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Image Credit: Verónica Zaragovia
Voting in one of the most momentous presidential elections in the nation’s history is over. The morning after polls closed nearly 136 million ballots had been counted. But as had been reported for weeks ahead of the election, there is no clear winner, and the tally of absentee ballots continues. In this election special, we go to Arizona, Florida, and Oregon to hear from voters there. And later in the program we’ll hear about election power grabs, and some of the legal fights that have been taking place to protect the rights of voters.
Special thanks to Davey D of Hard Knock Radio for the interview with Dr. Kimberly Ellis.
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Featuring: Credits: Host: Monica Lopez Election Show Producers: Sonya Green, Salima Hamirani, Anita Johnson, Monica Lopez Making Contact Staff:
Host: Monica Lopez
Election Show Producers: Sonya Green, Salima Hamirani, Anita Johnson, Monica Lopez
Making Contact Staff:
- “Black Ant” – Fater Lee
- “In Pursuit of Silence” – Daniel Birch
- “Marimba on the Hunt” – Daniel Birch
- “Bom Jardim ID” – Lobo Loco
Joe Biden You know, we could know the results as early as tomorrow morning, but it may take a little longer. As I’ve said all along, it’s not my place or Donald Trump’s place to declare who’s winning this election. That’s the decision of the American people.
Moncia Lopez Voting in one of the most momentous presidential elections in the nation’s history is over the morning after polls closed, nearly one hundred thirty six million ballots had been counted. But as had been reported for weeks ahead of the election, there’s no clear winner. And the tally of absentee ballots continues in this program will go to Arizona, Florida and Oregon to hear from voters there. And later in the program, we’ll hear about election power grabs and some of the legal fights that have been taking place to protect the rights of voters. This is Election 2020 More Than a Vote on Making Contact. I’m Monica Lopez. The race for president is tight in battleground states, but in Arizona, many voters are celebrating the historic win.
Reporter Maritza Félix has more on the mood in the state.
Sonya Green In Arizona on voting day Tuesday, the early mood was celebratory.
Chef Silvana Salcido Esparza I feel confident. You know, we’re the maverick state, to be brief. John McCain was the one that paved the way for many of us.
That’s Chef Silvana Salcido Esparza , an activist and restaurant owner in Phenix. She’s one of millions who voted early by mail in Arizona. According to journalist Maritza Felix, voting by mail was by design. She followed the election results for Making Contact in Arizona.
Maritza Felix Tuesday was a historic day in Arizona. Arizona turned blue. Arizona has been Republican, voting Republican for the past 20 years. In 1996, Clinton won the presidential race in Arizona and he was the last Democrat to do so. But on Tuesday night, Joe Biden made history. And not only him, Mark Kelly, who was running for Senate, sheriff Penzone who was running for reelection. They also won.
There are also Democrats… Proposition 207 to legalize the recreational use of marijuana proposition 208 who impose a new tax to support education in Arizona also won and those two bills where supported and endorsed by Democrats. So Tuesday, is it was a historic day. The next day, Wednesday, everybody was still wondering, is this possible? Are we in the real new Arizona? Is this what change looks like? I think most of the change comes from many of the volunteers that this election made Arizona had record numbers, voting numbers.
We in Arizona, we’re so used to be voting by mail. Early voting is a huge thing in Arizona. So by last week, last Friday before the elections, we already had 2.3 Million ballots delivered to the electoral authorities. So whenever we had the results, we were already seeing what was a trend in Arizona. And it aligned with all the things that the volunteers, the people and the voters were telling us is like we are tired of the same thing all over, all over. We’re tired of being taken for granted. And this is how Arizona is going to look like from now on it’s not about parties. It’s about change, respect and dignity.
Sonya Green Felix talked to organizers at Mi Familia Vota, a national organization that works to increase civic participation in Latinx and immigrant communities.
Eduardo Sainz, I am the Arizona state director for Mi Familia Vota. You know, it’s no surprise that right now our communities have been so far at the heart of this when it comes to COVID, because of our unemployment rates, lack of access to health care and our kids not being able to drive public education. And our communities understand that in order to create change, we must show up on Election Day and we must hold elected officials accountable.
There is no coincidence that in the Arizona electorate 80 percent of voters vote by mail, and it’s because of the education and the investment that we have made in the Latino community to be able to thrive and also have participated from the comfort of their homes. One of the second group, the second largest group in the country. And we deserve representation, when it comes down to the courts, when it comes down to elected officials, when it comes down to representation, overall, we need to make sure that our representation at all levels happens the way that needs to be, and also create a pipeline of new leaders that can take on those roles, and be prepared to govern in the different levels from municipalities to our federal government.
Sonya Green For Esparza is that no matter who you voted for, it’s all about respect.
Chef Silvana Salcido Esparza There’s a sign right behind us…says… Respetar los derechos de otras presonas como la paz, respect other people’s rights as peace. I can’t expect you to respect me if I don’t respect you first.
So I respect my fellow Republicans. But I hope that they can respect themselves enough to vote with a conscience… That they hold dear and near to their party, the things that I respected, even their steadfast stance on things, you know, I got to respect that. So we’ll see. We’ll see what the conscience of America is that I. Thank you. Thank you.
Moncia Lopez The day before the election, a host of Hard Knock radio, Davey D spoke with Dr. Kimberly Ellis, founder and creator of Black Politics Matter. Ellis explains the role that the state of Pennsylvania could play in the race for president.
Dr. Kimberly Ellis You know, here in Pennsylvania, you know, we are a battleground state. You know that Pennsylvania, you know, we we as in the Democrats who are who are voting for Hillary Clinton and against Donald Trump, lost that battle by 44,000 votes in 2016. And so we’ve been trying to make sure that we don’t repeat that error. And it’s been a major battle. I mean, everybody knows that, “So goes Pennsylvania, so goes the United States of America.” Everybody’s saying, like, so goes the country.
For this race. Donald Trump and Joe Biden, they are ending their races here. Basically, both the city of Pittsburgh and the city of Philadelphia are densely packed populations and they are bastions of liberal politics. So you can pretty much count that like they are anti Trump largely in Pittsburgh and Philadelphia. But when you get outside of those cities and you go to the wider counties, it’s a mix and you definitely step into Trump country. So it’s interesting because because of those types of politics. So what’s been happening lately?
I mean, I think what made the most national news is the so-called Trump Caravan welcome of the Biden bus in Austin, Texas. And people will say, oh, you know, they were just giving them a Trump Trump welcome. You know, the vehicles surrounded the bus and quote unquote, escorted them down the highway. But it definitely was meant to terrorize, is definitely meant to intimidate. And the Biden Harris event that was supposed to occur in Austin, Texas, that evening was canceled. All right. So if it was just a friendly welcome, right (Which we already know was not you know, it’s not a friendly welcome), then you wouldn’t have to be you wouldn’t have to have safety concerns. You wouldn’t have to be concerned about, you know, intimidation. This is this is voter suppression. So here’s the thing.
The voter suppression tactics have not worked largely. I got to give it to the Democrats and the organizing. I got to give it to the Biden Harris team because the way that they pushed. Early voting was brilliant, the way that they made sure that at least Democrat run states and any Democratic officials, you know, that were on the ground, they made sure to open up and literally democratize the democratic spaces. So more ballot boxes were open.
Moncia Lopez One state where both presidential candidates campaigned heavily in the days before the election was Florida reporter Veronica Zaragovia joined me from Miami.
Verónica Zaragovia Well, Monica, I’m going to start off here in Miami-Dade County, which is the most populous in the state of Florida, and it went to President Trump and he drastically improved his support in Miami-Dade County by some 200,000 votes in this election as compared to the last one. And actually, former Vice President Joe Biden didn’t show a growth for Democratic support in the county. And President Trump also had an effect on the down ballot races. Two House Democrats from South Florida have lost to the Republican challengers. And they are Donna Shalala, who was the Health and Human Services secretary under former President Bill Clinton. And she lost to a former TV journalist and commentator, Maria Maria Elvira Salazar. Florida’s voters approved a minimum wage hike. It will go up to 15 dollars.
Monica Lopez And so last night you went out in the streets to speak to voters. Where were you and and who were you speaking with?
Verónica Zaragovia So I went to two places in Miami-Dade County, and one of them is in a city called Hialeah, which is a very it’s traditionally a Republican stronghold because the population is largely Cuban-American.
Cuban American Trump Supporter We’re here to support our president and we need to have a vote on this. And he supports the businesses and he’s a businessman. And I’m pretty sure he will ..our economical was really good before the pandemic and I think he will kind of come on again.
Verónica Zaragovia And there’s a library there that John F. Kennedy Library where I went because, I had heard the lines for voting had been pretty long over the course of early voting.
And it was a place that was very busy. And there were Cuban-American voters who support President Trump on one side. And then I noticed a little while later, a group called Cubanos Con Biden came and set up a table on the opposite end.
Person holding sign Cubanos Con Biden This country opened their arms to Cubans in a way that they’ve done with no other refugees before. They immediately made it possible for us to work, for us to be legal in the system, for us to have driver’s licenses, for us to send our kids to school. My mother came without her parents and they sent them to the Catholic Church with a government program that my grandparents knew her kids would be taking care of until they could be reunited. They gave us health care. They gave us tuition and grants to go to school, to go to university.
And when people talk about the how well, quote unquote, Cubans have done in this country, it is because we were accepted with open arms, because we were given every opportunity. That makes me immediately responsible to anybody else knocking on our door because my parents wouldn’t have made it if our country hadn’t welcomed us this way. The speed at which Cuban Trump supporters want to close the door, speaks to the nationalism, the racism that they learned in Cuba, and it speaks to what they learned under dictatorship.
Moncia Lopez So, you know, for the first time, Latinos are the largest ethnic minority group voting group in the country. 32 million were eligible to vote in this election. Now, as we know that many people with so many different origins are bound to have diverse viewpoints. How does that diversity play out in Florida?
Verónica Zaragovia The Latino vote here in South Florida and in Florida generally is quite different than that in many other states in the country. Trump won the majority of the Cuban-American vote, which is not surprising. What was different this year based on people I spoke to, is that it is varied very much on age. And so the older Cuban-American voters, who many of whom have been here since the 60s, they are staunch Republicans and don’t want any warming of relations with Cuba. President Trump reversed former President Barack Obama’s policy of engagement with Cuba. And so that has done very well. I heard a lot in advertisements, the terms you know, socialista and communista, that when when opponents of Joe Biden were portraying him as maybe someone who could resemble the leaders of countries that they left and that that they are very much opposed to. Venezuelan Americans also shifted towards Trump. He didn’t do as well with Puerto Rican voters. A lot of them live in the in the center in central Florida, in the Orlando area.
There certainly the issue that Democrats didn’t do a lot of door knocking this election because of the pandemic, but the Republican Party has done a lot more of the get out the vote in person. And I only say that that really helped Trump out.
Moncia Lopez Though there were fears of unrest on Election Day, voting in cities like Portland ran smoothly before the election. President Trump ordered federal officers deployed to Portland and protesters clashed with Proud Boys and MAGA supporters for months.
But reporter Tammy Habteyes from KBOO Community Radio says she felt none of that tension last night.
Tammy Habteyes I am Tammy Habteyes. I go by she her and I’m the public affairs director, KBOO Community Radio.
Salima Hamirani And what did you see last night? How did people feel at the polls?
Tammy Habteyes People were very excited. People were super excited. They were very upbeat. There was a little bit of an underlining of, OK, let’s just kind of be vigilant. But overall, people seemed really, you know, stoked to partake in democracy.
Greg Vulmore My name is Greg Vulmore. I’m thirty two and I’m a crew leader at a moving company. But yeah, this is the first time I’ve voted in eight years. And I thought that it was amazing, the the initiative that you saw with sports in particular and how much of a marketing effort they did to really emphasized to get out and vote. I think it’s amazing. I think it’s awesome for this country if there’s a positive that came out of it, people like myself that decided that I didn’t want to think my voice had any impact. And this year, after eight years of not voting, I made sure I got my butt out and voted.
Salima Hamirani There’s been a lot of violence in Portland this past year, were there any Proud Boy agitators or was there fear felt by you as you interviewed people at the polls?
Tammy Habteyes As a Black woman, I always vigilant in Portland, especially in, you know, the last since the summer since the uprisings, there wasn’t any violence, although once it started getting dark, there were a couple of unsavory looking folks walking around and police presence definitely tripled within moments.
Salima Hamirani And did anyone you talk to, you have a fear about, you know, Trump supporters or Proud Boys showing up and agitating, or do they seem pretty hopeful?
Tammy Habteyes People seem pretty hopeful in the sense of they were happy to vote, although there was a lot more fear towards the future. And what this election holds. An ongoing mantra was fear of the future in the sense of what people are being taught and exposed to right now and also, of course, COVID and what that means going forward.
They were definitely saying that if Trump was elected, then people are going to die just straight up like that, which was, you know, very strong words. But people weren’t really holding back and they were just hoping that Biden would have a better plan than what Trump is doing right now, which, you know, as we can see, it’s it’s kind of when you start with nothing, it’s only going up. Unfortunately, he’s left him a lot of wiggle room to to do a better job at a covid response.
Chiquita a poll observer My name is Chiquita, I’m retired. All right. Now I’m acting as the poll of elections observer for the Democratic Party.
An interviewer And what are some of the issues that are important to you during this particular 2020 election?
Chiquita a poll observer Multiple, multiple, multiple issues. Anything having to do with economic disparity, with housing, with racial justice, issues of criminal justice, with health care, — just with the bad behavior of the person in the White House right now. The slide toward fascism.
Salima Hamirani Was was last night what you expected? I didn’t expect to see so many young people.
I didn’t expect to see so many Black people to which I was thrilled to see. And, you know, there are a lot of Spanish speaking media outlets as well. Is this all walks of life. You know, and everyone is there for one reason and that one reason was for progress of some sort. You know, no matter who you voted for. I was expecting it to be more scary. It reminded me of going to the polls with my grandmother when I was younger. Just reminded me of America, like all walks of life, a lot of people saying…”just exercising, exercising my civic duty.”
Kaly Wagner My name is Kaly Wagner. I’m twenty seven years old and I’m a professional circus performer. Today I’m out here with Cirque D’Vote, which is a national kind of effort to get people to the polls and practicing their their part in democracy. I think I think that there’s no one issue that we can really single out right now. But I think that getting people out there and hearing the true voice of the people is what’s important right now.
Monica Lopez That was Tammy Haggerty’s from KBOO Community Radio, reporting from Portland, Oregon. Although some states began counting mail in ballots early. Some key battleground states like Pennsylvania will take a few days to tally results. And some organizers warned that given Trump’s tweets and comments, he would try to subvert the election in some way.
Donald Trump This is a major fraud in our nation. We want the law to be used in a proper manner. So we’ll be going to the U.S. Supreme Court. We want all voting to stop. We don’t want them to find any ballots at four o’clock in the morning and add them to the list.
Monica Lopez What does this mean? A few observers caution that Trump could attempt to orchestrate an undemocratic seizure of power through key institutions like the High Court. Making Contact producer Salima Hamirani spoke with organizer Joshua Kahn Russell, who’s been preparing for this possibility.
Joshua Kahn Russel And I’m an organizer with an effort called Choose Democracy, a number of us saw the writing on the wall of the different ways that Trump and the Republicans were going to potentially try to steal the election using legal, illegal, extralegal means in a way that was tantamount to what we’re calling a coup.
And we decided that starting in August, we were going to start to seed a strategy framework that was based on what we’ve learned from coups from the last maybe 70, 80 years all around the world. And we go deep into case studies, everything from Thailand in 1992 to Argentina in 1987, to France in 1961, you know, in 1920 in Germany there was, in this case it was a military coup, there was this right wing leader named Wolfgang Kapp. He got a number of different institutions in society on his side. He went into the Capitol building and all the government workers immediately went on strike and there was no one who could even type up his declaration. The newspapers wouldn’t print it. And through instituting a general strike, the coup was defeated in four days.
And we’re not trying to be hyperbolic in a way that tries to conjure up tanks rolling in the streets or anything like that. But the truth is, there’s plenty of coups that happen that do not involve that level of military repression. Even recently, leftists around the world have been celebrating in Bolivia, the overturning of the consequence of their coup a year ago, and that was primarily executed through the courts.
And so what coups are, are an undemocratic power grab using a variety of institutions of society. And it does not have to be the military that is the primary vehicle of that seizure. It can be institutional, and in addition, our orientation is even if the GOP finds ways to abuse loopholes in the law and exploit all of the various fractures that currently exist in democratic process, that that doesn’t mean that we need to go along with it, that we can, in fact, resist and refuse to comply. And in this country, there’s a few different precedents for this.
And we also draw on the election of 2000 when the Supreme Court intervened to stop the counting of ballots and then basically anointed George W. Bush Jr. to be president. And later, when the votes were really counted, it turned out that Al Gore would have won. And in fact, if we had used that language in advance and had organized around it, we wouldn’t have to rely on the Democrats to make a decision about whether or not to capitulate. Because the truth is that coup plotters want us to believe that we don’t have agency and we do. And as we’ve been popularizing this framework, we’ve also been very cautious to tell people we’re not just going to declare it a coup if we don’t like the result… There’s messiness regardless… This whole election cycle is really revealing a lot of the dirty tricks that have been used for time immemorial: everything from voter intimidation to voter suppression to malfunctions, to the abuse of the post office, to the competing narratives of legitimacy of mail in ballots. It’s messy. And it’s just because it’s messy doesn’t mean that it’s a coup. But we do think a coup is possible here and we therefore need a sense of a strategy to respond to it that has an arc of escalation so that we don’t just retreat into the typical mindset that activists have, which is we’re going to get out into the streets in protest Trump.
So there’re three red lines for us. The first is if they stop the counting of votes. The second is if a winner is declared who didn’t get the most votes. And then the third one is if the government allows someone to stay in power who didn’t actually win the election. And the reason that we call it a coup is partially because of its precision that the dynamics in a coup situation are distinct and different than I think a lot of US activists are used to. In the dynamics of a coup, we’re really entering competing claims of legitimacy. And when you’re in a contest of legitimacy of who gets to inherit the throne, we need to have a particular strategy that’s oriented towards winning over the center, pushing an uncertain center off the fence, and then in addition to that, weakening the different pillars that hold up the regime.
So if you think of a regime as like a roof of a building, power doesn’t just exist in a vacuum among business leaders and politicians. It rests on a number of pillars holding it up. So that’s labor. That’s capital. That’s the judiciary. That is the media. That is government workers. That is the military and police. All of these pillars hold up the existing regime, some of those pillars regular people can have an impact on. And so the strategy is to identify which ones do we have an impact on by withdrawing our participation, withdrawing our consent to weaken them, because if we weaken some of the pillars and pull them out, the roof collapses.
Monica Lopez That was Joshua Kohn Russell, an organizer with the group Choose Democracy.
The Lawyers Committee for Civil Rights Under Law has been working to protect voting rights throughout this election cycle. I spoke with Jon Greenbaum, the group’s chief counsel and deputy director, about their work and their election protection hotline.
Jon Greenbaum We run a hotline called 1- 866 Our Vote. O.U.R V.O.T. E. Alot of the calls are informational calls, but there are also calls where voters are dealing with particular problems and we try to help voters in any way we can.
Moncia Lopez And what kinds of calls has the hotline received since the voting process began?
Jon Greenbaum Back in back in September, some people were getting calls discouraging them from voting by mail, by saying that that the information that they shared with election officials is accessible to credit collectors and other people and so that they shouldn’t they shouldn’t vote by mail. And we found out who the source was of these robocalls. And we actually sued them and got a temporary restraining order from a federal judge that, among other things, forbids these two operators from making more robo calls.
Moncia Lopez And so what state were they in? Were they where did you receive the phone call from?
Jon Greenbaum Well, they were making these phone calls actually in several states, Michigan, Ohio, New York, Illinois are some of the states in which they made they made these phone calls.
And they’re and they’re currently under criminal investigation in Michigan and Ohio.
Moncia Lopez Are they part of a larger group that was doing similar?
Jon Greenbaum As far as we know, no. But they have pulled other types of shenanigans in the past. We don’t have any evidence one way or another as to whether they were part of a larger effort.
Monica Lopez So I understand that you, your organization, also filed some emergency litigation in Texas. Is that something that you can talk about?
Jon Greenbaum Actually, we didn’t file. We came in on the defendants side in that case. I mean, there was a case in Texas where a couple of Republican candidates for office challenged the use of drive-in voting that Harris County, where Houston is, had been doing. You’re able to drive up into a large tent. You would check in like you would at a normal polling place in Texas. You have to show ID. You do that, you give me your name ID, you’d be given a ballot and you’d be able to vote and you could do all that without leaving your car. And so there are about one hundred twenty five thousand people in Texas that voted that way in Harris County, Texas, that voted that way. And then you had these candidates bring a lawsuit saying that that violated the United States Constitution. And what the plaintiffs wanted in that case was to get those ballots discarded. Our side won. We do expect that there’s going to there’s going to be an appeal.
Moncia Lopez That was Jon Greenbaum from the Lawyers Committee for Civil Rights Under Law.
And that’ll do it for this special edition of Making Contact: Election 2020, More than a Vote. This show was produced by Sonya Green, Monica Lopez, Salima Hamirani and Anita Johnson, Field producers Freedman X, Tammy Habteyes, Veronica Zaragovia, Maritsa Felix and Davey D. Our distribution director is Lisa Redmann, Web updates Sabine Blazin, production assistant Emily Rose Thorne. And I’m Monica Lopez. Thanks for listening to Making Contact.