What’s in Play on Election Day?

USF professor talks about voting in these times of crisis

By Mary McInerney, USF News Posted Wed, 10/14/2020 - 12:52

COVID-19 has reached the oval office. Social justice protests continue. There’s an open seat on the Supreme Court. Election Day looms. Time for a chat with James Taylor, professor of politics.

How will the pandemic affect voting?

It depends on how people view it. With more than 200,000 people passing on, the reverberation of the pandemic is something we cannot detect, in terms of voting, yet. How are those more than 200,000 families affected? And where are they located? The so-called red states are as affected as the blue states by this. Voting has already started, and people are translating these numbers [of deaths] into representing real peoples’ lives.

The incumbency is the only thing the president has in his favor. How powerful is the incumbency? Will it protect the president from the crisis and how he handled it? I think the incumbent will be evaluated on the pandemic by the people.

What about voter turnout? Are you worried about that with the pandemic?

It’s a concern. But there are a lot of people who are determined [to vote]. There’s a lot of resentment with the chicanery going on at the USPS. We assume people feel defeated by that, but it also brings out voters who resent it.

I think voter turnout is going to be driven by these emergencies — by the pandemic, by the policing protests, by President Trump’s comments about veterans. A lot of the metrics suggest that the incumbent is in trouble, but we’ve seen Donald Trump behind before. The X factor is the unknown. It’s the status quo of chaos we have right now.

Are you worried about election security and tampering?

What I do know as a political scientist is that the American system is so complicated, it would be very difficult to cheat. They would need to have a way to hack 50 different systems. We have a lot of really smart people who are working to outdo the hackers.

Will the death of Ruth Bader Ginsberg and the nomination of Amy Coney Barrett to the Supreme Court affect the election?

I think it’s more of a wake-up call for the Democrats than the Republicans, because the conservatives have long been focused on a judiciary strategy, and they have been successful so far. The passing of Ruth Bader Ginsberg mobilizes both constituencies, but I think it will probably mobilize the Democrats more, with a sense of alarm.

How might the social justice protests affect voting?

We have two pandemics. Racism is the other pandemic. I’ve seen a lot of people posting that they should respond to these pandemics by registering to vote. But we’ll see.