Americans turned out to vote in record numbers for the 2020 general election in an unparalleled demonstration of civic participation. Whether the candidates you preferred won or lost, you and fellow citizens can take pride in an extraordinary achievement for our political system.
Although total vote counts could not be included in this issue, nationwide more than 90 million people had voted early or absentee for the November 3 elections. In 2016, approximately 138 million Americans voted in that presidential election. So even before election day 2020, early-absentee voters accounted for 65 percent of the total over all four years ago.
The Sandoval County Bureau of Elections reported that the early vote as of October 30 was 97 percent of the total number of the county’s voters in 2016.As of November 1, more than 700,000 voters statewide had weighed in, which was 86.8 percent of the total vote in New Mexico in 2016, setting a record for early voting. Statewide, early, unofficial tallies late on Election Day indicated victories for Democrat Joe Biden in the presidential contest; for Ben Ray Lujan in the race to take the U.S. Senate seat being vacated by Senator Tom Udall, and Democrat Deb Haaland to retain her seat in the U.S. House of Representatives.
And Democrat Theresa Leger Fernandez was expected to take the U.S. House seat being vacated by Ben Ray Lujan. In the contest for the N.M. Senate seat being vacated by Corrales’ John Sapien, Corrales Democrat Brenda McKenna was the likely winner over Placitas Republican John Clark in partial returns Election Day, Corrales Democrat Daymon Ely was considered likely to retain the N.M. House District 23 seat. Corrales Representative Jane Powdrell-Culbert had been expected to keep the House District 44 seat, and did so.
For Sandoval County government positions, County Commissioner Jay Block, a Rio Rancho Republican, was likely to retain the District 2 seat, while the Sandoval County Clerk position was expected to be won by Republican Lawrence Griego, and Republican Benay Ward was expected to take over as Sandoval County Treasurer.
Democrat Barbara Romo was considered likely to win as District Attorney for the 13th Judicial District, replacing long-time DA Lemuel Martinez. Nationwide, nearly 92 million citizens had voted as of November 1, which is more than two-thirds of all the votes cast for president in 2016, In 16 states, more than half of eligible voters had already cast their ballots before Election Day 2020.
While candidates and all partisans can be excused for beating drums to drive their supporters to the polls, the fervor this election season has been extraordinary. Some of that enthusiasm, or desperation, comes from deep divisions about what serves the national interest, but some of it is a reflection of the personality of the current president, Donald Trump.
Partisan dividing lines have been clear, exaggerated and expanding for months, if not years. For some commentators, the fate of democracy itself is at risk. Precisely that was the warning from New York Times columnist Frank Bruni in his September 27 commentary headlined “America Is In Terrible Danger.” He wrote, “On Wednesday, Trump was asked if he would commit to a peaceful transfer of power in the event that he lost to Joe Biden. Shockingly, but then not really, he wouldn’t.
Bruni elaborated, “We’re in terrible danger. Make no mistake. This country, already uncivil, is on the precipice of being ungovernable, because its institutions are being so profoundly degraded, because its partisanship is so all-consuming, and because Trump, who rode those trends to power, is now turbo-charging them to drive America into the ground. The Republican Party won’t apply the brakes.” Some would scoff at Bruni’s alarmism, But the president himself made it clear he might not accept voters’ decision November 3. In July, he told Fox News’ Chris Wallace that “We’re going to have to see what happens” when asked directly whether he would accept the 2020 election results.
He added: “I have to see. Look, I have to see. No, I’m not going to say yes. I’m not going to say no, and I didn’t last time either.” Of course, President Trump gained worldwide celebrity based on borderline outrageous, highly combative statements. But he’s unlikely to mount a serious battle if results of the November 3 election declare him the loser… other than possibly mounting a Bush-Gore style challenge following that presidential election in 2000.
In that case, a vote re-count was underway in Florida when the George W. Bush campaign successfully asked the U.S. Supreme Court to halt the re-tally, thus delivering Florida’s 25 Electoral College votes to Bush. Florida is again a key battleground state, and now it has 29 Electoral College votes to cast.
Regardless whether the incumbent relinquishes the presidency if the final ballot count doesn’t favor him, partisan combativeness is likely to continue. Some observers have gone so far as to warn that a civil war is brewing. Among those is columnist Nicholas Kristof who just before Election Day wrote that President Trump “has left the United States a more turbulent and divided nation, one close to war with itself.”
Across the country retail sales of guns have risen dramatically ahead of November 3. More than 15 million guns were purchased between March and September this year, up 91 percent from the same period in 2019. While some of that rush for gun ownership is thought to be related to coronavirus insecurity, a strong current of anticipated political unrest is also involved.
And it’s not just “coastal elites” who are wailing about an underlying threat to democracy. In New Mexico, incumbent Democratic Congresswoman Deb Haaland told supporters November 1 that “Democracy, decency and sanity are on the ballot.… I’m running against lies, hatred and white supremacy.” Armed self-styled militia groups are organizing and mobilizing publicly in New Mexico and around the United States. So far, there’s no indication that violence will erupt in the days and weeks after November 3, but citizens seem to be preparing for it nonetheless.
A Bloomburg News report October 31 quoted a business security consultant as saying, “If Trump wins, our risk analysts, who look at this every single day, are expecting widespread mass anti-government demonstrations in every major city.” In some commercial centers, shopkeepers boarded up their windows anticipating violence following the election.
And yet, perceived threats to democracy and social stability already are being countered by outpourings of support for America’s political system. A full-page ad in the Sunday New York Times touted a “Democracy Declaration” signed by many of the nation’s leading educators. Signators included the president of the American Association of University Professors, an Alabama State University professor of history, a Duke University professor of public policy, a Harvard professor of government, a Penn State professor of atmospheric sciences, a professor emeritus of Arizona State University and a Rutgers professor of history, to list just a few.
The “Democracy Declaration” states “We the undersigned educators in pre-K through 12 schools, colleges and universities, representatives of schools across the United States, endorse democracy as a means of giving voice to each one of us, of expressing the dignity of each individual, of representing the values of our society, and of ensuring the lawful transition of authority.
“Every freedom depends on the freedom to vote. Each vote counts; count each vote.” A month earlier, another full-page ad was emblazoned with the headline “We’re 100% In For Democracy.” The ad was endorsed and paid for by dozens of corporations including Cummins, Gap, Lyft, Deloitte, Best Buy, Dow, Estée Lauder and Bad Robot Productions, among many others.
In a preview of what to expect in the months ahead, U.S. Senator Martin Heinrich said October 31 that victories in the 2020 election “will make historic decisions on healthcare, climate change and more, that will determine our trajectory for decades to come.”
As politicians, both Republican and Democrat, have said repeatedly this year, “this is the most consequential election of our lifetimes,” Heinrich said. “We must continue our fight until every person —no matter who they are, where they live, and what they do for work— has access to life-saving healthcare and medication.
“We must continue our fight until the next generation can breathe easy knowing they will have clean air, drinkable water and a habitable climate for them and their children.
“We must continue our fight until people of color no longer worry for the safety of their family, friends and loved ones at the hands of those who are meant to protect and serve.
“We must continue our fight until every American family can afford food on the table and a roof over their heads without taking on two or three jobs.”