Editor’s note: This is a live account of Election 2020 updates from Wednesday, Oct. 21, as the day unfolded. It is no longer being updated. Click here for full coverage of the 2020 Election.

Every weekday until Election Day, Nov. 3, we’ll be posting live updates on candidates, voting and other political news in Washington and across the U.S.

What to know in Washington:

  • Your ballot is due by Nov. 3. It can be returned via mail or a drop box in your area. Here’s how to tell whether it’s been received once you return it.
  • The last day to register to vote or update your information online or by mail is Monday. You can register in person during business hours at your county elections office through Election Day; check with your local office for details and COVID-19 safety protocols.
Jay Inslee, left, and Loren Culp, right.
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What to know across the U.S.:

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King County voter turnoutHow to track your ballotSecretary of state raceSecond presidential debateElection resources2020 Election Guide

Live Updates:

U.S. government concludes Iran was behind threatening emails sent to Democrats

The U.S. government has concluded that Iran was behind a series of threatening emails arriving this week in the inboxes of Democratic voters, according to two U.S. officials.

Department of Homeland Security officials told state and local election administrators on a call Wednesday that a foreign government was responsible for the online barrage, according to the U.S. officials and state and local authorities who participated in the call, who all spoke on the condition of anonymity because of the matter’s sensitivity. A DHS official also said authorities had detected holes in state and local election websites and instructed those participating to patch their online services.

The emails claimed to be from the Proud Boys, a far-right group supportive of President Donald Trump, but appeared instead to be a deceptive campaign making use of a vulnerability in the organization’s online network.

First divulged on Tuesday by local law enforcement and elections officials in Florida and Alaska, the emails were soon turned over to federal authorities, according to U.S. officials.

Read the full story here.

—The Washington Post

Obama speaks at Philadelphia rally on behalf of Biden campaign

PHILADELPHIA (AP) — Former President Barack Obama made his first in-person campaign pitch Wednesday for his former vice president, Joe Biden, urging voters in Philadelphia — especially Black men — not to sit out the election and risk reelecting President Donald Trump.

“The pandemic would have been tough for any president,” Obama said at an afternoon roundtable with 14 Black men. But he asked the group to consider “the degree of incompetence and misinformation, the number of people who might not have died had we just done the basics.”

Obama presented Biden and his running mate, California Sen. Kamala Harris, as ready to confront the coronavirus pandemic. 

Read the full story here.

—Associated Press

Seattle Storm endorses Joe Biden and Kamala Harris

In a move rarely seen by professional sports teams, the Seattle Storm voiced its support for the 2020 Democratic ticket of Joe Biden and Kamala Harris on Wednesday.

The team's official Twitter account posted a graphic of the Biden/Harris campaign logo along with its team logo accompanied by a short statement that read: "Join us in support of @JoeBiden and @KamalaHarris."

"We don't typically endorse candidates, but these are NOT typical times," Storm co-owner Ginny Gilder wrote on Twitter.

Read the full story here.

—Sean Quinton

Pandemic relief faces uncertainty in postelection session

WASHINGTON (AP) — Negotiations on a COVID-19 relief bill are inching forward, but it’s clear the window for action before the Nov. 3 election is closing and the issue will be tossed to a postelection lame-duck session of Congress.

The only thing that seems certain beyond that is uncertainty, with Capitol Hill veterans cautioning against expecting a quick and smooth resolution for an aid package that has tied Washington in knots for months.

Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin and House Speaker Nancy Pelosi spoke again on Wednesday and continue to signal progress. But President Donald Trump’s chief of staff, Mark Meadows, said Pelosi is slow-walking the talks and Trump’s most powerful Senate GOP ally, Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, is warning against a costly deal that could drive a wedge between the president and his fellow Republicans.

No one knows whether Election Day will bring much more clarity.

Read the full story here.

—Associated Press

What is a militia? And why is the word so controversial these days?

When FBI Special Agent Richard Trask took the witness stand in federal court in Grand Rapids, Michigan, last week to detail a plot to kidnap the governors of Michigan and Virginia, the prosecutor first asked him what the men involved had in common.

They were all from “multiple militias from different states,” replied Trask, who is a domestic terrorism expert for the Detroit field office.

Nils Kessler, the prosecutor, paused on the word “militia,” noting that it meant different things to different people. “These are groups that call themselves militias?” he asked. “But they are not under any government authority or anything like that?”

“That’s correct,” Trask responded.

For decades, federal authorities and academics have described private paramilitary organizations — armed groups who train together on military tactics and techniques — as “militias” or as part of the “militia movement.” But the term has taken on new meaning as makeshift vigilante groups have popped up with increasing frequency in the months leading up to a contentious election.

Read the full story here.

—New York Times

In King County, 23% of voters' ballots have been received

As of noon Wednesday, 23% of King County’s active registered voters have turned in their election ballots, and among Seattle voters, the turnout is even higher, at 29%.

In total, 324,586 ballots have been returned out of approximately 1.4 million King County voters, according to King County Elections. The agency received 195,763 ballots from dropboxes through Monday, shattering the previous record of 10,659 ballots turned in to boxes during the same time period in the 2016 election.

Across Washington, nearly 850,000 ballots have already been received as of Tuesday evening, accounting for nearly 18% of registered voters. That amount is nearly three times the pace of four years ago.

—Paige Cornwell

How to track your ballot in Washington state

So, you’ve done the right thing.

You paid attention, maybe did a little research and sought deep within your own soul on how to cast that ballot. You filled it out carefully with blue or black pen, took it to a drop box or the post office and and sent it on its way.

But did it make it?

If you live in Washington, there’s an easy way to tell:

  1. Go to the state’s voting information site at votewa.gov.
  2. Enter your name and birthdate.
  3. On the left side, you should see an option to check “Ballot Status.” Click on that, and it should tell you where your ballot is.

Check the status of your Washington state ballot here.

—Christine Clarridge

U.S. tries to prevent Russian interference in election as Trump downplays threat

WASHINGTON — The U.S. government is mounting a major effort to prevent a repeat of 2016 — when federal agencies were slow to address Russia’s attempts to manipulate the presidential election — and is taking a range of actions despite the disinterest of President Donald Trump, who questions reports that the Kremlin is intent on undermining American democracy.

Top security agencies are coordinating actions to thwart foreign hackers, prevent Russia-linked individuals from entering the United States and freeze assets subject to U.S. jurisdiction. They are passing along intelligence to social media firms, and helping state and local election officials shore up their defenses.

For months American military cyber operators, aided by intelligence from the National Security Agency (NSA), have been targeting Russian spies to disrupt their plans by repeatedly knocking them off the internet, confusing their planners and depriving them of their hacking tools. The goal is to prevent them from attacking American voting systems, according to security officials, speaking on the condition of anonymity because of the matter’s sensitivity.

Read the full story here.

—Washington Post

Mission impossible? Welker on tap to moderate second debate

On Thursday, Oct. 22, 2020, Welker is scheduled to moderate the second and last Presidential debate between President Donald Trump and Democratic presidential candidate former Vice President Joe Biden. (NBC News via AP)
On Thursday, Oct. 22, 2020, Welker is scheduled to moderate the second and last Presidential debate between President Donald Trump and Democratic presidential candidate former Vice President Joe Biden. (NBC News via AP)

NEW YORK — This fall’s presidential debates have chewed up moderators.

President Donald Trump steamrolled Chris Wallace with constant interruptions in the first one, a performance that cost the Republican incumbent support in the polls. Susan Page struggled to make the vice presidential candidates adhere to time limits their campaigns had agreed to in advance.

Next up: Kristen Welker.

The NBC News White House correspondent is scheduled to moderate Thursday’s second and last session between Trump and Democrat Joe Biden. It’s hard not to feel trepidation for her.

Read the full story here.

—Associated Press

Would taxpayers outside King County contribute to Harborview’s Prop 1 projects?

Harborview Medical Center in Seattle, the King County-owned hospital seeking $1.74 billion in property taxes for renovation and expansion projects through Proposition 1, is the only Level I trauma and burn center for Washington, Alaska, Idaho and Montana.

That means people outside King County and outside Washington sometimes rely on Harborview’s trauma care. Would they help pay for Prop 1 projects?

Taxpayers outside King County aren’t being asked to contribute directly, said Kelli Carroll, director of special projects for County Executive Dow Constantine. Last year, 220 of 16,073 trauma-related admissions to Harborview (about 1.4%) involved people from outside King County, she said.

People from elsewhere do contribute to the hospital in other ways, because state and federal funds support Harborview’s operations, Carroll said.

When people from outside King County visit Harborview for care, their insurance is billed just like King County residents, so they contribute in that way, as well, Carroll added.

Some state funds were used in planning the new building dedicated to behavioral health, Carroll said. A planning group that recommended the Prop 1 projects “explored the potential of philanthropic funding but did not identify an amount that could be raised,” she said.

—Daniel Beekman

Many thorny global situations hinge on US election outcome

LONDON — Four years after Donald Trump’s election reframed how many nations interacted with the United States, the way that the world’s foremost superpower moves forward after its presidential election stands to impact many geopolitical pressure points — whether the victor turns out to be Trump or his Democratic challenger, former Vice President Joe Biden.

From Iran to Cuba, from China to Israel, American involvement and influence on the international stage has evolved sharply since Trump took office in 2017. He swept away agreements with some nations, alienated longstanding allies and pulled out of multilateral obligations that he said didn’t serve the interests of the United States.

Though the international community has sometimes criticized Trump’s ‘’America First″ tenure, underscored by the president’s approach to the coronavirus pandemic, there were already places, issues and conflicts where the United States’ involvement wasn’t always appreciated — under his predecessor, Barack Obama and other recent American leaders.

Read the full story here.

—Associated Press

Election security is front and center as Washington Secretary of State Kim Wyman and challenger Gael Tarleton face off

Kim Wyman, left, and Gael Tarleton, right. (Courtesy of the campaigns)
Kim Wyman, left, and Gael Tarleton, right. (Courtesy of the campaigns)

These days, Washington's secretary of state is on the front lines of battles over democracy. Incumbent Kim Wyman and challenger Gael Tarleton are clashing over voting and election security.

Read more about the secretary of state race and both the candidates here.

—Joseph O'Sullivan

Sex education referendum makes ideology a focus of race for Washington state schools chief

Chris Reykdal, left, and Maia Espinoza. (Courtesy of the campaigns)
Chris Reykdal, left, and Maia Espinoza. (Courtesy of the campaigns)

At a time of profound upheaval for the state’s 1.1 million students, the biggest flashpoint in the race between schools chief Chris Reykdal and his challenger Maia Espinoza boils down to a single sentence in the voter guide: the one about sex education.

Read more about the state superintendent race and both the candidates here.

—Dahlia Bazzaz

Catch up on the past 24 hours

Eager to have their say in a heated and historic 2020 election, Washington voters are rushing to send in their ballots at nearly three times the pace of four years ago. As of Tuesday evening, nearly 850,000 ballots — accounting for nearly 18% of registered voters — already had been received in Washington state.

California Attorney General Xavier Becerra on Tuesday sought a court order to force state Republican officials to turn over information about the party’s use of private drop boxes for collecting ballots in a handful of counties across the state.

Melania Trump nixed a campaign trip yesterday because of her COVID-19 cough. On the other side of the presidential campaign trail, former President Barack Obama today is holding his first in-person event for Joe Biden. Attending might feel a bit like going to an old-time movie.

Looking to undermine rival Joe Biden two weeks before the election, President Donald Trump is calling for a federal investigation into unverified tabloid claims about Biden and his son Hunter, effectively demanding that the Justice Department abandon its historic practice of not getting involved in elections. Catch up on how Hunter Biden became a campaign issue and why the New York Post reporter who wrote most of the story that ignited the controversy refused to put his name on it.

Here's something refreshingly different: Watch a new ad in which two rivals vying to be Utah's next governor stand side-by-socially-distanced-side to deliver an unusual message about politics.

—Seattle Times staff

2020 Election Resources

For more information about voting, ballot drop boxes, accessible voting and online ballots, contact your county elections office. Ballots are due by 8 p.m. on Nov. 3.

For more information on your ballot, in any county, go to: myvote.wa.gov