As I See It- Last ditch efforts to win the election, go out and vote!

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By Elpidio R. Estioko

This is the last week of the historic November 3, 2020 presidential election!

Both presidential candidates, GOP US President Donald Trump and former Vice President Democrat Joe Biden, are making their cases the last minute. They are moving heaven and earth to win undecided voters, considering that over 71 million voters have already cast their votes, about half of the 2016 votes, either via absentee voting/vote-by-mail or in-person early voting. The numbers show people are engaged and exercising their inherent right to vote and wanted to make sure their votes will never be squandered.

These efforts will make the difference and will perhaps cement the candidates’  hopes for winning the election considering that most voters this time tend to wait for the last moment to be able to make sure their votes are counted! Both the candidates and the voters consider the November election as the most important election in the history of the US!

The Pew Research Center conducted a survey from June 16 to 22, 2020,  as part of its American Trends Panel research, assessing how a random sample of adults in the U.S. viewed the personal traits of Trump and Biden and their positions on major issues.

The survey showed Trump, on the major issues facing Americans’ today, edged out Biden on only one issue…barely: “Make good decisions about economic policy.” We the People gave Biden the advantage on each of the other five major issues: “effectively handle law enforcement and criminal justice issues;” “make good decisions about foreign policy;” “handle the public health impact of the coronavirus outbreak;” “effectively handle race relations;” and “bring the country closer together.”

As to the character of the candidates is concerned, although both men are human with plenty of faults, the survey showed that “Biden is essentially of virtuous character and Trump is far from it… The choice is so clear, in fact, that on November 3 the election is a test of character.

What matter most during the remaining days before the November 3 election is reaching out to voters in key states known as swing state or battleground states. In American politics, “the term swing state or battleground state refers to any state that could reasonably be won by either the Democratic or Republican presidential candidate by a swing in votes. Meanwhile, the states that regularly lean to a single party are known as safe states, as it is generally assumed that one candidate has a base of support from which they can draw a sufficient share of the electorate without significant investment by their campaign.”

According to Wikipedia, “due to the winner-take-all method most states use to determine their presidential electors, candidates often campaign only in competitive states, which is why a select group of states frequently receives a majority of the advertisements and partisan media. The battlegrounds may change in certain election cycles and may be reflected in overall polling, demographics, and the ideological appeal of the nominees.”

Election analytics website FiveThirtyEight in 2016 identified the states of ColoradoFloridaIowaMichiganMinnesotaNevadaNew HampshireNorth CarolinaOhioPennsylvaniaVirginia, and Wisconsin as “perennial” swing states that have regularly seen close contests over the last few presidential campaigns.

In 2020 FiveThirtyEight updated this analysis noting that the electoral map is “undergoing a series of changes,” with some states (e.g. IowaMichiganMaine) swinging sharply rightward, and other “Red” states moving leftward by at least 4 points (e.g. ArizonaGeorgiaTexas). Likewise, analysis of results of the 2018 midterms indicated that the “battleground states” are changing, with Colorado (increasingly Democratic) and Ohio (increasingly Republican) becoming less competitive, and Georgia and Arizona slowly turning into swing states.

So, these are the states the candidates are pouring their money and are urgently visiting to reach out to the voters.

While popular votes are the basis for political surveys in determining who is leading in the race, the electoral college eventually elects the next president and vice president. As a back grounder, Americans need to know the role of the electoral college.

In American presidential elections, according to Wikipedia, “each state is free to decide the method by which its electors to the Electoral College will be chosen. To increase its voting power in the Electoral College system, every state, with the exceptions of Maine and Nebraska, has adopted a winner-take-all system, where the candidate who wins the most popular votes in a state wins all of that state’s electoral votes. The expectation was that the candidates would look after the interests of the states with the most electoral votes. However, in practice, most voters tend not to change party allegiance from one election to the next, leading presidential candidates to concentrate their limited time and resources campaigning in those states that they believe they can swing towards them or stop states from swinging away from them, and not to spend time or resources in states they expect to win or lose. Because of the electoral system, the campaigns are less concerned with increasing a candidate’s national popular vote, tending instead to concentrate on the popular vote only in those states which will provide the electoral votes it needs to win the election, and it is far from unheard of for a candidate to secure sufficient electoral votes while not having won the national popular vote.”

Since most states use a winner-takes-all arrangement, “in which the candidate with the most votes in that state receives all of the state’s electoral votes,” there is a clear incentive to focus almost exclusively on only a few undecided states. In contrast, many states with large populations such as CaliforniaTexas, and New York, have in recent elections been considered “safe” for a particular party, and therefore not a priority for campaign visits and money.

Let us go out and vote! Your votes shape the Electoral College which elects the president and the vice president. While I think this is already an obsolete method, we still need to contend with it because for as long as it is not amended, it will still be the determining vote that will elect the president!

Fellow voters let us go out and vote! Let us exercise our inalienable rights to vote!

(Elpidio R. Estioko was a veteran journalist in the Philippines and an award-winning journalist here in the US. For feedbacks, comments… please email the author at estiokoelpidio@gmail.com).

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