US Elections Marathon
DAY 14 4/11
DAY 5 26/10
Voter Suppression Part 1: Registration Process
by Boran GÖHER & Ümit Altar BİNİCİ
As time progresses towards the U.S elections, a controversial topic almost as old as the United States itself is heating up again. Voter suppression has been a hot topic in America for hundreds of years, and as the United States moves towards one of its most crucial and controversial election years in modern history, the voter suppression debate is back with more fire than ever.
The United States has always had a much more tangible problem of voter suppression than any other western country, to the point that it has become one of the main arguments of those who claim that the U.S is not a real democracy. The issue is complex and multi-faceted, but this article will only be considering the registration element, which is the ability of various people to gain eligibility for the vote. Of course, this paragraph implies that there must be some reason that the situation in the U.S is worse than comparable countries. There is both a historical and constitutional side to this. The historical background of this particular issue is very stacked and significant, but that is beyond the scope of this article. Investigating the constitutional context, however, is very important in order to form a complete understanding of the issue.
The United States, unlike many of its fellow western countries, does not intrinsically tie voting rights to citizenship. This means, at a very basic level, that every citizen has to be explicitly registered to be able to vote. Furthermore, this allows federal and local law to regulate and design the registration process and even which parts of the population are allowed register, so long as it is not prohibited by a higher judicial organization such as the Supreme Court. A direct corollary is that if one political party holds the necessary power, they could potentially try to skew election results by targeting the voter eligibility of certain demographics that they are not popular with. This is not a simple hypothetical obviously, there have been attempts to accomplish this both historically and contemporarily.
The most prominent contemporary example is the voting right for convicts. In many states, after the court rules that an individual has committed a felony, the individual loses their voting rights, i.e., they cannot get registered to vote, until they complete their sentences. Some states have even stricter laws that prohibit the individual from voting until all their fines have been cleared in addition to their sentence. The truly extreme states prohibit voting for a lifetime upon an individual being ruled guilty of some specific crimes.
The idea of not allowing felons to “interfere” with your democracy might not sound all too bad at first, but you have to consider the various flaws of the justice system. Most obviously, in the U.S, African Americans are charged and ruled guilty at a much higher rate than White Americans. (1) The situation extends to other PoC, as well, although black Americans are the most frequently used example. A similar statistic exists for less wealthy people against more wealthy people. (2) If you, for some reason, needed proof that law enforcement and judicial system of the United States was biased against people of color, the recent George Floyd controversy should have given ample proof on top of already existing research and statistical data. On top of that, in any system where people can only buy quality lawyering service by paying exorbitant money, like in the United States, poor people are naturally going to be more frequently charged incorrectly, even if you discount all the other reasons rich people are allowed to bypass the law.
All these factors combined make felony disenfranchisement a very damaging factor to a country’s democratic capacity. In essence, it disables the most disadvantaged groups of people from steering the path of the country, which further disadvantages them. In addition, the disadvantage only grows in the long run because these people could not vote for the option that would improve their overall status in society. On a related note, fine-related disenfranchisement affects those in poverty, and, indirectly, various minorities, disproportionately for obvious reasons. But felony disenfranchisement is not the only way of hurting people of color and poor people.
Even if a person does not suffer from an active fine, their status of poverty could still lead to their disenfranchisement indirectly by the way of registration costs. First of all, different states have different required documents, most of which cost money. Second, the registration process itself may cost a certain amount. If you were in particularly bad financial shape, these factors could very well influence your decision to vote. A 2012 study in Massachusetts illustrated this point by showing that voter turnout was indeed higher when registration costs were lowered. (3)
There are more direct tactics political parties and related organizations use to influence the eligibility of potential voters as well. Specifically, voter caging and voter purging. Voter caging refers to when a political organization sends registered mail to addresses of voter groups unlikely to vote for them. If the mail returns as undeliverable, then the recipient’s eligibility to vote can be challenged under the suspicion of fraudulent address information. Voter purging occurs in order to purge wrongful entries on the voter rolls, which determine and list all eligible voters for a specific election. It is seen as beneficial when done correctly, however, it is often criticized for being corruptible and prone to error, in addition to being a secretive process. (4)
The Florida election of 2018 gave examples for almost all the topics we have discussed in this article. To list them shortly, the over-strict enforcement of the signature likeness policy resulted in a voter purged which was estimated to have driven away thousands of voters; opposition constructed robocalls stating they are from Democratic candidate Gillum, which contained racial fearmongering and racial slurs; systematic replacement of polling locations post-registration, causing some voters to not be able to vote since the polls were located in private locations; various problems with the voting machinery; and of course, felony disenfranchisement. These issues were largely significant due to the marginal difference between the Republican and Democratic candidates. Democrat Andrew Gillum only lost by 0.4%, which corresponded to a difference of less than thirty-five thousand voters.
Finally, this year’s peculiar situation as COVID-19 continues to be relevant. Following Oregon’s example from 2016 more and more states are switching to an automatic registration system, which has voters opting out if desired, as opposed to having to explicitly register. There is no doubt that this process will be effective in increasing turnout, especially with a pandemic at hand. So far, 19 states, excluding DC, have enacted such a system. (5) COVID-19 has also forced states to take voting-by-mail more seriously. The circumstances regarding eligibility to vote-by-mail have generally been widened across the U.S, some states send mail ballots to all voters no questions asked, some have opted to send it on request, and in some states, you can only get one if you provide state officials with a reasonable excuse. The last option has been criticized as being voter suppression and has actually been blocked in some states by court rulings. (6) The controversial status of mail voting is still ongoing with America following the remarks of President Trump, but the general populace seems to be more accepting of the thought lately.
The 2020 elections are very crucial in determining the future of the United States and the world, but whether they are truly fair is questionable. Voter suppression in registrational matters is only one part of the story, however, it is significant enough to perhaps change the future of America singlehandedly.
New articles every day until election day! Stay tuned to get more insight into the ongoing US Presidential Elections!
DAY 4 25/10
An Intricate Web of Lies: Healthcare and the 2020 Election
by Alp Ünal AYHAN
Both healthcare and health insurance in the US is for-profit. This means Americans do not automatically get healthcare services they need provided by their government like people in many countries such as the UK, Canada, South Korea, and to an extent Turkey. They either pay for healthcare out of pocket or sign up for private health insurance plans-mostly through their employers. The federal government has two insurance programs-Medicare and Medicaid-but you have to be 65 or older, disabled, or on a low income to qualify for these programs. The scope of coverage for these programs may be limited or varying by state.
Under this healthcare market, people are seen as customers before patients and corporations prioritize profits over care. Healthcare providers may deny certain treatments due to inability to pay and insurers may deny covering people or treatments they think are too costly. Americans pay significantly more on drugs than other countries (1) and even emergencies may put people in a dangerous financial position.
What is being done to combat this? During this year’s primary elections some candidates such as Bernie Sanders pitched Medicare for All, a program that would cover everyone, no questions asked, and would be funded by taxes instead of premiums paid to insurance companies. As this is a contentious topic that is among the top concerns of almost anyone both major presidential candidates have plans to cater to voters.
Democratic candidate Joe Biden’s plan is to build on the Affordable Care Act (ACA), also known as Obamacare, a law that placed certain regulations on insurance companies so that they could not deny coverage to certain people and procedures. His plan includes launching a new health insurance plan people can choose to buy from the federal government, limiting the amount of money insurers can charge for getting healthcare, and stopping “surprise billing” by banning insurers from charging patients more for physicians or procedures they say are “out-of-network” which means they have not negotiated a contract for them.
Republican candidate and incumbent President Donald Trump’s campaign website does not include a word of his potential healthcare plan. A link on the website takes you to promiseskept.com which has a list of Trump’s actions on healthcare he took during his first term in office. It includes funding programs that provide access to healthcare for some communities and repealing the “Individual Mandate,” a part of the ACA that mandates every individual to purchase health insurance plans to keep the insurance system from collapsing.
New articles every day until election day! Stay tuned to get more insight into the ongoing US Presidential Elections!
DAY 3 24/10
The Young Vote: A Brief Look At What Might Be Going Wrong
by Duygu BAYRAM
Young voters are defined by varying generational groups and currently mainly consist of millennials. While often overlooked, appealing to the youth has become increasingly more important over the years as the number of potential young voters started evening out with the number of older generations, so much so that the millennials are expected to potentially become the largest generational group of voters very soon (1).
On the other hand, younger generations also have lower voter turnout rates. In 2008, 50% of millennials voted in comparison to the 61% turnout rate of Generation X (2). These results are consistent with Charles E. Merriam and Harold F. Gosnell’s findings which identified American low turnout groups as the youth, minorities, the poor, and people who do not have access to higher education (3). The American voting system, which we will explain in further detail in our upcoming articles, does not make it easy on these groups either.
It seems that while young voters are supposed to be the determining vote, as much as half of them are not actually showing up to vote. The discouragement from the system itself aside, it is possible that perhaps the candidates themselves are not doing enough to draw them in. This is supported by findings that suggest that despite the low turnout rates, the youth is not necessarily apolitical. It was found that the youth engages more in alternative political activities such as social media use, mass protests, and other forms of activism (4) (5). Another finding was that young people were more likely to sign petitions and participate in demonstrations (6) (7).
To explain this discrepancy, we may look at what the young voters care about and compare it with how and to what degree the political campaigns address these issues. First, it is best to provide some direct opinions from millennials to gain more insight (8):
Deana Ayers, 21, Mr. Sanders: I would love to see more emphasis on listening to young people and talking to us instead of at us. I’m the future of your party. You should be giving me resources and training and listening to the way I want this party to look.
Lucas Ryan, 23, Ms. Warren: Older generations had a lot more economic stability when they were growing up and a lot less of this existential looming threat of the next big political or global crisis. It feels like we just never stopped living in some crisis or another.
BreAnna Caslake, 34, still owes $23,000 in student loans and is struggling to pay her bills.
Tom Kilian, 28, is delaying having a child with his wife due to financial problems, health care costs, and climate change.
Adam Miller, 28, Mr. Sanders: Beating Trump is important to me, but that is not the primary issue of this campaign. When I hear Bernie speak about the bold action he wants to take against climate change, I see a future where I can consider starting a family again. When he talks about canceling student debt, medical debt, and recognizing health care as a human right, I see a life for myself where I can live without these financial burdens.
Natalia Castro, 23, Republican: The older people in my party are more wedded to preserving culture than preserving liberty. A lot of older conservatives are a lot slower to advocate for legal immigration because they’re concerned with what they see as the American identity, and I think that’s problematic.
Blair Egan, 22, argues with Republicans on climate change issues: [My father] isn’t thinking about what the world’s going to look like 50 years down the line because it honestly doesn’t impact him.
Young people, from both sides, feel alienated from the current political environment and the issues that are being discussed. For the younger generation, issues such as climate change and the growing financial struggle for their generation (9) take the lead. Furthermore, they are more conscious about discriminatory behaviors and speech and are less concerned with patriotism or American identity. However, the candidates are not keeping up with these demands. Take a look at the last couple of tweets from Donald Trump and Joe Biden, all subtly or clearly aiming to uphold or perpetuate an honorable American identity. It is no surprise that the young generation does not feel represented or listened to.
New articles every day until the election day! Stay tuned to get more insight into the ongoing US Presidential Elections!
by Hülya AFAT & Kaan ERTAN
"The Tuesday next after the first Monday in the month of November" is the election day in the US, making it hard to vote on Election Day for working people, as a start to this profound issue. The insufficient numbers of the polling places are the second core factor of the hardship of voting on election day. The very few numbers of the polling places cause the multiple-hours-long lines to vote, people to travel hundreds of miles and to bear the cost of that trip only to have a say on who will govern them. Yet a more critical issue during a pandemic, the poll places are very crowded due to their low numbers, hence adding the risk of getting COVID while waiting for those long lines in order to choose their president. After waiting for those long lines, when people finally reach the polls, they face the hardships the voter ID laws have prepared for them.
In the US, no state used to require identification to vote before 2006. However, now 36 of the 50 states have laws that request from or require the voters to show some form of identification at the polls, while the other 14 states use different means to verify the identity of voters. In these states, identifications such as a signature, are noted to be checked at the polls.
Some see the increasing requirements for identification as a measure against voter impersonation and think that it increases public confidence in the elections. However, the opposers suggest that this kind of fraud is extremely rare. In fact, an analysis showed that out of 2068 voter impersonation claims, only 10 turned out to be true since the year 2000. This means only one out of 15 million voters are impersonators. The opposers believe that these strict measures burden the voters and discourage voting, since having photo IDs are not mandatory in the US, and obtaining one is a costly process. It is said that these laws disproportionately affect the elderly, minority, and low-income groups, which are known to have a tendency to vote Pro-Democratic. Even though it is possible to get free IDs in some of the states with strict ID laws, if you do not have any other way to vote; the paperwork to get those IDs may include some documents cost up to $25. According to a study from NYU’s Brennan Center, 11% of voting-age citizens lack the necessary photo ID. This means that the best possible turnout of an election is limited to only 89%. (1) An academic analysis made in April 2017 shows that strict photo identification laws impact the voter turnout of Hispanic, Black, and mixed-race Americans in primaries and general elections quite negatively, and more than Whites. In other words, strict voter ID laws act as an election tool, benefiting right-wing parties. The already suppressed voices of Hispanic, Black, and multi-racial Americans are being completely muted, while the influence of white Americans over politics continues to grow. (2)
To put it simply, making voting hard for (a group of) people is voter suppression. All these procedures and implications of policies combined hurt the most already oppressed groups by restricting their voices from getting heard. The voter suppression in the US is not limited to the election day, and this article is only the second in a four-part series on voter suppression in the US.
New articles every day until election day! Stay tuned to get more insight into the ongoing US Presidential Elections!
DAY 6 27/10
Voter Suppression Part 2: The Election Day Struggle
DAY 7 28/10
Voter Suppression Part 3: Vote-by-Mail
by Duygu BAYRAM
Given the pandemic this year, more people have requested to make use of the mail-in voting option in the 2020 US Elections (1) despite Trump’s expressed disdain for it. He has been discouraging the use of the system (2) (3) and has been caught spreading misinformation a few times (4) (5). Despite his claims, postal voting has been fairly reliable so far (6) and was found to increase voter turnout (7). However, while Trump’s claims of fraudulence may not hold, postal voting is not always the best, and it can contribute to voter suppression in some areas.
As we are dealing with the Covid-19 pandemic, many states decided to rely heavily on postal voting this year (8). While this is a good idea to encourage social distancing, it meant that some rural areas were not provided with equal opportunities to vote which unsurprisingly led to racial discrimination. For example, North Dakota’s reservations face some challenges (9). Due to the tribal culture of the Native American people in these regions, they do not have street addresses or mailboxes, and so it is already difficult for them to register with their address. Furthermore, the nearest post office or in-person polling stations are hours of drive away from where they live. As the transportation options became unsafe due to the pandemic and their voting options decreased further, North Dakota’s native population is looking at a probable decrease in their voter turnout, despite the impressive increase in their numbers in the last election (10).
Another issue is the deliberate problems targeting the postal voting system. To start with, Trump expressed that he would cut the funding for the postal service, preventing mail-in votes to be processed securely and on time (11). Moreover, Louis DeJoy, a Trump ally, became the new postmaster general in June and has implemented policies that seem threatening to the election process (12). Many people have expressed concerns over the sudden changes he has made during the pandemic and right before an election where postal voting is expected to play an important role. To touch on some of the issues that were raised after Louis DeJoy’s taking over; working overtime was prohibited causing mail to get left behind, pile up, and delayed in several states, at some point mail delivery was stopped to a region with high low-income and immigrant population, some Wisconsin residents reported not having received their ballots. These delays pose an important risk as 65000 votes were rejected in the primaries due to late arrival.
Signatures may also cause your ballot to be rejected in this process (13). When you cast your vote by mail you have to sign the envelope and that signature is then compared to the signature the state has on file which could easily be an old record from when someone got their driver’s license at 16. This comparison is done by election workers and can be unreliable. Signature rejection can be important as 6700 ballots were rejected in Nevada’s primaries and it was the leading cause of ballot rejection in New Jersey’s elections. Another concerning factor is that a study (14) found that despite the 1.3% rejection rate of all votes, 3.56% of the young vote was rejected or uncounted and 2.32% of Black votes were uncounted.
The United States of America considers itself a free country, governed by democracy. The term is formally defined as “a form of government formed by representatives elected by the people”, which means that the governed directly has a say in forming the govern. However, according to the US Constitution of 1787, this “direct” democracy does not implement itself in the case of the presidential elections. That is because the United States chooses its president every four years by an election conducted among the citizens of the country, which is only formalized and ratified by the result of another voting process, something called the Electoral College. Today, we will briefly discuss what the electoral college is, why it exists, and how it works.
The electoral college is a group of legislative officials appointed by each state, who formally elect the president and vice president of the United States, each election year. (1) It was first formed by the founding fathers and has preserved its place in the constitution under article 2 section 1. (2) It consists of 538 electors, which is the sum of 435 members of the house of representatives, the 100 senators, and 3 electors from the District of Columbia. Electors are either selected by their respective parties for their efforts or by voters, depending on every state’s different internal laws. The elector number for each state depends on its population; the more the population the greater number of electors each state possesses, e.g. California has 55 electors, Iowa has 6 electors. (3) However, the number of electors for each state does not remain constant forever, every ten years the US conducts a census for the electoral college members to be redistributed among the states according to their population. (4) Now that we know what the electoral college is, let us talk about why it was created and how it works.
The electoral college system was first agreed on by the founding fathers because they believed in an indirect democracy. This meant that even though the regular citizens’ votes were going to be relevant, the ultimate decision to elect the president had to be made by another voting process among the electoral college members, for the sake of the nation. They put this system in place because, at the time, the public was very divided on key fundamental issues about the nation and did not have the means to acknowledge a construction of a “united states”; so in the view of the founding fathers, the people who eventually elect the president and vice president of the country had to be educated state legislators to make the best decision, for the people. (5)
Since the electoral college has 538 members, by law, a president has to win at least 270 votes out of the 538, in order to be formally elected. However, these 270 votes all come exactly as they are distributed among each state; which means that if a candidate wins the popular vote in a state, even by 51%, they win all of the electors appointed to that state. For example, California has 55 electors; if a candidate wins the majority of the individual ballots cast by voters in California, even if it is by 1 ballot, they acquire all 55 electors of that state to vote in favor of them when the electoral college casts its vote. (6) Only 2 states, Maine and Nebraska, allow the candidate who received the minority of the votes to still be represented by their electors in the electoral college, but since these two states do not have many electors; this usually does not make a difference if the election is not very head-to-head. This system is informally called a “winner takes all”, because no matter the amount of the individual ballots you receive for you in different states, if you do not win enough electors to pass 270, you lose the election. This is why candidates primarily try to win states with the most electoral votes, and this is the exact scenario that happened in the 2016 Trump v. Clinton election. In the 2016 election, Donald Trump beat Hillary Clinton by 74 electoral votes even when Hillary Clinton had won the popular vote among the country by 3 million. (7) This means that a candidate does not have to win the majority of all the individual ballots cast to be elected president. To put into perspective how this works, technically, this “winner takes all” method allows a president to be elected even if they do not receive 1 individual vote from 39 states, as long as they win the electors of California, Texas, Florida, New York, New Jersey, Pennsylvania, Michigan, Illinois, North Carolina, Ohio, and Georgia or Virginia. This circumstance undeniably paves way for an unfair advantage to states with larger elector numbers and holds the potential for many people to be left unrepresented.
Lastly, let us talk about the concept of “faithless electors.” The United States Constitution does not include a direct obligation for an elector to cast their vote according to their states’ results. Although many states have internal laws that prohibit an elector to cast a vote that contradicts their state’s outcome; there is not a federal law that serves this purpose. So technically, this loophole leaves a possibility for an elector to vote against their state’s will or their pledged party, and be a “faithless elector.” Although there have been faithless electors in the past, this deficiency of a federal obligation never changed the result of an election (8) but still remains as a strong element to question the integrity of the voting process and the protection of the will of the people. People in favor of the electoral college state that it has worked perfectly for more than 200 years and it preserves the right of a state to be fully recognized. However, critics of the electoral college state that as long as the “winner takes all” method is used, there has been and will be a bunch of citizens left unheard and unrepresented; which may lead them to alienate from the voting process and not vote at all, which is a proven argument by the decreasing voter turnouts of the elections up until today. (9)
No matter the amount of criticism it receives about how it damages the democracy sensation of the US and leads to voter suppression; experts say that the US is a long way from switching to another system in the near future.
DAY 8 29/10
Voter Suppression Part 4: Electoral College
by Şebnem YAREN
Supreme Court and The Expectations After Amy Coney Barret Sworn
by Boran GÖHER
Just days before the most controversial election of its contemporary history, the United States of America has successfully filled the gap in the Supreme Court as Justice Barrett was sworn in. Following Ruth Bader Ginsburg’s death on the 18th of September, the number of Supreme Court Justices had dropped to 8, and President Trump quickly set the replacement procedure in action by nominating Amy Coney Barrett, who he claimed was a "stellar scholar and judge" with "unyielding loyalty to the constitution". (1) The appointment process was carried out at blinding speed, presumably to swear the new justice in before the election day, which leads some people to voice dissenting opinions, one of which was President Trump’s main opponent Joe Biden. Biden regarded the confirmation as “rushed and unprecedented”. (2) But why has a simple replacement process caused so much chagrin amongst the American populace?
Firstly, the Supreme Court of the United States has a very delicate balance just like the Senate. Both utilize an essentially bi-partisan system where members, Justices in the former and Senators in the latter, are ultimately loyal to either Democrats or Republicans, which creates a situation in which a party can enforce their political consensus. As an example, despite the very controversial process, only one Republican Senator opposed the entrance of Amy Coney Barrett and the confirmation passed through 52 against 48. However, the state of the Supreme Court is even more precarious as once a Justice is appointed, they are set to be in the Supreme Court until they either resign or pass away. This means that any imbalances in the Court will likely take a long time to be rescinded.
One such imbalance has now been established. With the Notorious RBG’s passing, the ratio of Republican-appointed Justices to Democrat-appointed ones was 5 to 3. Now that Barrett has been confirmed for Supreme Court, the ratio is 6 to 3, or, simplified, 2 to 1. There are now 2 Republican Justices for every Democratic Justice. For the record, it has been a full ninety years since this last happened in 1930. Notable is Donald Trump’s role in this imbalance. He has appointed three Justices in just four years, at an unprecedented rate, another why his rushed appointment of Barrett was heavily criticized.
The second important point is the duty and power of the Supreme Court. As the highest court of the United States, it holds the power to amend or overrule the decisions of all lower tribunals. It also holds the exclusive power to review some cases of specific nature, mostly when the U.S itself or one of its states is a party such as U.S v. Texas or New Jersey v. Delaware. The first case concerned whether a piece of land belonged to the U.S or Texas and the second case concerned Delaware’s rights to deny a gas pipeline on New Jersey’s side of the Delaware River on the grounds that the construction would affect the waters on Delaware’s land. As the examples show, the exclusive cases of the Supreme Court, those under the original jurisdiction of the Supreme Court, as it is called, are crucial in determining the country’s future, but it’s the biggest power over the country’s fate comes from the right to review the decisions of the lower tribunal.
Most infamously, in Roe v. Wade, the Supreme Court ruled that a woman’s right to get an abortion was guaranteed by the constitutional right to privacy and only restricted by the government’s interest in protecting women’s health and prenatal life. To this effect, the Court established a trimester system where a woman had a right to abortion under progressively stricter rules as the pregnancy progressed. The trimester policy was later overruled by the Supreme Court in Planned Parenthood v. Casey in the 2000s. In its place, a less strict system was established depending on the fetal condition which is a lot more open to interpretation. However, Roe v. Wade is still seen as a landmark case for women’s abortion rights in America. It has even been brought after Barrett’s nomination in accordance with the aforementioned fear of Republican domination in the Supreme Court. Many women expressed fear of losing their reproductive rights.
The third cause of the ongoing commotion in America is the response of the people to this change. The Republican voters do not seem to be outraged at all, but that statement cannot be extended to the Democratic voters. Many Democrats are now, rightfully, fearful of the possibility of landmark cases being overturned that were guarantors of their liberty. The right to abortion is only one example. To avoid this fate, the almost century-old debate of expanding the Supreme Court has regained its fires. Franklin Roosevelt’s Judicial Procedures Reform Bill of 1937, known more popularly as the “court-packing plan”, had proposed to expand the court in response to many of his “New Deal” policies being blocked by the Supreme Court. At the time, the Democrat-dominated Supreme Court found many of Republican President Roosevelt’s proposals unconstitutional. Roosevelt’s court-packing plan might have failed, but it appears that the desire for an expansion in the Supreme Court is still alive. Key Democratic figures have spoken in favor of a future expansion of the Court. Senator Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, for example, is one of them. “Expand the court.”, says Ocasio-Cortez. (3) To be fair, her response seems more extreme than that of most Democrats, most of who are satisfied with term limits, or limiting the number of Justices a President can appoint.
The election day is fast approaching, and the commotion and chaos in the United States seem only to be growing. There is no doubt that the matter of the Supreme Court is going to add fuel to the fire in the next days. Perhaps, we will see more radicalized voting habits partially caused by the perceived inequality in the court. Or perhaps, it will not affect voter behavior in a significant manner. It is hard to predict before the election and even harder to properly detect in the aftermath. Yet, no matter, the U.S Elections promise to be more interesting with each new day.
DAY 9 30/10
Election Day is approaching and even though the Biden-Harris ticket looks very likely to win and the Democratic Party is expected to enlarge their already commanding majority in the House of Representatives, they desperately need to flip the Senate from the Republican Party, which has a 53-47 majority at the moment. If the Democrats control the House of Representatives and the White House and Republicans control the Senate, it’s very likely that the Democrats will not accomplish any of their legislative goals during Biden and Harris’s term.
It is important to note that not all Senators are elected at once and 100 Senators are divided into 3 classes with each class of Senators being up for election every 2 years. This means each of the 50 states elects 2 Senators for 6-year terms and not all states elect senators every two years. This year 34 states will be electing 35 Senators, 2 of them being elected in special elections resulting from deaths or resignations of former Senators. The House of Representatives on the other hand has 435 members elected for 2-year terms. All Representatives will be up for election this year.
Democrats’ chance of flipping the Senate depends on their ability to turn as many voters as possible to cast their ballots in swing states like Iowa and North Carolina, traditionally Republican-leaning states with unusually competitive Senate races like Montana and Georgia and Democratic-leaning states that have unpopular Republican incumbent Senators like Maine and Colorado.
FiveThirtyEight, a website that uses statistical models to forecast election results and a part of ABC News, states Democrats are favored to flip the senate with giving them a 77 in 100 chances of winning control (1) at the time of writing. The forecast thinks Democrats will gain Senate seats in Iowa, Georgia’s special election, Maine, North Carolina, Arizona and Colorado. Republicans’ only gain according to the forecast will be Louisiana. If the forecast is accurate on Election Day, we will see a Democratic-controlled senate with a 52-48 majority.
DAY 11 1/11
Can Democrats Flip the Senate?
by Alp Ünal AYHAN
On the left is FiveThirtyEight’s forecast for the US Senate. Even though this forecast is based on years of political science research, tens of high-quality polls and thousands of computer calculations it does not declare winners. It only gives us probabilities of certain candidates winning or losing.
On a similar note, I want to include my own predictions for the Senate based completely on my gut feeling.
Map made on 270towin.com. This map is not an endorsement of a particular candidate or a party.
As COVID-19 changed our day-to-day lives drastically it also changed how Americans vote. Because polling places in the US can be particularly crowded depending on the area, many voters wished to cast a mail ballot to avoid crowds in lines and crammed rooms with poor ventilation. As a response 45 states out of 50 and Washington, DC allowed voters to cast their ballots by mail without an excuse, which is a record. 5 states including Texas did not allow all voters to vote by mail and they require voters to be out of town, older than a certain age or disabled to get a mail ballot. Some states such as Washington and California mailed all registered voters a mail ballot automatically. Some other states mailed all registered voters an application form to vote by mail.
On top of the rise of voting by mail, more people are voting early in-person as well. Early voting turnout was huge compared to previous elections this year with more than 94 million voters already casting their ballots before Election Day (1). This is 68.2% of all votes cast in 2016, including Election Day. Of these votes, about 34 million votes were cast in-person compared to more than 59 million votes were cast by mail. Keep in mind that early voting is still ongoing in several states and some states will allow mail ballots to come in for up to about two weeks after Election Day as long as they were shipped by Election Day. This means much more than 94 million will be the final number of early votes.
Having tens of millions of mail ballots and waiting for all of them to trickle in means more complications and delays in vote counting. In a traditional election, election authorities would collect results from every polling place which would count their votes mostly electronically and compile them into county or state-wide results. Now, these authorities have to process mail ballots in a separate facility and count them on top of completing traditional Election Day procedures. Several states that have large numbers of mail ballots will probably take weeks to count all of their votes.
So when will we know who the winners are? It is complicated. First of all, when we say who won an election on election night we are relying on “projections” made by media organizations that are made looking at a portion of votes counted early that night, past voting patterns and exit poll results and not on official results. We will wait for results from swing states to project a winner of the presidential election. Both Biden and Trump will be looking for results in Michigan, Wisconsin, Pennsylvania, North Carolina, Florida, Iowa, Georgia, Arizona, Ohio, and Texas.
It is currently expected that the results from Wisconsin and Pennsylvania may not be certain on election night. We are expecting faster returns in Texas, Florida, and Arizona but this may all change and we may be waiting for a definitive winner for days.
So please do not hold your breath for a winner on election night. Do not believe candidates who may declare victory based on early numbers. The election process changed a lot this year and states did not prepare for the changes well enough. This does not mean it will be a mess but it means we will need to wait a bit longer for everyone’s voice to be heard.
DAY 12 2/11
When Will We Have the Results? What Election Night Looks Like Under COVID Changes
by Alp Ünal AYHAN
Elderly Men Contest Has Arrived: Money in US Politics
Hülya Afat & Alp Ünal Ayhan
“...No matter what happens, nothing much will change in the US,
the rich will continue to prosper while the poor languish.
Families will be upended by mental illness and drug addiction…”
-John Mulaney, Oct 31, 2020, SNL
John Mulaney is an American comedian with a famous bit where he compares Trump’s presidency to a horse being loose in a hospital. This recent quote of his might seems exaggerated or ironic because it was said in a comedy sketch program, however, it quite reflects the truth. Not only the US has the highest level of income inequality among G7 countries, but the richest 5% is also the only group to gain wealth after the 2008 Global Financial Crisis (aka the Great Recession). While the racial income gap did not even decrease for the last 5 decades, the gap between the middle-income and the upper-income has grown constantly. (1) Since 1970, the US has had a Republican President for (not continuous) 30 years and a Democrat President for (not continuous) 20 years. While the income inequality numbers were rising, both parties were in charge, so it is fair to say neither of the parties is interested in decreasing the inequality in the US. Additionally, 4 of the last 8 presidents of the US were businessmen, who, we have to assume since they are already rich, had no intention to end poverty/income inequality. (2) As of the current two presidential candidates, one is a billionaire businessman with debt as half of his net worth, and the other one is a millionaire with 50-years of a political career. During the growing inequality for the last 50 years, Joe Biden was a politician, while Donald Trump was a businessman who also did not contribute to decreasing the income inequality in the US.
During his monologue on last week’s SNL, John Mulaney also called the upcoming US Presidential Election an “elderly man contest”. (3) Which is both funny and sad, because it is true. Both candidates are over 70-years-old caucasian Christian cisgender heterosexual men, which, not in any shape or form, represents any of the oppressed groups living in the US. Trump’s business has made $1.9 billion during his first three years as president and %40 of that income came from him and his security staff staying in his golf resort while he golfs. (4) A similar yet still different case of Joe Biden, he made $16.7 million from book royalties and paid speaking engagements from he left the office in 2017 until his candidacy in 2019. (5) Both candidates multiplied their wealth due to their political careers in recent years.
“…Congressional hearings are not Beyonce concerts,
they are two different things and this is one way in which
money in politics has really sunk so steep the fact that
everyday people can’t even see their elected officials
because a lobbyist has paid to get in there first…”
-Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez (6)
Election campaigns in the United States, unlike many developed countries, are not funded by the public. In these countries, governments give each candidate for office and the political party running in elections a certain amount of money derived from various formulas. On top of that many of these countries have laws explicitly banning lobbying. This prevents both huge spending in elections and swaying of politicians and public opinion on issues, especially issues that may hurt or benefit certain industries or businesses. It is estimated that this election’s cost will be near $14 billion (7). This means billions of dollars that would be better spent elsewhere for feeding families, educating students, and providing quality healthcare for all Americans are being spent to buy unnecessary television ads, pamphlets that will be thrown away minutes after they are handed out, and sometimes expensive and useless advice from advisors.
It’s very important to note who is contributing to this $14 billion figure. According to the analysis that reached this number, the top 10 donors this election cycle gave $640 million to candidates. The top 3 industries to contribute to campaigns were investment firms, law firms, and education with all three giving more to Vice President Biden than President Trump.
As candidates for all levels of government naturally get more money from corporations than small contributors they become more likely to hear these corporations’ voices over regular people and do “favors” for them. As a huge example, Vice President Biden is not able to push for a ban on fracking despite aiming for net-zero carbon emissions by 2050(8).
These examples show us that money is more effective in US politics than the decision of the people. Apart from the candidates, this is a flawed system of governance. Lobbying has become an essential part of US politics and this hurts most the people with the least amount of money. We can say that expecting politicians who are funded by oil companies to act on Climate Change is too optimistic. Even though the pessimism and giving up will not fix anything, the vicious cycle of Lobbyists funding candidates and elected officials acting according to those lobbyists’ interests is not a mechanism to be broken by the result of this election.
The Big Day is here and we will see what tomorrow has for us. Stay in touch to follow the results with us, see you tonight!
DAY 13 3/11
DAY 2 23/10
Low on Both Chaos and Substance: Last Night’s Presidential Debate Explained
by Alp Ünal AYHAN
Last night the second and final debate between major presidential candidates President Donald Trump (R-NY) and former Vice President Joe Biden (D-DE) was held at Belmont University in Nashville, Tennessee. This debate follows the first presidential and vice-presidential debates. Traditionally there would be three presidential debates, but a debate was canceled due to Trump’s refusal to hold it virtually following his COVID diagnosis.
This is the first debate this year to have the microphone of the candidates when it’s not their turn to speak. This move comes after the heavy backlash debate organizers faced after the first debate last month which was described as a chaotic screaming match.
This debate likely won’t change anyone’s mind. With the share of voters undecided between the two major presidential candidates dwindling, both campaigns are just trying to get their supporters out to the polls.
Last night’s debate had 7 sections on various topics surrounding the 2020 elections. Kristen Welker of NBC News moderated the debate. Her moderation was hailed for keeping candidates in line much better compared to other debates featuring Trump, but her selection of questions was criticized by some as she didn’t ask many questions about concrete policy plans. The tone of the debate was much, much more tranquil than previous debates, but this didn’t change the substance of their arguments or claims much.
Throughout the debate, Biden tried to cater to voters in every state while Trump focused on swing states he’s set to lose this election.
First section: COVID crisis
When questioned about his COVID response, Trump claimed he brought down COVID death numbers from a projected 2.2 million to more than 200,000. He then promised a vaccine is coming within weeks, talked directly to voters in swing states about recent COVID case spikes, and tried to assure people COVID was going to go away as soon as possible.
Biden attacked Trump on his lack of plans to respond to the pandemic, presiding over 200,000 deaths, refusal to wear masks, and mentioned New England Medical Journal’s scathing comments on Trump’s COVID policies.
Candidates then argued on Trump’s record so far on the pandemic while Trump blamed Democratic-governed states for recent outbreaks and Biden pointed out Trump refused to negotiate an economic relief package with Democrats in Congress, which control the House of Representatives.
Candidates then got into a pointless argument over reopening policies for several minutes during which Trump stated 99% of people who catch COVID survived.
Second section: National security
During this section, which was mostly inspired by controversies about the Trump campaign and the Russian government during the last presidential election Trump kept spewing out conspiracy theories about Biden’s ties to Russia and China. Biden referred to Trump’s allegedly secret bank account in China and claimed Trump was taking payments from the Chinese and Russian governments. Trump responded by saying he was just a businessman doing business and the said bank account was listed.
Biden attacked Trump for not releasing his tax returns. Trump told his taxes were under audit by tax authorities and claimed he was being treated badly by them. Being under audit doesn’t legally prevent people from publicizing their tax returns.
In response to a question about North Korea Trump claimed he had a very good relationship with North Korea and Kim Jong Un. He tweeted calling Kim “short and fat” during his presidential term.
Third section: American families
This section featured questions about topics such as healthcare and the minimum wage and was the first section of the debate that truly featured a bit of concrete policy conversation.
Biden advocated for a “public option” health insurance which would give people an opportunity to purchase health insurance from the federal government no matter who they are and pay less. He also stated his support for a $15/hour minimum wage.
Trump falsely claimed Biden was trying to get rid of private insurance and falsely claimed a $15/hour minimum wage would drive small enterprises out of business. He said he believed setting a minimum wage should be left to individual cities and states.
Currently, the federal minimum wage is $7.25/hour and hasn’t been increased since 2009 but several states and cities have implemented a $15/hour minimum wage.
Fourth section: Immigration
In this section, both candidates accused each other of not implementing comprehensive immigration reform during their terms while Trump used racist dog whistles about Latinx immigrants when confronted about kids separated from their families on the Mexican border whose parents are now unable to be found.
Fifth section: Race in America
Trump attacked Biden for leading the effort to pass the 1994 Crime Bill when he was a senator which hurt Black and Latinx communities and attacked the Black Lives Matter movement. Biden responded by saying after the passage of the bill Trump said “the problem with this bill is that there aren’t enough people in jail.”
Sixth section: Climate change
In this section, Trump claimed the US had its lowest carbon emissions in 35 years and attacked Biden falsely claiming he wanted to ban fracking. Biden said he didn’t support a ban on fracking and told he wanted to transition away from fossil fuels while reaching net-zero emissions by 2025.
Seventh section: Leadership
In this section, moderators asked candidates what they would say in their inaugural addresses if elected. It ended on a conciliatory tone with candidates focusing on recovery post-pandemic and uniting the country.
New articles every day until the election day! Stay tuned to get more insight into the ongoing US Presidential Elections!
DAY 1 22/10
Democracy Scam of the US: Alarming Trend of Low Turnout Rates
by Hülya Afat
The United States of America is known for its distinguished democracy and freedom such that its army brought them successfully to some other parts of the world. Well, that was a funny sentence. To put it simply, we cannot call a country with an election system built on racism and voter suppression a democracy. However, these are not the topics of this article, I will point out the ridiculousness of calling the US a democracy while the turnout rates on elections are alarmingly low in this article.
Democracy is defined as “a form of government formed by representatives elected by the people”, we need to focus on the phrase “elected by the people” because the core element of democracy is to reflect people’s choice of the legislator on the government body. Turnout rates are the rate of the people who vote in an election to the total voting-age population. The voting-age population is the group of people living in a country who are above the voting age determined by said country’s laws. Since we defined our fundamental terms, we can move on to why the US is not a democracy.
The last 100 years of US Presidential Elections have an average of 61% turnout rate (1) which may look like an overreach but we can see this average does not fluctuate much in the current years and that is the alarming matter. As we can see from the graph, the last time the turnout rates were higher than 70% was Presidential Elections in 1900. According to the Democracy Index 2019 (2), the US is listed 25th on the “30 Most Democratic Countries” list. To look more into this list, the top 5 countries from this list has an average of 78% turnout rate in their most recent elections. To compare even more with the countries defined as democratic and developed, Western European countries have an average of 72% turnout rate in their most recent elections. (3) The last Presidential Election of the US had a 55% turnout rate which is the lowest of presidential elections in the last 20 years. (4) This turnout rate shows the result of this election was not representing the decision of almost half of the voting-age population.
There is no other country in the world calling themselves “democratic and free” and the government is decided by half of the population, and this is only one of the many flawed aspects of the US Election System. During this series of articles, we aim to look more into the systemic voter suppression based on racism, the US election system named “Electoral College” that allows the candidate with the popular vote to lose the election, and many more issues affecting the result of US Presidential Election. To quote a conservative Republican Senator Mike Lee (5), the United States of America is not a democracy.
Before “bringing democracy and freedom” to anywhere else, the US needs to reform their own systems in order to become a democratic and free country. We cannot predict what the turnout rates will be in this election at this moment, however, we are certain that they need to be higher than in 2016.
New articles every day until the election day! Stay tuned to get more insight into the ongoing US Presidential Elections!