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Election Day in the U.S. brings uncertainty, sees voting records shattered

Last Updated Nov 3, 2020 at 8:53 am PST


Election Day has arrived in the U.S., where Donald Trump and Joe Biden are pushing their different visions for America

Voting records have already been broken in the U.S. with many Americans taking advantage of advance polls

Expert says a few scenarios could play out, but notes importance of battlegrounds like Florida

VANCOUVER (NEWS 1130) – Election Day in the U.S. has arrived as Donald Trump and Joe Biden fight for the White House and two very different visions for America.

Records were set for voter turnout well before the polls opened on Tuesday, with close to 100-million Americans having taken advantage of advance voting opportunities.

This is the biggest advance turnout ever in the U.S., by far, in what has been positioned as the most important election in the country in years.

While polling leading up to the election has favoured Biden, the Democratic challenger, Professor Paul Quirk, who is a specialist in U.S. politics at UBC’s political science department, says Trump should get a boost on Tuesday.

“Early turnout has been quite heavily pro-Democratic, but the expectation is that the Election Day in-person vote will lean more toward Trump,” he tells NEWS 1130. “That has to do with how the parties, what they were recommending. The Democrats, in most places, were recommending early voting and Republicans were not.”

Voting and challenges

On their final full day on the campaign trail, Trump and Biden broke sharply over the mechanics of the vote itself while visiting the most fiercely contested battleground, Pennsylvania.

The Republican president has threatened legal action to block the counting of ballots received after Election Day. If Pennsylvania ballot counting takes several days, as is allowed, Trump claimed without evidence that “cheating can happen like you have never seen.”

When it comes to challenging the results, as has been threatened by Trump, Quirk lays out a couple of scenarios: he says if Biden manages to win Florida, he’s almost guaranteed to win the presidency and the results wouldn’t change even if there was a legal challenge.

On the other hand, with many states having made changes to deal with voting during the COVID-19 pandemic, Quirk says there may be legitimate legal challenges. If it’s close, it could days or longer to sort out final results.

“I think what is useful to think about is how long it will be that such challenges are regarded as relevant, as significant for determining the outcome, and that does depend on how the election goes,” he says.

“There’s thought to be about a 65 to 75 per cent change that Biden and the Democrats will win Florida. If they do that, estimates are that Trump, after that, would have only about a one per cent chance of winning the election, and Florida’s result will actually be announced quite early after polls close there at 5 p.m. (Pacific Standard Time).”

Read more: Editorial: Canada, U.S. as far apart as ever with critical election looming

Quirk notes the Republican Party has increasingly come to have an “overt strategy of trying to make it more difficult to vote,” mainly in areas that are heavily populated by minorities and Democratic supporters.

“Some of their strategies are quite blatant and undisguised, and unlikely to stand up very effectively. The best example of that in this cycle is that Republicans in Texas have tried to get over 120,000 votes that were cast in Harris County — that’s the Houston area — that were cast by drive and drop off at the polling locations … cancelled, that is, not counted. And that’s despite the fact that the Secretary of State of Texas had announced months earlier that that system of collecting votes would be valid,” Quirk explains.

While he notes that effort was thrown out by the state court, Quirk says the federal courts will look at that challenge, although he believes that level will, too, dismiss it.

If you were hoping to find out who the victor is Tuesday night, Quirk says it’s unlikely that result will be known so quickly.

“The process in which the states report their returns and networks make their judgements about who has won in various states, that’s very unlikely to have a definitive result on the election night, and it’s likely to take several days, at least, before that happens.”