A long line of voters wait to cast their ballots at the Fairfax County Government Center in Fairfax, Virginia, for the November presidential election on Friday, the first day of early voting in the state. Photo: John McDonnell/The Washington Post via Getty Images

In some parts of Virginia, people waited in line up to four hours to cast their ballots on the first day of early voting, according to the Washington Post.

The big picture: The COVID-19 pandemic seems to already have an impact on how people cast their votes this election season. As many as 80 million Americans are expected to vote early, by mail or in person, Tom Bonier, CEO of TargetSmart, a Democratic political data firm, told Axios in August.

  • Many of the voters who spoke with the Post said they planned to vote for Joe Biden.
  • Because of the pandemic, more people could vote-by-mail. However, President Trump has consistently railed against vote-by-mail and made unsubstantiated accusations that mailed ballots will lead to rampant voter fraud.
  • "I don't want my vote to be thrown away," Adam Pierre told the Post, saying he feared Trump undermining the process and that it was better to vote in person.

Voters were able to cast their ballots beginning Friday in four states: Virginia, South Dakota, Wyoming and Minnesota.

Voters wait in line in Arlington, Virginia. Photo by Andrew Caballero-Reynolds/AFP via Getty Images
Voters wearing face masks wait in line for the Loudoun County. Photo By Bill Clark/CQ-Roll Call.
Voters wait in line to cast their ballot at an early voting location in Fairfax, Virginia. Photo by ANDREW CABALLERO-REYNOLDS/AFP via Getty Images.
Voters wait in line at an early voting location in Fairfax, Virginia. Photo by ANDREW CABALLERO-REYNOLDS/AFP via Getty Images.
Sen. Mark Warner, D-Va., greets constituents before casting his ballot during early voting. Photo By Tom Williams/CQ-Roll Call, Inc via Getty Images.

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Pennsylvania Supreme Court rules mail-in ballots can't be rejected for mismatched signatures

Photo: Mark Makela/Getty Images

The Pennsylvania Supreme Court ruled unanimously on Friday that election officials cannot reject a mailed-in ballot because a voter’s signature may not resemble the one on their registration form.

Why it matters: The decision comes as a win for voting rights advocates and Democrats who say the signature disqualification rule can disenfranchise voters. In 2016, it was the top reason that ballots were rejected, with 28% of disqualified ballots flagged for non-matching signatures, according to the Election Assistance Commission.

Updated Oct 20, 2020 - Axios Events

Watch: A conversation on America's voting barriers

On Tuesday, October 23, Axios' Sara Kehaulani Goo, Margaret Talev, and Alexi McCammond hosted a virtual event on barriers to voting access across the country, featuring Southwest Voter Registration Education Project President Lydia Camarillo, U.S. Election Assistance Commission Chairman Benjamin Hovland, Florida Rights Restoration Coalition President Desmond Meade and "The West Wing" actors Janel Moloney and Richard Schiff.

Benjamin Hovland unpacked how to vote safely during this unprecedented year and highlighted the uptick in mail-in ballots and early voting.

  • On a notable increase in early ballots being cast: "We're seeing a surge in early in-person voting...We're already at around 30 million Americans that have already voted in the 2020 election, which is pretty remarkable."
  • On the impact of the pandemic on mail-in ballots: "About 25% of Americans vote by mail in a normal year, or in 2016. So we're going to see an increase probably closer to half."

Lydia Camarillo discussed the importance of the Latino electorate in American elections.

  • The impact on November's election: "I think that the Latino electorate can be the deciding factor in this election — in partnership with other groups like the Black community, the Muslim community, Asian American community and progressives. They will decide the election."

Desmond Meade, who helped lead the 2018 fight for Amendment 4 in Florida, unpacked the expansion of voting rights and Florida's impact on similar state-level policy changes across the country.

  • On restoring felon rights: "This thing has caught on like a wildfire. All across this country, people are really standing up. Because America is a nation of second chances. And it's showing up right now in a major way."

Janel Moloney and Richard Schiff discussed the recent "The West Wing" episode on HBO Max and the experience of reuniting as an ensemble cast.

  • Richard Schiff on the meaning of the episode: "It's a rare thing in this day and age around the world to have the privilege to vote and the right to vote. And we should be very careful to not let it be extinguished and that this episode addresses that."

Axios Vice President of Event Kristin Burkhalter hosted a View from the Top segment with Lyft Head of Policy Engagement and Strategic Partnerships Heather Foster who discussed how transportation plays a critical role in voting access.

  • "We took a look at the statistics that came out of 2016, and it was estimated at the time that more than 15 million eligible voters did not go to the polls because they lacked a way to get there."

This event was the first in a yearlong series called Hard Truths, where we'll be discussing the wide ranging impact of systemic racism in America. Read our deep dive on race and voting here.

Thank you Lyft for sponsoring this event.

In photos: Washington state crews destroy first murder hornets nest in U.S.

Washington State Department of Agriculture workers, illuminated by red lamps, vacuum a nest of Asian giant hornets from a tree in Blaine, Washington, on Saturday. Photo: Elaine Thompson/Pool/AFP via Getty Images

Heavily protected crews on Saturday dismantled the first Asian giant hornet nest found in the U.S., the Washington State Department of Agriculture (WSDA) confirmed in a statement declaring: "Got 'em."

The big picture: The invasive species commonly referred to as the "murder hornet," typically doesn't harm humans unless provoked, though it has been known to kill people in Japan. The insect poses a major threat to local honeybee populations. But the WSDA said in a statement that the nest removal "appears to have been successful."