Tuesday’s presidential elections in the US are expected to be the most contentious in American history. No modern Presidential elections in the US have been held in such circumstances. The 2020 election is taking place bang in the middle of a pandemic, with over 80,000 new cases the highest in recent times, reported on Sunday. As many as 230,900 Americans have died since the pandemic, according to a New York Times database. The country is witnessing rising racial tensions, an economic downturn triggered by COVID-19, and a nation sharply polarised with Trump supporters ready to challenge a verdict that goes against the President. For the first time Kamala Harris with an Indian connection is running as vice president in the Biden ticket.
Americans are afraid that in case of a close finish, President Donald Trump may refuse to accept the results. Much before polling day, finding himself trailing in the opinion polls, Trump had cleverly talked about the Democrats rigging the elections. "The only way we're going to lose this election is if the election is rigged," Trump told supporters at a rally. He has repeatedly made baseless claims that the polls will be fraudulent. He had time and time again spoken with suspicion about postal ballots. Nor has he made it clear that he will accept a peaceful transfer of power, though his officials later scrambled to correct the President by saying he did not mean that at all. But this Saturday he again said at a rally in Michigan that he would not accept fake results. A battery of lawyers are waiting in the wings to challenge every postal ballot. Joe Biden is also ready with his array of lawyers to ensure that Trump does not overturn a verdict for him in case he is the winner.
There is concern of violence in the aftermath of the elections. According to reports in the American press, the sale of guns has gone up ahead of the polls. Many are anticipating mob violence with reports of shops and businesses boarding up on fears of large scale looting. In case of a close election, a long contentious struggle is likely to follow. And the scale is expected to be much bigger than in the 2000 polls, when recounting in Florida finally led to Democratic candidate Al Gore withdrawing to give way for George Bush. Some Democrats still believe that George Bush ``stole the elections’’ from Al Gore in 2000.
President Trump who has been complaining of mail-in ballots, that many have opted for thanks to the pandemic, once again cast doubts on its veracity. Campaigning in Pennsylvania, in the closing weekend of the polls, Trump said: “I think it is a terrible thing when ballots can be collected after an election. I think it is a terrible thing when people or states are allowed to tabulate ballots for a long period of time after the election is over because it can only lead to one thing,” Trump said. “We are going in the night of — as soon as the election is over — we are going in with our lawyers,” he added.
Winning the national popular vote is not enough to get to the White House. If the popular vote got you the presidency, Hillary Clinton would have sailed through in 2016. She polled three million more votes than Donald Trump. In 2000, Al Gore got half a million more popular votes than George W.Bush. What is crucial in the complicated US system is to win 270 of the 538 electoral college votes.
An electoral college is a number of people chosen by each state to vote for the President, this is over and above the one man, one vote criteria which is the hallmark of all modern democracies. The strength of the electoral college varies according to the population. The battleground states for 2020 are the ones with large electoral collages. These are Florida with 29, Pennsylvania with 20, Michigan with 16, North Carolina 15, and Wisconsin 10. According to a New York Times and Siena College poll, Joe Biden is ahead of President Trump in Wisconsin, Pennsylvania, and Florida, giving the Democrat a sharp lead over the sitting president.
However not many believe in opinion polls considering that nearly all of the major pollsters called Hillary Clinton the winner in 2016. No one can foresee which way electoral college votes go. Voting this year is going to see an unprecedented surge with an extremely high voter turnout, as many believe the battle is for the soul of America. Last-minute surprises cannot be ruled out.
In 2016, Robert Cahaly of the Trafalgar Group was the only pollster who correctly called Donald Trump the winner. Cahaly is said to use unorthodox methods to conduct his survey and is able to catch the undercounted voters that traditional pollsters overlook. Once again, Cahaly has said that Donald Trump will win the Presidency.
The entire world is watching with interest as the world’s only superpower and its oldest democracy go to vote.