Why voting by mail in US swing states could go wrong

Why voting by mail in US swing states could go wrong

Last week, Democrats made the case for Joe Biden to become the next occupant of the White House. Now it's the Republicans' turn to convince the US electorate to give President Trump a second term.

With Biden still leading in national polls, Trump has to win a handful of the key battleground states that swept him to electoral college victory in 2016. The twist is that he'll need to do that in an election where the proportion of mail-in ballots is expected to soar amid the coronavirus pandemic. How might that play out?


Swing states are in the mail. In 2016, Trump beat Hillary Clinton by less than 2 percent of the vote in four swing states: Florida, Michigan, Pennsylvania and Wisconsin. Residents in all of those states say they are much more likely to vote by mail this year due to COVID-19.

For an idea of how that could go, consider that in the primaries this year, officials in Michigan, Pennsylvania and Wisconsin — where Trump's razor-thin margin was roughly a total 80,000 votes — discarded more than 60,000 ballots due to missed deadlines or other violations, according to the Washington Post.

Voting by mail has become a deeply polarized issue. While absentee or mail-in voters are traditionally Republican, this year it's the Democrats (the majority of which tend to vote on Election Day) who are pushing for states to allow mass voting by mail. Much of the GOP — following Trump's own unsubstantiated claims — now say mail-in voting would encourage fraud. (Never mind that Trump himself is voting by mail after the lifelong New Yorker became a Florida resident last year).

Meanwhile, the US Postal Service, which must deliver mail-in ballots before the myriad different state deadlines, is stuck in a partisan tug-of-war over funding to ensure the envelopes arrive in time. Democrats – who proposed the funds — are particularly concerned, especially since Trump hinted that he'd be happy to see the USPS starved of the resources it needs to make mail-in voting doable if Democrats continue to hold up the next coronavirus stimulus bill.

Both sides worry about a worst-case scenario in which one candidate looks like he's won on election night, only to lose as mail-in votes are counted in swing states with slim margins. If that loser is Trump — who has railed against mail-in voting and already hinted that he won't accept a loss — a deep political crisis could be at hand.

All of this means that an election whose outcome and basic legitimacy will likely be more bitterly contested than that of any other vote in modern American history, is hinging in many ways on the mail. And with even standard election infrastructure looking creaky in the battleground states, it's possible that a close election won't get decided for days, weeks, or even months, fueling mistrust in the credibility of the election itself.

Of course, it wouldn't be the first time that a modern US presidential election is contested. But what happened in Florida in 2000 — when the Supreme Court controversially decided the election in George W. Bush's favor after several weeks of pondering "hanging chads" — will look like child's play by comparison.

That's Bank of America's new target in its Environmental Business Initiative in order to accelerate the transition to a low-carbon, sustainable economy.

Here's how it will drive innovation to address climate change.

On Tuesday, a major US intelligence report said the top threat to America right now is China. A day later, John Kerry, the Biden administration's "climate czar," got on a plane to... China.

Such is the drama of ties between the world's two largest economies these days.

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Should the Biden administration "reverse course on China" in the hope of establishing a friendlier relationship, as diplomat Kishore Mahbubani argues in a recent Financial Times op-ed? Ian Bremmer and Eurasia Group analyst Michael Hirson take out the Red Pen to explain why it's not that simple.

And today, we are talking about the United States and China. The relationship between the two most powerful nations in the world is the worst it's been since the Tiananmen Square massacre in 1989. Pundits and policymakers alike all around the world are trying to figure out how Washington and Beijing can at least stop the bleeding because a reset is nowhere in the cards.

That's the topic of the op-ed that we are looking at today. It's from the Financial Times, written by Singaporean diplomat Kishore Mahbubani, and the title summarizes the key argument: "Biden should summon the courage to reverse course on China." Meaning, he should throw out the Trump era approach and open the door to more cooperation and kinder, gentler relations.

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More than a dozen COVID-19 vaccines have been fully approved or are currently in early use globally, and COVAX, the global initiative started last year by the World Health Organization and other partners, is pushing for equitable access to vaccines for all. But most of the half billion jabs given so far have gone to citizens of wealthy countries, with half going to the US and China alone. What's the problem with so-called vaccine nationalism? Ian Bremmer explains that besides the clear humanitarian concerns, the continued global spread of COVID increases the risk of new mutations and variants that can threaten the entire world, vaccinated or not.

Watch the episode: Vaccine nationalism could prolong the pandemic

Should wealthy individuals and nations shoulder more of the burden in addressing climate change? Pulitzer Prize-winning climate journalist Elizabeth Kolbert argues that Big Tech leaders like Jeff Bezos and Elon Musk should shift more of their focus to fighting for our own planet's survival, instead of space exploration. "We're doing as much as we can to make life difficult on planet Earth for ourselves. But there's virtually nothing we could do to make it as difficult as life on Mars, where there's, among other things, no oxygen." Kolbert, the author of Under a White Sky, discusses why it's so crucial for a few rich countries to bear most of the climate burden, since they're also the biggest emitters. Her conversation with Ian Bremmer is featured in the upcoming episode of GZERO World, airing on US public television stations starting this Friday, April 16. Check local listings.

In recent days, Northern Ireland has seen some of its worst street violence in over a decade. The anger has subsided a bit this week, but post-Brexit fears leave many uncertain about their future in a deeply divided land with a long history of political violence between Irish republicans and UK unionists.

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Fighting climate change is about making the planet get less hot. The more quickly countries slow down their carbon emissions, the faster that'll happen. All the more important for the nations that pollute the most — but not all of them are on board. Although the majority, including China, are setting future targets to go Net Zero, India doesn't want to commit (yet) to when to stop burning fossil fuels to spur economic growth. We take a look at when the world's top polluting economies intend to go carbon-neutral, compared with their share of global emissions, of renewable energy as a source of electricity, and percentage of global coal consumption.

Peruvian runoff: Perú's presidential election is going to a runoff in June between two surprise and polarizing contenders, each of whom won less than 20 percent of votes in a highly fragmented first round. Pedro Castillo, a far-left union leader and teacher who benefited from a late surge in the polls, will battle rightwing populist Keiko Fujimori, daughter of the country's imprisoned former strongman. Castillo wants to rewrite the constitution to weaken the political influence of the country's business elite and maybe to allow the state to nationalize parts of the mining sector to pay for social programs for the poor. Fujimori wants to use mining revenues to create jobs by investing in infrastructure and healthcare. The runoff will probably be a national referendum on Fujimori, a divisive figure running for the top job for the third time. No Peruvian president has ever left office without facing corruption charges, but Fujimori already faces several — and she'll avoid jail time if she wins.

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