Saturday 28 November 2020
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Biden probably winning but conclusion hardly foregone

The peculiar method by which Joe Biden is going to be the next President of the United States and Kamala Harris the vice-president explained

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Politics World Biden probably winning but conclusion hardly foregone

The peculiarity of the electoral process of the United States has left the world confused. The uniqueness is not limited to two separate results — one popular and the other of the electoral college — it is also about how different states have different rules of counting and when to stop the process. Going by the popular votes alone, however, the media made a prediction similar to that of 2016, learning no lesson from their previous attempt at playing astrologers. Of course, they want the Democrats to win; they want Joe Biden to be in the White House. When have they not? But they had to show they were neutral journalists too. So, here’s what they missed in trying to be neutrally Democrat.

The US polling process is prone to mistakes, at the least to inaccurate results. Nevertheless, the American media said that Democrat presidential candidate Biden was leading the popular mandate by anything between 5% and 10% points. Therefore, they opined, even if they were to go as wrong as they did four years ago, Biden would be comfortably home. The aged leader prone to bloopers in speech may be home alright, but not comfortably.

Counting rules are vague alright, Biden winning popular vote

Most pollsters spoke to 1,000 odd voters out of 240 million. Here, the media does observe that Americans registered as Republican voters were not as forthcoming when the surveyors approached them. Meanwhile, seeing Biden lead in all opinion polls, it appears the Republicans made a strategy to withhold their voters until the final days. As a result, by 1 November, the voters that Republicans still had in stock far outnumbered Democrat voters who were yet to cast their choice. This was a difference of about 200,000 (two lakh) votes. This explains why the turnout broke the 2016 record on 3 November.

However, what seems to have been the Donald Trump campaign strategy did not quite work out. Surely, the eleventh hour surge in Republican votes were not enough to reverse the tide that was clearly in favour of the Democrats. Nonetheless, the margins of lead Biden was earlier enjoying dropped drastically.

Sirf News Analysis

Pennsylvania, Nevada, Michigan, Arizona and Georgia are still counting, with tens of thousands of absentee ballots left to be summed up. The votes not counted yet are mostly from absentee or mail-in ballots. Even if they go mostly to Biden, the counting rules of some states may not consider these numbers. For example, the pro-Democratic cities of Philadelphia and Pittsburgh nearly annulled the lead of Trump in Pennsylvania although these were mail-in ballots. Expectedly, Rudy Giuliani, the president’s longtime personal lawyer, filed a suit to stop the counting before Trump’s lead could whittle down further.

Neither Pennsylvania nor Wisconsin could process early ballots before election day as per the rules of counting in these states. Wisconsin is saying its counting is over and Biden is the winner here with a 20,517-vote margin. But in Pennsylvania, with 84% of the votes counted till yesterday, Trump was leading Biden by 300,000 (three lakh) votes and yet the president would lose here because the challenger and former vice-president is winning 75% of 1.1 million, which is 825,000, votes.

In Michigan, the Trump campaign alleged it was denied due access to the counting process. But in Wisconsin, if Biden saw a last-minute surge in Democrat votes that had arrived via mail-in ballots, he was leading on the count of early votes too.

Elsewhere, in North Carolina, while Biden now is far more poupar than Hillary Clinton of 2016, he could at best reduce the margin of loss of the Democrats.

And the Trump campaign isn’t deliberately delaying the ‘inevitable’ with a spate of lawsuits. In Nevada, for example, the trend changed on 4 November after the recount, with Biden’s lead greatly reduced. Tens of thousands of votes remain uncounted as yet here as well.

Georgia saw Trump’s lead narrowing and the president’s team expectedly approached the court here too. They said some ballot papers arrived after the polls had closed. But a huge turnout of Black voters in Atlanta makes it unlikely Trump can hold this constituency.

The above wouldn’t make Biden the president, though; the following will

The other peculiarity in the American electoral process is well known. In this indirect democracy, it’s the electoral college that sends you to the White House, not the people’s direct mandate. To win the electoral college votes, Biden will have to maintain the lead in Nevada and Arizona where his lead is 253-213 at the time of the drafting of this news analysis.

CNN believes “Biden will win

  1. at least three of Maine’s four electoral votes
  2. one of Nebraska’s five electoral votes
  3. Wisconsin
  4. Michigan
  5. Hawaii
  6. Rhode Island
  7. Minnesota
  8. Virginia
  9. California
  10. Oregon
  11. Washington state
  12. Illinois
  13. New Hampshire
  14. New Mexico
  15. Colorado
  16. Connecticut
  17. New Jersey
  18. New York
  19. Vermont
  20. Delaware
  21. Washington, DC
  22. Maryland
  23. Massachusetts

The media house above sees Trump winning

  1. Montana
  2. Texas
  3. Iowa
  4. Idaho
  5. Ohio
  6. Mississippi
  7. Wyoming
  8. Missouri
  9. Kansas
  10. Utah
  11. Louisiana
  12. Alabama
  13. South Carolina
  14. North Dakota
  15. South Dakota
  16. Arkansas
  17. Indiana
  18. Oklahoma
  19. Kentucky
  20. West Virginia
  21. Tennessee and
  22. four of Nebraska’s five electoral votes

But don’t go by the higher count of Trump. Whoever gets at least 270 electoral college votes wins. Now, while every elector in an electoral college has one vote, not all states have the same number of electors. The larger states have more. Here’s the distribution:

Screenshot from a Wikipedia article: * The Twenty-third Amendment grants DC the same number of electors as the least populous state. This has always been three.
** Maine’s four electors and Nebraska’s five are distributed using the Congressional district method.

Further, except in Nebraska and Maine, the party that wins the popular vote gets the electoral college votes too. By this method, Joe Biden is going to be the next President of the United States and Kamala Harris his deputy.

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Surajit Dasgupta
Surajit Dasgupta
The founder of Sirf News has been a science correspondent in The Statesman, senior editor in The Pioneer, special correspondent in Money Life and columnist in various newspapers and magazines, writing in English as well as Hindi. He was the national affairs editor of Swarajya, 2014-16. He worked with Hindusthan Samachar in 2017. He was the first chief editor of Sirf News and is now back at the helm after a stint as the desk head of MyNation of the Asianet group. He is a mathematician by training with interests in academic pursuits of science, linguistics and history. He advocates individual liberty and a free market in a manner that is politically feasible. His hobbies include Hindi film music and classical poetry in Bengali, English, French, Hindi and Urdu.

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