Joe Biden Is Leading in the Polls, But the 2020 Election Is Far From Over


If you’re looking at the poll numbers heading into next month’s presidential election, things are looking incredibly good for former vice president Joe Biden — even downright historic.

Following a chaotic first debate and President Donald Trump’s COVID-19 diagnosis, polls currently have Biden leading by about 10 points as early voting opens up in states across the nation. In fact, polling averages show that Biden is polling better than any presidential challenger since 1936; to date, just five challengers since then have led the race with only three weeks until Election Day, and Biden is the only one with numbers above 50%, according to CNN. Even more importantly, Biden has kept a lead in crucial swing states like Pennsylvania, Michigan, and Wisconsin, where Trump defectors are reportedly making their way to the Democratic ticket.

Sounds like sunshine and rainbows, right? Not so fast. Maybe a decade or two ago, Democrats would already be putting their feet up, resting easy, and looking forward to adding that electoral notch to their belts. But as we all know, we live in a very different time.

It’s understandable that even promising poll numbers make voters — particularly Democratic ones — skittish. As Princeton neuroscience professor Sam Wang pointed out this summer, the issue during the last presidential election cycle wasn’t that the polls were far off from what was projected in terms of percentages but that “our brains may have turned an emotional experience with polling into a lasting trauma.” Percentages or not, the Electoral College exists, and the prospect of the popular vote not translating to a presidential win again is terrifying.

But on top of the obvious apprehension given what happened in 2016, voter suppression gives us all another reason to remain vigilant heading into November. If you spend time on social media nowadays, the general sentiment around the election seems to be, “Just vote!” However, telling people that the state of democracy hinges on throwing a ballot at the problem leaves out the crucial context of the racist, sexist, ableist, and classist history of voter suppression in American electoral politics.

To put it simply, if Biden remains a clear favorite, we will likely see Republicans double down on their efforts to keep Americans from voting — especially when it comes to demographics which have a tendency to vote blue.

Just look at the tactics we’ve seen thus far in the last few days alone. Texas Governor Greg Abbott is limiting each county in the state to a single ballot drop-off site regardless of geographic size or population, an order that a judge blocked before it was upheld by an appeals court this week. Early voting precincts in Georgia reported residents standing in line for more than 10 hours to cast their votes — a sign of enthusiasm, sure, but also something that will deter some people from casting ballots. Research has also shown that these longer wait times tend to be in neighborhoods with prominent Black populations. And while California has gone blue in recent presidential elections, Republicans in the state set up unauthorized ballot boxes that they’ve now been ordered to get rid of. Those examples are just the tip of the iceberg and don’t even get into practices like states purging voter rolls or placing what has been called a modern-day “poll tax” on formerly incarcerated felons who have completed their sentences.



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