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US election goes postal

Republicans and Democrats both edgy over mail-in votes

By Ricky Browne

Everyone knows the US election is on November 3, but no one knows how long it will take before the country — and the world– finds out the results. Many are worried that unless the victor wins by a large margin, the election result will not be clear for at least some days, as the states count the postal votes.

Will the electorate go postal if the result depends on the slow count of a massive number of mail-in votes?

President Trump daces to the Village People’s YMCA on the campaign trail

The pandemic has made this election between President Donald Trump and former Vice President Joe Biden … already one of the most divisive … into one of the most bizarre.

Because of the danger of contracting the disease while standing in a line with hundreds of others, potentially for hours, millions have decided to go the postal route, while millions more have gone in for early voting.

It is believed that at least 90 million have already voted in this election, far more than any previous election.

Biden on the campaign trail

And while that might be seen as fair enough, it means a big problem for anyone thinking that the election can be declared on the day of the actual election. Or it could do, dependng.

Most national polls give Biden a lead of at least eight percentage points which would indicate that Biden should win. However, in the last election in 2016 Hillary Clinton had an even larger lead in national polls, won three million more votes than Trump, but still managed to lose, because she lost the electoral college.

ELECTORAL COLLEGE

Under the US system — as is the case in the Westminster system in a sense — it is not really one man one vote. Each of the 50 states is allocated a number of electoral votes, ranging from 55 for California to just three for smaller states such as Wisconsin. The voter is in effect voting for their candidate’s elector to vote in the Electoral College.

The electoral votes for each state (plus DC). Likely Republican states are in red, likely Democrat states are blue.

So if Joe Biden wins California (which he is bound to) he will win all of those 55 electoral college votes, and if Trump wins Texas (he is likely to) he will win all of those 39 electoral votes.

There are a total of 538 votes in the electoral college, including votes for the Senate and Washington DC, and the winner has to get at least 270 electoral votes to be victorious.

To win the presidency, it is unimportant who wins more votes overall. They need to win the majority of the electoral college votes.

This is similar in a way to the Westminster system, though the voter doesn’t vote for the leader, but rather for the representative for their seat. But like the Electoral College, although the representative wins the seat by having a majority of votes, the political party wins the election not by the number of votes they get, but by the number of seats they win. That party then chooses who will lead them as Prime Minister.

So while many are confident that based on the national polls Biden will win effortlessly, others think that Trump could win yet again by winning those battleground states, and therefore winning more than 270 electoral votes.

Outside of being behind in the national polls, Trump does appear to have a larger following in other areas.

POLITICAL RALLIES

If the size of political rallies was something to consider, Trump is way ahead.

Trump at a campaign rally

Trump, seemingly unconcerned over worries of lack of social distancing, has rallies of more than 50,000 people, and has as many as four rallies in a day. In comparison,

Biden at one of his rallies

Biden has far fewer, and they tend to be in car parks, with perhaps 100 cars in attendance.

TWITTER

And on Twitter, the President has maximised that platform as a way to speak directly to the people. He has some 63 million followers on Twitter, compared to about 11 million for Biden.

Twitter is key

On his way to a rally in North Carolina on Monday Trump tweeted: “Texas, Pennsylvania: Biden is against Second Amendment and Fracking. Please remember!” The tweet was liked by 73,300 people and was retweeted 16,200 times.

Biden was making tweets as well. Around the same time he tweeted: “We have one shot. One opportunity. One moment. Don’t miss the chance — vote.” The tweet was liked by 43,800 people and was retweeted 12,200 times.

So, while Trump may be behind in the polls, he did appear to be winning on Twitter. As another indicator, trending on Twitter on the day before the election was the hashtag #Trump2020LandslideVictory.

But polls, Twitter and rallies and even votes don’t matter. In the end it is the electoral votes, and winning the battleground states. If the result is close, that may well mean counting the postal votes, and hoping that the electorate will not itself go postal while that slow count continues.

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