Within 10 days of the election, more than 52 million Americans have already voted. A record.
But the stakes go beyond the presidential election alone: during the same vote, a large number of ballots take place, at the federal, federated, local, municipal levels to appoint sheriffs, prosecutors, coroners, judges (small claims, de courts of appeals, state supreme courts), road engineers, treasurers, county commissioners, school commissioners, mayors, city councilors, state legislators, federal officials and senators, as well as referendums , constitutional amendments, revocation or repeal votes… The list is long. This explains why, sometimes, a single ballot ends up occupying four double-sided legal size sheets, and that some studies consider this complexity to be one of the obstacles that limit accessibility to voting.
Each of these ballots obviously has a determining role. Indeed, the leeway of the president (new or re-elected) from January 20 will largely depend on his political majority in Congress, and in particular in the Senate. There is also a close connection between the different races: candidates for other federal and federated levels will benefit (or suffer) from the wave generated by the winner of the presidential election. We are talking about the president’s “basques” effect. This is the reason why, while being cautious, one can imagine that a significant victory of Biden could also take some states, notably as regards the Senate – thus the undisputed Lindsey Graham in North Carolina. Sud begins to feel his opponent blow his neck. Timidly, some pollsters are hinting that a blue wave could sweep the United States away.
Even admitting that Americans’ fed-up is big enough to win, which other pollsters who got it right in 2016 dispute, there are still several obstacles that could derail the Democratic train.
First, the apparent stability of the electorate. The vast majority of Americans say they have made their choice, so only a handful of undecided ones remain. Only 2% would still hesitate (according to an NPR-Marist University poll). Quite a change from 2016. However, the new registrations on the electoral rolls could distort the outlook. On the one hand, 20 states plus the District of Columbia allow voter registration until election day itself – an insignificant variable, but last-minute mobilization is still possible. On the other hand, some pollsters point to the existence of silent Trumpists, and the colossal work of Republican teams to mobilize and register new voters.
Then, the validation of the bulletins. Given their complexity, errors in voting are frequent. With significant variation from state to state, ballot invalidation may be due to the fact that the signatures in the postal ballot are not completely identical to those recorded, or that the signature of the ballot is missing. a witness, or because the voter checked two boxes for the same election – which led to invalidate 19,000 ballots in Florida in 2000. However, certain categories of voters more frequently see their ballots rejected, as shown studies from the Brennan Center or more recently a survey from New York Times : Young voters and Hispanic and African American minorities are two to five times more likely to have their ballot rejected. Which, a priori, is detrimental to the Democratic electorate.
Finally, foreign interference. As in 2016, foray into electoral bases and voting machines is a technique used by both the Russians and now the Iranians. More sophisticated than in 2016, the dissemination of misinformation aims to fuel cynicism: from the perspective of outside powers, a divided country is weaker on the international stage. Often mentioned by the intelligence services in recent months, this interference even led the national director of intelligence to hold a press conference last Wednesday. However, the Iranian tree he brandished (Iran reportedly sent intimidating emails to Democratic voters as the Proud Boys) could hide a Russian forest.
A joint report by the FBI and the CIA tracing multiple Russian intrusions into state and local computer systems is worrying: in the hubbub of information collected, a possible plan of massive Russian disruption is emerging. This is how Richard Hasen, a specialist in electoral law, puts forward a Ukrainian-style scenario, targeting the electricity networks of large cities on election night. Or the use of artificial intelligence targeting electoral machines in specific counties, the very ones that could, in the event of a close election, tilt the result.
Despite everything, we should perhaps underline the determination of the voters and their willingness to participate, whatever the cost of the democratic exercise. Maybe everything could end up going well …