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2020 Daily Trail Markers: States focus on mail-in voting access, despite Trump's objections

Trump says Twitter is interfering in election
Trump says Twitter is interfering in election... 03:09

President Trump has called mail-in voting "substantially fraudulent." But amid growing concerns about a second wave of the coronavirus in the fall, states are trying to figure out how they will increase access to mail-in voting, report CBS News campaign reporter Nicole Sganga and political unit broadcast associate Aaron Navarro.

The pandemic has prompted a total of 17 states to postpone their presidential primaries and expand their mail ballot access, with some states, like Rhode Island, Georgia and Maryland, sending out ballot application forms to registered voters. 

Five states — Colorado, Hawaii, Oregon, Utah and Washington — already have all-mail elections, which consist of a mix of sending ballots to registered voters and opening up limited polling centers for those that wish to vote in-person. Connecticut and Michigan are sending ballot applications to registered voters, while states that had previously limited who could request a mail ballot, like Massachusetts and New Hampshire, have opened access further for the November elections because of the pandemic. 

CBS News has counted 40 states and the District of Columbia that have not yet officially made changes to their mail vote for the November general election, though many have adopted it for the primaries and 27 of these states don't have specific requirements to receive a mail ballot. 

Twitter on Tuesday evening added new "fact-check" notices to Mr. Trump's tweets on mail-in voting. The president suggested Tuesday morning that mail-in ballots lead to voter fraud in multiple posts online, though he provided no evidence. 

"Mail boxes will be robbed, ballots will be forged & even illegally printed out & fraudulently signed. The Governor of California is sending ballots to millions of people, anyone....living in the state, no matter who they are or how they got there, will get one," the president tweeted, in part. 

A spokesperson for Twitter confirmed to CBS News this is the first time the company has fact-checked Mr. Trump on the platform, though it has been done for other world leaders. In March, Twitter marked one of the president's retweets as "manipulated media," after Mr. Trump shared an edited video of his political opponent Joe Biden posted by White House deputy chief of communications Dan Scavino.

Read more about Trump's comments on mail voting, and what states have adapted for November here.

FROM THE CANDIDATES

JOE BIDEN

Joe Biden added his support for an investigation into the death of George Floyd, the 46-year-old black man who died while in the custody of Minneapolis police officers on Monday night, CBS News campaign reporter Bo Erickson reports. 

"George Floyd's life mattered. It mattered as much as mine, it mattered as much as anyone's in this country — at least it should have," Biden said Wednesday morning during a virtual chat. Floyd's death "sends a very clear message to the black community and black lives that are under threat, every single day," Biden added, saying that this was not an "isolated incident but part of an ingrained systemic cycle of injustice that still exists in this country." 

Biden said the officers seen on camera "have to be held fully accountable," noting the ongoing FBI investigation on whether Floyd's civil rights were violated. "We have to get to the root of all of this," he said. 

Also on Wednesday, Biden and rumored potential running mate Illinois Senator Tammy Duckworth penned an op-ed on hate towards Asian-Americans during the COVID-19 pandemic. The two alleged President Trump has upped the anger, too. Asian-Americans have been "yelled at by strangers in parking lots, refused service at stores and needlessly, cruelly scapegoated by the most powerful man on the planet, President Donald Trump, who has racialized the pandemic and stoked xenophobia every time he's uttered the term 'Chinese virus,'" the two wrote. 

PRESIDENT DONALD TRUMP

The Trump campaign launched a new ad Wednesday, touting the president's style of governing amid the coronavirus pandemic, reports CBS News campaign reporter Nicole Sganga

"President Trump is not always polite. Mr. Nice Guy won't cut it. He does it his way, not the Washington way. But Donald Trump gets it done," the video narration reads, in part. The campaign plans to air the 30 second spot nationally, investing "mid-seven" figures behind the buy.

Mr. Trump threatened to "strongly regulate" or shut down social media companies Wednesday, following Twitter's move to fact-check two of the president's tweets about mail-in voting. 

"Republicans feel that Social Media Platforms totally silence conservatives voices. We will strongly regulate, or close them down, before we can ever allow this to happen. We saw what they attempted to do, and failed, in 2016," the president tweeted, Wednesday morning. "We can't let a more sophisticated version of that...happen again. Just like we can't let large scale Mail-In Ballots take root in our Country. It would be a free for all on cheating, forgery and the theft of Ballots. Whoever cheated the most would win. Likewise, Social Media. Clean up your act, NOW!!!!" Trump added. 

It is unclear under what constitutional authority the president could use to shut down social media companies.

VEEPSTAKES

KAMALA HARRIS

On Wednesday, Senator Kamala Harris addressed the killing of George Floyd calling it a "public execution."  CBS News campaign reporter Tim Perry reports that at a League of United Latin American Citizens (LULAC) Virtual Town Hall to address the impact COVID-19 has had on the Latino community, Harris was asked about Floyd's murder. 

"The discriminatory implementation and enforcement of the laws and the need, therefore, to reform these systems and also hold accountable those who abuse these systems and who engage in the kind of conduct that caused that man to die needlessly at that, at the knee of someone who was using force that was unnecessary and was clearly not only in violation of the civil rights of that community and that man, but was, you know, torture in the way that it was done," Harris said.

She added, "The man couldn't breathe. He was begging to be able to breathe. And he was executed. It was a public execution." 

Harris also weighed in on veepstakes speculation when asked by host Jorge Ramos if former Vice President Biden should choose a woman of color as his running mate.  

"We need to have a greater push and a greater requirement and a greater support for women of color to hold these positions that invariably will impact women of color and all people," she said. "But elective representation in America should represent the people of America. And right now, it does not."

ELIZABETH WARREN

Two months after Senator Elizabeth Warren first proposed a massive bailout of the child care industry, CBS News campaign reporter Zak Hudak says Senate and House Democrats have introduced a bill that would give grant funding to childcare centers across the country. 

The Child Care is Essential Act, of which Warren is a co-sponsor, would provide $50 billion in grants for childcare centers to keep their staff employed and pay their expenses, as well as to pay tuition and copays for working families and essential workers. 

"Without emergency relief funding, our child care system is in danger of collapsing," Warren said in a statement. She's written to leadership twice, in March and April, and released a similar plan for a $50 billion child care stimulus with Minnesota Senator Tina Smith in April.

Warren is also asking the federal government to help devastated Native American communities as it divvies out pandemic aid. She and House ally New Mexico Representative Deb Haaland on Wednesday requested that the U.S. Commission on Civil Rights investigate the government's response to COVID-19 in tribal nations. Noting that last week the Navajo Nation's president said it had a higher coronavirus infection rate than any U.S. state, Warren and Haaland argued that the Commission should update it's 2018 "Broken Promises: Continuing Federal Funding Shortfall for Native Americans" report. 

"The Administration's failure to uphold the trust responsibility to provide adequate relief, health services, and public safety resources to tribal communities has exacerbated the pandemic's impact. This failure requires the Commission's voice," wrote Warren and Haaland in a letter to the Commission's chair. The request followed an op-ed the lawmakers co-authored in the Washington Post Tuesday evening in which the senators said it took over a month for Native nations to receive any of the funding the CARES Act granted them. 

"By disregarding the clear health crisis in tribal communities, the federal government continues a tragic pattern of broken promises to Native nations," they wrote.  

LIFE AFTER 2020

TULSI GABBARD

Representative Tulsi Gabbard dropped her defamation lawsuit against former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton Wednesday, according to CBS News campaign reporter Nicole Sganga. The former 2020 presidential contender and Hawaii lawmaker sued Democratic Party's 2016 presidential nominee over comments Clinton made last year that seemed to allege Gabbard is a "Russian asset." 

The lawsuit, filed in federal district court in Manhattan, alleged Clinton lied about Gabbard, "publicly, unambiguously, and with obvious malicious intent" when she made derogatory comments in October 2019 in an effort to hurt Gabbard's bid for the White House. Gabbard's attorney Dan Terzian filed docments in Manhattan Federal Court this morning, withdrawing the suit. 

"Plaintiffs Tulsi Gabbard and Tulsi Now, Inc. dismiss this action," attorneys for Gabbard, Dan Terzian and Janice Roven, wrote in a court filing on Wednesday. "While they remain certain of the action's legal merit, they are just as certain that this new COVID and post-COVID world require them to focus their time and attention on other priorities, including defeating Donald Trump in 2020, rather than righting the wrongs here."

NEWSMAKERS

VALERIE JARRETT

Former Vice President Joe Biden should consider selecting a woman of color as his running mate, but that should not be the only criteria, says former Obama adviser Valerie Jarrett. "I think it would be a real signal around our country of the progress that we're making similarly to when President Obama was elected," Jarrett told CBS News correspondent Nikole Killion in a wide-ranging interview Wednesday. 

Jarrett added that she thought former presidential candidate and California Senator Kamala Harris would be "a terrific vice president" but she stated Biden's options should not be limited and said it's important that he selects someone who is compatible. 

"I'm confident, knowing him as I do, that he will pick the right running mate," Jarrett said. She also weighed in on the fracas over the former vice president's recent Breakfast Club interview. Biden told host Charlamagne tha God: "I tell you what, if you have a problem figuring out whether you're for me or Trump, then you ain't black." Biden later called the remarks "cavalier."

Jarrett, who called it an "off-the-cuff remark" pointed out that "he apologized right away." She added, "I think it's important that candidates be judged by their record." Jarrett also joined Biden and a growing number of political figures in condemning the death of George Floyd, an African-American man who was killed after being pinned down in an encounter with Minneapolis police. "We have to figure out what can we do so that these young men and boys of color are not considered a threat when they're simply doing what everyone else is doing, walking down the street innocently," Jarrett said.

RINGING ENDORSEMENTS

FOREVER YOUNG

The progressive nonprofit NextGen America, which works to mobilize young people, announced Wednesday it was endorsing Joe Biden for President. With an initial investment of $45 million, CBS News political unit associate producer Sarah Ewall-Wice reports the group will be targeting more than 4.5 million young people ages 18 to 35 with the help of more than 150 full-time organizing staff in 11 battleground states. 

At the same time, NextGen America also announced an initial $11 million in digital ads contrasting Biden and President Trump starting in June. Those ads will appear in Arizona, Florida, Michigan, North Carolina, Pennsylvania and Wisconsin. Of the first two ads the group released featuring Biden, both focus on free public college education, expanding affordable health care, and a plan to tackle climate change. 

"This election is about young Americans and our future, and the choice for us is clear: Joe Biden is the best candidate for president," said NextGen America Executive Director Ben Wessel in a statement. The endorsement and mobilization effort comes after Biden struggled to gain support among young people during the primary season. On Tuesday, Biden's campaign announced its own program to mobilize young people called League 46.

STATE-BY-STATE

FLORIDA

SpaceX and NASA scrubbed their scheduled launch Wednesday, as thunderstorms along Florida's coast thwarted a mission that would've taken American astronauts into orbit from U.S. soil for the first time in nearly a decade. The next attempted launch is slated three days from now – Saturday, May 30, at 3:22 p.m. ET. 

Until then, astronauts Doug Hurley and Bob Behnken are expected to head back to quarantine, according to CBS News campaign reporters LaCrai Mitchell and Nicole Sganga. President Trump and Vice President Pence were expected to witness the historic commercial crew launch from the Kennedy Space Center in Florida, Thursday afternoon. For the first time since the Space Shuttle Program ended in July 2011, American astronauts were anticipated to skyrocket to the International Space Center (ISS) aboard the Crew Dragon spacecraft. 

According to NASA, the demonstration mission, which is part of the Commercial Crew Program, would have been the first time NASA astronauts tested the spacecraft systems in orbit. The postponed flight will serve as SpaceX's final flight test, "paving the way for NASA to certify the crew transportation system for regular, crewed flights" to ISS. 

The Biden campaign held a press call with former NASA Administrator and Astronaut Charles Bolden and former Florida Senator Bill Nelson Wednesday to discuss in part how the mission came to be. Both Bolden and Nelson praised former Vice President Joe Biden for the role he played in helping serve as an intermediary and advocate for the space program during the Obama administration. 

When asked whether the attendance of President Trump and Vice President Pence would be an indication of their support for the effort, both Nelson and Bolden agreed any administration's support is helpful in the advancement of the program. 

"Any time you can have a president and a vice president at launch, I think it's a good sign," said Nelson. "…[Vice President Pence] really has a personal interest in the space program. So, I think it was quite natural that he was going to be here." Bolden added, "This is actually the third administration that has followed this dream of going back to the moon and then on to Mars...That's what's most important: is consistency of purpose in what we do."

Also in Florida – CBS News has confirmed a Tampa Bay Times report that White House Press Secretary Kayleigh McEnany has voted absentee in every Florida primary and general election dating back to 2008. McEnany, a Tampa native, has echoed the president's criticism of mail-in ballots and sent out a series of tweets on Wednesday that linked to articles about voter fraud and cases of mail-in ballot issues in different states. 

"Absentee voting has the word absent in it for a reason.  It means you're absent from the jurisdiction or unable to vote in person," said McEnany in a statement. "President Trump is against the Democrat plan to politicize the coronavirus and expand mass mail-in voting without a reason, which has a high propensity for voter fraud. This is a simple distinction that the media fails to grasp." 

But Florida voters can opt to submit ballots by mail for any reason, according to the state Division of Elections.

Mitchell spoke with the Hillsborough County Supervisor of Elections office, which said Florida voters register with the address of their legal residence, and that can differ from where a voter lives if they're temporarily living elsewhere, like college students. And when a voter requests to vote by mail in Florida, his or her request is good through two general election cycles before a renewal request is required.

PENNSYLVANIA

A Pennsylvania Common Pleas Court judge has denied a county elections board's request to extend the deadline for mail-in ballots to a week after the June 2 primary, reports CBS News campaign reporter Zak Hudak. Judge Richard Haaz in Montgomery County did not offer an explanation in the order he issued Wednesday. 

The request came Tuesday, as Pennsylvania counties struggle to manage an influx of mail-in ballot applications, bringing state-wide totals to 20 times what they were in the 2016 primary. The Montgomery County's Board of Elections had requested an extension after two mail-in ballot blunders in the county, one in which voters received faulty instructions with their ballots and another where they received ballots for the incorrect party. 

The Board cited reports of voters not receiving their mail-in ballots and other issues in the state's rollout of no-excuse mail-in voting, including a design flaw in the online application that left some voters' apartment numbers off their mail-in ballots.  

TEXAS

Senators Kamala Harris and Elizabeth Warren and Secretary Julian Castro are the latest names to be added to the list of speakers for the Texas Democratic Party's June convention, the largest online state political convention in the country. 

Texas Democratic Chair Gilberto Hinojosa, in a statement shared first with CBS News political unit broadcast associate Aaron Navarro, praised Castro, Harris and Warren as "bold leaders who champion a progressive future for our country." He said the state party is "thrilled that they will be joining us at our convention." As a result of the coronavirus pandemic, the convention, slated for the first week in June, has been moved to a completely virtual format. 

Texas Democrats aim to use two broadcast channels for their events, one for the official party business of voting on delegates and one for performances, panels, and guest speakers like Harris and Warren, who will appear in pre-recorded segments. 

House Speaker Nancy Pelosi will also be speaking at the event, creating a solid roster of Democrat political figures who are likely to mirror the party's national convention lineup in Milwaukee in July. "We're certainly happy to tell every state party in the country...and the DNC as well, what we are doing and how we're getting it done," Texas Democrats executive director Manny Garcia previously told CBS News. "But, I know the challenge for the national convention is much larger than ours."

GOVERNOR'S MANSION

LOOKING AHEAD

Virginia state delegate Jennifer Carroll Foy launched her 2021 bid for governor Wednesday, the first Democrat to launch a campaign for the seat. She told CBS News political unit broadcast associate Aaron Navarro her run for governor is aimed at changing the "status quo" in Virginia, starting with healthcare access, criminal justice reform and economic inequality. In the state house, Foy spearheaded the passing of the Equal Rights Amendment, gun safety reforms and the expansion of Medicaid. 

She said a big impetus of her run is her own experience as a working mom with two jobs, two mortgages and student loan debt. "I will be able to look at every single Virginian and say, I see you. I understand the challenges and obstacles you face. And I have the solutions to tackle them, not with false promises, but through smart solutions and policies," she said. 

Originally slated to launch a couple months ago, Foy's plans, and the rest of the political landscape, were rocked by the COVID-19 pandemic. Foy's Wednesday kick-off was all digital, with a launch video and a video statement on COVID-19. While the winner on November 2, 2021 wouldn't take office until 2022, Foy said she could see the state still dealing with the pandemic by then. 

"We may not have a vaccine for the next 18 to 24 months. So I'm anticipating tackling the challenge of successfully navigating Virginia out of the crisis," she said. Foy said she appreciates that Northam has been listening to experts in his coronavirus response but said, "for me, I would be bolder." 

She says grocery workers and bus drivers should have access to PPEs, and that she'd lead the legislature to pass paid sick days and a vote-by-mail system so that registered voters would be sent a ballot. Currently, Virginia has not changed their vote-by-mail plans for this November, though Foy says it's something the state chambers could act on in their special summer session in August. 

Lieutenant Governor Justin Fairfax has expressed interest in running for governor, as well as former Governor Terry McAuliffe and Attorney General Mark Herring. If Foy wins, she would be the first black woman to serve as governor in the nation's history. "I'm honored to be in the position to change what the face of leadership in Virginia looks like," she said. 

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