US presidential election enters final stretch with Trump lagging behind Biden
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By Iftikhar Ali

NEW YORK, Oct 31 (APP): With the 2020 US elections in final stretch, President Donald Trump, a Republican, and his Democratic challenger Joe Biden are making their closing pitches to the electorate amid resurgence of coronavirus infections.

The President trails Biden in national opinion polls as most voters say they disapprove of the Trump administration’s handling of the pandemic, which has killed more than 228,000 people in the United States, with case numbers once again breaking daily records as Election Day nears on Tuesday.

In his defence, Trump has claimed that the US is “rounding the curve” on coronavirus as the country set records in recent days for daily infections.

“There’s no nation in the world that’s recovered like we’ve recovered,” Trump told a political rally on Friday night.

More than 85 million Americans have already cast ballots in the election, according to a tally from the U.S. Elections Project at the University of Florida, setting the stage for the highest participation rate in over a century.

The record-breaking pace, more than 58% of total 2016 turnout, reflects intense interest in the vote this time.

Large numbers of people have voted by mail or at early in-person polling sites amid concerns the coronavirus could spread at busy Election Day voting places.

Significantly, Muslim-Americans, who have been under pressure since the 9/11 terrorist attacks, are more politically engaged and registered to vote than ever before.

There are more than 3.45 million Muslims living in the US, which has a population of over 328 million, with 240 million eligible to vote.

“Muslim Americans have become so politicized,” an official of the Institute for Social Policy and Understanding, Dalia Mogahed, said. “They command way more attention than their numbers would suggest makes any sense.

They’re oner percent of the population, yet talked about, discussed, scapegoated so often. So it’s really important that if they’re going to be talked about that they also have a voice, that they also have a place at the table.”

Throughout his 2016 presidential campaign and time in office, Trump has made Islamophobic comments, which Mogahed says have alienated Muslim voters.

At a 2015 campaign rally, Trump told a supporter he would look into the country’s “Muslim problem”. Later that year, he made promises to implement a database or “watchlist” to track Muslims in the U.S., and issued a statement calling for the shutdown of Muslim immigration to the U.S.

He also falsely claimed he watched thousands of Muslims cheering as the World Trade Center collapsed on 9/11. During a debate, he said “Islam hates us.”

In 2017, the first executive order in what is commonly referred to as Trump’s “Muslim Ban” went into effect, banning refugees from seven Muslim-majority countries.

According to reports, most Muslim-Americans, including Pakistanis, are leaning towards Biden, but Trump too has some support among them.

Some experts say that results this year might not be immediately clear, as a larger volume of mail-in ballots trickle in, with some wondering if Trump will accept the results of the election.

Despite overwhelming evidence and statements from FBI Director Christopher Wray that there is no evidence of a national voter fraud threat due to mail-in voting, Trump, who voted absentee in the Florida primary, has repeatedly suggested otherwise, sowing doubt in the election results.

In September, Biden said this about Trump accepting the election results: “I will accept it, and he will, too. You know why? Because once the winner is declared once all the ballots are counted, that’ll be the end of it.”

Though there may be some uncertainty about the results’ timing, there is no ambiguity about the process followed to determine the winner.

While winning the citizen vote is important, it will not guarantee either candidate the White House. To become the United States’ 46th president, they must win at least 270 electoral college votes.

Most years, the opinion of the electoral college — which consists of 538 members, one for each US senator and Congressman, and three additional electors — align with that of the American people. However, every so often, the popular candidate does not get the necessary electoral votes and loses the election.

In 2000, although Democrat candidate Al Gore won the popular vote by more than half a million ballots, George W. Bush became president after he garnered the support of 271 electors. In 2016, President Trump lost the popular vote by almost 3 million against Hillary Clinton but managed to win the nation’s highest office by obtaining 304 electoral votes.

Each state has a fixed number of electoral votes, equal to its representation in Congress.

California, for example, has 55 because it has 53 House of Representatives members and two senators. When the general public votes for their choice of president, they are indirectly voting for their “elector.”

The representative then casts his or her electoral vote for the most popular candidate. Because of how the number of electors per state is determined, an individual vote from a sparsely populated state is worth more in the final count than a vote from a densely populated state. Hence, the candidates don’t need to win the popular vote by a landslide to garner all the electoral votes the state has to offer.

For instance, in the 2016 elections, President Trump won the support of all of Florida’s 29 electors, despite winning just 49 percent of the popular vote.

While Hillary Clinton won the popular New York vote by a resounding 64 percent, she could only garner the maximum number of electoral votes available, which coincidentally was also 29.

Richard Pildes, a constitutional law professor at New York University, says electors are “conduits” for the popular vote in their state. Therefore, they are obliged to vote for the candidate chosen by its residents.

However, while thirty-two states and Washington DC require electors to keep their pledge, few hold rogue electors accountable for breaking their promise.

There is also no federal law preventing electors from voting for a candidate other than their party’s nominee.

A July 2020 ruling by the US Supreme Court stating the electors were constitutionally bound to vote in favour of the popular vote winner may lead to stricter laws.

However, Duke University School of Law professor Guy-Uriel Charles says that while states would benefit from imposing sanctions against rogue electors, the ruling does not require them to do so.

There have been numerous attempts to abolish the Electoral College by Americans who believe it does not assure victory to the candidate whom most of the country prefers.

Opponents say the system also deters people from voting, especially in states that heavily lean toward a certain party. For example, in the largely Democratic California, Republican voters often shy away from casting their ballots.

However, proponents argue that removing the Electoral College would defeat why the US founding fathers installed the law in the US Constitution — to ensure people in less populated rural areas would have an equal say in choosing their leader as those living in densely-populated areas.

They also argue that without the Electoral College in place, presidential candidates would concentrate only on winning the vote in high-population states, such as California, New York, and Texas. Besides, the system has only failed to work five times in the past 244 years.

Foreign policy barely got a mention in the campaigns by the rival candidates, but for the rest of the world the outcome on November 3 will arguably be the most consequential in history, diplomats said.

“All US elections have a global impact, but this time there are two issues of existential importance to the planet – the climate crisis and nuclear proliferation – on which the two presidential candidates could hardly be further apart.,” an Asian diplomat said.