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Pennsylvania Sets Rule on Ballot Signatures: Campaign Update

Bloomberg logo Bloomberg 9/15/2020 Ryan Teague Beckwith

(Bloomberg) -- County election officials in the battleground state of Pennsylvania have been advised not to reject ballots just because of questions about signatures. Democratic nominee Joe Biden spoke with officials from the Los Angeles County Sheriff’s Department after two deputies were shot over the weekend. And Kanye West will not appear on the West Virginia ballot.

There are 50 days until the election.

Other Developments:

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Pennsylvania Can No Longer Reject Ballots Solely Based on Signature Issues

Pennsylvania advised county election officials not to reject ballots based solely on suspected signature problems for the November election, alleviating at least some concerns that thousands of valid ballots could be set aside in the swing state by election workers who aren’t trained in signature matching.

The League of Women Voters of the United States on Monday said it was dropping a lawsuit that sought clarification on the rules after Pennsylvania Secretary of State Kathy Boockvar, a Democrat, issued fresh guidance on Sept. 11.

“The Pennsylvania Election Code does not authorize the county board of elections to set aside returned absentee or mail-in ballots based solely on signature analysis by the county board of elections,” the guidance says.

The coronavirus pandemic is expected to lead to a record number of absentee ballots in Pennsylvania, and the League of Women Voters worried that would lead to a record number of ballots rejected over signatures mismatches.

“No voter should have to worry that their ballot won’t be counted because of a signature issue -- and no prospective voter should be discouraged from voting for the same reason,” Celina Stewart, a director at the League of Women Voters, said in a statement on Monday. -- Erik Larson

Biden Reaches Out to Shot Sheriff Deputies’ Department (5:22 p.m.)

Biden said he’s spoken with officials from the Los Angeles County Sheriff’s Department after two deputies were shot over the weekend.

“I talked with the sheriff’s department in California, those two young deputy sheriffs were attempted to be assassinated. They’re both alive, thank God, by the grace of God,” he said, adding that the chief and union head were among those with whom he’s spoken.

The Democratic presidential nominee has repeatedly denounced violence by police against civilians but is also making clear that he opposes violence against police.

“This has to be a wake-up call, an opportunity,” Biden said of the new reckoning around police violence against people of color. “But, you know, as you all will remember, I had very close relations with most police departments.”

Biden’s commented during a virtual fundraiser hosted by former Attorney General Eric Holder, former Deputy Attorney General Sally Yates and four former U.S. attorneys. The Biden campaign did not immediately provide more information about the conversations with the sheriff’s department. -- Jennifer Epstein

Kanye West Won’t Appear on West Virginia Ballot (4:45 p.m.)

West will not appear on the West Virginia ballot as a presidential candidate after a federal court denied his request due to insufficient signatures.

The decision is the latest roadblock to the rapper’s quixotic campaign. Courts in Ohio and Arizona have both removed his name from the ballot.

West was recently disqualified in Virginia when a Circuit Court ruled there was sufficient evidence that he fraudulently obtained the backing of electors. West sued in response and the Virginia Supreme Court has given until Wednesday for objections to be stated to West’s appeal to get on the ballot in that state. The same process is ongoing in Wisconsin.

Since announcing on July 4 that he’s running for president, West has qualified to appear on the ballot in at least 12 states: Arkansas, Colorado, Idaho, Iowa, Kentucky, Louisiana, Minnesota, Mississippi, Oklahoma, Tennessee, Utah and Vermont. -- Emma Kinery

Colorado Becomes Latest State to Track Mail-In Ballots Online (3:57 p.m.)

Colorado will allow voters to track the status of their mail-in ballots online, joining a growing list of states to offer the amenity.

Voters will be able to receive notifications by phone, email or text about the status of their mail ballots, from the moment their county clerk and recorder mails the outgoing ballot packet to when their ballot is received and accepted for counting, Secretary of State Jena Griswold announced Monday.

Colorado conducts all elections by mail. Voters will be notified they have been enrolled in the ballot-tracking service if their registration record contains an email address.

Most states now offer some form of mail-in ballot tracking, although services vary, according to data compiled by NBC News.

Elections officials say voters should use these tracking services instead of going to the polls on Election Day to check if their ballot has been received, as Trump has repeatedly urged his supporters to do. -- Tripp Baltz

Biden’s Staff Becomes More Diverse (3:14 p.m.)

Biden’s campaign has become more diverse as it’s hired more staff in recent weeks, with nearly half of its employees identifying as people of color.

The Democratic nominee’s full-time staff is 46% people of color, up from 35% when the campaign last disclosed data in June. The campaign remains majority female, with 59% of staff saying they’re women, up from 53% 11 weeks ago.

The campaign’s senior staff is nearly as diverse, with 40% identifying as people of color, up from 36% in June. Senior staff is 56% female.

The Trump campaign did not immediately respond to a request for comment. In June, the Trump campaign responded to Biden’s release of demographic data with limited information, including that a majority of its staff was female and that 25% of its senior staff were people of color. -- Jennifer Epstein

Gary Cohn Unsure If He’ll Vote for His Former Boss (2:14 p.m.)

Trump’s former chief economic adviser, Gary Cohn, says he isn’t sure if he’ll vote for him in November.

In an interview with CNBC Monday, the former director of the National Economic Council said that he hasn’t decided between Trump and Biden.

“You know, I honestly haven’t made up my mind. I’m really eager to see an economic debate between the two of them,” he said. “I actually vote on issues.”

The former president of Goldman Sachs Group Inc., Cohn was a rare Democrat on Trump’s Cabinet. He has criticized Trump’s response to the white nationalist rally in Charlottesville, Virginia, in 2017 and later resigned over the president’s tariff policies.

Pressed for specifics, Cohn said he would be looking at the candidates’ proposals for economic stimulus, saying that small businesses need more support right now.

Biden Maintains Narrow Edge on Law and Order (1:25 p.m.)

Nearly two-thirds of Americans are concerned about maintaining law and order in the U.S., but Biden holds a narrow edge in a new poll on which candidate would be better.

In a Monmouth University poll released Monday, 65% of Americans say maintaining law and order is a major problem, 25% say it is a minor problem and 8% say it is not a problem. Between the two presidential candidates, 52% said Biden can maintain law and order if elected, while 48% said Trump, just outside the poll’s margin of error.

Other polls have showed similar narrow leads for Biden on the issue, which Trump has attempted to make his signature, arguing in a text message to supporters that Biden would “let ANTIFA run wild” and “they’ll attack your homes” and often tweeting simply the words “law and order.”

But Monmouth University Polling Institute director Patrick Murray cautioned that most polls on the issue are recent.

“It’s not clear whether Trump’s law and order message has moved the needle at all because we don’t have trends on this question,” he said.

The survey of 867 adults across the country was conducted Sept. 3-8. It has a margin of error of 3.3 percentage points.

Biden Will Chat With Wall Street’s Chanos and Wolf to Raise Money (12:48 p.m.)

Biden is raising money with some friends in finance and business on Sept. 22, according to an invitation sent out by Robert Wolf, a former UBS Group AG executive who founded the firm 32 Advisors LLC.

The event will bring Biden together with executives including the famed short-seller Jim Chanos and Norm Alpert, who runs the health care group at the private equity firm Vestar Capital Partners. They will discuss “the pandemic, the economy, climate change, gun violence prevention and other critical issues.”

Wall Street’s Democratic insiders have said they have plenty of sway in Biden’s orbit, even as he’s wooed the progressive left, and some began months ago to think about the spots they might land in Washington if he wins.

Attendees can be listed as co-chairs in exchange for a $100,000 donation, according to an invitation paid for by the Biden Victory Fund, a joint fundraising committee. Wolf, Chanos and Alpert didn’t immediately respond to requests for comment. -- Max Abelson

Biden Casts Early Ballot in Nation’s Last Primary (11:35 a.m.)

Joe and Jill Biden cast their ballots in person Monday in the final hours of early voting for Delaware’s primary Tuesday.

In keeping with his campaign’s emphasis on voting early, the Bidens made an appointment at the county Board of Elections Tuesday morning, an option available to any Delaware voter.

a group of people standing next to a man in a suit and tie: Joe Biden GETTY sub © Photographer: Drew Angerer/Getty Images Joe Biden GETTY sub

Joe Biden departs the Delaware State Building after early voting in Wilmington, Delaware on Sept. 14.

Photographer: Drew Angerer/Getty Images

Early voting ends at noon in Delaware, where the Democratic primary features races for governor and senator, including Biden’s close friend, Senator Chris Coons, who faces a long-shot challenger from the left.

“I like Coons the best,” Biden said after voting. “He’s a great, great senator.”

Both candidates have tried alternatives to Election Day voting this year, traditionally a staple of campaign photo ops. Trump voted by mail in Florida’s Republican primary in mid August, but he said last week that he may vote in person in November. -- Tyler Pager

Biden Calls Trump’s Iran Policy ‘Dangerous Failure’ in Op-Ed (6:39 a.m.)

Biden called Trump’s approach to containing Iran’s nuclear program and curbing its aggression a “dangerous failure” in an op-ed.

In a guest commentary published Sunday on CNN, the Democratic nominee argued that Trump’s go-it-alone strategy to pressure Iran has left the U.S. without foreign allies to help. He cited a United Nation’s report that Iran has 10 times as much enriched uranium as it did in 2017.

“The bottom line is that Iran is closer to a nuclear bomb today than it was when Donald Trump took office,” he wrote. “And Trump has no answer for that.”

Biden said that as president he would use the Iran nuclear deal that Trump abandoned as a starting point for new negotiations, end Trump’s travel ban and ensure sanctions do not hurt the country’s fight against the coronavirus. He said he would also push back against the country’s human rights abuses.

“If Iran chooses confrontation, I am prepared to defend our vital interests and our troops,” he wrote. “But, I am ready to walk the path of diplomacy if Iran takes steps to show it is ready too.”

The article comes as the U.S. argues that international sanctions on Tehran should “snap back” on Sept. 20, effectively killing the 2015 nuclear deal Trump pulled out of two years ago. But the U.S. is largely alone in that position, with allies and rivals on the UN’s Security Council saying America’s withdrawal from the accord means it can’t dictate the accord’s future.

Early Voting Delayed in Pennsylvania Due to Court Fights

Early voting in Pennsylvania, which would normally begin Monday, is on hold as a court fight has kept the ballot itself in question.

The battleground state allows counties to begin offering absentee ballots to voters who come into their local elections office 50 days before the election.

But a lawsuit by the state Democratic Party seeking to keep the Green Party off the ballot has delayed certification.

It’s unclear when early voting could begin, since even after the ballot is certified elections officials would have to take other steps to get ready. That could be an even bigger issue this year, since interest in absentee voting has surged in Pennsylvania.

Biden Borrows a Risky Neologism From Lieberman

The Biden campaign is borrowing a neologism coined by former Connecticut Senator Joe Lieberman in his failed run for the White House.

In Facebook ads over the weekend, the Biden campaign argued that its record fundraising in August was a sign of “Joementum,” asking supporters to donate again in September.

“Keep up the Joe-mentum,” the ad says.

The term “Joementum” was first coined by Lieberman in 2004, as he claimed that a short rise in the polls showed he would do well in the New Hampshire primary. The next day, he finished fifth, and he dropped out a week later, and the term has been invoked for years as a marker of false confidence in a candidate.

That hasn’t stopped the Biden campaign, which previously used it in a Twitter video in March viewed more than a million times.

Coming Up:

On Tuesday, Biden will travel to Florida and vice presidential candidate Senator Kamala Harris will campaign in Nevada.

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