Election 2020 updates: 'I think the mute is very unfair': Trump on debate mics

A candidate's mic will be muted at the debate while the other answers a question

Last Updated: October 21, 2020, 9:28 PM EDT

With 13 days to go until Election Day, and President Donald Trump and former Vice President Joe Biden racing toward Nov. 3, voters are turning out in record numbers to cast their ballots early.

Roughly 43 million Americans have already voted in the 2020 election, reflecting an extraordinary level of participation and interest despite unprecedented barriers brought on by the coronavirus pandemic.

In the final weeks of campaigning, the president remains on defense as his approval rating drags. He's hosting rallies this week mostly in states he won in 2016 including Pennsylvania, North Carolina and Georgia.

Biden, maintaining a lead in national polls -- his largest of the election, according to FiveThirtyEight's average -- has no public events on his schedule this week so far ahead of Thursday's final presidential debate with Trump. Staying off the trail ahead of debates is a pattern for the former vice president.

Polls indicate a huge pre-Election Day edge for Biden and a sizable Trump advantage among those who plan to vote on Nov. 3 itself. Trump has sowed doubt in the mail-in ballot process -- and imminent election results -- for months.

The rhetoric between candidates is expected to heat up ahead of their second and final showdown in Nashville.

All 50 states plus Washington, D.C., currently have some form of early voting underway. Check out FiveThirtyEight’s guide to voting during the COVID-19 pandemic here.

Oct 21, 2020, 9:28 PM EDT

Trump urges North Carolina to open up despite surging cases

President Donald Trump spoke to a jam-packed crowd of supporters Wednesday evening during a campaign rally in Gastonia, North Carolina, pleading for them to get out and vote.

“So get your friends, get your family, get your neighbors, get your co-workers, get your boss -- rip him out of the seat. And get out and vote. Gotta get out and vote," he said.

Speaking for over an hour, the president made it clear that he needs the support of North Carolina to win the election in 13 days.

"With your help, your devotion, and your drive, we are going to keep on working, we are going to keep on fighting, and we are going to keep on winning, winning, winning," Trump said.

President Donald Trump holds a campaign rally in Gastonia, N.C., Oct. 21, 2020.
Tom Brenner/Reuters

North Carolina is surging with COVID-19 cases and is among 31 states where cases are high and remaining high, according to an analysis of data from The COVID Tracking Project. But the president is still putting public pressure on Gov. Roy Cooper to open the state and once again claiming that Democrats are playing politics with the pandemic and will reopen if they win on Election Day.

“I love this state. You gotta get your governor to open up your state here," he said. "Got to get him to open up -- open up your state, governor. It’s time. It’s been long enough. Watch, Nov. 4, 'North Carolina, we are opening up.' Nov. 4. They are only doing this for political reasons.”

Trump is also still running with his viewpoint that cases are spiking because there is more testing being done in the U.S., however, test positivity numbers are also surging in many areas of the country.

“That’s all they put on because they want to scare the hell out of everyone," he said. "And you know, the more testing you have, the more cases. They say 'cases are up.' Yeah, testing is up. We have more testing than India, China and almost every other country put together. You could say it’s ridiculous. At the same time, we did a good job.”

President Donald Trump waves at the end of a Make America Great Again rally as he campaigns in Gastonia, N.C., Oct. 21, 2020.
Saul Loeb/AFP via Getty Images

In an odd moment, he also downplayed the severity of son Barron Trump’s diagnosis with coronavirus, saying he recovered “12 seconds later.”

“In fact, you know, Barron had it," he said. "Like about 12 seconds later, 'How's he doing?' 'Oh, he’s recovered.'"

The president also referenced his predecessor’s return to the campaign trail today, ridiculing him for his delayed endorsement of Joe Biden during the Democratic primary.

“You know, [Barack] Obama is now campaigning," he said, drawing boos for the 44th president. "Even though he refused to support Biden. I mean ... even after Biden sort of semi-won -- he semi-won -- he wouldn’t do it. He just -- it took forever but now he’s campaigning for him."

-ABC News' Elizabeth Thomas

Oct 21, 2020, 8:46 PM EDT

Supreme Court blocks curbside voting in Alabama

The U.S. Supreme Court moved to block curbside voting in Alabama Wednesday night, suspending -- for now -- a lower federal court order that had mandated state officials provide the accommodation for voters with disabilities during the pandemic. 

The decision came from the court's five conservative justices who voted to grant the stay. The liberals -- Justices Sonia Sotomayor, Stephen Breyer and Elena Kagan -- dissented. 

"Plaintiff Howard Porter, Jr., a Black man in his seventies with asthma and Parkinson’s Disease, told the District Court: '(S)o many of my (ancestors) even died to vote. And while I don’t mind dying to vote, I think we’re past that -- we’re past that time.' Election officials in at least Montgomery and Jefferson Counties agree," wrote Sotomayor in a written dissent. 

"They are ready and willing to help vulnerable voters like Mr. Porter cast their ballots without unnecessarily risking infection from a deadly virus. This Court should not stand in their way," she wrote. "I respectfully dissent."

Alabama officials had opposed implementation of curbside voting, which has not been common practice during elections. The state argued in court documents that it would "cause confusion and much harm" and potentially compromise ballot secrecy. 

The ruling signals the high court's continued deference to state legislatures and local election officials in setting election policy and an aversion to having federal courts impose new rules so close to Election Day.

-ABC News Senior Washington Reporter Devin Dwyer

Oct 21, 2020, 8:37 PM EDT

DNI: Russia, Iran have obtained voter data in election interference campaign

Senior national security officials alerted the American public Wednesday that Iran and Russia have both obtained voter data in their efforts to interfere in the 2020 U.S. election.

"This data can be used by foreign actors to attempt to communicate false information to registered voters that they hope will cause confusion, sow chaos, and undermine your confidence in American democracy," Director of National Intelligence John Ratcliffe said in a surprise news conference Wednesday evening.

Ratcliffe also announced that Iran was separately behind a series of threatening emails that were found to be sent this week to Democratic voters, which he said was "designed to intimidate voters, incite social unrest and damage President Trump."

--ABC News' Alexander Mallin and Luke Barr

Oct 21, 2020, 6:59 PM EDT

Obama warns against Democratic complacency

At the drive-in rally, Obama also issued a stern warning against Democratic complacency and said that the election has to be a decisive win as Trump sows doubts in its results.

"I don't care about the polls. There were a whole bunch of polls last time. Didn't work out," Obama said. "Because a whole bunch of folks stayed at home and got lazy and complacent. Not this time. Not in this election."

He went on to outline his belief that voting is the only remedy to right the wrongs of the Trump administration.

Former President Barack Obama speaks during a drive-in rally while campaigning for Democratic nominee Joe Biden, Oct. 21, 2020, in Philadelphia.
Michael M. Santiago/Getty Images

"In the end, Pennsylvania, that's what voting is about. Making things better, not making things perfect. But putting us on track so that, a generation from now, we can look back and say 'things got better starting now,'" Obama said. "Voting is about using the power we have and pooling it together to get a government that's more concerned and more responsive and more focused on you and your lives."

"I'm asking you to believe in Joe's ability, in Kamala's ability, to lead this country out of these dark times and help us build it back better because we can't abandon those who are hurting right now," he added.

Obama left the stage to Bruce Springsteen's "Land of Hope and Dreams" and put back on his mask which read "vote."

"Honk if you're fired up. Honk if you're ready to go," Obama said to blaring horns as he closed out the rally. "Are you fired up? Are you ready to go? Let's go make it happen. I love you, Philadelphia."

It was Obama's most critical speech of Trump yet.

-ABC News' Molly Nagle and John Verhovek