If you’re like me and most others on the CleanTechnica team, you’ve been obsessively watching the US election results for the past two days. The most notable difference in this election compared to elections past is that the votes were cast in dramatically different ways. I noticed this on Election Day via real-world experience, and more so as election results started coming in, and then even more so as we are toward the end of this process.
As we all know by now, Democrats heavily favored mailing in their ballots, whereas Republicans heavily favored voting in person on Election Day, but that doesn’t even tell the full story.
First of all, there were two main reasons for the difference in preference. Democrats were quite concerned about election interference, and also about spikes in coronavirus causing disruption in the voting process. Democrats were probably much more concerned about voting in person as well (due to coronavirus), and more concerned about being in line around tens or hundreds of others (potentially for hours). Both of these concerns came in large part from the leaders they listen to and the media networks they watch or read.
Republicans were told for years that there was no concern of election interference from foreign hackers (ahem, Russia) and to not worry too much about the coronavirus pandemic. Indeed, tens of thousands (or hundreds of thousands?) of people attended Trump rallies in recent weeks as coronavirus cases were spiking, and a Stanford study found that 30,000 covid-19 infections and 700 deaths were directly linked to Trump rallies even before more than a dozen rallies took place at the end of the campaign (including three where Trump supporters were reportedly left out in the cold for hours afterward because the Trump campaign reportedly didn’t pay its bills to the transport companies and those companies didn’t bring the coaches back to pick people up).
New 📺📺📺: #TrumpRalliesKillPeople
Stanford doctors estimate that Donald Trump's unmasked super-spreader rallies have directly caused up to 30,000 coronavirus infections and 700 deaths.
How many Americans will Trump kill to try and win re-election?
As many as it takes. pic.twitter.com/NrAz1lwdWP
— Democratic Coalition (@TheDemCoalition) November 3, 2020
Democratic voters were very concerned about election interference and more concerned about the coronavirus, so they mostly voted very early by mail. Just as I was about to do that myself (and I admit I procrastinated a bit), a new concern started flooding our information channels. Longtime, big-time Republican donor Louis DeJoy took over the US Postal Service (despite financial conflicts of interest and despite no history of the head of the USPS coming from outside the USPS) and removed a ton of mail-sorting machines (particularly in Democratic metro areas of swing states). That led to many inside the postal service freaking out about what was happening and highlighting that mail was being severely delay. Many more reports started rolling in and confirming that. So, I ended up voting early in person in Florida instead of mailing my ballot in (a nice option that should be available in every state).
My mom and a friend of hers never actually received their mail-in ballots, so they also ended up voting in person. However, a large portion of Democrats mailed in their ballots very early.
Donald Trump and the Republican media machine never encouraged people to mail in their ballots, as far as I know. Donald Trump was vociferously opposed to this. Instead, they got them to flood the polls on Election Day.
As it turned out, leaked video of boxes of ballots sitting in mailrooms in South Florida (a heavily Democratic area) came out right before the election, and then there were reports of 300,000 ballots missing — ballots that came into the USPS but didn’t come out. A federal judge ordered DeJoy and the USPS to urgently sweep all of their mailrooms a day before the election and get them delivered ASAP. It’s unclear where this case will landed, but the last thing I heard is that DeJoy claimed that those 300,000 ballots were delivered but just not scanned because they were rushing them out so quickly before Election Day. Really. Take that for what you will. As I said, as far as I know, this is still an open case.
#USPS says it has 300,000 missing ballots that were mailed but not delivered, with heavy concentrations in big Democratic areas of key swing states: Philadelphia, Detroit, South Florida, Atlanta. This is what we feared. thttps://twitter.com/nytimes/status/1323710062846791680?s=20
— Eric Klinenberg (@EricKlinenberg) November 3, 2020
And then you have the simple matter of ballots not being delivered on time.
USPS processed 150,000 ballots after Election Day, jeopardizing thousands of votes
The number of mailed ballots not delivered by Nov. 3 is expected to grow as more postal data is released in the coming days https://t.co/1h0zBeBV9j
— Emma Kinery (@EmmaKinery) November 5, 2020
So, was there real concern about the USPS screwing up delivery of ballots (at the same time that Trump’s campaign was in the courts trying to make it illegal to count ballots that arrive late)? Sure seems like it! Who would that hurt? Clearly, it would hurt Democrats, since Democrats voted so heavily by mail. That is absolutely clear now that we are getting the vote totals all across the United States. As we are finding out, approximately 70% of mail-in ballots in red counties in Pennsylvania are from Democrats (or at least people voting for Biden), more than half of mail-in ballots in many red counties are from Democrats (people voting for Biden), and perhaps +90% of mail-in ballots in Philadelphia are from Democrats.
As we are also seeing, the votes in several states are so close that problems delivering mail-in ballots could certainly swing a close election. Even mail-in ballots from the military and others living overseas (which can arrive a week after Election Day) could swing the Georgia election one way or the other. And there’s still the question of whether some ballots were lost in the mail.
Getting back to the overall picture, though, the thing that jumps out to me is that Democrats and Republicans live in very different worlds just in terms of the information and recommendations they receive.
Again, this is something we know and have known for years. People who watch a lot of Fox News have very misinformed views on global heating and climate change. Obama famously said, “If I watched Fox News, I wouldn’t vote for me.” He also said, “If you watch Fox News, you’re in one reality, and if you read The New York Times, you’re in a different reality, and if you’re at BuzzFeed, you’re someplace else.” And Fox News at least has a professional news division! Yes, the opinion people, the loud talking heads that routinely misinform people, have more influence, but there are news professionals at Fox News who do their best to report the facts. There’s also an enormous underbelly of less professional and less objective websites, dramatically partisan Facebook pages and Twitter accounts, and even more radical areas of the web. Things can even get much weirder and more detached from reality from those “information sources” than from Fox News!
Many of us were appalled by people, led to a good extent by Donald Trump, who made the insane and racist claim that Obama was supposedly a Muslim Socialist born in Kenya (three lies in one statement) — for years. Many of us were shocked that Trump actually won the 2016 election, no matter how much help he got from Russia and no matter the fact that he lost by about 3 million votes in the popular vote. At this point, though, we have to recognize that a large portion of the country, at worst, lives in an odd world that is deeply disconnected from reality, and at best, live in a very different world from the one I (and I assume you) live in.
What do we do about that?