Wednesday, September 23, 2020

Voting in a Supremely important election -- Sept. 24, 2020 column


I voted. As a reporter, I’ve never put a campaign sign in my yard, donated time or given even a dime to any candidate.

But I always vote. So, six weeks before Election Day, I voted early and in person -- no excuse necessary. Voters in Virginia used to need an acceptable reason to vote absentee. Fortunately, that’s no longer the case.

People were already in line – masked and socially distant – before the Alexandria election office opened at 8 on sunny Tuesday morning. I came back about an hour later. The line was longer, and again I passed by. But I was antsy to do my civic duty. I walked back.

The third time, oddly, there was no line. I walked in, showed my driver’s license and received a Registration Verified tag which I exchanged for my paper ballot. A staffer led me to the freshly wiped-off voting booth, and I filled in my choices, staying within the boxes. It took only a couple of minutes.

Outside, people again waited in line.

Voters are, to borrow a Democratic campaign slogan from the past: “Fired up! Ready to go!”

For many, the passing of Supreme Court Associate Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg and the exercise of raw political power by President Donald Trump and Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell to name and confirm a replacement at warp speed adds urgency to voting.

As if choosing the next president weren’t motivation enough, voters also will decide control of the Senate, where a simple majority confirms who will sit on the Supreme Court and other federal courts for life.

Ginsburg served on the court for 27 years. Trump’s first two picks to the Supreme Court – Neil Gorsuch and Brett Kavanaugh – are in their 50s.

It now appears McConnell has the necessary Republican votes to push a nominee through before the election, despite refusing to allow even a hearing for President Barack Obama’s last nominee in 2016.

Since Trump came to office in 2017, Republicans have made filling judicial seats a priority. Besides the Supreme Court justices, Trump has named 210 other federal judges to lifetime appointments, according to the Federal Judicial Center, the research arm of the federal judiciary. That’s more than one in four federal judges.

The Senate currently has 53 Republicans and 47 Democrats – including two Independents who caucus with Democrats. To win control, Democrats need to pick up three or four seats, depending on who wins the White House. The vice president breaks a tie.

Thirty-five Senate seats are up, including special elections in Arizona and Georgia to replace Republican senators appointed to serve out the unexpired terms of Sen. John McCain of Arizona, who died in 2016, and Sen. Johnny Isakson of Georgia, who resigned for health reasons at the end of 2019. Republicans are defending 23 Senate seats.

Virginia is viewed as a safe Democratic Senate seat. Democratic Sen. Mark Warner holds a comfortable 19-point lead over Republican challenger Daniel Gade in the latest RealClearPolitics average of polls.

In the Electoral College contest for president, Virginia is Likely Democratic, according to projections by the University of Virginia’s Crystal Ball.

Crystal Ball prognosticators this week moved the critical Senate race in Maine from Toss-up to Leans Democratic and, saying Republican Sen. Lindsey Graham of South Carolina “is in greater danger of an upset,” moved that race from Likely Republican to Leans Republican.

As chairman of the Senate Judiciary Committee, Graham’s role in the Supreme Court fight “could save him, though,” the Crystal Ball noted.

Meanwhile, we’re about to enter debate season. The first presidential debate is Sept. 29, with a vice presidential debate Oct. 7. Two other presidential face-offs are scheduled Oct. 15 and 22.

I think most people have made up their minds for president, and the debates won’t change much. If you’re undecided, you can still wait until Nov. 3 to cast your ballot in person at your regular polling place.

Mail-in voting is also an option – just request and mail in your ballot early.

I’ll still watch the debates, glad I put my ballot through the scanner and saw the waving American flag on the screen, indicating my ballot was recorded.

I voted. How about you?

©2020 Marsha Mercer. All rights reserved.

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