America heads to the polls Tuesday

File photo courtesy of © Can Stock Photo / tmainiero

This is it.

One of the most contentious presidential elections in U.S. history comes to a climax on Tuesday, as Americans head out to vote on who will lead the country over the next four years.

President Donald Trump, the incumbent and the Republican nominee, is facing former Vice-President Joe Biden, a Democrat, in an election marked not only by a pandemic but also by the general nastiness of the campaign, with the two candidates occasionally dissolving into name-calling and insults.

Trump’s supporters are giving the strong pre-pandemic economy, a hardline approach to illegal immigration, and Biden’s advanced age as some of their reasons to give Trump another four years in the White House. Those backing Biden are hoping for a return of dignity to the office, citing Trump’s impeachment trial earlier this year, the President’s volatile behaviour in office, and what was perceived as a botched response to the coronavirus crisis.

In addition to the presidency, voters in some states will also be choosing U.S. Senators, including Michigan. First-term Democrat Gary Peters is facing a strong challenge by Republican John James, a Black military veteran.

Control of the Senate is a secondary storyline of this election. Republicans have a 53-47 edge in the upper chamber, and races in several states are considered too close to call. Democrats are hoping to gain at least four seats to control the Senate, regardless of who ends up being elected Vice-President, who presides over the Senate.

All 435 U.S. House seats are up for grabs. Michigan has 14 of them. At the time of the election, Democrats held a slight edge with seven seats, followed by six for Republicans, and one Libertarian seat. Democrats control the lower chamber of Congress by a 232-197 seat count. Most election watchers predict that the House will stay in Democratic hands.

Elsewhere, most states are choosing new legislatures, and some, new governors. There are countless mayoral, council, and school board races at the local level.

Most states, including Michigan, also have ballot referendums. Michigan has two proposals. Voters are being asked to decide if a search warrant is needed to search someone’s electronic devices and to revise the formula for how state and local parks funds from trusts can be spent.

Thanks to the COVID-19 pandemic, which has been a major election-year issue, a record number of Americans have turned to mail-in voting. CNN reported Sunday that 91.4 million Americans, or two-thirds of all voters in the 2016 election, have cast ballots already by mail or early voting. Four years ago, a total of 136.6-million people, or 55.7 per cent of registered voters, participated.