One week from today we will wake up not knowing much more than we do right now about who the next President will be. Many pundits expect we may not know the final results of the presidential election for at least a couple of weeks. At this point, it is an overstatement to say that this has been a unique year. It is not a surprise that the elections are also affected by the strangeness that has defined this year. These anticipated delays in election results do not mean that election night will be any less meaningful.
On the national stage, early results along the eastern seaboard will serve as a key indicator of how the night will progress for both parties. The results in Senate races in North Carolina and Georgia will be a good litmus test for what the night will hold. Large margins of victory in these states could be indicative of a trend that will carry the night.
America used to be a country that prided itself on its democratic process. Today the country is in such a perilous state that there are legitimate concerns surfacing about any transition of power. What has fueled these concerns is the pre-emptive messaging about election fraud. The warnings of election fraud come on the heels of reports of the President’s poor polling numbers. This is not a new strategy for the President who often discredits those who disagree with him. What will be interesting is if this type of gaslighting will pay dividends on election night and the days after. The country is experiencing one of the most hyper-partisan environments that I can recall. One should not expect that the losing team will go away in a gracious fashion.
At the state level, many pundits across the nation are watching the race in Arkansas’s Second Congressional District. Van Buren County is in the center of this congressional district. This is a very close race and voter turnout in Faulkner and Benton Counties will decide the outcome. Congressman Hill will hold large margins in rural parts of the district but in more populated areas these margins will be much smaller. Regardless of the outcome, it is a unique moment when a Congressional race in Arkansas attracts so much attention on the national stage.
Finally, on a local level, there are several questions that will be answered. Voter registrations are up 16 percent from 2016 and early voter turnout is on the rise. As of Friday, over 30 percent of all registered voters have cast their ballots. Voter turnout in the county has averaged around 77 percent during the last three election cycles. An increase in voter turnout is either indicative of concerns over the pandemic or signs of a super-charged electorate.
The two ballot issues that have received ample attention by this collum are of special interest to the county. The hospital tax issue is a referendum on access to care. The county will express the value they place on having access to healthcare in one of the state’s twenty-eight remaining critical access hospitals. This is a critical fiscal issue for the county. It is being influenced by uninformed or misinformed voters. That is a sad testament to our times on a variety of issues.
The wet/dry issue before the county will depend on traditional conservative voter’s choice to break from their ranks. Many of these voters chose to dine at restaurants that serve alcohol and spend money at businesses that do not share their values. Despite that ideological hypocrisy, these voters will still struggle to vote yes on this issue.
A week from today, we will wake up in a country that is no less divided, still seeing the impacts of COVID-19, and no closer to solving some of its most critical challenges. The most pressing question that we will have answered on election night is if the American public still believes enough in the democratic process to show up and express their voice at the ballot box. Early indicators are that the republic will answer in the affirmative.