2020 Presidential Election starts with North Carolina mailing out ballots

The United States General Election, which will elect a President, Senators, Representatives, Governors, and many others, has begun, with North Carolina beginning to fulfill requests for roughly 600,000 absentee ballots.

Though the election is officially scheduled for November 3, many states are preparing to begin their elections early this year. Many states will begin early voting in October, but many states are beginning to mail out absentee ballots this month. First among them is North Carolina, who kicked off the fall election season earlier this week.

Fox News reports that of the about 600,000 ballots sent out to North Carolina voters, Democrats lead big in ballots requested. While Republicans have tended to dominate mail-in voting in the state of North Carolina in past elections, this year has reportedly seen 326,000 democratic voters and 192,000 independent voters request absentee ballots, compared to only 92,000 republican voters. Overall, this is 16 times more ballots than requested during this period in North Carolina in 2016.

This comes as North Carolina is shaping up to be a major swing state in the 2020 election. North Carolina has many key congressional races that could be crucial in determining control of the House of Representatives and the Senate. Additionally, North Carolina has 15 electoral votes that will likely be key to a Biden or Trump victory. North Carolina is historically close, with the winning presidential candidates in the state in 2016, 2012, and 2008 only winning by an average of 2%.

As of September 5, FiveThirtyEight’s poll aggregate shows Joe Biden leading Donald Trump in the state by an average of just 1.8%. The state’s US Senate race is similarly close, with a Monmouth University poll released September 3 showing Democrat Cal Cunningham leading incumbent Republican Thom Tillis among registered voters by just 1%. Both of these races may be vital in Democrats retaking control of the White House and Senate for the first time since 2017 and 2015, respectively.

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In a similarly close state just a few hours away, Florida, absentee ballots will begin being distributed in a couple of weeks, on September 24. In that state, 3.3 million voters requested absentee ballots in 2016. So far in 2020, that number has leaped to 4.2 million. Nationally, a quarter of voters cast their ballots in 2016 via mail. Experts expect that number to be a potential majority of voters this Fall.

However, not all Americans have positive views on this method of voting. According to a Pew Research Center survey released earlier in the summer, only 39% of those polled would prefer to vote by mail, instead of voting in person. Of those polled, 58% of Democrats said they preferred to vote by mail, with only 19% of Republicans saying the same. The clear partisan divide in the preference of voting methods may create significant delays in clear reporting of the election results this November, leading both major presidential campaigns to begin preparations for such an event already.

In addition to mere delays in reporting, President Trump is already sewing doubts in the voting system itself. For months, President Trump has repeatedly made claims of absentee voting being a potential cause for concern in a fair election. This claim, as previously reported, is largely false. Regardless, this likely accounts for the large partisan divide in demand for absentee ballots, despite the ongoing public health crisis that is the Covid-19 pandemic.

Many major political events, aside from the formal beginning of voting, have happened and will happen within a small number of weeks. For instance, both major parties nominating conventions have been held within the last month, with the Republican Party formally nominating for reelection Donald Trump and Mike Pence, the incumbent President and Vice President, in Charlotte, N.C.

Another set of major events that has yet to occur are the Presidential and Vice Presidential debates. Three debates are currently scheduled between Donald Trump and Joe Biden to be hosted by the Commission on Presidential Debates, with these debates set for September 29, October 15, and October 22. One Vice Presidential debate between Mike Pence and Kamala Harris is scheduled for October 7. While no voter who casts their ballot this early in the Fall will witness any of these debates, it seems the vast majority of Americans have already made up their minds as to who they will support. Despite this, in crucial swing states, a few votes may determine America’s future.

Regardless to what extent mail-in voting dominates this November‘s election, results of the ballots being cast as this is written will not be known for months. In an election starting earlier than most— with a presidential primary starting 2 years before the actual election, both major nominees selected by April, and voting starting at the beginning of September— reliance on the eventual results is key.

While this election, like all others, is one of ideas and candidates, it is also shaping up to be one of methods. This battle is drawn along similar lines as the former ones mentioned, with partisans believing in the reliability of different methods, and with candidates themselves advocating for different methods. No matter, the results must be trusted and upheld as far as the law can permit— for the sake of democracy itself, and all 330 million Americans relying on them.

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