US elections 2020: The roller-coaster that is the state of Arizona

Swing state Arizona turned blue, but Biden's advantage started to shrink overnight
Swing state Arizona turned blue, but Biden's advantage started to shrink overnight © AP

David Vine, professor and activist for the Democrats, travelled from Washington D.C. to swing state Arizona to try and convince people to get out and vote. RFI talked to him about one of the most exciting election nights in decades.


"It was a wild and up and down night with lots of feelings. I woke up this morning with no certainty about the outcome of the election. I would guess it'll be Friday at the earliest that we know the outcome, and it could stretch on for quite a bit longer.

“Arizona was very encouraging. From the beginning, the results look very good for Joe Biden, and Democrats. But the early results from some of the other key states looked very bad for Democrats, I was working with a grassroots organization to ensure that every possible Biden voter, and every possible democratic voter actually voted actually got to the polls.

PODCAST: Professor David Vine, Biden Campaign activist in Arizona

A daunting task given the Covid-19 pandemic that scares people and forces social distancing.

“The Biden campaign decided months ago, to forgo all on the ground, in-person electoral work. That is a long-standing practice of US elections: people go door-to-door knocking and asking people about their intention to vote, basically encouraging them to vote.

The last hour

But as Vine worked for a grassroots organization that's separate from the Biden campaign, they were not bound to the restrictions imposed by the party.

“So we were literally going door-to-door with lists of people who are likely to be Biden voters, making sure they had a plan to vote and encouraging them to vote as soon as possible.

"Many people in Arizona, earmarked by most US press outlets as a “swing state,” could vote for many weeks before the actual election, “and almost everyone did because of the pandemic.

Vine and his team were up in arms until “literally the last hour that the polling locations were open, we were trying to get people to the polls, there was even someone who was in his towel, half an hour before the polls were going to close and someone convinced them to put their clothes on and jumped in the car.

“And five minutes later, they were on the way to the polls and indeed had their vote counted!”

Vine is not yet completely convinced that Arizona, with its 11 electors, will indeed become a blue state.

”We never felt completely confident. Biden always had a very considerable lead, up to 10 points.” But the distance between Biden and Trump started to close in the hours since the polls closed, narrowing the gap to 5 percent.

“Most news organizations have called Arizona for Biden,” but to Vine’s shock, the reputable New York Times did not.

“So part of me is being a little careful to not celebrate too early. There's still about 18% of the vote that has not been counted in Arizona. So we still I think want to see how those remaining votes trend before celebrating,” he says.

Missing ballots

Vine does worry about possible repercussions if Trump loses. “A lot will depend on his messaging to his voters to his supporters. Already, he is claiming that he is the victor, with no evidence to support that claim. That the election is being stolen from him. But there is no evidence of voter fraud of any kind or voter intimidation. The Trump campaign has been put on steroids, it's been expanded dramatically under Trump.

"But if Biden loses and Trump wins, “I think you will have a lot of very angry people on the left, I think people will look even more carefully at the kind of voter intimidation, voter suppression efforts,” says Vine pointing at Trump having “hollowed out budget of the United States Postal Service.”

Possibly as a result of this, the US Postal Service filed data in court regarding some 300,000 ballots nationwide that went missing.  

For now, the US Postal Service seems to be ignoring the judge's ruling. “There's certainly the potential for increased tension, increased polarization, increased anger on both sides," he added.

“My hope is that, that Biden wins, and that part of a Biden-Harris administration would be to attempt to address and decrease some of these tensions and polarization,” he says.



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