Wednesday, March 18, 2020


Joe Biden won all three primaries yesterday, but in some locations hardly anyone showed up to vote in person:
In a teleconference Tuesday afternoon, Jim Allen, a spokesman for the Chicago Board of Election Commissioners, said that as of 1 p.m., about 126,500 people had voted on Election Day. By comparison, he estimated that about 300,000 people had voted by the same time during the 2016 presidential primary....

“It’s off-year election kind of slow,” [Tom] Bride [of the Peoria County Election Commission] said. He projected about 17 percent of the county’s registered voters would turn out, down from 43 percent in 2016, when both parties had competitive presidential contests.
However, early and mail-in voting made up for the shortfall, for the most part.
... Florida ... saw lower Election Day turnout from 2016, as its older and more vulnerable population—about a quarter of Florida residents are over 65—cast their ballots early, with total votes projected to come close to 2016's 1.73 million, according to the Miami Herald.

Early and mail-in voting for Illinois hit new records for a presidential primary, but turnout was down significantly, less than half of 2016 and possibly lower than 2012, in part due to around 200 Chicago locations being changed and opening late in the morning....

Arizona also experienced poll location closures due to the pandemic....

Still, the county's recorder Adrian Fontes told the New York Times that the number of early voting ballots exceeded the total number of votes in the 2016 Democratic primary, making way for ... possibly the highest turnout for a presidential primary in the state.
Democrats have been counting on higher-than-average voter enthusiasm to win the election for them in November. In a non-coronavirus world, that would be a solid strategy. But what if the crisis doesn't abate by November, or abates and then resurges in the cooler weather?

Remember, every poll shows that Republican voters are less worried about the virus than Democrats are. Are Republicans more likely to vote in November as a result?

A national response to this will be impossible. Mitch McConnell cares about winning, not democracy. If he sees a GOP advantage in fear of voting, he'll want to preserve that advantage. He'll stand in the way of any legislation in Congress to encourage safer forms of voting.

The same is likely to be true in purple states such as Wisconsin, Georgia, Florida, and North Carolina -- Republicans will cynically work to make voting by mail and early voting harder, not easier.

I realize that many of you believe that Trump will simply cancel the election. I've read explanations of why this can't happen, and I believe them up to a point -- the law simply doesn't permit the president to do this. However, I have no faith whatsoever in the Federalist Society judiciary's commitment to the rule of law. If it becomes an unambiguous goal of the conservative movement to cancel the election and it can plausibly be done, they'll do it -- remember, most of the public doesn't know that a cancellation would be unlawful.

But I don't think cancellation will be seen as unambiguously desirable by the right. The president will undoubtedly believe he can win.

He'll have a point. No matter what happens between now and November -- even if it's a million dead and a severe recession -- the race between Trump and Biden will still be close. Literally nothing will make Trump's base turn away from him, and while not every Trump supporter is a MAGA cultist, the percentage of voters who will always vote against a Democrat brings Trump's unmovable, unpersuadable base to well over 40% of the electorate. After his experience in 2016, Trump will continue to believe he can win unless Biden has a consistent polling lead in the double digits -- which is highly unlikely.

So we'll have the election -- and if coronavirus is still a widespread fear, the GOP will try to game it. I hope Democrats know how to turn out the vote under these circumstances.

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