begin processing VBM ballots 29 days before the election.
Berman tweeted Thursday afternoon that the state Assembly will hear the bill next week. It could soon reach Governor Gavin Newsom’s desk to make the law official. Last month Newsom signed an executive order requiring elections officials to automatically send every registered voter in the state a mail-in ballot. The order made California the first state to make such a move in response to the coronavirus pandemic.
Republican groups are currently challenging Newsom’s order in court. A GOP lawsuit filed nearly three weeks ago contends that Newsom’s executive order is a “brazen power grab” and a “direct usurpation of the legislature’s authority.” The Constitution reserves for state legislatures the power to set the time, place and manner of state elections. The Republican’s lawsuit hinges on the fact that Newsom can’t write his own election laws. The state legislature codifying VBM could help the California governor fight the lawsuits, making it easier for the state to move forward with its plans to automatically send every registered voter a ballot for the November election.
Questions about why Georgia’s primary this week was characterized by hours-long lines, polling machine problems, staffing shortages, chaos and uncertainty are now under investigation by the state. And state and county officials have already begun blaming each other for the multiple mishaps, reports CBS News campaign reporter Tim Perry.
In some cases the hours-long lines stemmed from problems surrounding the polling machines. Poll workers in some counties were unable to work the state’s brand new voting machines unveiled for this election — at a cost of $105 million. That, Secretary of State Brad Raffensberger claimed, is not his fault. “The Secretary of State’s Office cannot administer elections, every Georgia county is charged with that responsibility. But what is clear from yesterday, is that while almost every county delivered successful elections — a couple did not.” Raffensperger said in a statement late Wednesday. “It is the responsibility of the counties to properly deliver and install equipment. It is the responsibility of the counties to properly train its poll workers.” Others view Tuesday’s events as another chapter in a long book of voter suppression within the state. Atlanta Mayor Keisha Lance Bottoms called the election a “complete meltdown,” saying the failures of the primary election occurred during early voting and in the mail-in voting process. “The layers of the voter suppression and the breakdown of our election system in Georgia run very deep,” Bottoms said.
A constitutional battle is brewing in Pennsylvania, where Republicans have voted and gone to court to overrule Democratic Gov. Tom Wolf’s coronavirus emergency order. The Republican-controlled state House and Senate passed a resolution Tuesday to end the governor’s three-month long disaster declaration, and Senate Republicans on Wednesday asked a state court to force Wolf to follow it. Wolf’s general counsel said Wednesday that Republicans didn’t plan to send the resolution to the governor’s desk, and that his office was preparing to go to court.
“In order to bring an end to the chaos and the confusion that has been created around the public messaging related to the current resolution, there doesn’t seem to be any other option than to try to get a quick resolution from the court,” he said. In a press release, Wolf said ending the declaration would pull pandemic protections from Pennsylvanians, including mortgage foreclosure and eviction moratoriums, but that it would have no bearing on business closures, because they were ordered by his Secretary of Health Rachel Levine under the Disease Prevention Act. Matthew Haverstick, a lawyer representing Republicans in the lawsuit, said pushed back on that claim Thursday.
“The governor’s office is basing the secretary’s authority to do this on a different statutory provision, but that doesn’t mean her statutory authority is not impacted by the removal of the emergency,” he told CBS News campaign reporter Zak Hudak. He said the goal was not to remove all the state’s emergency measures, but to make sure “the governor will have to work with the legislature, not work around the legislature.”
During a Team Trump Online event broadcast on Thursday, Trump Victory Wisconsin State Director Andrew Iverson talked about resuming in-person campaigning this week, according to CBS News campaign reporter Adam Brewster. “Most recently this week, we’re going to begin opening four offices across the state,” Iverson said. “We are also beginning to knock doors and hold in-person TVLIs (Trump Victory Leadership Initiative).” Iverson said the campaign is focused on making sure door knocking happens safely during the pandemic.
IN THE HOUSE
As the nation’s protests and discussion about race and police brutality continue, past comments and connections between local officials and House candidates are being re-litigated reports CBS News political unit broadcast associate Aaron Navarro. In Santa Clarita, California, almost 30,000 have signed onto a recent petition for City Councilman Bob Kellar to resign, after an old video spread of him calling himself a “proud racist” during an immigration-related rally. After saying “if we would just deal with the illegals, we wouldn’t have a deficit in the state of California,” Kellar said people told him he sounded like a racist, prompting him to say, “If that’s what you think I am because I happen to believe in America, I’m a proud racist! You’re darn right I am!” He’s since said the comments were taken out of context and repeated that at a city council meeting on Tuesday. The petition links Kellar to Congressman Mike Garcia in California’s 25th, pointing to his endorsement of Garcia. “Kellar describes Garcia as ‘All American’ and ‘supports our president.’ Garcia himself has a reputation of hiring blatantly and outwardly racist staff members,” the petition reads. A similar petition is going around for Simi Valley City Councilmember Mike Judge, another endorser of Garcia, who suggested protesters should be hosed down by septic water.
On the other side of the aisle, Garcia’s current November opponent Democrat Christy Smith, had previously endorsed police lieutenant Lou Vince during his 2016 run to represent the district. During his time at the Los Angeles Police Department, Vince was sued in 2001 for allegedly beating a black man during a traffic stop. After the city agreed to pay a settlement in 2002, the record of the incident was closed for Vince and there was no discipline recorded. Smith endorsed and donated to Vince during his 2016 run, with one $250 donation a month after the Los Angeles County Democrats were reportedly reevaluating their own endorsement of Vince. In a statement from deputy campaign manager Kunal Atit, he said Smith “strongly condemns Lou Vince’s reported conduct and has not asked for or accepted his endorsement during her run for Congress.” Atit also went after Kellar’s and Judge’s continued endorsement of Garcia, and said “the Congressman’s actions prove that he is not just out of step with the values of our district, his values are diametrically opposed.”
In response, National Republican Congressional Committee spokesperson Torunn Sinclair said Smith “must be getting really desperate if she’s trying to paint a first generation American and Hispanic congressman as racist.”