It’s Election Day (finally, Jesus)! It’s has taken what feels like decades to get here. But, now that it is, there are a slew of concerns to be aware of that are unique to this year, this specific race, and this presidency.
This year because 2020 has handed this country body blows every month with COVID-19, big racism, and an extra large side of unpredictability. This specific race because of the ways this year has played into the Biden & the Trump campaigns’ limitations and innovations(?). But this presidency because of the wholly damaging, dishonest, disinformative way Donald Trump has run as an incumbent president seeking a second term.
This is a look at some of the things that are predicted to be potential issues, some of which have been signaled directly (by the president):
Trump (prematurely) declares victory: This would be about setting the narrative that he’s won, getting his supporters fired up. Listed first, as this is likely to happen first, or at least quite early on.
Regardless of what the actual count is, this raises the energy level and sets the expectation for the only thing they’ll be willing to accept: a Trump win. That way, in the event he doesn’t win, he can claim the count was “rigged,” the election was stolen, and fight it in the media (on every news show), on the ground (in the mouths of his people), and with his lawyers in the courts.
A great example of this happened in 2000 during Florida’s recounts. The Bush campaign famously hit the media with a narrative about their win. They never deviated from that message. Ultimately, Bush claimed the Oval Office after legal and public opinion battles.
To be quite frank, with Trump’s style of campaigning, it’s almost inconceivable that he doesn’t claim victory right away, unless the count is a landslide loss. And even then…
Further listening on how this played out in 2000: Check out the “Florida, Florida, Florida” series on The Chuck Toddcast from NBC News.
Battleground state fuckery lawsuits: There are a dozen+ states that are designated as potentially swinging toward either candidate. The biggest of those states being Florida, Texas, Pennsylvania, Michigan, Wisconsin, Texas, Arizona. All are states where Trump won, beating Hillary Clinton by as few as 10,000 votes in the closest race. This year, these states have polled with Biden and Trump incredibly close, too close to predict. Because of that, the Trump campaign and Republicans have already developed strategies with teams of lawyers to aggressively go after these states and their voters’ already-cast ballots. The closer the margin between the two campaigns in each of these states, the higher the likelihood of a lawsuit to contest the numbers. Trump has made it clear that he intends to fight this election’s results up to the Supreme Court, where he’s now appointed one third of the justices.
They’ve already worked to dismantle post offices and discredit/suppress mail-in ballots. But then, they have also fought to make sure that as many of those ballots as possible won’t be counted. Historically, the more votes counted (mail-in or in-person), the more likely voting tends to skew toward Democrats. So, there will likely be lawsuits filed the night of the election to fight mail-in ballots, provisional/conditional ballots, and all other ballots that weren’t counted on the first night.
An important note: every election has millions of votes that are counted after the first night because of the time it takes to count them, the states’ varying rules on how long a ballot is considered valid, overseas ballots coming in from soldiers abroad and ex-pat citizens, etc.
Further viewing on voter suppression using the law and the courts: Check out “All In: The Fight For Democracy.” It’s free on Amazon Prime until likely sometime after the election.
Claims of voter fraud: Trump and Republicans have spent years claiming that voting needs to be restricted (in ways that consistently result in voter suppression) because of voter fraud. They’ve made these claims in every election and message it as a widespread problem. Trump even claimed that there were 3 million fraudulent votes in the last election, but only those that were cast for Hillary Clinton — not surprisingly, that 3 million votes is the margin by which she won the popular vote. He assembled a commission to investigate the alleged fraud, but they disbanded after two years of not being able to find anything.
The problem with this voter fraud messaging is just that: It’s not based on anything credible because it’s a lie. Studies and reporting on voting in America have repeatedly shown a fraction of one-percent of votes turn out to be fraud. The messaging has been effective though, influencing voters to not believe in voting, encouraging Trump voters to not believe in an outcome that doesn’t see him win, and emboldening Trump supporters to go to the polls and intimidate voters who they don’t perceive to be voting for Trump — which, for the record, is a felony.
Trump will likely lose the popular vote — and likely by a larger margin than the 3 million he lost by to Clinton in 2016. Over a year ago, projections came out that Trump could lose the popular vote by as much as 5 million and still take the electoral college, effectively having even less a share of people vote for him than the last election, but still securing a second term.
Further reading: One of the larger specific voter fraud cases happened in the 2018 midterms election and involved a North Carolina Republican operative pretending to be ballot collectors, and getting rid of them. He’s since been indicted on many, many, many charges.
Turnup unrest: From a news and reporting, as well as a law enforcement, perspective, multiple sources report that federal and local law enforcement agencies have been preparing themselves for multiple scenarios of uprising, riot, and unrest in the streets of cities from coast to coast following the election.
From an anecdotal perspective, every Black person I know is thinking about what the coming days, weeks, and potentially longer might look like. I know different groups have been analyzing the climate, the rhetoric, and the country for months and attempting to anticipate myriad outcomes. Trump has appealed to white supremacist groups and they have responded, making his debate night comment “stand down and stand by” a piece of branding of their support for their leader.
Just this past weekend in Texas, Trump supporters tried to run a Biden/Harris campaign bus off the freeway. It resulted in the cancellation of a Biden campaign rally because of safety concerns. The FBI has opened an investigation, which will almost certainly be the first of many to come.
To put it plainly, things — in the eyes of many Black and brown people — will likely get contentious and ugly following the election.
Further viewing: Journalist Alex Wagner of Showtime’s “The Circus” talks with a group of white Trump supporters who are armed and ready to rise up in the event that Donald Trump doesn’t win re-election because they believe it has to be fraud.
More of the greatest hits we can expect to see replayed:
Voter suppression: In myriad ways, voter suppression is probably the oldest song we sing in American elections. In intimidation, lying, mis/disinformation, gerrymandering, closing polling places, long lines, voter roll purging, signature mis/matching, fighting mail-in ballots, crippling the United States Postal Service from the inside out. All the stops have been built in and will be pulled out to limit how many people will vote.
Trump 2024 campaign launch: Maybe immediately, win or lose. Trump has said he wants to be president forever. He’s said it seriously, curiously, sarcastically and retweetably. Whether or not it’s legal (for a third term) he’ll do it. Reminder: Trump owes $400 million to unknown sources. He also filed his paperwork for re-election the day of his 2017 inauguration. He’d fundraised upwards of $7 million in the first two weeks.
Foreign fuckery interference: All of our intelligence agencies have told us foreign adversaries are, and are expected to, have active plays in trying to interfere in our election. But, we don’t know how much daylight law enforcement has into what that will look like. We’re fortunate enough to have had four years of knowledge and experience looking for these things, but Trump has done little to nothing to safeguard our elections despite countless warnings from our intelligence officials. We’ll have to hope they’ve moved on securing our electoral process without him.
Finally, in what is undoubtedly more than a footnote, but doesn’t get discussed enough:
Downballot Senate races are very important: The Senate stands to possibly be won by Democrats, giving them total control of Congress. It’s quite possible that Democrats win the presidential popular vote but lose the Electoral College. In that case, they take control of Congress, win more seats in the House of Representatives, but don’t win the White House even with more votes being cast for all of them.
Trump Administration pink slips: The president signaled in the final weekend of the campaign that he’d likely fire his top Coronavirus expert, Dr. Anthony Fauci. Reporting has suggested in recent weeks that plenty of other top officials, not seen as loyal enough to Trump, would likely be fired — some even speculating about his Attorney General Bill Barr.
Coronavirus explosion is almost inevitable: With the potential firing of Fauci, it’s unclear what to expect from a re-elected Trump Administration — or even an outgoing Trump Administration. Either way, there’s no change in leadership until noon on Jan. 20. By then, COVID-19 can explode throughout this nation with hundreds of thousands, if not millions, of more cases, hospitalizations, and deaths.
You’ve got the rundown of most of the major things to be aware of. “Most” because there are so many unknowables about how this election will turn out, what Trump will do next, and how we’ll need to prepare.
Hopefully one thing can be for sure, you voted. And whatever happens, we’ll get through it.