Every four years in the United States, the American population above the age of 18 determines the next president. Beginning in 1788, the quadrennial presidential election was set to determine the future of the country for the proceeding four years. While this process has held sovereignty in our political realm, the upcoming elections may become an altered tradition. In 2020, we are in an unprecedented situation in which a viral pandemic may forever influence not only the normality of our daily lives, but the national tradition that determines it.
The Primary Elections
Image: Echo Press
Primary elections, also known as ‘primaries’, are the process in which voters can indicate their preference for a political party. According to ThoughtCo, the first presidential primary was held in New Hampshire in 1920 as a way to give people more power in the presidential nomination process. Until that point, presidential candidates were selected by elite party officials without any input from citizens, hence why the primary process is important. The primaries are essential as they determine the people who will be representing the political parties that we vote for and may eventually oversee the country.
According to The New York Times, in April, 16 states postponed primaries due to the coronavirus. An updated version of the article further claims that while many of those states have since voted, several others have rescheduled their tabulation until the end of summer. The pandemic is also projected to have an impact on the electoral outcome. According to Yahoo Finance, an election model run by forecasting firm, Oxford Economics, initially forecasted Trump winning in a close race. However, due to the economic damage resulting from the pandemic recession, the model now shows Biden beating Trump by historic margins in a walloping win. It should also be noted that predictions can be wrong, as we all lived through the 2016 elections.
As states begin the reopening process, a few have permitted in-person polling and growing concerns over how to address voters’ apprehension continue. According to NPR, Michael McDonald, a political scientist at the University of Florida who tracks voter participation claims, ‘The real outstanding question is whether or not we’re going to have an election system that can deliver for the voters and whether or not we’re going to be able to manage everybody being able to vote in November.’
The article further claims that prior to the pandemic, states were expanding voting alternatives as a way to reduce long lines and provide flexibility causing mail-in ballots to become increasingly popular since 2018. The focus has now shifted to consider the expansion of mail-in ballots as well as absentee ballots, which may forever alter how we conduct election voting. According to The Thread Weekly, this method may heighten the risk of fraud and will be expensive to maintain. However, mail-in ballots are a cheaper and safer option, and may increase voter turnout.
The 2020 Democratic National Convention
In April, the Democratic National Committee announced that the 2020 Democratic National Convention would be postponed until August. Due to the one month difference in rescheduling, the convention is now the largest political event to be upended by the coronavirus pandemic. While the event is now set to take place on August 17, it will be one week before the Republican Party plans to re-nominate Trump for the November 2020 ballot. According to The New York Times, former Vice President Biden’s team wants to preserve the anticipation of the large, in-person gathering as the event’s media coverage and spectacle may be influential to the general election outcome. The article further states that it is unclear where the public’s health measures will be then, however the postponed dates ensure that both parties will use clarified health data which will assess the safety of the large gathering.
I recently spoke to the incoming Syracuse University student body president and political office intern Ryan Golden. He offered the following thought, ‘The coronavirus is causing less consumer confidence in the reigning government. Democratic candidates across the board are gaining popularity, including former Vice President Biden, but the nation is starting to appear skeptical. The pandemic is projected to also dampen voter turnouts that may ultimately aid the President in his re-election efforts.”
As the COVID-19 pandemic continues, our national traditions will be altered in adherence to health and safety regulations. This viral episode has completely altered our lives and appears to be driving a wedge between our previous definition of ‘normal’ and the inevitable reality to come. The presidential election will be a forceful event that shapes American citizenship, but the coronavirus may be an even more impactful factor reshaping humanity.