From the coronavirus pandemic to the George Floyd protests to double-digit unemployment, 2020 has been an incredibly tempestuous year — and all of those things could affect the outcome of what is sure to be a divisive, often ugly presidential election. Journalist Garrett M. Graff, in a listicle for Politico published on July 24, lays out eight things that could go wrong on Election Day 2020.
“Anxious Democrats are already fretting about nightmare scenarios in which Trump uses emergency powers to cancel the election, calls in the military to ‘oversee’ voting, or even refuses to vacate the White House,” Graff explains. “But conversations with more than a dozen campaign strategists, security officials and election administrators make clear that the most likely picture this fall is something less theatrical — and every bit as destabilizing. November 3, even if it proceeds as scheduled, is likely to bring bureaucratic snafus and foreseeable chaos unfolding on 100 different fronts at once.”
The problems that could plague Election Day 2020, according to Graff, range from “foreign attacks” to “dislocated voters” to “misinformation and disinformation.” Another is “an uncontrolled pandemic.”
“Americans have never voted at a moment when it felt so unsafe just to stand in a group,” Graff writes. “No vaccine for the novel coronavirus will be widely available by November, and the health environment could well be riskier than it is now, as the spread of COVID-19 widens and collides with the traditional flu season…. The virus strikes old people hardest, and most U.S. poll workers are elderly volunteers.”
Other things that could make Election Day 2020 so “chaotic,” Graff writes, range from “a whirlwind of new technology and new processes” to “a drought of funding, causing a flood of delays” to “a famine of voter protections.” The journalist also warns of “declining voter protections, increasing lawsuits and no watchdog.”
“America’s two political parties are now in open warfare over the basic question of who gets to vote and how their rights are supposed to be protected,” Graff notes. “Beyond the Supreme Court’s 2013 rollback of a key part of the Voting Rights Act, the careful legislation that had protected the right to vote since the civil rights movement, this fall also marks the first presidential election since 1980 for which the Republican National Committee will not be bound by a federal consent decree that prohibits its controversial ‘ballot security’ efforts to challenge voters’ credentials…. The Supreme Court’s certainly not going to step in to save voting rights; it sided against easing voting restrictions in four rulings in a row this term.”
#8 on Graff’s listicle is the “unpredictable volcano in the oval office” —that “volcano” being, of course, President Donald Trump.
Graff observes, “In recent months, the president has been tweeting wildly to undermine the very legitimacy of the vote-by-mail procedures being instituted across the country. The president’s campaign against mail-in ballots has been fierce, regular and vociferous; in one tweet, he even suggested, without evidence, that foreign countries would print ‘millions’ of mail-in ballots.”
All things considered, Graff emphasizes, there are many reasons to expect a lot of chaos in November.
“Democrats and Republicans alike are openly wondering now: what happens if Trump refuses to concede?,” Graff warns. “Taken together, experts are anticipating an election in which it’s harder to vote, harder to count the votes, less clear who’s won, and more unpredictable than any election Americans have lived through…. It’s a certainty that voters will complain about lost ballots and whether their votes were ever counted; they’ll hear stories about or endure long lines, unusable machines and literal health risks on Election Day. And even on the smoothest national election days, there are power outages, thunderstorms, fires and random mishaps that could be seized upon in bad faith or by the more conspiratorial to condemn the overall result as unfair or rigged.”