2020 Election, News, Special Projects, Voter Registration

COVID-19 to impact voter turnout

Before the coronavirus pandemic, projections showed record-breaking turnouts for the 2020 election, but health and safety guidelines may cause voter turnout to fall short, according to Long Beach State political science professor Matthew Mendez Garcia.

“We’re even less certain or less sure about what the electorate will look like because of the greater potential for disruptions to voting,” Garcia said.

Garcia outlined two reasons why predictions initially showed high voter turnout. The first was Democrats’ unity in their “antipathy” for President Donald J. Trump.

“They are mobilized because of their opposition to him and his policies and his behavior,” Garcia said. “And that has animated different segments of the party.”

Republicans, on the other hand, are highly motivated by their “intense loyalty” to vote for Trump, according to Garcia.

Political science professor Matt Lesenyie said the public’s concern about staying quarantined may decrease turnout. As a result, there has been more attention on mail-in and absentee balloting this election than there has been in the past.

It is likely that many voters mailing in their ballots will be doing it for the first time.

There is also the option now to track a ballot online, which may be a comfort to voters mailing in their ballots.

According to Lesenyie, voters tend to come out more during presidential elections because they feel more agency in voting for the president than during the primaries.

“People are most likely to flex their muscle because it’s a presidential ticket,” Lesenyie said. “Forget who’s on the ballot.”

Aside from coronavirus-related concerns, the main issue voters have in mind, Garcia said, is Donald Trump, not just his policies and actions as president, but as a person.

People who did not vote in 2016 tended to be younger, democratic-leaning voters and people of color. Garcia said this partially had to do with voters feeling disillusioned by the party after two terms of the Obama administration and a lack of enthusiasm for Hillary Clinton.

As opposed to the 2016 election, Lesenyie said, voters this election season are more likely to have chosen a side when it comes to Trump’s divisiveness.

“Pretty much everybody has their mind made up on Trump,” Lesenyie said. “I mean, there aren’t that many undecided voters left.”

Lesenyie said a possible change to the electorate this year will come from voters motivated by current events.

“What I would expect is that the Black Lives Matter reinvigoration, or the heightened salience of unlawful killings, will probably bring younger voters into Biden’s coalition,” Lesenyie said. “So if there was a change from 2016, I would expect the same racial and ethnic characteristics, but probably a slightly younger average age, largely pertaining to the coalescing of Bernie supporters into Biden’s camp.”

Fourth-year religious studies major Jose Espinoza said it is important for young Americans to go out and vote.

“It’s important that this young generation gets involved in the election process because we have an opportunity to make an impact in our communities and in our country in general,” Espinoza said. “It doesn’t matter what your political affiliation is. What really matters is that you go out and vote because if we don’t go out and vote will not see change.”

A naturalized citizen, Espinoza’s first opportunity to vote was in the 2016 election, something he said made him happy because he felt he was making a big impact on the country. He said he thinks Americans should be thankful for the opportunity to vote, especially since many people in other countries do not have the right to vote.

“As a college student, I vote because I care about the issues that are important to me such as social issues like abortion, the Second Amendment and religious freedom,” Espinoza said. “There is no excuse why you shouldn’t go out and vote.”


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