Democracy in a Pandemic

By Alex Ganchiff, Staff Writer

The 2020 election is likely to be the most consequential of our lifetimes, with tensions on both sides reaching record highs. What was already going to be a highly contested result has already had doubt cast on it by President Donald Trump, who dismisses the concept of mail-in voting as illegitimate and subject to fraud, although it is worth noting that many states have used mail-in voting for years and there is negligible evidence of fraudulent behavior.

First, what’s on the ballot in 2020? The Presidential race is at the top, where incumbent Republican President Donald Trump will take on the presumptive Democratic nominee Joe Biden, who made it through a tough primary battle. Vermont Senator Bernie Sanders looked poised to become the nominee after a close loss to Pete Buttigieg in Iowa and wins in New Hampshire and Nevada, but Biden came roaring back to win by a landslide in South Carolina, secure the endorsements of Buttigieg and Amy Klobuchar, and send Sanders home by winning 10 of 14 Super Tuesday states.

Biden comes into the General Election battle with a sizable polling lead, about three times that of Secretary Hillary Clinton’s lead in June of 2016, and hasn’t trailed in any of the last 140+ national polls. He also leads in numerous states that Trump won in 2016, including Michigan, Pennsylvania, Wisconsin, Florida, and Arizona, making Joe Biden is a clear favorite heading into November. While Trump defied the polls and the odds four years ago, it will be a much taller task for the incumbent President this time around, not just due to his own unpopularity, but also because Joe Biden isn’t particularly unpopular, as Clinton was in 2016.

But the presidency isn’t all that’s on the ballot. All 435 seats in the House of Representatives are up, and the chamber that the Democrats took control of two years ago is favored to remain in their hands. The Senate could come down to the wire, however. Democrats currently hold 47 Senate seats to the Republican’s 53, but with 35 seats up for election in November, the GOP is playing defense. Democrats are sure to lose their seat in Alabama, but will likely hold on to their only other vulnerable seat in Michigan.

Meanwhile, Republicans are likely to lose in three states (AZ, CO, ME), are running roughly even with Democrats in five GOP-held states (MT, KS, NC, GA special, GA), and could drop one or two more seats elsewhere (KY, IA, TX, SC). If the election were today, Democrats would be favored across the board, just as they were four and two years ago, two elections with extremely different outcomes.

But you can’t hold an election without voting, and voting in a pandemic isn’t going to be easy. President Trump has repeatedly dismissed vote-by-mail as being subject to fraud, and despite the fact that he voted this way in March, a sizable chunk of the population believe that most voting should be held in-person, on election day. A recent poll by Gallup shows that nearly two-in-three Americans support mailing a ballot to every registered voter, but that opinion is split among party lines. Just 40% of Republicans support the measure, and 76% believe that it is subject to more fraud than an in-person election, while Democrats support vote-by-mail by 68 points, 83% to 15%.

This November will be the first time that many current Payton seniors and juniors cast a General Election ballot, and some feel anxious about how they’re going to vote this fall, like Henry Xiao ‘20: “I’m nervous about voting because the current climate is so chaotic, and I don’t know the way I’m going to vote especially because I’m going to a college in a different state.”

Regardless of how voting takes place later this year, you must be registered to vote at https://vote.gov/. If you are pursuing post-secondary plans in a different state next year, you can register to vote in that state or vote by absentee ballot in Illinois.

Categories: Features, Opinion

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