I voted this morning at my precinct in South Riding, Virginia. If you are a U.S. citizen who is eligible to vote, and if you have not already done so, you should go to the polls today too. Since so many people voted early this year, many precincts—like mine—are not crowded at all. It took mere minutes.

The only thing I ask of you is that you take the time to learn what’s on your ballot and make an informed choice. Don’t vote on the basis of blind party loyalty, fake news, or campaign ads. Put at least a little real time and effort into it. No informed vote is a wasted vote.

I encourage you to read my endorsements, but don’t only read mine. Read other people’s views too. Read the candidates’ websites. Read a variety of news and opinion articles. Know what you are voting for (or against) and why. And remember that, no matter how things turn out, we can all act like adults in the aftermath.

Now, with that out of the way, a few thoughts. . . .

. . . Continued

Gordon Johnson (Pixabay)

Tomorrow, millions of American citizens will go to the polls. Millions more have voted already. They’re casting ballots for their state’s presidential electors, for members of the U.S. Senate and U.S. House of Representatives, for governors and state legislators, for local officials, for voter initiatives, for state constitutional amendments, for local bond referendums, and more.

Lots of people will be happy with the outcomes. Lots of people will be angry. Lots of people will land somewhere in-between. This, we know. Everything else is just guesswork. Even outcomes that seem certain aren’t necessarily so. There will be surprises. Somewhere in America, at least one candidate who is “definitely going to win” will lose, and at least one who is “guaranteed to lose” will win. That’s just how it goes. Only one opinion poll really matters—the one we’ll be counting tomorrow night.

These surprises can happen even at the presidential level. Anybody who didn’t know that already should have learned it four years ago. A repeat performance by President Donald Trump (R) seems very unlikely, but it is not out of the question. Stranger things have happened in American politics. And 2020 is, to say the least, a strange year. A lot of the normal “rules” may apply even less reliably than they did in 2016. The only thing that would surprise me tomorrow night would be if nothing surprising happens.

When the results are in, what happens next? In the presidential contest, it is possible that we’ll get stuck in limbo with some tiebreaker state hanging in the balance like Florida in 2000. That would be unbearable, but at least we’d all be forced to bear it together. More likely, we’ll have a winner . . . and it will be up to each of us to deal with that like mature adults. There should be no gloating by the winners, and no despair by the losers. And above all, there should be no violence and no rioting and no destruction.

I have said this before, of course, but people are going to do what they do. Some insist on being sore losers (or winners). And some insist on using things like election results as an excuse to vent their anger in harmful ways. That’s a shame. Don’t be one of those people. Be better.

On Wednesday, no matter who we voted for in any given race, we’ll still be Americans. Our political disagreements—however strong or justifiable they might be—are no reason to hate or hurt each other. We can fight tooth-and-nail over policy without dehumanizing. We can assume mutual good intentions. And we can win or lose elections with grace and respect . . . even when our candidates don’t.

Amy Coney Barrett has been confirmed by a 52-48 majority in the United States Senate, and will replace the late Associate Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg on the United States Supreme Court. Barrett, a judge on the United States Court of Appeals for the Seventh Circuit, was President Donald Trump’s (R) third Supreme Court nominee. Trump’s previous appointees were Associate Justice Neil Gorsuch, who replaced the late Associate Justice Antonin Scalia, and Associate Justice Brett Kavanaugh, who replaced retired Associate Justice Anthony Kennedy.

Ginsburg died in September of complications from pancreatic cancer. She was part of the court’s ‘progressive wing’ and an advocate of the living constitution school of jurisprudence. Barrett is a ‘conservative’ jurist of the textualist school, and her confirmation is likely to bolster the court’s previously very narrow conservative majority.

The U.S. Constitution charges the Senate with providing “advice and consent” on judicial nominations. Republican senators failed to act on President Barack Obama’s (D) nomination of Merrick Garland in 2016, claiming that it was inappropriate to act on a nomination in a presidential election year. They have since reversed positions, citing either the treatment of Associate Justice Brett Kavanaugh by Democrats during his confirmation hearings, or the alignment of the presidency and majority party in the Senate (a nuance that was never mentioned in 2016).

Barrett is expected to be formally sworn-in later this evening.

Seal of the President

In the race for President of the United States, President Donald Trump (R) faces former Vice President Joe Biden (D). Also on the Virginia ballot is one minor candidate, Jo Jorgensen (L).

The United States has a unique system for electing presidents, where the citizens of each of the fifty states (and the District of Columbia) vote for a slate of electors who are ‘pledged’ to a particular presidential candidate. Each state has a number of electors equal to the size of its total congressional delegation, counting both representatives and senators. The District of Columbia has three electors as well, which brings the total number to 538.

Maine and Nebraska allot their electors based on the majority vote in each congressional district, with the remaining two electors chosen at-large based on the statewide vote. All other states and the District of Columbia allot their electors under a ‘winner take all’ system, where the winner of the statewide vote receives all that state’s electors. The candidate who receives a majority vote of at least 270 electors wins the election.

If no candidate receives a majority vote, the House of Representatives is called upon to choose a president by a ‘majority of the states’ vote. Presidents are elected to four-year terms and may serve up-to two terms.

. . . Continued
Seal of the U.S. Senate
Seal of the U.S. Senate

In the race to represent the Commonwealth of Virginia in the United States Senate, incumbent Senator Mark Warner (D-VA) is challenged by Doctor Daniel Gade (R). Warner was first elected to the Senate in 2008 and is in his second term.

Each of the fifty states have two seats in the Senate, for a total of one hundred seats. There is no representation, voting or non-voting, for U.S. territories or the District of Columbia. Senators serve six-year terms, and elections are held on a staggered schedule with roughly one-third of the Senate up for election every two years. This year, thirty-three seats are in contention, with an additional two up for special elections.

The Republican Party currently holds a 53-45 majority over the Democratic Party in the Senate. Two seats are held by independents who caucus with the Democratic Party, giving the Democrats an effective 47-seat minority. Currently, both of Virginia’s Senate seats are held by Democrats.

. . . Continued