Even with the majority of votes already in and a possible outcome resolving in the offing, there is no end in sight to the drama surrounding America’s presidential election. So where do we stand?
As of Friday morning, Democrat Joseph R. Biden has secured 253 out of the 270 electoral votes he needs in order to win the presidency. As expected, the race now hinges on results coming in from a handful of states that will decide the outcome in the election: Arizona, Georgia, Nevada, North Carolina, and Pennsylvania. In all of these states, the gap between the candidates in razor-thin, and a mere few thousand votes could determine who gets to occupy the Oval Office.
As of this reporting, Biden has maintained his lead in Nevada and Arizona, although his advantage in the latter has shrunk as more mail-in ballots were counted. Yet, with the exception of Arizona, the majority of mail-in ballots (which in Pennsylvania and some Georgia counties are counted later in the process) favour Biden. This explains his sudden lead in both Pennsylvania and traditionally-Republican Georgia, where a Democrat has not been elected for president since Bill Clinton in 1992. Biden’s edge in all of these states grants him more than one path to 270, and dims Trump’s prospects for re-election.
As Biden inched his way closer to the presidency over the last few days, President Trump, backed by his inner circle and avid supporters, has ratcheted up his baseless claims that a grand conspiracy to overthrow him is taking place and that the electoral process in states where he’s projected to lose (or has already lost) is fraudulent. Are we surprised?
Trump’s attack on the elections began months ago, as he proclaimed, without a shred of evidence, that mail-in ballots (which are being used primarily by Democrats as a precaution against COVID-19) are being tampered with in order to fraudulently elect Biden. Trump and his allies are now calling out states where votes that were mailed out up until Election Day but received a few days later due to COVID-19 related delays in the Post Office were still counted. While under the US Constitution each state has the right to determine its own election process and deadline for accepting ballots, the president nonetheless declared these votes illegal and called for the counting to stop (except for in Arizona, where mail-in ballots that arrived late proved to lean Republican).
On the day after the election, Trump prematurely declared victory on Twitter and claimed that the election is being stolen from him. Such sentiments were echoed by some of his closest allies and family members. This has sparked a wave of protests by Trump supporters across the country who now believe that a Trump defeat could only result from fraud. In a tweet posted Thursday, President Trump’s son, Donald Jr., called for his dad to go “to total war” over the election results. In a speech from the White House earlier this week, Trump indicated that he will not concede, and will seek intervention from the courts.
As of now, few Republican leaders came out in support of Trump’s allegations, but that could change should they feel that a significant enough portion of the public in their districts supports the narrative promulgated by Trump.
Trump has filed multiple lawsuits in states where he lost his advantage over Biden. In most of these cases, Trump seeks to challenge the validity of mail-in ballots that arrived after 3 November, as well as some paltry technicalities that he seeks to present as indicative of fraudulent or illegal practices favouring Biden.
Of all the lawsuits filed by the Trump campaign, the one concerning Pennsylvania could make its way up to the Supreme Court in the coming days or weeks. In this particular case, Trump is joining Pennsylvania Republican lawmakers in attacking a decision by the Supreme Court of the State of Pennsylvania to extend the deadline for accepting mail-in ballots sent out before Election Day by three days. The plaintiffs claim that the Court overstepped its authority by intervening in the electoral process, which falls within the jurisdiction of the state’s legislative branch.
The case was already brought before the Supreme Court prior to the elections, but ended in a 4-4 tie, with the Chief Justice siding with the Court’s liberal wing in rejecting Republicans’ claims. Now, with the addition of Amy Coney Barret to the bench, Pennsylvania Republicans and Trump may just procure the missing vote they need, should the case be heard again.
While the Supreme Court is not endowed with the ability to install presidents, it can, as it did in Florida in 2000 with Bush versus Gore, determine that state courts encroached on the legislative branch in their rulings concerning elections and effectively invalidate the results influenced by the former’s intervention. In the case of Pennsylvania, the Supreme Court could rule that the state’s Supreme Court had no authority to extend the deadline to accept ballots and thus potentially disqualify thousands upon thousands of votes. Should the election hinge solely on the commonwealth of Pennsylvania, such a decision by the Supreme Court could change the outcome of the election and usher in four more years of Trump.
The Court is currently deliberating on whether or not to hear the case.
In a recent profile titled Democracy by mail, the New York Times highlighted the incredible challenges facing US Postal Service (USPS) workers to keep the gears of democracy turning. In other words, America has never needed its postal workers more, and they’ve certainly been hammering away. This year, more than ever, we need to thank America’s postal workers for their work in the US election.
In the lead-up to yesterday’s election, more than 90 million voters had received mail-in ballots, with 60 million returning their votes before Election Day. The USPS, one of America’s largest employers with a workforce of nearly 500,000 career employees has, without a doubt, played a crucial part in the 2020 US presidential election.
The USPS, which goes by the motto ‘Neither snow nor rain nor heat nor gloom of night’ had to add the COVID-19 pandemic to its list, which, to this day, resulted in thousands of postal workers testing positive for coronavirus and at least 101 of them dying from it.
In the spring, as the virus spread, letter carriers began hauling bulky deliveries of toilet paper and bottled water. Clerks had to receive mail from behind transparent dividers, postal facilities had to be regularly sprayed with disinfectant and letter carriers had to keep their distance from customers they’ve known for years.
Shortly after that came the quarantines. A worker’s family member or friend would test positive, and they would be out of commission. “This summer, under the newly installed postmaster general, Louis DeJoy, the agency moved to curtail overtime and get rid of sorting equipment, desisting only after a public outcry and accusations of political motivation,” writes the New York Times. Then preparations for the upcoming election started.
The USPS had to implement extraordinary measures for the election. Mail-in ballots had to be dropped in a blue box or handed to a carrier, then separated from regular mail, taken to a plant and sorted and delivered to the nearest election office.
Towards the end of September, a directive came down from headquarters in Washington. Starting eight days before the election, local post-office managers had to accelerate the movement of ballots. Postal workers had to deliver them on Sundays if need be, forcing the people who keep post offices running to work 12, 14 or even 16 hours a day. Of course, all logistics were further complicated by different state-by-state rules.
In Florida (a swing state with many ageing residents, who are particularly vulnerable to COVID-19), 6 million people requested mail ballots, and more than 4.6 million sent them back. For postal workers there, shepherding the votes became the latest challenge in an already exhausting year.
This amount of work was quickly crushed by the current administration’s attempt to discredit mail-in votes, which led many voters to question the process. “Postal workers bristle at the accusation that they might be mishandling citizens’ ballots,” writes the New York Times. “Their mandate is to uphold what they call their universal service obligation, a commitment to deliver mail to and from every part of America.”
Postal workers have now found their work to be politicised. Customers will hand over their ballots, then linger at the counter with insistent questions, worried their ballot might end up getting lost somewhere. In response, postal workers say they’re treating mail like gold.
“In an election testing the foundation of democracy, none of this could have happened without the postal workers on the ground,” writes the New York Times. For tens of millions of voters, postal workers have allowed them to have a say in the 2020 US presidential election, safely while they risked their lives.