Thursday, 29th October, 2020

[Day 227]

Today was a typical autumn day with a lot of low-hanging cloud and weather where the rain was sort of hanging in the air – i.e. not quite a drizzle but certainly feeling a little damp. I walked down to town briskly on my own this morning to collect our ration of newspapers because we had a lunch date in our favourite little cafe in Droitwich, to the south of us. We decided to take our son with us and as a threesome enjoyed a roast of roast beef, Yorkshire pudding and all of the trimmings. The dinners are so large that we never have room for the sweets which are homemade (like trifles) and which are, no doubt, delicious. We ate early today because we needed to get back in time for our Waitrose delivery which was scheduled too arrive between 2.00 and 3.00 but in practice, turned up a little later. I have now added to my stock of Newcastle Brown Ale as I am getting well prepared for the election marathon night/day following the US election on Tuesday. It seems that over 75 million Americans have already cast their vote either by mailing in their ballot paper. or else by dropping them off at special ‘ballot drop boxes’ which seem to be a particular feature of this year’s election. Some states have had them for years but the popularity of this type of voting has increased tremendously with the COVID-19 virus ripping through communities. They have to be cemented into the ground and are subject to surveillance by video camera so, in theory, they should be tamper proof. The 75 million is well in excess of the 130+ million who voted in the 2016 Trump v. Clinton election and is probably one half of the 150 million who may well be voting in 2020. This is the point at which the story starts to get confusing. Each state has different laws regarding when the contents of ‘mailed-in’ and ‘ballot box drop’ votes will be counted. Some states will not start counting until the ballot has officially ‘closed’ whereas some other states allow for pre-processing e.g. taking the ballots out of their envelopes, checking that they are valid/legal votes etc. before the actual counting starts.

Now why should all of this matter? Well the following scenario may well play out. Pennsylvania is a crucial ‘battle-ground’ or ‘swing’ state which Trump just captured last time – but all of the indications are that Biden is narrowly ahead this year. However, we know that Republican voters typically vote in person whilst Democrat voters make more use of mailed-in or ballot drop boxes. The ‘in person’ votes are counted first so the initial indications may well be that Trump retained Pennsylvania – but the true result may well be known only in a few days time when the mailed-in votes are counted. So it is quite conceivable that Trump will declare he has ‘won’ Pennsylvania and attempt to use an army or lawyers to delay or invalidate the counting of the mailed-in votes, appealing all the way to the Supreme Court in the process (one of the reasons why he was so keen to get his own nominee, a proven conservative, to be confirmed in their position on the Supreme Court only days before the election). So if the result in Pennsylvania is critical for getting the requisite votes in the Electoral College (the magic figure of 280 vote) then we may now know the result of Tuesday’s election for days (or even a week or so) later. The scenario I have just outlined for Pennsylvania could well be repeated for each of the other crucial battle-ground states (Michigan, Wisconsin, Florida for a start)- no doubt we will see in the days following Tuesday (I hesitate to even say Wednesday)

And now to the UK domestic scene. The rate at which the COVID-19 virus is accelerating with an intensity and a ferocity not only in the UK but also in France and Germany is a source of real concern. More areas are being moved from Tier 1 to Tier 2 even today – residents in areas of Yorkshire and the Humber, parts of the West and East Midlands, as well as Luton and Oxford City will come under stricter measures. This may put our trip to Oxford on Saturday under some jeopardy but we shall have to wait and see. It looks as though half the country will soon be in Tier 2 or Tier 3 from next Monday – and perhaps most of the country by Christmas!