Notes on the Eve of the Election

Over the last few days, I’ve heard a few people suggest that we should be well stocked with provisions for the rest of the week, so that we won’t have to go out if there’s massive rioting over the election.  Some business owners have prepared by boarding up their storefronts.  There may or may not be civil war raging in the streets this week, but at minimum, it does appear that there will be some court battles.  What also appears clear is that we are not going to know for certain Tuesday night, or even any time Wednesday, who is going to be our president for the next four years, because the key states of Michigan, Wisconsin, and Pennsylvania will have the counting of the mail-in ballots going on for the next several days.  (On the other hand, Florida may have its results sooner, and if we find out that Biden has won Florida, that will be a reasonably good sign that he has won the election.)  It may take even longer–maybe even a lot longer–for us to know which party will have the majority in the Senate.

Meanwhile, a few things have already started heating up.

Today (Monday) in Texas, a group of Republicans tried unsuccessfully to persuade a federal district court judge to invalidate 170,000 ballots that had been cast through a drive-through system in a predominately Democratic county.  Now, it’s good news that the judge did not grant their request, but a couple of things need to be noted.  First, Republicans were trying to get a large number of votes thrown out, votes that had been cast in good faith by citizens who were following procedures that state officials had told them were safe.  Secondly, before the judge made his ruling, there was some discussion of whether the fact that this judge was a conservative Republican might influence his decision.  It didn’t, but there is at least the fear among some people that judges appointed by a president of a particular party will give that party everything it wants.  And I should also take note that the judge did grant the Republicans’ request to have the records preserved of which votes were cast through that drive-through method, in case of appeal, which means the case may not be entirely closed.  (Article in Politico, November 2, 2020.)  In any case, there are likely to be battles in court this week (and maybe after) over which ballots are and aren’t valid.  It is, of course, the Republicans who see fraud in mail-in voting and in delayed counting of votes.

There may also be some attempts at voter intimidation on Election Day.  Trump has encouraged his supporters to “watch” the polls, and many interpret that as a call to make trouble.  This past Saturday, Trump supporters surrounded a Biden/Harris campaign bus in Texas, making it impossible for the campaign to hold a scheduled event in that state that night, and there was also an incident of Trump supporters blocking traffic on a New Jersey highway.  Trump has made clear that he thinks these actions are wonderful.  (Article in The Hill, November 1, 2020.)  He has also given the impression that if the early returns favor him on election night, he’ll declare victory right then and there.  (Will he concede the election Tuesday night if the early returns favor Biden?  Sure, he’ll do that right after the cow jumps over the moon.)

And now a word about the Senate: it’s a tossup.  It could go either way.  For one thing, I am under the impression that there are some Republicans in the swing states who will vote for Biden because they can’t deny that Trump is crazy, but who think the Democratic administration of Biden needs to be kept in check by a Republican Senate.  For that reason, for example, in Michigan, even if Trump wins the state’s electoral vote, we may see Republican challenger John James beat Democratic incumbent Gary Peters for the Senate seat.

Here are some more links you may find helpful, along with the news feed here on this page that’s constantly being updated:

NPR report on Trump and Biden’s prospects, October 30, 2020

NPR report on key Senate races, October 29, 2020

Fivethirtyeight site

Fivethirtyeight on the Senate races

As things unfold, I invite all of my students, past and present, to feel free to post their thoughts and observations on the OpenLab discussion board.


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