All eyes are on Kentucky today as the state is expecting historic turnout for its primary despite the pandemic. A number of changes were made in the state to allow for an increase in absentee voting by mail after the primary was also delayed.
In March, Democratic Kentucky Governor Andy Beshear signed an order postponing the state's May 19 primary to June 23 at the recommendation of the Republican secretary of state due to the coronavirus. In April, Beshear signed another executive order at the recommendation of the secretary of state for all Kentuckians to be able to vote by mail in the primary.
The order also directed the State Board of Elections to create an online portal for voters to request that an absentee ballot be mailed to them, and postcards were also sent out reminding voters of the changes made this year. CBS News political unit associate producer Sarah Ewall-Wice says more than 867,000 people requested absentee ballots for the primary according to the secretary of state's office, and as of Tuesday morning, more than 530,000 absentee ballots had been returned, with officials saying they expected more ballots to come in over the next few days as mail-in absentee ballots had to be postmarked by June 23.
By comparison, in past elections an average of 1.5% of votes were cast absentee, signaling just how major the shift this year has been amid health concerns. Meanwhile, just over 110,000 people voted early in-person across the state. And as of 3:30pm Tuesday, more than 103,000 people had checked in at polling places in Kentucky, with polls still set to be open for several more hours, putting Kentucky easily on track to see more than one million people participate in the primary this year.
Despite the record turnout projected, heading into primary day, the state faced some accusations of voter suppression as two of the state's biggest counties each had only one in-person polling location open amid health concerns and a shortage of poll workers. In Jefferson County, which includes Louisville, the Kentucky Exposition Center was being used Tuesday for in-person voting. And in Fayette County, which includes Lexington, Kroger Field was set up as the county's only in-person polling location. Officials noted both locations also had free transportation available to help get voters to the polls. While some voters reported waiting in longer than usual lines as of Tuesday afternoon to cast ballots including up to two hours, overall, reports on the ground show the process going relatively smoothly, as the vast majority of people opted to vote-by-mail this year.
Kentucky officials note full election results will not be available Tuesday night due to the vast number of absentee ballots. County clerks must report their results to the Secretary of State's office by 6 p.m. on June 30.
One of Tuesday night's primaries in Kentucky has received more attention than expected in recent weeks since State Representative Charles Booker has picked up steam against former Marine Amy McGrath in the Democratic Senate Primary, report CBS News political unit associate producer Eleanor Watson and CBS digital politics reporter Grace Segers. A spokesperson for Booker's campaign makes the case that while McGrath has higher name recognition than Booker from her run for a House seat in 2018, she lacks a passionate base of voters.
The spokesperson also argued that McGrath is making a mistake by trying to appeal to more moderate voters, dismissing it as a strategy of "pretend to be a lighter version of a Republican and hope that carries." Nonetheless, a McGrath spokesperson told CBS News that her campaign had three internal polls ending June 19 that all showed her leading the primary race by double digits.
Meanwhile several voters in New York City faced polling location opening delays or incorrect ballots for Tuesday's primaries. In the backdrop is the coronavirus pandemic, which prompted more than 708,000 in the city to request absentee ballots, according to the New York City Board of Elections. The latest number in the days before the election showed almost 30,000 that had not yet received their ballot.
Perry Grossman, a voting rights lawyer for the New York ACLU, did not receive an absentee ballot in time and had to go to in-person early voting. Grossman said one of the reasons for the delay in poll openings on Tuesday was the closure of the subways from 1 a.m. to 5 a.m. ET, which the city's board of elections warned voters about on social media.
"About 15,000 of them can walk to the polls, but 13,000 got to travel. And I know there was some difficulty with the arrangements in getting people there on time," Grossman told CBS News political unit broadcast associate Aaron Navarro. In addition to polling location hours, Grossman said he often ran into voters that didn't receive the complete ballot set for the presidential and the Congressional and local primaries. He said that was a problem that seemed to be getting better throughout the day, but "certainly that's a thing we've heard a number of times from a number of places."
Even before Tuesday, a staffer in Jamaal Bowman's campaign told Navarro it was running into problems with the Bronx Board of Elections in getting a correct list of sent absentee ballot votes and pending requests. They said the problem was unique to the Bronx, because it was able to get the information it needed from the Westchester Board of Elections. Grossman said while the city's board of elections has been dealing with an unprecedented situation of absentee ballots, he hopes any problems will be smoothed out by November.
"There's clearly some major, major faults that are being exposed. This is a massive stress test for elections nationally and probably New York in particular. And there are real faults in the system that we have to address," he said.
Multiple longstanding Democrat House incumbents are facing progressive challengers in New York, the most vulnerable being 31-year incumbent Eliot Engel in the state's 16th district. Jamaal Bowman is looking to capitalize on recent momentum and unseat Engel, the current Chair of the House Committee on Foreign Affairs. In Brooklyn's 9th district, Congresswoman Yvette Clarke has a rematch with Adam Bunkeddeko, who fell 6 points shy of beating her in 2018, though he has two other candidates to worry about splitting the vote with, including City Councilman Chaim Desutsch and Black Lives Matter activist Isaiah James.
Carolyn Maloney, Chair of the House Oversight Committee, is also facing another familiar challenger in New York's 12th District. Lawyer Suraj Patel lost to Maloney by almost 20 points in 2018 and is running again. In the 14th District, Congresswoman Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez is facing a more moderate challenger with Michelle Caruso-Cabrera, a former journalist that's backed by the U.S. Chamber of Commerce. Several open seats left by retiring House members are also worth watching Tuesday. Progressive Democrats are hoping to prevent Reverend and Councilman Ruben Diaz Sr. from winning the open seat in the 15th District in the South Bronx. Primaries in Nita Lowey's old seat in Rockland and Westchester County and Peter King's district in South Shore Long Island are both worth watching, too.
FROM THE CANDIDATES
At his "grassroots" virtual fundraiser this evening, Joe Biden was joined by former President Obama – dressed in all black – and more than 175,000 online attendees, CBS News campaign reporter Bo Erickson reports. This was Obama and Biden's first official campaign event together.
The event raised over $11 million in total, including $7.6 million from 175,000 grassroots donors, according to a campaign spokesman, the highest-earning event yet for Biden. The highlights were a few mostly mild lines of criticism from Mr. Obama directed at President Trump: "We can't be complacent or smug or sense that somehow it's so obvious that this president hasn't done a good job because, look, he won once," Mr. Obama said about not underestimating the competitiveness of this election. "I am here to say help is on the way if we do the work," Mr. Obama said of Biden.
Mr. Obama said the election was "serious business" and said "whatever you have done so far is not enough. I hold Michelle and my kids to that same standard. Whatever we have done to help Joe Biden get elected we have to do more." Addressing the ongoing pandemic, Mr. Obama draped Dr. Anthony Fauci in empathy. "Poor, Dr. Fauci," the former president said, adding the doctor has to "testify and have his advice flouted by the person he is working for."
Toward the end, Mr. Obama also commented that dictators like Putin, Kim Jong Un and President Xi are watching the actions of Mr. Trump —"witnessing out of our White House ... a militarized response to peaceful demonstrators"— and how he treats the press. They think they do not need to be held accountable, he said. At the end of the livestream, Obama and Biden bid adieu to each other: "Love you Joe!" Obama said. "Love you too, pal," Biden replied.
PRESIDENT DONALD TRUMP
President Trump's campaign announced Tuesday evening that it along with the Republican National Committee and joint fundraising committees, raised more than $10 million over the weekend of President Trump's rally in Tulsa. According to the campaign, CBS News political unit associate producer Sarah Ewall-Wice says most of the cash haul from Friday to Sunday came from online donors, which it states, "further illustrates the intense grassroots enthusiasm behind President Trump's re-election."
This comes as the Trump campaign and Biden campaign have gone back and forth online over who raised more, the former vice president with Mr. Obama with their event Tuesday or the Trump campaign with its rally over the weekend. Last week, it was revealed that Mr. Biden, DNC and their joint fundraising committee brought in more than $80 million last month, while Mr. Trump, the RNC and their committees brought in a combined $74 million last month.
Also on Tuesday Republican leaders in Arizona, including Gov. Doug Ducey and Sen. Martha McSally, joined the president for a stop at the U.S.-Mexico border as the Trump administration has marked completing more than 200 miles of their "new border wall system." Mr. Trump told McSally at a roundtable with border officials and elected officials, "We need you in Washington, would you please win?"
CBS News campaign reporter Alex Tin reports the event kicked off the president's second visit since the start of the pandemic to a battleground state where his and McSally's polling numbers have slumped behind their Democratic rivals. President Trump is also slated to deliver on Tuesday an "address to young Americans" at an Arizona mega-church in Phoenix, where his supporters began lining up overnight outside.
The group behind the event, Students for Trump, said it was conducting COVID-19 tests among staff and told city officials it planned to take some precautions, though that has done little to dampen criticism of an indoor event expected to attract thousands. Amid record-high coronavirus hospitalizations in the state, Phoenix was among several Arizona localities to mandate face masks earlier this month. However, the city's mayor conceded over the weekend that the president and event-goers would not be cited if they flouted the order while in Phoenix. Joe Biden denounced both stops in Arizona as "a distraction" in a statement labeling the president's decision to speak at the event in Phoenix as "reckless and irresponsible."
Kickstarting a "Faith in America" tour, Vice President Pence began his first campaign event of the summer with a visit to the Milwaukee area, according to CBS News campaign reporter Musadiq Bidar. He touted the Trump Administration's aggressive support for the School Choice Program, which gives "underserved" children access to private education instead of local public school systems.
The current administration, led by Secretary of Education Betsy DeVos, has promoted school choice aggressively while expressing disdain for the traditional public school system. Critics of school choice programs argue using public funds to support choice schools undermines the public education system and could ultimately lead to the privatization of the K-12 system. After a roundtable where Pence reaffirmed his support for the school choice program and said it is an idea whose time has come, the vice president delivered remarks to a socially distanced group of supporters in Pewaukee, Wisconsin.
Pence told the crowd the "forgotten" men and women of America are "forgotten no more." He said the silent majority is silent no more and urged supporters to "bring it" again in 2020 for Trump. The vice president also touched on the contrast between the current and former administrations. Pence said the Obama administration presided over the slowest economic recovery in a hundred years and claimed that former Vice President Biden will raise taxes, increase regulations and "get back to the old days of economic surrender to China."
Meanwhile he said the Trump administration created more than 7 million jobs in the first three years. And repeating a line he's used for the last few weeks, Pence said there is no excuse for what happened to George Floyd, adding there is also no excuse for the looting and rioting. Pence said as the rioting and looting "overwhelmed many of our major cities" and that Biden "sent out a press release" while President Trump sent in the National Guard. "We quelled the violence," Pence said.
He added that the administration has been listening to law enforcement and the African-American community to look at ways of improving public safety. "But we're not going to defund the police," Pence said to a cheering crowd. Pence also promised that vandals, like those who allegedly defaced St. John's Church in Washington D.C. or others who attempted to bring down a statue of former president Andrew Jackson, will be prosecuted to the "fullest extent of the law."
Add another name to Joe Biden's list of potential running mates: CBS News campaign reporter Bo Erickson was first to report today that Rep. Karen Bass, head of the Congressional Black Caucus, is also undergoing vetting by Biden's campaign. As head of the CBC, she is currently spearheading the police reform bill in the House and her previous experience seems just as fitting for this moment: before politics she was in the medical field and served as a physician assistant during the AIDS crisis. As speaker of the California Assembly, she received the Profile in Courage Award for navigating a path forward out of the state's financial crisis in 2009.
Bass' vetting comes as pressure builds on Biden to pick a woman of color to join him on the ticket and after Minnesota Senator Amy Klobuchar withdrew her name from vice presidential consideration last week, also imploring Biden to pick a woman of color. There are now more than a half dozen women of color under consideration to join the White House ticket. CBS News recently reported that former National Security Adviser Susan Rice, Representative Val Demings and Atlanta Mayor Keisha Lance Bottoms, are now being considered more seriously for the role than they were weeks prior. Others include Sen. Kamala Harris, Stacey Abrams, and Sen. Tammy Duckworth. An announcement has been previewed around August 1.
CBS NEWS COVID CHRONICLES
BLACK-OWNED BUSINESSES IN FLORIDA
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. In the latest edition, CBS News campaign reporter LaCrai Mitchell speaks with Black business owners in Florida to discuss how they've adapted to keep their businesses alive, and what they're doing to economically recover amid the coronavirus pandemic. Ensure Financial Group in Lakeland, Florida was among a number of minority-owned businesses that took an economic hit when states shut down to mitigate the spread of the virus.
Glenn Jones, chief executive officer of the insurance agency, said his team had to make quick adjustments to cushion the financial blow. "We had to turn on a dime and say look, we're going to have to be more aggressive, more proactive, learn new ways through the digital Zooms and social media," said Jones. According to a McKinsey & Company survey conducted in May, more than 40% of minority-owned small businesses added new services to support their communities and employees during the pandemic. Jones and his daughter Jahlinda, the agency's chief operating officer, said EFG assured existing clientele and partnering businesses that the agency was still in a position to inform and serve, even as they digitally transitioned.
In talks with various entrepreneurs, Mitchell also explored how the pandemic has highlighted systemic inequities that already existed for black and minority-owned businesses even before COVID-19. Donna Gambrell, the former director of the Department of the Treasury's Community Development Financial Institutions Fund, said the full scope of the pandemic's impact on small Black-owned businesses is yet to be seen. She contended that the country will have a clearer picture when the Small Business Administration's Paycheck Protection Program closes at the end of June.
"As you see the amount of cash available that black businesses may have on hand start to run out — and them not having any other resources — I think that's where you're going to see some of the even more dire circumstances."
The Florida Department of Health has confirmed more than 100,000 positive cases of COVID-19 throughout the state. A sobering reality for some Florida black-owned businesses that are just beginning to economically reboot. Dr. Fitzherbert Harry said his company, Harry Physical Therapy & Wellness, doesn't have "millions in the bank," which leaves him uneasy about the future. "There are some nights I don't sleep because I'm thinking, well, how can I support my employees? How can I help them to support their families?," said Harry. "As a business owner, it's not just my responsibility to support myself. I have responsibility for my contractors, for my employees, for their families, because they depend on my funds to support their families...there's other people who depend on me."
ISSUES THAT MATTER
BLACK LIVES MATTER – THE PARTY?
Forget Democrats and Republicans. Robert Johnson, the founder of Black Entertainment Television (BET), says it's time for Black Lives Matter (BLM) to create an independent political party. In a memo to BLM, obtained by CBS News correspondent Nikole Killion, Johnson wrote: "Many pundits will try to convince you that it is impossible for independent parties to exist in this country…To the contrary, I believe a politically astute and structured Black independent party, committed and engaged in the electoral process, can prove them wrong."
Johnson said BLM has mobilized people around the country on issues of racial and economic injustice "in a manner not seen since the civil rights movement" and encouraged the group to harness its forces. The 74-year-old African-American entrepreneur noted the idea of creating a Black independent party is not new and suggested it be based on a founding principle of the Congressional Black Caucus which states: "Black people have no permanent friends, no permanent enemies.…just permanent interests." Johnson told CNBC Tuesday, "I've been convinced for a long time that 40 million African-Americans who tend to vote as a bloc in one of the two parties limit their leverage in getting action from both parties." CBS News reached out to Black Lives Matter for comment. The organization released a new video Monday entitled "Now We Transform" and tweeted: "Change is coming and together, we have work to do." BET Networks is a division of ViacomCBS.
PROTECTING INCARCERATED DURING PANDEMIC
Criminal justice nonprofit JustLeadershipUSA launched its #JustUs campaign Tuesday, calling on lawmakers to adopt a number of federal and state policy recommendations to protect incarcerated populations during natural disasters and emergencies like the COVID-19 pandemic. JLUSA, founded in 2014, aims to cut the prison population in the U.S. in half by 2030. The group, led by individuals who have themselves spent time in the criminal justice system, began addressing the impacts of COVID-19 on prison populations in March. JLUSA told CBS News campaign reporter LaCrai Mitchell that a "lack of response for this population" amid the pandemic was the catalyst for this campaign, but that the group had been researching long before how to push for emergency response plans for incarcerated people.
"The American people received a COVID-19 relief package. The population currently incarcerated are the only American citizens who were left out of that. This is their COVID-19 relief package," said JLUSA President DeAnna Hoskins in an emailed statement. "This campaign is necessary to bring attention to the lack and disregard for black and brown people incarcerated…The total disregard for human life but the preservation of white supremacy by the release of someone like Michael Cohen, who was at a facility with no confirmed cases further entrenched the deserving and undeserving."
The #JustUs campaign launches from 10 states including battlegrounds like Michigan, Wisconsin, and Ohio. JLUSA said the locations were based on states with high numbers of COVID-19 cases and incarcerated people. The group is advocating for measures such as the creation of facility-based emergency plans — by a state's Department of Corrections or the Federal Bureau of Prisons — that outline in part, how correctional facilities will evacuate incarcerated populations during a declared emergency. The campaign also advises that policy should be put in place to empower correctional departments to be able to act "without legislative or judicial intervention" during a declared crisis or pandemic. "Black Lives Matter no matter the mistakes in life they made," said Hoskins. "Those who are currently incarcerated in the U.S. criminal justice system have been sentenced to serve time for the crimes they were convicted of committing. They were not sentenced to a death sentence."
UP FOR DEBATE
CHANGE IN SCENERY
The second 2020 presidential debate is being moved from Michigan to Miami due to concerns about the coronavirus, according to CBS News campaign reporter Adam Brewster. The nonpartisan Commission on Presidential Debates announced on Tuesday that the October 15 debate will take place in Miami at the Adrienne Arsht Center for the Performing Arts of Miami Dade County. The debate was scheduled to take place at the University of Michigan, but the school sent a letter to the commission asking to withdraw from hosting the debate. On Monday night, two sources told CBS News that the school was expected to withdraw due to concerns about thousands of people coming to campus amid the pandemic. "Given the scale and complexity of the work we are undertaking to help assure a safe and healthy fall for our students, faculty and staff and limited visitors — and in consideration of the public health guidelines in our state as well as advice from our own experts — we feel it is not feasible for us to safely host the presidential debate as planned," University of Michigan President Mark Schlissel wrote in a letter to the debate commission.
The formal news of the debate relocation came a day after former Vice President Joe Biden's campaign told the debate commission that Biden intends to participate in the three planned debates and pressed for more information about how they would be conducted. Last week, President Trump said he was asking his personal attorney, Rudy Giuliani, to lobby for a fourth in-person debate. The other two presidential debates will take place on September 29 at the University of Notre Dame in South Bend, Indiana and October 22 at Belmont University in Nashville.