TIME 2014 Election

Sen. Mitch McConnell Holds Press Briefing

New Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell is hosting a press conference at 2pm ET. Watch coverage live here

Republican Sen. Mitch McConnell of Kentucky was able to stave off a tough challenge to maintain his seat in the Senate. Thanks to a wave of Republican victories across the country, McConnell is also now the the Senate’s new Majority Leader. McConnell will hold a press briefing Wednesday afternoon, about an hour before President Obama does the same. In an interview with TIME, McConnell said as leader he hopes to work with President Obama and Democrats in the Senate.

TIME celebrities

Robert Downey Jr. Reveals Name of Baby Daughter

He and wife Susan welcomed the newborn on Tuesday

Iron Man star Robert Downey Jr. has revealed the name of his new baby girl, who he called “pretty like mama.”

The 49-year-old actor tweeted Wednesday that he and his wife Susan welcomed a 7-pound bundle of joy early Tuesday morning. The pair named their newborn Avri Roel, and she is the couple’s second child. He also has an older son from a previous marriage.

TIME 2014 Election

Medicaid Expansion Likely Off the Table in 5 States

Gov. Paul LePage celebrates his re-election bid at his election night party on Nov. 5, 2014, in Lewiston, Maine.
Gov. Paul LePage celebrates his re-election bid at his election night party on Nov. 5, 2014, in Lewiston, Maine. Robert F. Bukaty—AP

Boosters still have hope in states that didn't have elections this year

President Obama may not have been on the ballot on Tuesday, but Obamacare was. The decision to expand Medicaid coverage under the Affordable Care Act was an issue in gubernatorial races across the country, including six where party switches could have meant insurance coverage for at least a million Americans.

But it was not to be. On Tuesday, voters cast their ballots in favor of Republican governors in five of those states.

Voters in Maine, Wisconsin, Kansas and Georgia backed candidates who do not support accepting the federal money to expand Medicaid. In Florida, they re-elected Republican Gov. Rick Scott, who paid lip service to the idea but added enough caveats to put it in doubt.

The one exception could be Alaska, where Independent Bill Walker leads against Republican incumbent Sean Parnell.

And after Tuesday’s rough night for Democrats nationwide, one state may even drop off the list. Arkansas was one of 27 states and D.C. to expand access to coverage under the Affordable Care Act, but newly elected Gov. Asa Hutchinson may reverse course. His campaign website says he will assess the benefit and long-term costs of the states expansion program, and “determine whether the program should be terminated or continued.

Ron Pollack, executive director of health care reform advocacy group FamiliesUSA says though the “incremental opportunities” for expansion they were hoping would result from elections are essentially dashed, he believes there will be continued progress in states.

“I think we’re going to see a number of states get serious about getting to yes about the medicaid expansion,” Pollack says. “The task in front of us is not a whole lot different than it was 24 or 48 hours ago.”

Expansion is still likely in some states including Tennessee, Wyoming, and Utah, where governors have signaled real interest in expanding coverage. Re-elected Republican Gov. Matt Mead in Wyoming has shifted his views on accepting federal funds for Medicaid, which in 2013 he all-out rejected.

TIME 2014 Election

Voters in Georgia, Connecticut and Maine Face Problems

A voter displays their "I Voted" sticker on their lapel after voting as others wait in line for the first day of Early Voting on October 18, 2012 in Wilson, North Carolina.
A voter displays an "I Voted" sticker on her lapel after voting as others wait in line for the first day of early voting on Oct. 18, 2012, in Wilson, N.C. Sara D. Davis—Getty Images

Voting rights activists wary of problems at polling places

Voters in several states faced roadblocks ranging from crashing websites to actual blocked roads.

• In Georgia, a website designed to make the voting process easier crashed on early Tuesday. It has since been fixed, but the crash didn’t sit well with voting rights activists.

• In Connecticut, Democratic Gov. Dannel Malloy, in a close reelection fight, filed for an extension of the voting hours after a number of issues at polling stations were reported early Tuesday.

• A surprise early snowstorm in Maine left tens of thousands without power and a handful of towns scrambling to move polling places at the last minute as a result.

Though every Election Day sees some problems, voting rights activists were watching carefully as the first national elections took place since the Supreme Court overturned parts of the Voting Rights Act, freeing states to enact new restrictions.

“With so many hotly contested races on the line, it’s disappointing and dismaying to see that eligible Georgia voters are waking up to find one more roadblock on their path to full democratic participation today,” said Rashad Robinson, the executive director of New York-based civil rights organization ColorofChange.org in a statement.

The problems even affected rapper Lil Jon, who cut a popular online video urging young people to “turn out for what.” In a tweet, he said that he never received an absentee ballot.

New York University Law School’s Brennan Center for Justice has been tracking Texans who’ve been turned away from the polls for lacking ID throughout the election. Some of those who’ve been turned away include a 70-year-old Las Vegas transplant who was told her out-of-state ID wasn’t one of the seven forms of identification accepted at the polls.

Throughout the day, poll monitors and hotline workers will be on hand in several states keeping an eye out for issues facing voters. The national Election Protection Hotline had already received 9,027 calls by noon Tuesday, the bulk of which came from Florida and Georgia. The Department of Justice has also dispatched poll monitors in 18 states to “ensure that every voter can cast his or her ballot free of intimidation, discrimination, or obstruction.”

TIME 2014 Election

Can Kim Kardashian Affect the Elections?

Kim Kardashian attends the 22nd Annual Elton John AIDS Foundation's Oscar Viewing Party on March 2, 2014 in Los Angeles.
Kim Kardashian attends the 22nd Annual Elton John AIDS Foundation's Oscar Viewing Party on March 2, 2014 in Los Angeles. Mark Davis—Getty Images

Can she tweet any Democrats to victory?

Democrats have a lot going against them this election. Recent polls have Democrats trailing in key Senate races, their key constituents are among those least likely to vote in the election and even admitting to voting for President Obama—let alone voting with him—has meant trouble on the campaign trail.

But on Election Day, they’ve got one leg up on Republicans: celebrity tweets.

Hollywood is overrun with liberal actors—though there are some outliers—and throngs of them are tweeting get-out-the-vote messages on Tuesday. Heck, Kim Kardashian West went so far as to share a picture of a cartoon version of herself “standing with” a cartoon Obama. (Sidenote: do you get K stars on Kim Kardashian: Hollywood when you vote? Asking for a friend.)

Getting celebrities to engage with voters—particularly young, low-propensity voters— has long-been the M.O. of organizations like HeadCount and Rock the Vote. “I’ve met a lot of people who don’t like politics,” Jane Henderson, the organization’s director of artistic engagement told TIME over the summer. “I’ve never met anyone who doesn’t like music.” And though their approach is nonpartisan, many of the tweets, Facebook posts, and Instagram pics shared by celebrities caters to a more liberal fan base.

Facebook analyzed the likes of Facebook users who supported specific candidates this election season and found where the cultural interests Republican and Democrats align and separate. According to the data, when comedian Stephen Colbert shares a get-out-the-vote message with his 3.5 million Facebook fans, the likelihood of a liberal engaging civically as a result are much higher than, say, if Dr. Ben Carson tells his 242,000 Twitter followers to hit the polls.

And Colbert is one of over 300 musicians, comedians and actors sharing GOTV messages via social media for the nonpartisan political engagement organization HeadCount—many of whom also cater to audiences that are more liberal. There’s at least one whose influence is spread across the political spectrum, Criminal Minds star Joe Mantegna who shared his HeadCount commissioned GOTV photo with his 424,000 Twitter followers.

Though whether or not a message from John Legend or Usher or Kim Kardashian: Hollywood’s Obama actually pushes a voter to the ballot box is murky, if even a small percentage of their combined 40 million followers took heed and hit the polls, it could have an effect.

TIME 2014 Election

Here’s Your Weather Forecast for Election Day

U.S. Citizens Head To The Polls To Vote In Presidential Election
Voters wait in the rain to cast their vote on November 6, 2012 in St. Petersburg, Florida. Edward Linsmier—Getty Images

Will rain cause voters to favor the incumbent or tilt the election to the GOP?

Political types use weather metaphors all the time. Candidates talk about having “the wind at their backs” and worry about “the perfect storm.” Political scientists style themselves as “forecasters,” while journalists talk about the “political climate.”

But it turns out that the weather can have a very direct effect on elections.

A 2007 study found that Republicans benefit slightly from rainy Election Days. According to the study, one inch above normal rainfall on Election Day can result in a 2.5% boost in votes for the GOP. Researchers suggested the weather may have even tilted national elections in 1960 and 2000.

Meantime, a 2013 paper out of the University of North Carolina suggested that bad weather makes voters more risk averse and therefore more likely to support incumbents.

Of course, with early voting become more and more popular, the effects of Election Day weather could be less than they’ve been in the past. More than 17 million voters have already cast their ballots this year.

So what can we expect on Tuesday? Here’s your 2014 political weather forecast.

Arkansas

According to AccuWeather, heavy rain can be expected in parts of Arkansas on Tuesday. If that pushes more voters into the GOP column, it will be bad news for Democratic Sen. Mark Pryor, who’s in a tough fight with Rep. Tom Cotton. On the other hand, the bad weather may make voters want to stick with the familiar, which is doubly true for Pryor, whose father served in the same seat.

Political Forecast: Dark skies for Pryor. He’s down seven points in the Real Clear Politics average of polls, so not even a little rain-related risk aversion is going to save him.

Michigan

Backers of Republican Gov. Rick Snyder might want to pray for rain in the populous Detroit metro area on Tuesday. According to the National Weather Service showers are likely in the area and across the state on Election Day, which could mean good news for Snyder, who is facing a tough challenge from Democrat Mark Schauer.

Political Forecast: Unpredictable: Snyder and Schauer are neck-in-neck according to a recent Public Policy Polling survey.

Illinois

Chicago voters could see their first Election Day rain fall since 2004, according to WGN News’ Chicago Weather Center. Other parts of Illinois, where Democratic Gov. Pat Quinn is locked in a tight race with Republican businessman Bruce Rauner, could also see some rainfall. Will the showers keep people from making the trek to the polling booth? Will it boost the GOP, or make voters seek the shelter of the Democratic incumbent?

Political Forecast: Cloudy. The Real Clear Politics average of polls has Quinn up by a mere eight-tenths of one percent, so it won’t take a perfect storm to have an effect on this race.

Georgia, North Carolina, Kansas, Iowa, Colorado and Louisiana

Weather should be the least of candidates’ concerns in six other states with toss-up Senate races. AccuWeather predicts seasonally appropriate temperatures and clear skies in those states, although rain is expected to creep in late Tuesday in Louisiana. In Colorado, the weather may matter even less, as the state is trying out an all mail-in ballot for the first time.

Political Forecast: No difference. The candidates in these competitive races are going to have to blame something other than bad luck for ruining their picnics if they lose.

TIME celebrities

Lena Dunham Goes on ‘Rage Spiral’ After Abuse Allegations

Lena Dunham
U.S actress Lena Dunham holds her memoir, Not That Kind Of Girl, ahead of a book signing at Waterstones, Piccadilly in central London, Wednesday, Oct. 29, 2014 Joel Ryan—Joel Ryan/Invision/AP

She hits back at right-wing media accusations that she molested her younger sister

Girls star Lena Dunham went on a self-described “rage spiral” over the weekend in response to conservative media allegations that, as a child, she molested her younger sister.

In her memoir Not That Kind of Girl, Dunham writes about bribing her little sister, Grace, with candy in exchange for kisses as a child. “Basically, anything a sexual predator might do to woo a small suburban girl I was trying,” Dunham writes. She also details an instance where, as a 7-year-old, she examined her baby sister’s vagina. Several right-wing blogs have blasted the story as admitted abuse.

A fed-up Dunham took to Twitter on Nov. 1 to express her outrage at the allegations.

Dunham’s sister, Grace, has also commented about the backlash:

TIME White House

Security Guard Fired After Armed Elevator Ride with Obama Says His Life Is Ruined

“I didn’t know it was going to be my job”

The security guard whose shared elevator ride with President Barack Obama while carrying a gun sparked controversy and led to his firing said in a new interview that the ride and events that followed have ruined his life.

“This was unjust and has been a nightmare,” Kenneth Tate told the New York Times. “I’ve tried to rationalize it. It won’t go away.”

Revelations of Tate’s ride with the President, during which he carried a gun in violation of Secret Service protocol, came as the agency was already dealing with a scandal over security breaches, and helped lead the Secret Service director to resign.

Read more at the Times

TIME Environment

Scientists Get a Little More Creative to Study Penguins Up-Close

Antarctica, Antarctic Peninsula, Paulet Island, Adelie
Penguins jump into the water on Paulet Island in Antarctica. Wolfgang Kaehler—LightRocket/Getty Images

They made four-wheel rovers look like baby emperor penguins

Scientists may have discovered a way to study animals without disturbing their natural behavior, according to a new study, and it involves dressing up.

Observing animals without disturbing their state of being has long been an issue, the researchers wrote in Nature Methods. So, in an effort to fix that, an international team of scientists made four-wheel rovers look like baby emperor penguins and drove them over to colonies of the animals to gauge their reactions and collect data.

The scientists implanted microchips in about 34 king penguins to monitor the animals’ heart rates when they were approached by the rovers, according to CNET. Turns out, they were slightly less stressed (and notably for shorter periods of time) when approached by the rovers than when near humans. The animals were so comfortable around the robotic penguin that adult ones sang to it and the babies huddled around it as if it were their own.

TIME 2014 Election

Early Vote Totals in North Carolina, Iowa Favor Democrats

Early Voting North Carolina Supporters of Sen. Kay Hagan (D-N.C.) outside of a polling place in Asheville.
Supporters of Sen. Kay Hagan (D-N.C.) outside of a polling place in Asheville, N.C., Oct. 28, 2014. Mike Belleme—The New York Times/Redux

Early vote totals show Democrats in some key states hitting the polls early at higher rates than Republicans

For more than 13 million Americans, Election Day has already come and gone. And that means control of the Senate may already have been partially decided, as a little more than three million of those voters were from key swing states, according to data from the United States Election Project.

So who’s winning? Early vote returns won’t tell us who is ahead in some of the country’s most closely-watched races, but they can give us an idea of where things stand heading into Election Day. And for now, both sides have evidence they can point to that shows they’re doing well.

For Democrats, North Carolina looks particularly promising. So far in the Tar Heel state, where voting rights advocates worried a shortened early voting period would have an adverse impact on the election, over 800,000 votes have been cast so far in the election and 47% were cast by registered Democrats. Registered Republicans account for about 32% of North Carolina’s early votes.

According to North Carolina political science professor Michael Bitzer who runs a blog tracking voting and politics, at least 130,000 more votes have been cast in 2014 compared to the same period in 2010, even though there were seven additional days of early voting that year. Also, more unaffiliated voters and black voters who did not participate in 2010 are hitting the polls this election.

Early vote totals in North Carolina could signal good news for incumbent Democrat Sen. Kay Hagan, who is facing a tough challenge from Republican state Rep. Thom Tillis, but Election Day will show whether the flood of early votes from registered Democrats will surpass the expected Republican turnout at the polls.

For Republicans, the best evidence comes from Colorado, which is hosting its first election using all mail-in ballots. Out of the 1,149,745 votes that were cast as of Friday, about 41.3% were from registered Republicans. About 32.2% of votes thus far are from Democrats in the state. A recent report by Colorado Public Radio, however, suggests both parties are working the ground in the final days of the election to ensure voters get their ballots in the mail. The last-ditch effort could help in the state, where the latest round of polling has incumbent Sen. Mark Udall and his Republican challenger Cory Cardner tied.

It must be noted, too, that a couple days out from the election, the most telling results are coming from two states that took two very different approaches to altering the voting process. In an attempt at expanding the voting pool, Colorado sent ballots to voters instead of waiting for them to show up at the polls, while North Carolina enacted what has been called the most restrictive voting law changes in recent history.

And then, there’s Iowa where a recent Reuters poll has Senate hopefuls Democrat Bruce Braley and Republican Joni Ernst neck-in-neck. There, Democratic voters have returned more absentee ballots than Republicans—but just barely. Out of the 391, 772 votes returned, 39% are from registered Republicans and about 41% are from registered Democrats.

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