I am submitting this column a day before the most consequential election since I first voted in the battle between Ronald Reagan and Jimmy Carter (1980). At the presidential level, the differences between opposing candidates of past elections feel so trivial compared to what we face today. We have never witnessed such stark contrast between someone who is so ready and long-prepared to meet the daunting crises of our time, and a candidate who has contributed so much to create and foster the chaos, crisis, division and loss of American standing in the world.
If polls can be believed, there is no question that Joe Biden will easily win the popular vote. He leads at a national level by 8 percent and is favored in most swing states. According to an analysis by the New York Times, if Biden only wins in states where aggregate polls show him leading by at least 3 percent, he will win 291 electoral votes (he only needs 270 to win the election). All other scenarios look rosier. Recognizing that he won’t win in a fair fight and after doing their best to disparage mail-in ballots and purge voter lists, Trump and his loyalists are in a full-court press to throw out people’s ballots and prevent a full counting of ballots after today. The legal attacks to block the voice of the American people are likely to be the stuff of ugly legend, and I suspect we will hear much about this after this column is published.
Despite efforts by Trump and his loyalists to disenfranchise the voting public, the very nature of Trump’s efforts to divide America is likely driving a historic voter turnout. According to respective secretary of state offices, Washington and Idaho have had reasonable voter turnout with the general election in 2016 drawing ballots from 78.7 percent of Washington voters and 75.9 percent of Idaho voters (about 56 percent nationwide). As of Friday, Washington reported 4,873,146 registered voters and Idaho reported 1,008,357. In Washington, 67.6 percent of ballots have been returned as of Friday, including 71.1 percent of ballots from Whitman County (all postage free).
When Washington State first adopted mail-in voting (2005) following the contentious gubernatorial election of 2004, I was worried at first that it would be difficult to know if my ballot would be counted. My concern had nothing to do with fraud, error or corruption. I was mostly concerned that my signature would drift over time to a point where it would no longer match my original registration record. How would I know?
Fortunately, it is very easy to confirm your ballot status. You can enter your name and birthday at www.voter.votewa.gov to determine if your ballot was received and processed. Another site, www.votewashington.info/voter/wa provides easily accessible voter data from the Washington Secretary of States’ office. About a week ago, I checked this site and found that 2.3 percent of Whitman County ballots were “challenged,” mostly because the “Signature Does Not Match.” I immediately recognized five names on the list and reached out to them to make sure that they were aware of this situation and found that all five had already been notified about how to correct this problem. Ballots can be corrected between now and election certification (Dec. 3).
This is the model of democracy and it came about, in part, under the leadership of our 14th and 15th secretaries of state (Sam Reed, 2000 to 2012; Kim Wyman, 2012 to present), both of whom claim the mantel of the Republican party. Similar data might be available via the Idaho Secretary of State, but if it is available, it is well hidden. Despite this shortcoming, both states have bipartisan redistricting commissions, meaning that political shenanigans with voting districts are unlikely to arise as long as the 2020 census data is accurate.
Much still needs to be done in other states, and I hope that Washington will be viewed as a model for fair, secure and representative elections. If this is a data-driven process rather than barking rhetoric, America has a chance to finally realize the necessity and justice of a fully participatory democracy. Of course, getting there requires having someone who cares in the White House.
Doug Call is a microbiologist and father of three. He first discovered the Palouse 37 years ago.