Months ago, some questioned whether the U.S. could pull off an election during the height of the coronavirus pandemic. But despite COVID-19, early voting is smashing records: North Carolina, Georgia and Michigan, to name a few crucial states, have either surpassed or were approaching 40% of their overall 2016 turnout, USA TODAY's Joey Garrison reported earlier this week.
That's a lot of voters. A perhaps record number are expected to cast ballots this weekend, either by mail or at early in-person voting sites across the country. (Need help registering to vote? Check our guide.)
As voters head to the polls ahead of the Nov. 3 election, here are important headlines to keep in mind.
If you want a long read: We mailed 64 letters and packages in battleground states to check on mail delays. Here’s what we found.
Know your voting rights: If you encounter intimidation at the polls on Election Day, here's what to do.
Quick take: Nationwide, states are grappling with legal challenges surrounding voting policies.
The Supreme Court blocked curbside voting in Alabama.
North Carolina Republicans are requesting an intervention over rules permitting mail-in ballots to be received 48 hours after the election.
In Texas and New Jersey, state courts upheld modified election rules — created by state and city legislatures to curb the spread of COVID-19.
President Donald Trump and former Vice President Joe Biden are lawyered up, bracing for an epic post-election legal battle. And the likely confirmation of Amy Comey Barrett to the Supreme Court is a key piece of chess. More on this from the Associated Press.
Also at play: Foreign hackers are at it again, trying to interfere in the election.
Hackers from Russia and Iran are attempting to undermine the election by sending false emails from the far-right, authoritarian group Proud Boys.
Russian hackers have been coming after various networks in the U.S. since September, the FBI has said.
When Lillian Rozsa got the so-called Proud Boys email, she said she knew better. Still, the University of Florida law student said "it was shocking and scary."
Voters are already casting ballots: Numbers compiled by @electproject show 56 million people have voted.
We're 10 days from Election Day. USA TODAY is keeping track of what's happening as voters around the country cast ballots. Keep refreshing this page for updates.
Worried about voter suppression? Lawyers set up national hotline to answer questions about election laws
Nearly 24,000 lawyers are volunteering to help voters across the country navigate changes in what has become an unprecedented election cycle. Organizers of Election Protection, a national coalition of civil rights and voting rights groups, said the number of volunteers has quadrupled since the 2016 presidential election and the 2018 midterm elections. They’re bracing for even more calls as Election Day nears and in the days and weeks following.
The Election Protection hotline (866-OUR-VOTE) is available all year, but calls have ramped up in recent weeks as millions started casting ballots early in some states. The hotline has received more than 100,000 calls since July, averaging about 7,000 a day, organizers said. At this point in 2016, the group had fielded 21,000 calls since January of that year.
– Deborah Barfield Berry
Unprecedented lines at early voting polls in New York
On the first day of early voting in New York, people waited on lines that were blocks longs and wrapped around polling places to cast their ballots. Many were on line hours before the official noon kickoff and waited between two and four hours to vote.
Heidi Chisholm in Yonkers knitted while waiting to vote in front of the Yonkers Public Library. She said she was there around 11 a.m. and there were already "several hundred" people ahead of her.
Long lines were seen at every polling place set up for early voting in Westchester and Rockland counties.
– Christopher J. Eberhart, Rockland/Westchester Journal News
Trump votes Saturday in Florida
President Donald Trump voted Saturday in West Palm Beach, he tweeted Saturday morning. Officials said earlier this week that he had plans to vote there while campaigning. It's the first time an incumbent president cast his vote in Florida. That is a departure for Trump, who cast absentee ballots in the March presidential primary and then in the Aug. 18 primary election.
Meanwhile, Vice President Mike Pence and his wife, Karen, cast their ballots Friday in Indianapolis. They used the absentee ballots they had requested in early September.
Trump casting a vote in Palm Beach County is part of a historic, blockbuster political weekend in Florida. Trump spoke Friday in The Villages, a conservative community north of Orlando, and in Pensacola. Pence also stumped in Florida. On Saturday, former President Barack Obama rallied the Democratic faithful in Miami.
– Antonio Fins, The Palm Beach Post and Chris Sikich, Indianapolis Star
He moved out in 2016. Why Mike Pence uses the Indiana governor's mansion address to vote
Michigan ban on hiring transportation to bring voters to the polls upheld
The U.S. Court of Appeals for the 6th Circuit has ruled in favor of Michigan's Republican-led legislature, reinstating the state's ban on hiring transportation to carry voters to the polls after a state court issued an injunction against the Michigan law.
The law prohibits voter advocacy organizations from paying for transportation to bring voters to the polls and ride-sharing companies such as Lyft and Uber from offering discounted rides to Michigan voters on Election Day. It does not prohibit volunteers from driving voters to the polls for free.
– Clara Hendrickson, Detroit Free Press
Voters in Delaware don't have to wear masks at the polls
Despite Delaware Gov. John Carney's requirement that residents wear face coverings in public, mask-less voters will be able to walk into polling places to cast their ballots on Election Day. Masks are strongly encouraged, but not required when voting. Elections Commissioner Anthony Albence said the decision was made in consultation with the state Department of Justice. (Read also: At the polls in New York, Joe2020 hats are a no but BLM shirts and MAGA hats are OK.)
While elections officials want to provide the safest environment possible, voting is a fundamental right, Albence said. He described the rule as "trying to balance everyone’s needs and everyone’s concerns."
"We don’t deny anyone’s right to vote if they don’t wear a mask," Albence said. "We really strongly encourage it. It is not an absolute requirement."
– Sarah Gamard, Delaware News Journal
Election problems: What to keep in mind
This cheat sheet from Columbia Journalism Review offers tips for media organizations reporting on Election 2020.
Voting problems aren't failures. They happen every year and, as CJR notes, hiccups such as voting machines not working or polling places opening late don't mean anything is "rigged."
Some problems, however, are significant. CJR recommends the media scrutinize areas that have a history of voter suppression or obstructing minority voters, calling out Georgia as a place to monitor.
Don't expect a winner on Election Night. This year is different because mail-in ballots could be as high as 30%. Previously, that number was 3%-5%. It will take a while to tally.
Seriously, expect to wait. State vote certification deadlines differ and don't have to be reported to the federal level until Dec. 8. Additionally, the Electoral College doesn’t meet until Dec. 14.
Federal case over where Ohio drop boxes could be installed dismissed
After two lawsuits and months of legal arguments, Ohio's battle over multiple drop boxes is officially over.
Ohio Democrats and voting rights groups can claim one victory: Multiple courts found Ohio Secretary of State Frank LaRose, a Republican, could install multiple drop boxes for voters to deposit their ballots.
But he was not required to do so and in the end, LaRose didn't allow off-site drop boxes this election. On Friday, the federal case disputing where drop boxes could be installed was dismissed, ending a several-month legal fight.
Earlier in the month, a three-judge panel from the U.S. Sixth Circuit Court of Appeals temporarily blocked a ruling that would have allowed multiple collection sites for Ohioans' ballots.
– Jessie Balmert, Cincinnati Enquirer
How to vote in 2020? This is the best way, according to experts and activists
With the election less than two weeks away, voting rights advocates, conservatives and community activists are urging the millions of voters who haven't voted yet to cast their ballots in person at the polls or at absentee ballot drop boxes.
The 2020 election is on track for record voter turnout as the nation battles the COVID-19 pandemic, a fight for racial equality and an economic recession. More than 53 million people have already voted. But voters, particularly people of color and the elderly, are concerned about the health risk of voting in person and their vote being fairly counted.
People of color are dying of COVID-19 at higher rates than white people. Voting rights groups have accused Republican lawmakers of suppressing Black and Latino voters with long lines in urban communities and restrictive voter laws while President Donald Trump maintains that mail-in voting is susceptible to fraud. Read more.
– Nicquel Terry Ellis
Contributing: Associated Press
This article originally appeared on USA TODAY: Voting 2020 news: Trump votes in Florida; Ohio drop box case