As the novel coronavirus spreads far and ugly, leaving nothing but social distancing as the only way to save mankind, US presidential candidates and poll managers too are realising that this is the only way to keep democracy afloat in America for the November 2020 polls.
The compulsion for social distancing has come from the yet unaccounted for and un-estimated expanse of human damage worldwide, including in the United States, where the death toll has touched 200 already and counting, and also because of the inability of poll organisers in both Democratic and Republican camps to get people to poll rallies. It is feared that voters may not even be able to get to the polls and exercise their rights safely.
The end result—use technology to reach out to voters, as the world witnesses the US polls going completely virtual this time.
As the US goes virtual to keep the poll fervour kicking, while it tries to beat the corona fever, there are others too devising ways to vote or delay the process itself.
In England, local level and mayoral elections have been postponed for a year as Covid-19 cases skyrocket; Israelis under quarantine had to vote at special drive-through polling sites, leading to complaints of long lines and confusing instructions.
In the US, rallies have got cancelled, which many say that they haven’t seen since the Spanish Flu pandemic interrupted the midterm campaigns of 1918.
Also, amidst the concern about the health of two septuagenarians—Democratic former Vice President Joe Biden, 77, and Vermont Senator Bernie Sanders, 78—whose advanced ages make Covid-19 particularly hazardous for their own safety—and with President Donald Trump himself getting tested amidst news of his meeting a corona positive guest at a get-together recently, will have effectively stopped holding
public events. Instead, both
political camps have swiftly changed gears and are instead relying on broadcast speeches and “virtual” town halls.
Sources from the Indian American community, who spoke to The Sunday Guardian, said that both Biden and Sanders’ campaign staffers have been ordered to work from home, and field organising has shifted to phone banking and texting, and other digital spaces that the virus can’t reach.
Democratic fund-raiser and top Biden supporter, Ajay Bhutoria told The Sunday Guardian, “Outbreak of the novel coronavirus is impacting businesses, lives at all levels and is also heavily impacting political campaigns and elections.”
“Political campaigns have implemented several precautions to protect our staff and the public at large, by suspending all door-to-door canvassing operations and closing campaign offices, campaign events and volunteers’ outreach to constituents to slow the spread of the virus.”
However, Bhutoria quickly added, “This doesn’t mean campaigns have stopped communicating with voters. Campaigns have innovated and upgraded by using digital video conferencing town halls, Zoom fundraisers, social media town halls, phone, and good old fashioned US Mail to keep the electorate informed of this important upcoming election, and the need to elect strong leaders in Washington, DC.”
But the sudden change in poll campaign schedules has also triggered sharp reactions. The California- based Indian origin techie added, “Louisiana moving primary to June 20 violates current DNC rules.” Louisiana Secretary of State, Kyle Ardoin announced on Friday that the primary that was set to take place on April 4 has been delayed to June 20—a move that the Democratic National Committee said runs afoul of the committee’s “rule on timing” since all contests must be held before June 9.
Ardoin said he requested postponing the primary “out of an abundance of caution for Louisiana’s voters, voting officials, and the voting public as a whole.”
And the reason to go virtual is also for a specific, yet valid reason—most of poll commissioners are of 65 years or more, thus risking their lives more.
No wonder, said Bhutoria, “Ohio has postponed the Primary. And many more states could follow to protect the public health of the election staff and all people in the state.”
Michael Bloomberg donated $18 million to DNC. DNC has been building strong grassroots resources and operations in key battlegrounds at the grassroots to make the most of time and plan lost due to the corona pandemic.
Interestingly, the corona pandemic, which is far from over and has infected over 20,000 people in America, has failed yet to dampen the Indian Americans’ poll excitement and their keen participation.
As the rest of America, Indian Americans are standing strong in their fight against coronavirus. Indian doctors, nurses, grocery stores owners, cab drivers, truck drivers, IT people are on the frontline of this fight. It is to be seen if they judge the Trump re-election on his handling of the corona crisis or take the traditional route to go the Democratic side and vote for Biden. But an intense battle between the presidential candidates is on the cards and it will also test who is best at using technology in the time of crisis.