Divergent views as Americans go to polls

Eniola Ajayi, California

President Donald Trump        Former VP Joe Biden

Attention of the global community will on Tuesday November 3 2020, shift to the United States of America, as eligible voters head for the polls to decide who steers the affairs of the nation for the next four years.

Already, tempers are high between the two main contenders for the White House: President Donald Trump of the Republican Party and the Democratic Party candidate, former Vice President Joe Biden.

Supporters on both sides have been at each other’s throats since the campaigns began and the development had charged the political climate leading to pockets of clashes between the supporters.

The Issues
Meanwhile, as citizens of Uncle Sam’s country decides on who occupies the Oval Office, some of the issues that will dominate the minds of the people include the economy, law and order, racial justice, healthcare, immigration, abortion, trade and foreign relations among others.

The contest between President Trump and former Vice President Joe Biden officially entered the voting phase a in September, with North Carolina mailing out more than 600,000 absentee ballots.
North Carolina being a battleground, is the first to begin its vote-by-mail as other states followed suit in September.

California’s Vote-by-mail ballots
In California, registered voters got vote-by-mail ballots in line with Executive Order N-64-20, ahead of November 3; the state has the highest number of mail-in ballots in the nation totaling over 21 million.

More than 40 million Americans cast their ballots ahead of Election Day in 2016, but the numbers increased significantly this year due to the Covid-19 pandemic which has so far accounted for more than 231,000 deaths.

Although President Trump kicked against voting by mail, describing it as unreliable, voting by mail is not a new in the United States’ political space; tracing its roots to soldiers voting away from home during the Civil War and World War II.

By the late 1800s, some states were extending absentee ballots to civilian voters under certain conditions, but it was not until 2000 that Oregon became the first state to move to an all-mail voting system.

A cross section of views
Speaking ahead of Tuesday, a Californian resident Mr Mike Morales, while fielding questions from Voice of Nigeria, believes that preparedness is not up to par, as many citizens are selecting candidates, based on popularity.

Californian resident-Mr Mike Morales

On the tension being generated and speculations of renting the polity, Mr Morales, affirmed that fake news peddlers had not helped the situation.
“The build-up is crazy with lots of fake news and overall confusion; as an educated Christian I am sure of my safety; my mood is calm as I am sure that God is in charge, and I am confident in His decisions,” he stressed.

According to another citizen who spoke with Voice of Nigeria ahead of Tuesday, Mr Drew Krum, “the level of preparedness was very high.”

Mr Krum was of the view that the adoption of the mail-in ballots also raised the level of the citizens’ preparedness.

“I think the preparedness of the citizenry is quite high because voting has been the same for many years, with the advent of mail-in ballots I think the citizenry can be even more prepared. The state does a good job sending out materials by mail, so there really isn’t much of an excuse to not be prepared. However, in light of all that, voting turnouts have been abysmal in the last few decades. Sometimes less than 20%, it’s as if we have taken it for granted and or we think our vote doesn’t count. Whatever the reason, it seems that the citizenry is quick to shout but slow to vote,” he added.

The mood, apprehension and division
In terms of the mood, Mr Krum expressed apprehension based on the divisive turn the campaigns and discourses have taken.

“As for my mood personally, I am apprehensive, I see this nation becoming more divided and polarized, in terms of what I think the mood is nationally, I think there is a lot of angst and a lot of anger. People that I talked to are more strongly left or right than I can ever remember them being. It’s not just that we are moving more to the right and to the left, but we are increasingly disinterested in listening and understanding, and far more interested in criticizing others and being heard. Therefore, I have apprehension about how our nation will fare going forward.”

Political climate
Expressing his preference for mail-in ballot, Mr Krum believed it was more convenient and safer against the backdrop of the covid-19 pandemic; however, he expressed concern over the tensed political climate.

“I prefer to cast my ballot by mail because it’s one less errand I have to run, also less interaction with others during these coded quarantine times. However, I have heard stories anecdotally of mail-in ballots being discarded. Our populace is increasingly distrustful of authority.”

“I think our nations climate in light of the elections is one of tension, apprehension, anger, and fear. These emotions are being emphasized and reinforced by our press. And as I watched the presidential debates, I lamented the loss of the idea that character counts, my pastor said this Sunday but he has never felt more politically homeless; I couldn’t agree more, I am so disenfranchised with politics in this nation right now, seeing that both sides appear to be more interested in power, gaining it or keeping it, then they are in investing in a better today and tomorrow. Without character, without integrity, then we the people can’t expect much from our rulers,” Mr Krum reiterated.

Nigerians in the diaspora
For many Nigerians in the diaspora, some of whom are students, they are of diverse opinions even as the poll approaches, some tilt to the right while others are on the left.

Even as some prefer to make their leanings private, Mr David Ilugbuhi who is currently studying in California said that he though, the decision was purely for the citizens to make, he would like to the best candidate emerge at the end of the day.
 A Nigerian in diaspora, Mr David Ilugbuhi

Mr Ilugbuhi added that he would also want to see an America that would remain immigrants friendly and beneficial to Nigeria and Nigeria’s interests in foreign relations.

The swing states
Meanwhile, as the situation reaches the crescendo, eight states have been identified as key in determining who eventually occupies the White House; the states are Arizona, Florida, Georgia, Michigan, Minnesota, North Carolina, Pennsylvania and Wisconsins, Democratic candidate- Biden currently leads in most of these key states.

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