MARY LOUISE KELLY, HOST:
Now, as we wait for the final tallies, the results that will tell us who will be the next president of the United States, there are other ways to measure the election, such as how many people have already cast their ballots - more than 100 million, for the record - also how many people will vote today and what those voters say is driving their choice for president. We're going to check in now with reporters who have been talking to voters in three key states. They are Pennsylvania, Texas and Wisconsin. So let me welcome first Jen Rice of Houston Public Media.
JEN RICE, BYLINE: Hi.
KELLY: Maayan Silver of member station WUWM in Milwaukee, hi to you.
MAAYAN SILVER, BYLINE: Hey there.
KELLY: Hey. And Emily Previti is on the line from member station WITF in Luzerne County, Penn.
EMILY PREVITI, BYLINE: Hi there.
KELLY: So Pennsylvania first because there's been so much attention focused on the commonwealth as a key battleground - Trump's been there; Biden's been there. They keep going. Biden was there making multiple stops today in Pennsylvania. Emily, what are you hearing from Pennsylvania voters?
PREVITI: So I'm in Luzerne County, which swung for Trump in 2016 after electing Democrats for president for decades. And today I've talked to Democrats and Republicans and unaffiliated voters supporting both candidates. I talked to Tom Tyson, who's registered as a Democrat in Wilkes-Barre, this afternoon while he was waiting for his wife to arrive so they could vote together about why he's supporting Biden.
TOM TYSON: Just some normalcy, any normalcy would be nice right now. I mean, COVID and everything - it makes it even worse. But yeah - just to get back to waking up in the morning and not wondering, you know, now what?
PREVITI: And earlier in the day, I met up with Jane Hergert. She was wearing a white Make America Great Again hat. She says she's hoping during the next four years that the pandemic's under control and the economy improves and thinks Trump is most likely to deliver, in part because she herself is now in a better spot.
JANE HERGERT: I'm better off now than I was before when Obama was in, much better off. I got better health care now, and definitely the economy is much better.
PREVITI: And, Mary Louise, as we said, both presidential candidates are focused on Pennsylvania. And it's clear that people are listening and have strong opinions.
KELLY: Yes, strong opinions not being in short supply in this election season. OK, let's go to Milwaukee now and Maayan Silver. You are there in Milwaukee, Wisconsin being one of those states that both campaigns have also spent a lot of time in recently. How are voters there reacting to all the extra attention?
SILVER: Well, first off, Wisconsin set a record for people voting early. Part of the reason is that the state is breaking records, unfortunately, with COVID right now. But also, Democratic leaders in the state and some Republicans were pushing their voters to cast ballots early, too. And clearly, people have been listening. Even today there have been lines in some precincts.
KELLY: And what are they saying as you're out and about speaking to voters?
SILVER: Today I stopped by Riverside High School, a polling place in Milwaukee, and I caught people from a variety of viewpoints - Biden supporters, Trump supporters, independents and third-party voters. The city of Milwaukee is racially and ethnically diverse, and it's heavily Democratic, as is the county. There's a ring of further-out suburbs that start trending Republican. Kelly Harrison is 31, a massage therapist who lives in downtown Milwaukee. She's a Republican and says her spa therapy business has improved so much over the past four years under Trump.
KELLY HARRISON: I don't like how he's handling things, but I definitely think he's really good in handling business and leading us in a different direction as far as businesswise.
SILVER: Other voters said COVID, the faltering economy and racial justice were getting them to the polls. And, like Black veteran Jack Cheeks said, they need a more tolerant, inclusive government and that Trump is not it.
JACK CHEEKS: We need new leadership in order for us to heal. In order for the country to come together, in order for the world to be a better place, you know, we have to once again be the shining city on the hill.
SILVER: So, Mary Louise, one more point to make - Wisconsin is one of those states that's a battleground, and this year the overall turnout is expected to be very, very high.
KELLY: All right. Well, speaking of turnout, let's flip over to Texas, which has been breaking all kinds of turnout records for early voting. Jen Rice, you were there in Houston. You've also had all kinds of chaos these last 24 hours or so, this whole back-and-forth as judges deliberated whether 120,000 early ballots should be counted at all. Just bring us up to speed. Has that been finally resolved?
RICE: Sort of. So the legal challenge is still out there. But last night around midnight, the 5th Circuit denied the appeal. So what that means is the drive-through votes cast during early voting will be counted. Houston is in Harris County. That's the largest county in Texas. It's billed as the most diverse county in the country. Republicans sued to have those 120,000 ballots thrown out because of technicalities, which, if it had happened, would have given Republicans a better chance of holding onto the state. I spoke with voter Sarah Jones at a protest rally, who was emphatic all votes cast legally should be counted.
SARAH JONES: My kids need to see that I'll crawl over broken glass to make sure that my vote counts.
KELLY: Wow - determination very clear there. But, Jen, tell me a little bit more about that legal decision yesterday. Does that change voting rules there?
RICE: Yes, it did. So late last night, the county clerk decided to close 9 out of 10 drive-through voting locations today because the judge left open the possibility that drive-through votes cast on Election Day might not count. So most people who planned to drive to do voting drive-through today have had to come up with a different plan at the last minute instead.
KELLY: All right - all kinds of chaos continuing there, it sounds like, in Texas. That is Jen Rice of Houston Public Media, Maayan Silver of member station WUWM in Milwaukee and Emily Previti speaking with us from member station WITF in Pennsylvania.
Thanks to all three of you. Good luck. Hang in there tonight.
RICE: Thank you.
SILVER: Thank you. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.