Will the 2020 election be as chaotic and unpredictable as the last nearly four years of the presidency of Donald Trump? Many are fearful that Nov. 3 could be an election day that could end in turmoil. President Trump has threatened to roll out an army of poll watchers. According to recent news reports, the Trump campaign has established what it says is a 50,000-plus army of volunteer observers across an array of battleground states like North Carolina and Pennsylvania, where operations are already underway.
Poll watchers monitor everything from voting machines to the processing of ballots to checking voter identification. They are not permitted to interact directly with voters, but, depending on local regulations, they can relay problems to local election officials or campaign higher-ups.
According to Democracy Now, armed Trump poll watchers have already been deployed to Democratic precincts. The recent appearance of chanting, disruptive Trump supporters outside an early voting site in Fairfax County, Virginia, has also raised alarms.
The possibility of election night chaos is fueled by allegations of election fraud based on mail-in ballots. One possible scenario is called the “red mirage.” The Guardian reports, “Opinion polls show that Democrats are far more likely to use mail-in voting, whereas Republicans tend to favor queuing up on election day. The battleground states of Michigan, Pennsylvania, and Wisconsin all prohibit election officials from beginning to process mail-in votes until election day. Thus, Republicans votes are likely to be counted first, leading to warnings of an election night ‘red mirage’ in which Trump appears to build big early leads.”
There is a fear, the article noted, that Mr. Trump could seize that initial narrative of a lead, declare a premature victory then as votes from mail-in ballots are counted and former Vice-President Joe Biden possibly takes the lead and wins, Mr. Trump can claim the election was “stolen” from him.
President Trump has already sowed the seed spending months spreading disinformation and discrediting what he calls “the greatest rigged election in history,” reports The Guardian.
Election experts, former lawmakers, political strategists, legal scholars, and historians indicate there are widespread fears of this nightmare scenario in November, where Mr. Trump’s norm-breaking behavior— coupled with the unprecedented challenges of pandemic-era voting—test the limits of American democracy and plunge the country into a constitutional crisis.
Moe Vela, a strategist who is a former senior adviser to Mr. Biden at the White House, told The Guardian: “The victory needs to be so resounding that it’s a message that cannot be interpreted in any other way. The stronger the outcome is in favor of Joe Biden, the less chance that Trump will have to make his argument. But I do fear he will go down kicking and screaming.”
Black voter participation
Interviews conducted by The Final Call indicate Black voters are driven most, not by Mr. Biden’s candidacy, but by hostility for Mr. Trump and concerns over systemic racism and police brutality evidenced by the killings of Breonna Taylor in Louisville, George Floyd in Minneapolis and the shooting that left Jacob Blake paralyzed in Kenosha, Wisc.
Cleveland City Councilman Basheer Jones, the first Muslim councilperson in that city’s history, told The Final Call overall in the Black community; there is support for Mr. Biden and his running mate, Senator Kamala Harris.
“A lot of that has to do with being anti-Trump and not real love and affection for Biden,” he said. “The feeling in the community is Trump, and anything associated with him represents racism. I’m just not sure about any real excitement. You certainly can’t compare it to (Barack) Obama. People appear more focused on local elections,” he said. “Our issues have to do with criminal justice, poverty, economic opportunity, environmental issues, education, policing. As for Biden’s theme of ‘Building Back Better,’ it is something that is going to have to be proved to us. Many in the Black community, like Ice Cube, feel the Democratic Party has taken our vote for granted. If the Republicans were not so racist, they could get the Black vote. Let’s face it; Black people are conservative; but the Republican Party’s persona of racism won’t allow Black folk to make that move,” Councilman Jones observed.
James Dickerson, a retired government social worker, told The Final Call that he felt excitement in the race. There is going to be an increase in the Black vote with early voting and mail-in ballots, he predicted. He stated he had already cast his ballot.
“People are tired of Donald Trump, and they’re very anxious to get him out of there, and no doubt Biden is the choice,” he said.
“This election is about peace. People are tired of all this hyped-up stuff going on. The election is threefold: getting rid of Trump, effectively managing the virus and reclaiming the souls of good White people,” Mr. Dickerson said.
Black Americans have the power to decide who the next president will be as a critical voting bloc many pundits argue. The larger question is, will they come out and vote?
According to the Pew Research Center, “Black voter turnout declined in the last presidential polls in 2016 for the first time in 20 years in a presidential election, falling to 59.6 percent after reaching a record high 66.6 percent in 2012 the year President Obama won his second term in office.”
According to data from the U.S. Census Bureau, 137.5 million Americans voted in 2016. The number of Black voters declined, falling by about 765,000 to 16.4 million in 2016.
“The Trump presidency was a theory in 2016, and the deadly nature of the Trump presidency is a reality in 2020,” said Michigan Lt. Gov. Garlin Gilchrist, a Detroit native and top Biden surrogate, according to published reports. “In our Black communities, we realize how urgent this moment is, and Joe Biden and Kamala Harris know how urgent this moment is, and that’s why they’ve been speaking with such moral clarity about what the stakes are, and I think that’s ultimately going to be what drives that turnout up.”
And what will be the issues, and there are many, that drives turnout? “So as a ward leader, I’m talking to other committee people, I do see a level of excitement,” Philadelphia City Council member Kenyatta Johnson told The Final Call. “We just had a pop up on voter registration and get out the vote rally in Point Breeze, which was very, very enthusiastic as relates to people’s interest in the community,” he said.
“Black people respond to candidates who present multi-issues. Black voters are sophisticated. You know, for me, when you talk about multiple issues, as a community, we have radically different issues that have an impact on our community,” Councilmember Johnson added.
“Many of our seniors may identify our issues around social security; young people have a strong interest around the issue of criminal justice reform, police brutality, education. And so yes, we do respond to candidates that take a diverse approach.”
Jannie Blackwell, chair of the Philadelphia Democratic Ward Leaders of Color and vice-chair of the Philadelphia Democratic Party, told The Final Call there would be a massive Black voter turnout. “People are excited about having the opportunities to vote,” she said. “That’s why they are voting early, and the lines are long. Trump and (Vice-President Mike) Pence are frightened about voting at the post office and satellite centers. I get calls every day about voting or voters who don’t want to lose the opportunity to vote,” she said.
“The Black community has a sense of urgency in this election; and I think that’s why we have all these lines, why people are so excited, and why people can’t wait until election day comes. I think it’s going to be overwhelming,” Chairperson Blackwell said.
“Black turnout could be affected by the candidates’ positions on high-salience issues. Black Americans are consistently more likely than White Americans to mention that the number one problem facing the nation is race and racism,” writes Gallup. “Recent polling by NPR/PBS NewsHour/Marist shows that 84 percent of Black registered voters say Biden can better handle race relations, compared with 9 percent who choose Trump,” the D.C.-based opinion poll and analytics company noted.
“This perceptual edge provides Biden (and Harris) with an opportunity to increase Black voter turnout by emphasizing the policy actions and initiatives they would take to improve racial inequities, particularly by contrasting their approach with Trump’s emphasis on restraining race protests from a law-and-order perspective,” Gallup noted.
“Trump’s presidential campaign emphasizes his positive stewardship of the economy, and this is an issue on which he consistently does better in polling against Biden than on other issues. But Black Americans overwhelmingly identify with or lean toward the Democratic Party, and Democrats are much more negative than Republicans about the economy. How much these negative views of the nation’s economic situation could motivate Black Americans to turn out and vote for a change in presidential leadership is unknown at this point,” Gallup concludes.
Electoral politics at play
For many U.S. voters, what is unknown and sometimes confusing is that you are actually voting for electors on election day when you cast your presidential ballot. Every state gets at least three electoral votes. A state’s number of electors is the same as the total number of its senators and congressional representatives. Seven states have a minimum of three electors. This comprises the Electoral College which determines the presidency, not the popular vote. The Electoral College map and math are crucial. There are 14 key states the Trump and Biden campaigns are focusing on. The six big swing states are Michigan, Wisconsin, Pennsylvania, Arizona, Florida, and North Carolina. These states are most likely to determine the presidential election outcome this year. This is where sizeable Black turnout comes into play and the election outcome decided. The magic number of Electoral College votes for the win is 270.
Currently, Mr. Biden holds a formidable lead at over 90 percent among Black voters over Mr. Trump. Pew Research reports that Black turnout dropped seven percent to 60 percent in the 2016 election hurting Hillary Clinton’s chances in the swing states of Wisconsin, Michigan, and Pennsylvania. This drop in the Black vote cost her the Electoral College and the presidency even though she won the popular vote.
According to a recent article published in VOX, what can give Mr. Trump more of an edge is the Electoral College increases not just the weight of voters in swing states but the weight of voters of certain ethnicities—based on their distribution across the states.
“White voters are in the majority. But swing states make them an outsized majority,” Vox reports. “We still find that the Electoral College amplifies the White vote. We find that, based on the current distribution of voters of different ethnicities across states, and particularly within swing states, the Electoral College amplifies the power of White voters by a substantial amount.”